Angela Crain celebrated as she filled her cart at the Kroger Marketplace, which opened Wednesday in the New Holland community.
Her past grocery options included fighting traffic as she drove from her home 4 miles away in East Hall through Gainesville or logging miles as she ventured up Ga. 365 to Cornelia in Habersham County.
“I can’t think of a better place to build a (new grocery store),” Crain said.
If Wednesday was any indication, Kroger hit a sweet spot with its placement of a store in east Gainesville, off Jesse Jewell and Limestone parkways and near Interstate 985. Shoppers streamed through Kroger’s largest store in Georgia, pushing their carts through its departments and mingling with employees.
The 123,000-square-foot store held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening, featuring remarks by store officials and politicians, including Gov. Nathan Deal.
“This (store) is an endorsement, I believe, of the great things that are happening in the Northeast Georgia region, and in the Hall County area, Gainesville and, yes, the New Holland area,” said Deal, whose wife, Sandra, is a native of the old mill community.
“This is a landmark establishment, within our community as a whole,” he said. “It will be a gathering point for citizens from all over this region.”
Kroger anchors the 287,000-square-foot New Holland Market shopping center, which sits on 56 acres also bounded by White Sulphur Road. Outparcel developments also are planned, with work underway on a McDonald’s restaurant.
Across the road is a 12-acre site, with one newly built road — Textile Way — and a QuikTrip convenience store under construction.
The grocery chain opened its first Gainesville store in 1962, a 19,000-square-foot building with 25 employees.
The new Kroger offers more than food, flowers and greeting cards.
As one of the chain’s Marketplace stores, it also has shelves stocked with kitchen accessories and appliances, as well as a clothing section.
The chain opened its first Marketplace in Georgia last year at a remodeled store in Carrollton.
Jerry Moreton, Kroger vice president of administration, said two stores planned in Tennessee “are very similar to this format here.”
Kroger officials said the Gainesville store has created 275 jobs and represents a $22 million investment in the community.
“In my 20 years of service to Kroger, the excitement expressed from the Gainesville community surpasses anything I’ve experienced before,” store manager Rex Thayer said.
DeDe Forrester and her mother, Shirley Hemphill, said they were impressed so far.
“It’s a little overwhelming; it’s so big,” Forrester said.
Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan also spoke at the event, held indoors near the pharmacy and Fred Meyer Jewelers.
“It’s always a pleasure ... to come to such a celebration, when a new businesses chooses to invest in Gainesville,” he said.
The property owner, Pacolet Milliken Enterprises, earned the city’s approval in 2012 for the New Holland development, which includes 400,000 square feet of commercial space, 200,000 square feet of office space and about 300 multifamily residential units.“Through this development, I think (Pacolet Milliken) has made a very positive contribution to the community here,” Moreton said.
Carolina Holdings of Greenville, S.C., has served as the developer.
“Carolina Holdings, Milliken and Kroger, thank you from the bottom of our heart,” Dunagan said.
Also, as part of the grand opening, Kroger donated a $250 gift card to neighboring schools.