CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kroger has purchased the Ashton Place Shopping Center.
The grocery store chain bought the shopping center off Corridor G from Desmond Fisher for $12.6 million on Nov. 20, according to Steve Duffield, supervisor of the Assessor's Commercial Department.
The sale was revealed Thursday when Hanley Investment Group Real Estate Advisors of Irvine, Calif., issued a press release about the transaction. Hanley said it acted as Fisher's agent. The company described Fisher as a private investor based in Tennessee. Hanley specializes in the sale of shopping centers.
Kroger is the anchor tenant in the 7.91-acre, 77,000-square-foot shopping center, which was 100 percent occupied at the time of the sale, Hanley said.
Kevin Fryman, Hanley's senior vice president, said, "Kroger was willing to pay the shopping center owner an aggressive price due to the fact this was a strong performing store within the Kroger chain. Kroger plans to expand and renovate the store, which the company has determined was undersized given their strong sales volume."
Asked why Kroger bought the shopping center instead of continuing to lease the store, Carl York, advertising and public affairs manager for Kroger's Mid-Atlantic Region, said, "Our approach has changed over the last several years.
"We are buying more of our real estate versus leasing or renting, where and when it makes sense," York said. "Kroger creates the value in many shopping centers; often, we're the anchor. To improve the shopping experience for our customers, it makes sense for us to own the whole shopping center. This was the thinking behind our expansion plans at Ashton."
Kroger owns its store in The Shops at Kanawha in Kanawha City but leases its store at Riverwalk Plaza in South Charleston.
Kroger has been upgrading its stores -- adding gas stations where space is available -- as it competes for grocery customers with Walmart, Target and others. A $9.6 million Kroger expansion at Ashton Place approved by Charleston City Council in September did not include a gas station.
Asked about the possibility of building a gas station at Ashton Place, York said, "No, I don't think so. The tenants there do really well. We need them to be successful to maintain that shopping center the way we need to maintain it."
Because of the configuration and size of the Ashton Place stores and parking lot, a gas station might be a tight fit.
Mary Jean Davis, an at large Democrat on Charleston Council, was instrumental in getting a bill passed selling land behind the store to Kroger to allow for the planned store expansion.