Very Richmond #8: Ukrop’s


The news that family owned Ukrop’s Super Markets sold out is still disturbing to me.

I’ve been disappointed in the talk both in conservation and online — people celebrating the loss of yet another Richmond institution. That’s the talk of carpetbaggers and the uneducated.

To them, I say: I-95 North. Take a hike. Move to The Netherlands. 

Royal Ahold, Giant-Carlisle, Martin’s Food Market — whatever. No offense, but you ain’t from here. Unless you plan on reinvesting the profits from your new stores here in Central Virginia — then you’re not replacing Ukrop’s. You’ve got to match Ukrop’s civic contributions locally to replace them. If you can’t, then you’re just like Kroger, Food Lion, Wal-Mart, Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s … taking our money out of Richmond, off to whatever city/country you call home.

I’m not upset about the act of shopping and I don’t shop exclusively at Ukrop’s. No one does. I’ll give Martin’s a chance, just like the rest. (Well, not really. No way you’ll find me at Wal-Mart.)

What has me upset is the idea of keeping the cash spent in the store in our region. In our city. In our communities.

Martin’s already got started down the wrong path by denying the Girl Scout troops from selling cookies they already ordered in front of the soon-to-be-renamed stores this spring. Gave the girls  the “old wooden shoe to the backside.” Can’t do that.

We need community outreach. Grocery stores are important that way. More than any other kind of retail business.

I’ve worked in news media for 18 years, and there hasn’t been a snow storm yet that someone hasn’t joked about long checkout lines for milk, eggs, bread and toilet paper at Ukrop’s. With all the snow this year, the talk was: “This storm might be the LAST time we get to use that joke.”

The joke doesn’t work if you insert the name of any other store. No other chain is the local institution. Ukrop’s is Very Richmond.

When I was single in the early 1990s, I remember teasing girls that would get dressed up to go to Ukrop’s. Not “prom dress” kind of dressed up, but looking their best. “Man shopping.” Then I realized my guy friends were hip to that game and shopped at Ukrop’s for the female eye candy as much as the rolls.

That primping wouldn’t happen for a trip to your neighborhood Food Lion.

I don’t blame the Ukrop’s family for selling. They started the store here in 1937 and kept it going for three-quarters of a century. I’ll bet this arrangement and new venture will work out financially.  Ukrop’s Bakery (White House rolls and rainbow cookies) will do well, and they’ll be able to run the smaller business better.  Too bad the next generation of Ukrop’s couldn’t/wouldn’t take on the family grocery empire, but that’s their business and not ours.

Our city is dying. The tarnish is off the crown. I’m just starting to realize this.

When all the big banks based in Richmond were bought out by North Carolina and Georgia banks, did that make Richmond better? No.  Losing quality companies headquartered in your city never helps — especially ones that are civic-minded and philanthropic.

When the economy went south and we lost Qimonda, Land America and Circuit City, et al, did that make Richmond better? No. Losing Fortune 500 companies and large employers never helps.

Sports teams leave or spurn Richmond with regularity. I just hope we don’t lose outdoor events like the Richmond Marathon, 10K, Dominion Riverrock (the renamed Adventure Games), etc. At least the mighty James river can’t bolt town.

The people who complain about Ukrop’s are probably the same non-Richmonders that complain that there is nothing to do in this town.

We’ve got plenty of great events in Richmond. Summer concert series and festivals almost every weekend, especially when it’s warm. Carytown. The Fan. Shockoe Bottom. Restaurants. Historic sites. Museums. Battlefields. Parks. The Rivah. You just need to get off the couch and drop a dime in the bucket now and then. Don’t like it? Move to The Netherlands.

Big events come a little cheaper when corporate sponsors (like Ukrop’s) foot some of the bill.

Ukrop’s sponsors so many Richmond events, like the Monument Avenue 10K, the Easter and Christmas parades and the Richmond Folk Festival. Ukrop’s brought us the Richmond Kickers and has propped up the (very successful) soccer club for years.

Don’t like those events? You must be tough to please. I-95 North.

We won’t likely find a company that is so out-going and generous in its promotional efforts to replace Ukrop’s. At least not one singular entity.

Oh, so you’re one of those people who’s always hated that Ukrop’s doesn’t sell alcohol and isn’t open on Sundays? You’ve had your choice to shop elsewhere…or move back to where you came from. Now Martin’s will offer those checklist items from the get-go.

Or maybe you’re one of those that likes to cry about Ukrop’s being so expensive? Largely rumor and perception. You just don’t know how to shop.

My favorite thing about Ukrop’s is “local” — they have deals with farmers in this region and sell me the most produce they can provide that is grown in Virginia soil. No offense to California, Florida, Guatemala and South America. Off season? Great! Thanks for the freshies. Martin’s needs to maintain that level of commitment to local farmers and our state.

On second thought, that’s not going to be a problem with Martin’s. Like many conscious Richmonders, I’ve already converted to buying most of my in-season produce at farmer’s markets anyway.

People that fuss about Ukrop’s high prices are probably the same people who would never buy meat at Food Lion “because it’s tainted” and never buy produce at Kroger because it is inferior.  There’s little basis for those perceptions I’ve always heard attached to those franchises, but that’s what people say.

Do you think your dollars spent at Wal-Mart stay in Richmond? Heck, they hardly provide health care for their employees… Oh, there I go with nasty rumors!

I’ve never followed the theory that any store is more expensive than the next. If you shop correctly, using discounts at the right times and paying attention, any store can be affordable.

Like the “Fuel Perks” program. I’ve taken advantage of that program for almost $200. Big deal? Yeah, maybe my strawberries were more expensive than that of another store, but work the system.

No, you’re one of those that has held a grudge against Ukrop’s for allegedly being behind Howard Stern getting kicked off Richmond’s radio waves. After being in media for half my life, let me just say that example wouldn’t be the only time in history that advertisers have influenced decisions in our business. Don’t like that one? Take a hike.

You’re just mad because you know about this one. Ukrop’s had the guts to make a stand and put their name to it. And it worked. Because they matter.

No, it’s the worst of all. You’re one of those that faults Ukrop’s for one of their most basic customer service traits: Carting your groceries out to your car for you.

I’m fit and capable of toting my own groceries. But, I’m a parent. I’ve got two little kids that need to be controled in a parking lot. When they were babies in carseats, that was another task. I needed the help, and I’m not alone. It is a business choice, and good for them. 

Now that we’ve lost Ukrop’s, what will be the next jewel to fall from the crown for Richmond? We’re now down to being a Double-A baseball town that can’t keep its sports teams in the black. At least we have colleges with great reputations — academically and sportingly.

Goodbye Ukrop’s. Unquestionably Very Richmond. I’ve enjoyed you making Richmond a better place.

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31 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Chip J on May 29, 2013 at 1:01 am

    I’ve noticed that some of these replies (yes I realize I’m about three years late) state that the reason Ukrop’s failed is because it failed to “evolve”. I presume that it’s a reference to Ukrop’s refusing to open on Sunday as well as the refusal to sell alcohol. There’s a bit of hypocrisy going on here; many of those who wanted Ukrop’s to open on Sunday have the FULL weekend have. If they’d been forced to work on Saturday OR Sunday, they’d be screaming bloody murder. As for the alcohol issue, there were other places in Richmond where one could buy beer, wine or any other “spirits” you wished to imbibe. Many of these stores were in the same shopping centers as the Ukrop’s stores. Now, if you need alcohol SO bad that you can’t walk a few feet or yards to get it, then you’ve got a problem.

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  2. Posted by Terry on October 20, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    So anyone who disagrees with you must be a transplant? Sorry but wrong. Along side all the civic activities came throwing their weight around, bullying other Richmond businesses, and putting people out of business. Remember the Venice? They sure hosed that guy.
    I shop local as much as I can. As much as I can does not include lowering my standards to do so. The influx of newcomers has breathed new life into this town and given us many options, often the best options, in dining, shopping, banking, etc. You are just a real snot.

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  3. I was a loyal Ukrops shopper. I especially loved the deli!!
    There are many things I loved about Ukrops such as the deli, huge wine selection, awesome staff, and above all; QUALITY!
    However Martins’s is starting to grow on me. Im still reminded of all the things like like listed above. I started a site called http://www.rvasaves.com where consumers can go and get huge discounts in the tri-city area.

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  4. Posted by Mary on August 4, 2010 at 1:45 am

    I remember the first Ukrops store in Richmond. My, grandmother and I, walked everyday to get her meats etc. for her dinner each day. She always wanted her meats fresh and Ukrops lived up to that.

    I also liked how they catered to the youth and senior citizens in our communities by providing jobs for them. My brother worked there for years. I mean from age 16 to 20 something or early 30’s.

    Just like, I didn’t think I would see a black president in my lifetime, I never thought I would see Ukrops sell their stores. The younger generation of the Ukrops family, I don’t think, understood the treasure that they had.

    Lastly, thank you Ukrops, for never wavering on your beliefs such as not selling alcoholic beverages and honoring the Sabbath. I wish you all the best and you will continue to receive your blessings. Thanks for being there for your communities.

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  5. Posted by NativeRichmonder on May 20, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I grew up with Ukrops on Walmsley Blvd (having faired annexation as well). I’m willing to give Martin’s a try, but have been dissappointed (three times now) that they no longer carry the icees my husband can’t live without, or the mint oreos my daughter and I are hooked on and packaged cans of APLO for my three dogs. I have to go to Food Lion for all three! I suppose it’s due to lack of space since they are stocking beer and whatever, but my interest in making the trip to Midlothian from Powhatan is waning. If they stop carting my groceries to the car, it’s all OVER.

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  6. Posted by Kyle G. on May 20, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Good points. I have a few of my own:

    Kroger also has a great fuel program that gives 10 cents per gallon off per $100 spent (+ 5 cents more if you get their credit card). Ukrops fuel program forced you to get fuel from a gas station that is usually more expensive to begin with (Exxon, BP etc).

    Kroger’s prices are lower than Ukrops, although not as low as Walmart’s prices, which brings me to my next point.

    Walmart is often seen as the “bad guy”, but in reality, they do have the overall lowest prices and the best convienience anywhere (nowhere else can I go grocery shopping and electronic shopping at the same time). I understand your points about “buying local” but in today’s economy, most people are just lucky to have a job, and will save money anyway they can. The money saved at Walmart can be used to give more to charity, church etc, or just used to survive. (sometimes the amount of money I save there shocks me.)
    having said that, I don’t like the Walmart shopping experience much.

    Ukrops (as a store) had great prepared foods, but that was about it. The groceries were too expensive (Although the meat was heavily discounted when bought on Saturdays due to the store being closed on Sundays, which was like a great unadvertised secret) , and the selection was somewhat limited.

    Having said this, I did prefer Ukrops to Food Lion, which is an atrocity of a different nature. I’ve had multiple problems with Food lion, including “tainted meat” and have vowed to keep my business elsewhere.

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  7. Phil,
    Interesting post! You know it’s good, provocative writing when, as a reader, you find yourself agreeing with half the article and vehemently disagreeing with the other half. That’s where I find myself with this particular article (and Ukrop’s in general I suppose).
    Since I’m technically a northerner, I’ll stand up for us (at least the reasonable ones) by saying that people aren’t happy just because Richmond lost another ‘institution’. The tone of the post makes it sound almost spiteful that people move here and want to take away from what’s distinctive about Richmond. That’s ridiculous! What malevolent soul would honestly sit down and think such a thing? That’s like saying if we moved to northwest NY and had the wonderful Wegman’s that we’d want it to turn into Big Box Store X just for the sake of spite. It seems like a ‘Straw Man’ argument to me.
    Ukrop’s did wonderful things for this city and this region and they are going to be sorely missed. I don’t think the average person even had a true appreciation for how many events they sponsored and how much money they poured into charities and other Richmond causes. That money is not going to be easy to replace, because who now has the scale or the inclination to donate that money?
    That said, I think the Ukrop’s as businessmen were truly terrible. They had a business model that basically doomed the stores to extinction — it was only a question of when. Any company that refuses to adapt to a changing environment is going to go extinct. It might have been 5 years or it might have been 50, but it was inevitable. I think the complaints about them not selling beer and wine and not being open Sundays are somewhat substantive, but only tell a small part of the story.
    For comparison, look at Chick-fil-A: they share the same Baptist ideology, but yet they are thriving. The reasons are simple: they have outstanding food, service AND price. Ukrop’s only had the first two.
    I could not possibly disagree more with your statment, “Or maybe you’re one of those that likes to cry about Ukrop’s being so expensive? Largely rumor and perception. You just don’t know how to shop.” I would argue that my wife is one of the best shoppers around (of normal people who aren’t the ‘quadruple coupon’ types who treat it like a job…) — she’s a CPA so numbers are her thing, she has a near photographic memory when it comes to unit price, and she’s open-minded enough to shop basically anywhere. She concluded that the average price of Ukrop’s items were somewhere around 20% more expensive than items at other stores such as Wal-Mart. When you’re talking about commodities such as canned food, you just cannot justify spending 1% more, not less 20% more.
    If you want to look at what could arguably be the least intelligent statement ever spoken by a corporate executive, I’ll refer you to this quote from the RTD (he was talking about their Roanoke store), “”We need you [customers] to shop differently for our business model to work and for us to continue to run the store,” said Scott Aronson, vice president of marketing for Ukrop’s.”
    Sorry Scott, the world doesn’t work that way!! The sad truth was that they only place on earth where the Ukrop’s business model could work was Richmond, and that’s only because people here shopped based on decades-old preferences and weren’t rational in their decision-making. The way capitalism works is that the companies either adapt, or they go out of business. Ukrop’s effectively took the latter option.
    The fuel perks plan is one of my pet peeves. Fuel Perks was largely a marketing gimmick, though like many other gimmicks, it did provide the consumer with some benefit. From my recollection, here’s how it worked: spend $50, get 10 cents off per gallon up to 20 gallons (in one fueling). So my Honda Civic holds about 10 gallons, so that’s a $1 benefit for spending $50. That’s a 2% discount. And then they changed it to 5 cents/gallon, or a 1% discount (if you have a bigger car it could go from a max 4% discount to a 2% discount). Do you think people would flock to Ukrop’s if they said, “hey Richmond, our prices are 20% higher than Wal-Mart, but we’re giving you 1% off to use as a discount for your gas because we know that Americans are unusually irrational about the price of gas!” Not a terribly effective marketing line, but probably closer to the truth than saying Ukrop’s was doing something good for the community.
    What they do best is sell prepared food — that’s their differentiating factor in my opinion. I’m glad to see that that will continue in the future under Martin’s. I’m going into the Martin’s transition with an open mind and I hope they exceed expectations. If not, I have a Kroger and Food Lion within 2 miles as well and I’ll take my business there.
    I very much fear for Richmond’s events, because I don’t know where the money will come to replace the Ukrop’s donations. I think that’s Ukrop’s true legacy, because I suspect people will quickly forget about the actual stores.
    Brad

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    • Brad, you bring up many excellent points, and several that I didn’t fully address (or acknowledge, for the sake of my argument). My comments about the north were directed more at the Pennsylvania/The Netherlands owners of Martin’s — thus the suggestions of “I-95 North” and “move to The Netherlands.” Defending shopping at Walmart — for any reason — is against my code. I’d rather overspend than give my money away to a company that doesn’t have a good track-record for helping it’s employees, providing quality customer support or even supporting the American economy. They are a giant money hole, and Richmond will never see a dime back from Walmart, where a community-based company like Ukrop’s will give back. Take that model and transfer it wherever you like and repeat — Local, local, local. Save Mom & Pop.

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  8. Posted by Charlotte K on April 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    I don’t think Royal Ahold forbids the selling of GS Cookies. The Stop & Shop (owned by Ahold) where I live in Massachusetts has outside solicitors for charities/orgs all the time, including Salvation Army at Xmas, Girl Scouts, local school teams, etc.

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  9. Posted by Patti on March 12, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Richmond, should worry more if Philip Morris, decides to move out. Richmond, would look like a ghost town almost. The amount of companies that do business with them would suffer or go out of business also. Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost. At least most of Ukrops, employees will keep their jobs. Before any one gives me a hard time I was born and raised in Richmond (1952). I moved away almost 3 years ago and I do not miss Richmond at all. About the only things I miss is – Bill’s BBQ, Extra Billy’s, stuffed potato skins, Lewis Ginter, plant sales and of course the Maymont, Herb Festival. Ukrops, was a good store when Mom and Dad Ukrops, were alive. I was one of those people who got very upset with them and the whole Howard Stern, deal. The way I looked at it was if you do not like Him change the channel. I also do not like the way they try and shove Healthy Foods, on you.
    The only thing I will miss is their 6 layer chocolate layer cake.
    Goodbye, “UKCRAPS”

    Hello MARTIN”S

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  10. We’ve lost Ukrop’s which will take me years to get over and some manufacturers and some big banks. Personally was glad to get rid of Nations/Bank of America but that’s another story. We lost our R-Braves because of a marketing problem. It goes like this: attendance, fans, money, stadium. They didn’t turn the attendance into fans who would come multiple times a year because they didn’t make it fun. Make it fun, make it an experience, teach them the game and you get fans. Fans bring money and money brings a new stadium.

    But I don’t think we need to sit around waiting for another shoe to drop. Richmond has a marketing and sales issue and when that happens you solve the problem by looking at what you’ve got that’s remarkable (nod to Seth Godin) and who wants it.

    Here’s what we’ve got:
    1. A very accessible city – no two hour traffic jams on Rt. 66 or the Beltway to go see a show or a game.
    2. A city with some great neighborhoods like the Fan, Jackson Ward, Churchhill, Shokoe bottom that we could capitalize on.
    3. Excellent or above average school systems in all the counties.
    4. An incredible youth sports culture putting out top athletes – Ed Davis, Russell Wilson, Austin Sadler, Will Roberts, Paige Johnson and let’s not forget Rob Ukrop and others too numerous to mention from the Strikers and FC Richmond.
    5. A vibrant city university putting out enough engineering, medical and creative talent to fuel all kinds of innovation. U of R, a top MBA program and the Jepson School of Leadership. A couple of HBCU’s with rich histories in or near the city.
    6. We’ve got a river to work with and tons of history in the city or nearby.
    7. Our airport is one of the most convenient in America and I’ve seen a ton of them.
    8. And it’s a great place to raise a family offering a much better chance at a work/life balance without a nasty commute.
    9. We’re within a short flying distance from most of the major cities in the east.
    10. Moderate climate

    So who needs this? We need to find entrepreneurs like consultants (marketing companies and the like) who can run their businesses out of Richmond because their client base is national or international because they do a lot by phone or internet conference, who don’t have kids yet but want them or have very young kids, and hate traffic and extreme weather (this year not withstanding).

    Now we need a hook that will make people notice us. Since our only public transportation are buses which aren’t all that sexy about: our first entrepreneur needs to start a bus company of very comfortable upscale buses with wifi, coffee carts and electrical outlets. Price it so all the people driving downtown think it’s a better option than driving. We’ll piggy back on the green craze so this will get press outside the city to notice us and we’ll get the mavens and connectors (nod to Malcolm Gladwell) to starting blocking and telling the world what a great place to live this is.

    and/or we get U of R to start a program where everyone who brings their business to Richmond gets some type of affordable leadership and entrepreneurial training just for coming to the new Richmond.

    and/or we get the builders and the counties to kick in some kind of break on a home purchase in exchange for a years worth of service to seniors, underprivileged city kids, or anyone else who could use a helping hand. (they might just decide they like it and that would be a good thing.)

    Oh and by the way, these folks would have loved Ukrops.

    This might sound far fetched and their are probably some even better ideas out there too. Thepoint is let’s not get bogged down waiting to lose another institution. Let’s figure this out and make our city even better.

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  11. Posted by Melissa on February 18, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    I agree that it’s sad that Ukrop’s has been sold, for most of the same reasons in your post. But the tone of it seems like you blame Royal Ahold for the changes. They’re a corporation trying to make money for their shareholders (if you don’t like that, blame capitalism or the modern legal view that a corporation’s sole responsibility is to maximize shareholder wealth).

    If the Ukrop family didn’t want to run the stores anymore, their options were to sell them or to abandon them. Refusing to sell to anyone who wouldn’t run the stores exactly the same way would result in empty stores all over the area, which is much worse than having another competitor in the grocery market.

    Yes, it sucks that our grocery dollars will now be making their way to shareholders worldwide instead of enriching the Ukrop family who then spent generously on community programs. But with no local buyer, what other option was there? We should all shop at farmers’ markets directly from producers, but most of us need some supplemental mass-produced groceries too.

    The Girl Scout thing is unfortunate, but it’s their company policy, you can’t really blame them. When I lived in Charlottesville, the Giant stores were pretty local-friendly, with some local produce – sometimes too much…they had an incredible $0.99/lb sale on big beautiful Washington state Bing cherries, and after I ate the 4-lb limit and went back for more, I was disappointed by the crappy local Bing cherries that had replaced the Washington ones. I eat local and in season as much as I can, but sometimes in early summer I just want really delicious PNW cherries. I will miss Ukrop’s in our community, but I’ll be happy to be a Giant grocery customer again.

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  12. Posted by Stuffa on February 18, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I can understand why many bemoan the fact that a local institution has sold out to a multi-national, but I think that the statement that “Our city is dying” is, well, hyperbolic in the extreme.

    Richmond died in the 60’s, with white flight to the suburbs.

    The school system died when white Richmonders turned their backs on the black community.

    Downtown shopping finally died 20 years ago when the two department stores finally closed their doors.

    Even Ukrops followed this trend, and at the end the vast majority of its stores were in the counties. Even the stores that remained within the city limits were, by and large, close to the county line. Corporate offices? Ditto.

    If anything Richmond is just beginning to make a real comeback, thanks in no small part to the “outsiders” who have opted to move to the city (vs. the counties), shop in the city, keep their kids in city schools, and look beyond the deep-seated prejudices that killed the city in the first place. It’s these people who are committed to patronizing the locally owned businesses that may well become the next generation of Ukrop’s-style successful, locally owned and beloved institutions.

    A little perspective, please.

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    • Very good perspective, and thank you for commenting. If I had added another 1000 words to add to my article I’d likely have addressed the county vs. city issue. Thomas Jefferson’s laws aren’t perfect, and I’d love to see Virginia cities gain the ability to annex again. Chaos would reign for years, of course.

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  13. Posted by RobinsonSt on February 18, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Ukrop’s was “very Richmond” to it’s fault, much like Circuit City, Best Products, etc. Just like the other retail companies mentioned, Ukrop’s stopped innovating during the ’90s. I was born in Richmond, and I have lived here besides the four years I went away to college. I will be the first to tell you I loved Ukrop’s as a kid, but when I returned from college, I saw a very different store–Ukrop’s stores were no longer as updated or as spotlessly clean. For example, at the W Broad St store (near Gaskins), there are several freezers that appear to have been in use since the 1980s–I felt like I was walking around Safeway as a kid once more (not in a good way).

    As a 5+ year resident of The Fan, the Carytown Ukrop’s has little to offer and it’s hardly worthy of it’s flagship location (Carytown’s revenue per sq ft is extremely high). You would think Ukrop’s would’ve done something to make the Carytown location more attractive to customers. Nope, the Kroger across the street has been upgraded twice since I have been living in the city, and might I add, Kroger is once again expanding. This time Kroger is taking over the former CVS location. Surely Ukrop’s could have done something similar, if they really cared about their market share.

    Do you know how most non-Richmonders view Ukrop’s? I went to college with many out-of-state students, we had a nearby Ukrop’s, and almost everyone I knew at school loved Ukrop’s. Many of them even changed their schedules so they could shop when the store was open. As a college student, Sundays are the one day when you don’t have nearly as much to do–Too bad you can’t at Ukrop’s then. There is a reason grocery retailers open up on Sundays–it’s the industry’s 2nd busiest day of the week. Never mind the lack of beer and wine. I realize Ukrop’s values related to alcohol and Sundays, but the demographics have changed.

    Telling people to “move” if they don’t like Ukrop’s sounds similar to something my Grandmother still says. I love my Grandmother dearly, but her view of “Northerners” always bothered me. I respect everyone, and new faces/new opinions are probably what this town needs more of, not less.

    I am one of the biggest proponents of Richmond you could meet (specifically the City), but I will never understand worshiping an organization that died due to it’s inability to adapt to the market. Will I miss Ukrop’s? Most certainly. However, the Ukrop’s I miss is the one from my childhood, not today’s version.

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    • Excellent points, thank you for posting. You’ve illustrated the sentiment that many have said that Ukrop’s stop trying years ago to compete. That isn’t something I’ve been concerned with, but I’m not the perfect shopper.

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  14. […] Riggan and his blog Richmond on the James pens a thought provoking post on what he feels the Ukrop’s buy out means to Richmond. I have whined more than once about […]

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  15. Posted by shann palmer on February 18, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Emily, I’m not a native Richmonder- in fact, I’m worse, I’m a Texan but I’ve been here for more than 30 years- I am glad the place isn’t as tight as it used to be with snob history but I know something important has been lost and can never be again.

    I’ll shop at Martin’s until they do something to make me unhappy- but I don’t know where I’ll go-

    And Phil- Narnia is wonderful, but I can’t see anyone else providing the level of service and love you will find there- when she retires it will be a fond memory.

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  16. Nice post, it will be interesting to see what happens as Ukrop’s morph into Martin’s. I’ll grant that Richmond’s crown is tarnished but don’t see anything that will send me heading back up I-95. The positives of this town and the folks I have met in the past 6+ years far outweigh the loss of one business. This is said with a bit of caution as I think about the Urkop’s Stage at the Folk Festival and all the other charitable contributions Ukrop’s makes yearly.

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  17. Posted by Emily C. on February 18, 2010 at 12:01 am

    The comments in this blog are the reason I, as a “transplant” (a label, by the way, it seems I will never be able to get out from under no matter how long I live here), still find it hard to “fit in” in this town.

    I really like Richmond, and have made a happy life here. Apart from my childhood home, I have lived here longer than I have lived anywhere else. I have a great job and friends, enjoy the gamut of fun and entertaining activities, and attend a wonderful church.

    But it’s this clique-ish “We-are-TRUE-Richmonders-and-everyone-else-be-damned” attitude that really grates on me. Being proud of one’s hometown is one thing; being snobbish, exclusionary and judgmental of all-those-not-from-here is quite another.

    I wouldn’t be living here if I thought the city was dying. To the contrary, I think it is thriving. Downtown is climbing up out of the valley of the shadow of death — due in large part to the burgeoning arts and culture movement sweeping from Church Hill to Carytown, bringing hotels, restaurants and small businesses along with it.

    I shop at Ukrop’s, I shop at Kroger, I shop at Ellwood’s. Spread the love. I am as much an advocate for “buying local” as the next tree hugger, but in fairness, and as a fellow “transplant,” I think we owe it to Martin’s to give them a chance.

    If that makes native Richmonders want to banish people like me to the Netherlands, than maybe this isn’t where I should be living anyway.

    Reply

    • I’ve only been in Richmond half my life, and I don’t see myself as a true Richmonder. Most of my friends are from elsewhere, mostly up north.

      Every city everywhere has the snob “you ain’t from here” attitude. That’s human nature.

      The Netherlands is Royal Ahold’s home — thus the reference. I might want to banish Martin’s….

      Reply

  18. Posted by shann palmer on February 17, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    People who say Ukrops is more expensive are lazy shoppers- I can go head to head with anyone with careful shopping and watching deals (for instance- anyone noticing how the Joe’s market stuff has been really marked down- I’m picking up all i can use while watching the expiration dates carefully). My son worked there during high school and part of college and had a wonderful experience.

    No Walmart for me either, Phil- I’ll stick with whatever local I can hang onto- I don’t buy books online either- not when we have Fountain Books, Chop Suey, and Book People!

    And watch out for your locally-owned pharmacies- the big guns are really sqeezing them out- ask the folks in Goochland.

    Reply

    • Thank you for your comments and I’m right with you. Funny you mentioned books — Narnia at Kensington and Belmont has become our new favorite. Restaurants are another “local” favorite topic of mine.

      Reply

  19. Posted by Kim Umstadter on February 17, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Great article Phil. I expect this one will be picked up and passed around. Very thought provoking.

    Reply

  20. Posted by Sara Dunnigan on February 17, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    It is tough to lose a company that has been such a part of the community fabric, but to suggest that this is evidence of the City is dying is a little extreme.

    Between 1993 and 2007 (I’m grabbing some pre-recession data so indulge me) – the number of businesses in the region grew by 84%, from 40,000 to 73,000 companies. During that same period, more than 91,000 new jobs were created.

    Even with the horrible past two years, Richmond is still home to a lot of great corporate partners – some longstanding like Genworth and Cap One and other amazing high potential start ups like SnagAJob and others who have the potential to be huge for Richmond. New corporate HQ like MWV and Altria have located here.

    I feel pretty certain that we haven’t seen the last of the Ukrops family. I’m sure their passion for the community is still strong. I hope they continue the tradition of leadership – we could all learn a lesson or two from them.

    So, maybe we won’t get our groceries carried out, but there’s still plenty to celebrate about Richmond (and some great local places to shop). And I guess if can’t connect with it, there is always the Netherlands 😉

    Reply

  21. Posted by Abraham on February 17, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Ukrops IS expensive. You’ve made some good points and I agree that people that complain can buy groceries somewhere else. I agree with Kristin that Ukrops didn’t want to evolve and their service clearly suffered in recent years.

    I will miss their name on events, and bet we’ll lose some of them.

    Reply

  22. Posted by Kristin on February 17, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I find the “go back where you came from” sentiment offensive. Ukrops failed to evolve to meet the needs of their market or didn’t want to evolve.

    Reply

  23. Posted by rick delman on February 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    “Our city is dying. The tarnish is off the crown. I’m just starting to realize this.”

    Don’t be stupid.

    Reply

  24. Very nice. this is everything I’ve been trying to explain to the weirdos who think it’s super-great that Ukrops has sold the stores. It’s the end of an era, for sure.

    Reply

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