Opinion » Letter From The Editor

A Brief History of Midtown Kroger

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My wife and I live on Idlewild Street, very near the new Midtown Kroger, so near, in fact, that Tom Brady could probably throw a football from our backyard into the parking lot. He'd have to clear a couple other backyards and some tall trees, but I believe he could do it.

Given our proximity, we have watched with great interest — and no small amount of trepidation — the process of demolition and construction that has transpired on Union as the Taj Mahal Kroger has come into being.

Our street, despite its connection to one of the city's main thoroughfares, has always been a quiet one. There are only nine houses on the block. I know the names of all our neighbors, and the names of their kids. They ride bikes and play basketball in the street.

We all feared the new Kroger might mean the loss of our little enclave, especially when we learned another development was planned for the nearby corner of McLean and Union. This precipitated what came to be known "gate-gate" on nextdoor.com. It began with a proposal from McLean developer Ron Belz to gate South Idlewild (his childhood street) from Union. As residents of Idlewild, we thought, "Hell, yes!" Other neighbors were not so enthusiastic; in fact, they hated the idea, which I understand. After much back and forth, a compromise was reached. (Or, as my attorney wife says, "If you want a kitten, ask for a pony.") It was agreed (and approved by city council) that Idlewild would be one-way north, which would theoretically prevent traffic leaving the new Kroger from using our street. Theoretically.

Then we watched as cranes and wrecking balls ate the old apartment tower and as a new temporary lot was constructed to service the old store. When construction on the new store began, we endured months of loud booms, and jackhammers, and literally earth-shaking pounding. Dust coated our outside window sills. The only consolation was that there was absolutely no traffic on our street.

Then came the opening of the glorious new Kroger, and possibly the largest traffic fustercluck in the history of Midtown. Getting a parking place at Midtown Kroger was like winning the lottery. People were coming from all over — tourists from Bartlett and Southaven, and probably from Switzerland and Romania. City traffic personnel were brought in to direct cars in and out of the lot. Both sides of our street were filled with the parked cars of Kroger shoppers. Grocery carts were left on our sidewalks. Worst of all, hundreds of people just ignored the one-way signs (and red lights and stanchions half-way across the street) and drove south on Idlewild.

Yelling "WRONG WAY" at cars became the neighborhood mantra. At first, if you stopped someone and gently told them they were going the wrong way, they'd look embarrassed and surprised and say "Oops, sorry." Then they started doing it on purpose, and began speeding up the street to avoid being caught. They no longer said "Sorry" when accosted. They said "Bite me," or worse. It was the wild west on Idlewild.

But after complaints were made to MPD, everything changed. Officers parked on the street every day and began issuing tickets, dozens of tickets. The city of Memphis had to have made thousands of dollars nailing Kroger scofflaws. We residents took to going outside and high-fiving each other and taking photos of the violaters meekly accepting their tickets. Revenge was sweet.

And now? Knock on wood, things finally appear to be normalizing. You can find parking in the Kroger lot most of the time, and Idlewild is calm again, with only the occasional evil-doer driving the wrong way. The new Kroger is a grand and cavernous store with lovely windows that showcase the beautiful Idlewild Presbyterian Church across the street. And there appears, at long last, to be peace in the valley. At least, until the first time snow is predicted.

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