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Kroger CEO discusses store closure with protesters

By DAN SEWELL, AP Business Writer

Oct. 7, 2009 (AP): The Kroger Co.ís chief executive defended the nationís largest grocerís decision to close a Toledo store to community activists who protested Wednesday.

Nearly three dozen people came 200 miles by bus to demonstrate Wednesday outside a chamber of commerce luncheon where David B. Dillon, Krogerís chairman and CEO, was the featured speaker.

Activists saying the store that's closing Saturday is vital to residents without transportation chanted and held signs such as ``Stay, Kroger, Stay.''

Dillon said he respected their concerns and met with them privately after he spoke. But he said the company couldn't afford to keep such money-losing stores open.

``If we don't close stores like that, we're not going to be able to keep our prices low; we'd have to have higher prices somewhere else,'' Dillon told The Associated Press. ``That doesn't work.''

He said there are only some 200 residents who shop exclusively at the closing Kroger store. Kroger is offering free transportation three days a week to the nearest Kroger store and home delivery of prescriptions for the closing store's customers.

Beth Lewandowski, vice president of the Lagrange Village Council, said the activists ``felt a glimmer of hope'' heading into the private meeting, but Dillon made it clear the decision was final.

``So we have to go home and tell our residents their store is closing,'' she said.

She said residents think the Kroger transportation won't work with their schedules and other needs and some will have to pay for taxis to and from the pickup point.






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