Build-out is now underway at a Kroger Spoke delivery center on Jacksonville’s Northside, located at One Imeson Park. The fulfillment facility will allow Jacksonville and surrounding counties to enjoy next-day grocery delivery. Customers will be able to place orders either through Kroger.com or the Kroger app, and will have groceries delivered in temperature-controlled vans.
Soon, Jacksonville customers will be able to receive next-day grocery delivery from one of the country’s largest grocers. Image courtesy of Kroger.
The 62,208 square-foot cross-dock facility is emblematic of the company’s strategy for serving the Florida market. Cross-docking differs from traditional warehousing operations, in which a distributor holds large stocks of products on hand to ship to customers. A cross-docking facility is much smaller and less expensive than a traditional warehousing operation, in that incoming trucking docks allow bulk receipt of products that can be quickly broken down for smaller orders, and then rapidly loaded onto outgoing trucking docks to then be delivered to a dozen or more customers in smaller delivery vehicles.
An inside look at a Kroger warehousing facility. Image courtesy of the Ryan Companies.
Climate-controlled delivery vans await orders to be delivered at a cross-docking facility. Image courtesy of the Ryan Companies.
The new Jacksonville facility will be served by a larger Kroger Customer Fulfillment Center recently opened in Central Florida. Located in Groveland, that 336,000 facility will eventually employ 400 workers and features nearly 1,000 robots that quickly sort bulk orders that will then ship to Spoke locations in Tampa and Jacksonville. To serve the Spoke system, Kroger has partnered with Ocado, a United Kingdom-based technology company the helps bring online grocery fulfillment to retailers.
The Kroger Customer Fulfillment Center opened in Groveland, Florida in 2021. Image courtesy of the Ryan Companies.
Drone Express and Kroger began testing drone grocery delivery in a pilot program near the Kroger Marketplace in Centerville, Ohio in 2021. Image courtesy of Kroger.
Kroger, founded in Cincinnati in 1883, is not new to Florida. In 1980, the company opened a grocery store in Brevard County called SupeRx Drugs. By 1986, the name of the Florida grocery store operations was changed to Florida Choice. In 1987, the company purchased Jacksonville-based A&P Family Markets. By the time the company sold Florida Choice in 1988 to both Kash N Karry and Goodings, there were 43 of Florida Choice locations across the state employing about 5,000 people.
With its Spoke system, Kroger eventually expects to serve households throughout the entire State of Florida, as well as South Georgia and South Alabama. Kroger’s only current footprint in Florida is through its ownership of the Harris Teeter chain. Harris Teeter served the North Florida market with stores in Mandarin, Ponte Vedra and Amelia Island. Only the Amelia Island location remains open today. Although that location is Kroger’s only physical storefront in all of Florida, the company has no plans to open Kroger brick and mortar stores anywhere in the state.
Kroger is the largest grocer in the U.S. by store count. By grocery sales, it trails only Amazon and WalMart. Expanding direct-to-consumer delivery in untapped markets, is seen as the key to the company’s plans to keep up and eventually overtake Amazon and WalMart in grocery sales.
The new Jacksonville distribution center joins a storied corporate history at One Imeson. For over 40 years, the location was home to Jacksonville Municipal Airport at Imeson Field. It opened in 1927, with a dedication ceremony that included the likes of Charles Lindbergh. In 1931, Eastern Air Transit (eventually Eastern Airlines) became the first major commercial airline to provide regular service to Jacksonville. By 1934, the airport was the corporate headquarters of National Airlines- the first airline to introduce domestic jet service in the United States.
The Sears Catalog Merchandise Distribution Center at Imeson Park is seen here in this 1975 photo. Image courtesy of FloridaMemory.com.
Today Imeson Park is a 156 acre, master planned business park with capacity for up to 3,000,000 square feet of industrial space. With over 61 million consumers located within an 8 hour drive, it is a superior multi-modal location to service the Southeast United States. Image courtesy of VanTrust Real Estate.
In 1965, taxpayers approved a $9 million bond to help fund construction for a new airport a few miles to the Northeast. Upon completion of the new Jacksonville International Airport, Imeson Field was abandoned. In 1970, Webb International Inc purchased the former 1,500-acre airport and turned the facility into a commerce center, called Imeson Park. By 1975, one of the world’s largest retailers opened a 1.6 million square-foot Sears Catalog Merchandise Distribution Center at Imeson Park. For decades, it was the largest privately owned facility in Florida, exceeded only by the vertical assembly plant at Cape Kennedy that housed NASA’s Apollo-Saturn space vehicles and later the Space Shuttle program.
Imeson Field in 1952. Imeson International Industrial Park in 2019.
Today the facility is still home to stalwarts of commerce, serving as distribution centers for Amazon and now Kroger- ranked as the 2nd and 3rd largest retailers in the country.