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Last updated: Thu. Sep. 29, 2011 - 05:53 pm EDT

LaBelle brings flavor to Kroger’s opening

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8 a.m. – Patti LaBelle meets customers at Kroger Marketplace and signs copies of her cookbooks, which are in limited supply.

10 a.m. – LaBelle moves on to a girl’s best friend – diamonds – and takes a peek at the Fred Meyer jewelry counter.

10:30 a.m. – LaBelle ends her visit by sharing cooking duties with the Kroger Marketplace head chef.

The new Kroger Marketplace has found someone to sing its praises – Patti LaBelle.

The Grammy-award-winning R&B diva, actress and author will help Kroger celebrate the opening today of a $12.5 million store that is the Cincinnati-based chain’s largest outlet in Indiana.

The retail center, 601 E. Dupont Road, spans more than 125,000 square feet and besides groceries has jewelry, office and school supplies, toy and home-furnishing departments. A café with WiFi and flat-screen televisions fill out the store as well.

Work also is under way on a second marketplace at the Village of Coventry.

Kroger is partnering with LaBelle as she launches The World of LaBelle, a product line carrying health-conscious marinades, sauces and spices and offering recipes. The entertainer is a diabetic and has written cookbooks related to the illness.

Kroger spokesman John Elliott said LaBelle’s merchandise promotion efforts just happened to coincide with the opening of the new store.

“It just sort of worked out that way,” he said. “We have a program where we mentor startup businesses and this is a great opportunity for that. We’re looking forward to it.”

So is construction worker Johnny Booker.

“Aw, man, I love Patti,” the 40-year-old said, as he shopped Wednesday at the West State Plaza. Today, he might be shopping at the new Kroger.

“I know I have to call my mother and tell her Patti is in town,” he said.

Kroger is in the midst of an ongoing $100 million store improvement and expansion project in the Fort Wayne area.

The East Dupont Road store created 130 new full- and part-time jobs. The location presently employs 195 workers.

The store is part of Kroger’s central division, headquartered in Indianapolis. It includes 147 food stores, 122 pharmacies and 64 fuel centers operating under five banners: Kroger, Scott’s, Owen’s, Hilander and Pay Less in parts of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.


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