Table Mesa King Soopers’ offers comfort in the wake of tragedy

Photo: Wikipedia/Mapillary
Mar 08, 2022

On March 22, 2021 a gunman opened fire inside the Table Mesa King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, CO. The gunman killed 10, injured himself and one other, traumatized far more, and thrust grief onto Table Mesa and Boulder. What happened is close to my heart as I grew up shopping at this store with my mother and returned often on trips to see family.

The resulting crisis which King Soopers and parent Kroger faced is so intensely human that only informed management relying on human instinct and empathy could find good ways forward. No technology, extravagant data scheme or formula from a leadership book can supply answers needed in a time like this. Response also required understanding that acts this horrific stain even the physical location as humanity shrinks from places where violent death has occurred.

A year later, how have King Soopers and Kroger done? In a word:  Superbly.

The store closed and the fenced site became a memorial. Eventually King Soopers invited public comment around moving forward with the store location — including ideas for design and to honor victims.

Spense Havlick, former Boulder City Council member, wrote in the Daily Camera, “Tremendous credit must be given to officials at King Soopers and Kroger for implementing these ideas and many more.” The store reopened last month.

Wondering about how King Soopers took care of its traumatized staff, I reached out through a Facebook group, which formed among those of us who shopped at the store as kids. Responses from employees were glowing — King Soopers had gone above and beyond. The company reports 50 percent of former staff are returning to the store.

These efforts are not about ROI — managers must do what needs to be done. It is refreshing to find that Kroger paid attention in a crisis while considering their whole responsibility — victims, employees, vendors and community — sharing in the grief while also delivering value to the neighborhood.

Too many companies shout “purpose” with shallowly adopted causes. Yet a grocery store’s purpose is so important it should need no other. And Kroger showed us that the purpose which matters more than any other is being responsible in times of crisis.

With as much instability in the world today, there is an emotional comfort to be able to drop into a local grocery store where folks of all ages are welcome,” wrote Mr. Havlick.

I can’t imagine anything more meaningful.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What lessons can be learned from how Table Mesa King Soopers responded to its crisis? How should grocery stores communicate their purpose to the communities they serve?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Kroger excelled by focusing on its team and the community."
"No amount of data could have found the right solution for this tragedy. "
"The company handled it in the most respectful and sensitive way possible by allowing the community to decide how to move forward."

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9 Comments on "Table Mesa King Soopers’ offers comfort in the wake of tragedy"

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Richard Hernandez
Richard Hernandez
Director of Commerce
6 months 24 days ago

No amount of data could have found the right solution for this tragedy. The company involved the public (the neighborhood, those affected, and store employees) from the start to help them develop a path forward. Very thoughtful and human indeed.

Gary Sankary

I have tremendous respect for how King Soopers and Kroger handled a terrible situation. Sadly many companies in the United States have to deal with these very circumstances. Kroger excelled by focusing on its team and the community. They listened to their constituencies and put people first in their decisions about how to move forward.

DeAnn Campbell

The company handled it in the most respectful and sensitive way possible by allowing the community to decide how to move forward. In the wake of tragedy or natural disaster there is no handbook for retailers. It’s a reflection of the leadership on how local stores are empowered to handle the situation. Other retailers should look to this as a sterling example of doing what’s right for the customer.

Lucille DeHart

It goes back to the basics of “treat people the way in which you would want to be treated.” This could only happen when field teams and management feel empowered to make local decisions and immerse themselves in the community. Companies are in business to make money, but this is a sad yet prime example of how building trust and fostering loyalty are still part of successful strategies.

James Tenser

Unfortunately the Table Mesa King Soopers incident was not the first mass shooting at a supermarket. Here in Tucson, AZ the memories are still painful from the Jan. 8, 2011 shooting of 18 people at a Safeway store that killed 6 including a 9-year-old girl, and left Gabrielle Giffords, then a member of the U.S. Congress, with a devastating brain injury.

The community response may offer a helpful model for Kroger. The Safeway store was re-opened after a time, and a small memorial was erected outside a decade later by a local foundation, with appropriate ceremony.
Community healing takes time, but it might be said that a food store is a good place for that healing to happen. Nourish the stomach. Nourish the soul.

Patricia Vekich Waldron

Despite the tragic event, this is a perfect example of purpose-led operations. Bravo to Kroger and King Soopers.

John Karolefski

Kroger’s action was a textbook example of how a grocer should react after such an awful incident. Not every grocer will need to respond to such a tragic happening. But every grocer should have or develop a purpose for its existence that goes behind selling food and beverage. And that purpose needs to include serving the community in a way that inspires loyalty and trust.

Ryan Mathews

The real lessons here are not to hide from community pain, but find ways to respect it and to remember that sometimes it really is a people business and people need comfort.

Anil Patel

I admire Kroger’s response to this crisis. The retailer proved that they understand their customers’ emotions and ensured that their marketing strategies are in line with customers’ mindsets and sentiments. Moreover, public gunfire is a highly sensitive issue that requires immediate attention. Unfortunately, people would only respond and remember for a few days, and then it would be forgotten. I liked how Kroger tried to refocus on tragedy and took steps to hyper-personalized interactions with customers.

When it comes to purpose, I don’t think it can be exactly communicated. Nor does it come from motivation. Purpose comes from within the brand. Customers would know a brand is purpose-driven when they would witness the retailers working towards the betterment of the community. Retailers can’t wake up one morning and decide to preach about purposeful brand practices. They would need to design brand values in such a way that aligns with the ideals of a sustainable and non-violent community.

"Kroger excelled by focusing on its team and the community."
"No amount of data could have found the right solution for this tragedy. "
"The company handled it in the most respectful and sensitive way possible by allowing the community to decide how to move forward."

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