Let’s go Krogering.

It’s easy to do in the gayboorhood. The Cedar Springs store of the grocery chain has become as much a fixture in the gay community as the bars down the street. Earlier this summer, Kroger opened a new Fresh Fare store on Maple in the old Elliott’s Hardware spot.

And just in time for the holidays, another one opens on the other side of North Central.

The new Cityplace shop officially opened this morning in the space once occupied by the Loew’s cinema, but has been barren for a long time. Not anymore.

“There’s a nice apartment complex next door, and a Lifetime Fitness [around the corner],” notes Gary Huddleston, the director of consumer affairs for Kroger. The “Uptown East” area is coming along.

Certainly the Kroger story might actually help usher that. Maybe I’m strange, but I always love visiting new grocery stores — they are oddly beautiful, and this one is no exception. The 60,000 square foot store (which employs about 260 folks) is another of their Fresh Fare concepts, focusing on organic, natural and (as often as possible) locally-sourced perishables — produce, deli and meats, baked goods, sushi. The Cityplace Kroger is indicative of another step in the continuing evolution of the grocery world.

“There are over 100 varieties of organic produce available every day,” Huddleston says. “In customer surveys, they say that’s most important to them.” It’s also the fastest growing segment in the store, he says. Gluten free options are more widely available now as well.

With “Central Market and Whole Foods on the high end and Walmart on the low end, Kroger is positioned to compete with both,” Huddleston says. You’re greeted on entering with the floral department, and just to the right is a Starbucks as well as a cafe area for prepared dinners; you can also put together your own (including designing your own birthday cake). Free wifi is available throughout the store.

It’s also a green store, with skylights providing natural lighting and fluorescents that detect light values and adjust automatically.

For pet owners, there’s also an expanded pet section, and Kroger’s pharmacy (which includes a walk-up outdoor window) offer  $4 generics … applicable as well to pet meds. What gay pet owner doesn’t want that?

For me, though, it’s the wine, beer and cheese departments (conveniently right next to each other!) that will get me coming back. A guy needs to relax, after all.