The long-awaited rebuilt Publix is already serving customers in its new, bigger store. It opened at 7 a.m. today – in time for cooks to fill grocery lists for holiday dinner shopping, cookie exchanges and pot-luck office parties.
Shoppers will note the larger, shopper-friendly parking lot with nearly 200 spots for cars on two sides of the store, as well as a totally different layout as they walk in.
Departments have expanded to fill the extra 11,000 square feet. Vestiges of the former store are replicated on the wall overlooking checkout – prints of the Lee Olsen murals from the outside of the store painted nearly 40 years ago are framed here.
Tuesday, the media and others were invited to tour the mostly-stocked store – perishables hadn’t yet been added to the meat or seafood cases or produce bins. I got a tour of all the new goods on the shelves with Onelio Alonso, regional retail coordinator for grocery for Publix.
“We’re trying to meet the requirements of the community with the specialty and gourmet items,” Alonso said. Those include higher-end wines than found at most other Publix stores in the area. Wine lovers can choose from a larger group of Bordeaux and Burgundys here. A chilled wine area offers ready-to-drink whites for those going directly to parties. And there’s the huge display of Dom Perignon. An observer remarked, “You won’t see that at my Publix.”
Those who prefer beer can choose from a wide group of craft beers – small batch labels from around the world.
Tide’s here – along with green cleaners
The store and selection is the new hybrid model for new full-sized Publix Markets, he said, taking the “best of” from the GreenWise concept of organic and natural products and displays, as well as the top sellers from conventional stores.
“Our customers are asking for more organic and natural items, but still want a selection of traditional brands.” Keeping in mind the upscale shopper of Palm Beach, the gourmet selection is emphasized here, he said. “We have a large selection of caviar and specialty cheeses.” Olive oils, dark chocolates, anchovies and even mustards are foods with more choices than many other Publix markets.
“More and more consumers have said they wanted organic or natural products. It’s a huge growth area in all our stores, but definitely here,” he said.
Hence, there’s Tide detergent – but an expanded selection of “green” cleaners alongside it on the shelf.
Expanded organic selection along with gluten-free
Organics, naturals and green products are found throughout the store, but are marked as such. “We designate them with the rounded shelves,” Alonso said, with many having a GreenWise label overhead. “And the brown shelf tags also are a way for shoppers to identify organic and natural products.” Now a part of mainstream shopping, they’re mingled among the shelves rather than singled out on one aisle.
Gourmet and gluten-free baking products can be found on the baking aisle; sweets eaters will find a significant expansion of the candies – licorice and dark chocolates – and cookies along the aisles.
About the 22 aisles – they’re wider in the 44,000-square-feet store, though Alonso said they gave up a grocery aisle to an expanded area for the deli, where there are hot and cold prepared foods set out on island gondolas and an expanded menu for foods-to-go. It’s on the right of the new store, next to the larger bakery where ready-made cakes are prominent, along with fresh breads, pastries and cookies.
The pharmacy is in the front left corner – much expanded, as well. Another pharmacy worker has been added – one of 60 new workers among the 200 at this store. The health and beauty area features several aisles of products, many of which also carry natural labels, such as the Rainbow Light vitamin and supplement line.
Along the rear wall are the meat and seafood departments where Kobe beef will sell for up to $65 a pound, and colossal stone crab claws – the biggest offered – will be brought in for season. These are from the Keys – Publix tries for local seafood whenever possible, though it does buy internationally.
There is a company policy not to buy from China, however. “Their sources can’t be verified – that’s one of the biggest reasons among others, including labor rights violations, we don’t accept anything from them,” said Dave Roskovich, retail coordinator for meats and seafoods for Publix.
Because of windows that the Town of Palm Beach required to be incorporated in the Mediterranean design of the store, the dairy aisle, usually on the far wall before check-out, is now at the front of the store next to the wines and specialty cheeses.
Also up front and center is the Customer Service Department, where manager Nick Abiusi returns to oversee the market.
Abiusi is anxious to see his former customers. He’s been in Jupiter managing a Publix there, learning about the “back of the house” operations while awaiting the completion of his store. The back storage space is much smaller than in previous stores, he said. “With computers we’ve gotten smarter about inventory and the emphasis now is to have as much product and selection on the floor for the customers.”
It’s been a rush to stock the store within the last week, he said, but customers will find fully stocked shelves when they arrive today.
Mayor Gail Coniglio was on hand Tuesday to congratulate the Moss construction team that built the new store starting with demolition in early May. They made sure there was “minimal impact” on the neighborhood, brought the store to life on time, despite ups and downs throughout the summer, she said. “Welcome back!”