LONGBOAT KEY -- After an eight-month wait, shoppers on Longboat Key got their first look at the newly renovated Publix Super Market at 525 Bay Isles Parkway on Longboat Key Thursday. The store is the newest of the grocery chain's properties to combine conventional super market fare with an expanded range of specialty items and upscale services.
In April, Publix shuttered the Longboat Key store to increase its size from about 37,000 square feet to 49,000 square feet in order to expand its line of conventional fare and to make room for an assortment of all natural and organic foods and imported products, as well as for upscale specialty departments including full-service floral and event planning services. The store also offers a large selection of freshly prepared foods and a seating area equipped with free Wi-Fi service.
"This will be the perfect location for our Longboat Key customers to explore an array of foods and services in one location," said Shannon Patten, Publix media manager.
Shopper Millie Finkel agreed.
"Everything is so upscale," Finkel said while enjoying fruit and granola samples in the produce department. "It's beyond my dreams."
For Rosemarie Carter who was exploring the store with her son David, the store's location is key.
"It's convenient," Carter said.
But not all those on hand for the re-opening had praise for the super market chain. Shortly after the store's 8 a.m. opening, about a dozen demonstrators gathered briefly outside the store to protest Publix decision to withhold support the Fair Food Program.
Under the program, major buyers pay a premium of one penny per pound for tomatoes which is paid out to farmworkers by the growers who employ them. Jordan Buckley, spokesman for Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida said that Publix has repeatedly declined to participate in the partnership between growers, buyers and farmworkers. Patten said that Publix has repeatedly declined to support the program on the grounds that the issue constitutes a labor dispute.
Meanwhile, Patten said that the Longboat Key store represents the newest of Publix prototype stores to include updates and expanded departments. She said renovations were planned for other Publix locations in the Bradenton-Sarasota area, but she could not provide details about which stores would be updated and what renovations might include.