MANATEE -- Shoppers looking for a way to cut down their grocery bill will be in luck this week if they head to Sweetbay.
The first round of stores to convert to Winn-Dixie are set to close Saturday for a remodeling, and discounts on food are being offered. For stores closing Saturday, private label brands, including Hannaford, My Essentials and Taste of Inspirations, are 50 percent off this week with the exception of bread, milk and eggs.
Products in the produce, deli, bakery and meat departments are now 25 percent off.
Bradenton stores at 5802 14th St. W. and 2501 Cortez Road W. are due to close Saturday and reopen March 28, as well as Sarasota stores at
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2881 Clark Road, 4230 Bee Ridge Road and 1325 S. Tamiami Trail. Stores at 5805 Manatee Ave. W. in Bradenton and 515 7th St. W. in Palmetto are expected to close March 29.
During a trip to the Sarasota Midtown Plaza Sweetbay on Sunday, the 50 percent off products were all but picked over. But there are deals to be had in the meat, produce and deli/bakery departments.
Plenty of birthday cakes and sweets lined the bakery, the produce department is still stocking fresh fruits and veggies, and deli meats were in good supply. Meat choices are getting low as shoppers have been wise to stock up and throw a couple steaks in the freezer.
Employees will be working to transform the store in a week's time, keeping the layout of the stores similar to Sweetbay, and receive training on doing things the Winn-Dixie way.
"Upon reopening as a Winn-Dixie, we believe customers will be pleasantly surprised to see that we have been working hard to provide the fresh, quality products they want at prices they can afford," Joey Medina, Winn-Dixie's regional vice president, said in a news release. "Plus, we will offer a suite of in-store savings programs, like the fuel perks rewards program, which lets customers earn incredible savings at participating Shell stations every time they shop with their Winn-Dixie Customer Reward Card."
The conversion is part of the acquisition of 30 Sweetbay stores by Bi-Lo, parent company of Winn-Dixie. The Tampa headquarters for Sweetbay will close at the end of the conversion, while employees in good standing at stores that remain open will be offered to stay on with Winn-Dixie. To avoid monopoly concerns, the Federal Trade Commission ordered to have another chain acquire locations, resulting in 12 Sweetbay stores in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to be sold to Rowes IGA Supermarkets, HAC Inc., W. Lee Flowers & Co. Inc. and Food Giant.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.,