The wait is over. Publix is finally public in the Orangetree area of Golden Gate Estates.
Of course, the opening of a supermarket isn’t usually a big deal for most folks, but for a neighborhood that has lacked a major grocery store, it’s truly newsworthy.
Almost 100 people stood in line in the dark Thursday before the 7 a.m. opening of Publix in the new Neighborhood Shoppes at Orangetree on the corner of Immokalee Road and Randall Boulevard.
Jennifer Levy, who lives in Orangetree, arrived about 7:30 a.m. to check out the new supermarket.
“We are very, very excited. We’re glad they’re here,” Levy said.
She said she shopped at least weekly at the nearest Publix about 10 miles away in the Shoppes at Pebblebrooke at Collier Boulevard. She figures the new store is about a 10- to 15-minute bike ride from her home.
“I actually bought a basket for my bicycle, so I can come here and load it up,” Levy said.
Like many area residents, though, Levy had her doubts the store ever was going to open when water utility hookup issues kept the store from opening in the fall.
“It took forever once it got built," she said. "We were waiting and waiting and waiting. I kept reading about the problems and the issues. We just kept hoping. It’s a great day in the neighborhood.”
Strangely enough, the delays in opening the store — the 1,146th Publix and the 19th in Collier County — might have made Publix history.
“We were months behind,” said Brian West, a corporate spokesman for Publix Super Markets Inc. “I can’t say that this has ever happened with a new store. This location has probably set a precedent in how far it’s been pushed back. We’ve just never run into an issue like we have at this store.”
Cynthia Crouse is another Orangetree resident who worried that the store was never going to open.
“I’ve been waiting for them to open, and when there was a few issues, I even spoke up and said, ‘Hey, we need Publix out here,’ ” she said. “But they’re open, and we’re happy.”
After her first visit, Crouse said she loves the new store, especially because she sees obvious benefits for it being closer to home.
“I don’t have to go in town. Pebblebrooke is a fabulous location, but they’re super busy because they have that whole area, plus all the Estates,” she said. “So now I’ll be closer to home, food will be colder when I get home, I can get into the pharmacy. I’ll probably come here most of the time now because it’s so close.”
The proximity to some Estates fire stations is also what North Collier Fire Commissioner Chris Crossan likes about the new store.
Crossan, who joined Fire Chief James Cunningham and Collier County Commissioner Bill McDaniel at Thursday’s brief ribbon-cutting, said the new store will help the district save time as well as money on gas.
“Now we can get here in just a moment and still be in our district. It’s great,” Crossan said, exiting the store with a few groceries. “The Fire Department really needs this store, as does all the residents. We’re really excited about Publix opening to keep our guys fed.”
The new store is a traditional Publix and considered average size.
Departments include produce, bakery, meat, seafood, dairy and floral. The deli features a soup bar and an area to pick up online orders. The pharmacy has a drive-thru window on the store’s eastern end.
“The one unique thing about this store, and it’s really because of the location, is the product mix,” West said. “So at this particular location, our customers will find more of a concentration of Hispanic products, particularly those that are Caribbean. But otherwise it is a traditional Publix.”
The first couple hundred shoppers at the store received gift bags and coupons. Complimentary samples available at stations throughout the store Thursday included sub sandwiches, Boar’s Head deli products, kielbasa, bacon, yogurt, guava coffeecake and orange juice.
Publix Liquors, a separate store next to the supermarket, is targeted to open at the end of May, despite rumors to the contrary.
“We will open a liquor store there. You can mark my words,” West said.
Rounding out the retail strip, a nail salon and a Chinese restaurant are expected to launch this summer next to the liquor store.
The new Publix, 13550 Immokalee Road, is open daily 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information call 239-455-1654.
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