A new Publix Supermarket opened yesterday, across the street from the entrance to the community where I live. We’ve been anticipating the (supply chain delayed) opening of this store, as our area just east of Bradenton, Florida has been experiencing tremendous growth, and our traditional Lakewood Ranch Publix, just another mile or two down the road, has been a very busy place, indeed. This new one will ease that burden and is quite convenient for the residents of our particular neighborhood. My wife and I decided to visit it just a couple of hours after it opened.
It was not lost on us that it must be a sign of aging when the highlight of your week is getting to check out the new supermarket in the neighborhood.
We pulled into the bustling parking lot where flags and banners announced the opening. The lot was quite full, with probably around 700 vehicles in it. We were to soon find out that about 688 of them belonged to Publix employees, who had all been wedged into the store to welcome customers, ask them if they need help finding anything, and tell them to have a nice day.
I’ve never witnessed the birth of a Publix before, or any supermarket for that matter. From a businessperson’s perspective, it was a fascinating thing to analyze.
The store manager greeted us at the door with promotional flyers. Just inside a Pharmacy rep gave us a refrigerator magnet and touted their new drive-thru window, assuring me that my drug access would be easier than ever. I will note that, while free samples of various items were being offered throughout the store, she was not providing any. In the deli, Boars Head reps offered their assistance, although were apologetic that this specific Publix wouldn’t be carrying their Madrasala Curry Chicken – a major disappointment in an otherwise satisfying day. The guy monitoring the new olive station told us he couldn’t go home until all of his olives had been sold.
There was a plethora of olives. I suspect he is still there.
We were greeted by clusters of employees and management in produce, dairy, and the bakery. Several people asked if we needed any assistance and told us to have a nice day. I will say this, the opening of a new store is an exciting and happy time. Everything is new, bright, and shiny. The shelves are stocked and organized. The place just has that “new store smell,” where the floors are spotless, the wheels on the shopping carts all still travel in one direction, and they haven’t yet had their first “slip, trip, or fall.” At checkout, we were given a free insulated shopping bag, and (even though we used self-checkout) were assisted by a very enthusiastic employee thrilled to be working so close to her home. As we left the store, we were given a free loaf of bread.
I have no idea why. Perhaps they heard I had recently retired my income by starting a new company and took pity on me.
Yes, it was certainly a happy place. So much so that I couldn’t stop thinking about a grocery store scene from the movie “My Blue Heaven.” In that movie, Vinnie Antonelli, played by Steve Martin, is a street-wise New York mobster who, through witness relocation, finds himself in a small, friendly western town. Struggling to adapt to a much different environment, he lashes out with a profane and inappropriate response when one too many people in a grocery store tell him to “have a nice day.”
You will be pleased to know I successfully fought the urge to mimic his behavior on this visit. It wasn’t easy, though. Everyone was just so darned happy…
All in all, it was a good experience. Publix is probably one of the best-run supermarket companies in the nation. It is an employee-owned operation with an excellent reputation. From a workers’ comp perspective, they are self-insured, which is not unusual for a company of their size; and self-administered, which is much less common amongst similarly sized companies. As a guy long immersed in workers’ comp affairs, I continually thought about the protections offered for the 1,000 or so employees stuffed into this store as we traversed its aisles. In fact, workers’ comp was an integral part of the process that facilitated this opening.
The people who designed and built the building, who installed the equipment, who made the products, delivered the goods, and stocked the shelves; all were provided the stability afforded by the very existence of workers’ compensation coverage. It isn’t just part of the retail experience. It is ingrained throughout the process that brought us to this point.
I just hope none of the many, many, employees at this opening accidentally trip over each other and hurt themselves. I would hate for this location to so easily lose its new store smell.