Supermarkets: Publix joins the list of area grocery options
By Jason Lesley
A refurbished Pawleys Island Plaza is nearing reality with the opening this week of its anchor store, a Publix grocery.
“It’s taken awhile, but it’s done,” said developer Dusty Wiederhold of Sunbelt Ventures in Mount Pleasant. The plaza will get a Petco in another of its large spaces near the existing Tuesday Morning. In the three new spaces up front, Wiederhold said, will be Dunkin’ Donuts, Jersey Mike’s and a national hairdresser. “We don’t start putting a big push till the anchor is open,” he said. Leasing of the retail space is not done by Sunbelt Ventures but by an outside firm. “I have to move on to the next project,” Wiederhold said.
Publix was a popular alternative to a proposed Walmart in the plaza. Citizens with Don’t Box the Neck turned out in big numbers to protest Sunbelt’s application to build a 119,500-square foot retail store on the site. Georgetown County Council approved an anchor store of 60,000 square feet, but Publix is 45,600, about the same size as the Lowe’s Foods that opened last summer down Highway 17 at Pawleys Market.
Alfred Greer is store manager, and Bert Grimes is assistant manager. Greer has 17 years of service with Publix and was previously a store manager in North Charleston.
The Pawleys Island Plaza store — this is the 1,098th in the employee-owned chain — has hired more than 100 local people, according to Kim Reynolds, media and community relations manager. The store will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with the exception of Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Publix opened at the plaza Wednesday morning, emphasizing its efforts to make cooking easy or take prepared foods home for dinner. “Seventy percent of people don’t know what they are fixing for dinner,” said Publix employee Bill Mitchell.
Shoppers are greeted immediately by a kitchen display called “Aprons: Simple Meals.” It will be staffed seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. by Joann Weimer, Angela Hebert and Chris Fassas, who cook an easy-to-prepare meal and give samples to customers. They were offering Zesty Chicken Orzo with a spinach raspberry salad during a tour Tuesday. All the ingredients for the dish — it changes on Wednesdays and Sundays — are on shelves nearby. If Zesty Chicken Orzo doesn’t appeal to a shopper, there are free recipe cards at “Aprons” with ingredients and directions. The recipes are also available at publix.com or on the Publix phone app.
“What we are trying to do is find simple meals for families or anybody,” Mitchell said. “We are trying to bring the family back to the table. That’s our motto.”
Nancy Rose of Pawleys Island was the first shopper in the new store. She was invited to join the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Carol and Tom Leis of River Club were among the early shoppers too. Carol Leis said they would travel to Publix in Mount Pleasant for occasions. “This is a great store,” she said, “a bright and cheerful place and what we need.” She was most pleased with the store’s produce department and all the customer service being offered on opening day. She welcomed the store’s effort to promote home cooking. “Everybody ought to cook at home,” she said.
For shoppers who don’t have time to cook, the bakery and deli are next door to “Aprons.” Bakery manager Richardean Hubbard said there are no preservatives in the bakery’s fresh breads. They have a 12-hour shelf life. The store’s deli uses the bakery’s bread for sandwiches.
Deli manager Elaine Simpson said there are always four hot soups available in sizes from a single serving to a quart. She recommended pairing a soup with cornbread from the bakery. She said there is a “grab and go” soup and sandwich menu daily, and deli orders are accepted online.
Meat department manager Mike McLaughlin said sushi is always available along with a variety of fresh and frozen seafood, poultry and meats. The store has a section called “Greenwise” featuring hormone free meat and chicken raised in stress free environments. He said Publix offers 88 meat, poultry and fish items, and customers can order any of them for delivery within two days if they are not in stock. Some meat dishes come in a pan suitable for the oven, McLaughlin said, and others come with a baking bag.
Produce department manager David Williams said the store would try to carry local produce when possible, promising South Carolina peaches later in spring. Fruit coming from Chile, for instance, is delivered to the company distribution centers by air freight to maximize freshness, he said.
The pharmacy and its over-the-counter drug department fills one corner of the store. Manager Lauren Durst said she will synchronize a family’s prescriptions so they can all be picked up at once. The pharmacy also offers a free 14-day supply of oral antibiotics for customers with a prescription. The pharmacy’s hours differ from those of the grocery. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Grocery manager Zack Welton said Publix makes its own brand of ice cream in seasonal flavors.
There are brochures in the wine department advising shoppers about wines and what foods they complement. Tags indicate organic foods on shelves, and the store has a “baby club” that offers coupons for disposable diapers and wipes.