OK. Cue the tiny violin because this is truly one of the most “first-world problem” types of things you’ll ever see me write about.
However, if you are a Floridian, you probably get it.
At the end of January, we moved out of the home we had lived in for 15 years. The “cardboard kids” in this picture are now 23 and 20, respectively, and they’re living their own lives in other places.
The move was necessary for so many reasons. Short version: This was way too much house (space-wise, money-wise, lawn-wise) once we were down to the two of us.
Although the new house is such a better fit (smaller home, less lawn, lower mortgage payment every month), there’s just this one thing.
We had to switch to a different Publix after 15 years of shopping at the same one.
For starters, let’s look at why so many Floridians are so loyal to Publix. This article is a good place to begin.
When Floridians make the unenviable decision to move away from the Sunshine State, it’s often the loss of Publix that they seem to lament the most—at least if all the Facebook posts are to be believed.
Now that we’ve established that Floridians (many of them, at least) are loyal to Publix, let’s scrape off another layer and talk about allegiance to specific locations, such as the Vineyard Center location (Store #857) that I was at for so long.
I’ve often heard that Publix puts its stores where its demographers say the people are going to be, and I’d bet that’s true for the Vineyard store. This article references that a bit (“Another key element in the company’s strategy is placing new stores in growing or underserved markets …”). Vineyard Center was so empty when it first opened, with a line of associates anxious to check customers out. Not so in January 2020. The place was consistently busy by then.
Here are some memories that will always stick with me about Vineyard Center Publix:
I had one of my worst public meltdowns ever at Publix. Maybe this was inevitable. Maybe since I was there so often, the odds were in favor of Publix being the place where I totally lost it. I was at Publix after work, tired and hungry with kids in tow, annoyed that I was at Publix after work, tired and hungry with kids in tow while Wayne was “decompressing” at the bar after work.
Wayne Kevin, who was in first grade at the time, was looking at the Lunchables. The one he wanted to look at was kind of high up, so I picked him up and propped him on the metal rim of the case. Then he started walking along the rim (I know — in retrospect not a good idea). I was thinking how cute his light-up shoes were and how good his balance was but a fellow shopper decided to give me a lecture about how unsanitary the practice was.
I. LOST. IT. I LOST IT.
Of course we never think of the good comebacks in the moment. I essentially said the same thing I always say when I can’t think of anything logical … “I’m doing the best I can.” And then I proceeded to cry hysterically right there in the cold cuts aisle. A woman with her own kids jumped in to calm me down. She was a darn angel. She told me about being a single mom, and how we all have these moments. Somehow I managed to grab the chicken we needed for dinner and get out of Publix. (And yes the cashier asked me how my day was going. I blubbered through some nonsensical answer.)
Would I be litigious?
Tenley was probably around 8 or 9 when this happened. We were leaving Publix, and she slipped awkwardly on the floor and fell awkwardly on her wrist as we were leaving (I think there was a small puddle on the floor). Within moments, it was clear she was fine, but a manager had seen it happen and was very solicitous. I realize this makes me sound opportunist, but my immediate answer to her inquiry about Tenley’s wrist was, “I don’t know — there may be a problem,” as in “If I sue Publix about this, I don’t want to have said ‘nah it’s all fine’ right afterward.
What was wrong with me? Did I seriously think I was going to sue Publix and get a monetary settlement over a tiny slip that could have happened to anyone? Fortunately, it all passed over but for some reason I still think about that situation all these years later.
Knowing the Associates
Publix is generally accepted as a good employer, and the high retention rate backs that up. Over all those years, I could count on seeing the same associates consistently, especially my friend Connie. I also saw kids who I had first known as preschoolers grow up to be bagging my groceries and checking them out.
Parking was simple
I’m sure there’s a science to parking lot design, but here’s my layperson’s observation: Parking lots are becoming more compact as developers try to squeeze more money-making space into shopping complexes. Vineyard is still more of a traditional parking lot. No crazy lane arrangements, plenty of space. I can’t say the Southwood Publix parking lot (my new store) is especially bad, but Vineyard was a breeze.
The Cake Book
This section doesn’t apply solely to Vineyard Publix, but it’s such a big memory in general. As a child, Tenley *loved* flipping through the book of decorated cakes at Publix. It didn’t matter what time of year it was … or if it was a whole 364 days until her next birthday … it was just a joy to her to dream about cakes for herself and, sometimes, for her imaginary friends.
She was close to growing out of this by the time we moved to Hawk’s Landing and were shopping at Vineyard Publix, but Publix gave her (and I imagine other children too) some free entertainment (along with the free cookies — which were HUGE with my kids all throughout their childhoods) with those cake books. We also bought plenty of cakes from Publix too. Looking back on it, I sort of regret trying to lure her away so often — I was usually in a hurry … or keeping up with my son … or in some other way not fully present. Still, it’s a happy memory for the most part.
Vineyard Publix sure showed up often in my blog
This is not the first time Vineyard Publix (or Publix in general) has appeared in my blog. Not the first time at all.
A search yields 22 times I’ve referred to Publix in my blog. Granted, some of the posts just mention being at Publix in passing, but still — that’s almost 2% of all my posts!
Somehow, my time at Vineyard Publix spanned my parental breakdown moment described above through the expansion of my writing into topics such as white privilege and microaggressions. (When I started blogging in 2009, I thought I was only going to be writing about running. That didn’t last long!)
When I say microaggressions, I mean the question of whether it’s a microaggression to put the divider down too fast. This piece of fine blog photography came from Vineyard Publix.
I knew where everything was
Is there anything better than knowing exactly where your routine items are at the store? I mean … for FIFTEEN YEARS? Here’s the answer: No there isn’t!
Vineyard Publix did a reset shortly before I moved. It was frustrating. People were walking around acting as if the sky had fallen. If you want to see a few eastside Tallahassee residents get discombobulated, put the pinto beans where the chocolate pudding used to be (and don’t switch the signs to match the move right away).
Maybe the reset was a sign that it was time to move on. I was going to have to get to know a new Publix anyway, so what better time?
I could show up as I was
I would usually run to Publix around 5:30 p.m. to grab ingredients for dinner, which Wayne would make when he got home. Most days I was … to put it mildly … barely put together (I work from home). I did throw on a bra and usually a baseball cap so I could slink in and out. Because of the nature of the east side and the Vineyard location, I knew that if I ran into someone, it would generally be an understanding neighbor or someone I could laugh my bedraggled appearance off with.
Now, however, Southwood Publix is a whole new ballgame! These people are from all over, and mostly still dressed for work. I think I’m going to have to step up my appearance strategy in order to avoid embarrassment.
Am I disappointed?
I’m writing this blog in response to the Kat Bouska prompt “Share the last thing that disappointed you.” I am disappointed to have to leave Vineyard Publix.
More than disappointed, though, I’m grateful to the people who always greeted me so professionally, were so kind to my kids, and who truly made shopping a pleasure.
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.
I just love Publix! When we visit our Florida family outside of Tampa, in Seffner, that is always my first shopping stop.
What amazes me is that, unlike the markets I frequent here in New York, each trip to Publix finds the store layout the same and it feels like I’m supermarket-home-again. I’m certain that resets are done but the overall store organization is always familiar.
Give it time, hopefully, soon it will feel comfortable again!
Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen) says
Oh yes I hear you!! When I lived in New York, my colleagues who would vacation in Florida counted going to Publix as *part* of the vacation. So clean! So orderly! So friendly! The Pub Subs! It definitely has a fan following.
I’ve never been to a Publix, but while working with Sway we did run quite a few Publix campaigns so I feel like I’ve basically shopped there. 😉 I feel the same way about my Fred Meyer though. When I have to pop in to a different store it takes me SO much longer to find what I need. I could basically work at Fred Meyer at this point! Good luck and congratulations on your move. That is a huge life change!!
Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen) says
I think I applied for a bunch of those Sway/Publix campaigns LOL! It’s funny how we get attached. But from a customer standpoint, Publix has definitely done something right in the retention arena.