2343 Crawfordville Highway
Crawfordville, FL 32327
Live, Local, Late-breaking: This is the Sing Oil Blogger
Today I am reporting to you live from the Crawfordville Commons Shopping Center on Crawfordville Highway (US Highway 319) where Publix #1798 is holding its grand opening celebration. This marks a milestone in the chain's history as this is its 1,300th store, and the first Publix in Wakulla County. Although the company calls the Sunshine State its home, there are still several other rural counties which do not contain a single Publix, primarily concentrated around Florida's Big Bend region; however, Wakulla County no longer holds that distinction!
For those who aren't familiar with the area, Crawfordville is an unincorporated community located about 15 minutes southwest of Tallahassee. It also happens to be the county seat of Wakulla County and is one of only two unincorporated county seats in the state. The county is famous for the nearby Wakulla Springs State Park, and is a common place for travelers to stock up before heading to the beaches at Alligator Point or St. George Island. Crawfordville has been home to a Winn-Dixie for a number of years, but Publix recently decided it was time for them to get in on the action.
I bring up all of this because this store has one more unique quirk: it is an Evergreen-built 45M from an era full of 49M-2 builds. It seems like Publix is determined for their default prototype to be the 49M-2, and has only sprinkled a few 45Ms around sparingly. I was interested to find out what (if anything) has changed with this prototype since the rollout of Evergreen, so I was excited to learn that #1798 was built to that design. I suppose the smaller population of the area led Publix to shy away from building a fancy 49M-2 and instead resort to a tried-and-true 45M.
Publix announced that they would build this store back in 2021 after months of speculation. Fast forward to August 4, 2022, and we see the culmination of that work with the grand opening ceremony for the 46,811 sq. ft. store. I have been to one other Publix during its first day in operation, but this was the first time I attempted to visit a grand opening. I certainly enjoyed the experience and had an excuse to see the sun rise, which is nice; the only problem is I missed the ribbon cutting by a minute or two since I was caught in the traffic. Oh well, I still got to be there!
The store held its grand opening at 7 AM sharp, but I was out of bed well before then. At least I had some nice weather for my morning drive!
We'll take our first look at the store from Crawfordville Highway. The attached shopping center is also scheduled to include a Publix liquor store and several other tenants, none of which had opened as of this morning.
The ribbon might've already been cut, but there was still a line to check out this place at 7:04 AM.
I'd like to also point out how this store still received the windows flanking the façade, which typically allow for stock photos to be displayed. This is customary in 45M stores, but I don't believe I have seen this feature in a 49M-2 or 54M-2. I'm curious as to why Publix left them in this design and if they will add stock photos eventually.
A lot of people woke up bright and early to check out their new Publix!
As I entered the store, I was greeted by several employees, handed a sales flyer and store directory, and passed a matte grey buggy for my shopping trip. I've noticed the grey shopping carts before, but this is the first store I've seen them exclusively used as opposed to the typical chrome ones.
I didn't manage to get a picture of the customer service island, but it was placed in the same location it has been for the last 15-20 years. This location got one of the "deluxe" Evergreen customer service islands as opposed to the rectangular ones rolled out during the later years of Sienna. I haven't seen many of these in person, but they seem to have more storage used for Instacart staging.
Otherwise, this section of the store looks largely the same as any other 45M I have seen.
The biggest exception to that statement is the addition of a dining nook to the right of the bakery. Typically, cake refrigerators would be located between the bakery counter and the floral section, but this store carved out a space for customers to munch on a Pub Sub.
This change resulted in the bakery using taller display tables for their product on the sales floor (as opposed to the nesting tables seen in other stores) and other cake coolers being in the middle of the sales floor as well.
The bakery may have been altered for the new design, but the deli looks the same as every other recent 45M store I've seen (the tile backsplash being the one exception).
Sorry for the unflattering picture, but Plato even made an appearance at the grand opening! I just hadn't realized that Publix decided to change the costume for Plato at some point, and still thought he looked like this. I personally like the old look better.
Another familiar sight is the placement of the produce department. I've been to stores dating back to the 1990's which have this identical configuration, but it seems to work well for the chain (if you didn't guess, the produce department was in the back right corner of the store).
Publix may be known for the cleanliness in its stores, but that effort
is heightened during a grand opening. If you can't tell, every single
piece of fruit was perfectly placed, and I couldn't resist taking a picture (a lady also got out of the way for me to have a clear shot).
I can see how there is an art to store openings, so I'm glad I was able to capture a glimpse of how perfect everything was intended to look. I also didn't have to shy away from taking any pictures because people were gawking over the sights of the shiny new store!
The meat and seafood department found their standard placements, just to the left of the produce service window. I do find it interesting that this store received the premium, frameless glass seafood display cases. I haven't paid attention to other recent new-builds, but those cases were the hallmark of an especially premium Sienna store nearly 10 years ago.
We'll take one last look down aisle 1 (the grand aisle) before we mosey our way through the rest of the store.
I'd imagine that the one yellow pipe in the ceiling is probably colored as such for safety reasons (it is probably a gas line), but it still seems very distracting against the otherwise grey ceiling. I'd be curious to see if I notice this in other stores, or if it is a piece of modern Floridian building codes.
The rear actionway was full of action today! This would also be a good time to point out another observation I've made: it seems like any store which received grey aisle sign frames with its Evergreen remodel was either a new-build or remodeled from an Invigorate (CM 2.5) flavor which used older aisle signs. Most Sienna remodels seem to reuse the existing green frames, which could be an easy way in the future to identify the remodel history of a store. I'll also note that several of the early Evergreen stores still received the green aisle sign frames, but they were likely existing stock.
Our first aisle examination will be on aisle 4: home to a plethora of baking supplies (and some sugar products which continue to sport the phased-out Publix packaging).
Turning around, the meat counter proudly boasts its offerings of beef, pork, lamb, veal, turkey, chicken, and smoked meats. Wouldn't smoked meats likely fall into one of those other six categories?
The next piece I want to highlight is how perfectly stocked the grocery aisles were. Most aisles had one or two Publix employees stationed at each end who would move product to the front as a customer removed an item. The soft drink aisle was especially crowded because it hosted representatives from Coca-Cola and Pepsi who were ready to replenish the shelves after one item was selected.
The fact that most shelves were fully stocked was a sight to see in its own right (especially after the last few years), but a brand-new store still couldn't escape the infamous "Our Apologizes" tags. Only thirteen-minutes into this store's life, it already had vacancies on its shelves; however, I believe this section was empty before the store opened. I would like to note that I saw a shortage of Topo-Chico at other stores I have visited recently, including ones run by other companies such as Winn-Dixie.
If you didn't know it already, I had a doggone good time visiting this store! Let's check out all of the pet supplies on aisle 8!
I wonder how long it took somebody to ensure every bag of dog food was perfectly placed and spaced on the shelf; regardless, it looks really nice!
At this point, I've probably been to around 10 Evergreen stores since my first visit to Publix #1306 in November. It seems like every store I visit still boasts a new stock photo, and the one which caught my eye today was the rosemary over the meat coolers.
The rosemary may be new for me, but the faithful I 💚 Green #Publix collage was still on proud display over the packaged lunch meats.
We also find Mr. George residing over the coffin cooler between aisles 10 and 11. I've had mixed results finding this picture in every new or remodeled Publix, but the company has been doing this since at least 2014.
I mentioned how I wasn't able to get a great view of the customer service desk, but we can see the edge of it (or the entirety of the "R-VICE" desk, Publix's place pickup information about all of its vices) along with half of the checkout space.
Aisle 13 was lucky enough to be fully stocked with paper products. Even though we have mostly recovered from the run on toilet paper, it is still surprising to see so much toilet paper!
Dairy and bread round out aisle 16, which is the final aisle along the left wall of the store.
I feel like I only noticed this a week or two ago, but when did stores begin stacking the Pillsbury tubes (biscuits, crescent rolls, etc.) on their end instead of having them lie on the shelf?
These pictures may not all show it, but the store was very crowded for 7 in the morning – it was more like the crowd I'd expect to see around noon on a Sunday as people are racing to pick up groceries after church. This store also had tons of employees available to greet and direct customers, in addition to handing out samples. The only sample I got was a piece of croissant from the bakery, but I also saw a lady offering tastes of a savory dip near the deli (it was too early in the morning for that). I heard somebody mention ice cream, but I never saw that station.
Interestingly, many of the employees were likely serving temporary shifts and were on loan from some of the Tallahassee stores. I saw several workers buzzing around with blue nametags, which is a clear indicator that they worked at the GreenWise Market on Gaines Street and were only there to assist with the opening. I suppose a GreenWise uniform is good enough for Publix's standards, as opposed to providing a special shirt and nametag just for the day.
Grand opening celebrations are known for their giveaways and sales; likewise, the first 1,000 customers received a free insulated bag (you can see several examples in this shot). A table out front also offered information on Club Publix along with pens, chip clips, and water bottles, while several men were passing out Thomas Muffin Tops to every customer.
That, my friends, will round out my visit to the grand opening of Publix #1798. Off in the distance of this photo is where the liquor store will be located once it opens. I wanted to check it out, but it looked like it was still full of boxes and had more work which needed to be completed before it could open.
If there weren't already enough customers, Publix even had a mobile billboard set up in the parking lot advertising their famous Pub Subs to the people of Crawfordville. I do find it odd that the truck advertises a 770 area code, which means the company is probably based out of the Atlanta area. That's a long drive to just be sitting in the parking lot!
So what did y'all think? Was it Grand? It certainly was open! Don't expect my turnaround for future posts to be quite this fast (just over 8 hours may be a new record!), but I had a fun adventure to start off my day. Look out for more content coming soon; I've recently visited some very interesting stores run by the competition.
- The Sing Oil Blogger
I archived a few articles discussing the grand opening celebrations (it looks like my post was the first to be published, BTW), so check them out for more pictures and details: