Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the pre-cooked meals available at Publix.

The day before Hurricane Dorian was forecasted to hit Eastern North Carolina, the newest grocery store in Jacksonville - Publix - held its grand opening.

While the approaching hurricane forced the company to close the store the day after the opening and potentially longer, that didn’t dampen the mood of management or the enthusiasm employees had showing off their new store.

“We’re excited that we were able to open before the storm,” Store Manager Justin Woerner said. “We’re always here for the community.”

With the opening of the Jacksonville location, the Florida-based grocer now operates 1,226 stores across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, NC, South Carolina, and Virginia. Connye Waite, a Jacksonville resident, has been to locations in Florida where her daughter lives. She was impressed by Publix and wanted to see her new local location.

“I like the cleanliness, the fresh food, and the prices are not bad,” Waite said. “And they have a variety.”

For Jacksonville residents, the fresh items and timing of the opening right before Dorian’s arrival was fortunate.

“We figured that they’d be stocked,” Jacksonville resident Elise Cummings said. “Water, bread, non-perishable things, stuff like that.”

Others were drawn by curiosity and gave it glowing reviews.

“We just wanted to check it out,” Esther Hoffman, who was visiting with her nearly 1-year old son, Benjamin, said. “I love it.”

The Publix in Jacksonville houses departments familiar to regular grocery shoppers, such as a deli, bakery, meat, seafood, produce, and wine. It also contains a salad and sandwich bar for customizable meals as well as a sushi stand, and offers modern grocery amenities like delivery and curbside pickup. It’s pharmacy offers free prescription medication for select cardiovascular, diabetic, and antibiotic medication. Shoppers can also find plenty of pre-cooked Publix meals for the family and “Aprons Meal Kits,” which include all the ingredients for a family meal in a bag to take home to be cooked, according to Woerner.

Woerner, who has been with Publix for 20 years and previously served as the assistant store manager of the Wilmington location, stood just inside the entrance to the store and greeted customers and they came in with a welcome, handshake, or brief conversation.

“Jacksonville’s been waiting for a while I hear,” he said. “We’re all excited about it, it’s amazing.”

 

Reporter Kevin Vandenburg can be reached at 910-219-8453 or kvandenburg@jdnews.com.