published Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Shoppers line up to welcome new Publix in North Chattanooga

What the store offers

Bakery

Full-service deli and meat departments

Online ordering for store pick-up of subs, meats and cheeses

Organic produce and groceries

Pharmacy

Self check-out lanes

Publix at a glance

The 45,800 square-foot North Store location is Publix's 1,078th store. Other locations are in Tennessee, as well as in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The privately owned and operated company reported $28.9 billion in sales last year.

Daily hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

  • photo
    Robert Bobbin bags groceries for Melissa Mays, left, and Christine Anderson, second from left, at Chattanooga's newest Publix Supermarket which opened its doors at 7a.m. on Wednesday. The first 50 customers received a free bag of groceries valued at $25 from the North Shore store.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

The mundane became marvelous.

Boxed-up cereal and frozen food never looked better to frenzied shoppers who'd lined up hours before Publix opened its newest location in North Shore Wednesday morning.

"The sense of competition was overwhelming," said Bart Daniels, who arguably was the store's first customer.

He'd gotten a tip from a Hixson Publix employee about the grand opening at 400 N. Market St. Word was the store would open at 6 a.m. So Daniels arrived with his daughter Hannah, 11, at 5:30 a.m.

"Of course, it didn't open until 7," said Daniels, 36.

Make that a few minutes before 7 a.m.

Fifth in line to enter the store, Daniels checked out at 6:59 a.m. That got him a reusable bag filled with $25 of free groceries: buns, sugar and canola oil, among other things. The first 25 customers to spend at least $50 were awarded the same. Many bee-lined to the back of the store as soon as they stepped inside, loaded up on pricey items like meat or seafood, and then darted to the check-out lanes.

Chris Mangum's receipt read 6:59 a.m. too. The 28-year-old electrician came straight from his overnight shift, after a quick stop at his Hill City home to pick up his girlfriend, Keely Wheeler.

"There's free stuff," Wheeler, 24, said. And not just free groceries for the early 25.

The first 1,000 patrons got bright green reusable bags. Store Manager James Groover handed out colorful carnations to the first 500 or so folks to walk through the store's doors. Smiling employees offered generous samples of breakfast bread, Boar's Head ham and chocolate-coated peanut butter pretzels.

"We're just super excited," Groover said. "The excitement downtown is amazing."

He wasn't exaggerating.

It's been a good two years since plans floated for the grocery, initially without the Publix name attached. The closest Publix stores are at least nine miles away in Hixson, Ooltewah and on East Brainerd Road. Whole Foods, formerly Green Life grocery, has been North Shore's only full-service grocery -- and is less than half a mile away.

"We've competed against Whole Foods," said Publix Spokeswoman Brenda Reid, who came from Atlanta for the opening. "It's not unusual."

Like neighboring Whole Foods, North Shore's Publix sells organic food.

Publix looks at competition within a 3-mile radius when it considers opening a store, Reid said. Walmart and Bi-Lo are about 3 miles away on Signal Mountain Road.

Given all that, what you see on shelves now could change in about a year, Reid said.

Cashiers expect honest responses to their standard greeting, "Did you find everything you need?" Reid said.

"As customers demand more, Publix responds," she said. "You can tell anyone if there is something you need."

Contact staff writer Mitra Malek at mmalek@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406.

about Mitra Malek...

Mitra Malek writes about business, with a focus on the Chattanooga area's tech, small business and entrepreneurial communities, as well as tourism. Before coming to the Times Free Press, she was a staff writer for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Journal Inquirer and Palm Beach Post. She has covered local and national politics, government, international trade, a state cancer cluster investigation and real estate growth and economic development, among other subjects. Her reporting ...

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