Supply chain issues, inflation and higher fuel prices are hitting grocers such as Publix just like other businesses, the company's president said in Chattanooga on Thursday, urging customer patience.
Kevin Murphy, Publix Supermarkets' president, also said the company expects to continue to increase its presence in Chattanooga and Tennessee as the city and state grow.
"We grow as the community grows," he said in an interview at Harrison Bay State Park as about 55 Publix employees in the Chattanooga area joined others companywide in public service projects across its seven-state footprint.
At Harrison Bay, Murphy joined other workers in planting trees in a company focus on environmental sustainability. Employees also painted cabins and laid down mulch at the state park.
Murphy, who said he formerly worked for the company in Atlanta and is familiar with the Chattanooga market, added that Publix is closely working with its suppliers. Businesses countrywide and internationally are grappling with the supply chain amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"We're asking customers and suppliers to be patient," he said. "People understand."
Amid a surge in inflation and a spike in gas prices, Murphy said Publix is dealing with those issues.
"We do the same things every company does," he said.
Publix officials know that inflation and gas costs impact its employees, too, the company official said.
At the same time, as inflation continues, it's inevitable that everyone will feel the difference in prices for goods, Murphy said.
Publix has eight stores in the Chattanooga area. In December it announced its newest location in Ooltewah.
Publix officials said they signed a lease for a supermarket to anchor the Enclave shopping center that will be built on 32 acres at the southeast corner of Ooltewah-Ringgold Road and East Brainerd Road. Plans are for the store to open by 2023.
Chattanooga developer Bassam Issa said in a December phone interview Publix will anchor the first phase of a retail complex that he hopes will eventually include about 150,000 square feet, plus nearby fast food restaurants, banks or medical offices.
Last November, Publix opened a store on Broad Street near St. Elmo.
"It was especially designed for that site," said developer George Chase of Atlanta-based Alliance Realty Services, in an interview at the time.
At Harrison Bay, park ranger Candace Daniels said in an interview that the work by the Publix employees is "phenomenal," adding she's expecting a busy year as the coronavirus eases.
She said people who bought kayaks, bikes and campers over the past couple of years are "really ready to use them."
Don Campbell, a park manager, said in an interview he expects the higher price of gas will prompt people to stay closer to home.
"They're not going to go to South Alabama," he said.