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I didn't really know where to put this article, so I just made a separate thread for the meantime.

Publix opens to crowd in Ave Maria

By LIAM DILLON (Contact)
Originally published 10:18 a.m., June 18, 2009
Updated 05:14 p.m., June 18, 2009

AVE MARIA — At three o’clock Thursday morning, four Ave Maria University students tossed a blanket over new Publix shopping carts to create a makeshift tent. The students brought blankets and sweaters, everything they would need before they could put those shopping carts to their intended use five hours later. Everything except food.

“We didn’t bring food,” said Matt Mullally, 20, a rising junior. “But now we can buy all the food we want.”

Publix supermarket opened a block from Ave Maria’s town center Thursday with fanfare not seen in the community since the dedication of its church more than a year ago. The supermarket also became the first grocery store in a 28-mile stretch of eastern Collier County, an area with likely more than 40,000 residents.

Waking up early worked for Mullally. After the ribbon cutting just before 8 a.m., he charged in, received his free Publix reusable shopping bag and spent the store’s first dollar bill.

“Our hard work paid off,” Mullally said.

His purchase? A 3 Musketeers chocolate bar.

Near the supermarket’s entrance, Golden Gate Estates resident Pat Hurley displayed his receipt, one of the grocer’s first. He asked Publix employees to make a copy of it. Hurley bought what he called “the breakfast of champions” — a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. King Size.

Hurley, 43, asked his wife Stacey, 44, and son John, 13, what he should do with the receipt. A scrapbook? A frame?

“This is like Smithsonian stuff,” Pat Hurley said.

The Hurleys repeated a common refrain for their excitement at Publix’s opening: convenience.

“For those who live in Ave Maria or eastern Golden Gate Estates going to the grocery store can be an all-day affair,” he said. “This solves that problem.”

About 100 people lined up outside Publix’s doors Thursday morning before Kelly Guarascio, a representative of developer Ave Maria Development, cut the ribbon to cheers.

“We have worked so hard for this moment and we are so excited to welcome Publix into this community,” Guarascio said.

Shoppers took advantage of the store’s free samples of Zesty Chicken Orzo with Spinach Raspberry salad, Vidalia onion hamburgers topped with American cheese and Publix banana pudding ice cream, scooped into little cones.

Publix representatives estimated they had handed out 275 commemorative reusable shopping bags in the store’s first 45 minutes.

One customer was state Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples. The store will make a perfect pit stop on his way back from visits to the other side of his district in Broward County, he said. He expected Publix to be “the catalyst” for further growth in Ave Maria.

“A grocery store, kind of like the corner drug store of days gone by, the Woolworth’s of days gone by, can be a focal point for the community,” Hudson said.

It was already a focal point for university students, besides those who camped out. Nine students custom-made T-shirts, each wearing a letter or symbol to spell out, “I (Heart) Publix!”

“I’m the one who puts the emphasis on the Publix opening,” said Michael Suchomski, 19, the group’s exclamation point.

Thursday evening, Suchomski planned to celebrate Publix’s opening accordingly. He was going to buy his dinner.

“Probably a steak,” he said.

The 28,800-square-foot Publix will be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. The store is just outside Ave Maria’s town center at 4975 Avila Avenue.

Follow higher education reporter Liam Dillon on Twitter at

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I didn't really know where to put this article, so I just made a separate thread for the meantime.
How about posting this in the forum in the "Florida> Tampa Area> Ava Maria" thread.
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