Once the project gets under way sometime within the new year’s first quarter, completion is expected within 10 months.
“We look forward to being good community partners in Cleveland,” according to Brenda Reid, media and community relations manager for a Publix regional office in Marietta, Ga. whose service territory includes Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.
Late last week, Reid could not respond to Cleveland Daily Banner inquiries about the giant super market’s plans to join the growing field of grocers in Bradley County because corporation policy prohibits public comment about prospective sites until property lease agreements have been signed. The final signature hit the dotted line this week.
“We have been anxiously awaiting the close of this deal so we can get in there and bring our shopping experience to our customers ... and we look forward to it,” Reid said.
She declined to disclose the total Publix investment in the new development. The store is expected to employ about 100 workers although this number won’t be confirmed until a couple of months before opening.
Rowland, Cleveland’s longest-tenured mayor in city history, reportedly has been negotiating with Publix representatives for the past three years, but has been bound by confidentiality agreements with the company not to disclose details nor the grocer’s identity.
“It’s great for our community when folks — whether outside or within our geographic area — are willing to invest in Cleveland,” Rowland said. “This shows our community is continuing to grow, that companies everywhere are interested in seeing what we have to offer and that our economy is faring much better than the average.”
He added, “Companies are looking at Cleveland and Bradley County for a reason; in fact, for many reasons, and we certainly are grateful they like what they’re seeing.”
In a town already populated by successful grocers like BI-LO, Cooke’s, Walmart, Super Saver, Aldi and Food Lion (one of two locations of the latter closed earlier this year), Rowland acknowledged Publix will add yet another choice for local and regional shoppers.
“Our existing super markets have served, and continue to serve, as invaluable supporters of this community,” the mayor said. “They give us selection. They give us quality. And they have always given of themselves in support of education, families in need and nonprofit causes.”
He added, “And now we welcome a new member to our growing family. Publix will bring its own brand of involvement, its own mission statement of quality and its own commitment to community and investment in family.”
Because the growing Cleveland market is attracting more and more regional shoppers, Rowland believes the grocers — new and existing — will find their niche among area consumers.
Reid said the Publix store in Cleveland will be slightly larger than its Ooltewah counterpart that opened in 2008. The Ooltewah site contains 54,000 square feet.
“The average person will not know the difference [between the Ooltewah and Cleveland stores],” she pointed out. “They will feel about the same size.”
Because the Ooltewah interior design is four years old, Reid said the Cleveland look likely will differ.
“We have changed the insides of our stores,” she noted. “We do this periodically. We have gone with a warmer color palate in our stores and open ceilings ... and a Customer Service Department that’s right at the door versus being up against the wall.”
While the Ooltewah store is still a modern facility by grocery retail standards, Reid said Cleveland shoppers should look to a new Publix that opened in Knoxville in August for a better comparison. According to archived news accounts, Publix launched a 56,000 square-foot store in that city in the Northshore Town Center. The Cleveland store’s look should be similar.
Reid, who attended the Knoxville store’s grand opening, told news outlets there Publix is accustomed to competing with other giant food retailers in other markets.
“... It’s not unusual for us to compete with all of these great competitors,” she told newsmen then, and she added, “... we focus on making sure that our associates are friendly and knowledgeable, and the quality of our products is superior.”
Reid repeated much of the Knoxville assessment Thursday in regard to competitors in Cleveland.
“We compete throughout the Southeast with many competitors,” she told the Banner. “Our motto is to be the best supermarket we can be ... we want to be the best model in the world as far as supermarkets.”
Publix concentrates on quality of product and customer service, but it maintains strong ties with its communities, she explained.
“As a business, our main focus is customer service in our stores,” Reid stressed. “[But] we are very, very supportive of the community. [It] is part of our mission statement to support the communities where we do business. Programs we support include education, youth, homelessness and hunger-related causes.”
Publix competes the same in all its markets.
“The way we go to market is to offer an exceptional shopping experience,” she said. “While our competitors do a great job with their model, our model is geared toward providing the best shopping experience possible.”
This includes competitive pricing, product selection and clean, well-lit stores, Reid cited.
“We try to maintain that brand or image throughout all our markets,” she said.
Rowland praised the work of Cleveland realtor Loye Hamilton and George Chase, ARS Ventures, LLC of Atlanta, in their roles representing Publix.
“It has been a pleasure working with Loye and George throughout this process,” Rowland said. “Each has added significant value to the discussions and has worked to do what is best for company and community.”
Chase also delivered a message on behalf of John Harmon, a Publix Super Markets Inc. representative who has been involved directly in Cleveland negotiations.
“John [Harmon] asked me to thank Mayor Rowland, [Cleveland City Manager] Janice Casteel and the entire city of Cleveland staff for their confidential confidence and patience,” Chase said. “It has been a pleasure working with everyone involved with the city of Cleveland. Publix is looking forward to serving the city of Cleveland for years to come.”