Publix is adding some beef to a burgeoning Cleveland market that some believe is already fat with grocers, according to an early October confirmation by the Florida-based company whose shopping aisles are stretching longer and wider across the Southeast.
Groundwork for the 54,700-square-foot grocery in Mouse Creek Crossing at the corner of Peerless Road and Paul Huff Parkway has been under way for weeks. Construction is set to begin sometime in early 2013, for the massive store that is expected to employ about 100 workers.
Once the build begins, it should be completed within 10 months, said Brenda Reid, media and community relations manager for a Publix regional office in Marietta, Ga.
News of the Publix commitment to move into town landed the company in the Top 10 News Stories of 2012, by vote of the Cleveland Daily Banner staff writers and editors. The Publix story is No. 9 on the list whose countdown continues through Dec. 31.
“We look forward to being good community partners in Cleveland,” Reid told the Banner on Oct. 5.
She added, “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.”
Although the Publix name had been rumored for years to be coming to Cleveland, it didn’t surface in an open government meeting until Sept. 27, 2012. At that time, Bart Borden, vice president of the Cleveland Utilities Electric Division, reported CU engineers had begun working with Publix representatives to review power needs for a new store in town.
Borden’s comments came during a formal monthly session of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities.
Although the secret was out, Publix remained tight-lipped, as evidenced by Reid’s email in response to a Banner inquiry about the company’s intent.
“Publix does not comment on sites until we have a signed lease, and at this time, we do not have a signed lease for a store in Cleveland, Tennessee,” she wrote.
The final signature hit the dotted line a week later, prompting Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and authorized Publix representatives to issue a joint statement that confirmed the giant grocer’s entry into the busy local market.
“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.”
Cleveland is already home to popular grocery outlets like Cooke’s, BI-LO, Fresh N’ Low Cost Plus Foods, Walmart, Aldi and Food Lion.
Rowland said welcoming Publix to Cleveland will offer further choice for local and regional shoppers.
“Our existing supermarkets have served, and continue to serve, as invaluable supporters of this community,” the longtime 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.”
Rowland 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.”
The mayor said he believes Publix, and all existing grocery stores in the area, will find their niche among area consumers.
Reid said the new Cleveland store — whose total investment she would not disclose — is similar in size to the existing supermarket in Ooltewah that opened in 2008. It contains 54,000 square feet. However, since the Ooltewah outlet opened, Publix has altered the design of its new stores which is a company strategy every few years.
The new design is best reflected in the look and feel of a Publix that opened in Knoxville in August, she explained. The Cleveland store will closely parallel the design and layout of the Knoxville structure.
Because the company operates stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, it is no stranger to competition, Reid pointed out.
“... It’s not unusual for us to compete with all of these great competitors,” she said. The Publix regional rep pointed out, “... we focus on making sure that our associates are friendly and knowledgeable, and the quality of our products is superior.”
The Publix motto is “... to be the best supermarket we can be; we want to be the best model in the world as far as supermarkets,” Reid said.
She pointed out the company’s main focus is customer service, but that all its stores are supportive of their communities.
“[It] is part of our mission statement to support the communities where we do business,” Reid confirmed. “Programs we support include education, youth, homelessness and hunger-related causes.”
The Publix business plan is not complicated.
“The way we go to market is to offer an exceptional shopping experience,” Reid stressed. “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, she said.
Cleveland Realtor Loye Hamilton and George Chase, ARS Ventures LLC of Atlanta, represented Publix in negotiations with the city of Cleveland and local developers.