The crowd burst into applause the moment the double doors opened.
From behind them stepped Longboat Key Publix store manager Andy Lappin, surrounded by store associates.
“Are you ready to see the new store?” he asked, drawing cheers from the crowd.
First, he brought a bit of bad news.
Vicki Workman, aka “Miss Vicki,” a longtime Publix associate who is so well-known on the Key that one of the Harbour Links swans is named after her, was sick and wouldn’t be cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony, as planned.
In her place, Publix administrative coordinator Tina Nohmer, a 28-year store associate, cut the ribbon instead.
With the snip of the ribbon at 8 a.m., the Longboat Key Publix was open for business.
Joan Sinder was the first customer in the door.
The first item she placed in her cart was sliced bread. As she checked out the orange juice selections, she told the Longboat Observer that she arrived around 7:30 a.m. for the opening.
“It was nice,” she said of being the first customer to walk through the doors. “I think everybody has been waiting for this.”
Jimmy Seaton Sr., as he walked to enter the new store, said, “Well, I've got a social life again.”
His son, Jimmy Seaton Jr., said: “This store has eclipsed the Colony as the topic of conversation in our cars.”
As he made his way toward the delicatessen section, Commissioner Jack Duncan smiled.
“I never thought I'd get goose bumps going into a grocery store,” he said.
The Lakeland-based Publix closed its 31-year-old Longboat Key store last April and began demolishing it that month to build the new, 49,533-square-foot store.
Rumors about the chain’s plans for its Longboat Key store had been circulating since 2008, when Publix bought the Avenue of the Flowers shopping center.
Publix submitted plans to build a new shopping center in July 2011 and received approval from the Longboat Key Town Commission last February.
The store’s new features include a seating area with free Wi-Fi, event-planning station, full-service floral department, enhanced organic, gluten-free and international selections and seafood, deli and bakery departments, olive bar, salad bar and Pacific wok station.
Store hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
For more information, pick up a Dec. 20 copy of the Longboat Observer.
Contact Robin Hartill at firstname.lastname@example.org.