When the Publix store at Ringling Boulevard and Lime Avenue closes its doors next year, it will also be closing the door on a large part of the supermarket company’s history.
Publix store No. 0029 in the Ringling Shopping Center is the oldest operating store in the entire chain. But, the 31,490-square-foot store will be replaced by a new 54,000-square-foot Publix in the former Sarasota Herald-Tribune building at U.S. 41 and Wood Street.
The Ringling Publix opened to much fanfare March 29, 1955. Full-page newspaper stories heralded the store’s arrival. It was the first Publix in Sarasota.
At the time, company earnings were $49 million. It operated 28 stores and employed 1,500 people. Today,
Publix Super Markets Inc. has annual sales of $24 billion from 1,005 stores, and it now employs 140,000 people.
Shirley Morey remembers those good old days. The 88-year-old has been shopping at the Ringling store since the day it opened.
“I know everybody there,” Morey says. “It’s like walking into your own house.”
Morey lives on Gulfstream Avenue, and although the Publix store that opened two years ago at U.S. 41 and 10th Street is closer, Morey continues to go to the Ringling location nearly every day.
“They all holler, ‘Hey, Shirley,’ when they see me,” she says.
Morey remembers one employee in particular — Melany Summerall, who has been working at the Ringling Publix for 34 years.
“I knew her as a young girl,” Morey said.
Summerall was 23 years old when she began work as a part-time cashier in 1975. She became full-time three years later and has also worked in the office and as a stock clerk.
“I love it,” Summerall says. “I love the (customers). I’ve grown up with them.”
Store Manager John Kendall says some of his regular customers were upset when they heard the store will be closing for good, but he believes most of them will go to the new location, because most of the employees will be moving there.
“It’ll be sad,” Summerall said, “But it’ll be nice to have a new start. We’ll have our same customers.”
As for Morey, she knows exactly what she’ll do when her supermarket of the last 54 years turns out its lights for the last time.
“I’ll just go to the new one,” she says with a laugh.
Contact Robin Roy at email@example.com
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