New valet service at Publix has been met with enthusiasm.
It would seem to be a service more fitting for a five-star restaurant.
But Publix customers in Lakewood Ranch are being treated to valet parking in an experiment by the grocery store chain that seems to be working.
Publix stores often are located in busy complexes where competition for parking spaces can be heated. The valet service is aimed at easing those concerns.
It also can keep Publix shoppers dry during a storm or help those with mobility problems, even if an available parking spot is only 100 feet away.
Mill Creek resident Anthony Luh uses the valet service two to three times a week at the Publix on State Road 64 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. That particular parking lot often is packed with customers at the other businesses and restaurants in the shopping center.
“For me, it’s like a dangerous parking lot,” Luh said. “There’s a lot of bad drivers and if I use the valet service, then I don’t have to worry about getting hit. I can just come out of the store and my car is here.”
Lakewood Ranch’s June Jackson, an avid Publix shopper, has often used the new, free service at the Publix on the corner of State Road 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard since it started June 30.
“It’s just so convenient,” Jackson said. “I sure am hoping that it sticks around. I told all my neighbors about it.”
Publix has begun to use the service in two of its Lakewood Ranch locations after debuting the service in its stores in Tampa, according to Publix spokesman Brian West.
“We try to do everything we can to make sure the shopping experience is convenient, especially if it’s raining or if there are elderly people who need assistance,” West said. “We’re testing it out indefinitely.”
West said all vehicles are allowed to use the valet service.
Publix usually has two valets on duty, and the service is available from opening to close.
Jackson said it is easier on her body.
“I have a bad back, bad knees and bad legs,” Jackson said. “It’s hard to walk across the parking lot for me. My husband, Fred, and I don’t shop anywhere else now.”
Daniel Elmaleh and his three kids, 5-year-old twins Ashley and Amber and 2-year-old Aubrey, used the valet service for the first time this week.
“With three kids ... it’s a safety issue for us to walk through the parking lot because you never know what any of them are going to do,” Elmaleh said. “So far, it’s working pretty smoothly.”