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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011 5 years ago

My View: Public desires and Publix plans

by: Edmund Adams

What do Longboat Key residents want in the proposed new Publix store that the present store doesn’t carry, and what does Publix propose to deliver on the residents’ wishlist? Let’s do the wishlist first.
Far and away the most popular response in an informal poll of full- and part-time Longboaters is “more prepared foods, like Whole Foods has.”

Dorothy O’Brien, of Islandside, would like “ready-to-take-home, already completed, single-serving sizes.” She thinks that’s especially important at the south end of the island. It’s much more than a long 5-iron shot from Harry’s Deli. Lana McDonald, of Longboat Cove, observes that “when you’re by yourself, it’s hard to cook single portions.” And Sherry Linhart, of Sabal Cove, likes prepared meals “for when you don’t want to cook.”

Another popular request is for a coffee shop. Not the run-of-the-mill kind in many supermarkets but in the words of my wife, Cindy, “a European-style coffeehouse with tables and chairs and fine pastries.” So would Laurin Goldner, of Buttonwood Harbour. She’d like “an upscale place where people would gather.” Gaele Barthold, of Longboat Key Estates, suggests a gelato bar. Bev Shapiro, of Windward Bay, would “have one of their wonderful bakery items and compare shopping lists there with friends.” McDonald also likes the idea of the coffeehouse hosting cooking demonstrations and seminars, where she could meet other people.

Goldner hopes for larger floral and organic fruit and vegetable selections. Larry Linhart’s wishlist adds “a better selection of seafood, something like at Whole Foods, and more fish variety than at the new Publix store in Sarasota.” One of our town officials, who requested anonymity, endorsed “a wider meat selection.” Jinny Johnson would like more variety in wines.

O’Brien touched on a preference no one else mentioned: greater choices for specialty diets, such as more gluten-free products. She and Johnson promoted improvement of the deli section. O’Brien thought that the current Publix “used to have a fairly nice deli section.” It seems to her that the choices have been narrowed and she wonders why.

Madelyn Spoll, a self-professed “big fan of salads,” would opt for a larger salad section. She also would like an outdoor café, to gather in the morning and talk to friends.

If yours truly has a vote, I would have a much wider variety of cheeses to avoid the trek to Morton’s to fetch that wonderful pecorino from Tuscany that the Morton’s cheese mistress says she can “hardly keep in stock.”

Finally, we cannot omit my wife’s other suggestion for the new store — the convenience of a mailbox.

So, which items on the wishlist does Publix plan to provide? At the Longboat Key Condominium Association presentation Nov. 19, Publix’s answer to a question about upscale features included “the meat counter, bakery and prepared food areas.” For more detail, we pursued Shannon Patten, Publix’s media and community relations manager for Central and Southwest Florida. Here’s Patten’s report on what the store will have.

A wide array of prepared foods and floral, organic, seafood, meats, wine, gluten-free bakery and deli, salad and cheese products.

The prepared foods (appetizers, entrées and side dishes) will be created by in-house culinary chefs. The organic foods will include “a selection of exotic choices from around the world.” The seafood section will have an expanded sushi counter. The salad bar will highlight more than 20 fresh salad selections and a soup bar with gourmet soups and Pan-Asian favorites, “a great stop for lunch or dinner.” The cheese department, staffed by a certified cheese specialist, will offer more than 100 varieties of artisan cheese.

So far, Publix, “Bravo!” But which of the residents’ wish-list items did not make the Publix list? The coffeehouse, the gelato bar and the mailbox. The coffeehouse, says Patten, is a victim of space limitations: a 49,000-square-foot store is not big enough. “We will offer coffee,” she adds, “and there will be a seating area inviting customers to sit, relax and enjoy their breakfast, lunch or dinner.”

All of which raises a few questions for Publix and our town officials. Can the store footprint be enlarged slightly to make room for a coffeehouse? Would Publix be willing to do it? If Starbucks can cram coffee shops in oversized closets, such as on St. Armands Circle, would it really make that much of a difference space-wise?

Let’s go for it!

Edmund Adams is a part-time Longboat resident who will take his cappuccino with low-fat milk and one raw sugar.

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