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Winn-Dixie picks November for Lakewood Ranch debut

New grocery store plans to "experiment" with ways to serve the Lakewood Ranch community.

Winn-Dixie plans to make its debut in Lakewood Ranch in November.
Winn-Dixie plans to make its debut in Lakewood Ranch in November.
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Winn-Dixie Regional Vice President Joey Medina said his chain's new grocery store coming to Lakewood Ranch in November will provide the store with a unique opportunity to "experiment" with the best ways to serve a community.

He said the opportunity has come about because Winn-Dixie purchased four Lucky supermarkets and four Earth Fares that had gone out of business. Since all those spaces, such as the one at The Green in Lakewood Ranch, have a somewhat different footprint than many of Winn-Dixie's stores, he said the communities they serve might find some new features they haven't seen before in a Winn-Dixie.

With the space in Lakewood Ranch undergoing a compete renovation, Medina wasn't ready to tip his hand about what those special features might be because of competition factors. 

He said a substantial amount of customer focus groups and market research was completed on the Lakewood Ranch area to determine how the grocer could best serve the community.

"One thing we are proud of, we serve diverse communities throughout the southeast," Medina said. "The offerings we provide reflect the needs and preferences (of that community). We are familiar with Lakewood Ranch and our clientele. We operate five stores in Manatee County, but Lakewood Ranch has been a market gap for us We are extremely excited to get into the area."

In Lakewood Ranch, the store will focus on providing "meal solutions and options" for busy lifestyles. Medina said it's a growing aspect of the industry. He said Winn-Dixie's "Meals Your Way" program will offer hot and cold meals that customers can eat right on site, or meals they can either take and just heat up, or take home to cook."

The new store will feature a full custom sub shop and an in-store sushi chef. He said plenty of healthy options will be available, such as cut fruit.

Winn-Dixie will try to find its place in a market dominated by Publix and one with specialty grocers in close proximity to Lakewood Ranch or on their way.

"Honestly, that is the world in which we exist today," Medina said. "The grocery segment has a lot of new interest and formats. It is the type of competition we face every day. In terms of Lakewood Ranch, we have been in Manatee County for more than 50 years and we know competition is best for the customers. Our Lakewood Ranch customers are going to have multiple options and it's going to affect them in terms of their choices. You see car dealerships all on the same street, and you see restaurant row. It benefits the residents."

The renovated Earth Fare building is about 24,000 square feet and construction is underway. When complete, the store will provide 130 jobs, most coming from the surrounding communities. The store's executive staff mostly will be new hires, although key personnel will be veteran Winn-Dixie employees who can train the others.

When the store does open at a not-yet-disclosed date in November, the usual grand opening ceremonies will not take place due to the pandemic. Medina said at past grand openings, more than 500 people would line up and that isn't possible during the current landscape.

"We had to pivot," he said. "Our No. 1 priority is our customers' safety and we will make sure we are able to practice social distancing. It's going to be different than all the bells and whistles."

He said the goal eventually will be for Lakewood Ranch and East County residents to think of the Winn-Dixie as "their store." Medina said that would be the greatest compliment.

In terms of public service, Winn-Dixie concentrates on three main areas in giving back to the community — food (such as food banks), women and children, and supporting military efforts.


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