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Smiles, high-quality service highlight Tri-City's Publix opening

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VIRGINIA - Months after the red marquee of Martin's Food Stores was removed from the building, Publix unveiled the fruits of their labor through the spring and summer of this year in the form of a brand-new shopping experience inside their location as anchor of Colonial Heights' Colonial Square shopping center to eager shoppers from across southern Virginia.

November 1 marked the first day of Publix's life inside the 63,000-square-foot store that originally served as the home for grocery store icon Ukrop's following their move from their older space on the opposite end of the well-traveled shopping center.

Throughout the day, thousands of people make their way through the doors of the Florida-based grocer, touring the building and shopping inside the store that closed in early 2017 as Martin's Food Stores' parent company, Ahold, worked to complete its exit from the Richmond market following the merger between Ahold and Food Lion's parent company, Delhaize.

So many people descended on Colonial Square shopping center last Wednesday, Publix ran a shuttle service between their store and a nearby large parking lot along Colonial Heights' Boulevard corridor to allow those wanting to shop to be able to as the store's parking lot was filled, save the occasional space that opened throughout the day.

While Wednesday was basically "go-time" for the store's 130-plus associates, many of which are local hires, Tuesday, officials with the company and leaders from around the region visited the store during a preview day, where members of the media, city leaders and even tenants in other businesses in the shopping center were able to tour the store and try various prepared foods around the facility.

Tuesday's event also featured Publix holding true to their company's virtues of community involvement as the company donated $2,500 to Colonial Heights-area schools, with the middle and high school, along with the city's trio of elementary schools each receiving $500.

"Publix was founded in 1930 with the philosophy of being involved as responsible citizens in our communities," Kim Reynolds, the company's media and community relations manager remarked at Tuesday's event. "Through our support of education, we strive to enrich the lives of students and assist in preparing them for future success."

Following the check presentation to the five school principals, those attending broke off into groups where they could tour the store and learn more about Publix and their offerings.

To start, in a slightly different place than shoppers familiar with Martin's, or even Ukrop's, may remember, the Publix deli is a full-service deli counter offering Boar's Head meats and cheeses along with traditional deli items, including their own subs, which the company is known for, fried and rotisserie chicken, all prepared fresh in store during the store's hours, which is 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

In addition, the deli has a diverse selection of olives, antipastos, and hummus, along with over 200 varieties of artisan cheeses from the United States and internationally.

Additionally, the store features various chef-inspired entrees and side dishes as part of its Chef Selections counter, along with a fresh salad bar, soup bar, and hot bar which features such items as Mongolian Beef, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Vegetable Lo-Mein, and sushi, among others.

Produce is a key point of pride for Publix, with the new Colonial Heights store providing a myriad of both organic and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, "including a selection of exotic choices from around the world and the locally grown season's best," officials with public said.

Flowers and arrangements can be bought at the new store, and the store's new Event Planning Center allows for staff to aid customers in planning every detail of a special event, from tailgate parties to weddings to holiday gathering, which is timely given the time of the year.

The store offers an expanded variety of premium and expanded wines from around the United States and the world, along with a diverse mix of champagnes and sparkling wines.

Along with the full-service meat and seafood department and an expanded full-service pharmacy, the store also features a cooking demonstration station dubbed "Aprons Simple Meals." During the demonstrations, meal clerks conduct live cooking presentations in a built-in kitchen area where recipes are demonstrated on a daily basis, with all the ingredients being available inside the store.

Given the store's diverse offerings along its many aisles and end caps, Reynolds believes those living in southern Virginia will be impressed with Publix, particularly as the holiday season descends on the area.

"This is such a great time to open," Reynolds remarked. "We are really excited to be able to get to our customers and earn their trust and satisfaction and introduce them to what Publix is all about."

What Publix is all about, according to Reynolds, is taking care of its associates and customers, with the company being named one of Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For in America" for 20 consecutive years and being a leader in the grocery business, tying with well-known grocer Wegmans as one of America's best places to shop.

One thing that sets Publix apart from competitors is the fact that the store doesn't offer a loyalty card like customers may be used to from other retailers and grocers.

"Everybody gets all the same savings," Reynolds remarked. "We want to save our customers that hassle. We are really known for our 'buy-one, get-one' free or at half-price so when customers look at our weekly ad, they will see hundreds of dollars in savings on many items."

With the 87-year-old, employee-owned company with over 188,000 associates in seven states staking its claim for shopper dollars in the Tri-Cities, Reynolds said she and the managerial staff of the Colonial Square store are committed to delivering a shopping experience that "is a pleasure," harkening back to the company's motto.

"It is an honor and privilege to be here," she said enthusiastically as members of the community walked by and experienced the store for themselves. "We provide you with lots of options, from our people here, our service and our quality. We invite everyone to come out and try us for themselves and let us know how we're doing but we're just thrilled to be here in such a great community."

Colonial Heights' Publix, their most southern location within the Richmond metropolitan area, is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The store's pharmacy is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.