Publix charges into busy local grocery scene

Publix is open for business in Ballantyne, as the upscale grocery store marks its expansion into Charlotte and joins the crowded market.

The new Publix store opened on Wednesday, Feb. 26, off Johnston Road and Providence Road West.

The new Publix store opened on Wednesday, Feb. 26, off Johnston Road and Providence Road West.

The location, at 11222 Providence Road W. off Johnston Road, is the first Publix in North Carolina as the company also looks to renovate and reopen another grocer’s former building in Matthews as a Publix in April and then open a number of other locations in the area in the near future. The Ballantyne location, at 56,000 square feet, will employ 150 people. Hiring is ongoing for the Matthews location, while another location in Rock Hill, S.C., should open in March. Publix already has a store in Indian Land, S.C.

“The grand opening was excellent,” Kim Reynolds, a Publix spokesperson, said of the Wednesday, Feb. 26, event. “It was a really great morning. … Really it was steady all day long, and the parking lot was full.”

A crowd of Charlotte business leaders, officials and civic group members took a tour of the new store on Tuesday, Feb. 25, the day before Publix opened to the public and while employees rushed to put the finishing touches on the company’s new North Carolina footprint. The event included the typical giveaways and demonstrations many new businesses employ to gain an early following, though local advocate Ray Eschert said the Publix opening is more than your general new business news.

“Publix opening its first store in North Carolina in Ballantyne is an indication that they recognized the strong market potential the area has” said Eschert, who organizes the Ballantyne Breakfast Club advocacy group and attended Tuesday’s tour. “For the residents of the area, it means they will have more of a selection of products and services. A strong competitive market will be an advantage for the residents in being able to save money when shopping.”

Publix opens its first North Carolina store on the heels of news that Whole Foods is looking to move south and open its second Charlotte store at the corner of Providence Road and Interstate 485, in the proposed Waverly development. Whole Foods already has one location in SouthPark and another opening soon in Huntersville.

“Charlotte is a great market, and there is a lot of opportunity here,” Marc Mastropaolo, Whole Foods Market South region executive coordinator of operations, said in a news release announcing the proposed Waverly location. “The Charlotte community has been very receptive to us. There is a lot of interest in good, healthy food options, and we are excited to be adding to our roster of stores in the area and to be bringing a new store to the market.”

In addition, Walmart plans to open a number of grocery store-type markets in the area, including potentially at the McMullen Creek Market shopping center off Pineville-Matthews Road near I-485, according to employees at the center. Officials with Walmart did not return calls for comment prior to South Charlotte Weekly’s press deadline, and officials with Brixmore, which leases space at the center, said they could not confirm if Walmart is coming to the McMullen Creek Market.

A number of south Charlotte Harris Teeters (there are three between Ballantyne Commons Parkway and Ardrey Kell Road), recently finished remodels ahead of the company being acquired by Kroger, which announced its commitment to the area stores in news releases about the merger. Matthews-based Harris Teeter also operates a distribution center off U.S. 74 in Indian Trail, and remains a Charlotte-area staple despite the recent merger with Ohio-based Kroger. Kroger representatives said, in a January news release, the company would expand “with the prestigious Harris Teeter brand and a base of 227 stores…”

Meanwhile, leaders in Waxhaw voted this week to approve designs on a 65,000-square-foot grocery store off Providence Road, 9 miles from the new Publix, though town officials say they do not know what grocer will fill the space.

Attempts by Publix to separate itself from the field will come down to its employees, Reynolds said – a group she believes stands out from the rest. “I think for us, our secret sauce is our people,” she said. “Our people go above and beyond for our customers. We want the experience in the store to be a home away from home… an extension of your family.”

Part of that effort is the store’s Apron’s Simple Meals, where customers can see a meal being prepared by store chefs and pick up the recipe and all the ingredients needed at the Apron’s booth. Aprons Event Planning, meanwhile, will allow customers to have parties planned and supported by Publix staff all at one place.

The success of Publix in the crowded market and future expansion in south Charlotte is yet to be seen, though the company is already trying to become a part of the community it now serves. Publix donated $6,000 to local schools as part of its expansion into Charlotte. Ardrey Kell High, Ballantyne Elementary, Charlotte Catholic High, Community House Middle, Elon Park Elementary, Endhaven Elementary, Hawk Ridge Elementary, Omni Montessori, Pineville Elementary, Polo Ridge Elementary and St. Matthew Catholic schools, in addition to the British American School of Charlotte, each received $500 from the company. The store also hosts the Publix Partners program, which allows people to give back to their area schools through a card used at checkout.

• For photos from last week’s event, see our Facebook photo album

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