Now, Our Own Supermarket
Published on Thursday, 18 June 2009 15:55
As the minutes ticked down to the Publix grand opening, residents of Ave Maria lined up outside with shopping carts, as restless as if an invisible black and white checkered flag were about to drop. With a snip of a scissor, Kelly Guarascio, of Ave Maria Development, cut the green ribbon, the doors slid back and in surged the customers who had waited so long - in some cases years - for this day.
They swiveled their heads in all directions once inside, as if to take in everything in the space of a breath, which they let out in exclamations of delight. "Oh, it's beautiful," sighed Ave Maria resident Virginia Hanley as she glanced in one direction. "Oh, flowers!" she went on in an even higher key as she glanced in another, and then with another glance, "Melons," she exulted, "and two for one!"
The extreme delight of the day could perhaps only be understood by people for whom reaching a supermarket might previously mean a half hour trek and for whom forgetting to put eggs on the list was a significant calamity. "Beer. Wine. Mixers," exclaimed one man in a satisfied tone, as if nothing else needed to be said.
Once past the doorways, customers surged down the aisles with green Publix shopping bags in their own hands and red balloons in their children's. A panoply of well-attended tasting stations featured everything from breakfast breads to bacon, and proved that 8 a.m. is not too early to sample banana-flavored ice cream - at least, if you're five.
"It's never too early for chocolate," said Kelly Guarascio popping a morsel of cake into her mouth while Cee Cee Marinelli agreed. Just around the corner from them, Father Paciorek settled for more basic sustenance as he ate a piece of fruit and nut bread. "I needed a little breakfast," he said.
Over by the fresh fish, Chelsea Allan, owner of By Way of the Family, was feeling somewhat remorseful. "I took the first detergent bottle off the shelf," she confessed. "Oh, it was stocked so perfectly, so beautifully lined up. I feel almost guilty about taking it."
Marilyn Krepf, whose son goes to Donahue Academy, was perplexed when he insisted she get out of bed and come to the Ave Maria Publix Opening. "After all, we live in Naples," she explained, clutching a bag of oranges. "There's a Publix right around the corner. But he was right - this is really a special day."
The employees seemed almost as happy as the shoppers. Beaming as she doled out cheese and bread to customers, Ann Mabrey, who has worked at Publix stores for ten years, said, "It's exciting. An opening feels to me almost like Christmas Day."
Eventually the shoppers wound their way to the checkout counters, happy to think, as Dennis Longley put it, "And then you realize - this is still all going to be here tomorrow." But some seemed almost unable to tear themselves away. An hour-and-a-half after she came in, Amy Figueroa was still contentedly rolling her cart up and down the well-traveled aisles. "I've been visiting with friends as much as shopping," she explained. "Hey, this is great therapy."