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May 14, 2013 06:58 PM

Publix coming to Asheville

Word is that Publix will be building a store in south Asheville on Hendersonville Road in the location that currently has a Grocery Outlet. One of the employees told me today that the GO store will be closing in late July and the building will be razed to make way for the new Publix store. KMart is also supposed to close but that will be in a year or so.

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  1. Heard the K Mart was going to be Whole Foods (if you're talking about the one on Tunnel Rd).

    I grew up going to Publix in GA - their deli sandwiches are awesome and my husband swears by their fried chicken. Other than that...just a regular ole nice grocery store but nothing too my opinion!

    4 Replies
    1. re: miss piggy

      Well, Publix is special enough to have been ranked 3rd best grocery chain by Consumer Reports. #1 was Wegman's and I can't argue that choice. I wish we had one here. #2 was Trader Joe's and, while I do like shopping there, I like Publix better for an everydaystore. ymmv

      1. re: grampart

        I guess I just meant that I wouldn't make a special trip across town to shop there (like I would a WF or TJ)...though the nearby residents should certainly feel lucky to have that Publix!

        1. re: miss piggy

          I'm glad they are finally coming to NC. Not that I'll travel long distances to shop there, but their coming into the market means they'll probably have additional stores in the area. I'd be very happy if they built one on the north end. And I'd shop there when I was in the area for other reasons - they carry Bolthouse Mango Vinaigrette which I haven't been able to find locally.

      2. re: miss piggy

        No, not the one on Tunnel Road. The Kmart I was talking about is at the other end of the strip from Grocery Outlet on Hendersonville Road. The Tunnel Road store closed in January and should be torn down shortly to make way for Whole Foods.

      3. Curious about why folks are excited about Publix coming to town. I have homes in NC and FL, so shop at both frequently, both good ones and bad ones. While the older Ingles are pretty sad (also somewhat true of Publix BTW), the new 100,000 sq. ft. plus Ingles seem to me to be pretty much on the same level as their Publix counterparts. Any particular reason why Publix is viewed as head-and-shoulders better? Certainly the competition can't hurt; maybe Ingles will get busy on refurbing the older stores?

        I think Publix's high CR readers' ratings are in part due to FL not having much quality competition. Mostly it's Winn-Dixie, which has a ways to go although even W-D has new stores that are quite nice, eg on Fruitville off 75 in Sarasota.

        Consumer Reports got one thing right, tho -- Wegmans is so far ahead it pretty much wipes the floor with all the others.

        9 Replies
        1. re: johnb

          For me, it's about choice. Ingles has had such a stranglehold on the area for so long, it's nice to have alternatives.

          I agree about Wegman's. I experienced one a couple of years ago in Pa. Awesome store!

          1. re: Leepa

            Publix has built a couple stores in the Charlotte area and lots of folks are excited about it here too. As Leepa pointed out, the reason for the excitement is mostly due to the stranglehold that Harris Teeter has on our market here. Choice is a good thing and it will hopefully help HT to up their game.

            Wegmans is awesome. I'd love to have one here. But Whole Foods is a nice substitute.

          2. re: johnb

            I agree 100% on CR as I think their methods have been flawed forever. If you never travel outside your home area or look at other stores you may never see an outstanding chain (like Wegmans) and think your local store is great. And it's probably not. Ask any Rochester, NY expatriate what they miss the most from their move and the most common answer is "Wegmans". And it took forever for Wegmans to get to #1 in the CR poll.

            The Publix I've visited are okay but I don't see anything special about them. I just got back from Tucson, AZ and would put them in the same category as Safeway, Fry's (Kroger) and Albertson's.

            And the Asheville area has or is going to have Trader Joe's, Harris-Teeter and a bigger & better Whole Foods. Other than price competion, what would a Publix add to the area?

            1. re: JTomWilson

              Relying on the research of CR is at least as reliable as the opinions we read on sites like this. I totally agree that Wegmans stands head and shoulders above the rest and, judging by the two I've shopped in, Harris Teeter seems to be a fine store. For close to 30 years I was a Publix customer in Indian River County FL and continued here in Georgia since 2006. For a short time, a new Krogers got our business because it was much closer, but a new Publix a mile from our door soon brought us back. We still stop at Kroger now and then. It's a good store.
              We like Publix because it's very comfortable, like an old pair of shoes. The employees are top-notch, great return policy, clean stores, and no bad surprises. For every-day shopping, Publix fills the bill, but I do purchase the special stuff elsewhere whether it be on-line or the great new butcher shop about 20 miles away. My sister in NJ has a Wegmans about 15 miles away which she frequents, but for everyday goods she swears by her local Shop-Rite and has been a loyal customer for 40 + years. Believe me, she isn't easily satisfied.
              Once again, it all comes down to "whatever floats your boat".

              1. re: Leepa

                Now that would really be something! Of course it isn't going to happen anytime soon, although I wouldn't be surprised to see Wegmans in the NC market some day -- they are constantly moving south, mostly along the I-95 corridor, and Richmond (Short Pump) can't be too far off (they have already announced plans to put a store in Charlottesville).

                After Richmond, unless they make a side trip to the Hampton Roads area, Research Triangle and Charlotte are pretty much next, and IMO they fit the Wegmans demographic pretty well. I'd say 10 years give or take. Asheville IMO is far less likely, since the market size and income probably doesn't fit what they need for the types of stores they do.

                But the good news is the rest of the industry has seen the future, and it is Wegmans. These days many big new stores you go into, of various chains, you see bits of Wegmans everywhere you look. They have shown the way and others are copying as fast as they can. It's all going to be good for us consumers.

              2. re: johnb

                I'm not a Yankee transplant or anything, so I have no ability to relate to Wegmans. I was born and raised in Florida, and I've lived all over the southeastern US in my 40+ years. Now I'm living in western NC, and my heart pounds at the thought of a Publix just a few minutes away! Why? As my family's primary grocery buyer I certainly feel qualified to help you figure this out, johnb.

                First of all, any long-time Floridian will tell you that Publix doesn't have much competition there because they drove most of it out of the state. Why? The same reason people are clamoring for the company to expand farther into NC.

                The answer: service.

                It's simple. Go into ANY other grocery chain in the southeastern US and ask for help. Then go into any Publix and ask for help. 99 out of 100 times you will be blown away by how nice, how helpful, and how friendly Publix employees are in comparison to other stores. Even their teenaged employees. Try asking a teenager working at Ingles to help you with something. Then ask the same thing of a teenager working at Publix. Guess which store's employee with satisfy you more?

                And have you EVER bagged your own groceries at a Publix checkout (unless it was self-serve)? To Publix, that is an UNTHINKABLE breach of customer service!

                That sort of stuff is why Publix is continuing to expand, why it crushed any and all serious competition over the last 30 years in Florida, and why people who appreciate great customer service are praying to see Publix overtake the landscape here in NC. It's the fantastic service!

                Publix prides itself on a great customer shopping experience - superior service, clean stores, shopper comfort. That brings people back. (And they make a mean Cuban!)

                Now, if you only care about a clean store and cheap prices, then Ingles will serve, or Food Lion, in some cases. But if you like friendly, helpful employees - 100% of the time from 100% of the people working there - then Publix is the place to go. They will never win on price, even though they DO have really great BOGO deals. They win on service.

                Test it out, you'll see.

                1. re: hurdedur

                  First, you give a good answer to my original question. You make a valid point.

                  I would add, however, that I have indeed "tested it out," and am completely familiar with the service level at Publix. I've shopped in dozens of them. But to me personally their idea of customer service isn't a big selling point -- I prefer to find things myself unless I ask for help; when staring at stuff on a shelf, I don't appreciate being approached by employees unasked with offers of assistance, as happns to me all the time at Publix. I don't wish to be asked whether "I found everything I was looking for" when I get to the checkout; aside from the rote and enforced nature of the inquiry, rendering it insincere, if I hadn't already found what I wanted why would I be checking out? I think it's silly to be asked if I want help carrying stuff to my car when I just bought two llttle items. I could cite many other examples. In short, if you and others appreciate this type of service, great, and it is a valid reason to prefer Publix. But it so happens I don't; I prefer to do things myself. Just me.

                  BTW, it's not a "clean store and low prices" that I care about. It's variety and the availability of high-end products I want, like dry-aged prime meats, true French bakery grade breads and pastries made in the store, sushi made by real sushi chefs in front of you in the store, a huge selection of high end coffee and tea, huge prepared high-quality restaurant sections with seating in the store, and dozens of other things that Wegmans offers but Publix and basically all other supermarkets don't. Wegmans isn't cheap, but it has the stuff, even though it is an actual supermarket where you can also buy all your regular groceries like any other supermarket. You won't grasp it until you actually test it out. Then you'll understand.

                  Little factoid: Mark Hollis, past president of Publix who was well-known for having started as a bag boy at age 12, retired to Western NC and lived probably no closer than 100 miles to the nearest Publix; presumably he did his shopping at Ingles. He passed away a few months ago.

                  1. re: johnb

                    I think we get it. You have special needs that can only be satisfied by a high-end store like Wegmans. You are very fortunate to have access and the means to obtain these items. I wish I could do the same. Maybe someday, but for the time being I'm happy with my Publix.

                2. re: johnb

                  I'll chime in just because I like saying it. I see absolutely no difference between Publix and Harris Teeter. Publix might make a few more things in-store which may or may not matter to you. Otherwise they are the same model. Except you will occasionally find an old, run-down Publix. HT usually keeps their stores up pretty well. No store is perfect for everyone. But I think the Publix love, like so many other things, comes from people wanting something familiar from their home area. When I (briefly) lived in FL I missed Harris Teeter. Go figure. I also missed sweet tea but that's a different story.

                  I guess I need to see a Wegman's someday. Everyone I know from upstate NY acts like its a religious experience.

                3. I'm very glad to read this. I'm hoping to move to Asheville in the near future and despaired about where we'd shop, because the Ingle's that we visited there (off Tunnel Road and a couple of exits west of town, I think) were pretty disappointing.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MarieLetsEat

                    You may have visited an older Ingles in Innsbruck Mall on Tunnel Road if it was a few years ago. It was pretty dreary and it's gone. They built a brand new store on the old WalMart site just east of the tunnel on Tunnel Road 2 or 3 (?) years ago. There is also a good sized Ingles on N. Merrimon Ave and it's just across the street from Fresh Market. The 2 Ingles stores are not identical in what they carry; it seems that they may be fine-tuned to their neighborhoods.

                    And a couple of miles south on Merriman will be a new Harris Teeter and a new Trader Joes. I saw the buildings were almost completed when I drove by a couple of days ago. Greenlife, an independent that was purchased by Whole Foods, is next to the new Trader Joes. Whole Foods is building a new 35,000 sq. ft. store on Tunnel Road but I think that's in 2014.

                    And the list goes on: Aldi (2), Earthfare (2), Bi-Lo, Grocery Outlet (2 or more), a Super WalMart, numerous tailgate markets all over the area and the NC State Farmers Market on Brevard Road. And I probably missed some.

                    And maybe Publix as I saw Harris Teeter is in play and likley to be acquired by someone like Kroger or Publix?

                  2. From my front door we have a Publix 5 minutes in one direction and a Harris Teeter 5 minutes in the other. We go to Harris Teeter EVERY time.

                    We're about to move and the HT will be about 5 minutes further away than the Publix. We'll still be driving to the HT.