There isn't a day that goes by that someone doesn't ask me "When are we getting another grocery store?" There is no way around it, we clearly are obsessed about this topic.
I'm telling you up front. Don't get excited. The purpose of this column is not to announce the impending construction of a new grocery store. Instead, it is to answer the burning question that smolders beneath our collective conscious. Why did Publix leave and are they ever coming back?
I spoke candidly this past week with Dwaine Stevens, Publix's media and communications relations manager for north Florida, southeastern Georgia, and parts of South Carolina. Stevens said his company's decision to leave Statesboro was a very difficult one.
"I have been working for Publix for over 28 years," he said. "I can honestly say that Statesboro is the only market that I am aware of that we have literally packed up and left. It was not a decision that was made lightly or without substantial deliberation. There were many people that lost several nights of sleep over that decision."
I asked Stevens if his company was aware of the desire of Statesboro residents to have "their" Publix back. You may be surprised at his answer.
"We know that we have a lot of very loyal customers in Statesboro," Stevens said. "In fact, people call us and write us asking Publix to please reopen in Statesboro. To my knowledge, we have no plans to do that at this time."
"We know that Statesboro residents shop at the Publix (on Abercorn Street) in Savannah," he said. "We have heard that they take their coolers down there and fill up. We are very grateful for their continued patronage and are very sorry that things did not work out as we had planned in Statesboro."
I asked Stevens to be more specific as to why Publix closed.
"Simply put, it was a business decision," he said. "We did not have the sales numbers necessary to justify the continued operation of that store. If I recall, it was sort of a grocery store 'row' there, and some grocery stores just didn't make it. Unfortunately, we were one of those."
Stevens said there remains a possibility that Publix could open another store here.
"Who knows, things change and we could certainly come back into that market," he said. "You never know."
I know that there are developers trying to bring grocery and retail to our area. I think they will be successful, and we will see some great new things come to Statesboro in the not so distant future.
Grocery store possibilities? Our best shot is Kroger, and it is my understanding that we are on their "radar screen." If enough people ask, maybe they will come.
Where Publix is concerned, however, it would appear that we are beating the proverbial dead horse for now. Therefore, I have chosen to look at it as a great excuse to go to Savannah, and I would advise you all to do the same.
Until next week, I bid you au revoir.
Got a scoop for Jan? Call her at (912) 489-9463 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org