Driving from Gainesville to the city of Alachua is a big change. The mall, the university and the plazas bubbling over with food franchises all fade to familiar rural amenities. But Alachua is growing out of its local roots.
For now Hitchcock’s Markets is the only grocery store in the city of Alachua. News that a Publix is currently being developed has received mixed reactions from its citizens. A large chain grocery store will now be competing with the locally owned Hitchcock’s.
“It’s a sign of growth,” said Amanda Payne, president of the Alachua Chamber of Commerce. “We think it’ll be good for business, good for citizens, good for the community overall.”
Payne also said that Hitchcock’s has a loyal following and the city is big enough to sustain both stores.
“Hitchcock’s has a pharmacy,” she said. “Which I know some of my family personally uses and likes the people in the pharmacy.”
Other local shoppers are looking forward to the development and regularly travel outside of the town to go to a Publix. Suzette Dunn, a local resident in Alachua, said she drives to the Publix in Jonesville every week for groceries.
“It’s about half and hour there and back,” Dunn said. “So it takes me almost two hours to do grocery shopping. So I’m excited about the new store.”
Dunn said she feels Hitchcock’s can charge higher prices than other stores since there is no competition in town. Specifically, she’s seen a large difference in the price of cinnamon sticks.
Jennifer Hickman, another resident, also drives to the Publix in Jonesville to do her shopping. Hickman said she feels the stores are cleaner, the service is better and Publix provides a better overall shopping experience.
Hitchcock’s markets declined to comment.
JoeAnn Holder, a retired resident in Alachua, said she would use both stores when the new Publix is opened. She shops at Publix when she is in Gainesville and shops at Hitchcock’s when she is in Alachua.
Holder said both stores have their advantages, noting that the Hitchcock’s meats section is better than that of Publix.
Even with a new and larger chain grocery store coming to Alachua, Hitchcock’s holds a special place to some citizens.
“They’re a pillar of our community,” Payne said. “One of the great things about Hitchcock’s is that they’re a big supporter of the community and of events. I think the citizens realize that. They’ve been very supportive of the schools and different events we had.”
Besides being the president of the Alachua Chamber of Commerce, Amanda Payne is also a Certified Financial Planner with Ameriprise Financial, Inc. Her family has been in the area since the early ‘80s, and they also own the local RadioShack Corporation store and H&R Block.
“I don’t want to speak for the chamber on this,” Payne said. “But as a business owner I hope we continue to grow. We want to keep to our roots, ya know? Keep Main St. and that quaint feel, but continue to grow. Growth is always a good thing.”