Lydia Romig was one day too early.
She went to the new Publix in Alachua on Friday during her lunch break, hoping to pick up her favorite sausage-and-kale soup.
Romig is just one eager customer of many who is excited about the new store. After much anticipation, the Publix will officially open Saturday at 8 a.m. with a ribbon cutting at 7:45 a.m.
Publix will join Hitchcocks as the only grocery stores in Alachua, which has a growing population of more than 9,000 people.
The opening will provide more than 80 jobs for the community, and total employment is about 125 people, some of which are transferring from other Publix locations, Dwaine Stevens, a Publix media relations manager, wrote in an email.
Publix even hosted its job fair at Santa Fe High School over the summer, said Elizabeth LeClear, the school’s principal.
She said the students felt more comfortable being interviewed in their own library. Some students were offered jobs, LeClear said.
Ed Potts, the president of the Alachua Chamber of Commerce, said Alachua tends to be an exporter of jobs. He said many people leave the city for work, so the Publix is helping to keep jobs in the community.
“From an employment standpoint, its great,” he said.
From a traffic standpoint, Potts said, the close proximity to the interstate will increase the number of people coming in to Alachua.
The grocery store is next to Santa Fe High School, just north of Interstate 75 on U.S. Highway 441. City staff anticipate an increase in traffic in the area once the store opens, Potts said.
So, the city installed a stoplight between the school and the interstate, Potts said. Also, city and federal funds were used to reconfigure the areas around the interstate to ease semi-truck traffic, he said.
Mayor Gib Coerper said the Publix is “going to serve mainly our area, but also the people that [drive] by it.”
Coerper said the store will catch thousands of people on their way home.
“The traffic count of people getting onto 441 and I-75 is huge,” he said.
As for competition with the only other supermarket in town, Hitchcocks, Coerper said this will be healthy competition for the stores. He said Hitchcocks may be making small steps to upgrade now that Publix is opening.
Hitchcocks declined to comment.
Discussions about opening a Publix have intensified over the past 20 years since the city started growing, Coerper said.
Romig, who works at RTI Biologics in Alachua, said she has written letters to Publix’s main office asking it to open a store in Alachua for years.
In fact, a Facebook page called Bring Publix to Alachua, FL has been online since 2012. The page has been tracking the progress of the store, recording construction milestones and creating hype.
Alachua has space for new businesses and retail stores, Potts said, and noted projects like Progress Park that are bringing bioscience and technology companies into the area.
As far as he knows, the additional storefronts for rent in the Publix shopping center are all under lease negotiations, Potts said. A Raceway gas station is also open in the plaza.
“We feel like the additional traffic from Publix is really going to benefit the community,” he said.