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Warming hearts in Winn-Dixie's frozen foods aisle

They both moved here from the North seeking warmth, but they also found love at work and decided to get married there.

By MICHAEL KRUSE
Published February 17, 2006


SPRING HILL - Lori Burns and John Gorman had come Thursday morning to be wed at Winn-Dixie in the frozen foods aisle in between the pizza and the ice cream.

This is a new twist to an old story.

But a good one.

Lori and John: Both of them are from up North and moved down here looking for sunshine. She's 44 and from Michigan. He's 57 and from New York. Both of them have been married before. Both of them have children and even grandchildren.

Both of them say they weren't looking for love.

And certainly not next to any Hot Pockets or Tater Tots.

People get married in all sorts of places that aren't churches or courthouses. Disney World, the Florida Aquarium in Tampa or Sand Key in Clearwater. Vineyards, museums and art galleries, beaches and cruise ships, even on the tops of glaciers. But ...

"We don't do Winn-Dixies," Suzell Beretta of the Wedding Experience said this week from her office in Miami.

There's a trend toward "personalizing" weddings, but most of them are still elaborate and expensive, and formal, traditional ceremonies are still very much the norm, said Linda Kevich, the editor of SuperWeddings.com and the director of the International Institute of Weddings in Canada. She estimates no more than 10 percent of couples get married in "highly nonconventional" locations.

Like a Winn-Dixie.

In the frozen foods aisle.

For instance.

"That's too cute," Largo WeddingsOnAWhim.com wedding consultant Gayle Liteheart wrote in an e-mail.

Lori and John met a bit more than a year ago at the Winn-Dixie store behind the Red Lobster on U.S. 19. She was a cashier and is in charge of the melon bar now. He stocked the frozen foods and has since shifted to be a manager at the Weeki Wachee Winn-Dixie.

The spot where Lori stood at the register gave her a good view of the frozen foods aisle. "And every time I looked down the aisle," she said earlier this week at her home off Spring Hill Drive, "his head was in the cooler."

She liked looking down that aisle.

And John liked that she did.

"If they called for a bagger," she said, "John always bagged for me."

They don't have much in common. She grew up on a farm and likes to camp and fish, and he collects coins. She likes country and he likes oldies. She takes cream and sugar in her coffee, and John just does cream. But they say they get along well.

Their first date was in May. They watched the sunset at Hernando Beach.

They bought a house together in August.

He proposed in December.

"It's like I came down here to find him," she said.

Since they met, they've gone on trips to Cedar Key, Sarasota and Anna Maria Island, and Old Town, Ocala and Orlando. With John, Lori's seen manatees at Bayport, dolphins at Hudson and gators on a glass-bottom boat ride through the Homosassa Wildlife Park. Now they start their days together by doing the Jumble puzzle in the St. Petersburg Times and end them by watching MASH and CSI.

On Thursday morning, shortly after 10, some Winn-Dixie workers wrote "JUST MARRIED" in grease paint on the window of John's green Mitsubishi Intrigue parked next to the cart return. John? He was quick-smoking his Dorals by some stacked-up cases of soda near the sliding-door store entrance.

"I'm ready to go," he said. "She's the one that's nervous as hell.

"She's in the back. In the produce department. Past the cheese."

Lori was in the break room standing not far from a poster on the wall that was for something called Operation Fresh Start.

"Attention, shoppers," the storewide PA voice said. "We're going to have a wedding on the frozen foods aisle in about five minutes."

Lori took the arm of her father and walked out of the break room and past the Kraft singles, the Tastykakes and the 2-liter Cokes.

"Ready?" her father said.

Lori took a deep breath.

She walked by Chef Boyardee and some Kool-Aid Jammers and the Purex liquid laundry detergent. She came down the frozen foods aisle flanked by store employees in black Winn-Dixie aprons and ball caps. She stopped in between the Breyers butter pecan and the DiGiorno deep dish.

A special-picked song from the band called Rascal Flatts played all over the store:

Every long lost dream led me to where you are

Others who broke my heart they were like northern stars

Pointing me on my way into your loving arms

People got still by the Aisle 3 checkout.

"I will take John to be my husband," Lori said.

"I will take Lori to be my wife," John said.

"I now present you Mr. and Mrs. John Gorman," notary public Frank Byrne told everyone.

The reception was by the baked goods and the deli counter. Pictures were taken in front of the marked-down Valentine's Day candies, chocolate and bears, and folks ate sheet cake and drank red punch out of a big bowl with a floating brick of rainbow sherbet. Then John and Lori Gorman left and got in the green Intrigue with the JUST MARRIED grease paint and drove away from the Winn-Dixie, past the Red Lobster, out onto U.S. 19.

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.

[Last modified February 17, 2006, 02:15:35]


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