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Publix to close store in Coquina Key area

Residents are signing petitions and planning a protest march for Saturday.

By SHARON BOND

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- One of the older Publix supermarkets in the city closes July 29 after serving the Coquina Key area for more than 42 years.

"Closing the store was one of the toughest decisions we had to make," said Lee Brunson, Publix spokesman.

The Publix at 4350 Sixth St. S in Coquina Key Plaza was "not meeting projections for a number of years," Brunson said. The decision to close was made in the best interest of the stockholders, who are Publix employees, he said. Doors will shut at 7 p.m. July 29.

The store's 75 employees were told Wednesday about the closing. They will be given jobs in other Publix stores, Brunson said. Everything in the store will be distributed to other Publix stores.

The Coquina store is smaller than many Publix groceries in the city, particularly two recently built at Northeast Shopping Center and Gateway Center.

News of the closing surprised the owner of the grocery space at Coquina Key Plaza. Jacob Attias, vice president for Ramdev USA Development Corp. in Canada, said he talked to Publix officials at the Lakeland headquarters Wednesday and understood no decision had been made. The company has three more years on its lease at Coquina Key Plaza.

The Florida representative for Ramdev was not available for comment.

Mayor David Fischer said he understood from Brunson that an offshoot of the Food Lion chain would replace Publix at Coquina Plaza. Brunson said he could not comment on that.

Coquina area residents don't like the idea of Publix leaving. Several presidents of neighborhood associations are circulating petitions and planning a protest march for Saturday.

"It's not meant to be a negative march," said Anne Drakeford, president of Lakewood Terrace Neighborhood Association.

"We just want people to show up and let them know we like the friendly people who work at Publix and we don't want them to leave."

That worked in the case of a small Publix in Seminole. Customers of the Oakhurst Plaza Publix protested the chain's plans to close their store. Publix relented and left the store open.

Publix Store 39 in Coquina Key Plaza opened Feb. 16, 1958, the same day as the Publix in Pasadena Shopping Center on Gulfport Boulevard S. The two stores brought to seven the number in St. Petersburg. They also brought with them the latest gadgetry for 1958, including Rotiss-o-Mats featuring barbecued chicken and ribs.

When the Coquina Key store closes, St. Petersburg will have 10 Publix stores.

-- Staff writers Laura Heinauer and Wilma Norton contributed to this report.

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