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Protests over Publix closing strengthen

By LAURA HEINAUER

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 26, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Protesters of Publix's decision to close its Coquina Key Plaza store say they have gathered about 2,200 signatures from city residents asking the company to reconsider.

The petitions, which were collected outside the Sixth Avenue S store and in neighboring businesses, were faxed to the store's headquarters in Lakeland and to St. Petersburg Mayor David Fischer Tuesday afternoon, said Susan Hastings, who spent the weekend protesting outside of the store.

"Since we're dealing with a corporation, everybody thinks we're probably not going to win," Hastings said. "But we're not going to roll over dead. That's just what they would want us to do."

The petition reads: "We the residents of the neighborhood which surrounds your store at 4350 Sixth Street South are deeply disappointed with your decision to close the store on July 29th. We deserve better than to be told eight days before you closed the doors for good. Most of us have been loyal customers of this Publix store and supported it for many years. You have served this community and this location for 42 years. We had hoped you would improve this store as you had done with so many others as we strive to improve our community. Please reconsider your decision."

A Publix spokesman said petitions would not change the corporate decision. "The store will close Saturday evening," Lee Brunson said from Lakeland. As of early Tuesday afternoon, he said he had not received any petitions and could not comment on the number of signatures.

Fischer is out of town on vacation until Tuesday, but he will be checking in periodically, his press secretary Anne Haskins said. She said the mayor spoke to Publix last week, but she knew nothing from that conversation.

Hastings said she received an overwhelming amount of support for her efforts. "They are leaving a lot of people like me, I'm legally blind, without independence," she said. "A lot of people think it's insensitive to the elderly people living around here."

Brunson said speculation of employee theft as a deciding point in closing the store, was unfounded. He said about 60 percent of theft from retailers usually is done by employees. "We had problems in that location no more than any other," Brunson said.

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