Palm Beach mulls the expansion of the popular Publix supermarket:

At a symposium Tuesday, residents seemed generally open toward Publix Super Markets’ plan for a new and larger Palm Beach store.

Many told Publix officials they want more organic foods and need to know more about the interior plans and product mix.

But Publix officials focused on the architectural and real estate plans for the new store, which will have 43,360 feet of interior space — about 10,000 square feet more than the existing store. Total square footage would be 50,870 square feet, including enclosed areas for loading docks and two generators.

The officials said plans aren’t final for the interior space or product offerings, and they encouraged residents to tell store manager Nick Abiusi what they want. Abiusi said he’s aware residents want a greater selection of fine wines, fish and organics.

“We want to have the best Publix we can for you,” Abiusi told more than 100 people at the gathering, which was hosted by the Palm Beach Civic Association at the Paramount Theater building.

I had an enormous amount of fun writing The Event of the Season about Publix’s opening of the existing store in 1971.  And some of the issues from that time are sufacing again forty years later, such as:

  • 1971: the riff-raff will come over across the lake and shop here.  2010: “Some residents asked why the new Palm Beach store needs to be bigger, and worried that it might draw more out-of-town residents.”
  • 1971: the store will look like all of the other Publix markets (the first store did not and in fact set the pace for Publix stores for the next twenty years.)  2010: “The new store would have a design unique to Palm Beach, the officials said. Publix proposes more landscaping than the town requires, and is considering preserving a mural on the existing building’s south facade, donated by the late artist Lee Olsen, by moving it inside the new store, officials said.”

We also have some new concerns, such as environmental ones (I wouldn’t be surprised if Publix made this a LEED structure.)  There’s also a parking issue for a neighbouring condominium, a sign that, as always, real estate and parking are at a very high premium in Palm Beach.

But Palm Beachers ended up being enthusiastic about the original store and there are positive signs about this one:

Also Tuesday, Civic Association President Ned Barnes said an informal survey of 110 residents showed 68 percent wanted a new and larger store, 31 percent did not, and 1 percent were undecided.

“Publix has been such a good friend to the Town of Palm Beach,” one woman said. “I know they’ll give us the best they have.”

Just don’t forget to bring the maid and the butler when the new one opens, as was the case forty years ago.