by Max Marbut
Winn Dixie planted its corporate flag Downtown at the corner of Union and Market streets in 1981 and Wednesday morning, another symbolic planting took place at the grocery store. A cabbage palm, Florida’s state tree, went into the ground to celebrate the beginning of the $3 million remodeling of the 26-year-old supermarket.
Within the next two weeks Winn Dixie will begin to renovate the store inside and outside and improve the parking lot and landscaping on the property. Plans include expanding the store by 4,000 square feet in order to upgrade the fresh produce, floral, seafood and deli departments. The store will get new shelving, refrigeration and frozen food cases as well as flooring, lighting and decor improvements. Brighter lights will be installed in the parking lot and Wednesday’s planting was the first of many palm trees that will be part of the new exterior look.
“This store will have all the bells and whistles when it’s complete. Our shoppers are already experiencing improvements in customer service and product selection. Now they will see a new, updated store with even better product and service offerings,” said Winn Dixie President, CEO and Chairman of the Board Peter Lynch.
He said the Downtown project is just one of dozens of store renovations already completed, underway or planned.
“It’s one piece of our $200 million a year program to renew and upgrade our stores. It’s also a symbol of us turning the company around.”
Before District 7 Council member Dr. Johnny Gaffney helped plant the first palm tree, he pointed out, “The renovation of this store is another great step in our ongoing efforts to make Downtown a better place for all of our citizens.”
A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Police Stop for officers to use while on patrol is also included in the design.
Assistant Chief David Stevens credited Winn Dixie for being one of JSO’s community partners and said, “The perception of crime is often greater than crime itself. People are safe when they shop at this Winn Dixie and this store is a vital staple for the revitalization of Downtown.”
Lynch also presented a $25,000 check from the Winn Dixie Foundation to Sherry Burns, executive director of the Sulzbacher Center.
“Winn Dixie has been there for us since the beginning. They have always donated food and cash and the company sponsored our Winn Dixie Dining Room. They also provide us with all of the turkeys we serve each Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Winn Dixie is part of our past, present and future,” said Burns.
“This is a very good thing for Downtown,” said Terry Lorince, executive director of Downtown Vision, Inc. “It’s a positive sign for revitalization and will be another amenity for the growing population of residents Downtown and in Springfield.”
Store Director Juan Mott said the store will remain open during the remodeling with few interruptions of service.
“We’re going to make the process as painless as possible for our customers. When it’s finished, we are confident they will see positive changes that will make them proud to shop at their neighborhood Winn Dixie.”
The ceremony was held under a fan-swept tent in the parking lot. After it concluded and the palm was placed in the ground, Lynch said there will be a grand opening celebration a year from now when the project is complete and promised, “It will be inside the store where it’s not too hot.”
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