The supermarket brings back a full-service grocery store to the Paxon area of Northwest Jacksonville.
Beverly Whing and Tarsha Keenon hugged Rowe’s IGA Supermarkets owner Rob Rowe near the seafood department at the store he opened May 12 in Commonwealth Shopping Center.
“We need a grocery store back in our neighborhood,” said Whing, who previously shopped at the Harveys Supermarket that closed in the building two years ago.
Rowe said he invested more than $3 million so far in renovating the store at 1012 Edgewood Ave. N. in the Paxon area of Northwest Jacksonville.
Whing said she had been patronizing the Jacksonville-based Rowe’s stores in other parts of town, but the Commonwealth supermarket is a bike ride away.
She and Keenon work nearby for Student Transportation of America as bus monitors. Keenon often dropped by during the day to pick up what she needed.
“It’s beautiful,” said Whing, who had crab legs, oysters and bleach in her cart and still was shopping. Both women said bleach had been difficult to find elsewhere.
The women were among a sizable crowd about 15 minutes after the store opened. Rowe intended to open at noon but saw customers waiting in their cars, so he welcomed them in.
Rowe said the store will operate 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily until the coronavirus pandemic eases.
He estimates about 90 employees staffed the store the first day.
Many customers wore face masks. Staff sanitized carts and surfaces, while aisles were marked for one-way traffic.
Staff hoped customers would monitor their distances.
Rowe’s brought groceries back to an area without a full-line supermarket since April 2018 when Harveys Supermarket closed in the space.
"I love this store, the people and the area," Rowe said May 12.
"We will do our best to serve the community. It took us a little longer than we thought to open, but we have a first-class store to better serve our customers," he said.
"Some things are worth the wait. I believe this is one of them."
There was no grand opening event. “At some point, we will do an event. Right now we want to get open to serve our new customers,” Rowe said previously.
“What we will be doing is opening a beautiful new store and offering the best offerings we have for the current times and we will do our best to serve the area,” he said.
Like other Rowe’s Supermarkets, the store offers groceries including deli, bakery, seafood, meat and produce departments. There is no pharmacy.
While the 49,000-square-foot store was well stocked, there were some sparsely filled shelves because of pandemic-created shortages.
Rice, pasta, dry soup, paper products, cleaners, wipes and related staples and cleaning products are in shorter supply than pre-COVID-19, although there was a welcome supply of toilet tissue and paper towels.
Rowe said vendors have cut back on variety, such as making five types of a product that previously had a dozen.
On Feb. 20, the city issued a permit for Williams & Rowe Co. Inc. to renovate the Commonwealth store at a cost of $579,934.
In November, Council approved a $750,000 grant to partially finance renovations to open Rowe’s at the location, identified as an area without adequate access to a full-service grocery store.
Rowe said there isn’t a full-service supermarket within 2 to 3 miles of the Commonwealth center.
Council legislation provides taxpayer-backed incentives to Commonwealth landlord Saglo Development Corp. of Miami to partially finance a $3.5 million renovation of the 49,000-square-foot store with Rowe’s.
Rowe said in October he anticipated a $5 million total investment in the project.
The store also brings Rowe back to a location that he opened for the SaveRite division of Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. that focused on low prices. Rowe was the SaveRite executive behind it.
“That was the first one I opened in Jacksonville. It was a store that Winn-Dixie had and we converted it to SaveRite with lower prices, to give people in the neighborhood what they want,” Rowe said.
Rowe said May 12 at least six former SaveRite employees work at the new store.
Winn-Dixie later became a banner of Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers, whose brands include Harveys.
Southeastern Grocers closed the Commonwealth Harveys, along with other stores, in spring 2018 as it restructured under bankruptcy laws.
It is Rowe’s sixth Rowe’s IGA Supermarket. Five operate in west, northwest, north and south Jacksonville and in Orange Park. A seventh is planned at a closed Winn-Dixie that Rowe bought in the Deerwood area of Baymeadows.