When Publix Super Markets announced last week an agreement to purchase half the Albertsons stores left in Florida, residents in south Pinellas took note.
Of 17 Albertsons stores in the greater Tampa Bay area, nine are in south county.
The ensuing buzz the announcement generated revolves around whether Publix would close nearby Albertsons stores that scores of locals prefer. The fact that most of the stores are in close proximity to existing Publix grocery stores doesn't bode well for Albertsons shoppers.
Customers at the Albertsons on 54th Avenue S had mixed opinions on the buyout.
Mark Coyle, 32, said he enjoys his shopping experience at Albertsons stores but is "indifferent" about the store buyouts and possible closings.
"I don't live close to an Albertsons," Coyle said. "I do like their stores, though. They're clean and have good service."
Margaret Gilliam, 63, said she has been in the food catering business for 35 years.
She said she shops at multiple grocery chains, but she prefers the quality of Publix foods.
"Overall, I'll take Publix," Gilliam said. "Their brands are very good, and you can't beat Publix meat. I tell you that."
However, Tom and Elaine Kroha called Publix prices too high and said they did not want the 54th Avenue S Albertsons to close.
"We love this parking lot and all this space," said Elaine Kroha. "If they close this Albertsons, we'll go somewhere else (besides Publix). (Albertsons) have good sales, especially on weekends, and a clean store and great service."
Tom Kroha said, "I wish Albertsons would keep it. We know Publix is higher."
Frequent customers at the Albertsons on Fourth Street N at 38th Avenue N prefer the prices and convenience the store provides.
Christie Cales, a 30-year-old mother of two, said she would likely begin shopping at Winn-Dixie instead of the nearby Publix, if the store were to close.
"I won't go to Publix, not that Publix is bad, but they're a little expensive compared to Albertsons prices," Cales said.
Sandra Eis, 61, rides her scooter to Albertsons from her Snell Isle neighborhood. She's been shopping there since 1990 and wasn't sure if she would go to Publix or Winn-Dixie if the store were to close.
"I hope that never happens because I don't want to shop anywhere else," Eis said.
Mark Ufniarski lives within walking distance of the store and said he shops there almost every other day.
He moved to the area from Massachusetts two years ago to care for his cousins and said they rely on Albertsons pharmacy for prescriptions.
"It's not a good outlook; I'm not too happy about it," Ufniarski said.
Although he shops at Publix for specialty items, it's not as convenient.
"There is a lot more traffic, it's a lot more crowded and the prices are higher," Ufniarski said.
Dolores Weber said she usually shops at Publix but will go to Albertsons for the occasional sale.
"If I don't get a sale, I don't get a sale. I would be more upset if they closed Publix," Weber said.
Eddie R. Cole can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8779. Nick Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 893-8361.