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Review: Fresco y Más and Winn-Dixie

The parent company of Winn-Dixie Southeastern Grocers is opening the first Fresco Y Mas location on Sheldon Road in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, April 5, 2018. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Jul. 25, 2018

Fresco y Más Locations

• 8424 Sheldon Road, Tampa. (813) 884-6819.

• 4056 N Armenia Ave., Tampa. (813) 876-3280.

Winn-Dixie locations

• 252 Harbor Village Lane, Apollo Beach. (813) 645-9674.

• 2515 State Road 60, Valrico. (813) 657-4987.

• 10665 Big Bend Road, Riverview. (813) 234-0865.

• 8775 Temple Terrace Highway, Temple Terrace. (813) 985-4439.

• 15692 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 963-7883.

• 2100 W Swann Ave., Tampa. (813) 254-6800.

• 805 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Tampa. (813) 301-0210.

Both stores are owned by Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers, so they carry the same line of staple items. Fresco, the company’s Hispanic brand, just came to Tampa Bay in April. Winn-Dixie has downsized after emerging from bankruptcy, leaving it with about 20 Tampa Bay locations. A handful of local stores have been remodeled in an effort to re-energize the brand.

What’s it like?

Fresco y Más entered the Tampa Bay market earlier this year with live Latin music and dancers parading through its spacious aisles at its grand openings. Southeastern turned two former Winn-Dixies into Fresco locations based off the population makeup and demands of that area, CEO Anthony Hucker has told the Tampa Bay Times.

Frecso y Más — which are popular in Miami — and Winn-Dixie locations are often upward of 40,000 square feet. The aisles are wide and the product selection varied.

Fresco y Más stores are accented with bright yellow and big signs in both English and Spanish. They’re bright, white and clean. Both the new Winn-Dixies and Fresco have large seating areas near their cafes and prepared food areas. Fresco y Más customers love its “$1 Zona” section, which is available in some of the new Winn-Dixie locations, too, just without the emphasis on Latin American products.

Fresco means “fresh” in Spanish, and you can use that word to describe the direction Southeastern is going with its redesigns. Even the uniforms are new: Fresco y Más employees wear bright yellow polos and Winn-Dixie’s white buttonups with a red graph check print.

Southeastern seems to get the growing allure of specialty markets. Fresco’s Hispanic goods bring in shoppers who had a hard time finding the items they needed to make their favorite dishes. Remodeled Winn-Dixie stores have expanded organic and gluten-free offerings.

Perks

The “$1 Zona” at Fresco is a definite draw. Whether it’s $1 coconut water or hair ties and cleaning cloths, there’s a decent selection of useful knickknacks, similar to Target’s One Spot section.

If you’re a regular Winn-Dixie shopper, the reward card that helps you save money on items works at Fresco, too. Their parent company is launching a new rewards card where shoppers can earn points that will be good for up to two years.

Nitpicks

Shopping at the remodeled Winn-Dixie stores is like stepping into a new chain, but not every location has gotten the facelift. The store vowed to update at least 100. As for Fresco, to date there are just three locations outside of the 22 in the Miami area.

Prepared foods

Fresco y Más’ Latin recipes were created by a Cuba native chef who trains the cooks before each store opening. The Tampa Baystores target their prepared foods to Cuban and Puerto Rican customers, which make up a lot of Hillsborough County’s growing Hispanic population. The menu at the hot bar changes but there’s a range from standard rice and beans to tender oxtail to tastyempanadas.

Winn-Dixie has expanded its offerings to include a full sandwich shop, wing bar, fully cooked ribs and sushi — all made in-house. There also are $6 prepared “meals made easy” shoppers can bring home and heat up. The Hyde Park store even has mini doughnuts and gelato.

Specialty items

At Fresco, produce you can usually only find at a bodega is commonplace: boniato, calabasa, yuca, malanga, plantains, guayaba and more. For packaged goods, there’s the standard Goya merch but also a slew of brands sometimes hard to find in the United States. Cuban bread is baked inside, and now carried in some Winn-Dixie stores at the same price: 99 cents.

Winn-Dixie has expanded its organic and gluten-free options: vegan mayo, packaged jackfruit “pulled pork,” dairy-free cheesecake.

Its inventory is similar to Publix, but the organic goods are organized and clearly labeled within center shelving in the produce section. All the frozen and refrigerated organic and vegetarian/vegan foods are kept together in nearby fridge displays. Another W-D standout: The new stores have an expanded local craft beer selection. Florida brews such as 3 Daughters, Motorworks and Swamp Head are available and plentiful.

Customer service

Fresco y Más employees are often bilingual, making the shopping experience a lot less nerve-racking for those who don’t speak English as a first language.

Price check

Milk, at both stores: $3.29 per gallon

Boneless skinless chicken breast: $5.49 per pound at Winn-Dixie; $2.98 per pound at Fresco y Más

Avocados: three for $5 at both stores

Statement from the store

“At Southeastern Grocers we are always listening to our customers and know that no one community, customer or store is exactlythe same. That’s why we are proud to have four great grocery banners — BI-LO, Fresco y Más, Harveys and Winn-Dixie — that offer customers throughout the Southeast a grocery store that is designed and tailored to the needs of the local community. We’ve invested time into listening to our customers, and any change in our remodeled stores is a direct result of that feedback.”

“Our Winn-Dixie stores have established a history of commitment and service to our Tampa Bay customers. We’re proud to be a part of this community and we are eager to show our loyal customers our new and improved stores with expanded offerings. In 2018, we are planning on a significant number of remodels, the locations of which will be revealed once they are all confirmed.”

Conclusion

Winn-Dixie has struggled in the shadow of Publix for years. Shoppers have long viewed it as the place to go for discount buys. After emerging from bankruptcy, Southeastern Grocers has made obvious efforts to re-energize the brand and tap in to what shoppers are expecting from their supermarkets in 2018. They’ve stripped away the brown, stale layouts and shuttered the stores that were underperforming. Fresco y Más has been a bright spot for the company, and they’ve adapted some of the aesthetic and merchandise choices that work there to Winn-Dixie.

W-D also easily has one of the largest Florida craft beer selections in the state — they’ve nearly doubled the local brews they carry in the past year.

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