TAMPA — Shelves packed with chips, freezers stuffed with ice cream and nine aisles full of any other midnight snack Channel District dwellers could crave, are finally steps, a trolley stop or a mere elevator ride away.
Talk about easy access — and temptation. For years, it’s been just a dream. Now, it’s finally a reality. The new downtown Tampa Publix attached to the Club Channel apartment building opens Thursday at 7 a.m.
The store doesn’t only share a structure with an apartment, it’s sandwiched between two other residential high-rises. The Channel District has exploded in recent years, but one missing piece was a grocer to serve the quarter’s growing number of residents. Construction delays left citizens even more anxious for the long-awaited supermarket.
“It was pushed back, and pushed back and pushed back,” said Amanda Black, who watched the Publix’s construction process while living at a neighboring complex. “I almost can’t believe it’s finally here.”
The nearest options for residents like Black have been small urban grocer Duckweed and the Publix on Bayshore Boulevard at Platt Street.
When Black, 28, needed carrots for a recipe last week she rejoiced that Duckweed, which is within walking distance, had them. The store’s curated assortment can make it tough to know what kind of fresh produce or other staple items will be in stock.
The other Publix, though under 2 miles away, can be difficult to access when hockey games or concerts at nearby Amalie Arena clog up roadways.
“I think a grocery store, as an anchor, really defines a community, defines a development, as a neighborhood," said Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who will help cut the store’s opening ribbon Thursday morning. “So, we’re very excited to see Publix open up.”
Publix spokesman Brian West said when he took on his current role at the Lakeland grocery chain seven years ago, he was getting questions about a store in the Channel District. They never let up. He said the hype around this location has been especially intense.
The glossy new store is just over 28,000 square feet, which is smaller than the standard 48,000-square-foot suburban stores. But with the rise of mixed-used properties in urban areas, Publix has perfected its compact layouts. The newer Publix stores in downtown St. Petersburg and on the University of South Florida campus in Tampa are two other recent examples.
The Bayshore store, also a smaller store, doesn’t have the same open feel as the new one at 1105 E Twiggs St.
The store has things Florida shoppers have come to expect from their neighborhood Publix, and a couple bonuses.
“We expect a lot of customers in the downtown area to want grab-and-go,” West said, as employees packed fresh prepared salads and sandwiches into empty racks.
Playing to the luxury apartment residents who live so close, the store has an assortment of specialty cheeses and a larger wine selection than most of its other urban footprint stores.
There’s a small seating area in the mezzanine near the parking garage entrance, too, that has free Wifi.
“It’s the perfect place to take your Pub Sub and go eat," West said.
Times Staff Writer Charlie Frago contributed to this story.