MADEIRA BEACH — For more than half a century, the Publix grocery store at the mainland entrance to this beach city has served thousands of shoppers from Madeira Beach, St. Petersburg and Seminole.
At 7 p.m. on Saturday that tradition will end as the oldest store in the multistate Publix chain closes its doors.
Demolition of the 1950s-era building on the corner of 150th Avenue and Duhme Road will begin this month and a new Publix in the same location is scheduled to open its doors by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Publix customers, including the estimated 1,500 residents living at the adjacent Sea Towers Condominiums, will have to find a new place to buy their food.
Many parents of the 1,429 elementary and middle school students attending the nearby Madeira Beach Fundamental use the Publix lot while waiting to pick up their children at the end of the school day.
Now they will have to find a new place to park or, as the school is urging, use the school's car circle.
Since November, Publix and the Pinellas County School District placed digital signs on Duhme Road and outside the school notifying parents that the parking lot would be fenced off during construction.
"The school will work with parents during the transition," said school system public information officer, Melanie Marquez Parra, adding that parents are increasingly driving directly into the school grounds to drop off and pick up their children.
Because it is a fundamental school, there is no bus service and parents must provide transportation for their children.
Mayor Travis Palladeno said he plans to talk with the city's community policing officer about law enforcement assistance with traffic into and out of the school during the next few weeks.
"There will be a little inconvenience, but it is short-term," said Palladeno. "I am really excited with what is going on in Madeira Beach. It will be beautiful entrance to the city."
Meanwhile, store manager Miriam Odum said all 130 employees have been relocated to other nearby Publix stores.
The privately held and employee-owned chain was founded in 1930 with one store in Winter Haven and is now a Fortune 500 company with more than 1,000 stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee with quarterly sales reaching $7 billion in 2013.
The Madeira Beach store was opened in 1957 and is now the oldest store in the chain.
"The new store will be worth the wait. We would encourage our customers to shop at the Seminole location, or another Publix that may be convenient for them until the construction is complete," said Publix corporate spokesperson Brian West.
Other Publix stores are: in Seminole on 113th Street across from the Seminole Mall, on Oakhurst Road north of the fork at Antilles Drive; in St. Petersburg on Park Street north of 54th Avenue N and on 16th Street south of 22nd Avenue N; and in Treasure Island on 104th Avenue.
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Madeira Beach also has a Winn-Dixie grocery store on Municipal Drive that is likely to pick up some of the Publix customers.
When completed, the redeveloped and more heavily landscaped Publix shopping center will include a 45,000-square-foot grocery store, a 1,400-square-foot Publix liquor store, three retail stores totaling nearly 5,000 square feet, and a 3,200-square-foot restaurant in a separate building at the northwestern corner of the property.
The shopping and dining complex represents just one of many changes coming to this beach city's northern gateway to the mainland:
• A 90-unit Courtyard by Marriott hotel is under construction on American Legion Drive just behind the soon-to-be rebuilt Publix.
• A CVS pharmacy will be built next year on the eastern corner of Duhme Road and Bay Pines Boulevard, just across from the Publix shopping center.
In addition, the 5-acre site of the former Leverock's Seafood Restaurant on the south side of the Madeira Beach causeway is slated for redevelopment in the coming year, possibly as a mixed-use project combining residential, commercial, a restaurant and hotel, according to City Manager Shane Crawford.
The nearby city marina is in the midst of redevelopment program that includes a new marina store, new docks and eventually a high-and-dry boat storage facility.
Farther west, the aging parcel of retail shops at the intersection of 150th Avenue and Madeira Way is also attracting developer interest.
"The north side of town is definitely getting a facelift," Crawford said.