Over at another site, there was a discussion about the reopening of the Southgate Publix. One person questioned the coverage: “It’s a grocery store. A. GROCERY. STORE. A place to buy groceries.”
I’ve only been here a few years, but it researching the articles about Southgate I found that it has survived and prospered when many contemporary and later shopping districts failed. In the Dixieland community the Southgate Publix isn’t just a grocery store. It’s a meeting place. We find our neighbors there every time we shop. It’s a touchstone of history. 52 years in the same location doesn’t happen by accident. We can walk and bike to this store. Generations have done so, though it was built for cars during the time the city wasn’t quite up to its edge.
I even found a Lenten devotional online that focused on the Southgate Publix:
Our family moved to Lakeland in August of 1962. We lived in a rental house on Cambridge Ave and it did not take us long to discover Southgate Shopping Center. There was a Woolworths, a WT Grant, the Friendly Hardware Store, Liggett- Touchton Drug Store, and a Publix all within an easy bike ride for me.
That fall Southgate celebrated its 5th birthday with a giant cake. Mr. George Jenkins was in attendance dressed in his Green Publix jacket and he emceed the cutting of the cake. And if you were lucky your piece of cake had a little capsule which contained a coupon for a prize. That day I won the only prize I ever won…. a giant Turkey Roasting pan from the Hardware Store. My mother still has and uses that pan.
In the 46 plus years since that day I have bought countless items at Southgate and for 10 years that Publix Deli became my lunch stop for my almost daily Boars Head low salt turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, Muenster Cheese, light mayonnaise, on a half of a white roll. In fact there was a time when my voice on the phone would generate a response of “the usual Mr. Tom and it will be ready in 15 minutes”.
About 6 weeks ago I was almost heart broken to find a hole where my Publix was. A sign announced that a newer, bigger, and better store was going to be built in the same location. I do not know that that is possible for me. I will miss the familiar store of my childhood. Though it had been expanded over the years I still knew where things were. It was comforting to walk those somewhat crowded terrazzo aisles that had been polished by countless school boys. I guess that progress means that life and we move on, but last week as I rushed out of Lakeland after a funeral I was hungry and without thinking I started to the Publix of Southgate to get a sandwich. No sandwich but some good memories.
With this entry I’ll link to all the photo sets and articles from Lakeland Local and the Ledger…
09/26 – Southgate Publix Reopening: Introduction
09/29 – Lakeland’s New Wonderland of Shopping Pleasure
09/30 – Launched in its own orbit of convenience
09/30 – Southgate Publix Preview
09/30 – Southgate Publix Reopens Thursday After Renovation (The Ledger)
10/01 – Publix Reopening: Lakeland’s ‘Elaborate Southgate’ (The Ledger)
10/01 – A Sense of Community (Woman to Woman Magazine)
09/30 – Southgate Public Preparations
09/30 – Tom Hagerty’s Photo Set (75 photos)
09/30 – New Publix at Southgate Plaza (The Ledger)
10/01 – Chuck Welch’s Photo Set
10/01 – Southgate Publix Grand Reopening
10/01 – Lori Cumberledge’s Grand Opening Pics
(Photo at right (c) by Lori Cumberledge)