May 16, 2018

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press
The new Publix at mile marker 83.3 in Islamorada opens its doors to shoppers on Thursday, May 24. One of the grocery chain's smaller stores, the store covers 32,862 square feet.   

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press The new Publix at mile marker 83.3 in Islamorada opens its doors to shoppers on Thursday, May 24. One of the grocery chain's smaller stores, the store covers 32,862 square feet.   

ISLAMORADA — Two large stores have risen from the ground in Islamorada, which once battled to keep corporate businesses at bay.

The new Publix store at mile marker 83.3 opens for customers on Thursday, May 24.

Equity Development Group built the Publix on a 4.6-acre tract once occupied by defunct businesses including the Coral Grill and a bowling alley called the Fish Bowl.

Working under manager Miranda Hendrix, about 140 people are expected to be on staff at the Islamorada Publix and its pharmacy, spokeswoman Nicole Krauss said. 

Publix No. 1495 covers 32,862 square feet with 161 parking spaces, which makes it one of the smaller stores among the grocery chain’s 1,182 stores.

A typical Publix averages about 45,000 to 60,000 square feet, according to news reports, but the Lakeland-based chain has launched smaller stores in some communities.

The Islamorada store features many of the grocery chain’s latest innovations and designs, Krause said. 

“There is a lot of cool stuff that people will really like,” she said. 

Islamorada store hours will be 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

A Publix coming to Islamorada was one of the flashpoints in a long-running controversy over “formula retail” chain stores. When Islamorada voted to incorporate in late 1997, many residents wanted to protect the new municipality’s “community character” by focusing on locally owned businesses. Other residents yearned for convenience of well-stocked corporate stores.

A 2008 court ruling in a lawsuit overturned the village’s formula-retail ordinance, pointing to existing franchises and concern over restrictions on commerce. An attempt in late 2014 to limit the size of any new stores to 10,000 square feet was defeated by Islamorada voters in a referendum.

West Marine at mile marker 82 in Islamorada already is operating, after unlocking its doors for a soft opening May 4. The inventory runs from boating parts and electronics to kayaks and clothing.

The 10,000-square-foot store managed by Justin Kross held a chain-wide 50th anniversary event for West Marine on May 12, handing out gift cards to early shoppers. The Islamorada store employs 15 retail associates.

West Marine now has about 250 stores nationwide. 

“Florida has always been West Marine’s No. 1 market and we love the Florida Keys,” spokeswoman Margo Donohue said.

The Islamorada store will hold grand-opening events on June 9. Islamorada Village Council Mayor Chris Sante and Vice Mayor Deb Gillis will he on hand for the 8 a.m. ribbon-cutting, with a children’s play area, food and other special activities until 4 p.m.

Normally, the West Marine in Islamorada will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with Sunday hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

kwadlow@keysnews.com