Remodeled Fourth Street Publix offers high-end options for increasingly demanding customers

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A new Publix opened up this week on Fourth Street and it’s fancy-schmancy.

The newly revitalized Publix on the corner of 38 Avenue North and Fourth Street has all the bells and whistles of a high-end grocery store complete with extra staff. Think Whole Foods or Fresh Market.

The newly opened store has a hot bar and salad bar to pop in for a price per pound lunch. There’s loads of craft beer for after work festivities, an on-staff wine snob to answer questions about food pairings and even a health and beauty advisor to explain how to get rid of that pesky zit lingering on your forehead.

All this for Publix prices.

Let’s start with the wine section. It’s practically its own shop complete with a locked cooler full of top dollar wines ranging from $50 to almost $500. There’s even a neat contraption called a “Chilla” that cools wine in about 4 minutes.

And what wine is complete without a little cheese? There’s an expert for that too.

The newly branded Publix is also cashing in on St. Pete’s thriving craft beer market. Downtown St. Pete landed itself on the New York Times list of 52 places to visit in 2014 based in part on the growing market for craft brews. This amenity is a magnet for beer connoisseurs whose craft beer options have been limited to a handful of places on the East side of the ‘burg.

The grocery selection at the newly designed Fourth Street Publix is all you’d expect from any other store as far as fresh produce, meat and all the basics, but there’s also an expanded selection of organic products under the Publix brand “Greenwise.”

The health and beauty section is armed with a full-time expert to answer questions ranging from facial care to make-up choices and even what types of vitamins to take. It’s a one-up on just about any grocery health and beauty aisle that, typically, caters to the shopper to hurried to swing by Target.

Up until the new Publix opened, one across the street in the Northeast Shopping plaza was considered the good Publix. It’s a sort of phenonmenon not uncommon throughout the area. In South St. Pete two Publix locations are nestled less than a mile apart on either side of I-275. One of them serves well-to-do residents of upper middle class neighborhoods like Broadwater and Tierra Verde. That store offers Sushi and a wide variety of pricey seafood including live Lobster. The one on the other side of the interstate sells lots of fried chicken and doesn’t have sushi or live lobster – it’s considered the poor Publix.

That paradigm has shifted on Fourth Street, but according to the Tampa Bay Times, Publix officials think that’s OK. They say they opened the 49,000 square-foot store because there was a demand for it.

Regardless of demand, the new hoity toity Publix will have plenty of competition. A Trader Joe’s is opening sometime next year just a few blocks South. There’s also Locale Market slated to open in the downtown Sundial development. And, of course, there’s already Fresh Market not too far away.

Where ever residents choose to shop, it’s clear they have a growing list of options along Fourth Street.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.