I went shopping at Publix and saw why Southerners love it so much

Chelsea Greenwood/Business Insider
  • Publix, a popular supermarket chain in the Southeast US, is beloved by Southerners for its selection and deals.
  • Author Chelsea Greenwood visited her local Publix location to get an inside look at what the store has to offer.

Publix – a supermarket chain with 1,202 locations across the Southeast – claims to be the place “where shopping is a pleasure.”

I certainly think so. I’m a 20-year resident of Florida, where the company is headquartered, and Publix has long been my go-to grocery store– not just for its great selection and killer deals but for its deep-rooted tradition of Southern hospitality.

Service with a smile is the foundation of Publix, which was founded in Winter Haven, Florida, in 1930 by George W. Jenkins, who grew up working in his father’s general store. He aimed to treat his supermarket employees and customers “like family,” and 88 years later, his legacy is still going strong.

Publix is a popular grocery store nationwide – it tied with Wegmans for first place in Market Force Information’s 2018 survey of best US supermarkets – but it has an extra-special place in the hearts of many Southerners.

To find out why Southerners love Publix so much, I visited my favourite location and observed its offerings with fresh eyes. Here are my findings.


Publix promises to do right by you — or your money back.

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You’ll find a sign like this, stating the Publix Guarantee, in every store. It promises that Publix will never knowingly disappoint you and that you’ll be cheerfully refunded your money if your purchase doesn’t meet your satisfaction.

The store backs up that credo with positive reinforcement: If a team member goes the extra mile for you and you tell a manager, that staffer will receive a reward certificate for a free meal from the store’s deli, according to the Sun-Sentinel.


The floral department offers fresh blooms and premium services.

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At this store, guests are greeted by fresh blooms in the floral department. Shoppers can order fresh-cut flower stems, custom arrangements, and even bridal bouquets, according to the Sun-Sentinel– services you’ll be hard-pressed to find at most grocery stores. Southern belles can buy their hydrangea en masse here.


The bakery caters to kids with free cookies and ‘smash cakes.’

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Children flock to the beloved Publix bakery for free cookies. And, for Southern mums who love to throw unforgettable parties, the bakery provides a complimentary seven-inch “smash cake” with the purchase of a first-birthday cake, so the birthday baby can adorably destroy it while the real cake remains intact. Custom Publix cakes are a mainstay of birthday parties in the South. (I’m partial to their buttercream frosting.)


At Publix, bread is made from scratch and baked daily.

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Scratch cooking is a hallowed tradition in the South. When you can’t DIY, you can still get the real thing at the Publix bakery, where bread is made from scratch and baked fresh daily. You’ll find everything from bagels and baguettes to challah and hot dog buns.


Publix subs are an integral part of the modern Southerner’s diet.

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Hit up Publix around lunchtime, and you’ll always find a line in the deli for “Pub subs” – Publix’s famous sub sandwiches. Using Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, you can design your own, choose from popular selections, or simply grab and go. Pub subs are a staple in the Southern diet, especially for days on the boat or beach.


Same goes for Publix’s fried chicken and sweet tea.

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Y’all want to taste the best fried chicken around? Look no further than the crispy cluckers at Publix, another of the store’s most popular prepared food offerings. Pair your fried chicken with sweet tea (as seen in the background of this shot) and potato salad from the deli, and your Southern feast is good to go.


The extensive produce department doesn’t disappoint.

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A diverse selection of fresh produce is another Publix signature, complete with organic offerings and seasonal specials. The containers of fresh-cut watermelon and pineapple are perennial picnic favourites.


Enjoy a user-friendly experience — and sushi! — in the seafood department.

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Whether fried, baked, boiled, or raw, we love our seafood in the South, and Publix aims to please with its user-friendly seafood department. In fact, the store’s fishmongers will split and prep lobster tails as well as steam fish or shellfish on the spot for free, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Some locations also offer sushi – and it’s delicious.


Looking for a deal on wine? Look no further than the Publix wine department.

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Southerners drink our fair share of liquor (bourbon, anyone?), but wine is still very much in demand down here. The extensive wine department at Publix includes the store’s black-label premium wines, and the store has deals like a free wine tote with the purchase of four or more bottles and 10% off “all multi-bottle purchases,” according to the Sun-Sentinel.


It’s a BOGO kind of life at Publix.

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The brand’s buy-one-get-one-free sale is a major cash saver and one of Publix’s biggest draws. Each week, at least 30 products are BOGO storewide. Typically, each new sale cycle starts on Thursday morning, according to BuzzFeed, so shop early that day for the best selection.

In most states, with the exception of Florida, you don’t even need to buy two BOGO items to save some coin, according to BuzzFeed. If you only purchase one BOGO item, that item will ring up at half its original price.


Carnivores and healthy eaters will appreciate the Publix meat department.

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The meat department’s extensive selection features a little bit of everything, including antibiotic-free chicken, beef, pork, lamb, and turkey via Publix’s GreenWise label.

For special occasions – or just college football tailgating – you can special order a whole pig, and the Publix butcher will “butterfly,” or split up, the pig free of charge, according to the Sun-Sentinel.


Deal-hunters can hit up the clearance section for 75% off.

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Looking to save more than the 50% offered by a BOGO deal? Find the clearance section, typically by checkout, for an eclectic assortment of products at up to 75% off, according to the Sun-Sentinel.


Don’t forget to weigh yourself on the way out.

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For many shoppers, a trip to Publix isn’t complete without hopping on the scale. Each and every store features a refurbished vintage scale at its entrance – a model No. 2830 people-weigher by Swiss company Mettler Toledo, to be exact, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The scale is another Jenkins throwback. When he opened his first Publix Super Market in 1940, at a time when household scales were rare, he offered patrons the complimentary use of his scale, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Shoppers appreciated the perk, and the scale became a signature of the brand – just like Jenkins’ dedication to service – that has endured to this day.

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