When the first Publix grocery store on a college campus in the country opens at the University of South Florida in Tampa Thursday morning, customers will notice a few differences.
First, it's a little smaller than their local store.
"This store is about 28,000, 29,000 square feet and an average Publix is about 45,000 square feet," said Publix Community Relations Manager Brian West.
Shoppers should also notice that the deli isn't against a wall like it is in most stores, but "in the round" on the sales floor, so anyone trying to grab one of Publix's famous sub sandwiches won't have to wait in long lines. In addition, there will be a large amount of grab-and-go meals and sides for people looking to get out in a hurry.
But West said those are about the only differences people should see.
"Just about any item that the casual shopper is going to be looking for, they'll still be able to find those items with us," he said.
That includes beer and wine, which West said will be available with no restrictions other than the ones any other Publix in Tampa and Hillsborough County face.
The store is located just north of The Village housing complex where 2,000 USF students live, but the store is opening on the last day of final exams for the fall semester. That means many of them won't be back on campus until the first week of January.
While West admits isn't ideal, it's more a matter of circumstances.
"It's really just when the construction process was coming due," he said. "It's better for us to get a store open as quickly as we can so that we're not losing sales. The sales might not be as heavy in those first few weeks as we'd like them to be because students aren't on campus, but we'd rather have the store open than waiting four weeks to open."
Out of the 145 employees hired as store associates and managers, more than 50 are USF students, who have already been hired and trained.
The company has high hopes for the store, because, in addition to the 60,000 students, faculty and staff on campus, there's a sizable neighborhood in the area just north of Fletcher Avenue that has limited grocery choices.
"We realize what our market is there, who our customers are going to be, and we have a good idea of the types of things that they're looking for from a product and service perspective and we think we're going to be able deliver exactly that with this store," said West.