The South's Best Grocery Store 2018: Publix
Picking up ingredients is different from going to the grocery store. One is a quick trip designed for expediency. The other is an outing where we take time to browse, select, and smile at familiar faces. It's downright neighborly.
Modern-day grocery shopping, where customers make their own selections rather than asking clerks to gather their goods, originated in Memphis in 1916 at the first Piggly Wiggly, where founder Clarence Saunders revolutionized the industry. Now we have superstores that are taking self-service to the nth degree at locations across the South.
Still, we appreciate the "deli lady" who knows how thick we like our turkey to be sliced for sandwiches and the "produce guy" who can help us select a decent avocado. These days, the sweet spot for Southern grocery stores is a great selection coupled with great service, as much or as little as we seek on a given day.
This type of shopping leads to relationships that bring us loyally back to our favorite stores, even when it means driving by a string of other places stocked with the same products under the same banner. There may be lots of shopping options on the way home from work, but many of us wait to pull into our Publix.
What fills our carts (make that "buggies") has changed in the past decade or two. We are as likely to buy ready-to-eat foods as something to prepare. Most stores are stepping in to cook from scratch when we don't have time or don't know how. We can get what we need to replenish our pantries, sit down for lunch, and then leave with supper. Their signature dishes are worthy enough for family reunions and fellowships.
Some stores can even help plan a wedding. Yes, we can go to Publix with swatches of fabric and Pinterest pages. On the way out, we can pick up some fried chicken that's so beloved it has its own social media fan pages.
We can say "hey" when we arrive and "bye" when we leave, and someone will say it back. That's a Southern grocery store.