JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Publix at the Gateway Town Center in the Northside is officially out after being a staple in the community for more than 20 years.
Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney told News4Jax that with the City Council approving an $850,000 grant that Winn-Dixie requested to take its spot, Winn-Dixie’s goal is to open the new grocery store within three months.
But that gap of time leaves residents in a food desert, so Gaffney said organizations are stepping in to help.
On Sunday morning, the sign came down, as Publix closed its doors to customers for good. The shelves were bare and workers were spotted removing what was left in the store.
“It means a lot to the community down here on the Northside,” resident Don Granger. “We take pride in the Northside, and for something like Publix to close, it hurts. This is been my store since I was 8, and coming here, I was saddened when I heard the news.”
Granger told News4Jax he’ has been living in the area all 26 years of his life.
"I work right here," Granger said. "So I’m usually here to get meals when I’m leaving or breakfast when I’m coming, so it’s going to affect me a lot."
Gaffney said the goal is for Winn-Dixie to open by the beginning of March. The grocery store is renovating and remodeling. It’s installing a new air conditioning unit and a new roof, and redoing the pavement -- all to make it a better look for Winn-Dixie and its customers.
Gaffney said that although Winn Dixie is on its way in to fill Publix’s spot, these next few months leave residents such as Granger in a food desert, which means they have to travel to access healthy food.
“It’s a long time, I mean, spending more gas to go to Riverside or Walmart,” Granger said.
Gaffney said that to prevent this, Feeding Northeast Florida and Farm Shape will be working together to provide free food to the community until the new store opens its doors.
Every Saturday starting at 10 a.m. Jan. 4 in the Gateway Town Center, the organizations will be providing free food to the first 300 people every week. It’s an effort to give the community access to fresh and healthy foods without leaving their community.
Gaffney said this is so important because there’s public housing in the area and 50% of that community are seniors living on fixed incomes.
“It’s a big step for the community,” Granger said. “People who actually need that stuff can benefit a lot.”