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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real Estate Florida.)

MURABELLA, FL-Publix Super Markets Inc. reached a milestone last week with the opening of its 1,000th location last week at the Shoppes at Murabella, a new 77,580-square-foot retail center developed by a joint venture between Stiles Corp. and Hallmark Partners. The Lakeland-based grocer, which has stores throughout the Southeast, maintains 40% market share in Florida with 680 stores, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers’ 2009 Florida Retail Report.

“Celebrating our 1000th means that we stay focused on our associates and customers. They are the key to our success,” Maria Brous, director of media and community relations with Publix, tells GlobeSt.com. “Our late founder, George Jenkins, once said, ‘It doesn’t matter how many stores we have as long as we treat our customers well.’ We still live by those words today.”

The new St. John’s County location at State Road 16 and Pacetti Road totals 54,000 square feet and will include a Publix pharmacy, bakery, deli, floral and fresh seafood. The store will have approximately 115 employees. In celebration of the Murabella opening, Publix donated $8,000 to local schools to purchase supplies.

This year, Publix plans to open another 32 stores throughout its five-state territory. Over the next two years, the company will also continue to reopen 49 Albertson’s supermarkets it acquired throughout Florida in September 2008.

“Consumers still need to eat regardless of the economic state. However, we are focused on bringing our customers the best value in tough economic times,” Brous says. Examples include the grocer’s Essentials program, which offers customers discounts on everyday items, and its Apron’s Simple Meals, which are meant to feed a family of four for under $15.

Publix’s fourth-quarter results will not be published until early March, but it posted a 4.4% sales increase through the first nine months of 2008. However, net earnings for the same time frame were down 4% from the previous year, totaling $840.7 million. Publix operates more than 900 stores and owns 100 locations in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.

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