No store closings planned for South County under Winn-Dixie/Sweetbay buyout
Winn-Dixie tells The Observer that if the stores are needed, they will be kept open.
By PENNY FLETCHER
Sweetbay Supermarkets that had been closed since March 29 were reopened April 4 as Winn-Dixie stores. And none of the former or renamed Winn-Dixie stores in South County will be closed.
Last fall Mayra Hernandez, spokeswoman for Bi-Lo Holdings, had told The Observer, The SCC Observer and The Current that 17 Sweetbay stores in the Tampa-St. Petersburg and Bradenton areas would be converted to Winn-Dixie stores. Jacksonville, Fla.-based Bi-Lo Holdings is the parent company of Winn-Dixie.
Hernandez’s announcement, with no further details at the time, left South County residents wondering whether the current Winn-Dixie stores would be closed since there are Sweetbays nearby.
“There are no plans to close any Winn-Dixie stores in that area,” said Hernandez.
Residents were concerned because there were two Sweetbay stores and one Winn-Dixie in Riverview, a Sweetbay and a Winn-Dixie in Apollo Beach and another Sweetbay nearby in Ruskin.
“There is no rule how close our stores can be to each other,” Hernandez said. “If the stores are needed, they will be kept.”
No word has yet been given on renovations to the Ruskin Sweetbay, which operated many years as a Kash ‘n’ Karry and was one of Sweetbay’s oldest stores.
This store is essential to Ruskin residents, many of whom ride bicycles to buy food, because it is the only large chain in the community since Thriftway closed after a fire spread through its plaza more than 15 years ago.
Gibsonton residents, many of whom do not own cars, also suffered when the grocery store in the U.S. 41 plaza in the heart of that town closed several years ago.
Apollo Beach residents, almost all of whom drive to buy their grocery items, have several choices of stores. They have had a Sweetbay at 252 Harbor Village Lane in the new MiraBay Plaza, a Publix about a mile north of there, and a Winn-Dixie as well.
When asked if Bi-Lo planned to close the Winn-Dixie on U.S. 41 just off Apollo Beach Boulevard, Hernandez said they did not.
“This will give our customers more locations at which to shop,” Hernandez said.
Riverview also currently has two Sweetbay stores, but they are on opposite ends of town, about eight miles apart. One is at 10579 Big Bend Road in the southeast plaza (near Panera Bread), and the other on Lake St. Charles at 6929 U.S. 301.
Directly between those two former Sweetbays there is a Winn-Dixie at the northeast corner of Gibsonton Drive where it turns into Boyette Road.
At this time, none of these locations are due to be closed, and no jobs are said to be affected.