In his response to the CBS hit job on his successful vaccine distribution, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday, “You know it’s New York corporate media when you come to Florida and attack Publix.” He’s right. There are a lot of ways we Floridians can spot folks from up North, and taking potshots at our beloved neighborhood grocery store is one of them.
CBS’ “60 Minutes” invented a conspiracy about DeSantis and the popular Floridian grocery store on Sunday, criticizing the governor’s cooperation with Publix pharmacies to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.
CBS blamed DeSantis for using Publix pharmacies — which he has enlisted along with others including CVS, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and Winn-Dixie — because Publix made a small campaign donation to DeSantis last year. When airing the report, CBS edited out the majority of DeSantis’s explanation of the partnership. They also declined to speak with the Democrat mayor of Palm Beach, the city at the center of the report, who has since condemned the CBS reporting as “intentionally false.”
As a Floridian, I have a few words for CBS: don’t mess with my grocery store. Floridians are as proud of Publix as Californians are of In-N-Out Burger. (At the moment, we’re much prouder of our governor, too.) For the ill-informed propagandists at CBS, here are a few of the reasons I and many other Floridians are proud to shop at Publix.
1. Publix Gives Back to The Community
I don’t mean self-righteous virtue signaling. Publix stores are invested in their communities the old-fashioned way: locally and practically, instead of making cliché social justice claims with no follow-through.
In April 2020, Publix made donations to food banks to help support people struggling early in the COVID-19 pandemic. As shuttered businesses caused farms and dairies to have more surplus than they could sell, Publix bought milk and produce then gave it to food banks.
Also to combat pandemic hardships, the grocery chain waived two months of rent, as well as certain maintenance payments, for adjacent businesses in the 282 shopping centers it owns.
When my brother was 15 and many places were wary of the increased regulations of hiring a minor under 16, Publix offered him a job as a front service clerk. Several of the employees got to know our parents as his family, and wave at them when they walk in. When my brother planned a food drive for our local interfaith homeless shelter, Publix stepped in to help, letting him set up donation tables at the entrances and exits.
They also value their staff; Publix employees collectively are the largest shareholders in the company. In September 2020, People ranked Publix No. 1 on its list of “companies that care.” Publix has made Fortune’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For for 23 consecutive years.
2. Shopping At Publix Is Genuinely Pleasant
One of the things that surprises some people when they first shop at a Publix is that the front service clerks will always bag your groceries for you, then offer to walk you to your car and help you load them. It’s hard to drive through a Publix parking lot without seeing cheerful clerks in bright green polos helping elderly couples or busy moms unload their grocery bags from their shopping buggies (and yes, we call them buggies here).
Publix is true to its motto: “Where shopping is a pleasure.” As a kid, I loved going through the bakery area because they always had a box of cookies on the counter to give out. Kids could pick from chocolate chip, sugar, or sprinkles, and it was magical. At the entrances, there were always coloring books and crayons for kids to color Plato, the Publixaurus dinosaur.
I also remember going through the checkout registers, where each cashier had little latex balloons to hand to children. There was a helium pump behind the register, so you could pick out a color. The clerk would blow it up for you and hand it to you on your way out. I vividly remember walking with my mom to the car many times as a kid, holding the ribbon as tight as I could to keep it from floating away in the sunshine.
3. Publix Is High Quality Yet Affordable
It’s so much cleaner than Walmart, but so much cheaper than Whole Foods. The selection is plentiful, and the Publixes near the beach even sell boogie boards and beach chairs.
You can buy hot, ready-to-eat meals in the deli, or freshly prepared meals ready to pop in the oven. After church a few weeks ago, my family went to Publix for fresh fried chicken, potato salad, and baked beans to bring to a friend’s house for lunch, because Publix is the place you go for things like that. The deli is also famous for Pub subs: made-to-order sub sandwiches that are a staple for long days at the beach or sports games.
Through its “Aprons” program, Publix offers culinary classes and recipes. Before COVID-19 regulations, you would almost always see an Aprons booth in the grocery store, where a chef in a tiny portable kitchen offered free samples of whatever entree or dessert he had just prepared.
There’s a Publix sale flier every week in the newspaper, and a long row of buy-one-get-one-free bins at the front of each store. Their store-branded items are inexpensive and high quality, including their organic line. They’ll slice gourmet meats and cheeses on the spot for you in the deli and even let you sample them. To top it off, their Chocolate Trinity ice cream is the best in the business (I’ve tried and failed to find its equal in any other grocery store).
CBS would be wise not to pick a fight with Florida’s favorite grocery store. If you’ve ever shopped at Publix, you know why.