Tuesday, September 17, 2013

VeganMoFo Day #17: We're Going To Another Supermarket.... Publix in Marathon!

There's a Publix Supermarket in Marathon, Florida. It's about a half hour drive from here, and requires me to drive up, and back, over the bridge of my nightmares.... the 7 Mile Bridge. I shop there anyway.

If you've followed me for a while, you know I drive my 104 year old neighbor, "Pop," to Marathon for golf once a week. If we don't get stuck on the bridge (I still don't have one of those magic hammers to peck us out of the car when the bridge collapses...), after I drop him off, I will do some errands. This includes food shopping for the inn, as well as for Pop. I explored the Publix in Marathon in depth when I became completely frustrated a few years ago with the market on my island. I was surprised by what I found, in a good way.

Publix is a corporate chain supermarket, but in this particular store, people that work there seem happier than other places I've tried to shop in. I have in fact mentioned this a few times to some people working there who smile and say "hello, how are you today" as they look up from their appointed tasks. It's a nice feeling to be appreciated, both as a customer and as a worker. I have also noticed that this particular store employs some special needs people to do jobs as well. I appreciate that very much, for reasons not really pertinent to this post.

Produce is the main thing I shop for in supermarkets. I get my organic bulk items from the natural food distributor, and also another co-op I may post about. I also sometimes buy cases of organic produce, things I use very often (i.e.: kale, mushrooms, peppers)... or things that freeze well, from the organic bulk distributor. Then, I buy off the shelves of our local health food stores. Despite all this, there are still some "blanks" to fill in, mostly smaller quantities of organic produce, and items I just need a few of. Sometimes I can get those missing links at my local health food store, but then there are times that I cannot. I have discovered that the Publix in Marathon is very easy to work with, very veg friendly, and is good for filling in those missing blanks.

I don't remember the first visit, but I do know that within short order, I met the produce manager at Publix. His name is Chuck. He is a very kind man, exceptionally hard working, and friendly. He goes out of his way to say hello to shoppers, knows people by name, and smiles a lot. I know for a fact his job is not easy, yet he is a great professional in his manner and dealing with people. This goes a VERY long way in my eyes. He stands out so much that I actually wrote to corporate to make sure they know how good a job he does, and how much better he makes my overall shopping experience.

As I began to establish a working relationship with the Produce Manager, I met a few others, including the now-Assistant Manager, who's name is Carlos. Carlos is also an exceptionally hard worker, always going out of his way to help customers, including me. One day not too long ago, we had a good discussion about plant based eating, as he expressed to me his desire to eat less meat. So, we talked about the veg based products on the shelves, and I encouraged him to try a few of the ones I pointed out since I've pretty much tried them all. He was grateful, and basically said he's thinking about these things now that he has a child, and wants to be around for the long haul. Nice!

The organics arrive daily at Publix. I can special order things at Publix. If they don't come in, I usually get a phone call informing me before I might make a special trip up. When they get a better price on something, the savings are passed on to me. Sometimes, they even seek me out to let me know of a special; asking if I'd like to purchase some of it. This is called customer service, something I rarely see in large places. Something I'm very accustomed to in the small places I shop by the way.

This is a shot of the organics.
On this day, there were organic plums, avocados, peaches, grapefruit,
bananas, apples, cantaloupe potatoes, lemons, onions, cauliflower, broccoli,
tomatoes, berries, squash, grapes, greens, oranges, pears,
kiwi, mushrooms, and more.
Trust me, that's A LOT of choice for island living.

Publix has a decent selection of organics, they change from day to day. The organics come in early, and are put on shelves early in the morning. I drive Pop mid-morning, and do not waste time getting to the market. If I'm off by even an hour, it shows in what's available to me. 

The conventional produce section is very large, although there are very few conventionals I buy. Publix sells some vegan meat analogues, non-dairy items like nut milks and creamers, and has a small section called "GreenWise" which showcases natural and organic items. The GreenWise section carries things like gluten free pastas, allergy free chips (never see them anywhere down here, so I notice stuff like that.... ) I buy them by the case from my natural food distributor for my special allergy customers, but its VERY nice to see items like this available to the public easily.

I like the Tofurky brand, they are non-GMO sourced.
The smoky maple tempeh bacon is delicious.
Look to the left.... see? Tofurky pepperoni!
Just what the doctor ordered for my vegan pizza!
Speaking of vegan pizza....
Publix in Marathon sells premade pizza dough in the cold case that is vegan.
And, Publix in Marathon offers not one but TWO choices of vegan shreds for said pizza!
On a recent trip to Publix, I took all these photos for this blog. In doing so, I made a quick new friend in the pasta aisle. Since I had already passed one man 5 times up and down 5 different aisles, by the 6th aisle he said laughing "ok, I HAVE to ask, what are the pictures for?!" and thus began a friendly conversation. I learned he is visiting the area taking care of an elder parent. I learned that where he comes from there are LOTS of giant stores with natural food selections, and that shopping in the Keys is very different than what he is accustomed to. He was surprised that I drive "all the way"from Big Pine to shop in Marathon, but completely understood. When he said something about bacon (it always comes down to comments about bacon, doesn't it?) I eagerly told him to try the Tofurky tempeh offerings in the produce section.... something he had no prior knowledge of and said he'd check them out.

Never underestimate the "ethnic" food sections of a market!
Publix has a good selection of Kosher, Asian, Latino, and Italian items
and has a special section of shelving for British items.
I always check those shelves out now that I know I can get Marmite here!
PS: that Vegemite was icky, and as was pointed out to me.... GMO sourced.
Live and learn.
If a company is going to market foods specifically to children, I'm happier to see
SpongeBob on hummus instead of candy!

And, if you want organic hummus, instead of GMO style, here it is!
Available in a few flavor options by the way.
They even have guacamole. I'd rather buy an avocado and smash it,
but perhaps this is a better choice when traveling in a car.
The thing is, when we live "island" we don't have as much selection in stores. I accept this to a certain degree. What I do not accept is food like substances being passed off as food. I expect to find FOOD when I go food shopping. Publix not only has items which are completely unstocked by other large chains (see my prior supermarket MoFo post), but they will actually have more than one choice of an item. Nut butters and jellys for example, or even maple syrup. In the store on my island, I couldn't find any organic peanut butter besides the store brand. That store is holding us hostage, and replacing any choice we have with all their own products. As far as maple syrup, I found only 2 bottles (!!) of a pure maple syrup. At Publix, I find selection beyond the store brand, and variety. This is important to me, and I'm not alone!

Publix offers a few brands of natural and organic peanut butters AND
even has other nut butters.... like this almond butter. Hooray for choice!
Different brands and different sizes of PURE maple syrup!
It used to see a man at the Publix in Marathon who's name is Bob. He's an older gentleman, a veteran. He gets around on a motorized scooter, and would be at the entrance every time I shopped. He reminded me of Pop.... holding court. He says hi to everyone and has a friendly smile. I stopped to talk with him once more than a quick "hello", and learned a lot about him. He's very interesting, so I made a point to take a few minutes every time I saw him, more than the usual "hi, how are you." I learned about his friends, and he told me some incredible experiences he had during his military service, some funny, some not so funny. I helped him find some old friends through the power of the internet. And, then one day he wasn't there. And, another, then another. I finally found a friend of his shopping one day, and asked him what happened. He told me that Bob had taken ill and was living in a skilled health facility. I am waiting and hoping for him to come back. One day Bob didn't have his usual veterans cap on, he was wearing a beautiful cowboy hat. He looked about 20 years younger with it, and reminded me of John Wayne; so I told him all that. He beamed. He really DID look 20 years younger, and a lot like John Wayne. I said he should wear that more often, he still had his great veterans jacket, patches and things too, so we'd all know just how brave he really is even with the cowboy hat. He wore it a few more times. I know he's lonely. I hope he realizes there's a lot of people that miss him at his spot, and that he comes back soon.

So.... not only does Publix carry Earth Balance, but they even have
the soy free version!
And Vegenaise too!
Things like smiling managers, kindness of other employees, special people who are at the front door always visiting, and a nice selection of vegan items in a clean store make me drive up and over that 7 Mile Bridge even if I don't have to take Pop for golf. People at the store know about Pop, some of them know him themselves. Some find it humorous the "me" groceries vs. the "Pop" groceries in my cart, and will mention it from time to time. Although Pop now no longer asks me to buy meat products for him, there are things in the cart that I would never otherwise purchase, but for him. And, the fact that he's 104 on a fixed income (how does anyone prepare and save enough money to live that long???) means "store brand honey, no name brands" as well as "make sure you check the floater this week for my stuff on sale." Yes Pop, store brands, I promise, and I'll always check the floater for you.

Silk is heavily represented, but there are other
non-dairy brands like Almond Breeze, and at times So Delicious coconut.

So far, Silk is the only creamer regularly represented at Publix.
It's not my first choice. I like So Delicious coconut, and I get it at other stores.
But.... it is nice to have SOMETHING (as my local supermarket
that I don't shop at has NOTHING). 
There are several brands of both instant, and slow cook,
organic oats.
There's even this certified gluten free instant oatmeal.
Better Than Bouillon is available in no-chicken, no beef, and vegetable.
And, they also have the vegan organic ones too.
Several varieties of vegan organic (and conventional) pasta sauces are available.
This one happens to clearly be marked "vegan."
Thanks Amy's!
Rice and beans are offered in more brands and sizes than Winn Dixie.
And, there are organic options.
There are several varieties of Gardein.
Although they've been getting less and less.
Either they're getting really popular down here, or they're not
stocking as much.
I like this line of sprouted breads. Some are vegan.
Publix offers this line of bread, and even English muffins.
There are a few varieties of "tv dinners" that are vegan.
When I was in Chicago, I lived off this exact brand of oatmeal bowls for breakfast.
I was in school for 2 weeks.... it started EARLY.
These oat bowls saved me!
I didn't even know Publix carried this!
It took every fiber in my being not to buy this.
Peanut butter and chocolate?
So Delicious, you ARE the devil.

Publix in Marathon carries a decent selection of natural cleaners and home products,
including the Meyers line and 7th Generation.
This includes paper products too, in addition to their own Greenwise line of offerings.
This is on newsstands now!
I had to laugh.... move to an island?
I opened it up... one story is about a woman who moved from NYC
and bought an inn on an island.
I was laughing out loud when I read some of the stuff,
especially the part when she had to consider rolling her own oven down a hill to the inn
as her inn oven had been caught up in customs.
She was opening within days, and no oven!

Although I never had to roll my oven down a hill,
we've had MORE than our fair share of "crap" hit the fan around here.
Mostly due to the County.
But that's all for another day, haha, and thanks for the good read Islands Magazine!
Generally speaking, Publix serves our community. They donate things to community events, will pledge to charities, and as I've written simply offer a clean store, with friendly service, and OPTIONS! Whether you're passing through, or living in the area, this is a good store to shop at, and they have earned my business. Thanks Publix of Marathon, you understand what it means to be island!

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