Winn-Dixie unveils renovation

When Floridians hear the term “The Beef People,” they know that you’re talking about Winn-Dixie.

People have been shopping at the LaBelle Winn-Dixie since 1974, but now, shoppers have an updated, even friendlier experience waiting for them at their local store.

The store is celebrating the ribbon cutting for its updated, LaBelle location at Main Street and Cowboy Way.

Regional Vice President for the Tampa Region Joey Medina was on hand for the ribbon cutting, along with Store Manager Bert Colon, employees and customers to mark the occasion. Mr. Medina has been with Winn-Dixie for 31 years. He’s a native Floridian who started with the company at age 16 and now  oversees 106 stores from Brooksville to Marco Island.

Bert Colon has been the store manager for a year and seven months. He’s a retired US Army colonel and also has over 20 years in the grocery business. He also took an unexpected sojourn in Hollywood, CA, in the movie business for a time.

Both men smile as they look around the beautiful new interior, arranged to be fresh and clean, and to facilitate a great shopping experience. They relied on customer feedback to perfect their renovation.

The new interior and exterior color pallet is easy on the eye and provides a fresh, clean look along with the customer-friendly wide aisles, free of cluttering displays.

Easy-on-the-eye aisle signs make it simple for busy customers to find exactly what they’re looking for. Cashier stations have a lower profile and less clutter.

The new entrance at the north end of the building may take a little getting used to, but it does provide easier flow for customers. You will start out at produce, then go around the store, and end up at dairy and frozen foods so those fragile items can remain as cold as possible for your trip home.

Winn-Dixie supports the community with 157 full and part time jobs for residents. Many, like Mr. Media and Mr. Colon, have been loyal employees for decades.

Locals are very familiar with Meat Department Manager Todd Collins, an FSU graduate who then got his MBA from the University of Florida.

As “The Beef People,” they may be most proud of their USDA choice beef and as meat manager, Mr. Medina is quick to point out that Todd is one of one of the best meat managers in the chain. He’s been with Winn-Dixie for 25 years – 23 of them in the meat department and 17 of those in LaBelle. A local boy and lifelong hunter, Todd knows his stuff and Mr. Medina points out that “people are fortunate to have him. He’s got the best meat in town.”

Todd’s personal pride shows as well. “Meat is my passion,” he said, and makes it his business to make sure his customers are not just satisfied, but thoroughly pleased with the meat they purchase.

Produce Manager Luis Sandoval has been with Winn-Dixie for nine years. It’s his job to make sure customers get nothing but top grade fruits and vegetables. He said his produce “sells through” completely three to four times weekly.

Tender veggies are kept crisp and firm on ice tables and rotated to the back to be refreshed again hourly. He added that his department offers more produce and better presentation using simple fixtures that let the produce “be the hero.”

Customer Service Ambassador Jo Vanduzer has been a Winn-Dixie employee for 24 years.

She’s the go-to person to solve any type of problem a customer might have. No problem is too small or too big. Seeing to it customers leave the store pleased with their experience is what puts a smile on her face.

The managers are very proud of their new store and even more so of their employees and who have worked hard to hone their skills and customer service.

Winn-Dixie is also supporting locally grown/produces items like a large selection of Florida craft beers. In fact, the store is focusing heavily on the beverage market – from bottle water on up – to provide customers with exactly what they want.

At the back of the store, the Deli Department is as simple and customer friendly as the rest of the store. You will find a super selection of fresh fish, store-made salads and sandwiches along with a variety of deli chicken and a very popular hand-battered chicken wing bar.

The sides are all restaurant quality, Mr. Medina points out.

You can also get a yummy seafood lunch with a fish portion and two sides in a steamable microwave bag.

A large selection of frozen seafood is in a separate case.

As always, you’ll smell the delicious fresh baked goods long before you get to the bakery department.  Check out the “new” Winn-Dixie and store special through the weekend.

Patty Brant, can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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