Finally revealing what many in Calhoun County had already suspected, Oxford Mayor Leon Smith announced Thursday that a 49,098-square-foot Publix Super Market would be locating in Oxford.
Smith said the Publix would open in fall 2012 and would be part of a planned retail complex to be called ‘Oxford Commons’ which first became publicly known through an Army Corps of Engineers release in May. Up until the announcement, the retail complex had not been officially confirmed by developers.
Rumors had been flying for months that a store from the grocery chain would be coming to the city. However, Smith repeatedly denied there was any truth to the rumors when questioned by The Star. Then Smith vaguely hinted during a March Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce meeting that a new business was considering locating in the city, fueling the rumors further.
But during his Thursday announcement, Smith confirmed he had been working with developers for nearly two years to bring the Publix to Oxford.
“This is something we’ve worked on very hard,” Smith said. “I think without a doubt, this is one of the finest grocery stores we could possibly bring to the community. I’m very pleased with it and I know people are very proud of this.”
Oxford City Council president Chris Spurlin said he had heard that a Publix was coming, but did not know the deal was confirmed until Smith made his announcement Thursday.
“Several months ago it was mentioned that they had been interested in coming here,” Spurlin said.
The Publix and retail complex will be located on part of the historic Davis Farm site, at exit 188 from Interstate 20 and immediately adjacent and to the west of Leon Smith Parkway.
The developer involved is WR Oxford LLC, organized last year by Steve Reach and Eric Brewer of White Reach Development, a Kentucky-based firm that has developed commercial real estate throughout the United States.
In addition to Publix, the complex will include multiple retail, business and restaurant outlets.
“The other businesses are being lined up right now and hopefully we’ll be able to announce names of additional businesses in the next several months,” said David Puckett, a developer working with White Reach.
Details about the development project were first released through a May 11 public notice from the Army Corps of Engineers. A wetlands permit from the corps is required before the developers can proceed with the project since a creek runs near the property.
Puckett said construction on the Publix was scheduled to start later this year and that he did not know how many jobs would be created once the entire retail complex was completed.
To Puckett, Oxford was the obvious choice for the Publix and the retail complex.
“It’s the best site in Calhoun County and at the end of the day, it was the best choice,” he said.
The new Oxford Commons will be nestled between an already lucrative collection of retail shopping centers and restaurants for the city, including the Oxford Exchange. The hub of retail on that stretch of Interstate 20 has pumped millions of sales tax revenue into Oxford’s coffers in recent years.
“One of the best things about this is it continues to solidify Oxford’s place as a regional market,” Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce director Sherri Sumners said of the new shopping complex. “We want to continue to be a place people come to and with this, people in the outlying areas will definitely come here to shop.”
According to its website, Publix was founded in 1930 and is the largest and fastest-growing employee-owned supermarket chain in the United States. The chain currently has 1,036 locations, all in the Southeast.
Brent Cunningham, a professor of management and marketing at Jacksonville State University, said Publix has strived for years to be an upper-end grocery store chain.
“Their focus is on service,” Cunningham said.
Star staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561.