Southside Winn-Dixie closing brings food desert, economic impact concerns




By Shaqueria Howard
Outlook Writer

Winn-Dixie grocery store has been a fixture on Tallahassee’s south side for almost  three decades, not only reducing the food desert where it’s located but providing jobs  and being engaged in the community.

So much so that now the store, which is located at the intersection of Paul Russell and South Adams Street is closing, it’s causing concern in several quarters. Government officials are worried about the economic impact, while employees aren’t sure about finding another means of livelihood.

About 30 people will lose their jobs when the store closes in June. Shoppers are lamenting the loss of the one spot that they’ve become accustomed to finding that specialty item for more than two decades.

The affect of the closing is so far reaching that Congressman Al Lawson expressed his concern in a Facebook post, saying that he will call on Adam Putnam, the Florida’s Secretary of Agriculture, to find ways to eliminate food deserts in his district. Lawson, who lives in Tallahassee, represents District 5 which runs from Gadsden County to Jacksonville, where Winn-Dixie also is closing stores.

“We know that access to food is a real issue in our community,” Lawson wrote on Facebook last week while reacting to the Winn-Dixie closings.
Joe Caldwell, manager of corporate communications for Winn-Dixie, said the closings in Tallahassee and Jacksonville are part of the company’s restructuring. That will include closing 20 stores, according to a statement Caldwell made to First Coast News.

“We are seeking ways to optimize our network,” Caldwell said. “In the last year, we have landed two flagship stores, remodeled over 90 stores, and announced the closure of approximately 20 stores.”

The closing in Tallahassee on the Southside will leave three Winn-Dixie locations in Tallahassee. One of the other major effects of the closing will be on hundreds of college students who live within walking distance of the store.

“Winn-Dixie is very convenient for me,” said Nailah Harris, who lives in nearby College Club Townhomes. “I go there to get money orders for rent each month and fresh food such as produce and meats.”

Not being able to use Winn Dixie’s money-saving card at a nearby store is another thing that some customers say they will miss.
“I am still in disbelief about the store closing,” said Harris.

However, Harris might find the service and foods she wants at Piggly Wiggly or Save-a-Lot, the only other full service grocery stores in the area. Ironically, Save-a-Lot is located in the original Winn-Dixie Southside location, across South Monroe Street from Piggly Wiggly.

Winn Dixie’s management has encouraged its employees to apply for employment at its other locations. Their options will be one of three remaining stores in Tallahassee or one in Quincy, a 20-minute drive east of Tallahassee.

Employees will also have the option of accepting a severance package, while they seek employment elsewhere.

The closing is the second of a grocery store on the Southside.  Harvey’s closed in 2014 from the South Monroe Shopping Plaza, in the building where Piggly  Wiggly is located.

But unlike that scenario that resulted in one grocery store replacing another, there are no known plans for a Winn-Dixie replacement in its current location. That obviously bothers residents.

“I was shocked when I heard this store was closing,” said Kashema Patterson. “I know WD lowered their prices on many of their items to keep up with competition.”