Dirt being unearthed Thursday afternoon at a new Publix site will find its way into employees’ hands.
The dirt will be distributed among Publix associates the night before the new store opens in 2015.
The 54,000-square-foot store — Publix at Park Place — will replace the existing Publix that opened in March 1994.
“We couldn’t be happier. This is a coming home of sorts for us,” said Fred B. Hand IV, project manager Hand Properties Inc. in Atlanta.
Hands’ parents moved from Pelham to Atlanta 26 years ago when he was four years old. Hand was born at Archbold Memorial Hospital in Thomasville May 8, 1974. Thursday was his 30th birthday.
Hand Properties will own the land and Publix building and lease to supermarket chain.
“Publix Supermarkets is without a doubt the best company we work for,” Hand said, after ground was broken Thursday afternoon for the $10 million project.
The new store will employ 175 to 180 — more if business warrants, said Keith Gilbert, Publix district manager. The current store employs 150.
The new Publix will offer a better variety of items and expanded organic and natural products, along with more variety in the deli and bakery. The store also will have a drive-through pharmacy.
The existing store is constrained by a lack of space, Gilbert said, adding the new Publix will put a bigger footprint in the community.
The eight-plus-acre site also will have seven shops, each 1,400 square feet. Leases have been executed for three shop spaces by Nails by Chris, Great Clips and Osaka Hibachi & Sushi.
Bruce Coward, in charge of leasing and property management for Hand Properties Inc., said remaining spaces would be ideal for medical use, a bank or insurance office.
Don Sims, Thomasville City Council member and recently retired Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce president, said Publix recognized growth in the Thomasville market.
Sims said Thomasville has 29 percent of the population and 50 percent of retails sales in a five-county area.
“This (the Publix store) means that will grow,” Sims said at the ground-breaking event.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.