Packed aisles, a full parking lot and excited customers marked opening day of Publix in Islamorada on Thursday.
"People started easy online ordering from the deli last night, before we opened our doors," said Nicole Krauss, spokeswoman for the Lakeland-based supermarket chain. "We've never had that happen before."
By 11 a.m. Thursday, parking spots in the 161-space lot were difficult to come by, and a steady stream of customers came in and out of the new 34,062-square-feet store on the bay side of mile marker 83.3.
Getting the store open was a struggle that went on almost a decade. The developer, Equity Development Group, endured a years-long lawsuit filed by a group of locals who were opposed to the then-proposed store's size. Equity won the lawsuit in 2016.
It also overcame a 2014 referendum that asked Islamorada voters to approve a law that would limit commercial development within the four-island town to 10,000 square feet. The ballot initiative failed.
The five-member Village Council approved the Publix project in 2013.
The store employs 125 people, and it is also the only major supermarket in Islamorada.
There are smaller markets, like the Trading Post at mile marker 81.8, Payfair Supermarket at mile marker 90.1 and the Florida Keys Farmers Market at mile marker 81. But, for major grocery store outings, people had to go outside the village.
The closest chain supermarket is the Winn Dixie at mile marker 91 in the Tavernier Towne Shopping Plaza. There also is a Publix at the Tradewinds Plaza at mile marker 101.4 in Key Largo. To the south, the nearest supermarket is the Publix in Marathon, about 40 miles away from the newest location.
Key West has two Publix markets.
The newest store is similar to others throughout the state, but it opens at 6 a.m., one hour earlier than most other locations, to accommodate local anglers.
"We know it's a fishing town, Krauss said.