I’m a stranger in my own Publix, the one in Marathon, the one I’ve been known to visit twice in one day. But I like new things and it’s fun to see the changes happening in our own grocery store.

It’s weird, too.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of walking into the almost 50,000 square foot space and find everything so different. I found the pickles where the oatmeal used to be and pickles where I used to grab canned tomatoes. And this week, shoppers were amazed by the transformation of the bakery, deli and produce departments. Those salad, soup and olive bars are pretty nifty.

No worries, though. My brain is an “amazing” organ; pretty soon I won’t remember what I used to know.

“All the dry groceries are in their new, permanent positions,” said Marathon Publix Manager Steve Levine, fingers crossed behind his back. (Okay, I don’t really know his fingers were crossed behind his back; I’m guessing.) “The last things to finish are the dairy and meat departments along the back wall and the liquor store.”

As I watch our grocery store transform right before my very eyes, I can’t help but sneak peeks at the expressions on the faces of other shoppers.

Some of the locals are just as bewildered as I am. Where did the dog food GO? Do they still HAVE it? It’s a helpless feeling that has us twirling the new plastic shopping carts in circles with a vague air of desperation. WHO knows where the DOG FOOD is?  (For the truly lost, there are helpful lists of major grocery items at the end of every aisle, listed in alphabetical order.)

But there are two types of locals and the other half views the grocery store’s day-to-day metamorphosis as an adventure. One lady I met in the wine aisle was nothing if not enthusiastic. “I love coming in here everyday,” she told me. “I can’t wait to see what’s new.” And my youngest daughter informed me that Publix now carries Barbies. I didn’t believe her and she dragged me back several aisles to show me. We bought the bologna, not the Barbie. As she informed me, I’m too old to play with dolls.

Levine said the Marathon Publix now carries a larger selection of items. Also, the organic versions of the groceries have been spread throughout the store, instead of being grouped together.

“The organic celery is next to the regular celery, and so on,” he said.

The last portion of the renovation and expansion to be complete will be the liquor store. It’s located on the northeast corner of the building and will have its own entrance. It’s expected to be done by January.

“We apologize for the dust and hope our customers will bear with us as we create a better shopping experience,” Levine said. The 23-year veteran of Publix grocery stores said this isn’t his first rodeo and assured me that things will normalize quickly.

Soon enough, the locals will be able to resume their smug sense of place when shopping in our newly renovated Publix. Like when a tourist asks us a question: “The cereal? Oh, that’s in aisle three,” we can say, our tone ringing with self-assurance.

Ah, Publix, where shopping is an expanded and improved pleasure.

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