Publix: Where shopping is political
Say it ain’t so. Tell me my favorite grocery store — the trusted green-and-white icon of many a Florida childhood, a chain woven into the fabric of this state, as dependable as decent asparagus, tidy aisles and bag boys you’re not supposed to tip — is not being talked about in the same breath as the National Rifle Association.
Though maybe it was inevitable.
After all, the NRA is pretty Florida itself, having pushed this state’s permissive pro-gun laws — forbidding doctors to talk to patients about gun safety, encouraging citizens to shoot first and ask later — to lawmakers with eager pens at the ready.
Why wouldn’t the NRA get Publix, too?
Right about here is where the Lakeland-based grocery chain that is beloved — and no, that’s not too strong a description — by native-borns and transplants alike would want me to tell you the company does not financially support the NRA. Publix would probably want me to say this more than once.
But as the Times’ Steve Contorno reported this week, Publix, the heirs to its founder and its current and former leaders have donated a hefty $670,000 to Republican
Adam Putnam’s run for governor.
That’s Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam who has declared himself a “proud NRA sellout.”
That’s Putnam, who told NRATV in the month after 17 people were murdered in a mass shooting at a South Florida high school that he opposed increasing the gun buying age to 21. And yes, apparently there is an NRATV.
Which means Publix strongly supports a candidate for governor who does not support sensible changes to gun laws. And who supports the powerful NRA.
Some history here: Both Putnam and Publix are from Polk County. Publix calls him “the hometown candidate” and has been backing him since he was barely old enough to buy a PBR at the local convenience store.
But now Putnam wants to run this state. Now we’re talking about guns and access to them. And this matters to some of us who spend a whole lot of money at Publix.
This might be hard to understand for people from places with grocery store allegiances less fierce. But Publix is as much a part of this place as orange groves that disappeared to make room for the next sprawling subdivision, and then more Publixes. It’s where you jumped on the big scale to weigh yourself in elementary school, requested cream cheese frosting for your birthday sheet cake and later got your toddler a free cookie at the bakery. When Hurricane Irma was bearing down on us last year, I found going to Publix oddly comforting.
I realize Publix is a big Fortune 500 company that can spread its money where it likes. But I want stories about any Publix-related controversy to be of no more import than quitting giving out a free slice of tavern ham while you wait for your deli order. (By the way, have they quietly reintroduced this tradition or am I just running into rogue deli workers?)
With this latest news, some are vowing to boycott. But it will not likely be anything the long-entrenched Publix can’t weather.
What it is mostly is a disappointment: that dependable Publix let politics into the aisles of a place we counted on to look out for Floridians and to not be partisan, much less polarizing.