Although the grocery chain doesn’t flaunt it, one Tallahassee Publix store has long had a reputation as a place to meet potential dates, earning it the nickname Club Pub. But it’s a different local grocery store that’s officially embracing supermarket lust—with a series of speed-dating events this week.
The newly opened Midtown Whole Foods Market on Thomasville Road is inviting shoppers to walk down the grocery aisle for love.
Whole Foods Marketing Team Leader Paul Clements says, “We have a lot of shoppers that come in of all age demographics that are single, but they have a food interest, and, you know, they don’t want to go to a bar and meet somebody.”
After one of the chain’s South Florida stores had success with speed dating, Clements says he decided to try it out in the two-week-old Tallahassee location.
Tuesday’s event, for 26-to-35 year olds, brought out six daters, including Candace Kennedy. She said, "Cause it’s fun. And I’ve never done it before, but I’ve never known where you could do it here in Tallahassee. But I’ve always seen it in other places.”
Clements told the group, “So, you get wine, you get cheese and I’m gonna give you gift cards. So you can keep the party started even after the party ends, cause you know we have a bar in the store, right?”
After half an hour, though, the event had turned into ladies night with nary a man in sight. Clements asked the women how they thought he could attract the opposite gender.
“We just talked about doing beer instead of wine," he said.
One woman chimed in, “Oh, yeah. That’ll probably help.”
Despite the warm reception to the speed-dating idea—at least from the six daters present—the concept got the store some pushback on Facebook. One of the negative comments simply reads “Stick to groceries.”
But as one Whole Foods shopper commented Tuesday night, looking for love at the grocery store is nothing new in Tallahassee.
Carson, who declined to give his last name, says, “It was an organic way of speed dating. You just kind of went in, picked up some groceries, maybe picked up a girl or a boyfriend.”
He says he went to Florida State University in the ‘80s and remembers shopping at Publix back when it was still on West Pensacola Street. "Club Publix," the nickname it got back then, has stuck with its new campus-friendly location on Ocala Road.
He remembers, “Women would come in there with makeup on, so they weren’t just shopping to be shopping…they were SHOPPING.”
Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens sent a written statement for this story that reads, in part, “Often creating the environment on its own for relationship building and life-long friendships. We are a neighborhood retail grocer that embraces the spirit of community and community engagement.”
Whole Foods marketer Clements says he plans to continue the speed dating events at the Tallahassee store. One for 18-to-25 year olds starts at 7 on Wednesday night.