Publix Maximus

Crabby oldsters, cranky youngsters, exotic erotic pussycats, hormone-buzzed buff boys, and chitter-chattering checkers mix it up in the cultural Cuisinart that is the Publix supermarket on South Beach

Lubschutz worked in his father's grocery store from 1920 to 1930. They sold meats, fresh vegetables, canned goods, bulk cornmeal, and dried beans and black-eyed peas by the pound from large sacks. He waited on customers and delivered groceries by bicycle. It was a Jewish-owned store in a poor gentile enclave of Norfolk. "My mother and father spoke Yiddish at home," he recalls, "but they were reluctant to speak it at the store because they felt people would think they were talking about things that they shouldn't be talking about. That's in sharp contrast to what's happening here."

Holding a bottle of white wine and two bottles of Snapple fruit juice in his hands, Lubschutz marches past the so-called speed lanes and heads for the customer service counter, where he checks out quickly and walks to his Oldsmobile parked in the lot of the Great Western bank next to Publix. He's in a hurry to get to a bon voyage dinner -- he's taking a trip to England.

It doesn't happen too often any more that Lubschutz meets someone he knows at Publix and shares a brief conversation while shopping. "Most of the people you can identify by their conversations in their native tongue," he says. "Most of them are from South and Central America. By and large you don't know the people.

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