Meat clerk John Hooker walked past the local products section in Charleston's newest grocery store and made a point of singling it out.
"A lot of people will ask where that is," he said. "When they travel to see friends, they want to take something local from Charleston."
Local products such as Benne Wafers and jars of vegetable soup are among the Lowcountry specialties and thousands of other items neatly stocked at the new Publix supermarket on the peninsula.
Opening at 7 a.m. Wednesday, the full-service grocer will offer much more as well.
Located in the ground floor of the new 10 WestEdge building at Spring Street and Lockwood Drive, the 50,000-square-foot store has a small cafe for coffee and shakes, online ordering for prepared meal pickups and delivery trucks bringing fresh produce seven days a week.
"The large square footage also allows us to carry a wider selection of products, including a nice variety of local items," said Publix spokeswman Kim Reynolds.
With 110 employees, the expansive store includes a pharmacy, deli, bakery and all the other departments found in a traditional Publix supermarket, including a large wine selection and floral offerings. The deli is set up with more than 200 varieties of artisan cheeses from around the globe.
The store also includes daily-made sushi and gourmet soups along with a seating area with free Wi-Fi service. Customers also will find the company's Aprons cooking demonstration station, eight check-out stations and four self check-outs along with two check-out counters at the customer service desk and one each in the cafe and pharmacy.
The biggest thing that sets the store apart from any other Publix or its competitors across the Charleston region is parking.
Customers with cars will have to drive up the building's ramp off Horizon Street to the second floor parking deck and take the elevator to the ground level to enter the supermarket.
When exiting the garage, drivers can only turn left toward the new WestEdge street in front of the Publix entrance and then onto Lockwood Drive.
Until two weeks ago, the store was still empty except for its shelving, said district manager Charles Gainer.
"We have a tremendous group of people," he said. "They worked extremely hard with a lot of passion to get us ready for the opening."
With some employees putting last-minute items on shelves, assistant manager Natasha Emmerth showed firefighters around the store Tuesday so they could acclimate themselves with emergency exits and other safety features.
And, for the first time in three years, the new supermarket will become the peninsula's third full-service grocery store.
The downtown area is now served by Harris Teeter on East Bay Street and Food Lion on upper King Street. The middle peninsula was served by Bi-Lo, formerly Piggly Wiggly on Meeting Street, until it closed in 2016.
The store will become the Florida-based grocery chain's 13th in the Charleston region. Its first GreenWise organic store in South Carolina will open this summer in Mount Pleasant.
Three other Publix supermarkets are in the works around Charleston. They include two under development in Cainhoy Plantation off Clements Ferry Road in Berkeley County and another on Folly Road on James Island. A third is planned for the Summers Corner area south of Summerville.
For those wanting delivery service, Shipt shoppers pick up items for customers in the store, but Instacart is the official delivery agency for Publix, Reynolds said.
After a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, shoppers will receive free reusable bags while supplies last and find lots of food samples throughout the store. A booth will even be set up to instruct customers about ways to save money.
Niko Stahley, who has 13 years with Publix, is the new store manager. He comes to Charleston after serving as assistant manager in Simpsonville near Greenville.
While the new supermarket is ready to open, the 350 apartments under construction above it in the nine-story building are not.
The first units will be ready for move-in in May, said Michael Maher, CEO of the WestEdge Foundation.
"We hope to be finished in August — if there are no hurricanes," he said.
Of the new Publix, Maher called it "more than a grocery store. It's an anchor. This side of the peninsula was a food desert, so it becomes a synergistic component of the community."
Publix, the largest employee-owned company in the nation, has more than 200,000 workers. Its sales last year at 1,214 stores came in at $36.1 billion.