Gary Smith, the store manager of the Publix Supermarket at Old Cutler Town Center in Cutler Bay, likes to take a hands-on approach to store management and interacting with customers. He also likes to cook.
Once each week, on Friday or Saturday, Smith dons an apron and personally does the cooking demonstration, preparing a food that reflects the store’s special of the week.
“We have this new thing called Viva Miami, where we’re putting different things on special each week,” Smith said. “This week we had the top sirloin steak, so I got the grill out and was doing some grilling. We had green peppers on special so I was roasting green peppers with the steak. I did hamburgers one day.
“I like to cook a little whenever I’m not at work and I have a good time with it, so I thought why not have fun with my customers. It’s a good way to greet the customers, and I have a couple now that call and ask me what I’m cooking that day,” he added.
One of the customers who appreciates the way he does things is Barbara O’Connor, a longtime resident whose parents came here in 1926 and who has lived in her house for 54 years. Her husband was an original teacher at Cutler Ridge Senior High. Seeing Gary Smith at the Publix where she shops regularly was fun.
“I was really happy to see him cooking for the demonstration,” O’Connor said. “It was delicious. He’s very personable and he’s very particular about his store and how it looks. I think he likes keeping everything in good shape.
“I’ve known him for approximately 40 years. We worked at Walkers Great Value together. Gary was in his 20s and I was in my 40s and now Gary is 60 and I’m 81. He fits right in and works along with everyone and helps them set things up.”
For Smith, who is a resident of Palmetto Bay, the return to the location at Old Cutler Town Center was special.
“I was here as a younger manager in training, so it’s good to be back at this store as the store manager,” Smith said. “I know a lot of people in the community and it’s great to be back here.I love it. When I was 14 my parents and I moved down here from Pennsylvania, then I was in the Air Force active duty for six years, and I was going to be a state trooper, but I needed a parttime job. I’ve been with Publix now for 30 years.”
The store is located at 20425 Old Cutler Rd. in Cutler Bay. For information about the cooking demos, call 305-235-2214.