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CHARLOTTE, N.C. Faithful grocery shoppers of Publix will have their wish granted Wednesday morning, as the popular supermarket chain opens its first North Carolina location in Ballantyne.

We are in five states. North Carolina makes six, said Kim Reynolds, spokesperson for Publix.

Publix hosted an open house Tuesday afternoon at the store on the corner of Providence Road West and Johnston Road, allowing VIPs a glimpse of what customers across the South enjoy. Shoppers rave about the store s sub sandwiches, bakery and hot prepared foods.

I've been waiting for a store like this to open up, and it's not letting me down. It's clean, and has a lot of good food choices and friendly customer service, said Brooklyn Bostwick, shopper and Atlanta native who grew up as a customer of the chain.

Despite the company s aggressive plan for growth in the Charlotte area, which includes six stores in the next year, it faces steep and entrenched competition. Matthews-based Harris Teeter was recently bought by grocery giant Kroger, and renovated or rebuilt many of its most popular Charlotte locations. Salisbury-based Food Lion also garners local shoppers. Whole Foods is making inroads into local market, announcing two more stores in addition to its original SouthPark location.

Reynolds says the chain remains undaunted by the competition.

We believe there's space for us here in Charlotte as another option. We believe competition only makes us stronger.

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