The details of Publix store manager Mark Bryant and Publix employees tackling and sitting on a Cuban sandwich thief made national news.
Within days of The Islander reporting the May 26 incident, Bryant — a 40-year Publix employee — retired without providing any notice to his employees at the Publix, 3900 East Bay Drive, Holmes Beach.
The nature of Bryant’s quick departure has left the Island community abuzz with speculation and some Publix employees sad and angry.
Was he fired? Did he violate policy? Was he forced to retire or did he just simply decide it was time?
These questions and more are being asked by some Publix employees, who have sent comments to The Islander stating their support for Bryant and their disappointment that Publix maintains Bryant’s retirement was voluntary.
Some employees don’t believe the dedicated “shepherd of our flock,” as one employee wrote, would leave without saying goodbye — unless forced to do so.
Employees also told The Islander they question why they were being told not to discuss the matter, if Bryant chose to retire.
Bryant had stopped a 21-year-old man outside the door of Publix May 26 when the man apparently had failed to pay for a Cuban sandwich. Like so many other shoplifting attempts, Bryant escorted the man back into the store, at which time the suspect initiated a physical altercation.
Bryant found himself in a scuffle with the man, and was quickly aided by other Publix employees, who eventually subdued the suspect by sitting on him until police arrived.
“Mark has worked diligently, helping us to keep our needed jobs,” said one letter writer. “Then in reciprocation for an act of bravery, an honorable man, defending Publix is quietly dismissed.”
The letter was written in “hopes Publix corporate office will reconsider and re-evaluate their actions in this matter and offer to reinstate this very dedicated, honest and honorable man.”
At least one employee said the news of Bryant’s quick departure was “a distressing shock within our work family. The here-today and gone-tomorrow activity that just took place has considerably shaken many, and most of our associates and department managers.”
Those who spoke feared retribution and were provided anonymity, while others wished to go on record, stating they realized they were risking their jobs, but wanted to support Bryant. The Islander opted to protect their identities.
Whether Bryant violated corporate policy is unknown.
Publix media and community relations manager Shannon Patten told The Islander that policy on the handling of shoplifters “is considered proprietary information and not something I am able to share,” she said.
When asked if Bryant retired on his own accord, Patten said, “In all associate situations, including Mark’s, Publix thoroughly reviews the facts and strives to be fair and consistent. Out of respect for our associate’s privacy, Publix keeps personnel matters confidential. The details of this situation are between Mark and Publix.”
Patten said she understands there has been some concern over Bryant’s sudden departure, but “the fact is that Mark made the decision on his own to retire,” she said.
Attempts to contact Bryant for comment were unsuccessful, as of press time for The Islander.