The curved exterior of glass, aluminum and steel jutting out three stories over the street bears more resemblance to an art museum than a supermarket.

Then again, this is no ordinary supermarket.Publix by the Bay is South Beach's $10 million see-and-be-seen grocery store. It epitomizes the beach, where image is everything.

"I've never seen such a beautiful store," said Barbara Valera. "The parking alone - it's fantastic."

A moving sidewalk overlooks a panorama of pastel-colored Deco hotels and carries customers to cars parked in a circular garage. Carryout employees in crisp black aprons happily maneuver shiny new grocery carts, secured by orange wheels that lock into the ramp of the moving sidewalk.

And then there is the valet parking.

"We've sure been waiting for a long time for this," said Francis Haas, a retired junior high school principal who has lived on the beach for 43 years.

About 100 or so eager shoppers congregated for Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"Let's go shopping!" an emcee declared as the crowd surged through the sliding doors past store manager Brian Aten, who handed out circulars announcing special sales.

"This is our most expensive store we've ever built," he said, beaming with pride.

Haas' wife, Sonia, compared the futuristic circular structure to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York.

But once inside, most customers forgot about the grandeur and glamour of the store's facade, designed by Carlos Zapata. The interior design is the same box shape as other supermarkets and prices are comparable.