Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Winn-Dixie with Something Xtra to Show

Xtra Super Food Center - Cresthaven / Winn-Dixie #221 / Fresco y Mas #221
2675 S. Military Trail, West Palm Beach, FL - Shoppes at Cresthaven

     As I promised to you in the last post, today's post is all about Xtra Super Food Center (with some Winn-Dixie thrown in too). In that last post, we took a look at an Xtra Super Food Center that Albertsons had taken over in Winter Park, FL (Store #4423). Unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot to be seen in that last post of either of that building's former tenants. Today though, we'll get a small look into what Xtra Super Food Center was all about, as Winn-Dixie kept a good amount of things original here after they took over this former Xtra store.

     So, before we go any further, I should probably address the question "What was Xtra Super Food Center?" The Xtra Super Food Center concept was originally developed by the Pueblo supermarket chain in Puerto Rico. Pueblo was the largest supermarket operator in Puerto Rico during the 1980's, and to this day they still control a large amount of the market there. In the early 1980's, Pueblo began experimenting with a warehouse grocery store model in their home base of Puerto Rico, which they named Xtra. The first Xtra store opened in Puerto Rico in the early 80's. These stores were very large, ranging from 60,000-80,000 square feet, and offered a full selection of grocery products and departments, along with some extras like a full seafood department and an "in-store orange juice factory". The stores were set up and presented much like a Sam's Club is, with little effort put toward merchandise presentation and warehouse style metal shelving. Xtra was also operated their stores with fewer employees, yet another way they were able to reduce costs and operate using their discount format. The Xtra Super Food Center concept worked well in Puerto Rico, so Pueblo decided to expand the concept to the US Virgin Islands, and then Florida. The first Florida location of Xtra Super Food Center opened in 1983 in Hialeah, which is located near Miami. As the 80's progressed, Xtra would open a total of 10 stores throughout South and Central Florida. In South Florida, Xtra was able to grow powerful enough to become the 4th largest grocery chain by market share in that area, behind Publix, Winn-Dixie and Albertsons. The reason that the South Florida Xtra stores started off so well was because their stores carried a large selection of Hispanic oriented foods (including hard to find Hispanic products), a selection much larger than what most other mainstream grocers in South Florida were carrying at the time. From this, Xtra began to garner a rather loyal following. While the South Florida stores seemed to have found their niche, the Central Florida Xtra stores were having a more difficult time finding a following. The first Central Florida Xtra store opened in 1986 in Winter Park, which was featured in my last post. Xtra said they wanted to build three more stores in Central Florida by 1987, expecting Central Florida to be a huge hit for them much like their South Florida stores had become. However, sales at the Winter Park store turned out to be much less than Xtra had predicted, causing a stall to their grand Central Florida expansion plans. In 1989, after three years of trying to boost sales at their Winter Park store, Xtra decided to take a chance and opened a second Central Florida location in Altamonte Springs. Much like the signs that were coming from the Winter Park Xtra, the Altamonte Springs location turned out to be a big flop, becoming the shortest lived Xtra store of the bunch when it closed in late 1993. The Winter Park Xtra store closed soon after in May 1994, leaving Xtra with only their 8 stores in South Florida. Even with the following Xtra was able to build for themselves in South Florida, sales at those stores also began to slip as the 90's progressed from increased pressure from Publix, Winn-Dixie, and Albertsons, all of which were embarking on large expansion projects throughout South Florida in the 90's. Xtra's parent company, Pueblo, was also having financial issues throughout the early 90's, which eventually led to them being bought out by a Venezuelan retail operator called Cisneros Group. Cisneros decided there was no hope for Xtra in Florida anymore, and they officially pulled the plug on the remaining Florida Xtra stores in March 1996. Even with Xtra's former locations all being rather large compared to what most stores operated, at least 7 of their 10 locations were picked up by other grocers soon after Xtra closed (Winn-Dixie took over four that I know of, Albertsons got two, and Broward's Penn Dutch Market got one). Some of the other former Xtra buildings were either redeveloped or split into multiple storefronts.

     The former Xtra Super Food Center we'll be taking a look at today was one of the ones Winn-Dixie took over. This store opened as an Xtra Super Food Center in 1987, during the peak of Xtra's Florida expansion. This Xtra closed with the remaining 8 stores in March 1996 when Xtra called it quits. Winn-Dixie moved in here soon after Xtra closed, probably opening by 1997. In December 2016, this Winn-Dixie was converted into a Fresco y Mas store, part of a group of 5 South Florida Winn-Dixie all converted to new format at the same time. Fresco y Mas is Southeastern Grocers' new Hispanic-oriented grocery brand, which now has 11 locations throughout South Florida as of May 2017. I'll talk about Fresco y Mas in more detail later in this post.

     The exterior of this building is completely original from Xtra Super Food Center, and it gives off a feeling that this is a big store. Xtra's main entrance was located under the giant arch, with the exit located further down the walkway in the center of the building.

     As I approached the building, I walked toward the giant arch assuming that's where Winn-Dixie's main entrance was. Turns out, that part of the building was all sealed off, and Xtra's old exit further down the building now served as Winn-Dixie's main entrance and exit. After we finish out look around the interior, we'll come back over to the sealed off side of the building, as I have some questions about what happened with that space in the years after Xtra closed. Presently, the Winn-Dixie (now Fresco y Mas) takes up 80% of the former 67,000 square foot Xtra building (and this was one of Xtra's smaller stores, too), making this store about average size for a Winn-Dixie. This is the view down the spacious front walkway toward Winn-Dixie's main entrance, as viewed from the area under the archway.

     This isn't the most inviting looking entrance that I've ever seen, especially after seeing that grandiose exterior from the parking lot. As plain as it is, let's step inside and see what's going on in there...

     ...but first, here's a store directory that I took a photo of in case anyone wants to use it for reference to better visualize this store's layout in their mind. Now to see what we have in store...

     Stepping inside, one would get a rather odd first impression of this place upon first glimpse of the botched Transformational Decor remodel that looks to have happened in here. This "remodel" looks to have happened in 2012 or 2013, later in this decor's life. As you'll see throughout the interior photos, this store's original 90's Marketplace decor flooring, layout, fixtures, wall texturing, and a good number of the wall accents were left in-tact during this so-called "Transformational" remodel. All Winn-Dixie did here was paint over whatever was on the walls and throw up a few new signs, a complete 180 degree turn from what the original Transformational remodels were supposed to achieve. In the link earlier in this paragraph, you can see an example of one of Winn-Dixie's elaborate early Transformational remodels. This remodeling scheme was supposed to be the new direction of Winn-Dixie as they tried to fight Publix. It included a modern store design, expanded fresh food offerings, and a more upscale atmosphere. Those early Transformational remodels were extremely nice, and some of the most impressive looking Winn-Dixies I've ever seen. However, it seems that right after BI-LO swallowed up Winn-Dixie in 2012, Winn-Dixie's remodels began to cheapen out, leading to results like what you'll see here.

     Here we step out of the front end alcove for our first look into the main store. After Winn-Dixie took over this space from Xtra, they did a bit of work to bring the building to their standards. I think the Xtra stores used a warehouse-style exposed ceiling throughout most of the store, but I'm not completely sure of that. I do know the ceiling here was either added or redone by Winn-Dixie, as it's the exact same ceiling style that can be seen in other 90's Winn-Dixie stores. The layout of this store is definitely not from Winn-Dixie, and doesn't match any layout they ever used. Again, I can't say for sure if Winn-Dixie's layout is exactly true to Xtra's, but I'd say it's probably close to the layout Xtra had. Again, if anyone has any clarification on this, please leave a comment at the end of this post!

     Anyway, the produce department takes up the front left corner of this store. In a typical 90's Winn-Dixie, produce is located in the front right corner. One of the only major pieces of construction done during the botched Transformational remodel here was the addition of the wood-style flooring in the produce department, and the addition of some wooden produce bins. In addition to that new stuff, you can also clearly see part of the original Marketplace pattern floor and clear remnants of the Marketplace decor on the walls.

     Looking into the front left corner of the store.

     The beer and wine department was located in an alcove between produce and the deli. Behind the wall to the left is the back of Winn-Dixie's liquor store, which we'll see later in this post. In this photo, you can see very clearly how the old Marketplace wall decor was just painted over.

     Beyond the beer and wine alcove are the bakery and deli departments, which share a space in the back left corner of the store. The typical placement of these departments in a late 90's Winn-Dixie would be in the center right side of the store

     Leaving the bakery and deli now for a view across the store's back wall. You can plainly see the leftover details of the Marketplace decor on the back wall. Looking at this photo, you can still fall under the impression that this is a rather untouched 90's Winn-Dixie!

     One of the grocery aisles.

     Center aisle.

     Here's yet another closeup of the Marketplace decor remnants on the back wall.

     Skipping back to the front of the store as we prepare to enter the frozen foods department...

    Like in an average 90's Winn-Dixie, Frozen Foods can be found in the center of the store. The coffin coolers go down the center of the aisle, with the standard freezers with doors on the outer sides of the aisle.

     The last few grocery aisles as you neared the right side wall contained health and beauty, paper products, and cleaning supplies.

    Looking back toward the bakery and deli from the opposite side of the store.

     The Seafood department was somewhat randomly shoved into the back right corner of the store due to the layout of the old Xtra store. In a typical 90's Winn-Dixie, the very back right corner would be the deli, with seafood to the left of the deli counter. Also notice the original Marketplace era diamond shaped advertisements that still remain behind the counter.

     The last two aisles in this store, aisles 14 and 15, were shorter than the rest due to the way the pharmacy counter was situated in the front right corner of the store.

     And here's a look at the pharmacy counter. This was a very odd looking Winn-Dixie pharmacy. I've never seen a Winn-Dixie pharmacy designed like this before. In the typical late 90's Winn-Dixie, the pharmacy would either be in the front left corner of the store, or located along the front end between the customer service desk and the bakery. I don't think Xtra operated pharmacies, so this I'm pretty sure was added in by Winn-Dixie.

     The dairy department took up the rest of the right side wall beyond the pharmacy. You can also see part of the seafood department in the distance.

     I tried to get a decent picture of the "thank you" sign, but this was the best I was able to do. Instead of saying "thank you for shopping at your West Palm Beach Winn-Dixie", Winn-Dixie instead opted for "Palm Beach County". I know this building is technically in unincorporated Palm Beach County, but it just seems strange to me seeing the county name up on the sign instead of a city name. At least this sign is technically accurate, unlike the one at the Indian Harbour Beach Beach Winn-Dixie - Melbourne Beach is three cities south of there!

     A look across the front end, looking back toward where we started our interior tour.

     A look across the registers. At the time I was here, it seemed like there were a decent number of people doing their shopping here.

     Let's head back outside, where things will begin to get a little more confusing as far as the history of this place goes...

     On the far left side of the building was the old Xtra Super Food Center liquor store, which Winn-Dixie also took over when they moved into this building.

     Back under the spacious front walkway we go, where we can see that sealed off portion of the building I mentioned earlier in this post off in the distance. Everything about this place seemed rather straightforward until I walked over there and took a peek inside...

     Like I said earlier, this grand archway would have led you to Xtra's main entrance, which Winn-Dixie no longer uses. If you were to walk through this archway today, this is what you would find:

     ...and that would be a blacked out locked door. I was curious too see what was in this closed off portion of the building, thinking that maybe some kind of rare Xtra Super Food Center relics might still lie behind that door. Thankfully, there was another window just out of frame to my right that wasn't blacked out, so here's what we had lying inside this closed off portion of the building...

     ...Huh? Those aren't Xtra Super Food Center relics! This is old Winn-Dixie Marketplace decor! As much as I was hoping to give everyone a rare glimpse of some original Xtra Super Food Center relics, I guess I came 20 years too late. I'm not sure what exactly happened in here, but it looks like Winn-Dixie originally occupied the entire 67,000 square foot former Xtra when they first opened here in 1997. I'm assuming shortly after that they decided 67,000 square feet was too much for them, and they cut the store's size to what you saw earlier in this post. Considering that the current main store had entirely Marketplace decor before that cheapo remodel we saw, this store was shrunken down in size by 2001, which is when the Marketplace decor and concept was finally phased out. The department immediately in front of me looks like it would have been home to floral, and is probably the original layout from Xtra (as I've never seen a floral department layout like this in a Winn-Dixie). The "Wall of Special Values" looks to be the back wall of the pharmacy, with a partition wall further down showing where this space was cut off. As always, if anyone knows any more about what Winn-Dixie did here, please let us know in the comments section below.

     Another look into what I believe was Xtra's floral department. Beyond this it looks like the ceiling changes into a grid pattern, but I can't make out much else in that space behind the coolers. Did Winn-Dixie keep this place practically untouched from Xtra when they first opened here? I think most of the Winn-Dixie-fication of the current main store happened when they shrunk the size of the store. Other than the Marketplace era "Wall of Special Values" sign, this place doesn't feel much like a former Winn-Dixie space, oo I guess we still got a little glimpse into Xtra after all!

     Here's one final exterior view of the store before we head into the satellite imagery, beginning with some Bird's Eye aerial views courtesy of Bing Maps:

Front - This is what the exterior looked like before the cheapo "Transformational" remodel.

Right Side


Left Side

     And now for some historic aerial imagery, courtesy of Google Earth and

Winn-Dixie #221 - 2016 - This is also an overview of the entire Shoppes at Cresthaven, with the former Xtra/former Winn-Dixie/current Fresco y Mas being the big building at the bottom of the plaza.

Winn-Dixie #221 - 2009

Winn-Dixie #221 - 2004

Winn-Dixie #221 - 1999 - Considering there are more cars toward the north side of the building, it looks like Winn-Dixie was still in the entire space at this time.

Former Xtra Super Food Center - 1995 - This satellite image was dated 1995, and shows the Xtra building empty. My research showed this store closed in March 1996, though. I'm not sure what happened here, but either the date of the satellite image is off or this image was taken on a holiday.

Future Xtra Super Food Center - 1979 - Just a big empty lot still.

Photo courtesy of The Shelby Report
     As I mentioned earlier in this post, Winn-Dixie converted this store into one of their new Hispanic-oriented Fresco y Mas prototype stores in December 2016, the only one so far outside of Miami-Dade County, where the concept originated in June 2016. The photo above is an example of what a typical Fresco y Mas interior looks like, taken in one of the converted stores in Miami. Here's an album of photos of what this store looks like now as a Fresco y Mas if you're interested. They layout is essentially the same, however the cheapo transformational decor was switched out in favor of the new Fresco y Mas decor - which is that painfully bright electric yellow version of the current "Down Down" decor. I really think they should have picked a more muted yellow if they wanted these stores to be yellow so bad. This color hurts my eyes. At least this remodel included the removal of all traces of the Marketplace decor from the store we just took a look at. For more on what Fresco y Mas is all about and what makes these stores different, this article provides a rather nice explanation of all of the new features that were included.

     Now that I've covered what seems to be the future of this store, here's one one last little thing I found about this store's past. As I was researching this store, I stumbled across this multi-page guide published by the Palm Beach Post about the grand opening of this very store. Included in the guide are a bunch of pictures of this store from its grand opening in November 1987, including photos of what looks like a funky neon interior. Unfortunately, viewing that guide and all of the photos in it is blocked by a paywall. If you don't have an account, you can still make out the big photo on the first page, and read the article in the text box at the bottom.

     So that's been our Xtra experience here on the blog. Especially in South Florida, you can still stumble across one of these massive old stores in various states of repurposement. This one, the Penn Dutch in Margate, and the Altamonte Springs Winn-Dixie are probably the best preserved Xtra stores that I can think of if you ever want to see one of these in person. So this is yet one more of the many former supermarket chains that has attempted to make it for themselves in Florida, and I have plenty of others to cover in the future as well. However, next time it's back to our favorite former Florida supermarket chain as we take a look at yet another former Florida Albertsons store.

See you then,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Southeastern Grocers Closings - Summer 2017

Soon to Be Former Winn-Dixie - West Melbourne, FL

     After a good long while of silent one-off closures, Winn-Dixie's parent company has announced that 20 Winn-Dixie, BI-LO, and Harvey's stores will be closing this summer, the first mass round of store closings the company has done since 2014. I figured SEG would have to do a closing round at some point considering their lackluster financial state. Winn-Dixie isn't releasing a complete list of the closing stores, so this is what I was able to come up with for what may be the 20 effected stores online. All of the following stores are confirmed to be closing by July 2017:

Update 5/14/2017 - Two more South Carolina BI-LO stores have been announced to be closing. It appears this closing round will not be stopping at 20...

Update 5/17/2017 - The BI-LO in Irmo, SC was announced to be closing. South Carolina will now be losing 7 BI-LO stores total, the most closings in any of the effected states.

Winn-Dixie #72 - 7534 Beach Boulevard, Jacksonville, FL
Winn-Dixie #116 - 110 Paul Russell Road, Tallahassee, FL
Winn-Dixie #678 - 9822 South US Highway 301, Riverview, FL
Winn-Dixie #2392 - 7053 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL

Winn-Dixie #97 - 4404 Altama Avenue, Brunswick, GA
Winn-Dixie #482 - 1100 Hunt Avenue, Columbus, GA
Harvey's Supermarket #1624 - 2425 Sylvester Road, Albany, GA

Winn-Dixie #429 - 800 Noble Street, Anniston, AL
Winn-Dixie #460 - 5841 Atlanta Highway, Montgomery, AL

Winn-Dixie #472 - 2014 Highway 45 North, Meridian, MS
Winn-Dixie #1512 - 1444 E. Pass Road, Gulfport, MS

Winn-Dixie #1353 - 851 Brownswitch Road, Slidell, LA
Winn-Dixie #1408 - 4600 Chef Menteur Highway, New Orleans, LA
Winn-Dixie #1555 - 3803-F Moss Street, Lafayette, LA

South Carolina:
BI-LO #5113 - 3270 Boiling Springs Road, Boiling Springs, SC
BI-LO #5513 - 365 Riverside Drive (Stonewall Jackson Boulevard), Orangeburg, SC
BI-LO #5526 - 7949 Broad River Road, Irmo, SC
BI-LO #5593 - 2640 W. Palmetto Street, Florence, SC
BI-LO #5720 - 1329 West Highway 160, Fort Mill, SC
BI-LO #5758 - 4430 Highway 17, Murrells Inlet, SC
BI-LO #5760 - 50 Burnt Church Road, Bluffton, SC

North Carolina:
BI-LO #5200 - 5336 Docia Crossing Road, Charlotte, NC
BI-LO #5620 - 651 W. Mills Street, Columbus, NC

     Not a part of this round, but a Winn-Dixie in Belleview, FL (Store #2205 - 10393 US 441) closed earlier this year. That store was silently closed in order for the town's other store (an ex-Sweetbay) to get the current "Down Down" remodel. I'm not sure about BI-LO, but that was the only other 2017 closing I can think of out of Winn-Dixie. In total, the list above includes 20 stores, so that should be all of the effected stores. However, I wouldn't doubt it if one or two more stray closures pop up in the near future. Thank you Jackson C., WilliamMillicanHSC4564, Google, and others for helping in the compilation of this list! If you know of any other effected Winn-Dixie, BI-LO, or Harvey's stores that will be closing this summer, please let me know and I will add it to this list.

Until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Former Albertsons #4423 - Winter Park, FL

Xtra Super Food Center - Orlando I / Albertsons #4423
517 S. Semoran Boulevard, Winter Park, FL - University Park Plaza

     While this building could convincingly be some kind of futuristic looking Albertsons prototype store in its current state, this building looked nothing like this when Albertsons still operated here! The story of Albertsons #4423 and its accompanying shopping center has a good bit of backstory to it, which includes how it came into its current state, so let's jump right into this:

     The idea for a large new shopping center at the southeastern corner of University and Semoran Boulevards first came about in 1985, when Birmingham, Alabama based Colonial Properties, Inc. first presented their plans for the new University Park Plaza to be built at this site. University Park Plaza was to be a 500,000 square foot shopping center to be built in two phases, which were named Phase 1 and Phase 2. Phase 1 was the more general retail geared portion of the complex, and the first to be built. When completed in fall 1986, Phase 1 of the University Park complex included 215,000 square feet of retail space, and was anchored by Xtra Super Food Center and Freddy's Discount Drugs, with room for 20 more smaller tenants. In Fall 1987, Bealls Department store joined in as a third anchor to the Phase 1 of the University Park complex. After the completion of Phase 1, Colonial Properties began construction on Phase 2 of the University Park complex. The Phase 2 complex was to be built right at the corner of University and Semoran, north of the Phase 1 complex. According to Colonial Properties, Phase 2 was to include 170,000 square feet of retail space, and was to be filled with anchors that were to "appeal more to women". The anchors of Phase 2, which was completed in Fall 1989, included Waccamaw Home Decor Superstore, Stein Mart, and Baby Super Store. The entire University Park Shopping Center was quite successful early on, and it enjoyed a healthy occupancy rate through the mid-90's. While all the excitement of the new shopping center was playing out in the late 80's and early 90's, a different kind of new business venture was being concocted in the office park immediately behind University Park Plaza. Since 1979, a man named Jon Phelps had tried to establish a new digital arts academy. Beginning in Ohio in 1979, Mr. Phelps later decided Florida would be a better place for his new school. In the early 1980's, Mr. Phelps relocated his school to Altamonte Springs, before ultimately deciding to relocate one last time to an office complex in Winter Park in 1988. Mr. Phelps renovated his space in the office complex into a state-of-the-art school. By investing all of this money into the new space, Mr. Phelps felt that he would be able to attract more students to his school, which would offset the higher rent he was now paying. However, Mr. Phelps plan didn't go as well as he hoped, and into the early 90's, his school, called Full Sail University, was still struggling. In order to try to turn things around, Mr. Phelps brought into his school two new partners, both of which had banking and real estate backgrounds. The three partners decided that to turn things around for Full Sail, they would start a real estate brokerage that would buy, sell, and manage properties for the school. The new brokerage, called Silver City Partners, was founded in 1994, and was supposed to be a way for Full Sail to generate more income through real estate investments to offset the lackluster early enrollment the school was facing. The first major investment made by the brokerage came in 1998, when Silver City bought the entire office complex in which the Full Sail University was housed. This move was to alleviate the school from the high rent they were paying, and let Full Sail now act as landlord to the other tenants in the complex. In the end, it turned out that this real estate investment idea was the key to Full Sail's success. It gave the school more money to invest into attracting students, and later, more flexibility with their expansions. In the coming years Silver City Partners began buying more and more properties in order to expand the school and generate more income. However, I'm sure by now all of you are wondering what all of this college founding/real estate investment stuff has to do with an Albertsons and the shopping center it was in. I'm getting there, don't worry. This is a very long backstory...

     In 1994, University Park Plaza had its first major blow when Xtra Super Food Center announced they were closing their 79,000 square foot store in the plaza on May 14, 1994. The Xtra Super Food Center was the plaza's largest tenant between the two phases, and Colonial Properties was in a bit of a panic to get this space filled. I'm sure many of you may be wondering what exactly Xtra Super Food Center was, as they were a rather obscure piece of Florida supermarket history. In a nutshell, they were a grocery warehouse type retailer (similar to Safeway's Save and Pack chain), run by Puerto Rico-based Pueblo International. While mostly located in South Florida, Xtra did have two Central Florida locations at one point, this one (Winter Park - Orlando I) and a short lived store in Altamonte Springs (Orlando II). Originally, Xtra wanted more than two stores in Central Florida, but they began to fall on hard times by the early 90's and that expansion never panned out. For the next feature post coming up in two weeks, we will be going into much more detail about the history of Xtra Super Food Center and what their stores were like. Because of that, I'll spare everyone the long backstory about them in this post, as this post already contains one really long backstory to begin with!

     Colonial Properties wanted this space filled fast after Xtra closed, and they were able to deliver on that. In late 1994, Colonial Properties was able to attract Albertsons to open a new store in this building, which would serve as a relocation of their much older store (Store #4303) located three quarters of a mile to the north. The new Albertsons would only take up 60,000 or so square feet of the former Xtra building, with the remaining 19,000 square feet becoming home to a Books-A-Million around the same time Albertsons moved in. This is another one of the Albertsons stores I would have loved to visit in person back when it was open. I don't know much about the interior layout of this store, but considering the way the building was designed, I'd imagine it was pretty odd (or at least had a few quirks compared to a new-build Albertsons from this era). This store opened with the typical mid-90's Blue and Gray Market interior, although I think it may have gotten another remodel in the early 2000's (not entirely sure on that, though, but the exterior later in this store's life seemed to suggest that). When we get a look at the satellite images a little later, we'll see that this store was deeper than it was wide. Also, this was the only Albertsons store in Florida to have never had an attached liquor store (or if it did have one, it was hidden and didn't have any signage for it on the exterior). If anyone remembers anything about the way this store was laid out, how it compared to other Albertsons stores from this era, or has any other insight into this store to add, please leave a comment at the end of this post!

     Now here's where I'll begin to explain how the story of the Albertsons intertwines with the story of Full Sail University's founding: Like I said before, Full Sail's real estate management/brokerage arm Silver City Partners began to go on a huge real estate buying spree at the very end of the 90's and into the 2000's as Full Sail began to expand rapidly. In 2002, Silver City purchased Phase 2 of University Park Plaza from Colonial Properties. By 2002, Phase 2 had already lost Waccamaw and Baby Super Store, and was falling on hard times. Since Silver City is working in the interest of Full Sail (aka, leasing space back to the school at a low rate in addition to generating income for the school), Silver City leased the Waccamaw and Baby Superstore spaces to Full Sail as classroom space. By 2004, Stein Mart had been pushed out closed, and that space was also leased back to Full Sail so they could expand into it. By the early 2000's, the entirety of University Park Phase 2 was transformed into a new, expanded campus for Full Sail University, and mostly remodeled to feel more like a college campus than a former shopping center. However, the expansions did not stop there. In 2004, Silver City was also able to acquire the University Park Phase 1 from Colonial Properties. By this time, Albertsons was last major tenant in Phase 1. Bealls had closed, Freddy's went the way of their more famous competitor Phar-Mor, and Books-A-Million had also left. However, there were still a good number of smaller tenants left in Phase 1, including Dollar Tree, Radio Shack, GNC, and a good number of other small restaurants and stores. When Silver City made their initial purchase of the Phase 1 property, they began to convert the empty Freddy's and Bealls anchors into space for the school. Slowly but surely though, the rest of the retail, restaurant, and office tenants began dropping like flies from Phase 1 after Silver City bought the property. Silver City bought these buildings to expand Full Sail's campus, and they weren't renewing any of the leases for the existing tenants (or just pushing them out, one or the other). In August 2009, Albertsons announced they were closing their store in University Park Plaza. According to Albertsons, this closure came because "the store had been underperforming for some time" (a direct quote from an Albertsons representative when the closure was announced). Whether you believe that was the whole story or not is for you to decide, as August 2009 was almost exactly 15 years after this store opened, which seems like a good time for a lease to expire and not be renewed too. Conspiracies and ulterior motives aside, I doubt this store would have lasted much longer than 2009 anyway, even if the landlord was interested in keeping all of the retail tenants in the plaza.

     Albertsons was one of the last retail tenants to remain in University Plaza Phase 1 when they closed. In 2011, work began to convert and expand the former Albertsons space into a modern facility to house more classrooms and sound stages for Full Sail University. If you want more detail on what exactly is in here now, you can read this statement released by Full Sail. The blue glass facade was chosen for this building as a modern way to incorporate this building into the color palette of the rest of the campus, according to that statement from the school. While the remodeled facade does look pretty neat, not a trace of Albertsons or Xtra Super Food Center is left behind all of that fancy blue glass.

     The backstory of this plaza, the Albertsons, and Full Sail's expansion plans was able to get us a good bit of the way through this post. I guess that worked out well, as there really isn't much to say about this place in its current state, at least regarding any remains of its past tenants.

     This is the main entryway into the classroom building. This entryway is located in approximately the same area as where Albertsons' entryway was.

     One final overview of the former Albertsons space before we move on to some photos of the rest of the plaza...

     Speaking of the rest of the plaza, here's a little diagram I put together showing where each of the major tenants were located. Phase 1 is the portion of the plaza to the right, and Phase 2 is the portion to the left. Pretty much everything you see here (with the exception of the outparcel restaurants, although Silver City owns most of those properties too) is now a part of Full Sail's main campus. In addition to the two plazas, Full Sail still maintains their offices and classrooms in the office complex behind the plazas. In the end, Full Sail ended up creating one very unique campus by weaving together two shopping centers and an office building.

     While the Albertsons building is completely unrecognizable now, the rest of the plaza still retains its original design from when it first opened. In the photo above, you can see the portion of the plaza that juts out from the left side of the old Albertsons, including the former Bealls Department Store.

    The former Bealls space is to my right, with the old Freddy's off in the distance (the other rectangular facade).

     To the left of the old Freddy's space resides the last of the retail and restaurant tenants from the days before Silver City purchased this property: Firehouse Subs. I think the only reason that Firehouse Subs is still here is because Full Sail considers them one of their food options on campus, so I doubt they are going to get kicked out from here like all of the other restaurants in this strip were. I'd imagine Full Sail would have kicked them out from here by now if that wasn't the case.

     In addition to Firehouse Subs, there are a good number of other restaurants located on outparcels of the University Park Plaza property. One of these restaurants is Crispers. Crispers is a healthy option fast casual restaurant that was founded in Lakeland in 1989. The interesting thing about Crispers is that in 2002, Publix made a major investment in the company. Publix's involvement in the company led Crispers to expand throughout much of Florida, reaching around 50 or so locations at their peak. Due to the success, Publix bought out Crispers entirely in 2007. However, Crispers began to not do so well under Publix's ownership, and locations began closing. During Publix's ownership, Crispers' CEO was also convicted of embezzling $400,000 from the company, which wasn't a positive thing for the company either. In 2011, Publix got out of the restaurant business and sold off Crispers to Healthy Food Concepts, LLC. Crispers now has 24 locations throughout Florida after their late 2000's decline, the majority of which are located along the I-4 Corridor.

     That's about all there is to see here anymore in relation to the former Albertsons and this plaza's retail days. I don't have any pictures of University Park Phase 2, but it's the same story over there as we saw here. The most interesting part of Phase 2 is that the old Waccamaw building is relatively in-tact from the exterior, which you can see here.

     Now it's time to look at some aerial images, beginning with Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:

Front and Right Side - These images must have been captured around 2010 or so, as the Albertsons/Xtra Super Food Center facade is still in tact, but Albertsons is gone.

Right Side and Back

Back and Left Side

Left Side and Front

     Now time for some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and

Former Albertsons #4423 - 2016 - Class must not have been in this day.

Former Albertsons #4423 - 2012 - Here we can see the conversion of this space from an empty Albertsons into classrooms for Full Sail University.

Former Albertsons #4423 - 2010

Albertsons #4423 - 2006

Albertsons #4423 - 2002

Albertsons #4423 - 1999

Future Albertsons #4423 - 1994 - This image was dated as March 1994, which was only a month before Xtra was to announce their closure here.

Future Albertsons #4423 - 1980

     Time after time, Orange County's outdated property record photos always come to my rescue! Here we can see ol' #4423 back when it was still an Albertsons in November 2006. I don't believe any of that decorative facade where the Albertsons sign is in the photo was there when Xtra was in the building, although I believe all of the brickwork was from Xtra. Albertsons carved out their entrance from a portion of the wall when they opened, as they only took up the left portion of the large space Xtra left behind. The texturing behind the Albertsons sign looks like it was added during a late 90's or early 2000's remodel, which could have meant the interior was also updated around that time as well. Like I said before, if anyone has any more insight on this store, please let everyone know by leaving a comment below!

     To the immediate right of the Albertsons portion of the building we can see the former Books-A-Million space. Books-A-Million had the portion of the building where Xtra's main entrance was located, which was located under those two arches.

     Like I mentioned earlier, the next feature post in two weeks will be all about Xtra Super Food Center. If you're still fuzzy on what Xtra was or you're just curious to know more about what they were, or maybe you just want to relive some memories of Xtra Super Food Center, be sure to check back on the 21st for that! It's a pretty cool former Xtra Super Food Center we will be taking a look at, and much better preserved one than this one was!

So until then,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger