900 S. Babcock St., Melbourne, FL
For today's former Albertsons store tour, we're going back to school. Today we feature the former Downtown Melbourne Albertsons, which has since become one of the 15 locations of Fort Lauderdale based Keiser University throughout the state of Florida. As for Albertsons, they first opened here in 1979, in an area that was once the main commercial hub for the city of Melbourne. This stretch of Babcock St. from Hibiscus Boulevard to the north once featured stores such as Sears, Belk, Publix, Woolworth, Zayre, Walgreens, Scotty's Hardware, J.M. Fields, and the Brevard Mall, with JCPenney, Montgomery Ward, Winn-Dixie, McCrory's, and Eckerd as anchors, plus locations for numerous restaurant chains, along with the Albertsons featured here today. As time went on, many of those retailers fell on hard times and closed, and with the opening of Melbourne Square Mall a few miles west on US 192 in 1982, Melbourne's retail hub began to move west, with many of the stores still open in this area relocating to the area surrounding the new mall. As of today, the only ones of those original stores still located on this stretch of Babcock St. are Sears, Publix, and Walgreens (with the latter two relocating to newer buildings nearby in the late 90's). With this stretch of stores located so close to Melbourne International Airport and the many technological companies located around it, as the retail vacated, offices began to repurpose many of these buildings (including the entire Brevard Mall). That was also the case here with the Albertsons. This Albertsons was an early casualty, closing sometime around 1993 or 1994, although I've never been able to pinpoint an exact date. Florida Lottery records show this store sold some winning tickets in 1993, however that's the last record I have of this store in operation. As you'll see below, the 1994 satellite images show some cars in the parking lot, but I'm not sure if that's for Albertsons. I do know Albertsons left before the end of the 90's, because there are signs of a renovation happening here by the 1999 satellite image, but more on that later.
Although this building has been extensively renovated since its Albertsons days, it still retains the general look of a Skaggs Model Albertsons store on the exterior. Keiser added in more windows and covered over the original stone paneling with stucco, however, it's still pretty obvious that Albertsons once resided here. The entrance into Keiser is even in the same spot where Albertsons' entrance would have been.
Here the Albertsons detailing becomes even clearer. This store would have been an exact copy of the Lake Worth Albertsons (#4328) back in the day.
Left side detailing.
Right side detailing.
One more look across the front before beginning our look around the side...
This photo was taken from the parking lot of the abandoned restaurant next door, which had some interesting architecture we'll take a quick look at in a moment. The photos that you're about to see in this post were taken on two different occasions, some from April 2014 and some from April 2015. Some changes happened in that time frame, especially over on this side of the building. The pictures you see now are from April 2014.
That texturing down the side of the building is 100% original to Albertsons.
In the photos from April 2015, this area where I'm standing is going to look completely different. Now around to the left side of the building...
The former liquor store and side entrance to the main store are located off the to right in this photo, under the long blue awning.
More original detailing on this side of the building left over from Albertsons.
That door under the blue semicircle awning, which is an entrance into Keiser's Culinary Arts division, would have originally been an emergency exit back in this building's Albertsons days.
Now for a closer look at at the liquor store/former side entrance.
The old liquor store entrance on the left (where that bench is now) in the above photo has since been converted into windows, however the old side entrance into the main store is still pretty much in tact...
Even the two doors are in the exact spots where Albertsons' doors were, except switched out for manual ones.
Heading around back, it still looks pretty original here.
The former receiving area has since been converted into an area for covered outdoor seating.
We'll come back for one last look at the Albertsons building in a moment, but just a quick look at the neighbors:
First off is that interesting looking restaurant I mentioned earlier. What first drew my attention to this building as I was photographing the former Albertsons back in April 2014 was the strange barn theme the building seemed to be designed with. Then when I saw it was abandoned, it became even more interesting. This turned out to be a former location of Barnhill's Buffet (which explained the whole barn thing). Barnhill's Buffet was a restaurant chain that once had locations throughout the Southeast, featuring Southern style specialties. However around 2006, Barnhill's began to fall on hard financial times and they were sold to a new operator after their founder sold off the chain, just for the company to fall into bankruptcy about a year later. This location was one of the bankruptcy casualties, closing around 2007. The 16 remaining Barnhill's locations that survived the bankruptcy have slowly closed over the last few years, to the point where I'm not sure if there are any Barnhill's locations remaining. (UPDATE 8/9/15: There's actually only one Barnhill's remaining, located in Jonesboro, AR - Thanks Retail Retell for finding that!). Since the closing of the restaurant, it was primarily used as overflow parking for Keiser until March 2015, when Keiser took over this property and tore down the Barnhill's building in order to expand their Melbourne campus, which I have some photos of below, and explains why I returned for a few more photos in April 2015.
Barnhill's logo still remaining on the door.
Back of the Barnhill's building.
Close-up of some of the barn door detailing.
Now for a quick look at the other former neighbor of this Albertsons, on the other side of the building.
This patch of grass you see above was the site of a former Scotty's Hardware store which closed a long time ago. Scotty's was a chain of hardware stores that had locations all over Florida until they went out of business in 2005 due to increased competition from Home Depot and Lowe's. All I know about this particular site was this sat abandoned for a while, and was later used for storage before being torn down in 2006.
There's that Sears I mentioned earlier in the background of the former Scotty's site.
One last view of the Scotty's site and the back of the Albertsons building, along with a preview of some of that new 2015 construction I mentioned.
Site layout for reference. The former Scotty's was made out of two buildings that sat in those two grass patches above and to the right of the words 'Scotty's site'.
And a quick jump a year into the future to April 2015 for a quick look at some of the construction going on at this former Albertsons, along with a few extra exterior views.
The new building being constructed on the former Barnhill's site. While this building won't be connected to the former Albertsons building, I read in an article about the groundbreaking of this building that the exterior of the former Albertsons was going to be altered and updated as a part of the construction and expansion, prompting me to make a quick return trip before any Albertsons traces are wiped away forever.
This is where the former Barnhill's building would have stood. This area is going to be the parking lot for the new building.
Keiser's road sign, which I don't believe is original to Albertsons.
First, Historic Aerials courtesy of Google Earth:
Former Albertsons #4331 - 2014
Former Albertsons #4331 - 2005 - The Scotty's building is still standing here.
Former Albertsons #4331 - 1999 - Keiser may have just moved in here at this time. The parking lot is full and it looks like new blacktop was recently put on it.
Albertsons #4331? - 1994 - While Scotty's looks to be gone, I'm not entirely sure if Albertsons is yet. It looks like there's a bit of a crowd in front of the store.
Now for Bird's Eye Aerial Imagery courtesy of Bing Maps:
While I'm sure there are absolutely no traces left of Albertsons on the inside of this place, the exterior still has some pretty obvious clues remaining. So everyone, that wraps up this post.
Until next time,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger