Sunday, August 9, 2015

Former Albertsons #4331 - Melbourne, FL

Albertsons #4331
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.

     Aerial Time:

     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:


Right Side


Left Side

     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


  1. The lack of shadows under those orange cones is freaking me out :P

  2. The lack of a website doesn't mean the restaurant chain is gone. There was a restaurant chain called Kettle Restaurants, and it once had 200 stores in the South including some in Florida. Now that number is less than a dozen, and despite losing the website, there are a few pockets where they still operate!

    1. Retail Retell and I were having a discussion over on flickr and he found out that Barnhill's has only one location remaining in Jonesboro, AR. It's operated by the company who bought those 16 locations after the bankruptcy, just for the that company to fall into bankruptcy in 2013. So, they're not quite gone yet, but their future doesn't look that good.

  3. Hope they removed the alarm will sound from the former emergency exit....:D

    1. I would hope so, or else the fire department would get pretty mad from all the false alarms they'd get!

  4. I think you will find this interesting. I've spend some time looking at newspaper archive sites to find anything related to Albertsons in Florida, and well, I found a couple of gems. This was an article about this original Melbourne Albertsons:

    I also found a good one for the Wickham Rd. store, and I share that link on the appropriate posting.

    1. That's neat! I haven't seen much info about this store online, and that was a nice article about this store. These older Albertsons stores were pretty much the equivalent of a modern Kroger Marketplace with all of these general merchandise departments they described in the article. Too bad Albertsons gave up on the general merchandise stuff, as that's what really set them apart and made them so successful in the 70's and 80's in Florida. Thanks for sharing that article! Now to check out that one about the Wickham Road store...

    2. So far I haven't found any articles on a grand opening for the Panama City store. I don't think they did a story on it. If they did, they probably just haven't archived it yet. The very first Panama City Albertsons ad showed up on July 3, 1983. So, I'm assuming that store opened sometime in June or early July 1983. It's amazing what you can find and at the same time what you can't find on these newspaper archive sites. They don't have any archived newspapers for any of Florida's biggest cities like Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville. I just happened to be lucky that Panama City's News Herald had quite a bit of advertising for Albertsons. I think the local newspaper was almost 100% of their advertising in my area. I never recall a radio ad for Albertsons in Panama City.

    3. Those newspaper archives are one of the best resources for researching these old stores if you can get access to them, or if it available for a certain paper. The Palm Beach Post used to have free access to their archives through Google Newspapers until recently, when they switched from Google to a paid subscription service to access their archives. The Lakeland Ledger also has their archive on Google Newspapers, and there are some old St. Petersburg Times papers on there too among some other Florida newspapers. I've never seen anything for Panama City in my searches on Google Newspapers though. I know Albertsons had TV and radio ads in other markets, but I don't every recall seeing or hearing any ever in Florida. The newspaper ads and flyers are what I always remember.