Pantry Pride #749/Albertsons #4420
230 N. Courtenay Pkwy., Merritt Island, FL - Home Depot Plaza
Today's post brings us to one of the oldest shopping centers in Merritt Island, and it's a shopping center very familiar with the concept of change. This shopping center was originally constructed back in 1964 as one of the first in Merritt Island. The 60's brought a large population boom to relatively isolated Merritt Island, as 1962 marked the opening of the Kennedy Space Center on the most northern part of the island, next to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. With the Space Age in full bloom, many people began moving to the area to begin their careers at the space center and find a way to get man on the moon, turning what was once a fairly rural island dotted with small farming and fishing villages into an urbanized population hub. And when people find a new place to live, they will also need a new place to shop. In the months and years following the construction of this plaza, more shopping centers and even the first enclosed mall in Brevard County were constructed on Merritt Island. When the plaza we'll be looking at today first opened, it featured anchors JM Fields discount store on one end, and JM Field's sister supermarket chain Pantry Pride on the other. However in 1978, The JM Fields company fell on hard financial times and declared bankruptcy, leading to the closure of all JM Fields stores and the scaling back of their Food Fair and Pantry Pride locations. When the company was finally able to emerge from bankruptcy, it came out under the name Pantry Pride Stores, Inc, and they moved their headquarters from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale. Gradually, Pantry Pride began to close and sell off all of their supermarkets that were not located in Florida, and by the end of the 80's, their stores were all clustered in South Florida. As for the Merritt Island Pantry Pride, it closed sometime in the 80's, and the building itself was demolished after the store closed, leaving an empty lot at one end of the plaza for a number of years. Fast forward to the early 90's, and here comes Albertsons looking for a site to build a store in Merritt Island, with their final selection being the lot that was formerly home to the Merritt Island Pantry Pride. In 1994, Albertsons opened a brand new Pre-Plaza model Albertsons in this plaza, right around the time Home Depot finished building their new store at the other end of the plaza, on the site of the former JM Fields store, which had been a Zayre and Ames store in the years after JM Fields closed.
So now with an Albertsons and Home Depot, this plaza was able to spring back to life after a few years of decline, and the strip of stores between the two new buildings was renovated. Then comes 2006 and the breakup of Albertsons to Supervalu and Cerberus. Not long after Cerberus acquired their share of Albertsons stores, including the Florida locations, in October 2006, they announced they had sold 46 of their Albertsons stores to Ross Stores, one of which being this location in Merritt Island. There were other Florida Albertsons stores effected by this sale, as we will soon see. By early 2007, this Albertsons was closed and divided into a Ross Dress For Less and dd's Discounts store, Ross's lower price chain. While the Ross is still open and doing good business, the next door dd's Discount's location closed sometime around 2010, and it still sits empty.
The empty dd's there on the right. The entrance for the dd's store was carved out of part of the wall, while Ross's entrance is located in the same spot where Albertsons' entrance was. Ross even reused Albertsons' old canopy, and I don't even think they bothered to repaint the building since Albertsons left.
Under Albertsons's old canopy, looking toward dd's old entrance.
The entryway has since been reconfigured into the standard Ross configuration...
...and so has the entire interior as well. Usually when these old stores get subdivided, I tend to not expect seeing much of the former occupant on the interior, although I have been surprised a few times. Ross takes up the portion of the Albertsons building that contained
most of the service departments, such as the bakery, deli, seafood counter, and produce mostly the grocery aisles, the Pharmacy and Seafood Counters, and Frozen Foods (I was thinking of the mirrored layout when I originally wrote this, sorry about that). This is looking down Ross's right wall, which divided it from the old dd's.
Every single Ross store looks exactly the same on the interior, in terms of layout, lighting, floor tiles, and just about everything else. This view would have been looking toward the Seafood counter from the middle of the grocery aisles.
Looking from the back of the store to the front.
This main aisle would have connected the Pharmacy with the Seafood counter.
Looking down the left side wall. Where I'm standing would have been somewhere behind Albertsons seafood counter, which would have been set up similar to what you see here at the former Jupiter Albertsons (#4446), but this store was a mirror image of that one, and had a drop ceiling throughout.
Looking down the back wall, where the meat coolers would have been.
Time to head back out and see some of the more interesting things left from Albertsons out there...
First, a quick look at the former dd's Discounts store.
Looking from the front of dd's toward the front of Ross.
The right side of the Albertsons building, which is detached from the rest of the shopping center by this small grassy area and sidewalk.
Working our way back down to the left side of the building to check out the old liquor store, but just one more look under the old Albertsons canopy first.
And the old liquor store over on the far left side of the building. Everything is original here, even the paint.
As you can probably tell, the liquor store has been sitting empty ever since Albertsons closed in 2006. Also as usual, lots of the decals and lettering are still up on the windows.
And a peek into the interior...
Yep, that's Blue and Gray Market decor remnants. That's the interior this store had for its entire life.
The side of the liquor store, which is the left side of the building.
A quick look at the plaza between the old Albertsons and Home Depot. The plaza is the the only original piece of this shopping center left from 1964. The empty storefront right in front of me was most recently a Family Dollar.
And now time for Bird's Eye aerial images, courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now for some historic aerial images courtesy of Google Earth:
Before we begin our trip back in time, here's an image of the entire plaza. The former Albertsons is all the way at the top and Home Depot is the big building all the way at the bottom.
Former Albertsons #4420 - 2014
Albertsons #4420 - 2006 - Nearing the end here. The building is exactly the same as well, just without the cutout for dd's Discount's entrance.
Albertsons #4420 - 1999
Future Albertsons #4420 - Still just an empty lot from where Pantry Pride's building once stood. Notice that Albertsons also reconfigured the parking lot when they built their store so the parking lot would be perpendicular to the front of the building rather than at an angle.
And finally, the road sign. And speaking of Home Depot...
Here it is. It's a nothing special average-all-around Home Depot store, and like I said earlier, was built on the site of the old JM Fields store. Not long after JM Fields closed here, this building became home to Zayre #651, which remained here until they were purchased by Ames in 1988. This store was then converted to Ames (store #2651) like the rest of the Florida Zayre stores. However, when Ames declared bankruptcy in 1991 due to their purchase of Zayre to begin with (a bankruptcy that nearly killed them), they closed all of their Florida stores in a wave of closures that also included some stores in their core markets in the Northeast. Then in 1993, Home Depot purchased the old Ames building and tore it down for their new store.
And now with all of the history out of the way, it's probably the best time to wrap up this post.
So until the next time (which is going to be a very special post, may I add),
The Albertsons Florida Blogger