Albertsons #4411/Super Saver #1531
1012 Buenaventura Boulevard, Kissimmee, FL - Town & Country
This store was one of the most unique Albertsons stores to ever be built in Florida, at least from an exterior standpoint. I have never seen another Albertsons that looked like this in Florida, and I'm not sure if this model was ever used in other parts of the country. Today on AFB, we'll take a look at the one and only Albertsons Circle Model store that may have ever been built. Thankfully, Ross Dress for Less preserved the unique Albertsons exterior after they moved in, so we can all have the chance to take a look at this Albertsons oddity.
This Albertsons first opened in 1993, the same year that Osceola County's other Albertsons store (#4410) also opened further to the west of here near downtown Kissimmee, although this store was newer by a few months. The reason for this store's mysteriously unique exterior was that it was built at the end of Albertsons' Superstore Model era, right at the time Albertsons began rolling out the new Pre-Plaza Model stores. While I categorize this store as it's own unique Albertsons store model, I believe it may have been nothing more than a really fancy looking experimental Pre-Plaza store. However, just about every Pre-Plaza Albertsons has a rectangular canopy over the entrance (with the exception of the much later built Pre-Plaza stores, which began to morph into the Plaza model stores). So for that reason, I gave this store a category of it's own. And I think it's well deserved.
While this store may have looked very fancy from the outside, that wasn't enough to prevent sales from slipping here as the 2000's began to roll in. Due to that, Albertsons marked this store and 10 other underperforming Albertsons Florida stores to be converted into their new Super Saver discount supermarket format. So in 2005, this store was converted to the new Super Saver format, making this the world's fanciest looking discount grocery store. Super Saver was like an Aldi or Save-A-Lot, however it was much bigger. Super Saver took up the entire 50,000+ square foot former Albertsons spaces (most typical discount grocery stores rarely go past 20,000 square feet). Super Saver included a large selection of items, which were stocked on large Sam's Club style metal rack shelving units, which replaced Albertsons traditional style shelves. The decor used green and yellow signage in a fairly limited manner, and if I remember correctly, the department signs were just canvas banners hung on the walls. Like most other discount grocery brands, Super Saver removed the full service departments in favor of a selection of pre-made/pre-packaged goods. I believe they also kept the in store pharmacies from Albertsons. And to make things interesting, Super Saver's house brand didn't use Albertsons branded packaging - it used Acme's! (I clearly remember being in a Super Saver and seeing the Acme brand labels, which I thought was the strangest thing back then). The only reason Albertsons got the Super Saver name to begin with was because of their purchase of Acme, who used to own the Super Saver name for their own discount division back in the 70's in the Northeast. I guess it was a fitting enough tribute to Super Saver's past. Anyway, while Super Saver seemed to be off to a good enough start, the brand just wasn't meant to be. When Albertsons was split up in 2006, Cerberus got control of all of the fairly new Super Saver stores, and quickly put and end to just about all of them before the end of 2006, citing that they wanted no part in operating the fledgling brand. After Cerberus pulled the plug on Super Saver, they included this store as one of the 46 Albertsons stores nationwide that they sold to Ross Stores in late 2006. By early 2007, Ross had split this building into one of their namesake stores, which takes up the left portion of the building and uses Albertsons' original entrance, and occupied the right side of the building with their lower price brand dd's Discounts, which had its entrance carved out of the right part of the building.
This building really looks much newer than 1993 built, in my opinion.
Under the canopy, heading toward the former main entrance into Albertsons to see what's behind this unique facade.
Definitely not a normal Pre-Plaza design by any means. Under the big circular front canopy is this large open area, with the ceiling a good 20-25 feet up there. I actually like this design.
I don't know if they intentionally made the design on the ceiling look like a sun with rays, or if it just happened that way. It seems fitting though, especially with the new yellow paint.
As would be expected, Ross converted this store into their standard store prototype template. I believe the entryway at this store would have looked like this when Albertsons was here.
Also as typical with these Albertsons to Ross conversions, no traces of anything from Albertsons inside. This Albertsons would have been built with the Blue and Gray Market interior, and more than likely had that interior all the way until the Super Saver conversion in 2005. This is the view after walking in through Ross's main entrance.
Looking down the right side wall that splits Ross from dd's.
Looking toward Ross's front end. If this store had the normal Albertsons Pre-Plaza layout, this would have been looking from the grocery aisles toward the Pharmacy.
Ross's main left aisle. I'm standing near where the Seafood counter originally was.
Looking toward the front of the store along the left side wall.
Time to head back out and work our way next door...
One last look up into the circular facade before walking over to dd's...
As mentioned earlier, dd's Discounts is located in the right half of the former Albertsons building. dd's Discounts was launched by Ross Stores in 2004 as a lower price alternative to the conventional Ross Dress for Less stores (which I though were already supposed to be off-price clothing/home accessories stores). Many times, dd's stores are located right next to or very close to an existing Ross store, although I've seen some exceptions to this. dd's currently has 108 locations in 8 states, and makes up only about 1/10 of Ross Stores' store base.
Anyway, time to take a quick look inside...
Again, not much left from Albertsons in here either. Unlike with the Albertsons to Ross conversions, I have seen some Albertsons to dd's conversions where the interior of the dd's store kept some noticeable features from the building's Albertsons days. Unfortunately that wasn't the case here, although this side of the building still has more of an Albertsons feel to it.
Looking down the right side wall of the dd's store. If you look at the ceiling in here, and at the ceiling of the next door Ross we just looked at, they have surveillance cameras everywhere in these two stores. There were also uniformed security guards standing at the front entrance of both stores, who also acted as greeters. These two stores must have a really big shoplifting issue.
Some matching auto floormats to go with your new outfit, in cheetah print too.
Looking across dd's from right to left. I'm standing in the back of what was Albertsons' produce department, near the deli.
The back wall of the store. dd's fitting rooms are to the right where that wall dips in. Just past here a little bit would have began Albertsons' meat cases lining this wall.
Looking toward the front of the store from the back. Here are a few more random views from inside dd's:
Time to head back outside to take a quick look at the former liquor store:
Located over on the left side of the building, attached to Ross, is the former Albertsons Liquor store. A rent to own place now takes up this space.
The new occupants changed the entryway set up from what Albertsons typically used.
So, that's just about it regarding the Albertsons store here. Although this plaza lost its main grocery anchor in 2006 to Ross and dd's, in 2010, this plaza gained a new grocery store - Aldi - built on an outlot near the end of the strip of stores that attach to the right side of the old Albertsons building. Here's a picture of the Aldi:
Typical late 2000's, early 2010's Aldi store.
Now for some Bird's Eye aerials, courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4411 - 2015 - This gives an overview of the entire plaza. The old Albertsons is the largest building, with the curved facade clearly visible. Aldi is the white roofed building near the top of the image. This plaza actually bumps against the Osceola and Orange County line, which makes for the northern property boundary of the plaza.
Former Albertsons #4411 - 2010
Former Albertsons #4411 - 2006 - The building is empty now that Super Saver has closed, and Ross and dd's have yet yo move in.
Albertsons #4411 - 2003
Albertsons #4411 - 1999
Albertsons #4411 - 1994 - Only a few months old at this point.
Future Albertsons #4411 - 1980 - Not only is the Albertsons yet to be built, but so was the intersection this store was built at, and also the entire neighborhood!
While the East Kissimmee Albertsons marked a grand new entrance into a new era of Albertsons store design, the store never really lived up to its expectations. I really believe that the Super Saver stores had potential. While Cerberus cut the Super Saver stores rather prematurely because they didn't want to deal with them (except for two random ones in Utah that may or may not be still in business - I'm not sure what happened to those), I think Albertsons should try again to revive that brand. There are areas where it could do very well, and discount grocery stores are becoming more popular with shoppers, and that industry is growing. Aldi and Save-A-Lot are expanding like crazy (especially in Florida), Kroger keeps experimenting with discount brands in many markets, and Aldi's largest discount grocery rival from their home country of Germany, Lidl, has announced that they want to begin a push into the United States by 2018, beginning with stores in the Washington, DC area and potentially going national from there.
Well, that's all I have for now. So, until the next time,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger