Albertsons #4418/Publix #1347
3610 US Highway 27 North, Sebring, FL - Fairmont Plaza (which is technically next door, but that's what Publix goes by)
Outside of Orlando and the rest of the I-4 corridor, most of the central, inland portions of the Florida peninsula remain in their longtime natural state as rural farms and forests, and swamps and grasslands. Cattle farms and orange groves dot the landscape, and you can go for many miles without seeing a building of any type. However, there are many thousands of lakes and springs out in this area, including Florida's largest and most famous lake: Lake Okeechobee. Around these lakes grew some towns, one of which ended up becoming the most populous town in this region between the coasts and south of Orlando: Sebring, a town of 10,000, and the county seat of mostly rural Highlands County. As the most populous town in this region, Sebring became home to most of the region's retail needs, including a regional mall, and even adding some stores that are usually associated with larger cities, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Ross Dress for Less, Petco, Famous Footwear, Micheals, and many others. Sebring was even able to attract Albertsons, another store usually associated with larger urban areas. Albertsons began to plan a Sebring store in the mid-90's, although after a mysterious delay in construction, the Sebring Albertsons didn't open until approximately 1997 or so on the northern edge of town. The Sebring Albertsons was a standard Pre-Plaza Albertsons, and also included an Albertsons Express gas station out front.
Albertsons had a good 10 year run in Sebring before finally selling this store to Publix in 2008 as one of the 49 Albertsons stores Publix acquired that year. After some minor upgrades by Publix and some new decor, Publix opened their new store at this location, which was to become the second Publix in Sebring. The opening of this store also led to the indirect replacement of the Avon Park Publix about 5 miles to the north of here (more on that story later though). Publix remodeled the interior of this store again around 2013, upgrading the interior from 2nd Generation Classy Market to 3rd Generation Classy Market, and added all the typical elements that come with that (which we will see shortly), along with adding a drive thru pharmacy to the right side of the building.
Before entering the store, we see the typical windowed in Pre-Plaza cart storage area next to the entrance.
Walking into the store and looking at a small piece of the Publix-ified front end. The old swing doors were replaced when Publix first moved in, but Publix didn't add the second set of doors like we saw at the Jupiter Albertsons (#4446), or close in the unused space between the entryway and the customer service desk.
As far as Albertsons' original decor, this store opened with the Blue and Gray Market interior, and kept that for it's entire life as Albertsons. When Publix first took over many of these stores that previously had the Blue and Grey Market interior, they tended to leave traces of the old decor on the wall, like in this amusing photo from an Albertsons/Publix conversion in Pensacola. I'm not sure if that was the case here, but any remaining traces of Albertsons decor in here would have been removed when Publix remodeled this store again around 2013.
Floral is located to the left of the entrance as you walk in. Publix left all of Albertsons original layout in tact.
The bakery in the front left corner, with the new curved front added by Publix a few years ago.
A better view under the bakery ceiling.
And between the bakery and deli departments is produce.
The deli was extremely busy the afternoon I was here, although, it's pretty rare to see the Publix deli not busy. Publix redid the tile backsplash behind the deli counter during their 2013 remodel of this store.
Our first look at one of the grocery aisles.
The main front aisle that runs along the front end, connecting the bakery to the pharmacy (which you can see part of in the background).
And some more grocery aisles...
And a cameo appearance by the Publix pilgrim pair on this store's clearance table, which was oddly located in the middle of the pet supply and hardware aisles.
Frozen foods is located in the center portion of the store, as it was in the Albertsons days. These coolers are also original to when Albertsons first opened.
And the next aisle over was beer, lunch meats, cheeses, and some overflow from frozen foods.
And a quick side trip over to the front right corner of the store to see the pharmacy, which is in it original location from Albertsons, although extensively remodeled during the 2013 interior upgrades, which included the addition of a pharmacy drive thru window. The same Jupiter Albertsons I mentioned before has a better preserved pharmacy counter, which would have looked similar to the one this store used to have.
Now getting back over to the grocery aisles...
Meats counter in the back right corner of the store...
....with the Seafood counter located right next to it. Albertsons would have had both the Meats and Seafood counter combined where Publix currently has the Seafood counter. The current Publix Meats counter was carved out of a portion of the back wall.
I like the fancy tile work Publix added back here during the most recent remodel.
Sodas and wine in the last aisle, aisle 17, complete with a barrel to add to the effect (there was another barrel behind me as well).
Another look across the front end, this time toward the bakery, as we prepare to leave this store...
The customer service desk and the registers.
Time to go...
Back outside once again for a few last exterior photos. This is looking toward the cart storage area from the front sidewalk.
And a quick look at Publix's new pharmacy drive through. At least Publix didn't have to tear down or reconfigure part of the building to put this in, as all they had to do was put a hole in the wall.
And the typical Albertsons liquor store over on the left side of the building, now a Publix Liquors location.
One more thing to look at though before we leave...
Yep, the Albertsons Express gas station out front. The gas station closed with the store in 2008, which was not too long before Albertsons got rid of all the remaining Albertsons Express locations at their remaining Florida stores.
The one nice thing about these former Albertsons Express locations is that the majority of them transferred to independent ownership after Albertsons closed them, meaning the conversions were usually on the cheap side, and many artifacts tended to remain. All the signage on the front of the convenience store is from Albertsons except for the Citgo logo, which was placed on top of an old Albertsons leaf logo shaped sign holder!
And a quick look at the old Albertsons road sign next to the convenience store. Back to the gas station though...
Blank Express. Still not fooling me though. These were ads placed on a garbage can/squeegee holder next to the gas pumps.
I see Albertsons poking out from under there. Try as hard as you might, but even without the sad attempt to blotch out all the Albertsons logos, this place still has Albertsons relics seeping out of every square inch of it. I believe the sign says 'Need Great Meal Ideas' under the blotch now hiding the wrong part of the sign.
And the gas station's road sign, also all original to Albertsons with the exception of the Citgo logo. Albertsons was even the one to install the digital price display. And in case you were wondering, next to the sign is the Car Wash installed by the current owner of this gas station, which consisted of that canopy, the supply shed, and a lady sitting in a lawn chair waiting for a car to pull in.
UPDATE 2/24/16: Commentor Pseudo3D found some pictures of the Albertsons Express gas station at this store taken in 2005, which you can see here.
Now that we've covered all the main points of the former Sebring Albertsons, remember how earlier I mentioned that the opening of the Publix that currently occupies the former Albertsons indirectly replaced the Avon Park Publix a little further to the north?...
Publix #321/Save A Lot #792
1020 US Highway 27 South, Avon Park, FL - Highlands Plaza
Publix opened at this location in March 1987, and closed on May 2, 2009, a few months after the new North Sebring Publix opened in the old Albertsons. According to Publix, the new North Sebring store was stealing many of the shoppers from this older store, so much so that Publix decided to just close this store outright, one of the very rare times Publix has ever done such a thing (although you can argue that the North Sebring store was this store's replacement, which I why I call this situation "indirect replacement" - when a store of the same chain opens a new location without the intent of an older, already existing location closing, although an older store ends up closing due to the new store's opening after the fact.) It's surprising that the residents of Avon Park would rather drive the extra five miles to North Sebring to shop at Publix, rather than support their own local store. However, a Publix spokeswoman made this rather interesting statement regarding the closing of this store: "It doesn't make sense to have two locations so close together.". Remember, this is coming from a company that has and does operate two stores directly across the street from each other, and has many stores within a mile of another Publix. According to rumor, the Avon Park Publix was one of the worst performing stores in the chain for a very long time, so the recent opening of the North Sebring store may have given Publix the excuse to finally rid themselves of this store, because it seemed like locals really liked this store from what I read. Anyway, this store ended up sitting empty until 2012, when the right half of the former Publix space became a Save A Lot, while the left half of the building remains empty.
This store was built during the time Publix was transitioning from the 80's model stores to the 90's models stores, although the layout and design of this building leans more toward the 90's design. The main difference between the two styles of stores was that the 90's stores were slightly larger, and had the side entryways broken into two vestibules, rather than both side entrances sharing the same glass vestibule. Since this was a transition era store, it has a slightly different design, mostly with the doors being on a diagonal rather than perpendicular to the front of the building, and a slightly different but unique exterior design that features arches over the entryway on a diagonal as well.
And yes, that blotch you see on the front of the building is the labelscar from where Publix's sign used to be. With the way Save A Lot placed their sign on the building, the labelscar just looks really strange in that place now.
Let's see what's going on over in the Save A Lot portion of the building first...
The only real trace of Publix in here is the fact that Save A Lot left Publix's original terrazzo floor uncovered and intact.
Looking toward the back of the store.
Not much else to see over on this side of the building, so let's go back outside...
The abandoned half of the store lies straight ahead.
The exterior of the Save A Lot side of the building would have been a mirror image of this side of the building back when Publix was still here. Save A Lot removed this arch and modified the exterior a bit to their liking. This is also that "unique design characteristic arch" I mentioned earlier in case it was hard to visualize it by my description (the satellite images below will clear things up even more about the unique traits of this style store as well).
Save A Lot also replaced the door on their side of the building as well, as this is what an original Publix one would have looked like.
Looking inside the abandoned vestibule. But wait!! Do you see what I see?!?!
Yep, it's a rare last trace of Publix's old Wavy Pastel interior! For those of you who don't know, Wavy Pastel is the name I gave to Publix's 90's interior (and it was my favorite Publix interior so far), with the name based off of the shape and color scheme of the department signs. Here's one of the few pictures I know to exist online of this interior to give you a quick glimpse at it. Publix just about killed off every last trace of that interior in favor of some variant of their current Classy Market interior by 2010, although I was informed that one store in Gainesville may have kept it's original Wavy Pastel interior all the way through 2014. I know it's just a faded labelscar, but it's rare to find any remaining traces of Wavy Pastel in any Publix, live or dead.
Closeup of the words on the side wall, which say "Variety ♦ Value ♦ Quality ♦ Service", in the Wavy Pastel font.
This one is slightly harder to see. This labelscar was on the back wall of the vestibule, and says "Welcome to Publix". Here's a (slightly blocked) picture of a variant of this sign with the diamonds between the words, from the same person who took that picture I linked to above. Below is another picture of the same thing, but I wasn't sure which would make it easier to see the labelscar:
And a look through the front window into the main part of the store. I didn't see any other traces of Wavy Pastel in here, but you can see part of the giant angled inlayed light Publix used over their registers to the right, one of the really neat design features Publix used in their 90's stores. I believe the bakery was located under that lower portion of the ceiling to the left side of this photo.
The Avon Park Publix was a nice surprise, as I wasn't expecting it to be this exciting. I was originally just going to pull into the parking lot and get a quick picture of the exterior, but I'm glad I changed my mind at the last second!
Now it's satellite image time. Since Big Maps doesn't have Bird's Eye imagery available for this area, I only have the following historic aerial images from Google Earth to share this time.
First, a quick overview of the former Avon Park Publix while that's fresh in everyone's mind:
Former Publix #321 - 2014 - Save A Lot is already in the right portion of the building, as the red paint over there probably gives away. From above, the distinct look of these style Publix stores is much easier to see.
Publix #321 - 2008 - And the store back when Publix was still open
And now back to the former Albertsons for some satellite images:
Former Albertsons #4418 - 2014
Albertsons #4418 - 2008
Albertsons #4418 - 2004
Albertsons #4418 - 1999
Future Albertsons #4418 - 1994 - Still in the planning process at this time.
While we may have finished our tour of the Sebring Albertsons, there's still some other interesting places to see in this town that I will be featuring as Bonus Buy stores in the future (and possibly, the near future). I included this map to show the location of the Albertsons/Publix we just looked at in relation to Publix's original, longtime Sebring location on the south side of town. That store dates back to the Wing Store era, and has existed in the same (but modified) building since 1962! Well, it did until 2015 anyway...
And I'll leave it at that for now. So until the next time,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger