Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Loss for Winn-Dixie in Gainesville



Winn-Dixie #160
2500 N. Main St., Gainesville, FL - Northside Shopping Center

***Photos for this post are courtesy of contributor Ian W.***

     Winn-Dixie has had image issues for years. People always complain about many of Winn-Dixie's stores being old, dirty, smelly, stuck in 1990, etc. Ever since emerging from their bankruptcy, Winn-Dixie has come up with a few classy prototypes that have turned what were once old, dated stores into something very presentable, something that could turn all of those previous thoughts and perceptions about Winn-Dixie completely around. Some of Winn-Dixie's most ambitious remodeling campaigns included the 2011-2013 "Transformational Stores", and their most recent remodeling campaign introduced earlier this year for the rollout of the "Down Down" promotion. Amongst all of these high hopes, fancy prototypes, and promises for more widespread store remodeling, Winn-Dixie's post-bankruptcy financial burdens still haunt them, and so does that long ingrained image of the condition of their stores from the early 2000's. Most of Winn-Dixie's current image issues stem from the fact that they don't have the money to do elaborate remodels to all of their stores, leaving the vast majority of their store base untouched since the early 2000's (or in many other instances, decades prior to that). This store was one of the worst offenders to prolonging Winn-Dixie's image issues. This store really hasn't been touched on the inside since the late 80's. As we will soon see, this store was probably the very last Winn-Dixie in existence to still be sporting Winn-Dixie's 80's Neon interior. According to Ian, this store was Gainesville's dirtiest and most unpleasant Winn-Dixie, and other locals seem to agree on that front as well. According to one review of this store, written by a Winn-Dixie employee sent here from another store to help out, had this to say about ole 160: "This store is known in Winn-Dixieland as "Store #160," and even the mention of the store's number leaves many W/D employees shuddering as it's known to be one of the worst Winn-Dixies in the entire state of Florida. It's called "the store that care forgot."" (You can read that entire review by clicking here and scrolling down to the review written on 3/31/2009).

Google Streetview image of the front of the store.
     This Winn-Dixie originally opened in 1977, and was remodeled in the late 80's to its current interior. Winn-Dixie expanded the building to the left into what looks like a former drugstore in 1992, leaving most of the 80's interior intact in the original portion of the building, and adding a multicolor stripe around the perimeter of the entire store to tie everything together. As the 2000's progressed and Winn-Dixie emerged from bankruptcy, Winn-Dixie considered relocating this store to a new building, although those plans fell through when the shopping center's landlord agreed to fix up the exterior of the plaza and resolve some parking issues that needed to be addressed. Even after the relocation plans fell through, Winn-Dixie put this store on its list to be given an elaborate remodel into one of their "Transformational" stores. However, that remodel never happened due to BI-LO's buyout of Winn-Dixie in 2012, killing all hopes of a remodel here. In its final years, this store just withered away as a grocery box still clinging onto the 80's. This store began the closing process on September 7, 2016, and closed for good in early October 2016. Also to note, a Winn-Dixie store in Winter Park, FL (7580 University Boulevard) also began its closing at the same time, making that store and this one in Gainesville their most recent casualties. Anyway, with that long backstory out of the way, let's get to the good stuff and take a look at what was going on inside...


      Ian took these pictures fairly late in the closing process, sometime in late September 2016. As we'll see in most of these pictures, there wasn't much left in the store at this point. These first two photos are of some of the barren grocery aisles...



     Heading over to frozen foods now. I think it would be a pretty safe guess to assume that all of these coolers are original to when this store opened in 1977. The coffin cases are throwing off an especially 70's vibe. In the background you can see the 80's Neon "Pharmacy" sign. As hopelessly dated as many of Winn-Dixie's stores are, I always thought that Winn-Dixie had killed off this interior during the Purple/Maroon remodel sweep of the early 2000's. The 80's Neon interior was retired in 1986 after Winn-Dixie introduced the Marketplace interior that same year. Also to note, the colored floor tiles you'll see throughout the store are from Winn-Dixie's 70's interior, like the blue in the frozen foods aisles. Many older Winn-Dixies still retain the colorful 70's tiles to this day.


     Looking into the left side of the store. This picture was taken looking into the space that was added on during the 1992 expansion. During that time, the pastel stripe you see was added around the back and side walls of this store. The stripe matches the color scheme of the Marketplace decor used at the time.


     A look toward the back wall from the frozen foods department. And what's that I see in the background?...


    It's the 80's in all of it's shiny, neon-y glory. Winn-Dixie's 80's Neon interior included the use of lots of neon signs, and lots of shiny, chrome-like wall paneling. You can see an example of the full version of Winn-Dixie's 80's Neon interior here. The 80's Neon interior at this store was stripped down a bit during the 1992 expansion, but it never left, and stayed in tact until 2016. Call it dated or whatever else, but this sign itself is an unbelievable find, and a great way to finish this short look at the now former Northside Shopping Center Winn-Dixie.

     Before finishing, I have these Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps to share for a little more perspective on this store:


    This is an overview of the Winn-Dixie building. The part of the store with the darker roof was the space Winn-Dixie expanded into in 1992.


     And finally, I figured I'd throw in this aerial image of this other former anchor to Northside Shopping Center, Kmart. This Kmart opened in 1977, and relocated in 1994 to the site of the former Gainesville Mall (where the Lowe's currently is on 13th St. - also, if you want to know more about the old Gainesville Mall, you can read an interesting article that mentions the old Gainesville Mall and other classic Gainesville area retail here). After Kmart left the Northside Shopping Center, their space was divided between an Ashely Furniture Homestore and Big Lots. Since this image was taken, Big Lots relocated to a new home over on 13th St., and the Ashley furniture store closed. Currently, the only occupied portion of the former Kmart is right third of the building, where a Harbor Freight Tools and a pawn shop recently moved in. Throw in the now closed Winn-Dixie, and this plaza will be pretty empty. However, 13th St. seems to be the go-to place for retail in northern Gainesville now, as that area has seen some growth recently, and empty spaces getting filled fast.

     With the closing of the Northside Shopping Center Winn-Dixie, that leaves Gainesville with only two Winn-Dixies remaining, both on the south side of town (one of which is a former Sweetbay, and the other is a very old store remodeled around 2011 to the post-bankruptcy interior). Winn-Dixie's two remaining Gainesville stores are nothing compared to Publix's 13 Gainesville locations (with a 14th location currently under construction). I know Florida as a whole is very biased toward Publix, but what's going on in Gainesville is a bit crazy...

     Anyway, that's all I have for now. Thanks again Ian for sending in these pictures! Be sure to come back next Sunday for the regularly scheduled feature post!

So until the next time,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

19 comments:

  1. Wow! What a great post on this store! I drove by here just earlier this morning, and the lights were still on, but no one was home. All the signage is gone with many scars on the stucco. It even looked looked like some of the shelving had been removed, as I was passing by at 8:30 a.m. You are correct. I visited this store ironically on its last day open for business, and there was pretty much nothing left! I was really just popping in for curiosity, and to see if any food remained. The other Winn-Dixie (197) in town is much nicer on the interior, but honestly when compared to Publix, still feels a bit dirty and is also plagued by shrink. That is interesting about Kmart. I didn't know they had one here. The current Gainesville location is west of I-75 off Newberry Rd. (I recently found out that Panama City's last remaining K-Mart is closing its doors by December. It hasn't been a good last few years for Kmart). I feel like since Publix will soon have a near monopoly here and 2 new Aldi's and 3 supercenters, Winn-Dixie's days in this town are numbered.

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    1. Thanks! When the Winn-Dixie by me closed last November, it took them a good few weeks after it closed before they got all of their fixtures out of the building. It's not looking good for Winn-Dixie in Gainesville, and I wouldn't be surprised if they get squeezed out of town entirely. I know store #197 had a reputation similar to that of #160 until the big remodel a few years back, which helped things a little, but that store still has a bunch of negative reviews. Gainesville is a Publix town.

      I think the Kmart in this plaza (along with its relocation) was the only other Kmart in Gainesville. Honestly, still having a Kmart in town is pretty lucky after what they've been through the last few years. They've closed 500 stores since 2010, and a total of 1,200 since their bankruptcy in 2002. With the Panama City Kmart closing, the only Kmarts left in the panhandle will be the Milton store and one near Fort Walton Beach (I don't remember the exact city off the top of my head).

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    2. I think the town you're thinking of is Niceville. It is a nice little town town too. It's just northeast of Fort Walton Beach

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    3. Actually, I just went on Kmart's store locator and the Kmart is in Fort Walton Beach itself (200 Irwin Ave. NE). It looks like the Niceville store closed in 2014.

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    4. Aha! They're lucky to still have one. That Niceville store had some good reviews.

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  2. Outside of the Marketplace stores, Winn-Dixie had some pretty gross stores in NC too.

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    1. Winn-Dixie had a lot of really old stores in NC before they closed them all, so it's not surprising to hear that.

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  3. When I moved to Panama City from Orlando in '88, Kmart was still a big player in the retail business back then. There were three Kmarts in the area, all located at different sections of US 98, one in Panama City proper, just over Hathaway Bridge on PCB, and another in Callaway. The Callaway store went first, then the one on the beach, now the main one, which I think was Panama City's first. The news story I read on it I think said it opened in 1976. Like everywhere else, they got crowded out by Walmart and Target, but to be fair Target actually has better prices, plus you can find employees to help you at Kmart anymore. They used to be such awesome stores, even as recent as the 90's. It's a shame.

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    1. Kmart was the best back in the 90's! I'm still slightly partial to them to this day since Kmart was the store I primarily grew up with, but they're nothing like they once were. It's sad to see what was once the largest retailer in the US being slowly strangled to death. The last Kmart in my area closed in 2014, leaving their next closest store a 45 minute drive away, so I don't go to Kmart as much anymore. Walmart and Target definitely beat them in price, and Target has the edge as far as store atmosphere goes.

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  4. While this store definitely looks to have been a great example of Winn-Dixie's plights, I have to agree that the intact 80s shiny neon décor is a pretty neat find!

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  5. The WD in Enterprise, Alabama, closed earlier this year. When I was in town on business back in 2010, I went into the store to buy a few things, and felt I was in a time warp. I hadn't seen that style interior in an operating store in at least 15 years.
    Looks like it was last remodeled in the 1980s. Very few stores built before 1990 have the Deli-Bakery in the front left corner of the store. You can even see a "Winn Dixie... America's Supermarket!" labelscar on the front woodwork.
    http://grocerylore.blogspot.com/2016/03/abandoned-winn-dixie-enterprise-al.html

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    1. Wow...The interior at that store in Enterprise looks to be the one that came before the neon one! That is truly amazing how that survived like that until this past February. That store was a relic of the 70's. The deli/bakery with the red tiles was really neat as well! Thanks for that link!

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  6. I'm surprised for as bad as this Winn-Dixie is, they kept the neon lights up. Though not as bad as conditions for Sears and Kmart (TWO iconic retailers rapidly failing under one ownership! Yikes!) SEG isn't exactly treating Winn-Dixie the fairest these days. They keep creating "transformational" stores with no real concerted or sustained effort to push it through the chain (say what you want about Safeway's "Lifestyle" but they DID remodel a vast number of stores to that prototype), and I think that Winn-Dixie is fighting a losing battle with Publix at best. Their store count in Mississippi as of a few years ago was 14 stores. Fourteen! I had thought Winn-Dixie still had stores in SE America. Even Albertsons had four stores in Mississippi at the height of their dominance. The W-D star looks a little brighter in Louisiana, where they still have a good showing in New Orleans (much like A&P years after every other A&P in the South high-tailed it out), but they quickly fade west of the Mississippi River. Hard to believe I once had a Winn-Dixie a mile and a half away from where I live now (by car), and the closest is now 240 miles away (as the crow flies). (For Albertsons, that number is now a third of a mile versus 140 miles away).

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    1. Winn-Dixie has come up with 4 different remodeling campaigns since they emerged from bankruptcy. The first campaign after the bankruptcy was probably their best effort as far as number of stores remodeled, as the three remodels after that (Transformational, Green Interior, and Down Down), probably number no more than 20 stores each. They don't have the money to do elaborate remodels like they did at their prototype store in Jacksonville earlier this year to all of their stores, and I don't think they have the money to do many basic decor swaps either without making them look extremely cheap. While Winn-Dixie's elaborate remodels have been limited in execution, they've done more to try to turn themselves around than Kmart and Sears have over the last decade. Not that Winn-Dixie's efforts have done a whole lot for them, but it was at least something. Last I checked, Winn-Dixie had 9 stores in Mississippi, and they've been shedding a bunch in Alabama. I don't think New Orleans is as competitive of a market, and they don't have Publix strangling the life out of them there like they do in Florida. I know New Orleans has Rouses, but that's about it. Louisiana is also the only area where Winn-Dixie has built any new stores from the ground-up since the bankruptcy, so they must have some decent following there.

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  7. These old images take you back to childhood and the days our parents were young. It is amazing how these shopping centers have evolved and modernized over the past few decades.

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    1. Sure is! It's always interesting to have a small glimpse into a prior era to get a feel of how it was.

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  8. Here's a current inside photo of #160, plus a few a had saved on my old cell phone from
    2013

    https://plus.google.com/107966013183232227964/posts/L5peTAbkKyh

    https://plus.google.com/107966013183232227964/posts/63JWFMHHLVn

    https://plus.google.com/107966013183232227964/posts/9dsNaLCtCTU

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    1. No more neon in there anymore. As outdated as that store was, the neon was still a neat find this many years after its retirement. Thanks for the links to those photos!

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