Albertsons #4462/Sedano's #40
12981 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL - Southchase Plaza
This is a store I've been holding off from featuring on the blog for quite a while. This here is one of the most exciting former Albertsons stores in the entire state of Florida, and I've been waiting for just the right moment to share this store with everyone. Since today marks AFB's 3rd anniversary, it seemed like it was finally the right time for me to do this post. It won't be long before you see why this store is so interesting, and this store will definitely bring back memories to all of the Albertsons fans out there. So without much further ado, let's jump into the story of former Albertsons #4462...
In the early 1990's, South Orlando between the Osceola County line and Route 528 was just beginning to transition from citrus groves, farms, and swampland into the suburban neighborhoods and gated communities that now make up this area. The Route 417 expressway had just opened through this area to connect Disney with the South and East Orlando suburbs, and development was at an all time high in South Orlando. The neighborhoods of Hunter's Creek, Southchase, and Meadow Woods, among others, appeared for the first time during the 1990's, and the main roads that serviced these neighborhoods, South Orange Blossom Trail and John Young Parkway, became the center of retail around here. Albertsons opened their South Orlando store in 1999. This store was one of the very first prototype stores to open with the Early 2000's store design and the Theme Park/Grocery Palace interior. After a decade of serving South Orlando, Albertsons announced this would be one of three Central Florida stores they were to sell to Miami-based Hispanic grocer Sedano's as a part of their entrance into the Central Florida market in late 2009 (the other two Central Florida stores Albertsons sold were store #4410 in Kissimmee and #4347 at Semoran and Curry Ford in Orlando). In early 2010, Sedano's officially took over this store and the other two Central Florida Albertsons stores they purchased. Sedano's did a small bit of remodeling at the stores they took over, including installing new decor and some new paint at the Kissimmee and Curry Ford stores, while still retaining many of the distinctively Albertsons elements at the buildings they took over. As far as remodeling went at this particular location, well, we'll see how that went in a little bit...
Other than installing some new signage, the exterior still remains as it was when Albertsons was here. Sedano's even kept Albertsons blue paint accents along the exterior of the building.
Some more exterior detailing off to the side of the entrance and exit area.
The former liquor store lies off in the distance down this walkway, but we'll take a quick look down there at the end of this post. Next to the front door, Sedano's also kept Albertsons' old "OPEN" window decaling.
No point standing outside, as what makes this store interesting is through those doors! Let's head inside and see why this will probably be one of the best AFB store tours ever!
Here's our first peek at what we're about to get ourselves into. If you haven't figured it out already by my few hints, here you can see that this store's original Grocery Palace interior remains almost completely in tact! These first few photos don't show a whole lot, but as we get further into the store we'll be able to see most of the decorations and props that made this decor unique.
Anyway, the restrooms are located immediately to the left upon entering. This store has the typical Grocery Palace layout that can be seen here. The main difference between that diagram and this store was that the Snack Central and Health and Beauty aisles in the center of the store ran in the same orientation as the other aisles (perpendicular to the front rather than parallel).
The old pharmacy express services window. After Albertsons sold this store to Sedano's, Sedano's rented out the pharmacy space to an independent pharmacist as they do not run their own pharmacies. Presently, the independent pharmacy has closed and this area just sits empty. Here you can also see how Sedano's took care of all of the Albertsons logos that were on the old signage - they just stuck a sticker with their Circle-S logo on it over the Albertsons one.
This is the corridor that runs between the entrance and exit. The original customer service counter would have been to the left, and the "Albertsons Reading Center" would have been to the right. Sedano's turned the former reading center space into office space for a travel agency and one other business I can't remember.
And here's where the real fun will begin! Turning to the left after entering we find the front left corner of the store, home to the old "Meals to Go" counter to the left, with the old deli counter off in the distance. The giant spinning "Meal Center" sign with the giant chef is still here too! (It doesn't spin anymore, though). To account for the fact that this sign spun, Albertsons gave the giant chef two faces (one facing front, the other facing back), so this prop is actually a bit creepy when viewed up close. Below the Meal Center sign would have been a warmer where a display of rotisserie chickens, prepackaged bags of deli fried chicken, and some daily "Meal Deal" specials would be placed. Where all of those tables are now would have been coolers filled with prepackaged deli meats and cheeses. Sedano's has converted this area into a cafe, and the old Meals to Go counter and the deli counter are both stations where you can order food.
Moving into the back left corner of the store now, where we find the produce department and aisle 1. Those black spotlights are from Albertsons as well, and they line up with where the produce bins were when Albertsons was here. Sedano's uses part of the produce space for bulk foods, which you can see further toward the back of the store.
The theme for the produce department was to make it feel like an old farmer's market. That's why the graphics included the worn wood background and the vintage produce ads, which you can see in the following picture:
Albertsons used to have a produce prep area behind some cases along the back wall in this approximate area. Sedano's removed those cases in order to free up some more floor space for bulk foods.
And here along the back wall next to produce is the bakery, complete with a giant 3D picture of all the breads, cakes, and cookies you could have bought here. Like with the deli, Sedano's has also turned this area into another cafe, and the offering of baked goods was fairly minimal (which is common at these Hispanic oriented supermarkets, although the selection at this store was larger than usual due to the extra space they have here). You can also see an example of one of the Theme Park/Grocery Palace aisle markers here.
The area under the brown portion of wall used to be a small alcove where the majority of the baked goods used to be kept. With the new service counter Sedano's installed, most of the alcove space has been blocked off.
Looking into the old bakery space. The cafe here now was more oriented toward coffees and pastries, unlike the cafe up front where you could buy an entire lunch or dinner.
Those cases along the wall are in the original placement from the Albertsons days. Even the Carvel freezer off to the right hasn't moved!
One final look back toward the bakery before moving on to more of this store.
Looking toward the right side of the store from the main back aisle. As we move further toward the right side of the building, it feels more and more like Albertsons never left.
Snack Central floor tiling, now in the cereal aisle. Unfortunately, the Snack Central and Beverage Boulevard signage and props have been removed from this store. I'm going to guess that Albertsons themselves was the one to remove that signage. This store closed in 2009, and not long before that was when Albertsons removed Beverage Boulevard and Snack Central from store #4466 during a storewide reset. I don't think Sedano's would have gone through all the trouble to remove a giant bowl of party mix from the ceiling either, considering what they did throughout the rest of the store.
Beverage Boulevard now meets Snack Central in this aisle.
Looking back toward the front. That tile pattern means we're getting close to health & beauty and the pharmacy counter...
"Better Care Center" was the signage for the Health & Beauty Department. Health & Beauty is still located in this area - it's just hidden behind the pallet of vegetable oil and the shelf of ketchup.
The closed pharmacy counter. This was a generically branded Albertsons pharmacy and not a Sav-On pharmacy when Albertsons was still here. I still have no idea what determined if a store got an "Albertsons Pharmacy" or "Sav-On Pharmacy".
Looking across the front of the store from the pharmacy counter. One thing to note on the Aisle 8 sign is the "perfumes" placard. In the late 90's and early 2000's, Albertsons added designer perfumes to their product lineup, such as Calvin Klein and other department store perfume brands. Usually, the expensive perfumes were kept in a locked case in this aisle, although some Grocery Palace stores had a special "fragrance counter" with a perfume attendant. It was one of the stranger product additions Albertsons made in recent times. They must have some decent perfume sales too, as the Altamonte Springs Albertsons now Safeway still has the expensive perfume lock case.
So now that we know about Albertsons' history in the perfume business, let's get back to our look at this store...
More from the grocery aisles here...
Along the back wall, after the bakery, is the "International Deli" alcove. This area was (and still is) home to the larger selection of lunch meats and cheeses.
It was was while I was walking through this alcove where all of my old memories of shopping at store 4466 flooded back into my mind. Overall, Sedano's didn't do much to the store as we've seen so far, especially considering almost all of the decor is still in place. However, over in this alcove everything from the signage to where all of the products were located was exactly as I remembered it from my many years of shopping at Albertsons.
Coming out of the International Deli alcove we find the Beer and Wine Department. This department was designed to feel like a wine cellar from the effects of the dark colors and dim lighting in this area, as well as the hanging wooden lattice over the department. I've seen those wooden lattices with fake grape vines wrapped around them, which makes the wine cellar effect even stronger. This department also had a hanging sign that looked similar to the International Deli one that you just saw, but it looks like the beer and wine one was removed at some point.
Another one of the unique features introduced with these Grocery Palace stores were the walk in beer coolers. Inside that door you would find the overstock beer pallets that you could take from, as well as kegs of beer.
Closeup of the Wine Cellar tile pattern.
One final look at the Beer and Wine department. I really like the way the lighting turned out in this picture.
Moving further into the right side of the store we find the Meat and Seafood service counter. The Meat and Seafood counter was designed to look like an old, weathered fish market.
The Meat and Seafood counter was pretty busy, so getting photos of it was fairly difficult. Seeing the crowd standing in front of this meat counter reminded me of the crowds that always used to form in front of the identical counter at 4466. Anyway, my boring reminiscences aside, this photo and the next one were taken from two aisles that ended right in front of this counter. This photo is looking at the left half of the meat and seafood counter...
...and this one looks at the right half of the meat and seafood counter.
Taking a few steps back from the meat and seafood counter we find ourselves in the greeting cards and party supply aisle. Even this department got its own prop from Albertsons - that thing with all of the ribbons hanging off of it.
Another look at the prop hanging over the greeting card aisle, this time from the next aisle over.
The baby supplies aisle, complete with the alphabet block tile decaling and custom made category markers.
A closeup of one of the custom teddy bear shaped category markers in the baby aisle.
Moving on, the floral department was located to the left of the old main pharmacy counter. Sedano's doesn't have a floral department at all - they just never bothered to take down any of Albertsons' old floral signs. The floral department is now home to a cell phone repair counter.
The side of the old floral counter. This is what you see immediately to the left of the pharmacy.
The front end of the store. The registers are to the right, and frozen foods and the old pet department corner are off in the distance.
Returning to the back of the store again for a look at the Meats & Poultry alcove, home to all of the prepackaged meats. This is located immediately to the right of the Meat & Seafood counter seen not too long ago.
The milk barn! This is located in the very back right corner of the store. I know you're probably tired of my references to 4466 by now, but another one of the strange things about that store was that it never got the big barn for its milk coolers, one of the most famous features of the Grocery Palace decor. Instead, 4466 had dairy located in a dark little alcove in this same spot, underneath the frozen foods drop ceiling we will be taking a look at next.
This wavy drop ceiling runs along the far right side of the store, and helps to distinguish the division between the frozen foods aisles and the rest of the grocery aisles.
The first frozen food aisle starts under the edge of the wavy drop ceiling, and shares this aisles with bottles of water and soda.
Aisles 22 is the last aisle in this store, and is home to more frozen and refrigerated goods.
Looking down aisle 22. Here you can see one of the biggest issues Albertsons faced with the Grocery Palace interior after time: the wooden slats that made up the drop ceiling would fall out over time, or would have to be removed in order to get to the light fixtures above it. They never bothered to replace the slats once they were taken out, leaving these large holes in the ceiling. I've seen this happen at multiple stores. Also, it looks like Sedano's is having some issues with their coolers leaking...
Heading out of aisle 22 for another look down the front end, this time from the other side of the store.
In the front right corner of the store is Albertsons' old pet department, called the "Pet Care Center" by the old Grocery Palace signage. Sedano's moved all of the pet supplies into the main grocery aisles when they took over, and turned this corner into the Sedano's Beverage Center, home to pallets of water, soda, and malta (a popular soda-like drink in Hispanic countries that's described as a bubbly and sweet-tasting non-fermented beer).
The only modification Sedano's made to any of the signage in here was turning the giant spinning Pet Care Center sign into a giant non-spinning Beverage Center sign. You can see some pictures of what this sign originally looked like here and here (complete with the floating pets), as well as get a glimpse of the custom designed doghouse category markers.
The little paw print tile decals still survive among the pallets of drinks...
...as well as the pet department wall decaling depicting pets sitting and playing in a yard.
Next to the pet department in the front of the store is this short hallway that leads to an emergency exit, as well as some electrical panels and an office.
Hanging over the old pet department are signs for aisles 23 (not pictured here), 24 and 25. Sedano's removed the placards when they removed the pet supplies from this corner, but left the numbers. These numbers don't really serve much of a purpose anymore as this department isn't arranged in aisles, and is more just random pallets. Also, here you can see the customer service counter in the background, located under the "Tobacco Store" sign. The sign next to the Tobacco Store once read "Photo Center", but the photo portion of that sign was removed long ago when Albertsons got out of the photo business in the early 2000's.
Another look toward the front end, with the customer service desk in the background.
The registers lie straight ahead here.
Immediately to my left here was the old Video Store and Rental Center, located in front of the registers. Sedano's removed all of the signage for the Video Center in order to lease this space out to other tenants, however you can see the old Hollywood theme tile decals from this department on the floor.
I honestly have no idea what this Boost Mobile space originally was when Albertsons was here. In 4466, this space was home to a cafe that was abandoned for just about as long as the store was open. The old cafe in 4466 had a curved red front though with green spotlights pointing to where a sign once was, and didn't look anything like this.
Albertsons old register counters remain here as well. These Grocery Palace stores had the standard belts to load groceries onto, but the more unique, classic Albertsons turntables for bagging groceries rather than loading like can be seen at that link. Those register lights are from Albertsons too, and are the generic advertisement ones that were installed in almost every Albertsons owned store after the breakup of the company in 2006. These new-build Grocery Palace stores didn't have register lights, although the express lanes had very large blue cube signs to designate what they were.
One final look at the front end as we begin to depart this former Albertsons...
My last interior photo before I left was this one of the pharmacy island, showing some more of the detailing. Here you can see a fake window (complete with a flower box filled with dusty fake flowers) to give the effect that the pharmacy island was an old downtown building in the middle of the store. One of the main goals of the Grocery Palace interior was to give the effect of being in an old downtown with many small shops. That's why Albertsons went through so much trouble trying to give every department in the store its own unique feel to make each department its own "store" so to speak.
And with that, we're now find ourselves outside again after taking a trip back in time, a trip back to an era where Albertsons still had over 100 stores across Florida and when the company was at their peak. Then a few short years later, Albertsons fell off of that peak and went splat on the ground, and left me with 170 former Florida locations to cover.
Anyway, let's take a quick trip over to the former liquor store before we begin to wrap things up...
The former liquor store is located to the left of the main store, and is now home to a location of Knightly Spirits Liquor, a small liquor store chain of 5 stores located throughout the Orlando area. The name is a reference to the University of Central Florida's mascot, the knight.
The entrance to the liquor store.
And finally, a photo of the main road sign that faces South Orange Blossom Trail.
Now, let's move onto some Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now, some historic aerial images courtesy of Google Earth:
Former Albertsons #4462 - 2016
Albertsons #4462 - 2008
Albertsons #4462 - 2002
Albertsons #4462 - Late 1999 - A brand new Albertsons store in this image.
Future Albertsons #4462 - Early 1999 - And here you can see this store still under construction.
Future Albertsons #4462 - 1995 - In 1995, all that was here was swampland.
So there you have it, one of the best preserved former Albertsons stores in the entire state! I know the Grocery Palace decor is 17 years old now, and is a bit worn around the edges where it still remains, but it is still my favorite supermarket decor. Grocery Palace was unique with its giant props and spinning signs, and I haven't seen too many other large grocery chains try anything as crazy as Grocery Palace was. I credit that interior for making me like Albertsons so much way back when. So if you're even in the need for some Albertsons nostalgia and find yourself in the Orlando area, this place will fill your need and take you back to that era where Albertsons was (for a very short time in 1999) the #1 grocery chain in the country. If you aren't going to be in the Orlando area anytime soon and are in the need for some Albertsons nostalgia, well, that's what this blog is here for.
To officially conclude this post, why not feature a photo of this store back when Albertsons was still here? This photo is from the Orange County Property Appraiser's website, and was taken on February 5, 2006. Like I said earlier in this post, other than the new signage, the building is still exactly the same as it was back when Albertsons was still here.
So I hope you all liked this look at the former South Orlando Albertsons. I typically take the rest of December off from posting, but I may or may not have a post that will go up on the 18th. No guarantees on that one yet, but if I don't get around to that post, I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger