Albertsons #4463/Walmart Neighborhood Market #2499
8801 Conroy Windermere Road, Orlando, FL - Shoppes of Windermere
Yes, it's time once again to see how Walmart
mangled up converted yet another really nice early 2000's Albertsons as part of their quest to expand the Neighborhood Market concept in Florida. Today we will get to see what Walmart did to former Albertsons #4463, an Albertsons store that people mentioned to me quite often. This Albertsons opened in the Fall of 1999, complete with the rather new-at-the-time Grocery Palace/Theme Park interior. While you can see many of the typical early 2000's Albertsons design elements on the exterior of this building, Albertsons did modify the exterior design for this store to better compliment the upscale Windermere neighborhood in which this store was built. This area (as well as the nearby Dr. Phillips neighborhood) is home to some of the highest income demographics in the city of Orlando. Just across the street from this plaza are developments containing mansions, so this Albertsons had some high expectations to live up to. This store seemed to acquire a bit of a following over its years here, and it managed to stay in business until the last big Albertsons Florida closure wave in 2012 (the one that knocked out 13 of the 17 remaining Albertsons stores in the state at the time). This store's final day in operation was June 9, 2012, and had the honor of being the last Albertsons within the Orlando city limits to close. Before Albertsons even turned the key in the door for the last time, Walmart announced on June 1, 2012 that they were to be taking over this building to open a new Neighborhood Market store. As soon as Albertsons was out, Walmart went in and completely gutted the old Albertsons down to the steel walls, leaving not a trace of the old interior behind. Walmart was able to move fast, and their new Neighborhood Market opened here on March 15, 2013, just a little over 9 months after the Albertsons closed. While Walmart completely removed all traces of Albertsons from the inside of this building, they at least left the original Albertsons exterior here (unlike at another store they took over). The biggest change to the exterior came from repainting it Walmart brown.
Here's a look across the exterior of the store, where we can see some of the added accents to the exterior to make it look more visually interesting. Unlike what we saw at #4466, where Walmart only took over three quarters of the former Albertsons, Walmart took up the entire 55,000 square foot former Albertsons space here. At 55,000 square feet, this is actually an unusually large Walmart Neighborhood Market. Most Walmart NM stores are around 40,000 square feet. Even with the extra 15,000 square feet, this store didn't feel much bigger than a typical Walmart Neighborhood Market.
Looking toward the left side of the building. That tall shrub growing up the right side of the main entry arch had a match on the other side at one time, but it must have fallen over in a wind storm or something in recent years. Now it just looks off balance to me with the one shrub.
A decorative element off to the far left of the building. If they put this closer to the main entrance, it could have made for a nice cart storage area. I actually thought that's what this was for when I first got here.
Looking down the front walkway toward the main entrance. It still feels very Albertsons-like out here, but that effect will all go away shortly once we head inside.
The main entrance lies to my left in this view. If Walmart wanted to put in new doors here so bad, I don't know why they couldn't have picked black doors to match the rest of the window trim from Albertsons. I've seen those same doors in black at other Walmart stores, so they do exist in that color. The white doors with black all around them just doesn't look good to me. Anyway, that little complaint out of the way, let's head inside and see what happened in there...
The entry vestibule is still set up in the Albertsons style, with the carts placed between the entrance and exit doors like this. Once we leave the vestibule, we won't be seeing much else from Albertsons.
Leaving the vestibule and turning to the left, we enter Walmart's produce department. Originally, this space would have been home to the Meals to Go department and the deli counter, and would have looked a bit like this. Big difference between then and now. This store would have had an interior floorplan similar to this when Albertsons was still here. The floorplan of this Walmart Neighborhood Market is exactly the same as this one, and is the floorplan Walmart still uses for their current Neighborhood Markets. Unfortunately, this Walmart Neighborhood Market has the rather blah "Cheap Impact" era Neighborhood Market decor, which is definitely a good few notches down from what Albertsons had in here!
Looking across the front of the store from produce. There isn't any Albertsons feel in this building anymore. It's all Walmart in here now.
Here are a few more shots of the produce department and the front left corner of the store before we move along toward meats...
The first aisle of the store is home to juices, meats, and prepackaged deli products. Off in the distance you can see Walmart's tiny deli counter. In this building's Albertsons days, this photo would have been facing the bulk of the produce department.
This rack of prepackaged bread and cakes was the entirety of the bakery at this store. At these early 2010's Walmart Neighborhood Market stores, the bakery was essentially an afterthought. In Walmart's latest Neighborhood Market design, the full service bakeries have been restored.
The tiny deli in the back left corner of the store. The newest Neighborhood Market stores also expanded these tiny delis in addition to restoring the bakery. Those new stores also include a pizza kitchen, and have much better service departments overall than the Neighborhood Market stores from this era.
Looking across the back of the store from the deli. Dairy takes up the majority of the back wall space at this store. Here's another similar photo of what this part of the store would have looked like back in the Albertsons days. Big difference.
Moving into the grocery aisles and the center part of the store now.
This is the center aisle that cuts each grocery aisle in half.
You can't see it well in the photo, but there was something weird going on with some of the floor tiles back by the dairy cases. It looks like some of the tiles were patched up for some reason, but the patch looks all scuffed up.
Moving further toward the right side of the store we find the frozen food department.
The milk coolers lie underneath the main dairy department signage. However, nothing will ever say dairy department quite like this did!
Getting closer to the end of the grocery aisles, the back wall space eventually changes from dairy coolers to paper products.
A tour of a Cheap Impact Walmart isn't complete without a photo of an aisle sign missing a number!
This aisle (22/23, pet supplies) is one of the last of the main grocery aisles. After the main grocery aisles end you find the small Neighborhood Market general merchandise department and the pharmacy.
Speaking of the pharmacy, here's a photo of it. The pharmacy is located in the front right corner of the store, where Albertsons' old pet department was located.
Here's the general merchandise section of the store. In Walmart's current Neighborhood Market layout, the general merchandise aisles are turned perpendicular to the main grocery aisles to separate this part of the store from the grocery section. This is looking down the main double wide aisle that serves the general merchandise department. The pharmacy counter lies to my right from where I stood to take this picture.
This main aisle served as a home to the seasonal merchandise selection. The general merchandise aisles are roughly in the area of where Albertsons' frozen foods department would have been.
Like most Neighborhood Market stores, a good majority of the general merchandise section was dedicated to health and beauty products, the signage for which can be seen here. This is looking down the right side wall of this store.
The baby care aisle in the general merchandise section of the store.
Cleaning products. A small selection of hardware lies at the end of this aisle along the wall.
The last general merchandise aisle, which is home to the remainder of the paper products.
Back around to the main aisle, this time for a look toward the front of the store.
That opening probably leads to the breakroom and manager's offices. That opening is located close to where this hallway would have been, the hall which lead to Albertsons' offices.
The customer service counter near the front of the store.
One last look across the front of the store as we prepare to leave.
As you walk toward the exit door, Walmart wanted to give their shoppers one last impression with one of their creative soda box displays. I thought this watermelon shaped one with "WALMART" spelled out under it was pretty neat. However, Albertsons did beat Walmart out on creativity one time with one of their soda box displays - Albertsons built an entire walk through house out of soda cases! I have yet to see Walmart try something like that! Also, I have no idea why there is a Publix circular hanging from the register I was standing next to. It could have been something from a part of Walmart's competitor price comparison campaign, or maybe someone was just trying to be funny.
As we get ready to leave the main store, we might as well do as the sign in the photo says and make a quick visit to the liquor store next door...
Exiting the main store, this is the walkway that leads over to the attached liquor store.
Unlike every other attached liquor store sign you'll see in Florida, the sign for the liquor store here says "Spirits" rather than the usual "Liquor". This was also the case when Albertsons was here. I guess "Spirits" sounds classier than "Liquor" does.
Here's a better photo of the attached "Spirits" store. Walmart has been pushing for a while to get the state of Florida to pass legislation to end Florida's longtime law of having to sell hard liquor in a separate storefront. For the last four or so years laws to remove the ban, or at the last allow a door between the liquor store and the main store, have been brought to the state legislature but fail every time. Even with Walmart's and other big box store's support for the removal of the ban, there is one big player that wants to keep things as they are and deeply opposes the change. That big opponent would be Publix, who feels the Florida "liquor wall" law is the perfect business model for them and their image. Even though Walmart hasn't had success with the removal of the ban yet and the debate continues on, Walmart has designed their ground-up built Florida Neighborhood Markets to where they could easily install a door between the liquor store and the main store should they ever get their way.
Now it's time for some Bird's Eye aerial images, courtesy of Bing Maps:
Front and Left Sides - The building is still Albertsons in these images.
Front and Right Sides
Back and Right Sides
Back and Left Sides
Now for some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth:
Former Albertsons #4463 - 2016
Albertsons #4463 - 2008
Albertsons #4463 - 2002
Future Albertsons #4463 - 1999 - Under construction here. It looks like they were just starting the shell of the building when this image was taken.
Future Albertsons #4463 - 1995
So yet another former Albertsons continues on as a Walmart Neighborhood Market. And a few more former Albertsons stores will soon be sharing this same fate, in addition to the 4 former Albertsons locations that have already become home to Walmart Neighborhood Markets (#4323, #4463, #4466, and #4482). This spring, a Walmart Neighborhood Market will be opening at the site of former Albertsons #4357 in Vero Beach. Even though that was a fairly old store, I believe Walmart kept the original Albertsons structure, although heavily modified. Also, I saw preliminary plans online that the long abandoned former Albertsons #4412 in Oviedo was to be turned into a Walmart Neighborhood Market as well. Walmart is taking advantage of the fact that Publix is their only other big threat down here, and these Neighborhood Markets continue to pop up everywhere.
Since this is an Orange County Albertsons store, why not finish off this post with yet another outdated photo from the county's property appraiser's office? Although somewhat obstructed by the many trees in the parking lot, this is ol' 4463 in its prime. This photo dates to June 15, 2006, just a few weeks after the split-up of Albertsons was approved by the FTC and the company entered its decade of decline. There were still around 100 Albertsons stores in Florida at this time. Ten years later, there would be none.
And here's a photo of the attached "Spirits" store from June 2006, the only Albertsons liquor store I've seen to use "Spirits" rather than "Liquor" on the main exterior sign.
So that's it for former Albertsons #4463. More good stuff coming in two weeks!
The Albertsons Florida Blogger