Florida Choice #XXX / Gooding's of Winter Park / Winn-Dixie #2383
7580 University Boulevard, Winter Park, FL - Uni-Gold Shopping Center
It would have been nice if Floridians chose to shop at Florida Choice, because then Kroger probably would have chosen not to close Florida Choice. Kroger's closure of Florida Choice would lead Floridians to have to choose from Publix, Winn-Dixie or Albertsons instead. So did Kroger make the right choice by closing Florida Choice? And would you have chosen Florida Choice? I don't know - I'm pretty confused myself by all of the choices in this paragraph!
Anyway, while I let all of you ponder those choices, let's talk about the subject of today's feature post - the former Winter Park Florida Choice store (and I promise to go easy on using the word "choice" from here on out!). The Winter Park Florida Choice store opened in April 1988, at the same time as the Florida Choice located at Alafaya Trail and Colonial Drive in Orlando (which we briefly discussed in this post). These two new stores were part of a larger push by Florida Choice to expand within Central Florida. In addition to those two stores, Florida Choice had another store under construction in the Hunt Club area of Western Seminole County, as well as plans to expand their other Winter Park store at Lee Road and US 17-92 (which I never knew they had until I began to research this post), in addition to plans build a store in the Conway neighborhood of Orlando. In an article from May 1988, Kroger said that they wanted to have 20-25 stores located throughout Central Florida, and a Kroger representative was quoted saying the new Orlando area Florida Choice stores "doing beyond our expectations". Things were looking really good for Florida Choice in May 1988! However, two months later in July 1988, Kroger made the announcement that they would be pulling out of Florida, stating that "[Kroger] cannot afford to invest the money needed to compete in the rapidly growing market" and that "our Florida Choice operations have been unprofitable for some time, and our own projections indicate that too much time and additional investment would be required to make them profitable" - statements that essentially contradict what Kroger was putting out only two months prior! I believe I was told that Kroger was also going through a corporate shake-up around the same time Florida Choice was dissolved, which didn't help the young chain much either. In September 1988, it was announced that the Winter Park Florida Choice store was one of 6 locations sold to Gooding's. After only 5 months in operation, the Winter Park Florida Choice was now a Gooding's. Gooding's had a good run in this location, lasting here until the Gooding family sold off 9 of their remaining 12 stores to Winn-Dixie in 2000. This store would officially convert into a Winn-Dixie by 2001. As we will soon see, Winn-Dixie never altered this place much from how it looked in its Gooding's days, something which held true for just about all of the stores they purchased in that batch of 9 in 2000. And because of that, I will finally be able to present to you something I've been hoping to do for ages - what the inside of one of these Florida Choice stores would have looked like!
However, there is one catch as you probably saw in that first photo - the Winn-Dixie had closed! Winn-Dixie silently closed this store in September 2016, exact reasons unknown (unprofitably, lease issues, kicked out, etc.) since they never made an official announcement. However, I did know that this store had closed prior to my visit this day (so no unpleasant surprise this time, like when I tried to photograph the original Gooding's in Maitland just to find an empty lot with a fence around it!). While I wish I had realized to visit this store prior to its closing, the post-closure photos do just as good of a job at conveying this store's layout. Plus, I think seeing photos of the closed store are even more interesting, as dead supermarkets are interesting in their own right!
I'm glad I visited this store when I did, as it was announced in July 2017 that Lucky's Market would be opening a store in this building in Spring/Summer 2018. That means whatever traces of Florida Choice that had laid inside this building will be wiped away once Lucky's began construction. However, knowing that is somewhat bittersweet. While it's nice to see Lucky's move into this empty space, this building was one of the very last perfectly preserved Kroger-built Florida Choice stores left. There still is one more fairly well preserved Florida Choice out there that I'll do a post on when I get the chance, but the current tenant there heavily modified the exterior of that store, as well as made many modifications and updates to interior over the years. Thankfully, the traces of Florida Choice that survived in Winter Park for nearly 30 years will continue to live on here on the blog, even as progress works to wipe them all away.
The design of the exterior is pretty much original to Florida Choice - the bulky rectangular facade with the large windowed vestibule underneath. The Winn-Dixie labelscar is still very clear up there. While the exterior signage was updated to the "newer" logo in the late 2000's, no other major modifications were made to this building from when Winn-Dixie opened to when it closed.
I think we've seen enough exterior overviews for now, so let's head up to the front walkway and inch closer to getting a look at the interior photos...
We'll begin our approach to the vestibule from the right side, the end away from the main entrance. Behind these windows was Winn-Dixie's customer service desk. I probably would have tried to get a photo or two through those uncovered top window panels, but that homeless person just had to be sleeping in this corner. Oh well, I still managed to get some good views of this side of the store through the other windows near the entrance.
Looking down the windows toward the main entrance. Here's a similar (but creepier) view from the old Titusville Florida Choice.
The main entrance lies in that cutout just ahead...
And here we are at the main entrance. One of the only major modifications made to this building (which I think Winn-Dixie did) was removing the outer set of doors from the vestibule. Originally, you would have been greeted by a sight like this upon entering, with two sets of doors inside. Winn-Dixie opted to leave only the inner doors on the angle here, and removed everything else. You can see in the above photo the outline of where the outer doors and windows would have been.
As we get closer to the doors, we get our first few glimpses of the inside...
Winn-Dixie's grammatically incorrect announcement taped to the door, telling shoppers this location will be permanently closed on September 28, 2016.
With all of that anticipation, here is the final payoff - Florida Dixie Choice! Other than Winn-Dixie's signage and checkstands, just about everything else you see here is original to Florida Choice - the floors, the lighting, the ceiling (which looks to be in awful shape) and the layout. Speaking of the flooring, remember that zig-zag on the floor (see here and here)? There it is again in the bottom right of this photo! That zig-zag was apparently a popular 80's Kroger design, and can also be seen at this Kroger store as of 2015. While the zig-zag at that Kroger store was a deep red color, this Florida Choice one is more of an orange color (hold onto that thought for later in this post).
Lining almost the entire right side of the store is the produce department. In the back right corner behind produce is the deli.
By the time I made my visit to this store, the Winn-Dixie had been closed for just over two months. Even that far out, they still had all of their stuff in here, so apparently they were in no rush to clean the place out! As you can see, this store has the original variant of their Purple/Maroon interior from the early 2000's. This is the decor that replaced the longtime Marketplace interior, which had been in use in some form for most of the 90's. The original variant of the Purple/Maroon interior was practically the same as the later version. The main difference between the two was that the earlier stores to get this interior got the flat aisle signs you see in here (some better photos of which are coming up), while the later ones got the much more common tri-siders.
As we pan further to the left, we begin to see more of the grocery aisles. The seafood counter signage can be seen behind aisle 5, with meats beginning to the left of that along the back wall.
Meats continue along the back wall. Feel free to click on any of these photos in order to zoom in on them, as that makes viewing the stuff in the background much easier.
Moving further to the left, we see someone has slowly begun the process of dismantling the store. That rectangular texturing you see along the back wall was part of Winn-Dixie's Purple/Maroon decor, and not from any of the prior tenants. However, something is jumping out at me from the end of aisle 8...
Sorry, but this was the best I could do as far as zooming in was concerned. Since this aisle was partially broken down, I noticed a weird orange tile pattern on the back wall (look above the open front cooler, and below the '8' on the aisle sign - it's a thin sliver). The orange tiles were much more apparent in person unfortunately. I'm going to guess those tiles are another Florida Choice relic. Between the orange zig-zag floor pattern (remember how I said that would tie in later?) and these orange wall tiles, I'm going to take a guess here and say Florida Choice's interior decor had some kind of orange-pastel theme to it. As much as I would love to see some actual interior photos of a Florida Choice to potentially confirm that theory, I have yet to find any. However, flickr user cflretail did turn up an exterior photo of the original Rockledge Florida Choice store, which you can see here. Here are some photos of (what I think was) Kroger's late 80's decor, which could have very likely been what Florida Choice used, just with that modified orange-pastel color scheme to fit the Florida theme.
Moving into the left side of the store now, the ceiling drops low once again to mark the transition into the pharmacy and frozen foods.
Health and beauty were located in a few short aisles in front of the pharmacy box, one of which can be seen in the foreground here.
Here's a better overview of the Health and Beauty aisles. You can also begin to see frozen foods in the background, as well as the last aisle, aisle 16. I also want to say the bakery was in the front left corner between the pharmacy and frozen foods. The bakery was the only department I didn't see signage for, and this is the only other place where they could have hid it. There is also a chance the bakery was in the back right near the deli, as Winn-Dixie does have a lot of combined deli-bakery departments, but I am doubtful that was the case here.
The pharmacy counter now begins to peek out as I keep panning to the left. Also, more orange tile in front of the pharmacy box too.
So we will conclude our interior tour of the Florida Dixie Choice with this look at the pharmacy box. It's slightly washed out by the lights, but if you look above the windows to the right of the pole, you can see a small green "Pharmacy" sign on the wall. It's a weird sign for Winn-Dixie, but I'm doubtful it's a Florida Choice remnant.
Back outside we go now with this look down the front walkway, looking toward the left side of the building.
Unlike the Titusville and Rockledge Florida Choice stores we took a look at last year, which had their liquor stores tucked into the left side of the entry vestibule (see here for the Rockledge example - the liquor store is accessed through the doors on the left), the Winter Park Florida Choice had its liquor store on the far left side of the building (similar to how most other grocery chains in Florida would place it). The old Florida Choice liquor store is still a liquor store today, an independent by the name of Big C Liquors. Here's an interior photo if it, but I'm not getting any kind of crazy Kroger vibe from there.
An attempt at an overview of the entire building, although I still managed to chop off part of the building's right side. These old Florida Choice stores are quite wide!
And here are a few more exterior photos of this store from this quiet Saturday morning before we jump into the satellite images...
And for the record, here's a Google Streetview image of this store with its most recent exterior signage still up.
And thanks to the conveniently outdated Orange County Property Appraiser photos, here we can see the Winn-Dixie with its original signage from when it opened around 2000-2001. These few stores that Winn-Dixie acquired from Gooding's in 2000 were probably the last to be called "Marketplace" stores, as that was around the same time when Winn-Dixie would finally drop that concept in favor of stores that looked like this one, as well as more Purple/Maroon remodels of older stores that never got the Marketplace design. I don't know about the yellow color on the facade in this photo, but that blue shingle was more than likely a Florida Choice remnant too before it was repainted in the late 2000's, as blue and white was their primary exterior color scheme.
Anyway, let's now jump into some Bird's Eye aerial images, courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now for some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Winn-Dixie #2383 - 2016 - Overview of Uni-Gold Shopping Center
Winn-Dixie #2383 - 2008
Winn-Dixie #2383 - 2002
Gooding's of Winter Park - 1999
Gooding's of Winter Park - 1994
Future Florida Choice - 1980 - Not much out here back then. The Florida Choice would later be built on that orange grove at the southeast corner of Goldenrod and University. However, they wouldn't be the first grocery store on this corner. That honor actually goes to Winn-Dixie, who's original store was across the street in that other shopping center you can see in the above aerial image.
7450 University Boulevard, Winter Park, FL - University Square
The original Winn-Dixie opened in the late 1970s, and I marked its location in the above plaza. Winn-Dixie remained in this plaza until the new store in the former Florida Choice/Gooding's opened in late 2000/early 2001. The new store was much larger than this older one, as you can see.
However, in 2005, the old Winn-Dixie and much of the plaza that it was in was torn down in order to make room for a new Super Target and its large parking lot.
So to conclude this post, I figured it would be best to do so with some Florida Choice memorabilia! Contributor William S. sent in the memorabilia pieces you're going to see today, starting with this magazine ad. This ad appeared in a copy of Tampa Bay Magazine in early 1988, not long before Florida Choice was dissolved. There aren't any pitcures of a Florida Choice store itself in the ad, but we do get to see a full color version of their logo here.
So even though Floridians chose not to shop at Florida Choice, thank you for choosing to view this former Florida Choice store here on AFB. And as I said before, Lucky's chose to take over this former Florida Choice, so we'll have to see what they choose to do with this building. However, I can say this about Lucky's - Floridians sure have chosen to support them (unlike Florida Choice). Even with Lucky's rapid expansion across Florida, they're still nowhere near to catching up with Publix, Florida's #1 Choice for grocery shopping.
Thankfully, those are all the choices I have for now. Until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger