|Photo Courtesy of Brent Yandell on flickr|
Albertsons #4340 / Service Merchandise #59 / U-Haul of Jasmine Lakes
10340 US Highway 19, Port Richey, FL
Coming off the heels of the most famous shopping center in Florida, we're now going to visit what was probably the most famous abandoned retail building in Florida: the former Port Richey Service Merchandise! While this building gained some notoriety in the world of retail fans for being a long abandoned Service Merchandise, complete with original signage nearly 15 years after that chain's demise, this building was not always home to a Service Merchandise. Rarely is it ever mentioned online that this building originally began its life as an Albertsons! It's still pretty obvious that this building originally housed an Albertsons too, as the classic 70's/early 80's Albertsons traits are still very strong on this building all these years since Albertsons closed this store.
|Photo Courtesy of Andy Callahan on flickr|
|Photo Courtesy of Alan Quigley on flickr|
Shortly after Albertsons closed their Port Richey store, Service Merchandise would open a new "prototype" store (as they called it) in this building on October 4, 1990. For those of you unfamiliar with Service Merchandise, they were a catalog showroom store, famous for their unique way of running stores. Instead of putting multiple products on a shelf, Service Merchandise would instead put out a single display of the products they were selling. If you wanted to purchase a product, you would fill out a slip with the item number on it, which would be delivered to a cashier once all product selections were made. The cashier would tell the stockroom the item number of the desired products, and the customer would go to a merchandise pickup area in the store where the famous conveyor belt system would deliver the purchased product to the customer. I know many people have memories of Service Merchandise's conveyor system, since it was fairy unique. While Service Merchandise sold a wide variety of products (toys, electronics, housewares, gifts, sporting goods, etc.) jewelry was their main focus (typical of most catalog stores), with jewelry counters taking up nearly one third of the average Service Merchandise showroom.
|Photo Courtesy of James Harris on flickr|
|Photo Courtesy of Thomas E.|
David C., a local who contributed many of the pictures we'll be seeing later in this post (in addition to the research I mentioned earlier), visited this store a few times during its Service Merchandise years. This is how he described the interior of this Service Merchandise store:
"I visited the store as a Service Merchandise only. The high ceilings were left intact then, and Service Merchandise lowered the ceiling over the jewelry section (roughly where frozen food would have been in center store). The northern 1/3 of the building (side entrance and liquor) was walled off; this space was used as their stockroom and merchandise pick-up conveyor system."
Going off of what David described, it seems like Service Merchandise did some interior modifications to this building, but I'd say much of the Albertsons "feel" probably remained inside through the Service Merchandise days.
|Photo Courtesy of Alan Quigley on flickr|
It's always fascinating to see the signage of a dead retailer up on a building, especially 15 years after that retailer's demise. While the front of this building had a plain, block letter Service Merchandise sign, the sign on the side of the building was instead the more familiar 90's script-style Service Merchandise logo (which is the one I always think of when I hear the name "Service Merchandise"). In this close-up photo you can see a labelscar behind the Service Merchandise sign, which faintly says "DRUGS FOOD" - a remnant from Albertsons' 80's style signage (we'll have a better look at the Albertsons labelscar later on).
In addition to the photos above of this store with the Service Merchandise signage still in-tact, I also found this Youtube video of some people poking around the old Service Merchandise building. The video also includes a look at the abandoned Barnett Bank in front of this store too.
|This photo (and the 17 photos to follow it) are courtesy of AFB contributor David C.|
As I said earlier, for nearly 15 years this building was left abandoned. In 2007 there was a proposal to put an Ashley Furniture store at this location (a plan which never came to fruition due to the upcoming recession, although Ashley would later open a Pasco location in The Piers Shopping Plaza near the mall in 2017). I was certain that this building was going to eventually be demolished when something finally decided to move onto this property. However, that prediction was thankfully not the case! In 2016, it was announced that U-Haul had purchased the old Albertsons/Service Merchandise building as well as the abandoned Barnett Bank out front, with the property being converted into a new U-Haul truck rental and self storage complex. U-Haul's purchase of this building was part of their "adaptive reuse" sustainability initiative, where U-Haul purchases abandoned buildings (including former retail boxes) in order to turn them into new U-Haul centers. This is the direct link to U-Haul's story about reusing the former Port Richey Albertsons/Service Merchandise, although those prior two links I included share some other U-Haul adaptive reuse stories from around the country.
This first block of photos we'll see show this building early in U-Haul's renovations of the site. The former Albertsons/Service Merchandise building is going to be converted into space for self-storage units, while the old Barnett Bank out front will house U-Haul's sales office and moving/packing supply store. U-Haul's adaptive reuse renovation projects typically take a while to get completed. When U-Haul took over the former Palm Bay Kmart in 2016, it took them well over a year to finish renovating the building (even though they had the facility up and running rather fast after the announcement of their arrival was first made). When David took these photos in Summer 2017, U-Haul had only begun cleaning up the building. The signage had been removed and the years of graffiti was painted over. Since this building had been sealed up well for the last 15 years, I don't think vandals were able to get inside, probably sparing much of the interior and keeping the building salvageable for reuse.
The arch you see was added by Service Merchandise, with the doors underneath being the main entrance into the store. Service Merchandise also removed Albertsons' glass vestibule and windows in the process of modifying the exterior to their liking. According to David, the arch over the entryway was painted a darker shade of green during Service Merchandise's tenure in this space, with the upper trim and roof line painted red.
These boards covered the entrance into Service Merchandise's merchandise pick-up area, and also served as the exit to the main store. This area would have been all windows in the Albertsons days.
Service Merchandise filled in Albertsons' old handicap ramp, but the scars from where it was are still visible.
In addition to the ramp scars, you can also see the scars from the pressure plates (sometimes referred to as "magic carpets") that activated Albertsons' automatic doors in the above photo.
Stuck to the front door of the building was this decal, which explains the building's history and mentioning the adaptive reuse plan. By the time U-Haul finishes their renovations to this building, a larger permanent sign (looking exactly like the decal in the picture) will be installed on the front of this building to commemorate its past tenant and U-Haul's reuse of the property. At the time this photo was taken, U-Haul was using the front portion of this building for their sales office and store. Later in the renovation process, the sales office and store would move to its permanent home in the old Barnett Bank building out front.
Some wear on the south corner of the building, all part of this building's 15 years of neglect.
Due to the property layout, the building's loading dock was placed on the right side of the building rather than in the back. From what I can tell in the historic satellite imagery, this loading dock has not been altered since the Albertsons days.
Going around the loading dock, we find the back side of the building. Since the loading docks were on the side of the building, there wasn't much back here other than some electrical and mechanical panels.
According to David: "The back of the store is fenced off to vehicles, but oddly easily accessible by hopping a curb. There is a developing ground depression near one of the downspouts which is about a foot deep and goes underneath the above asphalt at least 5 feet. (This area of west Pasco County has an extensive history of sinkholes and damage from them.)"
Leaving the back of the building, we turn our attention to the north side of the building (which is the left side when standing out front). This was the only side of the building to retain the river rock panels. The panels on all of the other sides were stuccoed over at some point.
Here we can once again see the old side entrance and liquor store entrance, which has been covered over since Service Merchandise moved in.
With the Service Merchandise sign now removed, it's a bit easier to make out the scars from Albertsons' "DRUGS FOOD" sign (zooming in on the above photo may make it easier to see).
A close-up of one of the classic Albertsons river rock panels.
"The parking lot is in fairly poor shape. It's sun-bleached from being vacant for nearly 15 years ([April] 2002-2017). The light poles, characteristic of 1970s Albertsons, are still standing. (This is also the case with 4324 down the road in Holiday.)"
You can also see one of the first few U-Haul trucks brought in when they first began operations out of this site. As time goes on and the renovations continue, more trucks will be brought in.
That just about does it for David's photos. However, we still have more to see...
|This photo (and the 5 to follow it) are courtesy of AFB contributor Ian W.|
All of Ian's photos were taken while driving by on Route 19, featuring the exterior from a few different angles.
More trucks for rent in the lot in December, but still not much change on the building itself.
Moving on from December 2017 to some fresh updates that David just sent in to the AFB inbox, showing how things are progressing as of February 2018:
|This photo (and the 5 to follow it) are courtesy of AFB contributor David C.|
After the passing of two months, this place looks much more presentable from the exterior! U-Haul has done more repainting of the facade, replacing the patchy paint job we've see in the previous photos with a more presentable final coat of paint (which may not be 100% complete from the looks of things, but getting there). This is no longer the abandoned eyesore that's been sitting here for 15 years! However, even with the new paint, there's still a bit of work to be done here. The interior, after sitting for 15 years, wasn't in the greatest shape (as most of you probably assumed), so U-Haul is working on gutting everything out before installing the self-storage units. So while the exterior will live on in mostly original form, whatever remained of Albertsons and Service Merchandise inside is gone.
Another thing to point out is that U-Haul has also sealed over the area where Service Merchandise's Merchandise Pick-Up door was located. They've carved open a larger hole in the front wall closer to Service Merchandise's old entrance, either to allow large construction equipment access into the building or for reconfiguration of the main entryway (or a combination of both).
At least for now, it appears that the remaining river rock panels will also continue to live on, as they were not touched when the left side of the building was repainted.
During the repaint, the Albertsons and Service Merchandise labelscars that remained over the old side entrance were covered over. If you look closely you can still see a few holes from where the old Service Merchandise sign was located.
A quick departure from the old Albertsons building for a look at what's happened over at the old Barnett Bank. The back of the bank building, where the bank drive thru lanes were located (behind the U-Haul truck), appears to have been enclosed to allow for U-Haul to install bays for their hitch installation service. The remainder of the building is the sales office/moving supply store, as mentioned earlier. It appears that the construction on the old bank building is complete, with the main focus now on getting the self-storage facility up and running. Hopefully as construction at the site progresses, the parking lot will be repaved or fixed as well. According to David, the lot is still in pretty rough shape after its years of neglect.
So that concludes our look at this building in the present day. Now it is time to begin our journey back in time with some classic photos of this store that our contributors have gladly sent in as well:
The aerial photo of store #4340 you see above we sent in by Ian W. This image shows the Albertsons as it was under construction, taken sometime in early 1980. The Albertsons is the large building at the top left. The smaller building on the corner on the Albertsons side of the road is an Arby's, which also opened in 1980, and still operates there today. Across the street we can see part of the Jasmine Lake Shopping Center, which predated the Albertsons by a few years, opening in the early 1970s. The plaza was one of the first retail developments in the Jasmine Estates area, and it looks like it once housed a grocery store. I couldn't find what grocery store it was originally, but my guess would be a Winn-Dixie (I could be wrong on that, but Winn-Dixies were everywhere in Florida back then!). UPDATE 2/7/18 - David C. confirmed in the comments of this post that the grocery anchor in the Jasmine Lakes Shopping Center was in fact a Winn-Dixie.
In addition to that satellite image, David, in his extensive research into this store, dug up the above photo and the following two historic images of this former Albertsons. The above photo is an exterior shot of this Albertsons from its grand opening celebration on June 11, 1980. The block letter Albertsons signage seen on this building would eventually be retired by the mid-1980s, when the Albertsons logo we see today was introduced.
No only do we have that exterior photo, but David also dug up two additional photos which give us a glimpse into 4340's interior! These photos were taken on May 30, 1981, after a pipe bomb exploded in front of this store (somebody surely had something against Albertsons back in the day...). According to the story, the bomb was planted in front of the store in a pallet of mulch by a disgruntled former employee and his teenage brother, who were both later caught. No one was hurt in the incident, which only shattered two of the front windows.
This photo provides a better look into the store, where we can see the the 70's Stripes style aisle signs and the raised ceiling.
Now with all of that said, it's time to begin wrapping up this post with some satellite imagery, starting with some Bird's Eye aerial views courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now some historic satellite imagery, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4340 - 2017 - Here we can see all the U-Haul trucks parked out front.
Former Albertsons #4340 - 2010
Former Albertsons #4340 - 2004 - Some action still at the old Barnett Bank building, which was a Blue Cross Blue Shield office after the bank closed and before sitting abandoned for years.
Former Albertsons #4340 - 1999 - Service Merchandise is still open here.
Former Albertsons #4340 - 1995
Future Albertsons #4340 - 1971 - Just an empty lot. In this image, you can see the Jasmine Lakes plaza across the street, which was relatively new at the time this satellite image was captured.
|Photo courtesy of David C.|
So a building that once looked like it was going to decay into oblivion has found itself a new life as a U-Haul center. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for a building to find itself a new life, but as we've seen many times before, it can still happen without the need of a wrecking ball. While it may not have the Service Merchandise signage anymore, this building certainly has an interesting past, which will continue to live on for many years to come as the U-Haul Center of Jasmine Lakes. Like I said before, U-Haul takes their time with their remodels, so it will still be a while before we see the final product here.
|Recreation courtesy of Ian W.|
If you follow AFB contributor Ian W. on flickr, you may have seen in the past how he likes to bring many of the dead Florida Albertsons stores back to life with his store recreations. To my surprise, Ian sent in this recreation of store #4340, as it may have looked later in its life as an Albertsons. So from Albertsons to Service Merchandise to abandoned wasteland to U-Haul, here we see 4340 once again as Albertsons!
Before I officially wrap up this post, I'd like to thank David and Ian once again for contributing all of the photos and information on this interesting former Albertsons store. As always, if you have any pictures or information on a Florida Albertsons store (or anything interesting related to the supermarkets of Florida), you're always welcome to contribute photos, information, or updates to any store location featured by contacting the blog at the e-mail address found under the Contact Us tab.
So that's all I have for now. Until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger