Albertsons #4310 / Super Saver #1525
5524 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL (Pine Hills) - Mandarin Plaza
Pine Hills was developed as one of Orlando's first suburbs in the 1950s, a time when suburban development was all the rage and automobiles were becoming even more prevalent. Situated to the west of Downtown Orlando, Pine Hills would eventually include numerous residential subdivisions and major shopping centers, shopping centers that would feature retailers such as Publix, Winn-Dixie, TG&Y, Zayre, Kmart, Service Merchandise, Montgomery Ward, Belk, and many other longtime (and in some cases, now long gone) Florida retail staples. Spurred by an influx of new residents to the Orlando area with the opening of a new Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) campus on Sand Lake Road in 1956, Pine Hills was the picturesque middle class suburb, complete with its own country club. As the 1960s and 1970s progressed, Pine Hills continued to grow with more shopping centers and subdivisions lining the area's major corridors, such as West Colonial Drive, Pine Hills Road, and Silver Star Road. Pine Hills was growing so rapidly, that many area residents began a push to incorporate the area into its own city. That plan would later fail, with some (but not all) areas of Pine Hills becoming part of the city of Orlando. In 1975, as the area was still growing as a suburb, Skaggs-Albertsons opened one of their first few Florida locations in Pine Hills. The Pine Hills Skaggs-Albertsons would be their tenth Florida location, and the third in Central Florida (behind locations in Winter Park and Altamonte Springs, which had opened in 1974). The Pine Hills Skaggs-Albertsons complex was an exact copy of the one that had opened the year prior in Winter Park, featuring a Handy City hardware store built adjacent to the Albertsons building.
As we move into the 1980s, suburban development in Western Orlando continued to push further west, outside of the boundaries of Pine Hills and into areas like Ocoee, Winter Garden, and MetroWest. Many longtime residents of Pine Hills began to move out of the area into these newer developments, as the crowds and bustle of Orlando began to push into the once quiet, suburban atmosphere that these residents had originally moved to Pine Hills for. The annexation controversy also didn't help keep residents in Pine Hills, as many were afraid potential annexation would increase taxes and decrease the community's government representation. As the original families began to move out of Pine Hills, many of the area's homes and apartments were converted into low income and government subsidized housing. By the 1990s, the area became heavily neglected by the city of Orlando. It was during this time period that Pine Hills began to grow a reputation for high crime rates, an issue that still plagues the area today. As the area began to change in the 1990s, many of the longtime retail establishments in the area either closed or moved to other parts of Orlando. The development of the West Oaks Mall in 1996 and surrounding shopping centers in the late 90s was one of the final major retail projects in this area to try to bring people back, but that ultimately failed. West Oaks Mall is essentially a dead mall, and West Colonial Drive became one of the most famous strips for dead retail in all of Florida (we'll touch a little bit more on this and some of the surrounding retail later). Albertsons lasted in Pine Hills until 2005 (even outlasting the Pine Hills Publix next door by 9 years). In 2005, the Pine Hills Albertsons was one of the 12 Florida Albertsons locations converted into a Super Saver, the short lived discount concept that was essentially killed off by 2006 when Albertsons was broken up. This building didn't sit empty for too long, and by 2008 the former Albertsons was subdivided between an Aldi and dd's Discounts, both of which still operate here today.
The general Albertsons look of the building still remains today, among the small modifications to the exterior made by Aldi and dd's.
Looking toward the left side of the building, we can see some of the original Albertsons river rock walls left exposed on the front of the building. Beyond that is the old Handy City hardware store. Handy City closed this location in 1986 when the chain pulled out of the Orlando area. Currently the Handy City store is divided between a few tenants, including a restaurant supply store, a men's clothing store, a nail salon, and a pawn shop. Back in 2013, a man was murdered in the parking lot of the old Handy City store after leaving the night club in the building next door to this complex.
I didn't venture over toward the old Handy City building while I was here (I didn't realize what that building's past was when I made my visit this day). This former Handy City store is much more recognizable than the one next to the old Winter Park Albertsons (which was completely redone inside and out, much like the former Albertsons building next door to it too). This is a photo from inside the restaurant supply store, where much of the interior may still be original to Handy City.
Anyway, back to the Albertsons now, we'll start our tour of this store by taking a look at the Aldi side of the building first...
A look down the front walkway, looking in the direction of the old Handy City store. Albertsons would have originally had a vestibule which would have come out to where those columns are now. The vestibule was removed when the building was subdivided.
The interior of the Aldi half of the building leaves no traces of Albertsons. Aldi completely gutted their space prior to moving in, so this store looks like just about every other Aldi out there. However, Aldi does have a new prototype making the rounds, and their newly remodeled stores are quite fancy (well, for a discount grocer).
While we're in here, we'll still take a quick tour of the interior. As usual with Aldi, the first two aisles were dedicated to dry groceries. The aisle you see in the photo above is the second aisle, looking toward the front end.
General merchandise, paper products, and "Aldi Finds" take up the third aisle, with the produce island at the end of this aisle. Dairy products line the back wall. In the Albertsons days, this side of the building would have been home to all of the fresh departments, including the bakery, deli, and produce.
The last aisle contains frozen foods. Along the wall where Aldi's freezers currently are would have been Albertsons' bakery and deli. The deli would have been closer to the front of the store, with the bakery just beyond that going toward the back of the store.
A quick view of Aldi's bustling front end before stepping back outside...
Now that we've covered the Aldi half of the building, let's jump next door to dd's to see what's going on over there...
The dd's half of the building has more of the Albertsons "feel" than the Aldi side, probably because dd's preserved the drop ceiling in their half of the building. There's actually a very good chance the ceiling and lighting may have been from Albertsons, as these older Albertsons stores used the fluorescent track lights like you see here. The photo above looks down one of the main aisles inside dd's, looking toward the back of the store where Albertsons' meat department once was. This half of the store not only contained meats, but also the health and beauty section and the pharmacy counter.
Looking from the right side of the store to the left, toward the wall that separates dd's from Aldi.
The back wall, as seen from this building's back right corner. I believe the back right corner is where the dairy department would have been located in these older Albertsons stores.
From grocery aisles, we now find clothing aisles occupying their space...
And that's about all there is to see inside of dd's. Time to go back outside once again to complete our tour of the Pine Hills Albertsons:
Looking across the front of the building, toward the front right corner. The windows to my left look into dd's. The river rock panels survived on this side of the building too.
Moving around to the right side of the building, we find where the former side entrance and liquor store entrance were located. However, it wasn't dd's who sealed these over - it was Albertsons. Albertsons remodeled this store at some point in the 90's,
at which time they relocated the liquor store from the main building to a freestanding one in the parking lot on the right side of the building. UPDATE 3/5/2018: Actually, it turns out the liquor store was always detached in that little building in the side parking lot, per a local code in this neighborhood that required such a setup. We'll see freestanding liquor store in just a moment...
The right side of the building has been virtually untouched since Albertsons left. All the classic 70's Albertsons traits are still very obvious over here.
One last look toward the old side entrance before we head over to the liquor store...
The Albertsons liquor store was this small metal building in the back part of the side parking lot, which has better visibility from Kirkman Road than West Colonial. The main entrance to the liquor store faces Kirkman, and as such, has a Kirkman Road address (655 N. Kirkman). Here we see the back of the liquor store, which as you can see by the sign, still operates as a liquor store.
A quick look at the entrance to the former Albertsons liquor store, which is now home to Legacy Liquors. Legacy Liquors is a small chain of liquor stores, with three locations around Orlando. From the few glimpses of the interior of this place I found online, the inside has a very plain industrial look to it. I'm not sure if that was from Albertsons, or if Legacy Liquors remodeled this place any after moving in.
After I took this photo, a man walked out of the liquor store and began to stare at me sitting in my car. I don't know if he worked here or saw me sneak this photo, but I didn't feel like sitting around any longer to find out - I was out of here fast!
To wrap up our look at the former Albertsons liquor store, here's an old Orange County Property Appraiser photo of the building from 2006, after Super Saver left the premises. You can see the Albertsons Liquor labelscar on the front of the building too.
One last look across the front of the old Albertsons building as we transition our attention to some aerial images, starting with some historic aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4310 - 2016 - The former Handy City is the building on the right, and the liquor store is the small building at the bottom left of the image.
Former Albertsons #4310 - 2010
Super Saver #1525 - 2006
Albertsons #4310 - 2002
Albertsons #4310 - 1999
Albertsons #4310 - 1994
Albertsons #4310 - 1980
Future Albertsons #4310 - 1969
Before I officially conclude this post, I just wanted to touch a little on some of the other retail surrounding this former Albertsons store:
Like I said earlier, West Colonial Drive is home to one of the largest concentrations of dead and former retail buildings in Central Florida (if not all of Florida). Name a store, and you'll probably find the shell of one out here. Above is just a small sampling of the former retail in Pine Hills, focusing on the shopping centers immediately surrounding the old Albertsons. Across the street from the former Albertsons is the Pine Hills Shopping Center, now called the Pine Hills Marketplace. The Pine Hills Shopping Center was one of the first major retail developments in Pine Hills, opening in 1961 with anchors A&P, Belk, Woolworth, G.C. Murphy, and Publix (I found this article about plaza's grand opening, which you can read if you're able to access it). Across the street from the Pine Hills Shopping Center and just to the east of the former Albertsons is the Westside Crossing, a shopping center built in 1989 that featured Wal-Mart, Bealls Department Store, and Publix (a replacement for the older Publix in the Pine Hills Shopping Center across the street). I labeled the location of all of the former anchor tenants in the satellite image above. We'll take a quick look at some of these other places to finish out this post:
Publix #383 / 1st Oriental Supermarket
5132 West Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL - Westside Crossing
As I mentioned before, this Publix opened in 1989 to replace their older location across the street, which dated back to the wing store era. This new Publix was rather ill-fated, closing in 1996 after only 7 years in business at this location. Not only was this location unusually short-lived for Publix, this store also closed outright, which is extremely rare for Publix to do. This store sat empty until 2006 when the current tenant, 1st Oriental Supermarket, opened in this space. The opening of 1st Oriental would eventually spur a rebirth to this dying shopping center, which had been anchorless until the time of the new supermarket's opening. The people who own the 1st Oriental market also bought the entire shopping center, and slowly the owners converted the entire shopping center into Orlando's Chinatown. Westside Crossing is now filled with tenants that cater to Asian customers, a demographic that has been growing rapidly in Orlando in the last decade. This article was published in the Orlando Sentinel just a few weeks ago explaining the Westside Crossing's rebirth. I didn't have the time to go inside 1st Oriental for a look around, but the inside still feels very much like a Publix. One of these days I'll have to come back out this way for a closer look at this place.
5176 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL - Westside Crossing
This Walmart opened on April 3, 1989, around the same time as the shops in the rest of the plaza opened. Walmart relocated from this building to a new Supercenter at 2500 S. Kirkman Road in 2001, about three miles south of here next to the Valencia College campus. After Walmart left, this building became home to a flea market called the Magic Outlet for a while, which was out of business by the time I came through here for photos. Plans are currently in the works to turn the Walmart building into another Asian grocery store/Asian Food Court facility (according to that article I liked to earlier about this plaza's rebirth). Since 1st Oriental already operates in this plaza, I'm going to guess the new store that opens in here will be somewhat different from 1st Oriental, as it seems odd to have two large grocery stores located practically on top of each other. Work on this building is supposed to begin sometime in 2019.
Jumping across the street for a few Bird's Eye aerial images of the Pine Hills Marketplace (which I don't have any photos of my own). The image above shows the right half of the plaza. On the far right end of the plaza is a Firestone auto center, which still retains its original 60's architecture even as the rest of the plaza has had a few face lifts over the years. Immediately to the left of the Firestone is the site of the old Publix, which was demolished in the early 90's for a Food Lion store (#873). That Food Lion was converted into a Kash n' Karry in 1999, and closed in 2004. In 2005, a Caribbean Supermarket opened in that space. Beyond that is the former G.C. Murphy (later Big Lots, now vacant) and Woolworth spaces.
Over on the left side of the plaza we find the old Belk store (the large oddly shaped space where the plaza bends slightly south). Belk lasted here until 1997, when the company pulled out of the Orlando market (with the Pine Hills Belk being the last of their Orlando area stores to close). Belk would briefly return to Orlando after they bought out McRae's department stores in 2004, who had a location at the West Oaks mall just down the road from here. That Belk would eventually close in 2008, leaving Orlando with zero Belk locations once again. To the left of the former Belk space was an A&P, which closed sometime in the 1970s if I had to take a guess. For a more detailed listing of the Pine Hills Shopping Center's original tenants, this old newspaper advertisement mentions many more of the plaza's former tenants from back in the 1960s.
The former Albertsons store and that little bit of extra stuff I talked about was just a small taste of all of the former retail there is to see out here on West Colonial Drive. I have some more of it photographed to eventually share over on my flickr photostream at a later date, and there's still much more that I haven't even had a chance to cover myself. It's pretty crazy to drive through here and see all of these buildings, most of which are still very well preserved from their former lives, either living as something new or sitting empty. While the Pine Hills Albertsons has found its new life as an Aldi and a dd's Discounts store, I will conclude this post with yet another outdated Orange County Property Appraiser's image. This image shows the former Albertsons store as it looked in late 2006, after the Super Saver closed. This store did receive some updates in the 90's, probably getting the Blue and Green Awning remodel from the looks of the exterior. But other than that, this place was kept pretty original to the very end.
While that ends this post, we're going to stick around Western Orlando for our next post as well. While Googling some stores one day, I accidentally stumbled across photos of a store with an interior that I thought had been dead for a long time. I just had to see this place in person once I discovered it existed, and eventually I had my chance. Photos of this really neat supermarket to come in two weeks! Yes, ________ lives!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger