Sunday, October 6, 2019

Former Albertsons #4333 - Longwood, FL (Wekiva Springs)


Albertsons #4333 / Publix #1313 / Publix #1428
2381 West State Route 434, Longwood, FL - Springs Plaza

     Long before anyone knew what Disney World was, people came flocking to this part of Longwood to visit the crystal blue waters of the nearby Wekiwa Spring (or Wekiva Spring - both spellings are used and both seem to be interpreted as correct). Additionally, long before Albertsons built their store on the eastern side of Longwood on US 17-92, Longwood residents in search of weekly deals at Albertsons had to come here. Well, I guess it wasn't too long of a wait before the second store opened, as there was only a three year gap between the opening of the two stores. Both of the Longwood Albertsons stores also suffered the same fate in the end too, but we'll get to that part of the story momentarily...


     Longwood's original Albertsons store, #4333, opened in 1979 in the Wekiva Springs neighborhood of town. The Wekiva Springs area is a rather nice part of town, complete with two golf courses, subdivisions with nice suburban homes and mini-mansions, and of course, the namesake spring (which is an extremely popular tourist attraction). This part of Longwood was really beginning to blossom around the time of Albertsons' arrival, with the construction of this store also bringing with it an attached open-air mini-mall to serve the area. This Skaggs model store received minor upgrades through the years, however the biggest change wouldn't happen until late 1998. At that time, this store, alongside the Altamonte Springs Albertsons, received major updating that included interior reconfiguration and reconstruction, a facade remodel, and a new liquor store and bank. The Blue and Green Awning decor was also added during the remodel. This location, alongside the Altamonte Springs store down the road, were Albertsons' highest performing locations in Seminole County in the late 1990's according to an article I read. Even with all the remodeling, this store managed to retain the majority of its original river rock exterior, as can be seen in the two prior photos I downloaded from a realty website a long time ago.


     While this store was a strong performer for Albertsons, it would eventually end up as one of the 49 locations that Albertsons sold to Publix in 2008. The majority of the stores Publix purchased from Albertsons were high-volume and profitable locations, so it wasn't like Albertsons was dumping their worst stores onto Publix in that sale. Publix did a quick remodel of this store before it reopened as Publix #1313, including some new paint and decor on the inside, which can be seen in the next image:


     The last two images were posted on fouresquare.com by users Thomas and Mark, showing Albertsons #4333 during its tenure as Publix. This place still felt very much like an Albertsons on the inside after Publix moved in, which was the case for many of these Publixsons stores back in the day. The above image looks down some of the center grocery aisles, giving everyone an overview of what this store looked like around 2012.


     Now remember, I did say this was a very high volume Albertsons store. And a high volume Albertsons store would then translate to an even higher volume Publix. Now wanting to let sales get impeded by operating out of a 34 year old building constructed by a competitor, Publix felt it was time for a change here in Wekiva Springs. In late 2012, the oh-so-unlucky Publix store #1313 became one of the first Albertsons locations Publix bought in 2008 selected to be demolished and rebuilt. Shortly after Christmas 2012, Publix closed this store and began demolition of the old Albertsons building. Only being open for 4 years, Publix #1313 was one of the shortest lived Publix stores ever. (Remember, Publix rarely ever closes a store outright, so you never hear of crazy crash-and-burn situations with any of their stores like you do with some other chains. Even the handful of stores Publix has closed outright lasted a good 10+ years!). After a few months of construction, Publix #1428 rose from the site of the old Wekiva Springs Albertsons. Publix #1428 held its grand opening on November 14, 2013. While this is a very nice 54M Publix store (which is about the same size as the Albertsons building it replaced), it's uniqueness factor certainly isn't as high compared to what used to be here.


     Considering that we've seen modern Publix stores of this same design before, both here and on My Florida Retail, my first visit to this store was rather short. I got a handful of photos inside since I was already here, but with nothing left from Albertsons to report back with, I didn't take many interior photos. However, a year later I happened to be in this area again for non-retail related purposes (although in complete AFB fashion, I still turned that trip into a makeshift retail road trip). I needed to kill some time in the area, so I returned to this Publix and ended up coming out with a complete store tour in the end. So while we won't be seeing many more Albertsons relics again until the end of this post, we'll still take a stroll through the Publix in addition to a little walk through the odd attached mini-mall. While the Albertsons building may be long gone, I still found some stuff to report back with here in Wekiva Springs that dates back to this site's Albertsons days! Anyway, here are a few more exterior photos of the new Publix before we head into the store:


     This store got a nice custom-designed facade, which looks to have a little bit of an "old Florida" styling to it.


     Here's a close-up of the entryway, a photo which will transition us to the interior of the store...


     As usual with these modern Publix stores, the bakery is located in the front right corner of the building. Prior to the 1998 remodel, this store would have had a reverse layout of the Altamonte Springs Albertsons. After the remodel, I'm not 100% sure if the layout was changed to be identical to the Altamonte Springs store, or if it was left in the reversed orientation.


     Turning around, here's a look back toward the bakery from the center of the produce department. As usual, this store has the standard issue version of Classy Market 3.0 that's been around for a while now. However, our supermarket decor researcher extraordinaire nwretail recently discovered for me the actual name for Classy Market 3.0 decor. What is it you ask? I'll give all of you a moment to come up with a wild guess before I reveal the name after the next photo.


     OK, now that you all have made up some really random names for this decor package, it's time for the big reveal. Classy Market 3.0's real name is 'Sienna'. I have absolutely no idea where Publix pulled the name Sienna fron, but that is the name of this decor according to some construction plans nwretail sent to me. However, Classy Market seems to have ingrained itself in our little corner of the internet, much like Acme Style's made up decor names for the Albertsons decor packages. While we now know the true identity of Classy Market 3.0, my name is also here to stay. Also according to some documents nwretail recently sent me, Classy Market 3.0's days may be numbered like I've been speculating. However, more on that another time, once I get some more details...

     Decor tangents aside, returning our attention to Publix #1428, here we see the deli counter. The deli is located along the right side wall following the bakery.


     Here's our first look into the back right corner of the store, the wine department peeking out in the background of this image.


     I didn't get a close-up photo of it, but this store does have a specialty cheese counter located across from the wines. You can see that department's sign in the above image.


     I'm sure you're tired of hearing me 'wine' about how Publix tore down the old Albertsons building that once stood here. However, I can't complain too much, as Albertsons still lives on in a 'spirited' form here! (That second cheesy pun will make much more sense when we get to the end of this post). And speaking of cheesy things, the specialty cheese counter would have been directly behind me when I took this picture. The department setup makes a lot of sense, because you can't have wine without cheese (or cheesy puns!). And yes, I promise there will not be any more puns for the remainder of this post.


     Leaving the fresh departments and Publix's "Grand Aisle", here's a look across the back of the store, as seen from the edge of the wine department.


     The 54M and larger Publix prototypes get drop ceilings installed over the grocery aisles, as you can see in the above photo.


     The customer service desk, which is located immediately to the left upon entering. In more recent remodels and new stores, this round style desk has been getting replaced by this much smaller booth-style service desk.


     As I was walking by the service desk, I also took a photo of the "key to the store" (since it was hung in an easy to photograph spot at the edge of the service desk). These keys are presented to the store manager during a ceremony that occurs the night before a new Publix store opens, featuring the grand opening date, store number, and a giant metal key. Usually these keys can be found hung behind the service desk, although I've seen a few stores put them elsewhere (such as next to the exit doors). These keys are a longstanding tradition that's part of Publix grand opening ceremonies. You can read more about those ceremonies at the official Publix Blog by going to this link.


     Here's a look across the front of the store, with the pharmacy visible in the background.


     More from the grocery aisles...



     Moving further to the left side of the store, the back wall transitions from meats to lunch meats to dairy, with dairy in the back left corner.


     This picture of Publix's founder, George Jenkins, hangs on the side of one of the coolers in the frozen foods department. This is a common spot to find this picture, especially in the newer stores.


     Frozen foods take up two aisles in the center of the building. The drop ceiling goes away in this part of the store to allow for pipes and vents to connect to the coolers from above.


     Here's another look across the back of the store. Since this store opened in 2013, it received an older version of the usual Classy Market 3.0 aisle signs. The signs in this store are essentially a modified version of the ones from Classy Market 2.0 and 2.5.


     Moving closer to the pharmacy counter, here's a look down one of the aisles of health and beauty products. Like most other Publix stores built in recent years, there are a few short aisles of health and beauty products in front of the pharmacy counter as well.



     Dairy wraps around from the back left corner and runs along the store's left side wall.


     The front left corner of the store is home to the pharmacy counter. I like the design of the newer Publix pharmacies, especially with the addition of the shiny glass tiles on the counter and the overhang.


     Pictured here are some of those additional aisles of health and beauty products I mentioned before, these aisles placed in front of the pharmacy counter.


     Returning to the front end once again, we've seen just about all there is to see in here.


     Here's one last look toward the front registers as I head toward the exit doors...


     Back outside, this is where things begin to get a little more interesting in terms of this site's history as an Albertsons store. Here we're looking from Publix's front walkway toward the mini-mall portion of this shopping center. However, this is a bit of a strange mini-mall...


     Beyond the Publix building is this directory sign for the mini-mall. While I keep calling this place a mini-mall, it's essentially a "reversed mall". While there are open air corridors linking all the mall buildings together, all of the storefronts face the road and the parking lots, not the internal corridors. However, the internal corridors aren't service corridors either. The corridors are landscaped, have benches, and are open to the public to walk through. Some of the businesses have doors linking to the corridors, but they're either emergency exits or employee entrances. It was an odd arrangement, which we'll see in more detail in the following images.


     Stepping away from Publix, here's our first look at the mini-mall structure. The mini-mall wasn't touched at all during Publix's rebuild, as the mall portion of the plaza is owned separately from the supermarket building. The front portion of the mini-mall contained quite a few restaurants like Tijuana Flats, FirstWatch, and Starbucks, along with a few other small businesses and offices.



     A covered walkways wraps around all the buildings, as well as the various planters.


     Moving into the center portion of the mini-mall, here's a look down the walkway that runs from the front to the back portion of the mall. One business, a women's clothing boutique, faces the walkway, but otherwise there isn't anything else back here. This walkway primarily serves as a way to cut between the front and back portions of the strip of stores.



     Typically I'm pretty good at remembering the orientation of these places after I photograph them, even after sitting on the photos for years. However, this place got the best of me. I can't remember which way we're looking in some of these photos, like this one. This photo does give us an overview of what these interior corridors are all about though: neatly landscaped concrete walkways with hardly anyone in sight.


     I believe this photo looks into the "center court". The planter with the big tree marks the crossroads of the two main interior walkways.


     I believe the wall pictured on the left is the side wall of the Publix building.


     I am able to recall this corridor from memory, as this was the one that ran from the Publix building to the far end of the plaza. While the corridor looks nicely kept, it would have been better if there were actual storefronts that faced this walkway!


     Here's another look back toward the "center court".


     Walking the center corridor from Publix to the far end of the plaza, the mini-mall has a change in elevation. The stairs before me designate the change between the higher half of the plaza and the lower half.


     We're going to poke out the back of the plaza for a quick peek at the exterior storefronts. The restaurant Graffiti Junktion (whose sign is visible on the tower) was one of the bigger draws in the back portion of the plaza. There was also a Goodwill Donation center back here too, but this was clearly the sleepier side of the plaza compared to the front portion.


     The Goodwill Donation Center is pictured here, as well as a few other small businesses. The Graffiti Junktion building was mostly empty when I visited this place, although a Google Search also seems to suggest that Graffiti Junktion has closed since my visits here.


     Anyway, back into the interior corridors we go. I do like the design of the interior corridors here, with the use of awnings and large trees to keep the corridors shady and cool in the hot Florida sun. The awnings are also something that comes in handy during Florida's daily summertime thunderstorms to keep shoppers dry. This place was designed well to be an outdoor mini-mall, except for the fact that all the storefronts face the parking lot rather than these internal corridors!



     The end of the corridor is marked by that large tower, which is a common architectural theme throughout this plaza.


     Spinning back around front, here are a few final photos of the mini-mall's facade as we head back toward the Publix building.



     One final exterior shot of the new Publix building, as seen from the mini-mall.


     Publix's facade design continues along the right side of the building as well, making the side of the building look much more appealing when driving by on Wekiva Springs Road.

     Now that we've covered just about everything from the former Wekiva Springs Albertsons, let's jump into some historic aerial images courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:


Former Albertsons #4333 - 2018 - The new Publix building is in place here. This image also give us an overview of the entirety of the plaza, the mini-mall being the mass of buildings to the left of the Publix. You'll also notice a small building at the bottom right corner of the satellite image. That building we'll get to in just a moment...


Former Albertsons #4333 - 2013 - The old Albertsons building is in the midst of demolition at this time. It's not often you see Google Earth capture something like this! This satellite image is what originally tipped me off to this store's fate way back when too.


Since it was interesting, I'm including this close-up image of the old Albertsons building as it was being demolished. It looks like the demolition crew entered through the right side of the building and went at it on this place.


Former Albertsons #4333 - 2010 - Publixsons at this point.


Albertsons #4333 - 2002


Albertsons #4333 - 1995 - The pre-1998 design of the exterior is visible here.


Future Albertsons #4333 - 1980 - This store was only a year old at this point.


Future Albertsons #4333 - 1969 - There wasn't much too see here in 1969.


      Before we finish this post, I have one last building to address: the detached liquor store. I hinted at this building a few times during today's post, as the liquor store is the last thing standing on this property from Albertsons. Albertsons' 90's exterior design is alive and well here at the liquor store, the last trace of our old friend here in Wekiva Springs. Albertsons moved the liquor store out to the parking lot during the 1998 remodel from its previous location in the front right corner of the main building. The liquor store building predates 1998 though, so this must have been a small strip of stores or something else prior to Albertsons taking this building over for themselves. 


     Publix has hardly done anything to the liquor store building in the 10 years they've been operating at this site, and the interior looked fairly original too from what I saw through the windows.


     Even though Publix demolished the main store, I was still able to begin and end this post with what little remained of the supermarket building that stood on this site from 1979 until 2013. While Publix tried their hardest to wipe away all traces of Albertsons here in Wekiva Springs, the good old liquor store came through for us again in the end! Also to note, the former Albertsons store on the other side of Longwood at US 17-92 and Route 434 has since been town down as well. That Albertsons closed in June 2012 and sat empty until early 2019, when demolition began so a new LA Fitness could be built at the site. I linked to this at the beginning of today's post, but here's my coverage of the other Longwood Albertsons from a few years ago, showing the building in its abandoned form if you wanted to skim through that again.

     Anyway, next time on AFB we'll begin to jump into some more fun stuff; the stuff I've been looking forward to closing out the year with. The next four feature posts on the blog will all be supermarket conversions of some kind, featuring a wide selection of old grocery store buildings turning into other grocery stores. As usual we'll see Publix, Albertsons, and Winn-Dixie in some shape or form, but some others may be popping in too, including some stores we've yet to see and discuss here on AFB. After those 4 stores, the last post of the year will feature a super rare decor package from a certain supermarket chain, so rare I think it only exists at this one particular location. So that's what we have to close out the year with on AFB, so be sure to keep coming back for all the fun! (I think I've teased you enough with that preview!) Our next destination is a supermarket conversion that relates to Publix, but not in the way you probably think...

So until the next post, 

The Albertsons Florida Blogger