1965 8th Street NW, Winter Haven, FL - Spring Lake Plaza
Wonderful Winter Haven, Florida, home to a charming little downtown, numerous lakes, Legoland Florida, and the birthplace of Florida's favorite supermarket chain, Publix. However, on the northern side of town, tucked into a rather nondescript shopping center that's seen plenty of tenants come and go over the years, we find this building. This beige building with a slight Southwestern/Mission style architectural flare was once home to Winter Haven's Albertsons store, one of two Albertsons stores to have opened in Publix's home turf of Polk County. Unlike the other Polk County Albertsons store in Lakeland, the former Winter Haven Albertsons doesn't have as spectacular of a backstory, having a rather average 19 year run during the company's time in Winter Haven.
The Winter Haven Albertsons opened on August 24, 1989 on an outparcel of the existing Spring Lake Plaza. I know it sounds odd to build a supermarket on a shopping center's outparcel lot, but when you see how the plaza is arranged later in this post, the setup doesn't appear all too strange. The photo above, dug up by YonWooRetail2, shows the Winter Haven Albertsons store on its opening day, certainly looking like a spectacle with its large size and grandiose exterior.
For 19 years not much changed here at the Winter Haven Albertsons store. A remodel occurred sometime around the turn of the 2000's, refreshing this store's original Blue and Gray Market decor to something new. I haven't been able to figure out what decor package this store closed with (I really want to say it was Blue and Green Awnings, but I don't know for sure). YonWooRetail2 recreated the above photo to show what this Albertsons location would have looked like during the 2000's.
It was on July 30, 2008 the announcement was made that the Winter Haven Albertsons store would be closing due to underperformance. This announcement came only a month after Albertsons had announced that they would be selling 49 of their Florida locations to Publix. It would take a month for this store to close for good, with Albertsons' final day of business here in Winter Haven being August 30, 2008. While outlasting its sister store in Lakeland by 15 years, Albertsons' time in Polk County was certainly a tough ride. This store sat empty for 7 years before it was announced that CenterState Bank would be moving their operations center into half of this former Albertsons building. Currently, only the right half of this former Albertsons building is occupied by the bank's offices. The rest of the building remains empty, and more than likely the remaining empty portion of this building will become home to more office space when the time comes.
CenterState Bank's remodel didn't change any of Albertsons' old exterior architecture. Besides some new paint and the addition of those lights along the upper wall of the building
(where Albertsons exterior signage would have once been placed), that's all that was modified. The interior work involved a complete gut and rebuild, as we'll see shortly.
Over on the left side of the building, we find the old liquor store and the main store's pharmacy side entrance.
While I usually end my posts with some pictures of the old Albertsons liquor stores, today we'll be starting off with some pictures of the old liquor store. Above is the old liquor store entrance, which was incorporated into the left side entryway at this store rather than given its own distinct archway.
Peeking through the windows into the liquor store's interior, it was too dark to really see anything in here.
Playing with the lighting settings on my computer helped brighten the photo a bit, but you still can't tell much from this.
YonWooRetail2 had much better luck with the lighting when he visited this store, compared to the situation during my visit. He took the above photo as well as the following photo. Unlike most cases, Albertsons stripped out just about everything they could have in here, not leaving much of a trace of any old decor remnants. The ceiling and lighting are original to Albertsons, although the flooring in here looks to have been replaced during this store's remodel from the turn of the 2000's (as the original floors would have looked like this).
Moving away from the liquor store, let's begin to turn our attention to the main portion of this former Albertsons. Panning to the camera just a bit to the right from the liquor store entrance, we see the store's old left side entrance straight ahead.
The original swinging entry and exit doors are still in place here from Albertsons. The entrance door was the one to the right, the exit door being the one on the left.
Unfortunately, those doors were about the only original thing to remain from Albertsons as we turn our attention to the interior of the main store building now. As you can see here, for the conversion of the right half of this building into offices for CenterState Bank, the entire main portion of this building was gutted to the wall studs. Peeking through the left side doors, this is what the left side entry vestibule looks like now - nothing particularly interesting.
Turning the corner, here are a few photos looking into the gutted left half of this former Albertsons store. This half of the store would have been home to the pharmacy and health and beauty departments (which would have been around the corner to the left), as well as the dairy department. Like the interior photos of the old liquor store, these photos also turned out quite dark on me. After playing with some settings, we can see this half of the building is currently being used by CenterState Bank as storage.
I believe I've shared this story with you guys a few times in the past, but I'll tell it again as it does go along with this post: After I took my last interior photos of the the empty left half of the old Albertsons building, I stepped back toward the parking lot, hoping to get a few additional exterior photos before heading off to my next destination. As I was walking in the road in front of the building, a lady ran out of the bank's offices and began asking me why I was taking pictures of the place. Having noticed a 'For Lease' sign by the liquor store, my quick thinking then sprang into action. I responded to the woman that I was representing a client who was interested in finding office space in the area, and the empty portion of this building was one of the options I was was going to submit for the client's consideration. After telling her my story, the lady's only response was, "That space isn't for rent!" After a little more playing dumb to ease the tension, the lady then told me to call the number on the sign in the liquor store's window for more information before she returned into the building. I'm just glad I was able to talk myself out of that one, but I didn't stick around this place for long after going through that! I don't want to jinx anything, but in my 6 years or so of actively documenting retail buildings, I've only been confronted 4 times for photo taking - every time taking exterior photos, never photos inside a store. Two of those four times were by curious bystanders who wanted to tell me more about the building I was photographing (which was pretty neat), another time was the story I just mentioned, and I had another not-so-great experience while out getting retail photos as well. That incident didn't actually involve me taking photos directly, but was more of a matter of me being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Anyway, by the time I was confronted here, I fortunately had most the photos I needed of this place. I took this photo from the car's window on my way out of here, my only one showing a clear view of the side of the building that was converted into the bank's offices. I wouldn't doubt it if my lady friend was still looking through those windows to see if I had left, so before she returns, let's get the heck out of this place!
Here's a quick look down the right side of this building...
...and here's a quick look at the back, specifically the old receiving docks for Albertsons.
So that's what the Winter Haven Albertsons is like these days. Of course, this happened to be my first stop of the day, so having that lady confront me about my picture taking wasn't the best way to kick off a day of retail travels. However, I'm happy to report that things only got better from here, so I can't complain.
Anyway, here's an overview of the entirety of Spring Lake Plaza, showing how the Albertsons was essentially built as an outparcel to the plaza. For a few years Albertsons even shared this plaza with a Winn-Dixie, the original grocery tenant to Spring Lake Plaza. Speaking of that Winn-Dixie, let's take a quick look at it:
1160 Havendale Boulevard NW, Winter Haven, FL - Spring Lake Plaza
Winn-Dixie was one of the two original anchors to Spring Lake Plaza upon its opening in 1985 (the other being a movie theater). Only 4 years after opening here, Winn-Dixie had to deal with the competition of the new Albertsons store that opened in its parking lot, as well as competition from a Publix less than a mile to the south. Winter Haven and Winn-Dixie never had a very good relationship, so with all the competition nearby, Winn-Dixie ended up closing their store in Spring Lake Plaza around 1995. In the years after Winn-Dixie closed, their former space was been divided between a Dollar Tree and a gym. The gym that was previously in the right half of the Winn-Dixie building had since closed, although a new gym has opened in this space since I took these photos way back when.
Here's another look at the old Winn-Dixie space.
Spring Lake Plaza's other anchor is this movie theater, which is located at the southern end of the plaza behind the old Albertsons building. The movie theater is currently affiliated with Cobb, who very well may have been running this theater since the beginning (but I don't know for sure).
Also during my visit to this plaza, a carnival was set up in a portion of the parking lot. I took a few photos of it, because who doesn't like a few pictures of a carnival thrown into a blog post?
Now that we've seen the old Albertsons, the old Winn-Dixie, and a carnival, it's now time to take a look at some historic satellite imagery. First up, some Bird's Eye View images, courtesy of Bing Maps:
Front - These images were taken when this building was still fully abandoned.
And now for some historic satellite imagery, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4377 - 2018
Former Albertsons #4377 - 2012
Albertsons #4377 - 2006
Albertsons #4377 - 1994
Future Albertsons #4377 - 1979 - It looks like a restaurant and a motel or two had to be taken out in order to accommodate the Albertsons store that would eventually be built on this site.
To wrap up this post, here's another photo of the Winter Haven Albertsons now, looking quite peaceful as the sun was about to set on this particular evening when YonWooRetail2 visited. It seems like the evening would have been a better time to visit this place than very early in the morning, when all of the employees were hanging around here watching me!
Not only did YonWoo have better luck photographing this former Albertsons store than I did, but he did a good job digging up some old pictures of this store when it was still in business! The above photo appears to have been taken sometime during the 2000's, as the Sav-On pharmacy signage had been added to the exterior when this photo was taken.
So that's all I have to say for now. If you ever feel like visiting this place for yourself, remember to watch out for my lady friend, as she'll have her eyes on you!
Until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger