Albertsons #4369 / Publix #1066
10500 San Jose Boulevard, Jacksonville, FL - Courtyard Shopping Center
Today is the day everyone - time to begin the series of posts we've all been waiting for! (Or more accurately, the series of posts I've been waiting for, but I'm sure you guys will like them too!) For the next few posts, AFB is off to Jacksonville to check out some of the fun retail oddities to be seen in that town. With a total land area of 875 square miles (equaling a land mass three quarters the size of Rhode Island), there's a lot to see in Jacksonville! Jacksonville is the largest city in the United States in terms of land area, and the largest city in Florida in terms of population (with double the number of residents compared to Miami, Florida's second largest city). The city's massive land size came about in 1968, when the government of unincorporated Duval County consolidated with the incorporated City of Jacksonville to form one entity, making one really big city. I could have spent an entire week touring the retail of Jacksonville and not hit everything I'd want to see! While I only had a few hours in a small portion of the city on this day, I made the best use of my time to hit some of the most interesting stores in the area to share with you all. You will not be disappointed, trust me! But before we get into some of the really crazy stuff, we'll begin our time in Jacksonville with our good friend Publixsons...
Jacksonville was one of the first Floridian markets Albertsons entered in the mid-1970's, back in the days of the Skaggs partnership. Jacksonville received its first two Albertsons stores in 1975 (stores #4305 and #4307), those locations opening within months of the chain's Florida debut in Clearwater in October 1974. As time went on, Jacksonville would get five Albertsons stores of its own, with 7 Albertsons stores total popping up in the Jacksonville metro area (those other two stores opening in Orange Park and St. Augustine). Interestingly, even with such a large population base and growing suburbs throughout the 1990's and early 2000's, the Jacksonville area received its last new Albertsons store in 1989. With that fact in mind, it appears Jacksonville was one of Albertsons' weakest markets in Florida, as most other large cities in Florida continued to see new Albertsons stores appear well into the 2000's. Another fact to justify Jacksonville as a low performing region for Albertsons: Jacksonville was the first major Floridian market Albertsons pulled out of in 2005. That was a year before the breakup of Albertsons, when the company began to take a turn for the worse and slowly begin its pull out of Florida entirely. When Albertsons pulled out of Jacksonville in 2005, the 7 stores in the area were sold to a man named Rob Rowe. Rob Rowe was a former supermarket executive who had previously worked for Albertsons and Winn-Dixie before deciding to venture off on his own. Of the 7 Albertsons stores Rob Rowe purchased in 2005, he retained 6 of them to begin his own chain of supermarkets. The story of Rob Rowe's chain of supermarkets and its rocky beginning is quite interesting, but it's a story I'm going to save for another day. Why is that, you ask? Well, the store we're touring today just so happens to be that 7th location Mr. Rowe decided to get rid of right away! But don't worry though, we'll be hearing the story of Rowe's IGA Supermarkets before too long in a post much more fitting for that story, but I don't want to get too far ahead of myself just yet...
As Rob Rowe began to develop his new chain of supermarkets in 2005, he was interested in taking a more price-conscious route with his stores. This former Albertsons, located in the Mandarin neighborhood of Jacksonville, wasn't a very good location for such a store. Mandarin is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in all of Jacksonville, so this was not the ideal area for a chain like Rowe's IGA Markets. Without hesitation, Robe Rowe sold this building off to Publix in late 2005. Publix bought this building in order to open a replacement store for a much older Publix located across the street. Upon Publix's arrival to the former Mandarin Albertsons building in 2006, Publix's old store across the street was demolished and replaced with Jacksonville's first Whole Foods (another example of how a budget-focused store wouldn't have fit in too well here!). Publix has remained in this building ever since, doing their usual decor updates and such over the years. The design of the exterior and much of the interior is still very much Albertsons-like, which always makes for a fun Publix tour!
A typical 80's Superstore era building, Albertsons #4369 opened in 1988 as the second to last new Albertsons store in the Jacksonville area (and the last new Albertsons in Jacksonville proper). The Albertsons grocery store was the main anchor to new retail destination called Courtyard Shopping Center, which also featured Luria's catalog showroom as a junior anchor in addition to a variety of smaller shops and restaurants. The stretch of San Jose Boulevard near the Interstate 295 junction is a busy retail strip, and has been for many years. With this new Albertsons being located right at that very junction, this was a prime piece of land to build a store on. With the demise of the Luria's chain in 1997, the large strip mall that jutted out from the right side of the Albertsons building began to increase in vacancies. With the strip center falling on hard times, Target came in and bought the entirety of the strip mall at the end of the 1990's, demolishing it for a new store that opened in 2000. The old Albertsons building is the only thing that remains from the original Courtyard Shopping Center, with the new Target store sitting on top of the former plaza. We'll see the Target store a bit later in this post, but for now, let's turn our attention back to the former Albertsons building:
On the far left side of the building is the liquor store, which had yet to open for the day during my visit (hence the bars covering the doors). This side of the building also advertises the Aprons Cooking School located within the main Publix store, one of Publix's rarer features seen only in higher volume stores in well-off areas.
The entrance into the liquor store can be seen to my left, the main store entrance visible straight ahead.
Welcome to Publixsons, where shopping is a pleasure at your store! If you're ready for some classic Albertsons, let's turn the corner and enter the salesfloor...
Yep, this sure feels like an old Albertsons to me! With the raised ceiling and angled windows overlooking the front end, there's no hiding what this place used to be.
In the above photo, we're looking across the store's front wall. Albertsons' service desk would have been located up here originally, however Publix moved that to an island during the remodel to Classy Market 3.0 in recent years.
The right side vestibule comes into view here, leading into the service departments. This store still follows the general layout of a late 1980's superstore Albertsons, although Publix modified the look and feel of some of the departments to fit their needs.
The first fresh department we find is the deli counter located in the front right corner of the building.
While Publix's deli is located in the same spot as Albertsons' deli, Publix expanded their deli a little bit into Albertsons bakery to give that department some more room. Another thing to mention about this store (especially over here in the fresh departments) is the weird curving wall. From the deli through the bakery and back into produce, the wall snakes back and forth like this. The curving walls create a really neat effect when here in person, although I've never seen this design in any other Publix store before. I'm pretty sure Publix was the one to add the curving walls though, as this would be a fairly odd design for Albertsons too. There were quite a few things that made this place a rather odd Publix, the curved walls being one of them.
Here's another look at the curved wall in the deli, looking toward the prepared food cases.
Taking a quick break from the service departments, here's a look across the front aisle. The side of the service desk and the Apron's Simple Meals counter is visible here.
The floral department is located in a little island near the front of the produce department, across from the bakery. Speaking of the bakery...
...that's the next department we're going to take a look at! The main bakery signage is located where the wall curves outward, giving the effect that the bakery is in an alcove.
Beyond the bakery, the wall curves around the corner for the produce department.
Heading into the produce department, here's a look back toward the bakery and deli departments.
In addition to the Aprons Cooking School and the Apron's Simple Meals counter (the latter of which is present at just about every Publix store), this store also had an Apron's Event Planning Center (visible under the round sign in the distance). The event planning center is Publix's in-store catering service, and is also a rather rare feature reserved for the higher volume stores (although not as rare as the cooking schools). Anyway, while the event planning center is located in the distance, this photo was taken to show off some more of the produce department.
More from the bakery here. It seems we just can't get enough of the Publix bakery in this post!
Leaving the bakery once and for all, we begin to head further into the back right corner of the store. In this photo, the produce signage is visible. In the Albertsons days, the sweeping curve you see here would have been home to an angled alcove, something along the lines of this.
Leaving the produce department, here's a look across the back wall of the store. The meat coolers line the wall to my right, with the seafood counter visible in the distance.
The grocery aisles in this store were rather long, or at least they felt that way. Overall, this was a very large and spacious Publix, a typical side effect in these Publixsons stores (although it's not a bad thing). With the average Publix in the 45,000-50,000 square foot range, and the average Albertsons being 55,000-65,000 square feet, Publix sometimes ended up with more space than they knew what to do with.
It was a rather quiet morning when I was here, before 10:00 on a weekday, so the store was rather clear of shoppers (as getting a clear, empty view across the front end of a Publix is extremely rare!). However, this store is not a low volume store - I just got lucky and visited at a quiet time. I'm sure this place gets mobbed on weekends and later in the day!
Back into the grocery aisles we go. As we'll see in a moment, the grocery aisles are divided into two sections, but not in the traditional way you'd expect.
Here's a close-up shot of the meat and seafood counter, located in the center of the back wall (the same place these departments were located when Albertsons was here).
Back into the wide, clear aisles we go...
These next few photos show the odd division of the grocery aisles. Behind the registers are rows of short aisles containing random grocery products. After the short aisles (which are all un-numbered), we find a secondary front aisle that the main numbered grocery aisles branch off of. If none of that description made sense in your mind, just look closely at these next few photos and it should all make sense (I hope)!
This is a look across the secondary main front aisle. If you turn down any of the aisles to my left, you'd find the registers.
Here's a look from one of the main aisles into the short aisles in the front of the store. I've seen this aisle arrangement in a Publix before, that Publix also in a building which began its life as another grocery store.
Publix's frozen foods are located in the center of the store, in the same place Albertsons kept those.
From the end of aisle 6 we have a peek at the seafood counter. This store must have had Classy Market 2.5 prior to the current decor, as the tile pattern behind the seafood counter hails from that decor. In Classy Market 2.5, the seafood department decor was blue instead of green, so the tile pattern matched the decor much better in those days. When Publix first opened in this building, it would have opened with Classy Market 1.0, so this building has seen 3 remodels from Publix in the last 13 years. I don't know what decor this store would have had when it closed as Albertsons (or if Albertsons ever bothered to remodel it), but it would have opened with Blue and Gray Market.
Baby supplies are located in the short aisle ahead of aisle 8, which contains the breakfast foods.
Moving further toward the left side of the building, we find the dairy department. While a little bit of the dairy department extends onto the back wall, the majority of the dairy products are located along the left wall in the last aisle.
A fairly large selection of international foods was present at this rather large Publix store, visible in this aisle.
Moving closer to the left side of the store, the short aisles in front of the registers transition into health and beauty products as we near the pharmacy counter.
Paper products here in aisle 13.
Here's one last view across the store's back wall, this time from dairy back toward produce. From here, we'll begin to work our way back up front.
In the last aisle (aisle 15), we find the remainder of the dairy department as well as the sliced bread. The gray wall with a red stripe above the dairy coolers is rather odd for a Classy Market 3.0 dairy department, as the dairy decor is usually all dark brown in open ceiling stores, or light brown and orange in older stores with a drop ceiling.
Exiting the dairy aisle, we find the Aprons Cooking School tucked behind the pharmacy counter. As of the time this post was published, only 11 of these cooking schools exist throughout Publix's fleet of 1,231 stores, so it's rare to find one of these out there in the wild. Oddly enough, of those 11 Publix stores with cooking schools, 5 of them are in former Albertsons buildings (or were built on the site of a former Albertsons store). I like the concept of the Aprons Cooking School, which not only offers cooking classes, but live cooking demonstrations and food tastings as well. You can also have your birthday party at an Aprons Cooking School if you wanted to also (both children and adults alike)! This page explains the cooking schools in more detail if you're interested. The entrance to the cooking school is surrounded by cooking equipment, fittingly enough. I don't have any photos from inside the cooking school since it was closed at the time I was here, but some photos of it have been posted to Google.
I think the cooking school was carved out of the far back portion of the liquor store, but I'm not 100% sure on that.
After the cooking school is the pharmacy counter. While the pharmacy has been heavily modified and reconfigured to Publix's liking, it's located in the same spot Albertsons' pharmacy would have been located.
Here's a better overview of the pharmacy counter, showing some of the small aisles of health and beauty products out front.
While we see the "Thank you for shopping Publix" sign in this photo, we're not done with our interior tour just yet! We still have to pass through the remainder of the front end before leaving.
But before we return our attention to the front end, here's one last look across the secondary main front aisle.
Cutting down one of the short aisles, here we find the front end once again, as well as all the distinctive old Albertsons traits.
I haven't commented on it yet, but the ceiling in this store was very high, or it at least felt that way. The high ceiling made this place feel so much bigger than it probably was, even more so than the traditional modern warehouse ceiling does.
In all the photos I've posted of the front end so far, did any of you notice the one really odd thing up here? That oddity is visible in the above photo, which I'll will explain in more detail in just a moment...
As for that oddity I mentioned - where the heck did Publix find these check lane lights?! In all the Publix stores I've visited personally, as well as all the ones I've viewed online, never had I seen these lights until I stepped into this building. This store's original decor (Classy Market 1.0) used these lights, Classy Market 2.0 used these, and Classy Market 2.5, 3.0, and even 4.0/Evergreen use this fairly standardized design. I can't even tell if these lights are original to Publix's opening in this building, or if these were added in one of the remodels, as they don't match anything I've ever seen before. If you've seen these anywhere else, please let me know. I also combed through some other Publix stores opened around the same time as this one to see if these lights popped up elsewhere, but I found nothing (except a Publix with an Aisle 0, now another addition to our collection of Publix oddities!).
We'll depart this rather odd, but rather interesting Publixsons with one last look at Albertsons' distinctive angled windows overlooking the front end.
Back outside we go, with this look toward the right side entry vestibule.
Turning around, let's take a moment to address Publixsons' neighbor: Target. This is our view of the neighboring Target store from the right side of the Publix building. Target's entrance is located on the right side of the building, way off in the distance.
As we stroll along the walkway toward Target, we pass by its closed-off garden center. Target closed all of their garden centers in 2010 due to weak sales, and the majority of the former Target garden centers out there still look like this today: closed off, covered, and fairly useless (except for storing broken carts and old fixtures in).
As I mentioned earlier in this post, Target built this store on top of the former Courtyard Shopping Center, the strip plaza that once jutted out from the side of the Albertsons building. This Target opened in 2000 and has been remodeled at least three times since, the most recent remodel occurring in the summer of 2018. While we explored Target's "Next Generation" remodel in much more detail on My Florida Retail, we'll take another brief look at the new design here in Jacksonville. I was running ahead of schedule, so I decided to do a quick walk around Target just for the heck of it. Below we'll begin my mini-tour of the Mandarin Target, which is essentially a power walk around the perimeter store:
Stepping inside Target, this is what we see first. Guest Services is located just out of frame to my right, with the clothing departments straight ahead.
Target's shiny new service desk can be see here, tucked into the building's front right corner just inside the entrance.
We'll turn left to begin our circuit of this Target store, going by the front end and health and beauty first.
Target's "Next Generation" remodels (officially called P17 by corporate, an abbreviation of the term "Prototype 2017") included the use of decorative lighting in some departments, like these ring lights over cosmetics. In addition to the new lighting, Target changed their traditional red color scheme of the last 15 years to gray. The gray is a bit of a controversial point in the retail fan community, but it's not so much the gray that throws me off with these remodels but the blankness of the walls. Pretty much all of Target's decor packages up until now included the use of neon or some kind of decorations to break up all the blank wall space. P17 doesn't have much going on to break up all the blank gray areas besides some occasional patches of stock photos, which feel a bit spread out to me. That being said, P17 is actually rather nice, if a bit bland in places.
Turning away from cosmetics, here's a look down the remainder of the main front aisle. Office supplies, health and beauty, and small appliances could be found along the remainder of this aisle.
The grocery aisles run along the left side of the building. While this store did receive an expanded dry grocery selection in the early 2010's, it did not receive P-Fresh, which is Target's small selection of fresh produce, meats, and baked goods that can be found in a good number of non-Super Target locations.
Frozen food coolers line the side wall, extending toward the seasonal department.
Some more new lighting can be found here in seasonal. The seasonal "showcase" area (not really sure what else to call this large open area) was rearranged to be put on an angle, the spotlights drawing attention to the focal point of this department.
Turning the corner into the back of the store, we find the remainder of the seasonal department, sporting goods, toys, pet supplies, and electronics. I breezed over the entire center of the store during this rather fast visit, but housewares and hardware were located in that part of the building.
Electronics is located in the back of the store, home to one of the few remaining pops of red on the walls. Even with the red, the walls are still very blank.
Nearing the end of our sprint around the Mandarin Target, we find ourselves looking at the clothing departments once again. The fitting rooms are located in the back right corner of the building.
Our last interior photo looks down the right side of the store, through the women's clothing toward the main entrance.
So that's the Mandarin Target in a nutshell. Now that I've had my morning power walk through Target, let's head back next door to wrap thing up at Publixsons...
Publixsons, as seen from Target's parking lot.
I think the Superstore era Albertsons buildings had some of the nicest designs from Albertsons 42 years in Florida. The arches do a nice job to give this building a classier, more graceful look.
From my reporting on the ground, we'll jump up high in the sky for a look at some satellite imagery of this former Albertsons store, beginning with some Bird's Eye aerial views courtesy of Bing Maps:
Front View, including the Target too
And now for some historic aerial imagery, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4369 - 2018
Former Albertsons #4369 - 2010
Albertsons #4369 - 2005 - This image was taken not long before Rob Rowe bought this store.
Jumping across the street for a moment, here's a look at the original Publix located at the junction of Interstate 295 and San Jose Boulevard. This was Publix store #198, which opened in 1978, ten years before the arrival of the Albertsons across the street. In the end ol' 198 would end up moving into the Albertsons across the street after a 28 year run in this building. Shortly after Publix made the move across the street, the old Publix building and the two small strips of stores jutting out from both sides of the building would be torn down for Jacksonville's first Whole Foods store, which opened in 2008.
Anyway, back to the Albertsons:
Albertsons #4369 - 2001 - I have no idea what the heck was going on at Target when this image was taken, as from the looks of the parking lot, Target was giving away something good this day! Albertsons was looking a bit quiet compared to its chaotic neighbor.
Albertsons #4369 - 1999 - Jumping back to 1999, we can see the entirety of the shopping center that was demolished to make way for the new Target store. The large building in the center of the strip was the old Luria's store, which had been sitting empty for two years when this image was taken.
Digging through some old records on this plaza a while back, I stumbled across this diagram showing how the original Courtyard Shopping Center was laid out. While we see the general shape of the building in the satellite imagery, the above diagram shows how all the individual tenant spaces were divided up.
In addition to the diagram of the center itself, that same document included this image of the plaza's road sign. This was interesting as the sign shows the names of the many smaller tenants located within the plaza (in addition to Luria's).
Those additional distractions aside, let's get back to more historic satellite imagery:
Albertsons #4369 - 1994
Future Albertsons #4369 - 1980
If you thought this former Albertsons store was an odd one, you haven't seen anything yet! Jacksonville has lots of interesting retail relics within its boundaries, and next time we'll head down the street for more. What we saw today was just the start!
To conclude this post, here's the only photo I was able to scrape up from the internet showing Albertsons #4369 from prior to the Publix days. This photo came from a random review website, showing the building in 2005 shortly after it closed as Albertsons. That lift machine seems to suggest the Albertsons signage had just been taken down, although some distinctive Albertsons decaling can be seen on the vestibule window.
So that's all I have for Albertsons #4369. Next up is a bonus store you won't want to miss, so come back in two weeks for that!
Until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger