Sunday, February 2, 2020

The Next Era Of Publix (Well, Kind Of...)

Publix #1686
6075 Highway 17-92 North, Davenport, FL - Loughman Crossing

     While the sudden downfall of Lucky's Market has been taking the headlines in regard to Floridian supermarket news, today's AFB post will cover some other, I guess a bit more positive, Floridian supermarket developments. On September 26, 2019, Publix unveiled the first of its new prototype stores. These new stores, officially called the "49M" prototype internally, unveil some of the largest changes to Publix's store design in a number of years. While the official debut of these new stores happened in late September 2019, I finally got the chance to experience the new Publix prototype this past December. I know you guys have been curious about these new Publix stores, so this will be our opportunity to see what Publix has been doing lately...well, kind of, but more on that in a moment...

     The Publix we'll be taking a look at today is located in the unincorporated Polk County community of Loughman. Loughman is a semi-rural area located about 10 miles southwest of Kissimmee, officially considered a part of the outskirts of Davenport. Even though you may see pasture land and even a cow or two as you drive US 17-92 through Loughman, this area is rapidly growing. The former woodlands and farmlands north of Davenport are swiftly changing into modern subdivisions and gated communities, which continue to appear as more people flock to Central Florida for new opportunities and a reprieve from the cold. While most of the area's major retail is clustered around the I-4/US 27 interchange a few miles away, Publix built this new store looking to the future. A number of new subdivisions are planned for this stretch of US 17-92 in the coming years. In addition to that, this Publix store is only a few years away from sitting at the junction of US 17-92 and the Poinciana Parkway, a new (and much needed) toll road that will eventually link the isolated community of Poinciana to Interstate 4 in the west and US 192 in the east, providing the missing link of a highway around the southern side of Lake Tohopekaliga (and hopefully I won't need to type the name of that lake again in this post!).

     The Loughman Publix opened on October 10, 2019, the second of Publix's 49M prototypes to open. Following in the footsteps of that fancy new prototype in Palmetto, I was really excited to see what surprises would be held inside the new Loughman Publix. As you probably know (or saw after clicking the link above), the new Publix prototype also came with a new decor package. Officially called the "Evergreen" decor by Publix (and referred to online as "Classy Market 4.0", continuing the progression of Publix decor names I made up), the new Evergreen decor is one of the most radical decor changes coming out of Publix in nearly 15 years. Leaving behind the variety of different colors and earth tones from Classy Market 3.0 and its other Classy Market predecessors, Evergreen changes things up with some new fonts, a gray and green color scheme, and new accents throughout the store. The Evergreen decor looked really nice in the photos from the Palmetto store - sleek, modern, and not super dull, the icing on the cake for the Publix store of the future.

     It was a very cold (for Florida) morning when I visited this store, and the chill in the air helped keep the crowd down for an unusually quiet Publix visit. While I said this area isn't completely built out yet, don't let that make you think this is a really quiet Publix overall. On my way home later in the evening, I drove past this Publix again, and the parking lot was packed!

     Anyway, here's a look across the front walkway of the building, the entrance doors located straight ahead. We'll step through those doors for our first look at the next era of Publix...

     ...and stepping through those doors, we'll also see why I added the phrase "kind of..." to the title of this post. As the welcome sign suggests, this store does not have the fancy new Evergreen decor I spoke so highly of a few paragraphs back. Instead of Evergreen, this Publix features the variety of colors and earth tones of our dear old friend Classy Market 3.0. I know you guys really wanted to see the new decor, but with how Publix loves opening new stores and doing lots of remodels, we'll see Evergreen on the blog before long (probably before the end of 2020, actually, if either of the two new Publix stores on my immediate radar open with Evergreen). The day I visited the Loughman Publix, I had seriously considered taking my retail road trip down to Palmetto to see the Evergreen decor store and some other stores down that way. I had the route planned out and everything too. However, a last minute discovery of a rare decor package from another chain swayed my travel plans in a different direction, leading me to visit the Loughman Publix as a consolation prize. Like I said, with Publix being Publix, I would have had no need to drive across the state to see Evergreen, as I'm sure I'll find it near me soon enough. On the other hand, the decor package that ultimately swayed my travel plans was one of only two surviving examples of it left, so I have to pick my priorities accordingly 😁.

     Even though this Publix prototype has the old decor package, I like to think of it this way: the Loughman Publix will eventually be one of the few rare 49M Publix stores to have opened with Classy Market 3.0. Going forward in 2020, Evergreen will eventually replace Classy Market 3.0 in new store openings, even though a few final Classy Market 3.0 stores may still trickle out from the transitional phase. Other than the decor, the layout of this store is of the new variant, featuring some changes from Publix's norms of the past two decades. In the end, we'll still get a good idea of what Publix has been up to lately, even if it's minus the green and gray accents. Anyway, I believe we've spent enough time loitering around the entryway. Let's head into the main store for a look at some of the changes...

     We don't have to wait long to see any of the changes either! Stepping through the front doors and turning to the right, we find the customer service counter. Customer service moves from its longtime position at an island just inside the front doors to this spot in the front right corner. The reason for this change is so the service desk can also double as a grocery pick-up desk, a purpose that will become a bit clearer in the next photo:

     Looking at the service desk from within the grocery aisles, you'll notice an alcove behind it. The alcove behind the service desk is a staging area for Publix's grocery pick-up and curbside drive-up services. Within the staging area are shelves for storing orders, as well as coolers and warmers for orders with temperature-controlled items. Just out of frame behind the service desk (to the left of the silver coolers) is a side door into the store, which is labeled as the "Grocery Pick-Up" entrance. While anyone can use that door as a side entrance, its placement was implemented so you could walk right up to the service desk, grab your order, and be on your way.

     Pulling back a bit from that last image, here's a wider view of the area in front of the service desk, which was used to house the week's promotional merchandise. In the background of this image you can see the new mezzanine cafe, which we'll take a much closer look at toward the end of this post.

     As we continue deeper into the store, the changes keep on coming! Beyond the service desk, we find the deli. Instead of being located along the right side wall, the deli finds a new home in an island in the front right corner of the building. All of the deli's services are located within the confines of the island, including cold cuts, the sub station, and other prepared foods.

     Along the perimeter wall by the deli are pre-bottled teas and juices, with deli grab and go foods located in coolers around the perimeter of the deli island.

     As we proceed with our spin around the deli island, here's a look into produce and the back right corner of the building. We'll see more from back here shortly.

     Standing within the produce department, here's another overview of the deli island. The side of the deli I'm facing was home to the cold cuts and service counter, with the sub station and hot foods located on the side of the island facing customer service. The other two sides of the deli island were home to mostly pre-packaged items. I didn't look too closely, but it appears the gray center area of the deli island is a small storage room.

     Leaving the deli behind, the layout of the store returns to much of what we've seen from Publix over the last 20 years. Produce takes up the majority of the right side of the building, with the meat and seafood counter located in the back right corner. I'm sure this photo would have been much more striking had the scene before me looked like this, but we'll take what we can get.

     Leaving produce, we find the meat counter shoved into the back corner of the building. In most Publix stores up to this point, the service meat area would be to the left of seafood along the back wall, another minor tweak to the floor plan in these new stores.

     As I'm sure you noticed, another new addition back here is the Publix Aprons sign between meat and seafood (or seafood and meat, whatever is your preference). While this store does have the usual Publix Aprons Simple Meals counter for daily meal demonstrations, this Aprons counter serves a different purpose: meal kits.

     Between the meat and seafood counters is this special cooler, home to one of Publix's more recent additions: Publix Aprons Meal Kits. Right now, Aprons Meal Kits are only available at select Publix locations (as of now, mostly newer and higher volume stores), but this seems like something that will eventually see a much broader roll out once it gains a bit more traction. The meal kits are color coded as being "Simple" (black label), "Simpler" (purple label), or "Simplest" (blue label), organizing the kits by how many steps there are in the recipe. All of the meal kits are based off of recipes used at the Aprons Simple Meals demonstration counter, and I'd have to guess the recipes change regularly. These meal kits are another one of the ways Publix has been trying to broaden their reach into the rapidly expanding "grab and go" portion of the grocery industry.

     While figuring out how to make chicken with pineapple chutney in four steps or less sounds like a tempting dinner solution, we'll turn our attention away from the meal kits for this look down the store's back wall. Beyond the meat and seafood coolers we find the dairy department, which takes up the majority of the back wall, moving back here from its longtime home in the very last aisle. In the far distance is the bakery department, its blue paint visible in the background of this image.

     Moving a few steps ahead, here we see more of the dairy department along the back wall. Leaving the meat and seafood counters, the grocery aisles also appear to my left, under the drop ceiling.

     I visited this store about two months after it opened. Even though this store had a little bit of time to get broken in, the grocery aisles still looked as perfect as ever. I can't spot a single cereal box out of place!

     Poking out of aisle 1, we see the corner of the deli counter and the customer service desk again. As you can tell by the pyramid of poinsettias, the floral department was tucked into a little island of its own between the deli and the end of aisle 1.

     Turning the corner to the front end, the Aprons Simple Meals counter appears immediately to my right. The registers are straight ahead to my left, with the mezzanine seating area looking down from above.

     Leaving the front end, we'll dip into the quiet grocery aisles once again. It was such an odd experience photographing a Publix that was this quiet - an experience I can only recollect one other time in my six years of actively photographing stores for you guys. I guess if you want to have a Publix all to yourself, it pays to visit before 8:00 in the morning on a weekday.

     Heading through a few more grocery aisles, we find some others roaming the aisles, but not to the extent I usually have to fight for a Publix store tour.

     Returning to the back of the store, the frozen foods aisles begin to peek out up ahead...

     Frozen Foods remain in the center of the store in the new prototype, where Publix has been placing this department since the mid-2000's.

     After frozen foods, the grocery aisles begin to switch to more non-food items.

     Approaching the back left corner of the store, the bakery department begins to come into view...

     In these prototype stores, the bakery department finds its new home in the back left corner of the building. The new placement is the complete opposite of where the bakery resided in the older layouts, predominantly located in the front right corner shortly after entering the building. The bakery feels all alone in this corner, tucked between the dairy coolers and the wine. While the placement of the bakery seems like a strange choice (especially after so many years of being a part of the "grand aisle" with the deli and produce), Publix is no stranger to placing service departments in random spots all over the building. The 80's and early 90's Publix stores had service departments placed in all different corners of the store, nowhere near each other.

     Leaving the bakery, the last aisle of this store is home to beer and wine. The last aisle of modern Publix stores has been home to dairy, peanut butter, and white bread for so long, it was weird seeing the alcohol in this aisle!

     Even with all the changes we've seen, here's another thing has remained the same: the placement of the pharmacy counter. As usual, the pharmacy is located in the front left corner of the building. Since I visited this store so early in the morning, the pharmacy had yet to open for the day. Like many other recent new-build Publix stores, this store also has a pharmacy drive-thru on the side of the building.

     A few short aisles of health and beauty products were located in front of the pharmacy counter, visible on the right side of this image. Additional health and beauty products spilled over into aisle 13 as well.

     Now that we've strolled past the pharmacy, we find ourselves standing at the front end. The only element Publix carried over from Classy Market 3.0 to Evergreen/Classy Market 4.0 were the check lane lights, which are the classic cubes pictured here.

     While we've toured the entirety of the sales floor, there's still one place we've yet to see in this building: the mezzanine seating area. Looking over the front end, we see the seating area in the above photo. Let's head upstairs for a few photos of what is probably the most interesting new element Publix implemented for these prototype stores... 

     Climbing the stairs, here's an overview of the seating area. The stairs are located by the wall in the background of the photo, and behind me was a small counter with a sink, some plastic cutlery, and condiment packets. Of the Publix stores with seating areas, most are small, shoving a few tables into an alcove near the front of the store. Unlike those traditional seating areas, this one was designed to be more lounge-like, with tables for eating and upholstered chairs for relaxing. There was also a microwave oven up here for people wanting to eat frozen meals or warm something up. While we can stare at tables and chairs all day, I didn't have the time this morning to sit down in a comfy chair and sip bottle of Publix deli tea - I wanted to see the view!

     I'm sure this is what all of you guys have been waiting for - some photos from the mezzanine area looking down at the sales floor! Until these prototypes, Publix had only used mezzanine levels over the front end for office space and other not-open-to-the-public uses, primarily in early 2000's built stores. Now, anyone can step up to the seating area for a look down at the sales floor, which provides a neat overview of the store. Starting in the front right corner of the building, here's a nice overview of the deli island from above.

     Hello down there!...

     The Publix logo found its way onto those panels hanging above the self-checkouts too. Speaking of self-checkouts, these new prototype stores are one of the first examples of Publix making self-checkout a more mainstream feature (at least in Florida, as Publix stores outside Florida have had self-checkout for a while). Finding self-checkouts at Publix stores in Florida was rare until a year or so ago, when they began to pop up in more new-build stores. In the last year I've seen a few existing Publix stores in my area add self-checkouts too, although the majority of Publix's Florida stores still don't have them. From what I understand, Publix has begun adding self-checkouts into stores with larger amounts of grab-and-go products from the deli (or stores adding more grab-and-go products), making it convenient for people coming into the store to grab lunch or dinner and be off without having to wait in a long checkout line.

     Here's one last photo from the mezzanine balcony, looking across the front end toward the pharmacy counter. I thought it was neat seeing a Publix from this perspective.

     So that's what Publix has been up to recently (at least design-wise). Decor-wise - for that I'll have to get back to you at a later date! To wrap up this post, we'll finish with a few photos showing the remainder of Loughman Crossing:

     Publix is the only anchor to this new shopping center, with all the other storefronts reserved for smaller-sized businesses. As of my visit here, the entire strip of stores to the left of Publix (pictured here) was empty. However, since my visit, it appears the two storefronts closest to the pharmacy drive-thru lane (pictured at the far right of the image) have been leased to a karate studio and nail salon (per the plaza's leasing brochure).

     The strip of stores to the right of Publix was a tiny bit livelier during my visit. The storefront closest to Publix was occupied by a Publix Liquor store (a common pairing for modern Publix stores). Next to the Publix Liquor store was the plaza's first non-Publix related tenant, and AT&T store (which had yet to open upon my visit). According to the leasing brochure, this side of the plaza is nearly filled now, with only two small storefronts up for lease on this side of the plaza. A Burger King was also being built in the parking lot in front of the plaza when I was here, as were a 7-Eleven and a dentist's office, but I didn't get a picture of any of that. 

     With that out of the way, we've completed our look at what Publix has been up to recently. However, I know you guys really wanted to see that new decor. While I'll try to find a Publix store with that decor to bring to the blog at some point, all I can provide you with right now is this:

     The gray wall seen in the background through this propped-open door of an under construction Publix is the only photo I have right now of the Evergreen/Classy Market 4.0 decor. Had there been more definitive signs of the new decor on the wall, I might have been tempted to step up toward the next set of doors for a few photos. However, I didn't feel like answering a bunch of questions from angry construction workers for photos of blank gray walls, so this was the closest I went. I'm rather surprised I was able to get this close to an active construction site without being questioned about what I was doing, so I probably shouldn't take any chances with my luck!

     Anyway, that's all I have for now. If you guys want a taste of the new decor, Jackson C. of the GTB Area Retail Blog posted a nice tour of the new Brandon Publix here, a store which has both the new decor and layout. With this bit of positive news out of the way, next time I tackle the negative. You guessed right: next time, AFB is off to Lucky's Market for a look around, as we try to process what went wrong. I had to flip my posting schedule around to squeeze in Lucky's in a timely manner, so we'll actually be having three bonus stores in a row on the blog (including this one). After that, we'll have three Albertsons stores in a row, so it all balances out in the end. Hopefully in two weeks the dust settles a bit more and we'll have a better sense of what's in store for Lucky's going forward, as I've had a lot of information thrown at me over the last week and a half about that situation. 

However, more on Lucky's trials and tribulations next time. So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger


  1. I like the way you think... this store's situation kinda reminds me of the Horn Lake Walmart, too, since it opened with the new store build but the outgoing décor package. Like you said though, that fact - while unfortunate for us who wanted to see the new décor! - does make the store unique in its own way. And I certainly can't blame you for diverting from that other Publix to check out the store with the rare décor you mentioned!

    I really like the mezzanine and the views it provides; looking forward to seeing more of that in future new-model Publix tours. And thanks for the link, too!

    1. I don't have the exact number, but there are 6 or 7 of these Classy Market 3.0 prototype stores out there right now. If all the new stores begin to have the new decor, that will eventually put these older prototypes into the minority. I'm sure 8 years from now my perspective will resonate even stronger on these stores, once Classy 3.0 begins to fade away like its predecessors. But yes, a very similar situation to the Horn Lake Walmart, as you guys were excited that store was going to be something special and new when it opened (which is what I was hoping for with this place!)

      One of the best parts of the mezzanine is the view! It's nice that Publix employees aren't the only ones who get that vantage point anymore. And you're welcome!

  2. This is a nice setup for a Publix. Especially that seating area. I wish the store I worked at (#1013 in Port Charlotte) had one of these upstairs seating areas. The pics you took looking down at the sales floor reminded me of looking down from the upstairs break room during lunch break and before beginning my shift.

  3. I wonder if the new Publix in the Westshore area of Tampa (a former Sports Authority store) will have the upstairs seating area, too.

  4. As an addendum, I believe the first such Evergreen-layout store (dressed in CM3.0/Sienna) would have to be store #1593 in Richmond. Opened August 2019: