20409 State Route 7, Boca Raton, FL - Mission Bay Plaza
While the former Publix Greenwise Market on the other side of town was a fun glimpse into Florida's recent supermarket history, we'll head off to the far western fringes of Boca Raton today to look at the city's former Albertsons store. Albertsons built their Boca Raton location just outside the city limits along US 441, a road typically referred to by locals as State Route 7 (which is the road's secondary designation). Albertsons was one of the anchor stores to the new shopping center called Mission Bay Plaza, the plaza named after the unincorporated community in which the plaza was built. With growth in western Palm Beach County surging in the late 1980's, the US 441/SR 7 corridor became the retail hub for Southern Palm Beach County. Along State Route 7 you'll find most of Boca Raton's "mainstream" retail - your Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Burlington, and the like. The actual city of Boca Raton, whose boundaries lie further to the east of here, has always been extremely picky about commercial development. With its "high class" appeal, the city of Boca Raton became more selective of what stores it wanted to approve within the town's actual boundaries, especially going into the 1980's. With that challenge to face, most retailers wanting to enter Boca Raton opted to locate outside the city's boundaries, making the wide open State Route 7 corridor a prime location for new retail development in the area.
Mission Bay Plaza was one of the first major shopping centers to be built in West Boca, the plaza opening its first stores in late 1988. Alongside Albertsons, the other original anchor tenants to Mission Bay Plaza were Toys R Us, Kids R Us, and a General Cinema 8 screen theater. Since the plaza was named "Mission Bay Plaza", the developers decided to incorporate a Spanish Mission architectural theme throughout the complex, a theme that will become much more apparent later in this post.
Albertsons opened this store with the rest of the plaza in November 1988. I don't know if this store was ever remodeled significantly in its lifetime, but I do know the exterior was never touched for the entire time Albertsons was in this building. Albertsons lasted in Boca Raton until February 2010, closing with the last few Albertsons stores that remained in Palm Beach County. This building didn't sit empty for long, as by early 2011, The Fresh Market had popped up in the right half of the building. Within a year of The Fresh Market's opening, Golfsmith popped up in the left half of the former Albertsons space. Both tenants completely stripped and gutted their halves of the building, going as far as to reconstruct the exteriors too. That's unfortunate, as this Albertsons had one of the nicest exteriors in Florida (pictures of which will come later in the post).
While The Fresh Market seems to have some late 80's Albertsons-esque exterior design, their facade is completely new, designed to loosely match the other Spanish Mission architecture throughout the plaza.
It's also a complete coincidence that I'll be featuring The Fresh Market on the blog today, continuing my unintentional theme of "2020: the year of the organic grocery store".
Walking up to the building's front sidewalk, we find a shady seating area covered by a pergola. The seating area is located where Albertsons' right side vestibule would have once been located.
Stepping away from the seating area, here's a look across the front of the old Albertsons. The Fresh Market's entrance is located by those garbage cans, so let's pop in there for a quick look around.
Entering The Fresh Market, you walk into the produce department. The Fresh Market's space occupies the portion of the building that would have housed Albertsons' deli, bakery, and produce departments, which all would have been clustered along the store's right perimeter.
One thing to note about The Fresh Market is their stores are very dark. My phone is very uncooperative when it comes to taking pictures in darker settings, so a lot of the pictures I took in here are either blurry or badly glared. However, the photo above seems to be one of the exceptions, as it appears to have turned out rather well!
The Fresh Market's service departments are located in the back of the store, the deli and prepared foods located in an island just out of frame to my left. Meats were located in cases to my right, with the bakery just beyond that.
Emerging from the bakery, we enter a small dry grocery section.
The frozen food coolers line the left side wall, with the grocery aisles shooting off from here at an angle.
Even though The Fresh Market has had some troubles recently, closing a number of locations throughout the country, they seem to hold their own in Florida. The Fresh Market caters more toward the Whole Foods shopper than the Lucky's shopper, presenting organics in a more formal, traditional, and higher-priced setting. For that reason The Fresh Market tends to put their stores in more well-off areas, and Boca Raton is certainly one of them.
Here's a crummy picture looking toward the wine department, located in the front left corner of the store.
My best picture of the entire store happened to be the last one I took - this one looking toward the front checklanes. I'm quite surprised at how clearly this one turned out, and how well the spotlighting cooperated with me! I guess my cheap 4-year-old phone can cooperate in the darkness when it feels like it!
Exiting The Fresh Market, let's hed over to the left side of the former Albertsons building, home to the former Golfsmith space:
With the Golfsmith chain's bankruptcy in 2016, the company closed the majority of its stores, including this location in Boca Raton. What stores Golfsmith didn't close during their 2016 bankruptcy were sold to Dick's Sporting Goods, who consolidated all the remaining Golfsmith stores into their Golf Galaxy brand. With Golfsmith's closure, the left half of the former Albertsons building sat vacant for about a year until Tuesday Morning and Five Below were brought in to fill the void. Even though Golfsmith preserved the shape of Albertsons' facade when they moved in, they still stripped away all of the old Albertsons elements from this side of the building too. Five Below and Tuesday Morning kept much of Golfsmith's design though, just relocating the doors and creating a new partition.
Continuing with our stroll through the former Albertsons store, Tuesday Morning where we'll venture next...
Considering that this side of the building has been gutted to the bare walls twice now since Albertsons left the building, finding any Albertsons relics in here was a bit of a lost cause. This photo looks down the very center of Tuesday Morning's salesfloor, the store's "grand aisle" I suppose.
Tuesday Morning occupies the portion of the building that would have been home to Albertsons' frozen foods department, with the meat service counter in the back.
The concrete floor in the Tuesday Morning part of the building was all scarred up. There's a chance those scars may have had to do with Albertsons refrigeration units (which would have been in this general area), or could just be a relic of the building's numerous conversions throughout the years.
This final photo from within Tuesday Morning looks up the left side wall, the new partition installed to separate Tuesday Morning from its neighbor Five Below.
And speaking of Five Below, let's go there next...
Since Golfsmith preserved the shape of this side of the Albertsons building, we find a few vague Albertsons remnants as we enter Five Below. Probably the biggest hint left today that Albertsons once occupied this space is Five Below's odd entryway setup, with Five Below's entry located in Albertsons' old left side vestibule. The set of doors to my right is located where Albertsons' doors were once located, taking shoppers into the pharmacy side of the store. Five Below's checkouts take up the ramaining little sliver of vestibule, with the ramainder of the sales floor stretching back into the old pharmacy/health and beauty department.
Back in the day, the sight in front of me would have looked more like this.
According to the leasing plan for the shopping center, Five Below occupies the front two thirds of their sliver of the old Albertsons building. The back corner of the building Five Below does not occupy is being used as storage space.
In a few places throughout Five Below's salesfloor, you could see the scars of some old floor tiles on the concrete floor. These tile scars were probably from Golfsmith though, as Albertsons' old tile pattern from the era this store was built would have been on an angle.
I thought this was a neat little display.
Heatlh and beauty products would have once lined this wall, with the pharmacy counter located straight ahead of me.
Lastly from within Five Below, here's a look from the inside toward the old vestibule, with Five Below's checklanes taking up the space where you would have once entered the old Albertsons store.
Leaving Five Below, the last place we need to visit is the old Albertsons liquor store, located just ahead of me beyond that brick column.
Tucked away into the left side of the building, Albertsons' old liquor store has become home to a nail salon.
While in many cases these old liquor stores are the only well-preserved glimpse into the main store's past, that wasn't the case here. Even the old Boca Raton Albertsons liquor store was gutted and rebuilt - including the facade.
Looking away from the old liquor store, this glimpse down the plaza's front walkway showcases many of the Mission-style architectural elements included throughout the plaza - the Spanish clay tile, use of arches, old-timey lamps hanging from chains, and generous use of brick accents - all being examples of the Mission-style design.
With that look at the old Albertsons space behind us, let's take a quick stroll through the rest of the plaza:
Throughout the plaza were these handy directory posters. The former Albertsons is the large space at the top of the map, the other three anchors extending down along the property's western edge. Even with all the anchor changes here throughout the years, Mission Bay Plaza has held up well, maintaining a very high occupancy rate.
The plaza also has these themed guide signs located throughout the conplex, listing all the tenants in a particular section of the plaza.
We'll begin our short tour of the remainder of Mission Bay Plaza by leaving Albertsons and heading south. The first anchor we find is Dick's Sporting Goods, which occupies the former Toys R Us space. Toys R Us closed this location in January 2016 when their lease expired, the plaza's landlord already having Dick's lined up to fill the space upon Toys R Us's departure. Dick's heavily modified this space upon moving in, as here's what the place would have looked like originally as Toys R Us.
We'll continue our walk with a few shots of the Mission style architecture found throughout the plaza's walkway.
LA Fitness occupies the old General Cinemas space. General Cinemas was Mission Bay Plaza's first anchor casualty, with the theater closing in 2000. LA Fitness moved in shortly after that. In 2017, LA Fitness heavily remodeled this location, adding a new main entrance (the one pictured here, carved out of some smaller storefronts) and modernizing the interior. LA Fitness's original main entrance was located around the corner in the plaza's courtyard, and had a much more movie theater-like feel to it.
At the south end of the complex is the plaza's courtyard, located to my right behind all those palm trees.
The courtyard is a nice shady place to walk around or enjoy some outdoor dining. There were lots of trees in the courtyard, as well as a faux bell tower and (best of all) a fountain:
It's not often you see a shopping center with a fountain, so this was a nice little touch. It was very tranquil in this part of the plaza, but I think a fountain can have that kind of effect on anything.
The far southern end of Mission Bay Plaza contained the plaza's last anchor: Kids R Us. After Kids R Us folded in 2004, this space was converted into an OfficeMax. OfficeMax lasted here until May 2019, when this location was consolidated into a nearby Office Depot. Office Depot's corporate headquarters is actually located near here, as I drove by it on my way out of Boca. When Office Depot and OfficeMax merged, OfficeMax's longtime headquarters in Illinois was closed, with the newly merged company to operate fully out of Office Depot's Boca Raton headquarters. Since Office Depot is the hometown favorite, it makes sense that the town's OfficeMax was cut in favor of the nearby Office Depot. As of my visit, a pop-up Halloween store was operating out of the old OfficeMax space. The OfficeMax space is still empty as of the writing of this post, and according to the most recent leasing plan for Mission Bay Plaza, the empty OfficeMax is the only vacancy in the entire plaza. That's actually quite impressive for such a large center in this day and age!
Now that we've finished our tour of Mission Bay Plaza, here's one final look back at the old Albertsons store before leaping into satellite imagery. First up, Bird's Eye aerial views, courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
To start, here's an aerial image of the entirety of Mission Bay Plaza, the Albertsons building located at the top of the image.
Former Albertsons #4371 - 2019
Former Albertsons #4371 - 2016
Former Albertsons #4371 - March 2011 - This is interesting, as here we can see The Fresh Market's conversion of their half of the building well underway. As you can see, The Fresh Market really stripped their half of the building down!
Former Albertsons #4371 - December 2010 - Going back three months from the previous image, renovation work is in its early stages here.
Albertsons #4371 - 2009
Albertsons #4371 - 1999 - This store really didn't change much at all during the time Albertsons was here.
Future Albertsons #4371 - 1980 - Just empty fields and pastureland out here back in 1980.
To finish off this post, I'll share the few images I have of Albertsons #4371 back when the place was open. As you can see, this store had a really nice facade to tie it into the theme of the rest of the plaza, a change of pace compared to the plain stucco look of most 80's Superstore Albertsons. The front of the building had some decorative tilework, as well as some arbor like structures to dress the place up.
While that last image was taken from way out in the parking lot, YonWooRetail2 decided to do a recreation of this store from a much closer angle, where we can better see how all the details tied into each other.
Even though it's hard to find much of any evidence left from Albertsons' 22 year run in Boca Raton anymore, this store did serve the community well during the time it spent here. Mission Bay Plaza's landlord is also doing a good job at keeping the plaza tenanted and viable, which is also nice to see. With today's store of the past out of the way, next time we move into the stores of the future, with our much anticipated look at the new Greenwise Market coming to the blog. I know a lot of you are curious about those new prototypes, so be sure to come back in two weeks for that!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger