Albertsons #4318 / Publix #1324
8701 W. Hillsborough Avenue, Tampa, FL
What better way to kick off the summer than with a trip to a former Albertsons store in Tampa? Well, to most people visiting Tampa, a trip to an old grocery store is probably at the bottom of the list of fun things to do, but to me, I find it fun. Rambling aside, let's spend a few minutes getting to know the background of ol' Albertsons #4318. For a run-of-the-mill Publixsons store, there was a decent amount of history I was able to dig up on this place, so let's get into it:
Albertsons #4318 opened on May 18, 1977 as the first Albertsons store in the city of Tampa. Luckily enough, someone happened to clip this store's grand opening ad from The Tampa Tribune (thanks MysticJynx!), so we'll get ourselves a taste of this store's first few days in operation. What's interesting about this ad is that it was published at the time when Albertsons was splitting from Skaggs, as the two companies partnered together to enter the Southeastern US grocery market in the early 1970's. While the Florida Skaggs-Albertsons stores were transitioning to full control of Albertsons at the time store #4318 opened in 1977, the ad still features a rendering of the new store with the old Skaggs-Albertsons branding.
Albertsons #4318 lies in the neighborhood of Tampa called Town 'n' Country, a neighborhood that lies in the westernmost fringes of the city near the border with Pinellas County. Hillsborough Avenue (the major road this store was built on) is North Tampa's primary connection with the northern suburbs of Pinellas County (Palm Harbor, Dunedin, and Tarpon Springs specifically), so this road sees a lot of traffic. The intersection Albertsons built their first Tampa store at (Hillsborough and Sheldon) is a major West Tampa crossroads, and a major retail hub for the area.
While Albertsons would end up spending 31 years in this building before ultimately bowing out to Publix in the Great Albertsons Purge of 2008, it was rumored in the late 90's that Albertsons was seriously considering to replace this store. In January 1997, The Tampa Tribune reported that Albertsons was considering a move to the Hillsborough Square Shopping Center across the street from here. Hillsborough Square was a struggling 200,000 square foot shopping center in the late 90's. After losing its Kmart anchor to a new location on West Waters Avenue in 1993, Hillsborough Square began to constantly lose tenants. In 1997, it was reported that the owners of Hillsborough Square were in talks with Albertsons to take over the old Kmart building, so Albertsons could build a new "superstore" to replace the aging location across the street. Rumors of Albertsons relocating remained until the turn of the millennium, when it was officially announced that Hillsborough Square (which was down to only two small tenants by 2000) would be completely torn down to make way for a new Home Depot. Alongside Albertsons, Home Depot was also rumored to be interested in the Hillsborough Square site in the late 1990's, with Home Depot being the eventual winner of the redevelopment plan.
With Albertsons staying put in their longtime home come the early 2000's, Albertsons decided to remodel the store one last time. Store #4318 was given a refresh to the early 2000's Industrial Circus decor, which it would eventually close with come the store's sale to Publix in 2008. For many years, there was a great YouTube video made from pictures taken at this store around 2005, showing Albertsons #4318 in all its Industrial Circus glory. I was going to link the video to this post (and possibly do some screenshots), but it appears the video has been removed, as I can't find it anymore.
Through all of Albertsons' (and Publix's) remodels to happen here over the years, the original river rock panels remain in nearly original form around the building. While the paint color around the rocks has changed over the years, no one has bothered to mess with the rocks themselves.
When Publix acquired those 49 Albertsons stores in 2008, what Publix did to each of those stores varied. Some stores were barely touched, some were later demolished and rebuilt, and Publix even held onto a few to open at a later date. This store would best fit into that last category. While the majority of those 49 acquired stores reopened as Publix locations in the months following the sale, Publix held off on reopening this store right away. It took Publix until 2010 before finally getting this store opened and ready for business. Instead of the common new flooring and decor swap, Publix did a pretty thorough remodel to this place before reopening it. While the interior still has an Albertsons layout and general feel, Publix made themselves at home here, rebuilding the service departments, installing new lighting, and really cleaning the place up. While the exterior of this store looks very much like an Albertsons design and paint scheme - it's not. Publix is the one who redid the facade of the building to this look. I have an exterior photo of this store from the Albertsons days later in the post, and as you'll see, Publix changed quite of bit of the exterior before they opened.
Stepping onto the front sidewalk, we're looking toward the store's main entrance. Albertsons reconfigured the entryways at this store from the original configuration to have a set of doors at each end of the building. The main entrance takes shoppers into the fresh departments, with the exit doors (and secondary entrance) being on the pharmacy side of the store.
Here's a look at the entrance, with the front right corner of the building bumping really close to the side of Sheldon Road. Due to the weird angle that Sheldon Road crosses Hillsborough Avenue (seen here if you want a visual), this store was built on an angle on a triangular shaped lot. The oddly shaped lot lead to the creation of an oddly shaped parking lot, a very busy oddly shaped parking lot too, especially on the day I visited this store. This store was the first (and hopefully only) time when I've had to circle the lot to find a parking space at a Publix. It was insanely busy when I was here, and it was a weekday afternoon too!
Stepping through the entrance, we're bombarded by promotional merchandise. In addition to that, we also see the floral island, whose sign stares you down upon entering. The check lanes are located to my left, and the deli is located around the corner to my right.
Turning to the right, here's a look at the deli department in the store's front right corner (the usual mob of customers present here too). While Publix remodeled the deli to their liking, it's still in the same spot where it had been during Albertsons' 31 years in the building. The same holds true for all the other service departments in here.
I didn't even try walking through that mob for a closer photo of the deli counter, so I instead ventured into this sea of shopping carts parked by the bakery for some photos (presumably carts parked by people waiting at the deli).
Speaking of the bakery, here it is from afar. Publix went all out with redoing the bakery department, the curved awning being their addition, as well as the tile back splash and the overall design of the department.
While the deli was crazy, the bakery was a little calmer, so I was able to get this closeup of the bakery counter. The bakery here is very much standard Publix fare in terms of design, tucked in amongst the bustle of Albertsons' original grand aisle.
If this store's deli and bakery was looking a little cramped in the last few images, this was the reason why. During my visit, the store's pharmacy was undergoing a remodel. While the pharmacy was being remodeled, it was moved to this temporary box in front of the bakery, taking up a nice chunk of space in the store's grand aisle.
Getting any photos down the grand aisle was a bit difficult with a temporary pharmacy plopped in the middle of it, but I made the best of the situation.
Behind the temporary pharmacy is produce, which takes up the back right corner of the building. Here we're looking back toward the bakery and deli counters, even though the temporary pharmacy blocks most of the view ahead.
Leaving the temporary pharmacy box behind us, we encounter a spacious produce department in the back right corner of the building.
Unfortunately, the Classy Market 3.0 decor loses a lot of its grandeur in buildings Publix inherited from others. Here, the walls were simply painted green. Even though Classy Market 3.0 was never an over-the-top look, in its full form, Classy Market 3.0 has some neat 3D effects.
Moving into the back corner, here's another overview of the store's grand aisle.
In the back right corner itself was this little hallway leading to the stockroom. What got my attention over here was the painted-over wood paneling on the side wall, the wood paneling being a classic Albertsons remnant.
Looking across the back of the store, we find the meat and seafood departments (as well as another mob of people). At 55,000 square feet, this store was about average size for an Albertsons, but tips the larger end of the spectrum for Publix. Looking across the back of the store from this angle, the place seems rather large. I think the really high drop ceiling also adds to this store's spacious feeling.
The full service seafood counter is followed by the meat coolers, the meat department taking up a large chunk of the store's back wall. Also, if you look at the top of the wall next to the meat department sign, you'll see the window from the upstairs offices (it blends in with the decor, so look closely), the backroom mezzanine offices being another classic feature of these 1970's Albertsons stores.
Jumping into the grocery aisles, let's head back up front for a moment...
As we've seen in Publixsons stores before (typically some of the older Albertsons building variants), this store has "double front actionways". Those short aisles to my left separate the main grocery aisles from the check lanes, creating the double front actionway. I believe the double front actionway setup is to make up for how this building goes back further than a traditional Publix building would, as I've only ever seen this configuration in Publix stores that started out as something else originally.
Some more grocery aisles as we continue our journey leftward through the sales floor.
Pictured here is a newly installed Publix pickup/curbside delivery prep and storage area, located next to the floral island just inside the main entrance. Publix began piloting in-store and curbside grocery pickup in late 2017, with a more widespread launch of the program not happening until late 2018/early 2019. While Publix stores in many major cities (as well as newly-opened locations) had store pickup services in place by 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic of early 2020 caused Publix to begin a more aggressive push to get the pickup programs into as many stores as possible, seeing the sudden spike in popularity of these services due to the pandemic.
Frozen foods occupy aisles 5 and 6, which lie roughly at the halfway mark through the store's grocery aisles.
Here's a look back toward the bakery, as seen from the front of the grocery aisles.
Cutting through one of the short aisles in the middle of the double actionway, here's a quick look at the front end.
A quick peek back toward frozen foods...
Returning to the back wall, lunch meats occupy the coolers following the butcher cuts.
Spinning around 180 degrees, lunch meats transition into dairy coolers, with dairy continuing into the store's last aisle. This photo is another example of how Classy Market 3.0 can fizzle out into a lot of blank wall space, with all the vast expanses of beige and brown seen here.
Pet supplies can be found in aisle 8, with some more photos of the grocery aisles on this side of the store to follow:
While this store was busy overall, these last few aisles were surprisingly quiet.
However, it can only stay quiet for so long...
The last aisle is aisle 13, home to the remainder of the store's dairy department.
Here's a look in the opposite direction, with the main pharmacy counter visible in the background.
Leaving the grocery aisles behind us, we'll take a quick look at the main pharmacy counter, which was being remodeled at the time of my visit. Heath and beauty products occupy the few short aisles in front of the pharmacy.
The old pharmacy was locked up tight, with signs taped to the counter directing customers to the temporary pharmacy by the bakery.
Tucked into a corner of the pharmacy is the BayCare Virtual Health Clinic, located inside that room labeled "Consultation" (although I'm not sure if the virtual clinic was operational with all the construction going on). While some grocery and drugstore chains have their own in-store clinics with on-staff doctors to diagnose minor medical problems (like Kroger's Little Clinic and CVS's Minute Clinic), Publix took that same concept, but added a twist to it. While Publix's clinics offer the same minor medical help those other stores' clinics do, all of Publix's clinic visits are virtual, with a doctor appearing on a screen in the consultation room instead. The screen the doctor appears on is part of a special interactive device patients use in order for the doctor to obtain vital signs and generate an accurate diagnosis. You can read more about Publix's virtual clinics by clicking here. Publix currently offers virtual in-store clinics in select markets, those markets being Tampa Bay, St. Augustine, and Beaufort, SC, as these are the only markets (so far) where Publix has gotten partnerships with local hospitals to staff the virtual clinics. Between those three markets, Publix has roughly 20 of these virtual clinics up and running right now, with the majority of the clinics being part of the BayCare network in the Tampa Bay area.
While the pharmacy was being remodeled, I'm not entirely store what the remodel entailed. Publix completely redid the pharmacy when they moved in, so I wouldn't think this remodel was done to remove any lingering Albertsons traits Publix wasn't fond of. While I was here, the little room in front of me was being added to the side of the pharmacy counter, the most noticeable change as part of the renovation (at least while I was here). I'm not sure if something was being added to the pharmacy, or if this was all part of a general refresh. There's also a chance this new room could be a more permanent home for the order pickup staging area too (which seemed oddly placed where it was in the middle of the sales floor), but I really don't know. If anyone has popped by this store recently, please let us know what's changed over in this corner (these pictures aren't super old either, so this pharmacy remodel is a relatively recent event at this store).
Peeking out from the pharmacy counter, here's a look toward the busy front end.
As we near the registers, here's one last look toward the pharmacy counter in its closed-up state.
Since Publix had some extra space on their hands, the front of the store is wide open and spacious, a characteristic that comes in handy on a busy day (like the one when I visited)!
As the lines begin to form, we'll start making our way out of here...
Looking across the front wall of the store, customer service is buried somewhere in that crowd, as is the exit in the background.
While Publix redid this store to fit their liking, they still kept the spirit of the former Albertsons alive (which is better than tearing the entire place down and rebuilding it, which Publix also likes to do). Publix did a good job fixing up this older Albertsons store. While I can't attest to how Albertsons maintained the building in their final years, as a Publix, this place certainly didn't feel like it was 43 years old inside! But that's how Publix is, as even their oldest stores still have a way of feeling modern.
Moving over to the front left corner of the building, we find the liquor store. At some point (most likely during the early 2000's remodel to Industrial Circus), Albertsons expanded the liquor store. Originally located under that secondary awning around the side, the liquor store would have been tucked inside the main store's side entrance. When the store remodeled, the side entrance was eliminated in favor of creating a larger liquor store (a common occurrence in remodels of these Skaggs model Albertsons stores in the late 90's and early 2000's).
Lastly, before jumping into satellite imagery, here's a look at the store's road sign, which is clearly a holdover from the store's Albertsons days. This is the sign that faces busy Hillsborough Avenue, so you can't miss this when driving by!
With our tour complete, let's jump into the satellite imagery, beginning with some Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:
Front and Left Side (the store's built on an angle, so all these images are angled as a result)
Front and Right Side
Right Side and Back
Back and Left Side
And now the historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4318 - 2019 - As you can tell from the parking lot in this image (and that I can personally attest to from my visit), this is a really busy Publix!
Former Albertsons #4318 - 2010 - Publix shortly after it opened.
Former Albertsons #4318 - 2009 - Publix had yet to move in at this point, even though they did own the building by this time.
Albertsons #4318 - 2007 - Albertsons certainly wasn't packing them in like Publix currently is...
Albertsons #4318 - 2002
Albertsons #4318 - 1994
Albertsons #4318 - 1982
Future Albertsons #4318 - 1969 - How 50 years can change a place - that little two lane road going east-west at the bottom of this image is now four lanes in each direction!
Zooming out, here's a historic aerial image from the mid-1990's, showing all the major retail once located on the same corner as Albertsons #4318. Going clockwise from Albertsons (located on the northwest corner of the intersection), we find Buccaneer Square. Buccaneer Square was originally anchored by Belk-Lindsey and Jewel T. Jewel T was the discount arm of Chicago's Jewel-Osco, which operated in select Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic states in the late 1970's and early 1980's (markets where the discount stores wouldn't overlap with the original brand in the Midwest). Interestingly, the first Jewel T store to open in 1977 was located in New Port Richey, and the company had a decent presence around Tampa until the chain was sold off in 1984. Today Buccaneer Square is anchored by Aldi, Harbor Freight Tools, and Dollar General. South of Buccaneer Square on the southeastern corner is West Hills Plaza, which was originally anchored by Publix and Walgreens. That being said, the old Albertsons building marks Publix's return to this corner, after leaving the old West Hills Plaza location (which was a 1960's wing store, the first retail development on this corner) for the Colony Crossings Shopping Center (located about a mile west of here) in 1989. The Colony Crossings Publix (store #387), would in turn be replaced by the Publix in the old Albertsons building in 2010, bringing Publix back to this corner after a 21 year hiatus. The last major shopping center at this corner is Hillsborough Square, located at the intersection's southwestern quadrant. I touched on Hillsborough Square earlier in this post when I mentioned Albertsons' rumored relocation to the old Kmart building. Hillsborough Square would be demolished in 2001 for a new Home Depot, so I included this older aerial image to show the original shopping center at the site.
So folks, that's Albertsons #4318 for you. Publix got a good deal on this store, turning this place from a sleepy Albertsons into a high volume Publix location.
Lastly, as promised, here's the lone photo I was able to dig up of ol' #4318 when it was an Albertsons. Like I said, Publix put in a lot of effort to clean up and modernize this store, which is why it took them nearly a year and a half to get the place open again after the sale was finalized. I wish I was able to find the old video of this store again, as it was a really nice interior tour of this place while it was still an Albertsons. Oh well I guess, as in the end, I was able to find at least one image of this store under its original brand!
So that's all I have for today. If you're a sucker for a funky supermarket conversion with lots of remnants of the past hanging around (like I am), then the next AFB post in two weeks will be of interest to you! Be sure to come back then and check that out!
Until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger