Albertsons #4367 / Rowe's IGA Supermarket / Hobby Lobby
200 State Route 312, St. Augustine, FL - Riverside Center
Happy August everyone! My little summer break has come to an end, and it's time to get things back up and running here on the blog. While I was away from the blog, I managed to hit the road a few times and visit some great stores to bring to AFB in the future, so I had a productive few weeks off. Getting back to today though, since we're jumping into August already, I figured it was fitting enough to use this month to explore the retail of St. "August"-ine! Not only is St. Augustine home to numerous historic sites, being the oldest continually inhabited city established by European colonists in North America, but there's plenty of old retail to be found in this town too. While none of the stores we'll see date back to St. Augustine's founding way back in the year 1565, or contain the fountain of youth, it's still pretty neat stuff for the retail fans of the world (especially when we get into some of the 1980's retail relics in the upcoming posts - to us, 1980's retail relics are just as good as finding archaeological artifacts from 1565!)
To start off our time in St. Augustine, we first pop into the town's lone Albertsons store. Opened in 1988 at the corner of US 1 and State Route 312, St. Augustine's new Albertsons store opened alongside Zayre to anchor the new Riverside Center. Located in the heart of St. Augustine's primary retail district, the new Riverside Center fit in well with the other retail establishments in the area, including shopping centers featuring Kmart, Wal-Mart, Publix, Winn-Dixie, and also the Ponce De Leon Mall. With the exception of the Ponce De Leon Mall (which is a story for another day), St. Augustine's retail district has managed to expand and evolve into a bustling hub in the modern day. As for the subject of our post, the St. Augustine Albertsons had a 17 year run before it met its demise in 2005. This store was included as part of Albertsons' retreat from the Jacksonville market, in which the 7 Jacksonville area Albertsons stores were sold off to former supermarket executive Rob Rowe. As we've discussed before, Rob Rowe would use these newly-acquired Albertsons stores as the basis for founding his own chain of grocery stores called Rowe's IGA Supermarkets. We discussed in detail the rocky start of Rowe's IGA Supermarkets in this post from December 2019, the story of Rowe's Supermarkets being a shocking tale of decline in order to jump-start the chain's recent push toward success. If you haven't seen or don't remember that post, I highly recommend you read that one to learn about all the trouble Rowe's has gone through to get to where they are today. However, as a product of Rowe's unsuccessful initial push from the mid-2000's, Rob Rowe closed his St. Augustine location in early 2007 after two years in business, claiming the location no longer saw promise as a grocery store. Upon the closure of the St. Augustine Rowe's Supermarket, Rob Rowe made a deal with Hobby Lobby to sublease the former supermarket space. By late 2007, Hobby Lobby was up and running, and they've since made themselves at home in the former St. Augustine Albertsons space.
As usual with these Albertsons to Hobby Lobby conversions we've seen on the blog, Hobby Lobby tends to leave the original Albertsons exteriors in-tact. That's also the case here in St. Augustine. With the exception of a new coat of paint and the usual reconfiguration of the entryway, the exterior is still the exact design from this building's days as Albertsons. And speaking of the entryway reconfiguration, here we have a look toward Albertsons' old left side entrance, which would have taken shoppers into the pharmacy side of the store. As usual Hobby Lobby sealed up both of the old Albertsons entryways, combining them into a single entryway in the middle of the building.
There's just a wall where Albertsons' pharmacy side doors would have been, those two spotlights on the ceiling above designating where the original doors would have been.
Switching our attention to the other side of the building, here's a look toward Albertsons' second entrance. The doors on this side of the building would have led into the store's grand aisle and fresh foods departments (bakery, deli, and produce).
And the complimentary wall to go with the one we saw on the opposite side of the building, marking where Albertsons' old doors would have been.
In the middle of the building we find Hobby Lobby's current entryway, carved out of a portion of the building where Albertsons' customer service desk would have been. When Hobby Lobby added their new entrance, they also added that new facade above the doors where their sign is now. When Albertsons was here, that part of the building would have looked just like it did where the "Seasonal" sign is now (located to the right of Hobby Lobby's logo).
Stepping through the front doors, we enter Hobby Lobby's lobby, which was carved out from Albertsons old service desk space.
Stepping into the main store, we spy not only a massive amount of fake floral froof, by also an old Albertsons relic - the raised ceiling over the front end. These raised ceilings were a common trait in these mid-1980's "superstore" model Albertsons buildings, installed to accommodate the windows from the store's upstairs offices that overlooked the salesfloor. When Hobby Lobby took over this store, they covered over those windows, but left the raised ceiling in place. I'm not sure if the second floor offices are still hidden back there above the front end (just window-less now), or if those were removed completely when Hobby Lobby began to tear apart the old supermarket interior for their new store.
Aside from the raised ceiling, Hobby Lobby did a pretty thorough gut job of this building, reconstructing the perimeter, re-tiling the floors, and adding new lighting throughout the space. In the photo above, we're looking away from the front end, into the front right corner of the store, where Albertsons' bakery and deli departments were once located.
Along the store's front wall, here's a peek back toward the vestibule, as well as a look at some doors that probably lead to store offices (or maybe stairs to the second floor?...)
From a vantage point closer toward the old deli and bakery departments, here's a look across the front of the building, the raised ceiling over the front visible as well.
Like I said before, after leaving the front end, there isn't much left to see from Albertsons in here. This photo is looking down the store's right side wall into the former produce department, the old bakery counter having been immediately to my right.
Even though some leafy greens found their way into this picture, taken in the general area of Albertsons' old produce department, I wouldn't recommend eating those!
Here we're looking down Hobby Lobby's main back aisle, looking across the width of the store.
Meat coolers would have once lined the back wall here, with a service meat counter back here as well.
I believe we're looking down the store's left side wall here, as seen from somewhere in the back of the building. Health and beauty would have been over this way, with the pharmacy counter located straight ahead in the front left corner.
Returning to the front of the store, here are a few more photos from near the front end:
Above all those knickknacks on the wall would have been the second floor windows, all of which are now dry-walled over.
My final interior photo gives us this nice overview of the front end, as well as the effect of the raised ceiling.
While it seems like most of the Albertsons to Hobby Lobby conversions out there tend to strip away most interior remnants from Albertsons (well, at least the other three of the four that have appeared here in Florida), it was nice to see a little bit of Albertsons remain inside the St. Augustine Hobby Lobby. In case you were wondering, the other three Albertsons to Hobby Lobby conversions were in Apopka, Mount Dora, and Winter Springs, all of which have been covered on the blog in the past.
The last part of our tour at the former St. Augustine Albertsons brings us to the liquor store, which has poked out in some of the other exterior images throughout today's post. The former liquor store has found a new life as a Sherwin Williams Paints store, a good reuse for a space that seems to be hard to re-tenant in many cases.
Here's one last look at the Liquor store as we begin to bring this tour to a close...
Leaving the Albertsons building, the shopping center angles back a little bit before straightening out. The angled portion of the center has the tenant signs on these decorative beams that project out from the rest of the building, and I thought it was an interesting touch.
Walking down the plaza to the other side, we find Riverside Center's other anchor, the former Zayre store. The plaza's Zarye opened a little before the rest of the center in 1987, one of the last few Zayre stores to open before the company was sold off to rival discounter Ames in 1988. This Zayre would convert to an Ames as part of the buyout, although the conversion was short lived. Ames would declare bankruptcy in 1990 due to accumulating too much debt from the purchase of Zayre. As part of the bankruptcy restructuring, Ames closed 221 stores that year, including all of their stores in Florida (which were all ex-Zayre stores acquired in the recent purchase, and Ames' most far-flung and isolated locations at the time of the bankruptcy). After Ames closed, the building was split into space for multiple stores, including Big Lots, Harbor Freight, and Bealls Outlet. Big Lots dates back to the days when this building was originally subdivided, and Bealls Outlet has been in this building for a while too. Harbor Freight is a more recent addition, opening in the mid-2010s in a space formerly occupied by Dockside Imports. However, we'll go into more detail about this building later, as our St. "August"-ine adventure will take us to this former Zayre next weekend on My Florida Retail.
Before jumping into the satellite imagery, here's a look at the road sign for Riverside Center, this sign facing traffic on SR 312. Since this is the sign located immediately in front of the former Albertsons store, it appears Albertsons was the one who put this up. This sign matches Albertsons' design of the time, and the sign's column match the columns on the front of the old Albertsons store too!
That out of the way, here we go with the satellite imagery, starting with the Bird's Eye aerial images, courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now for some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth:
Former Albertsons #4367 - 2018 - Here's an overview of the entirety of Riverside Center, the former Albertsons at the top of the image, the former Zayre all the way to the right.
Former Albertsons #4367 - 2008 - Hobby Lobby would have been less than a year old when this image was captured.
Albertsons #4367 - 2005
Albertsons #4367 - 1999
Albertsons #4367 - 1994 - Don't let the empty parking lot mislead you in this image, nothing is permanently closed or abandoned here! According to Google Earth, this satellite image was captured on Christmas Day 1994, so none of the stores in the plaza were open when the image was taken.
I try my hardest to find pictures of these Albertsons stores when they were open to include with my posts, but my search for photos of this store would only lead me to the small pixelated one above, which I downloaded many years ago. You can make out the general idea of what the place used to look like in this image, and the minor change Hobby Lobby made to the facade after they moved in. At least Hobby Lobby left the exterior of this building in-tact, and the image above wasn't our only trace that Albertsons ever existed here!
While that's all I have for today's post, my St. "August"-ine series continues next Sunday on My Florida Retail with a tour of the former Zayre at the other end of Riverside Center. The Sunday after that we return to AFB for the conclusion of the St. "August"-ine series, where we'll find a fun little surprise from supermarkets past I wasn't expecting to see! Be sure to come back for all that!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger