Sunday, December 6, 2020

Former Albertsons #4404 - Palm Harbor, FL (Boot Ranch)

 

Jewel-Osco #4103 / Albertsons #4404 / Publix #1341
500 East Lake Road South, Palm Harbor, FL - The Shoppes of Boot Ranch

     I'd say there's no better way to celebrate AFB's 7th anniversary than with a "Jewel" of a store like this one! After many years of curiosity and intrigue, I finally had the chance to visit one of the few Jewel-Osco Florida stores still in operation as a supermarket. As we all know, there's nothing more interesting than these short-lived attempts from outside chains to make it big in Florida. Of everyone who tried, Jewel-Osco had one of the showiest attempts, taking on a "go big or go home" approach with their Floridian prototype (which later turned into a "go big and go home" endeavor). With stores ranging from 70,000 to 75,000 square feet, Jewel-Osco's stores were monsters compared to what Florida had at the time - double the size of Publix's average store in the early 90's. Jewel-Osco's big grocery showplaces would set them apart from the competition, which they did, but would also be cause of the company's Floridian downfall. In Jewel-Osco's short Floridian foray, they left behind 7 of these monster stores in the greater Tampa Bay area, and I'm very excited to share the first of these with you today. This store is an interesting experience in many ways, but before we start our tour, let's talk a little bit about this history of Jewel-Osco in Florida:

     Jewel-Osco's history in Florida actually dates back to the late 1970's. While Jewel-Osco was a Chicago-based company with Midwestern roots, the company was always interested in new ventures and expansions. From dabbling in various industries (like Jewel's Turn Style discount stores and White Hen Pantry convenience stores) to expansions outside of the company's usual comfort zones (such as buying Boston-based Star Markets and Montana-based Buttrey Foods in the 1960's), Jewel wasn't afraid to take a chance in those days. Jewel's first crack at Florida came through the company's dabbling in the discount grocery industry, a store by the name of Jewel T (the store's name a nod to Jewel's origins as the Jewel Tea Company). To not erode sales of the parent company's stores in their Midwestern home, Jewel began to open Jewel T stores in far flung places, starting with a store in New Port Richey, FL. While Jewel T grew to a sizeable presence in Florida, Jewel T later branched out to other markets like Pennsylvania, Texas, California and other areas surrounding those mentioned states. While Jewel T got off to a strong start, increased pressure from other supermarket chains fighting back against off-price competitors eroded Jewel T's sales. After a few closure waves, the remaining Jewel T stores were sold off in 1984, ending that experiment. In addition to the failure of Jewel T, parent company Jewel-Osco was having financial troubles of its own. Later in 1984, Jewel-Osco was acquired by Skaggs Stores in a hostile takeover.

     With Skaggs Stores (now known as American Stores Company following the takeover of Jewel-Osco) growing in power, American Stores (ASCO) began forming expansion plans of their own. With the Jewel-Osco name now in their hands, ASCO felt the opportunity was ripe to expand the brand. The first new market for Jewel-Osco following the buyout: Florida. Bringing Jewel-Osco to Florida would also mark the return of the Skaggs family to the state, after Skaggs (not-so amicably) dissolved its partnership with Albertsons in 1978, ceding the Florida stores to Albertsons as part of the termination deal. However, the Jewel-Osco stores to open in Florida would be nothing like the Midwestern counterpart - actually, the Floridian Jewel-Osco stores shared nothing in common with the original Jewel-Osco besides the name, as they were to be an entirely new concept altogether. ASCO decided to name their new Floridian venture Jewel-Osco to win over the many Midwestern transplants living in Florida, choosing to begin the expansion in the Tampa Bay area, a hotspot for Midwestern transplants. The first Jewel-Osco to open in Florida was located at the Largo Mall in Largo, opening in March 1989. More Jewel-Osco stores would follow in Clearwater, Palm Harbor, Hudson, Tampa, Temple Terrace, and Bradenton, with plans for an additional Tampa store, a Brandon store, and a Fort Myers store also in the works, along with an expansion to Florida's East Coast to begin after 1992.

     Pictured above is the very Jewel-Osco store we'll be touring today in Palm Harbor, sometime in the store's early days following its opening in February 1990. YonWooRetail2 was able to dig up this classic photo, as well as one additional photo of this store we'll see later in this post. Like I said earlier, these stores were massive, breaking 70,000 square feet in size. That's a massive store for its day, the only other grocery chain to try such a massive prototype in Florida being the equally unsuccessful Xtra Super Food Centers in the South and Central parts of the state in the early 90's. ASCO pushed the size of their new Jewel-Osco stores as their defining mark, featuring over 60,000 different items, and extras like a juice bar, a newsstand with papers from out of town, a full-service floral counter and a soda fountain. Jewel-Osco even developed a new tagline for these Florida stores too, their massive size in mind: "Jewel-Osco: All the things you are looking for."

Photo recreation courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     While Jewel-Osco's stores were a sight to behold, they turned into nothing but a money pit for the debt-beguiled ASCO. Expensive marketing and high overhead costs from operating such a massive store with so many frills was putting a strain on ASCO. Only two years into the Floridian Jewel-Osco venture, signs of trouble were very apparent. ASCO cut their Floridian corporate staff in half in 1991, and rumors of a sale to Albertsons were running rampant, with executives from Albertsons seen touring the Floridian Jewel-Osco stores and making offers for Jewel-Osco's Orlando distribution center. In 1992, after all the speculation, ASCO finally announced that the 7 Florida Jewel-Osco stores were indeed to be sold to Albertsons, who quickly converted all 7 locations to their name. In the end, ASCO's Floridian venture seemed to come off as nothing more than a showy, spiteful attempt for ASCO to try to get a one-up on Albertsons after the Skaggs-Albertsons partnership dissolved in sour terms in 1978. To observers, it seemed like ASCO was still upset that Albertsons was the one to get the coveted Florida stores out of the dissolution of the partnership, with ASCO having to give in to Albertsons once again upon the failure of Jewel-Osco. This article is a nice summary of everything that went wrong for Jewel-Osco in Florida, and also explains ASCO's bitterness toward Albertsons.

     By the end of 1992, Albertsons had converted all 7 of the newly acquired Jewel-Osco stores to their own name. While two of the former Jewel-Osco stores would crash and burn once again under Albertsons (#4405 in Temple Terrace and #4406 in Tampa, both closing within a year or two of the conversions), the other 5 stores enjoyed success in their new lives. While Albertsons removed most of the frills from Jewel-Osco, Albertsons was no stranger to running such a large store like this, as large stores were always one of Albertsons' specialties. In later years Albertsons would remodel these stores, although most retained their original Jewel-Osco layouts until the very end (actually, the only former Jewel-Osco store Albertsons ever did any major work to was the Largo Mall store, and that was during its 2016 conversion into Safeway!). While the Largo Mall Jewel-Osco was clearly a successful store for Albertsons, who kept that one until the better end in Florida, Albertsons sold their 4 other Jewel-Oscos to Publix in 2008.

     While Albertsons was no stranger to running such a massive store - Publix is. Publix's largest store prototype tops out at 61,000 square feet, and that store model is extremely rare. Publix is quite happy with their sweet spot of running stores in the 45,000-55,000 square foot range, with some even smaller designs thrown in there too. That being said, walking around a 75,000 square foot Publix is a bizarre experience, as you can tell Publix has no idea what to do with all the extra space they inherited. While this is a building with an interesting history and a tie to Albertsons, getting to experience a freakishly large Publix made this experience that much more intriguing to me! The four former Jewel-Osco buildings Publix operates out of comprise the four largest Publix stores in the entire chain, and nearly the entirety of Publix's ten largest stores are former Albertsons, per this list and discussion (which I must note, occurred before Publix bought the Largo Mall Jewel-Osco/Albertsons/Safeway, which is definitely in the top 4 now).

     While Publix operates out of 4 of these super-sized buildings currently, they did have a fifth - the former Hudson Jewel-Osco/Albertsons. Unfortunately, Publix grew tired of all the extra space there, and closed that store for a tear-down and rebuild in 2017. On that site a typical 45,000 square foot Publix now stands, in conformity with most other stores in the chain. While none of the other former Jewel-Osco stores appear to be in any danger of Publix's on-call wrecking balls just yet, I can't help but think another one of these will suffer the same fate eventually, as their size is not doing them any favors in Publix's eyes.

     However, Publix's persnicketies aside, we really need to take the time to appreciate these remaining Floridian supermarket oddballs. For whatever reason large supermarkets have never done well in Florida, and Publix and Winn-Dixie have never had any desire to dabble much with stores over 60,000 square feet in size. Even Albertsons had to keep their stores modest here, building stores in the 55,000-60,000 square foot range for the most part. However, I wouldn't say Floridians are completely turned off by large stores, but rather the chains that would have had any success at pulling off a large store here (Publix and Winn-Dixie) have never tried that format. While Publix aims for world domination does their thing with modestly sized stores, Winn-Dixie is now turning to small stores rather than large ones in their latest turnaround plan. While Kroger, Albertsons, HEB, and Wegmans turn to large 80,000+ sqft. stores as their future, Floridian supermarkets are shrinking. Yes, Florida is a strange place, and we just have to accept that!

     Longwinded backstories aside, we finally find ourselves at the front walkway of today's Publixsons store (or is it Publix-Osco? Jewel-Publixsons?). To give you an idea of how massive this store is, it has three entrances. The doors in the middle are what I would consider the "main entrance", and lead to a little entrance pathway between the check lanes. Immediately to my left is a side entrance into the pharmacy department, with another side door that enters into produce at the opposite end of the building (way down there in the distance).

     Here's a close-up of the pharmacy side entrance, which has a single sliding door leading into a small vestibule.

     Moving further down, we find the doors leading into the main entryway, consisting of two sets of sliding doors. The produce side entrance is visible in the distance, designed as a mirror image of the pharmacy entrance we just saw. For the full effect, we'll enter through the main entrance in the middle. Without any further ado, who wants to see what a 75,000 square foot Publix looks like inside?...

     Stepping through the main doors, this is what we see as we enter the salesfloor. A few promotional displays line a small cut through between the two banks of check lanes, leading shoppers into the grocery aisles. While the spaciousness of this store starts to become apparent in this view, let me pan to the right for a better overview of what we'll be seeing a lot of throughout this tour:


     While I typically crop out excess empty floorspace in my photos to better show off the prominent features elsewhere, I decided to keep a few of these photos untouched (like the one above) to show you guys how much dead space there is in here. Especially in the front of the store, there were wide expanses of empty floor like this. While Publix had an excessive amount of promotional displays to try to fill as much of this space as they could, it wasn't enough. This place is just too big, and there's only so much Publix could do.


     From the spacious front aisle, here's a look toward the produce department's side entrance. The produce department's entrance had a small cartwell inside the door, which as I think about it now, the pharmacy side entrance lacked.


     Like just about every modern Publix store, the service desk was located in an island at the end of the check lanes. Most likely, the service counter was located along the store's front wall during the Jewel-Osco and Albertsons days, and most likely in Publix's early days too. Alongside the service counter you see check lane 13 too. Saying that, I should note that Publix's largest stores will top out at approximately 10 check lanes total, so seeing 13 numbered lanes here should also be a sign of just how big this place is.


     The front right corner of the store is home to the produce department, which looks much further away than it really is with all the empty space in here.


     The interior layout of this store is basically the same as it was when Jewel-Osco first opened in 1990, even after this building changed hands twice. Besides Publix's decor on the walls, it's amazing how original this place is 30 years later.


     Entering the produce department itself, while the aisles are wider than usual, this part of the store doesn't feel as spaced out as others.


     I had to make sure I got a photo like this, standing at the far end of the store in produce looking toward the other side, to demonstrate how wide the building is. While 75,000 square feet of floor space might be cramped quarters for the likes of Kroger, Wegmans, and HEB, this much space is way out of Publix's league.


     The floral department is tucked against the wall that separates produce from the bakery, the bakery lying around the corner in the fresh department alley (I guess that's a good way to describe that part of the store).


     Speaking of the fresh department alley, here's our first glimpse of it, as seen from produce. I find "alley" to be a fitting term for that part of the store due to the way the service departments project from both sides, and the aisle narrows leading into them.


     Getting closer to the fresh departments, here's a look at the bakery. While Publix was the one to add the curved awning and other detailing here, the bakery is still located in its original spot from Jewel-Osco.


     Opposite the bakery (and more promotional displays being used to fill all the extra space) is the Publix Aprons catering counter, followed by the deli island.


     A large deli counter was another one of Jewel-Osco's big selling points, featuring a wide selection of cheeses, a soda fountain, and a juice bar, alongside the traditional deli fare. While many of these frills met their demise alongside Jewel-Osco, Publix did have a nice deli setup here due to all the extra space they inherited. Pictured here (facing the front of the store) is the ever-popular Pub Sub station, with hot foods located in the angled cases next door. The traditional deli counter follows rounding the corner the rest of the way.


     Looking into the alleyway, displays of bakery goods lined the center of the aisle, with some deli coolers beyond that.


     The main deli counter becomes visible to my left, with prepackaged deli goods following in the cooler beyond that.


     While this store is interesting enough in the present, wouldn't a glimpse of this store from its early days be fun sight right about now?...     


     Thanks to YonWooRetail2, I can grant that wish! Along with the exterior photo, he was able to dig up this photo of Jewel-Osco's deli island shortly before the store opened to the public in March 1990. Even though it's a black and white photo, there are still plenty of 90's aesthetics to admire here. We have some neon, canvas awnings, and funky fonts going on here, with a palm tree to boot! While I don't know a lot about the standard 90's Jewel-Osco decor, it appears the decor used in the Florida stores was custom designed, or at least had a custom spin to it, compared to the Midwestern counterparts. I'm only guessing here, but in my mind I'm picturing the wall signs in red, and the background white, which seems like a very 90's color palate to compliment everything going on here!

     What I'm not so sure of regarding these former Jewel-Osco stores is when exactly Albertsons remodeled them to a decor package of their own. The Largo Mall store finished out its Albertsons days with Blue and Green Awnings, which points to a late 90's remodel. I don't know if Albertsons hung onto the Jewel-Osco decor for a few years before remodeling, or if some were remodeled right away, or if multiple remodels happened during Albertsons' ownership. That being said, I have no idea what decor Albertsons used here in Palm Harbor, as I've never seen an interior photo of this store from the Albertsons days (and Publix didn't leave behind any clues - at least in the present). If anyone knows, please share that with us in the comments! UPDATE 12/8/2020 - YonWooRetail2 found a photo of this store after is closed as an Albertsons, confirming it had the Blue and Green Awnings interior upon closure.


     Back to the present we go, from funky 90's designs to our good old friend Classy Market 3.0. This photo serves as a reverse view of the fresh department alley, looking back toward the bakery and produce.


     Here's a final look at the bakery before we turn the corner to head along the back wall:


     Turning the corner, here's another look across the width of this massive grocery store (well, massive for Florida, that is). The meat and seafood counter lies straight ahead, with the packaged meats located in that alcove just beyond the counter.


     Like the front aisle, the back aisle is much wider than normal, although not to the extreme like we saw up front. Even though a spacious store like this isn't Publix's thing, I'm sure all this extra room is coming in handy right now with social distancing recommendations out there.


     Finally reaching the meat and seafood counter, here's a photo of that.


     The packaged meats are located in the alcove to my right, with more meats located in the coffin cooler out front. With all the extra wall space, Publix added in the somewhat uncommon spatula close-up graphic for the meat department, which only appears in stores where Publix has more wall space than they know what to do with.


     Heading into the grocery aisles, we find aisle 1, home to various drinks. Aisle 1 runs along the back of the deli island, whose wall can be seen to my left.



     Where the deli island ends, aisle 1 broadens into a double wide aisle, that lonely pallet of water and an abandoned shopping cart trying to make use of the extra space.


     Here's a reverse view of aisle 1, showing the point where the aisle narrows at the deli island.


     Another testament to how much extra space Publix has to work with: there was enough room between the deli island and service desk to allow Publix to let their Pepsi vendor build a large model of a hockey rink in the middle of the sales floor! All the Bubly water blocks the actual graphic of the hockey rink, but we can still see the scoreboard hanging from the ceiling, as well as life-size cutouts of a few Tampa Bay Lightening players (yes, Florida has an NHL team - two actually, the Florida Panthers from South Florida being the other - ice hockey and Florida aren't exactly two things you'd think go together, right?) While the hockey rink sounds like a lot, don't worry, Budweiser got themselves an equally as large NASCAR display on the other side of the store!


     Turning away from the hockey rink, here's a look across the front of the store. Like many other Publixsons stores, Publix uses the dual front aisle setup, with a few short aisles placed in front of the main grocery aisles. At Jewel-Publixsons, we get the same setup, just spread out much more!


     Here's a look at the first few short aisles at the front of the store, with greeting cards placed first, followed by party supplies.


     The ceiling over the center salesfloor is higher compared to the perimeter, in the style of a 1980's or early 1990's Publix. While on the subject of the ceiling, I'd like to note that all those square lights you see were installed by Publix, as that style of lighting is Publix's primary choice, added during the conversion from Albertsons. Jewel-Osco and Albertsons would have had the long fluorescent tubes in here.


     While the front and back aisles were nice and wide, the main grocery aisles didn't feel any wider than normal. This store is probably much deeper than Publix would have liked, although they were able to make the width work for them.


     Here's a look at the meat alcove one more time before swooping back into the grocery aisles:




     Up by the check lanes, the pharmacy counter begins to come into view.


     More pallet stock to break up all the extra space.


     Looking at these photos closer, the grocery aisles do seem longer to me than they would in a normal Publix store, so not only is this store wide, but it's deep too.



     The view looking from one of the main grocery aisles into the shorter aisles out front.


     Getting closer to the pharmacy, we find the health and beauty aisle.


     The dairy department occupies the back left corner of the store, wrapping around to the wall along the left side of the store.


     After health and beauty, the next aisle is home to chips and other salty snacks.


     While health and beauty was located in the main aisles, the pharmaceuticals were separated out and located in a short aisle in front of the pharmacy itself.


     The last few grocery aisles are home to frozen foods - a lot of them too.


     To make up for the somewhat normal grocery aisles, the very last aisle in the building (number 15, home to the remaining frozen food coolers and dairy) is extra wide. While a display of ice cream cones in the middle of the aisle is convenient to compliment the ice cream in the nearby coolers, it wasn't enough to fill all the extra space.


     Here's one last look across the back of the store, as we begin to work our way back to the front.


     Even though this is the second largest Publix store in the chain, 15 aisles is actually fairly normal for Publix. The building's depth contributes a lot to its size too (although this store is much wider than a normal Publix as well), which is why we didn't see a freakishly high aisle count in here. (Fun fact: In case anyone was curious, the most numbered aisles I've ever seen in a Publix was 21, in a different Publixsons).


     Turning out of the dairy aisle, here's a look at the pharmacy counter. Long after Albertsons bought these Florida stores off Jewel-Osco, Albertsons would buy out Jewel-Osco's parent company, thus bringing Jewel-Osco and ASCO's other pharmacy brand, Sav-On, into the Albertsons family. After the acquisition, Albertsons did rebrand some of their in-store pharmacies to the Osco name. While it would have been really ironic to see the Osco name reappear in here, I don't believe Florida got any Osco branded in-store pharmacies from Albertsons. There were some Albertsons Sav-On stores in Florida in the early 2000's, but generic Albertsons pharmacies were much more common here.


     During one of Publix's remodels, Publix rebuilt and reconfigured the pharmacy counter to their liking (although the pharmacy was always in this location). Like many other larger and high-volume Publix stores in the Tampa Bay area, this store has a BayCare Walk-In clinic for visits with a virtual physician.


     Now that we've seen the pharmacy, we'll close out our tour of this former Jewel-Osco store with some more photos along the front end:


     While some of them vanish off into the distance, I was able to capture all 13 of the check lanes in this photo. Of the 13 lanes, three are signed as express lanes.


     The main entrance is located under the American flag hanging from the wall. I imagine there was more along the front wall when Albertsons and Jewel-Osco were here, such as the original service desk and possibly a movie rental area.


     I mentioned this earlier, but here's the large NASCAR display set up to feature some of Budweiser's products. It's not as interesting as the hockey rink as this is just a display to house a large poster, but it still does a good job of filling up some empty space!


     Slipping out the pharmacy side door, we return to the store's front sidewalk. In the distance by those columns is the former liquor store, which we'll take a look at next.


     The attached liquor store is original to Jewel-Osco, and changed branding as the parent store changed owners.


     The liquor store's entrance is set up in the Albertsons style, with the two swing doors. There's a chance this design could have been used by Jewel-Osco too, but it seems most likely that Albertsons reconfigured the entrance after they took over the building.


     While that concludes most of what I have to say about the former Palm Harbor Jewel-Publixsons, we're not done yet. Before we wrap things up, let's take a quick stroll through the rest of the plaza:


     Publix is the southernmost anchor at The Shoppes of Boot Ranch, with a small strip of stores in the distance beyond the Publix building.


     In the middle of the plaza is an in-line CVS Pharmacy, which began its life as an Eckerd. With CVS in the mix, the Shoppes of Boot Ranch has a total of 3 pharmacy counters in it: CVS's, Publix's, and Target's (which is run by CVS, so CVS has a double presence here).


     Space for new buildings is a bit tight in this area, which is probably why CVS has hung on for so long at this in-line location. Across the street, Walgreens still operates out of an in-line store too, so both stores are somewhat stuck as they are in original form.


     Getting closer to Target, here's a look down the plaza, with Publix visible in the background.


     Speaking of Target, there it is. This is one of Target's typical early 90's stores, remodeled in the last few years to the latest prototype.


     The old Target garden center is visible in the background, along with the store's pharmacy signage. I thought it was a bit odd seeing CVS twice in the same plaza, but I'm sure situations like this have happened elsewhere since Target sold off their pharmacies to CVS.


     Here's one final look at Target, before we take the walk back down to Publix:



     Publix's road sign, which appears to be original to the plaza's construction from 1990 (based off the design of the signage at the top).

     Now that we're nearing the end of this post, it's time for some satellite imagery, beginning with bird's eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:


Front left


Front right


Back left


Back right

     And now for some historic aerial views, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:


Former Albertsons #4404 - 2019 - Target is the large building at the top, Publix at the bottom. CVS is the larger space between the two.


Former Albertsons #4404 - 2012


Albertsons #4404 - 2008


Albertsons #4404 - 2002


Albertsons #4404 - 1995


Future Albertsons #4404 - 1971 - Back when this land was home to Boot Ranch (which was the name of the cattle ranch upon which the shopping center and surrounding developments were built - the name of the plaza being a tribute to what was once here. You can read more about the history of Boot Ranch here).


     Speaking of the shopping center's name, to pay homage to the cattle ranch it was built on top of, in the parking lot in front of Publix is this large statue of a cowboy boot (which was also visible in the image of this store as Jewel-Osco from the beginning of the post). I thought it was a neat little touch, and a nice tribute piece as well. Besides, how many giant cowboy boot statues do you ever see on a daily basis?


     To finish this post, here we see the boot statue with a clear shot of Publix in the background, a nice way to wrap up our coverage of this unique Publix store, former Albertsons, and odd little piece of Florida's supermarket history. I really enjoyed my visit to this store, as there was something about a supersized Publix in an odd former Albertsons that really sparked my interest. Hopefully this store will get to live on for many more years in its current form, and that Publix doesn't have any plans to give this store "the boot" for a cookie-cutter modern Publix anytime soon!

     So that's all I have for now. We'll finish off the year on AFB in two weeks, so be sure to come back then for more of my adventures through Floridian retail!

Until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

12 comments:

  1. These stores are ginormous for Publix! This one is an exact copy (layout wise) of store #1300 At Beckett Lake Plaza)in Clearwater.

    Fortunately I was able to dig up a photo of this store. The photographer goes by the name Johnny Fonts:
    https://flic.kr/p/2i36Xhn

    https://flic.kr/p/2i34xd6

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    1. It sure was a big Publix! Thanks for those photo links too – I had forgotten you had posted those to flickr before! That answers the question about the old décor.

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  2. Great post to mark the occasion! It's interesting to read about the history of (yet another) supermarket failure in Florida -- and it's especially ironic that the stores wound up going to Albertsons once again, as both you and that linked article state. I found it particularly interesting in the article how Albertsons basically said that once they took control of the distribution center, they wouldn't have sold to Jewel-Osco anymore. It sounds like that played a major role in forcing American's hand concerning their (second) departure from Florida. I also find it strange that American used the Jewel-Osco name for recognition purposes only, completely changing the concept. While the new concept they went with does sound nice, did they not consider that people familiar with the Jewel-Osco name might also actually prefer the store format itself to conform with their memories?

    I'm surprised Publix still operates these large stores that -- you're right -- they clearly have no idea what to do with. More broadly, it's just weird in general how Florida supermarkets are shrinking in size as opposed to growing! Great discussion of that issue... it's very unexpected how all of the large stores just don't seem to succeed there. (Also, in regards to that Reddit link about the largest Publix stores: one commenter specifically mentions the Alpharetta A&Publix that BatteryMill shared the other day on Discord. That one has definitely piqued my interest!)

    But back to this store... yep, you can definitely see the trouble Publix was having with filling the space. All that excess floor space is just *strange* -- and the full-size hockey and NASCAR displays are hilarious! The fact that this store has three entrances is wild, too. I know that's not a Publix thing, since the store was built like that, but these days stores that size in other parts of the country don't have that many entrances. It just further emphasizes how large this store is from a Floridian shopper's standpoint.

    Finally, it's cool to see the matching views today of the store exterior with the boot out front, and especially the interior where the deli counter is located! Pretty neat Jewel-Osco's layout has survived unscathed all these years. While I probably couldn't blame Publix if they do decide to try and shrink this store down somehow, hopefully they'll continue to keep this place as-is, so it can continue to serve as yet another reminder of the many past attempts by an out-of-state entity to make it big in Florida.

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    1. Glad you liked it! It’s almost like Albertsons wanted to spitefully drive those Jewel-Osco stores out of Florida by playing games with American to force them to sell. While the stores themselves were a bit too much for American to handle, the distribution center issue was most likely the final straw that forced Jewel-Osco out. It’s weird how all these events worked out, but it’s Floridian retail, so of course there had to be a crazy backstory involved! I’d have to guess American was hoping that people who knew the Jewel-Osco name would see these stores as a “reinvention” of the brand, and save on some marketing expenses of having to sell people on an unfamiliar name that suddenly appeared with a 70,000 square foot store. Even if American stuck to the more traditional Jewel-Osco format from the Midwest, I still feel that the situation would have ended in a similar fashion.

      I’m surprised Publix has only cast off one of these five Jewel-Osco stores they inherited. I’d imagine the Largo Mall store, since Albertsons held onto that one all the way until the end, must do huge business, so maybe that one does enough business for Publix to keep the huge building, at least for now. The Palm Harbor store was doing brisk business while I was here, so I’d say this store also does well. The Hudson store that was demolished was a sleepier area then where the other remaining Jewel-Publixsons stores are, so maybe that store just wasn’t making the cut for keeping all the extra space. It’s odd that while many chains are pushing for larger and larger stores, that’s just not the case here, but the small stores seem to do really well here. And while I’ve looked at that Reddit link about the large Publix stores multiple times, I never thought much about that comment. I’m intrigued by the Apharetta A&Publix myself now too. There’s a lot of interesting stores in the Atlanta area, and that just added to it!

      I didn’t think much about this until reading your comment, but Publix’s super rare 61M stores actually have three entrances just like this old Jewel-Osco, with the doors placed in a very similar arrangement too. Publix built those stores themselves – so even they tried it too! And those 61M stores are still 14,000 square feet smaller than this place…

      I usually never think to try to recreate some of the classic shots of these stores I find, but I’m glad I thought to do so while I was here. I just got word of another Publixsons coming down in 2021 (it’s not this one, or any other former Jewel-Osco), but Publix is keeping those wrecking balls on standby. You have to enjoy these stores while they last, but hopefully that will be for a while here!

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    2. Oh yeah, I agree, the whole American/Jewel-Osco in Florida situation probably would have ended the same way regardless of the store format chosen. It's just weird to think of the name being used for recognition only. In a way, it kinda reminds me of the "zombie retailers" opening up as online stores these days after their IP is scooped up in bankruptcy. Totally different in many regards, but definitely banking on that recognition... At least the Jewel-Osco stores were likely more similar to the original than those present-day online zombie retailers are, though.

      Good point about the Largo Mall store. That must be one high-performing store indeed! Glad to hear that about this store as well. And as for the Atlanta area stores, ha, yes, there are lots of interesting ones to be seen in that area, aren't there? I'd love to maybe get to one or two of 'em... someday... :P

      Wow, that's interesting! I guess it's not totally unheard of to have that many entrances; come to think of it, my old Hernando Kroger did have that separate pharmacy-side entrance, and it was only 45,000 square feet or so. So based on that, it certainly doesn't sound weird to add a third entrance when you bump the square footage up to 61,000. Maybe that's the norm, and these 100K+ sf Kroger stores should have 17 entrances XD

      Ah, Publix and its wrecking balls...

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  3. This is a Jewel of a Publixsons! The trend of Florida having smaller supermarkets is rather interesting. It's a bit of the opposite of what we see here in Houston, but I have heard of national trends indicating that shoppers are showing more of a desire for a return to somewhat smaller supermarkets. Given Florida's large population of retirees, I do wonder if that's all the more reason for Florida grocers to want smaller stores. I know that I have an older family member who quite hates shopping at Kroger Marketplace stores due to their excessive size (given the lack of shoppers in the clothing departments at the few Kroger Marketplaces I've been to, I suspect the lack of desirable products in those expanded parts of the store don't help matters much).

    I also wonder if older shoppers have more conservative tastes in grocery store design and so that's why Publix might be more reluctant than some others to use concrete floors and oddball designs which put products in places which are unexpected (HEB does this all the time). While many businesses try very hard to attract younger shoppers even if the majority of their customers skew older, perhaps Publix and SEG knows their market and caters to them. After all, they're so powerful that there isn't much room for competition that skews towards younger shoppers!

    Anyway, I do like this store. Maybe it's a bit too spread out, but I do like the wide aisles. Some supermarkets around here have plenty of room, but they are designed (poorly, IMO) in a such a manner that they feel congested even with a lot of space. That's not so much of a problem here!

    The store has a bit of a retro feel to it, but it also feels modern as well. Actual floor covering, a drop ceiling, and some room to roam might explain the retro feel parts. Some people might not like it, but I think it works well here.

    Florida isn't just home to two NHL teams, but they are also home to the two-time and defending champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning! It's strange to see hockey have popularity in Florida, but I suppose success helps keep the Lightning popular. I know things are more of a struggle for the Panthers, but they have a big arena which makes it harder to fill and I hear it's located in a manner that keeps it somewhat close to the major South Florida population centers, but at the same time it's not all that close to either FLL or Miami since it is centrally located. In a way, that makes it a long drive for everyone. The old basketball/hockey arena that the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team played in, the Richfield Coliseum, was the same way as they tried to put it in between Cleveland and Akron. When the team moved to downtown Cleveland, Richfield was torn down and converted into part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It's not too often a sports arena gets turned into part of a national park, lol.

    It's been almost 20 years since I've followed Nascar, but that display must be quite old. I don't think Dodge has been involved in Nascar for a number of years. If Publix is going to put old Nascar displays in their stores, maybe they should put some of their old cars that they sponsored decades ago in there. I was still following Nascar when this Publix racer were going around. They sponsored more cars than this, but here's a sample. They usually ran these cars at races in Daytona:

    https://external-preview.redd.it/v2MXyQk6Y4BLqzrN-zTO0060qBP2Fr7VG9QXhVtwDWc.jpg?width=500&height=233&auto=webp&s=b968aafb9d5863a4a99f45ad9002637b1d34b1c4

    Of course, Albertsons and Winn-Dixie had their cars as well, but these raced all around the country even in places where these stores did not exist:

    https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/s7kAAMXQOT5Q~k0P/s-l300.jpg

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/lightning72/4012095148

    That CVS most certainly does look like an old Eckerd! That's neat to see. The boot design the shopping center uses makes it look like something from Texas!

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    1. Well everything is bigger in Texas, right, so I doubt a tiny grocery store would do well there! :) Of the top ten grocery chains in the US, only Publix, Aldi, and Whole Foods are the only ones who’ve never tried a supersized concept of some kind. Of those three, Publix is the only traditional grocer, and I don’t think oversized stores are something Publix will ever venture into. Publix likes being considered a “neighborhood store”, and I don’t think really big stores lend well to that ideal. I think the point about the retirees and older demographics is a good reason too for Florida net lending well to larger stores. My grandfather hates going to his nearby Walmart Supercenter for that very reason – he says it’s too big.

      At the corporate level, I’ve heard Publix is very traditional with their ways of doing things, and doesn’t like to break much from that. Some of that ideology might spill into the store design too, if that is the way the corporate culture is. However, the use of terrazzo floors is a legacy thing for Publix. Their founder’s “dream store” used a terrazzo floor, and that tradition was carried over into every store Publix has built since. While some of the other design elements from the dream store faded off through the years (like the marble front paneling), the terrazzo has never gone away, and I don’t see that happening any time soon. But like you said, Publix is so powerful, they can do whatever they want down here!

      I can’t say I’ve ever visited a cramped Publix, even their smaller stores. Publix is really good about creating an uncluttered atmosphere in their stores, which makes them much nicer to shop at.

      The Tampa Bay Lightning have a huge fanbase, that’s for sure! (I can’t speak for the Panthers though, as they never seem to come up in conversation much like the Lightning do). While it probably would have been better if the Panthers were able to get their venue in Miami proper (like the other major sports leagues in South Florida), land was probably hard to come by. The Panthers’ stadium is in the far western edge of Broward County’s urban zone, where land was easier and cheaper to find back when the team originated. It’s still a busy area over there, but not like Miami itself. As for the situation with Richfield, that is strange for an arena to become part of a national park!

      That’s neat seeing the old Publix racecar, with all the classic logos on there! I’ve seen toy versions/models of the Winn-Dixie and Albertsons cars before, but not the Publix one.

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  4. I guess Florida and Washington have more in common than I would have thought, with our small grocery stores! It's only recently (post-merger) that Safeway started building stores in the 50-60,000 square foot range, and of course there aren't exactly a lot of new grocery stores being built around here from any chain. This store actually reminds me a lot of the bigger Fred Meyer stores, with all of that dead space. Just like Publix doesn't know what to do with a 70,000 square foot store, Kroger doesn't know what to do with a 150,000+ square foot store!

    I also laughed at the hockey comment. My dad is a big hockey fan, and we always find it amusing how there are so many teams in southern states that are nowhere near a hockey climate! Of course, it's not like we have a hockey climate around here, either, but it's much closer than, say, Florida or Arizona!

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    1. That is a strange comparison. Albertsons was the chain down here to operate the largest stores, but I don’t think Albertsons ever built a store larger than 65,000 square feet here (with most being in the 55,000 square foot range). It’s interesting how two places as far apart and as different as Florida and Washington State have an oddly similar trend with supermarket sizes.

      Like Anonymous from Houston said above, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a huge fanbase, and I know a lot of people around here who follow them. It’s just weird thinking that a sport usually associated with the snow and cold is such a big thing where neither of those events ever happen!

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  5. Happy Anniversary and thank you for another interesting issue! Happy Holidays!!

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    1. Thank you! I have plenty more to share. Happy Holidays to you as well!

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  6. Hi...as someone who moved here from New England, we had big stores. Most supermarkets are around 65,000 square foot. Of course, New England has lots of supermarkets, Stop & Shop, Shaw's, Hannaford, Big Y, IGA, Geissler's, Market Basket, Price Chopper, Wegman's, so it isn't dominated by Publix or Walmart. New England stores has food courts, banks, dry cleaners and even child care centers. The food courts are huge...Stop&Shop, is our most popular chain, but the top 4 only has about 35%, IIRC...

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