Winn-Dixie #2268 / Lucky's Market #31 / Winn-Dixie #2568
3170 West New Haven Avenue, West Melbourne, FL - Plaza West
If you asked me about Winn-Dixie's future 5 years ago, my response probably wouldn't have featured the rosiest predictions in the world. Fast forwarding to today, I can happily say that's all changed. Going into the 2020s, Winn-Dixie is trying to make it clear to us that they do not want to end up like all of Publix's other competitors that have come and gone in Florida. Winn-Dixie's parent company, Southeastern Grocers (SEG), has spent the last few years stabilizing the company's finances, remodeling stores, and creating a clear transformation plan for the company's future. While all of this has been in the works since 2017, when SEG's current CEO Anthony Hucker took reign of the company, the changes SEG wanted to implement really began to gain traction in 2020. This article from Progressive Grocer is a great read on how SEG plans to turn themselves around, and goes into detail about some of the company's major announcements from the last year (such as the retirement of the BI-LO brand, the announcement of an IPO, and a renewed focus on opening new stores). 2020 was a very exciting year for SEG, and even better yet, it was all in the company's benefit for a change.
While I'll touch on some other facets of SEG's transformation plans throughout this post, one of the most interesting events to the readers of this blog was Winn-Dixie's purchase of 8 former Lucky's and Earth Fare stores throughout Florida. That purchase, alongside the opening of a new Winn-Dixie in Jacksonville in February 2020, fulfilled part of Winn-Dixie's turnaround plan described in the article I linked before (a highly recommended read), which includes the opening of up to 10 new stores a year going forward. I know a lot of you were curious about these new Winn-Dixie stores, as it was hinted they were going to be a bit different than the traditional Winn-Dixie. After a few months of waiting, the first four of these eight new stores opened on November 11, 2020 in Gainesville, Boynton Beach, Lakewood Ranch, and Jacksonville's Mandarin neighborhood, followed by the stores in West Melbourne and Lake Mary on December 9th, and the seventh store in Fort Myers on December 16th. The eighth new prototype store, located in Viera, Brevard County, had its opening delayed into 2021 - that decision stemming from a change in plans allowing for an expansion of that former Earth Fare store. Of the seven new stores opened so far, our journey will take us to the new Winn-Dixie in West Melbourne - probably the most interesting of the new stores, at least as far as its backstory is concerned:
If you follow My Florida Retail, as well as the old AFB on flickr account, then you'll know I've covered the story of this building in extensive detail through the years. However, I'll provide a brief recap of events here, for those of you just discovering this crazy situation: Winn-Dixie originally opened their West Melbourne store in 1982, giving the place very few updates through the years. We toured the original West Melbourne Winn-Dixie way back in 2014, and it was a very, very old feeling store, featuring the original 1980's logo and a cheap remodel to the Purple/Maroon decor all the way until the store's closure in 2015. However, Winn-Dixie did not choose to close this store - instead, they were kicked out by the landlord, who chose not to renew Winn-Dixie's lease after courting Lucky's Market to take over the space. Lucky's Market opened to a huge fanfare on January 11, 2017, Lucky's becoming a widely popular shopping destination for the residents of Brevard County. Even as someone who wasn't into the whole organic food trend, Lucky's won me over too, and I found myself there all the time. Lucky's was a huge success in West Melbourne, and it was very rare to see the store with a light crowd. Even after the bottom fell out for Lucky's in January 2020 (following Kroger's announcement to pull their investment from the chain), Lucky's was determined to keep one store from their collapsing Floridian empire afloat: the West Melbourne store. In the ensuing mess and bankruptcy proceedings, however, Lucky's goal of keeping one Floridian store open turned out to be a bust. A (somewhat spiteful) Winn-Dixie, most likely still angry about getting kicked out five years prior, put in a bid to buy back their old West Melbourne store from Lucky's as a part of the bankruptcy proceedings, a bid that was accepted by the courts. The West Melbourne Lucky's closed for good on February 21, 2020, just a little over 3 years after opening. I covered the closure of the West Melbourne Lucky's in these three posts (three links there) on My Florida Retail, a surreal experience after seeing how wildly popular that place was. After a few months of construction and re-arranging, Winn-Dixie made their grand return to West Melbourne on December 9, 2020, a little over 5 years after closing the original store. The new Winn-Dixie is a much different experience than the store that closed 5 years ago, and the people of West Melbourne seem to have discovered that as well. In the month this store has been open, it's been much busier than the original Winn-Dixie ever was. I wouldn't say the new Winn-Dixie is as busy as Lucky's was, but it's busy for a Winn-Dixie. Hopefully the crowds maintain themselves, as I really want to take a break from photographing this building for a good long while!
People began to line up early for the grand opening of the new Winn-Dixie on the morning of December 9, 2020. Winn-Dixie did very minimal work to the building's exterior post-Lucky's, opting for some new paint and new doors, but not much else.
As you can tell by the lady wrapped up in a blanket, this was also a very cold morning, temperatures in the low 40s for the grand opening festivities. Even though Floridians and sub-60 degree temperatures don't normally mix well, people were still quite curious to see the new store, regardless of the temperature! By the time the store opened, the line to get in stretched down to the far edge of the plaza, so there was certainly an appeal.
For the grand opening, all the store's employees stood in a group by the front door for a few photos, followed by the ribbon cutting. The Shelby Report got some really nice pictures of the ribbon cutting itself, using one as the feature photo in this article (in addition to an entire photo album, which you can view here).
In order to keep my place in line, my photos of the ribbon cutting were all taken from this odd angle. However, from the giant blast of confetti we see, that means the new West Melbourne Winn-Dixie is officially open! (Again!) Right before the cutting of the ribbon, one of the store managers read a speech about the new store. Since she was walking up and down the line while reading it, I didn't quite catch the whole thing, but I do remember one part stating that "this new store is not the Winn-Dixie you all remember", referencing Winn-Dixie's original 33 year run in this building. That quote was very true, as I can't stress enough how the new store is a completely different experience from what was originally here. Lucky's is 99% of the reason for Winn-Dixie's refreshed, modern look, but everything came together well, as we will now see...
The first thing you see upon entering the store is WD's Taproom, which is housed inside Lucky's old ramen bar (which was previously the juice bar). WD's Taproom is a relatively new concept, the first opening in 2018 at the Neptune Beach store. While the first few WD's Taproom locations served food as well (such as chicken wings and pizza), the later WD's Taproom locations scaled back the menu to focus on drinks, much like Lucky's did at their similar taproom concept. The West Melbourne WD's Taproom is one of 7 now throughout the chain - 3 of those 7 the result of the Lucky's/Earth Fare purchases. Like you could at Lucky's, the taproom has draught beer and wine available to "sip and stroll", Lucky's pioneering concept that every supermarket in Florida has since copied in some way. If you're not into the strong stuff, the taproom also serves non-alcoholic beverages as well, such as various coffees and teas. Lucky's had the right idea including a bar in their stores - even in my most recent trips to this Winn-Dixie, there's always a few people sitting at the taproom having drinks, and others walking around doing the sip and stroll.
In the same island as the taproom is the sushi counter, another Winn-Dixie rarity. While a good chunk of Publix's stores have in-house sushi counters, only the fanciest of Winn-Dixie's prototypes do. I believe all of the stores Winn-Dixie bought from Lucky's and Earth Fare got a sushi counter - the stores without a taproom placing the sushi counter with the other service departments instead.
The taproom includes a small seating area next to the counter. In addition to taproom patrons, these tables are also available for those who purchase food from the deli and want to eat it in-store.
Unlike Lucky's, who had their bar in the corner (off in the distance behind the checkouts), WD's Taproom gets very prominent billing in this store with is front and center location. The taproom was one of the huge selling points of this store, so Winn-Dixie wanted to make the presence of that known, rather than tucking it away in the corner. From the taproom, here's a look across the front of the store, which we'll see more of later in this post.
A changeable chalkboard event calendar was placed next to the entryway. Many Publix stores have boards like this, but this was a first for me at Winn-Dixie.
For the most part, Winn-Dixie kept the majority of Lucky's old layout. Produce is still in the front left corner of the store, right where Lucky's used to have it. Winn-Dixie did take the time to add in new fixtures, as well as change out the decor (so no more Food Glorious Food here). Speaking of the decor, let me comment on that...
Much like this sign in the produce department states, the decor we see here is a fresh new look for Winn-Dixie. Unlike the rather in-your-face, bright red Down Down decor that Winn-Dixie has been using since 2016, this new decor tones things down just a bit. The giant, all-caps department signs were switched out in favor of a black sentence case font on a wood panel background, with some new accents like the black striping and checkmark logos thrown in to break up all the blank space. Also, this new decor adds a splash of green to the walls, a nice way to add a little color variation to the new look.
While there is a new decor out there, that doesn't mean the end of Down Down is near. Down Down is still actively being used in remodels, however, some elements of this new decor are being incorporated into Down Down (such as the local flare, a big part of this new decor we'll see in just a moment). I believe this new decor was designed specifically to be used in these smaller prototype stores, which are supposed to have a different, more "community-focused" feel than the typical Winn-Dixie.
The produce department at this store is quite extensive, as you would expect from a prototype with a heavy emphasis on fresh offerings. While this store, as well as the other new Winn-Dixies, are just a plain Winn-Dixie at their bones, I still feel Winn-Dixie was taking some hints from Lucky's and Earth Fare when designing these new stores (emphasizing local products and fresh departments, adding taprooms, highlighting healthier/organic products more).
All of the new stores got one of these little tent displays in the produce department, which look like a cart you'd find at a farmer's market (which was probably the goal).
Another interesting feature of these new stores that was mentioned a lot was the addition of some produce from around the globe, which showcased some fruits and vegetables that no other Winn-Dixie stores sold. Some of the more obscure produce offerings here included Chinese long beans and Thai eggplant, amongst other offerings. It was certainly an interesting display, however, I had fears about how many people in West Melbourne were actually looking to buy these obscure products. My fears seem to have come true, as a month in, and the wide variety of products here has evolved to a display of world products skewing Hispanic (yuca, name, etc.) and some more mainstream world flavors, like ginger root, which probably sell much better. The original idea of this display was great and I can understand Winn-Dixie wanting to try it out, but it was probably a bit too niche, at least for this area. While the selection of world flavors isn't as obscure here anymore, it does better fit what the people in the area actually want.
Behind produce we find the frozen foods department, which takes up all of aisle 1 and half of aisle 2. We can also see our first taste of that local flare I hinted at before...
Hello West Melbourne! We ♥ Local! AFB also likes to see local flare touches in stores, and when it comes to modern Floridian supermarkets, local flare is hard to come by. These new stores incorporate a nice bit of local flare to give the stores a unique feel, and putting the city name on the wall in giant letters certainly achieves that goal! What we see here is nothing fancy (especially when you compare this to some other stores), but it's a nice way to show some community appreciation.
Because of all the local flare stuff, the frozen foods department doesn't get any signage of its own, but I won't complain - I like what's here instead!
Rounding out the local flare wall, this little "Made in Florida" logo appears in the corner - a nod to both the commitment to local products, as well as Winn-Dixie having been "Made in Florida" themselves back in 1925. In a way, "Made in Florida" is Winn-Dixie's new commitment too - 75% of SEG's stores are located in Florida (once the winding down of BI-LO is completed), and SEG has stated that Florida will be the company's new focus. Since the majority of the company's stores are in Florida, and it's SEG's strongest market, that decision makes sense. While I don't see SEG completely neglecting the stores outside of Florida going forward, I think most (if not all) new store development will take place in Florida, with designs and marketing taking on a more Floridian approach.
Rounding the corner out of frozen foods, we find the store's dairy department. Dairy is located in the same place Lucky's had it, but with Winn-Dixie's new touches (and some new puns on the wall).
Dairy spans the back wall, before transitioning to lunch meats where the wall angles out.
We'll gradually work our way across the store, cutting through the grocery aisles as we progress toward the right side of the building. Here we have a look down aisle 2, home to the rest of frozen foods and some snack crackers. Winn-Dixie added the row of coolers you see here, increasing the size of Lucky's old frozen foods department by half an aisle.
Since we're in the grocery aisles, I decided to include this aisle directory that was given out at the grand opening. While you can use this for a vague idea of the layout, I also get to use this as a chance to show off this little piece of memorabilia too. Notice the front of the directory (which is the left half of the above image) features the same cartoon images and "Made in Florida" logo used throughout the store.
Besides the wall decor, another aesthetic change Winn-Dixie made can be seen under our feet. When Lucky's was here, Lucky's used a polished concrete floor. The polished concrete floor Lucky's had was quite nice and blemish free too, meaning Lucky's must have ripped up and re-poured (or at the very least, ground down and resurfaced) the original concrete foundation left behind from Winn-Dixie, as I can't imagine what was under here looking very pretty! Even though Winn-Dixie inherited a rather nice floor from Lucky's, Winn-Dixie opted to cover the concrete with faux wood throughout the building.
Poking out of aisle 2, here's a look across produce toward the front end before we turn behind the taproom.
The taproom backs up to the grocery aisles, which are accessible from the small pathway seen in front of us.
Even though these former Lucky's and Earth Fare stores are smaller in size than the typical Winn-Dixie, this store really isn't much smaller than the store that was here for 33 years prior to Lucky's. When Lucky's took over this building, they used all of it except for a small sliver in the front right corner, which they unsuccessfully tried to sub-lease during their tenure in this building. Upon Winn-Dixie's return, that small corner of the building Lucky's never used was turned into a liquor store, so really, Winn-Dixie didn't lose any of their original space out of this deal. While the main salesfloor is a bit smaller now due to the presence of the liquor store in the corner, the grocery selection is still rather complete, and it didn't seem like too many categories had to be cut to make this store work.
Further down the back wall, we find the main dairy sign, the 'Milk' sign we saw before acting as a compliment to this one.
The grocery aisles may seem a bit narrow in the photos, but in person, you can still get two carts by rather easily. Winn-Dixie was trying to cram as much as they could into these stores, so the aisles did have to get shrunken down a little to get as much use of the sales floor space as possible.
Here's a look back at the dairy department, with the fresh coffee grinders located in that endcap at the next aisle over.
Another checkmark logo appears where the wall angles out, which marks the transition from dairy to lunch meats and the main meat department.
Since there was limited space left along the back wall for the meat coolers, some coffin coolers were placed in this double-wide aisle to expand the amount of meat offered here. While the meat coolers occupy the center of the aisle, to my right is the "World Flavors" section, which is a half-aisle of various dry groceries from around the world. The World Flavors section skews heavily Hispanic/Caribbean at this store (as is typical for most of these departments in Florida), with small selections of European, Kosher, and Asian products mixed in as well. Unlike the produce display we saw earlier, I think Winn-Dixie got this aisle more in-line with what this area wants. The World Flavors aisle does changed based on the area though, as some of these new stores skew this aisle to a much heavier Kosher emphasis than Hispanic.
While I didn't get a close-up of one, one of the new features to debut with these new stores was Winn-Dixie's "Helping you live well" tags. Publix has had something similar for a while, but Winn-Dixie's "Helping you live well" tags are special price tags that denote healthy products, whether they be low fat, vegetarian, organic, etc. Only the new stores use those tags, as I haven't seen them at any other Winn-Dixie so far (although I have seen a poster at an older Winn-Dixie using the "Helping you live well" tagline). In addition to "Helping you live well", there are also special new tags to denote local Florida-made products, which I took a picture of here.
Spinning around 180 degrees, we're looking toward the back of the store once again. In addition to the meat coolers in the middle of this aisle, there an additional meat cooler located along the back wall itself, next to the service counter.
Returning to the back wall, here's a look at the meat and seafood service counter, which is a revamped version of Lucky's old counter.
Since Winn-Dixie is the home of The Beef People, the meat counter is something Winn-Dixie would put a lot of effort into, and they certainly did here. The meat counter at this store has remained constantly busy since this store opened, and even in Winn-Dixie's other stores, the meat department is certainly one of the company's strongest departments.
Winn-Dixie kept Lucky's while tile backsplash behind the meat counter, the conversion adding in some fun graphics to break up the blankness of all the white on the walls. While it seems like cartoon graphics and puns have become a trend in modern supermarkets these days, I actually like that trend. It shows grocery stores are trying to create a more relaxed, welcoming environment compared to the past, trying to make grocery shopping feel like less of a chore.
As we get closer to the right side of the store, we find the health and beauty aisle. Due to the small size of these new stores, none of them have a pharmacy counter. The lack of a pharmacy counter isn't a downgrade for this new store either, as the original Winn-Dixie at this location never had a pharmacy either.
12 aisles later, we finally arrive at the service departments (which are located out of frame to my right). 12 aisles (plus the three aisles around the corner with non-foods) isn't bad for this store, as the original Winn-Dixie topped out at 18 aisles. While a three aisle difference sounds like a lot, I feel the modern touches of the new store and upgraded service departments neutralize the loss of those aisles. The old store only had a small combined deli/bakery, so what we're about to see to my right is a huge upgrade.
Some garbage bags and foil pans occupy the final grocery aisle, which fronts the service departments. Opposite that are some coolers, which contain deli meats and chilled prepared meals.
Here's a pulled back view of the meat and seafood counter, to the right of which is the alcohol alcove:
Due to the way Lucky's partitioned off a piece of the front right corner of the original Winn-Dixie space, it created this little alcove in the back of the store. This alcove, previously home to Lucky's beer section, is home to Winn-Dixie's combined beer and wine department. Since Lucky's offered a rather large selection of beer and wine (as many organic specialty stores do), the two products were separated into their own sections, with Lucky's putting the wine in front of the meat counter. Winn-Dixie doesn't offer that large of an alcohol selection, so those products were combined into the old beer corner, and the old wine department was turned into more space for grocery shelving. Even though the in-store alcohol selection was shrunken by Winn-Dixie, they did add a full liquor store in Lucky's unused corner, so I guess everything balanced out in the end.
Sip sip hooray, the people of West Melbourne can sip and stroll again! Stepping into the alcohol alcove, here's a look into the back corner, where some more of the store's playful cartoon graphics make an appearance.
Emerging from the alcove, we'll now get to look at the service departments, which are visible to my left.
Leaving the alcove, the deli counter is the first service department we find, a cooler of gourmet cheeses located immediately to my left. The service departments are arranged the same way they were at Lucky's - the deli being the furthest back, followed by The Kitchen, and then the bakery.
After the deli is The Kitchen, home to the store's prepared foods, placed where Lucky's once had their kitchen. In addition to Winn-Dixie's usual chicken wing bar, this store also featured a sub counter and an expanded hot food station. Sadly, unlike Lucky's, Winn-Dixie doesn't have a pizza kitchen here (although there are take and bake pizzas sold by the deli). Some Winn-Dixie stores (like the one in Cocoa Beach) do have store-made pizza, and I was hoping this store would to, but it doesn't. While it would have been something, a Winn-Dixie pizza probably wouldn't have compared to Lucky's amazing pizza.
Before I give myself a pizza craving, let's continue on with this tour! Here's a closer look at the store's deli counter, which then transitions into its neighbor, the kitchen.
Directly underneath the 'Kitchen' sign is the hot foods bar, with the chicken wing bar cut off at the right side of the image. Winn-Dixie's hot foods bar features a lot of comfort foods, such as carved meats, macaroni and cheese, potato wedges, etc.
Stepping back just a bit, here's an overview of the entire grand aisle. It looks quite nice, doesn't it?
While the bakery is tucked into the front corner of the grand aisle, the bakery signage and products are located around the corner. Winn-Dixie's bakery occupies Lucky's old apothecary department, allowing for a much larger selection of baked goods.
The bakery at the original Winn-Dixie was extremely tiny, so what we see here is a huge upgrade from the original store. Also seen here, above the cooler on the side wall, is a window Winn-Dixie added. That window peeks into the liquor store, not really doing much besides giving the liquor store a small sense of unity with the main store.
Since I took these photos in the weeks before Christmas, the bakery had a fancy display of donuts out for sale, the donuts iced in various Christmas themes. I thought it was a nice little (and very tempting) display (and yes, that temptation did get the best of me, in case you were wondering - a Boston cream filled snowman will do that to you!)
The bakery breads are displayed at the very corner of the service counter, the wicker baskets adding a classy touch.
Opposite the bakery counter are the loaves of white bread, followed by aisles of paper products, baby supplies, and some other non-food items. These three aisles (numbers 13-15) occupy Lucky's old bar and seating area, which Winn-Dixie removed in favor of placing their taproom in the old ramen bar island.
Where I was standing to take this photo would have been behind Lucky's old bar counter, the three aisles occupying the old seating area. This corner is one of the stranger Lucky's remnants to be found in here, mostly since the relocation of the bar was one of the biggest changes Winn-Dixie made to Lucky's old floorplan.
Looking out from aisle 15, we see the exit doors, as well as the service desk in the distance. While we're getting close to the end of this tour, we're not done yet...
Returning to the front aisle, here's another look toward the front end and the check lanes, as seen from the edge of the bakery.
The produce department and the taproom appear before us one last time, with the check lanes visible to my left.
This store has 5 regular check lanes, with a bank of 4 self-checkouts at the far end, right next to the exit doors. One of the few carryovers from Down Down to this new decor were the check lane lights, which are identical to each other. Unfortunately, the Down Down lights are nowhere near as creative as the ones Lucky's used, which were made out of soda bottles.
In front of the check lanes is the service desk, a fairly simplistic setup with the small counter in front of the windows.
'Til next time, take it easy from your friends at Winn-Dixie! Actually, next time isn't all that far away, as my next post will be of another one of these new Winn-Dixie stores. Hopefully that isn't too redundant for all of you, but the next store is somewhat different than this one, so it shouldn't feel like an exact repeat of what we just saw.
Back outside, the grand opening day morning light wasn't doing me any favors with the exterior pictures, glaring most of the facade on me. In this photo you can see the balloon arch Winn-Dixie made for the grand opening, designating the store's main entrance. Cape Kennedy Retail visited this store later in the day than me, so he was able to get a better picture of the balloon arch with much less glare. Cape Kennedy Retail had really good luck photographing this store overall, actually, as he also got the money shot a retail photographer can usually only dream of - a manager crashing a photo - but only to strike a pose, not complain! (AFB only ever gets the complaining!)
When I came back to photograph this store two days after the grand opening (to finish up what I missed on the first day), the evening light at the time was much more cooperative with my photo taking.
To finish out this post, here are a few photos of the attached liquor store, which occupies the small corner Lucky's never used. That unused corner worked out perfectly for Winn-Dixie, as it was the perfect size for a liquor store.
While the circumstances for how Winn-Dixie returned to West Melbourne were a bit out of the ordinary (and most likely spitefully driven), I really can't imagine how much longer Lucky's would have lasted here if this was their only store in Florida (had Lucky's original plan gone through). I know Lucky's had a weird, geographically spaced footprint during the chain's entire expansion period, but the lone Florida store would have been the odd one one from the other 6 stores Lucky's wanted to save, which were either in Colorado or the Midwest. Maybe Lucky's could have pulled something off, but with the odd logistics and the crippled state the company was in, I don't know how much more success Lucky's could have had here in West Melbourne. While it was sad to see Lucky's go in the end, I think it worked out nicely that another grocery store was able to get this building, and I think Winn-Dixie will do well here - again - especially with all the modern touches Winn-Dixie has now that this building never had before.
As these new Winn-Dixie stores establish themselves, hopefully we'll see some success come out of them. These new stores are definitely an experiment by SEG, trying to see what new features and designs are well-received to roll out on a wider basis - both in new stores and throughout the rest of the chain. I liked what I saw here, and I think SEG can use these smaller-format stores to their advantage to grow the chain. With the new year upon us, we'll have to see what happens, and see where Winn-Dixie will go in 2021. Winn-Dixie is starting the year off strong, and hopefully that momentum will keep up!
Like I mentioned before, next time we'll take a look at another one of these new Winn-Dixie stores. But before we do, I have a question for everyone, now that we've seen one of these stores in full - what should we call this new decor? As you probably noticed throughout this post, I never referred to the new decor by any specific name, and Winn-Dixie has never mentioned any specific name for it either. When I first saw the new look, I was calling it the "Made in Florida" decor, based off that one local flare sign we saw inside. However, since then, another name came to my mind for this decor - "Winn Win", based off Winn-Dixie's current marketing campaign (and the same way "Down Down" got its name way back when). There are a few signs in the store that mention "winning" and "wins", which seem to boost the case for "Winn Win", and the new decor really seems to embody the new campaign too. If anyone feels the need to share an opinion on what to call this decor ("Made in Florida", "Winn Win", "Down Down 2.0", something else), let me know in the comments below, and maybe by the next post we'll have a name to work with!
Anyway, that's all I have for now. I hope you guys enjoyed this new store, as there's more new Winn-Dixie heading your way next time.
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger