Kash n' Karry #1908 / Earth Fare #583 / Winn-Dixie #2557
5410 Murrell Road, Rockledge (Viera), FL - Viera East Market Center
Well over a year into it now, and Winn-Dixie's new lease on life isn't showing any signs of waning. Store remodels are happening at a rapid pace, sales are up (a factor Winn-Dixie is crediting to the increased remodels, as mentioned here, in addition to COVID-era sales jumps), and Winn-Dixie is on track to have opened four new stores (as of now) in 2021 (Viera, Melrose, St. Augustine Shores, and Westlake), with the first two new stores of 2022 recently announced as well (St. Johns and Apopka). Winn-Dixie has also commented that more new stores are in the works to be announced for 2022, the company embarking on its first new expansions in nearly 15 years. I'm still impressed a company as battered and beaten as Winn-Dixie has gotten to this point, as many had written off Winn-Dixie as the walking dead years ago. Winn-Dixie still has a lot of ground to make up before they can give Publix a serious run for their money again, but there's a chance they could pull something off. Closing so many stores throughout Florida as Publix drops down new ones seemingly everywhere hasn't helped Winn-Dixie's case, which is why its so nice to see Winn-Dixie growing instead of shrinking again, even if it is just some small steps right now. Of Winn-Dixie's four new stores for 2021 announced so far, today's post will focus on the year's first new store, which opened on May 5, 2021 in Viera, FL, a newer development located in central Brevard County. The photo above shows a trailer parked at the edge of the store's parking lot, announcing Winn-Dixie's pending arrival, and later, grand opening. Speaking of the grand opening, we'll start off with a few photos of this store from its grand opening weekend:
While there was an official grand opening ceremony held on the morning of May 5, 2021, I wasn't able to attend that since I had the early shift at work that morning. Fortunately, Winn-Dixie had a secondary grand opening event the weekend after the 5th, which I did attend, a few photos of which will start off today's post. The Viera Winn-Dixie was the last of the 8 Lucky's Market and Earth Fare stores Winn-Dixie acquired at bankruptcy auction in early 2020 to open. While the other 7 acquired stores were able to open by the end of 2020, Winn-Dixie was given an opportunity to expand this store into an empty neighboring space. Winn-Dixie wasn't expecting to have that opportunity, so the plans for this store had to be redrawn to account for the new expansion, causing the delay in opening. Even with the expansion, the layout inside is still fairly identical to how the building's previous tenant, Earth Fare, was laid out. For a look at what Earth Fare was like during their tenure here, I have coverage of that which you can see here. If you want to go back even further, I have pictures of this building from before Earth Fare moved in, back when the exterior of this building was still mostly original to its Kash n' Karry origins.
As you can tell by the previous image, Winn-Dixie's grand opening weekend brought out a crowd, a huge crowd actually. Above you can see the crowd stretching out into the parking lot too. I think this event broke some kind of world record for the number of people showing up to a Winn-Dixie in a single day. It used to be that I'd count more tumbleweeds than shoppers at Winn-Dixie - now we get mobs!
While I'm sure there were a lot of people who came out this day just to see the new store, most of the people you saw in that mob had come here to listen to the results of a raffle, a raffle in which the golf cart above was the grand prize. As part of Winn-Dixie's new community flare initiative, Winn-Dixie wanted to offer a very Vieran raffle prize for this store's grand opening, in addition to the usual gift card drawings they do. The people of Viera love to drive around town on their golf carts, so Winn-Dixie purchased a golf cart to give away to celebrate the new store's opening. What was really neat about this golf cart was Winn-Dixie had it customized to feature the new Winn Win decor graphics and color scheme around the sides, which you can see in more detail if you zoom in on the above photo. I don't live in Viera or play golf, but I decided to enter the raffle anyway just because I thought the graphics were neat. As you can probably guess, AFB did not become the proud owner of a Winn-Dixie themed golf cart - this lady did instead. Oh well, I got a Winn-Dixie emblemed reusable mug as my grand opening giveaway prize instead, which was a little easier to transport home!
Here's one last photo of the grand opening event, showing the golf cart/gift card raffle as it was happening. The lady on the ladder was the one calling out names, as some other corporate people stood around her. As you've seen, if you ever want to get the attention of the people of Viera, just tell them there's a free golf cart involved and they'll come out in swarms!
As you'd imagine after seeing a mob like that, the inside of the store was packed. Considering that, I did a quick walk around the store out of curiosity, but decided to come back a few days later when things calmed down for photos.
With the golf cart gone, we can shop and take some pictures in peace again! Even with the festivities of that prior weekend over, this store was still drawing a crowd, but a much more manageable one though. Even a few months in, this store is still quite busy, which is nice to see. Viera is a rapidly growing part of Brevard County, and one of the higher-income parts of the county as well, so it's pretty easy to see why Winn-Dixie wanted this store.
Now that we've spent a good amount of time outside, let's begin to head inside to see what changes have happened in here. Stepping through the first set of doors, we see Earth Fare's old cart storage area. Since this area was a bit small, Winn-Dixie opted to keep their carts outside on the sidewalk, using this area for charging the electric carts instead. However, the usual cart corral wall graphics were installed here anyway, as well as Winn-Dixie's new welcome graphics - Let's shop 'n' roll Viera!
Stepping into the main store, we turn right and enter the produce department. What we see here is the space Winn-Dixie expanded into, however, I don't have any good comparison photos to show the effects of the expansion on the salesfloor space. Compared to the new Mandarin Winn-Dixie we toured earlier this year (which opened in an identical former Earth Fare space), the Viera Winn-Dixie is only bigger by two grocery aisles, and has a bigger produce and wine department. The majority of the new space Winn-Dixie captured ended up going to the new liquor store, which resides behind that wall in front of us. Even though that doesn't sound like much, that little bit of extra space makes the store feel less crammed-in than what we saw previously in Mandarin.
Winn-Dixie's floral department resides along the front wall near produce, next to the main entrance. I don't recall seeing a floral section in the Mandarin store, so the addition of floral here also appears to be a product of the expansion. When Earth Fare was here, their original partition wall would have begun right about where the transition between floral and that produce cooler is.
Even though Winn-Dixie ripped out an entire wall to expand the salesfloor out to the right, I didn't notice any scars on the floor or any other noticeable marks from that happening. It's a very clean transition, and you'd be pretty convinced Earth Fare remodeled the building this way from the start. Seen here is the new right side wall, looking from produce toward the back of the store. The produce coolers extended a little ways down the first aisle, a product of this store's size and Winn-Dixie trying to make everything work.
The first aisle eventually transitions from produce into the wine and beer section, the start of which we can see here. Also, on the wall above, we can see some of the new local flare graphics that are a key feature in the new Winn Win decor, including the Hello (city name) text and the Made in Florida emblem. Since the debut of the Winn Win decor last fall in the first handful of Lucky's and Earth Fare conversions, Winn Win has now officially become Winn-Dixie's new decor package, bringing an end to Down Down's 4 year run. I think this new decor is an improvement over Down Down, as there's a bit more color and flare to Winn Win compared to how plain Down Down was (although later Down Down remodels did begin to add more color and texture compared to earlier ones).
Spinning around 180 degrees from the previous photo, here's a peek into the remainder of the beer and wine department. In the beer and wine department, aisle 1 expands into a double aisle following the back wall of the liquor store next door.
In the back right corner we find the meat and seafood counter. Had it not been for the expansion, the seafood counter would have been on an angle in the corner, like this. With the old seafood counter ripped out to expand the store, the new counter was relocated to be flush against the back wall like this.
Here's the meat and seafood counter as seen from the opposite angle, looking into the back corner.
Turning our attention away from the meat and seafood counter, here's a look across the back of the entire store. Comparing the photo above to this view from the Mandarin store, taken from the same spot, should hopefully give everyone a decent idea of how much this building was expanded. The addition of two aisles really made a big difference visually.
Let's depart the back of the store for a moment, and cut down the soda aisle to return to the front...
Although its buried behind a bunch of new lights and vents, looking across the front end, we catch our first major glimpse at the store's clerestory windows. Those windows are the only major artifact left in this building from its Kash n' Karry days, this building being one of a handful of round prototype Kash n' Karry stores built at the turn of the 21st century. Kash n' Karry's front end and produce department followed that curve line, making for one funky supermarket design, and giving the place its unique rounded layout. While most of these round prototype buildings still exist in some form, most have been converted into other uses following Kash n' Karry's (and later Sweetbay's) financial woes. Due to that, only one round prototype still survives with its original layout, and it's also a Winn-Dixie today. Thankfully, it's a bit difficult to remove the building's clerestory without having to redo the roof's entire structural system, so we get a nice relic of the past in this new Winn-Dixie store (and some nice sunshine as well!).
A little less clerestory in this shot, but a better view looking toward the store's front end.
From the front end, back into the grocery aisles we go as we continue through the store...
About halfway through the sales floor, here's a look back toward the meat and seafood counter.
Continuing into the left side of the store, we find the dairy department following the meat coolers. Since there isn't a lot of space for all the dairy products on the back wall, the rest of the dairy department runs along the inner part of aisle 12, in a row of coolers across from the service departments.
Originally, Earth Fare had only a single aisle of coolers for frozen foods. Winn-Dixie added this extra half-aisle of coolers to the mix, creating an aisle and a half for their frozen food department. Considering the store's odd size and layout, that extra row of coolers ended up being opposite the paper products, making for a rather strange combination of items in this aisle.
Jumping over to the next aisle, home to the remainder of the frozen foods, we get another nice look at the clerestory windows above.
Health and beauty products occupy the next aisle over from frozen foods, with the next aisle being home to additional non-food items (and another nice photo of the clerestory windows - I think you can tell by now those windows are my favorite part of this entire store!):
Cheeses find a home in the store's back left corner, right where Earth Fare kept their cheese. However, Winn-Dixie removed Earth Fare's full service cheese counter in favor of plain self-service coolers.
The store's last aisle is home to the "grand aisle", and all of the major service departments in the place. Coming up the grand aisle from the back left corner, the first department you encounter is the bakery, followed by the deli (seen here), and lastly, the kitchen.
While the deli takes up the foreground of the above image, my only photo of the bakery sign and counter can be seen in the background.
Since this is the "grand aisle", it's also a double wide aisle, with various coolers and displays for the bakery and deli departments taking up residence in the middle of the aisle.
The very last department for us to visit in the grand aisle (and the closest to the front of the store) is The Kitchen, home to the prepared foods. Like most of Winn-Dixie's modernized stores, The Kitchen offers a sub station, Winn-Dixie's famous wing bar, a sushi bar, and a self-serve hot foods bar.
Here's one last look down the grand aisle, this time looking from The Kitchen toward the back of the store.
In the other three Earth Fare to Winn-Dixie conversions, this space in the building's front right corner is home to the beer and wine department. Since beer and wine found its home in the expansion space here, this corner became home to greeting cards and some random displays of promotional merchandise.
Now that we've finished our loop around the new Viera Winn-Dixie, we'll take one last look at the front end before heading back outside...
Winn-Dixie did a nice job converting this store, and it seems like Winn-Dixie has won over Viera. The store draws a decent crowd, and there are a good number of Google Reviews from locals who love this place, like this one: "[I] enjoy shopping at the Winn-Dixie near the corner of Murrell Road and Viera Boulevard. By far better than any of the surrounding Publix's." It's not often you hear Floridians utter words like that!
Although the palm tree is blocking its sign, off to the right side of the Winn-Dixie is the new liquor store.
Interestingly, the attached liquor store opened a full three months prior to the main store next door, opening in February 2021. Apparently this was the first time Winn-Dixie has ever done such a thing, as the liquor stores usually open at the same time or a few months after the main store.
Walking back to the car, here we have yet another nod from Winn-Dixie to the local community - six special golf cart parking spaces. While there weren't any golf carts parked here on this visit, trust me, these spaces do get used often. The Vierans love zipping around on their golf carts, and one of these days, maybe I'll see that special Winn-Dixie themed cart parked here too - wouldn't that be neat?
Anyway, that's all I have for today's post. I'm happy to see Winn-Dixie on the rebound, and it will be interesting to see where the company goes from here. Hopefully more new stores will come out of this, and the company can clean itself up enough to enjoy a spot in the Floridian supermarket scene for years to come, because with new stores and a new image...now that's a Winn Win!
So that's all for now. Until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger