Albertsons #4305 / Rowe's IGA Market / Publix #1176
2875 University Boulevard West, Jacksonville, FL - University Square
After making a grand entrance into Florida in late 1974 with two stores in the Tampa Bay area, Albertsons was off to make a grand entrance throughout the rest of the state. Following those two Tampa Bay stores, Albertsons placed another pair in Orlando, and dropped the next pair in Jacksonville, planting the seeds for a new super-sized supermarket concept to sweep the Sunshine State (well, everywhere except for Miami, as we learned last time). While Albertsons' new stores really took off in areas like Tampa Bay, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville was always a more modest Floridian market for Albertsons. While Jacksonville wasn't a total flop like Albertsons' disastrous late-90's expansion into Miami, Albertsons never really penetrated into Jacksonville as much as they did other major cities in Florida. Jacksonville, which comprises the entirety of Duval County, only ever had 5 Albertsons stores within its bounds, with no new stores added following the late 1980's. Albertsons just rode along in Jacksonville for as long as they could with those few stores, the modest sales they generated being just enough to keep those stores going until the company began to hit hard times in the early 2000's. With Albertsons facing financial issues in the early 2000's from unsuccessful overexpansion into new markets and absorbing the purchase of American Stores, some of the company's weaker links began to give. With the Jacksonville area stores only doing marginal business at best, Albertsons made the decision to pull out of Jacksonville and the immediate surrounding areas in 2005 to help ease some of the company's financial burdens (burdens that in the end, would eventually culminate with the sale and split of Albertsons into two companies a year later in 2006).
In departing Jacksonville, Albertsons sold its area stores to former supermarket executive Rob Rowe, a story I explained in much detail at this post. As you may recall, Rob Rowe used his purchase of these former Albertsons stores to launch his own new chain, called Rowe's IGA Markets, which got off to a rough start. As part of Rowe's IGA Market's turbulent start, Rob Rowe would end up selling the location we'll be exploring today to Publix, along with two of his other locations in 2006 after only a year in business.
This former Albertsons store on University Boulevard, just like its sister store #4307 in Arlington that we toured previously, were the pair of stores that got Albertsons started in Jacksonville upon their openings in 1975. Both stores were built with the same template, however, store #4307 got a much more extensive remodel by Albertsons in the early 2000's, making it just the tiniest bit more modern in appearance. However, #4307's somewhat recent upgrades must have been just enough for Publix to justify keeping and remodeling that building, as the similarly aged #4305 wasn't so lucky. Once the sale of the property was completed, Publix didn't even bother touching Albertsons' old building. Publix ripped old #4305 right to the ground from the start, building a new Publix store in #4305's footprint, however rotated 90 degrees to face the opposite crossroad. Out from the rubble of Albertsons #4305 came Publix #1176, which opened in 2009 to replace an older existing Publix store across the street.
With its demolition happening in late 2008/early 2009, old #4305 would be the first of a number of old Albertsons buildings that would meet Publix's wrecking balls in the coming years, as Publix has become tired of operating out of these non-standard locations in many instances. Since this store was torn down so long ago, there really isn't much documentation of it anywhere. Thankfully, YonWooRetail2 came across the first image in this post from a video he was watching a while back, and sent that over to me. AFB thankfully had the foresight way back when to screengrab some old Bing Maps Bird's Eye aerial images showing #4305 while it was still standing, as these images have since been replaced with newer ones showing only the new Publix. That little bit of coverage of the old building is what I'm starting off today's post with, before jumping into the less-exciting modern day ground coverage.
As you've seen so far, Albertsons #4305 was a fairly standard early Skaggs model store. I was told this store was remodeled in the early 2000's, however, any modifications made were not as extensive as similar remodels at other Albertsons locations in the area. I believe this store closed with a watered-down version of the Grocery Palace decor (as Albertsons seemed to sweep the Jacksonville area stores with that decor), but I'm not entirely sure on that. Unfortunately, Publix didn't keep the building to help me in the search of clues to the past decor, so the interior of this store will remain a mystery for now (unless someone out there happens to remember this place).
While that's everything we need to know about this building's past, it's time we jump back to the present for a look at what occupies this site now:
What replaced the former Albertsons building was this fairly average late 2000's Publix store. While this store follows Publix's usual store template almost exactly, I believe it is a bit larger than normal, as this location topped out at 19 aisles compared to the usual 15-16, and had an unusual grocery aisle set-up nearing the pharmacy counter.
The exterior of the current Publix store isn't anything super exciting either, using one of the few default exteriors Publix throws around for newer stores.
15 years ago, we'd have been looking at the side of the Albertsons building from this spot. Now, we're looking at Publix's main entrance, through which we'll pass for a quick loop around the store since we're already here:
Entering the store and turning to the right, floral is the first department we see, followed by the bakery in the front right corner.
Beyond the bakery, the deli counter finds its home along the right side wall.
As was common in late 2000's/early 2010's built Publix stores, a lower ceiling arches out from the deli counter over part of the aisle, giving the effect that the deli is located in its own little nook.
Across from the deli we see the Grab & Go coolers, which are a newer addition to the store. Publix only began adding these dedicated Grab & Go coolers to stores around 2018, creating more space dedicated to pre-made meals and sandwiches.
As usual, produce is located in the store's back right corner.
From produce, here's a look across the back wall, looking toward the meat and seafood departments.
Beyond the meat and seafood counter, the decor fizzles out, leaving just a blank brown wall above the coolers. Occasionally Publix will hang a secondary dairy sign on the back wall to break things up, but that didn't happen here. I guess if nothing else, those vents sticking out of the wall break up the blankness just a bit!
Poking out of a grocery aisle, we find the store's catering service nook, located between floral and the bakery. The catering department's signage was updated to the latest version, a redesign that debuted shortly before the introduction of Publix's latest decor package, Evergreen.
Looking across the front of the store, the service desk (located under the round drop ceiling) gets obscured a bit by that display of chips. The pharmacy counter is located in the background as well, but we still have a little bit more store to cover before we arrive at the pharmacy counter...
When Publix does a rebuild of these old Albertsons stores they've taken over, in pretty much every case, the new Publix that was built occupies the same footprint Albertsons once had. The store here is the only major exception to that rule, with Publix orienting the building 90 degrees to the right from Albertsons' original configuration. In Albertsons' case, the building faced University Boulevard, the busier of the two roads at this crossing. Publix opted to orient the new store to face St. Augustine Road, giving the building less visibility from people driving by on University Boulevard. I don't know the exact reason for Publix doing that, but my only guess is that the building we see today would have been too wide to fit on this property in the old orientation. The property this store is on is shaped like a pentagon (which we'll see later on in the satellite imagery), and due to the strange angling of the east side of the lot, had Publix made Albertsons' old footprint wider to accommodate this building, I believe the back corner of Publix's new store would have come too close to the road. That's my theory as to why the new Publix is oriented differently than the old Albertsons, but for all I know, maybe Publix just prefers an eastern exposure...
Returning to the store's back wall, the meat coolers begin to transition into lunch meats, followed by dairy.
Frozen foods are located in the center of the store, typical for a modern Publix.
The photo above has a tunnel-like effect to it that I quite like.
Getting into the last few aisles, that's where this store strays a bit from the average modern Publix design. A standard late 2000's newbuild Publix store would usually top out at 15-16 aisles, however, this store has 19 aisles total, making it larger than average for the era.
Aisle 15, seen above, is home to the beer coolers. Wine can be found one aisle over in aisle 16, but besides that, the majority of this store's last few aisles are home to health and beauty and other non-food items.
Stepping over one aisle, here's the wine I mentioned before.
The first halves of these last few aisles contained most of the health and beauty products, with a little overflow going into a few short aisles in front of the pharmacy counter. While dairy takes up the back portion of aisle 19, its decor extends the entire length of the aisle, even extending into the part that's all health and beauty items! I found it strange seeing the picture of eggs over the cosmetics here, as a decor fail like that is not something you ever see out of Publix!
Stepping into one of the health and beauty aisles, here's a look toward the back of the store. The shelving in these last few aisles is shorter than normal, probably so Publix can spread more product out over the extra space they had to work with in this building.
Aisles 15-19 were also split in half by this cut-through. Publix doesn't normally split aisles halfway like this, making for another oddity in this part of the store.
Greeting cards occupy the back half of aisle 18.
Getting to the last aisle, here's a look at the remainder of the dairy department, before the aisle transitions into cosmetics as we near the pharmacy counter:
Publix also updated the pharmacy signage in this store, the new logo hanging above the counter. The pharmacy is located in the store's front left corner, Publix's preferred location for it in modern newbuilds.
What pharmaceuticals didn't fit into the main aisles behind me could be located here, in these few short aisles.
From the pharmacy counter, here's a look across the front end before we head back outside...
Returning outside, here's a look across the front of the building toward Publix's liquor store.
Publix tucked the liquor store into the front left corner of the building, carrying this service over from Albertsons. The signage for the liquor store becomes a bit hidden under the awning like that, and isn't as easy to spot like the pharmacy sign above.
So that's what there is to see these days at the site of former Albertsons #4305. Since we already saw some Bird's Eye aerial images at the beginning of this post, we'll jump right into the historic aerial imagery to finish things off, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4305 - 2019 - The modern layout of the property is seen above, with the new Publix building. The parking lot occupies the bounds of the property, creating that pentagon shape I mentioned before.
Former Albertsons #4305 - 2010 - Publix is very new at this point.
Former Albertsons #4305 - 2007 - The building sits abandoned following the closure of Rowe's IGA Market earlier that year, awaiting it's time with Publix's wrecking balls.
Albertsons #4305 - 2005
Albertsons #4305 - 2001
Albertsons #4305 - 1994 - The building in its original form, prior to the early 2000's remodel.
Albertsons #4305 - 1980
Future Albertsons #4305 - 1970 - Nothing here yet.
To end this post, I figured I'd briefly mention the old Publix across the street, which the new store at the Albertsons site replaced:
Pictured above is former Publix #163, which opened on March 30, 1971. This was one of two locations Publix used to mark its grand re-entrance into Jacksonville in the early 1970's. Publix originally made an attempt to enter Jacksonville in 1959 with the opening of a Wing Store in Northside's Gateway Shopping Center. That store closed after only a handful of years, Publix selling that store to hometown chain Winn-Dixie. Publix's re-entry to Jacksonville was much more successful, the company booming and expanding the second time around. Publix even built a new store at Gateway Shopping Center in the early 2000's, home to that short lived original store from the late 50's. Interestingly, Publix's second store at the Gateway Shopping Center also flopped, closing outright after 20 years in business just to, weirdly, get bought by Winn-Dixie again. Not counting Publix's embarrassing attempts at trying to make a go at the Gateway Shopping Center, Publix has continued to thrive in Jacksonville, much like they do everywhere else in Florida. With this store being one of the area's oldest, it's no surprise Publix took Rob Rowe's offer for the old Albertsons building across the street to build a replacement. The picture above shows the building following its relocation across the street, taken from a real estate listing I found a long time ago. All those classic Publix features you see above, including that tile mural, were unceremoniously ripped out when this building was turned into an LA Fitness in the early 2010's. Unfortunately, there isn't much left to see of the supermarkets that once stood at this corner, but thankfully I thought ahead in the early days of this blog to preserve what little documentation there was of these places online, so when the day came for this post, I had a little bit of something to share with everyone.
Since there isn't much more to see here anymore, that's all I have to say for today's post. Next time, we stay in Jacksonville to tour a bonus store that will certainly impress, as in a city as big as Jacksonville, there's always plenty more to explore out there!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger