1590 Venice Bypass, Venice, FL
For nearly a decade, a building has sat quietly behind a shady parking lot in southern Sarasota County, watching as the cars drive by on busy US 41 out front. Occasionally a car cuts through the lot of this building, breaking the quiet of the early morning, just to pass by the remains of this once bustling grocery store to access the Harbor Freight and Office Depot in the complex next door. For the last 10 years, no one has really thought too much of this building, even as the other abandoned Albertsons stores throughout Florida have become home to a variety of new uses over the last few years. As we close out 2021, only two Albertsons stores remain totally abandoned in Florida - this particular location in Venice being one of them, the other being store #4498 in Apopka, which we toured a few years ago (and still looks exactly like you see in that post). Like I mentioned, many of the other long abandoned Floridian Albertsons stores have seen new uses come their way recently, such as former store #4340 in Port Richey becoming a U-Haul facility, #4388 in Ocala becoming medical offices, #4412 in Oviedo becoming Sprouts Farmers Market, #4354 in Bradenton getting torn down for
Lucky's Market nothing, and #4483 in Bonita Springs getting split between a Planet Fitness and Goodwill store. While time has recycled many of these former Albertsons shells around Florida, we still don't know what the future holds for this former Albertsons store in Venice, well, besides the post I'm about share with all of you today:
Albertsons #4346 opened in 1981 as the last of the Skaggs-Albertsons era buildings to open in Florida. While the Skaggs-Albertsons partnership dissolved in 1978, Albertsons continued to use the building design created for that partnership a few years after. By the early 1980's, Albertsons retired out the Skaggs-era template for a short-lived store design of their own creation, that being what I've dubbed the "Trapezoid" model Albertsons store. In this store's 31 years in business, it only ever received one major remodel, that occurring in the early-mid 1990's timeframe. At that time, the interior was remodeled to the Blue and Gray Market decor, and some minor cosmetic upgrades were done to the exterior. The 2000's brought a repaint to the interior, where the Blue and Gray Market interior was changed to a brown color scheme, but otherwise, Albertsons had hardly touched this store between the 90's and when it closed on June 9, 2012. This is probably one of the best preserved examples of a Skaggs-era Albertsons store left in Florida, as the building was hardly altered from its original state by Albertsons or any tenant that came afterward (or by the F3 tornado that roared through the store's parking lot in March 1985 - the Publix across the street wasn't so lucky when it came to the tornado's wrath though. Thanks YonWoo for sharing those tornado aftermath photos with me in a coincidentally timely manner!).
Albertsons' remodels to these old Skaggs-era buildings were quite elaborate come the turn of the 2000's, featuring complete rearrangements of the interior, new facades, and new liquor stores. A good chunk of the Skaggs-era stores that survived into the early 2000's ended up getting one of those remodels, leaving very few original examples like the one we see here.
To make things even better, we have a nice clear labelscar from the Albertsons sign still visible to this day, our bleak remainder of what once was.
Even though this building is only set back a few hundred feet from the busiest road in Venice, attached to a small big box strip with a decent tenancy rate, there was a eerie silence as I was walking around the building on this chilly (for Florida) winter morning. Some little acorn-like things were crunching under my feet, blown all over the place from the trees in the parking lot, and the sound of the cars driving by on US 41 was barely a hum in the background. However, as quiet and pleasant as it was, I wasn't alone during my visit here - little did I know I was about to have one of the weirdest encounters of my retail photography career while I was here, something that really gave me a good little momentary fright! I'll get to that story in just a moment, while I let the suspense linger in the air...
As far as I'm aware, there still aren't any plans for this former Albertsons store as of December 2021. In February 2020, it was announced that Benderson Realty, a prominent commercial real estate developer, had purchased the old Albertsons building. Benderson also happens to own the shopping center across the street from here, which had recently remodeled and redeveloped its empty Kmart anchor space. It seemed like Benderson would be quick on getting something into the old Albertsons building, especially after claiming in the article that the company was fielding "a number of offers from developers, with proposed uses ranging from office and medical space to big-box gyms". Almost two years since Benderson's acquisition of the building, still nothing.
Seeing this wonderfully preserved and abandoned Albertsons store, I'm sure all of you are curious as to what surprises the inside of the building holds (and trust me, I sure was surprised with what I saw, and I'm not talking about the decor remnants). So as we get ready to look at the interior, we'll head up to the building's front walkway. Here we're looking toward the store's main entryway, which juts out a little bit from the rest of the front wall.
The original entryway setup of these Skaggs-era buildings included two sets of swinging doors, one set at each side of the jut out. This was one of very few Floridian Albertsons stores to keep this entry design into the 2000's, as Albertsons typically reconfigured the entryways during later remodels. Still though, almost 10 years after this store closed for good, we find original Albertsons posters and decals on the windows. Those may all be cracked and faded, but still a fun little relic of the past.
Typically before I begin taking pictures through the windows of these abandoned stores, I peek inside for a little preview of my own. Not only does that give me a gauge on how interesting the interior is, I also get an idea of lighting, glare, and how dirty the windows are. Walking up to this building from the parking lot, I did just that, and pressed my face against the glass for a look inside, my phone all prepped for photos. While I was expecting remnants of Albertsons' Blue and Gray Market decor to be staring back at me, not at all was I expecting some random guy inside to be doing the exact same thing!!! Yes, literally right in front of me as I first looked into the building, a guy was standing on a scissor lift staring right back at me, probably watching me as I was taking photos of the exterior and walking up to the windows. That guy and I looked at each other for a moment, and I was completely expecting him to come outside and confront me about what I was doing (or start yelling at me through the glass). A story in mind, I was ready, but after a few more seconds of our awkward staring match, the guy put his lift in drive and rolled off into the corner of the building, going into the old deli department. I stood there frozen in the window after the guy rolled away on the lift, replaying in my mind what just happened (and trying to get out of my newfound state of shock). That was one of the weirdest moments I've experienced in my 8 years of doing this, but since that guy on the lift didn't seem to care about me poking around, I kept about my business (and after driving 175 miles to photograph this place, I was going to make sure I got some decent pictures of it too!). I did speed up my visit a bit following that encounter, just in case, but I still ended up with a good spread of photos, and last I checked, I'm not on the Venice Police Department's most wanted list either!
With the guy on the lift in the corner and out of sight, it was back to business as normal. Looking through the front windows, we see the empty salesfloor and the Blue and Gray Market decor on the walls, just repainted brown during the 2000's refresh.
The deli and bakery departments are located just out of frame to my right, in the front right corner of the building. Produce followed those departments along the right side wall, with the meat counter located on the back wall.
The flooring was covered with scars from where the shelving and check stands once stood.
The meat and seafood counter appears to have been located in the back right corner, with the meat coolers located to the left of that along the back wall. Since this was an unaltered Skaggs-era store, the pharmacy would have still been located in the back of the store as well, closer to the back left corner. When Albertsons remodeled similar stores in the 2000's, the pharmacies would typically be relocated to the front of the store, usually where the old side entrance was located.
These next few photos get a bit hazy, as the left side of the store was darker than the right side. The right side of the store had the advantage of all the light coming in through the front windows. The left side didn't have the large row of picture windows due to the placement of the customer service desk in the front left corner.
Here's a look into the main entry vestibule. The customer service desk and side entrance can be seen straight ahead.
The left side wall was home to the cosmetics and health and beauty departments, the pharmacy in the little alcove to the left of those stockroom doors on the back wall.
Thank you for shopping at Albertsons - I would have bought more, but there wasn't much left to buy!
While we've finished that overview of the interior, we'll get to see inside one more time once we work our way over to the side entrance. However, the front of the building and its nice labelscar have proven to be quite photogenic!
In traditional fashion, the distinctive river rock walls were left completely preserved here. While some other grocery chains (for example, Family Mart) used river rock as well, this design trait has become quite ingrained with Albertsons, probably because Albertsons had one of the most widespread uses of the river rock panels.
Rounding the corner, the store's side entrance and liquor store come into view.
The entrance to the liquor store is the door on the left, with the side entrance in the alcove to the right.
While Albertsons did preserve the side entrances in some later, more extensive remodels, it was pretty common to see Albertsons close these off to relocate the store's pharmacy to this corner, and add a much larger liquor store to the side of the building. Since none of that ever happened here, what we see is exactly how Albertsons intended it to be back in 1981.
A single set of swinging doors comprises the side entrance, as seen here.
More Albertsons decals next to the side entrance. If you zoom in on the sticker to the right of the door, one of the policies reads "solicitation, distribution of literature, and use of photo, video, and audio devices prohibited". Maybe my friend on the lift failed to read that as he entered the building, which is why he never said anything to me!
Speaking of my friend on the lift, there he is if you look straight ahead, tucked under the lower ceiling by the old deli and bakery department. That guy must have been sent by the owners to fix something up in the ceiling, since he seemed to be quite preoccupied by something up there (and not me, thankfully).
Here's one more photo through the side entrance, the location of the customer service desk just out of frame to my right in the photo above (and visible in the prior photo).
The interior of the main store covered, let's take a peek inside the old liquor store next door...
Here's a better photo of one of the Albertsons decals still posted in the window, clearly worn after a decade of neglect.
The way the liquor store is designed, it's hard to see much besides the very front part of the space. Still though, we have very clear Blue and Gray Market decor remnants visible along the wall.
The registers would have been located along the wall to the right. However, after the counter and cigarette racks were removed, some original, unpainted wood paneling was exposed. That paneling is most likely original to the store, so that's pretty neat to see!
Back outside, here's a look across the left side of the building, looking down the row of river rock panels.
It's not as clear as the one on the front of the building, but another Albertsons logo labelscar is located on this side of the building (which faces the cross street of Business US 41, which leads into downtown Venice). If you're having a hard time seeing it, the labelscar is located above the emergency door.
Here's one last look at the side entrance and liquor store. For a building that's been abandoned for as long as this one has, it's been maintained very well. The property isn't overgrown, the building is well kept, and the maintenance man just happened to be here when I popped by (although I wish I found that out in a much less awkward way!). The only noticeable sign of neglect is the board over the liquor store's exit door, whose glass got broken somehow.
As I wrap up this tour, we'll make our way across the front of the building one last time:
I was really having a good time taking photos of that labelscar.
Closeup of the river rock panels on the right side of the facade.
Next door to the Albertsons, although set back a bit behind it, is this small strip of stores consisting of Harbor Freight Tools, Office Depot, a closed Stein Mart (at the time I took this photo - that space is in the process of becoming an Ollie's now), and Firehouse Subs (the small Firehouse Subs space actually connecting the Albertsons building to this strip). This building (minus the part where Firehouse Subs is) was home to Venice's original Walmart store, which operated here from 1985 until 1995, when this store was replaced by a new Supercenter further to the south in US 41. There really isn't anything distinctive left from this building's Walmart days anymore, although it probably looked something like this back in the day.
Before jumping into the satellite imagery, here's a look at the Venice Albertsons when it was still open, courtesy of a photo YonWooRetail2 dug up from somewhere on the internet. Besides the removal of the signage and potted palm trees, the scene really isn't much different than what we saw throughout the post.
Now, it's off to the satellite imagery, beginning with the Bird's Eye aerial images, courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now for this historic satellite images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4346 - 2020 - Albertsons is the building on the south side of the property, the former Walmart being the other large building set further back.
Former Albertsons #4346 - 2014
Albertsons #4346 - 2012 - Albertsons nearing the end here.
Albertsons #4346 - 2003
Albertsons #4346 - 1995 - And I thought the crowds at Walmart were bad these days! I have no idea what was going on at Walmart on this day, but it sure was popular.
Albertsons #4346 - 1984 - Albertsons all by itself still, as Walmart wouldn't come around until the next year.
Future Albertsons #4346 - 1971 - Empty lot
Out by the main road, Albertsons' distinctive road sign still stands, now used as a large advertisement space by Benderson to let people know the building is for lease. Benderson seems to act like there's a lot of interest in this building, but it seems like nothing has come from any of that talk. With how busy this area is and how all the other shopping centers around here seem to be having no problems attracting new tenants, I'm surprised this old Albertsons has been sitting for as long as it has. Locals seem quite eager to see something happen with this building after all these years, as the local paper expressed back in 2020. While there's a lot that can be done with this building, it seems one of the most popular reuses amongst locals would be to see Detwiler's Farm Market relocate here from their much smaller store up the road, bringing Venice one of the company's new large-format stores (like this one we toured a while back). Detwiler's would probably be this building's only hope of becoming another grocery store, as Aldi, Publix, and Winn-Dixie are already present nearby.
While no one knows what will eventually become of this building going forward, for now it will continue to stand as a reminder of the supermarkets of Florida's past, the land where many have tried, and just as many have failed.
I will leave everyone with this parting shot of the store, featuring a nice closeup of that Albertsons labelscar on this wonderfully preserved example of a Skaggs-era Albertsons store. If this post wasn't enough to get your fill of this store, this YouTube video also gives a nice overview of the former Venice Albertsons, filmed only a few months before I visited (and minus any surprise guests inside the building too!)
As the blog turns yet another year old, my journey remains the same, to get coverage of all of these former Floridian Albertsons stores onto the blog in some way. I've visited a lot of them so far, and I'm quite impressed with how many I've gotten to of late. I still have more to visit as 2022 approaches, which is when our Albertsons journey will continue. However, I still have one more post planned for 2021, ending this year's postings in a similar way to which I began them this year. For that, be sure to come back two Sundays from now, but for now, thank you everyone for supporting the blog for the last 8 years, and here's to many more!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger