Sunday, January 9, 2022

Former Albertsons #4388 - Ocala, FL

***Pre-conversion photos courtesy of YonWooRetail2. Post-conversion photos courtesy of AFB***

Albertsons #4388
2553 East Silver Springs Boulevard, Ocala, FL - Hillside Center

     Happy New Year everyone, and welcome to another great year of posts here on AFB! To get 2022 started, we venture off to Florida's horse country to visit the city of Ocala. The largest city and the seat of Marion County, Ocala's claims to fame are is many horse breeders and equestrian ranches, as well as being home to the famous old Florida tourist attraction Silver Springs and its glass bottom boats. While Ocala has always been a moderately-sized city and a hub for the surrounding areas, it took Albertsons until the early 1990's before placing a store here, that store being the one we'll be touring today. Today's post will be another before-and-after feature, as we'll spend the first part of this post exploring the former Ocala Albertsons in its abandoned form, thanks to the retail journeys of YonWooRetail2. Following that, we'll take a quick look at this building in its current form, courtesy of yours truly. So let's get things started by going back in time to 2017, for a closer look at this then-abandoned store:

     Due to its location between downtown Ocala and Silver Springs State Park, East Silver Springs Boulevard (also known as SR 40) became home to Ocala's original retail hub. Numerous older shopping centers and retail buildings line this stretch of road, the main east-west arterial connecting Ocala with both coasts. However, following the opening of Paddock Mall in Southwestern Ocala in 1980, most of the town's major retail began to shift that way, leaving numerous vacancies in shopping centers on the eastern side of town. The shopping center we're visiting today predates the arrival of Albertsons by almost 25 years, originally being constructed in 1966 as Sears Town Plaza. Sears Town Plaza originally included, as the name suggests, Sears as its primary anchor, with a strip of stores off to the side of the Sears building that featured a TG&Y discount store and some other smaller shops. As part of an expansion to the Paddock Mall in 1991, Sears would close their Sears Town location on the east side of town in favor of a new store at the mall. TG&Y also closed their Sears Town store shortly after Sears moved, leaving the plaza in a state of near abandonment. To bring some life back into the ailing Sears Town site, the plaza was renamed Hillside Center, and Albertsons was signed on to spur a return of new businesses to the shopping center. As part of the redevelopment, the old Sears building was demolished to make way for the new Albertsons, and the remainder of the center was remodeled to attract new tenants. Albertsons #4388 opened for business in October 1992, a new shopping destination to bring people back to the eastern side of town.

     The Ocala Albertsons was a pretty standard early 90's "Superstore" building, complete with the Blue and Gray Market interior. The store was never remodeled during its 17-year run, and retained the Blue and Gray Market decor until it closed in February 2009. The old Albertsons would sit empty for another decade before Heart of Florida Heath Centers made a bid for the ailing building. The bid was accepted, and Heart of Florida began renovating the former Albertsons store into a new medical complex in 2019, with the new medical offices opening in June 2020.

     We'll see more of the results from Heart of Florida's remodel in a little bit, so let's take the time now to remember what this place was like back in the Albertsons days. As usual in these Superstore era builds, the store had two sets of entrances, located on opposite sides of the building. Pictured above is the "Food" entrance on the right side of the building, which led shoppers into the deli, bakery, and produce departments, as well as the majority of the grocery aisles.

     Looking at the entrance, we find the usual pair of swinging doors that leads into the vestibule.

     Peeking through the doors, here's a look at the right side vestibule. The carts would have been stored between the two sets of windows straight ahead, with the main store through the opening to the right.

     Looking into the main store, here we find some Blue and Gray Market decor remnants, including the floor tile pattern and the wall texturing (which you can see better by zooming in on the photo above). The edge of the former deli department is visible immediately to the right, with the bakery following in the front right corner, and produce following the remainder of the right side wall.

     Heading toward the other vestibule, here's a look under the arches used to decorate the front of the building.

     Looking through the windows in the left side vestibule, the place is looking a bit rough, especially with that giant hole in the ceiling from a water leak. The former pharmacy department would have been located immediately to the left after walking through this entrance, with health and beauty located on this side of the store as well.

     In the back right of the above image, that appears to be where the meat and seafood counter was once located.

     One final look at the old interior, which as you'd expect, was completely gutted and rebuilt by Heart of Florida upon this building's conversion into medical offices.

     The doors into the left side vestibule can be seen here. It looks like someone tried to force their way in by smashing the window between the two doors, resulting in that window getting boarded up.

     "Pharmacy" labelscar over the left side entryway.

     On the far left side of the building was the liquor store, which was somewhat hidden. While there is a "Liquor" labelscar somewhat visible behind those poles, the liquor store wasn't given a distinct facade design to make it sand out from the rest of the building.

     Here's a peek inside the old liquor store, complete with more Blue and Gray Market decor remnants.

     So that's what the Ocala Albertsons looked like from early 2009 to early 2019 - empty and abandoned. With Heart of Florida taking over the building in 2019, here's the results of that conversion:

     Heart of Florida began operating out of this building in June 2020, and I came by here for photos only a month or so after that. While Heart of Florida was operational when I was here, construction hadn't 100% finished yet. However, the interior remodel and modifications to the facade were complete, so we still get to see the intended final product of the remodel.

     From the outside, the building still retains most of its Albertsons aesthetic. Heart of Florida squared off all the arches and curves, and stuccoed over the textured block look Albertsons had, but it's still pretty obvious what this place once was. Heart of Florida preserved Albertsons' double-sided entryway design too, so both vestibules remained during the remodel, but were modified. The fact those were preserved really helped with keeping the Albertsons design alive.

     My exterior photos of this store were taken from some pretty wonky angles, as I happened to pick the day the parking lot was being resurfaced to visit this place. That being the case, the parking lot right in front of the old Albertsons building was roped off and coated with sticky stuff, so getting better angles and close-ups of the exterior didn't bode too well for me.

     Since close-ups of the vestibules or the center of the building weren't going to be a thing this day (at least without me getting my feet stuck on wet tar-like stuff), we'll jump over to the other side of the building for some opposite angles.

     Heart of Florida added some modern touches to the building like the stone covered pillars and rope-held awnings, while still preserving much of Albertsons' design.

     Albertsons' swinging doors were replaced by a single pair of manual doors at each vestibule. From a quick glance though the vestibule windows, Heart of Florida now uses the vestibules as small lobby/waiting areas for patients.

     A similar view to one YonWoo captured earlier, our look under the arches on the front of the building is just a bit more square looking these days.

     Back on the other side of the building, here's a look toward the other vestibule. As I said before, construction wasn't fully complete by the time of my visit, as seen by that (hopefully) temporary plywood wall between the left entrance and the old liquor store.

     Even following Heart of Florida's takeover of the main supermarket building, it appears they aren't going to be using the old liquor store space for anything (at least right away), as it is still sitting abandoned.

     Heart of Florida did gut the old liquor store as part of their renovation next door, but I don't know if this was done to make the space more attractive for a future tenant to start fresh, or so Heart of Florida has this space already prepared if they ever wished to expand.

     Even though the liquor store was gutted and all of its Albertsons traces were removed, someone did forget to peel off this lone remaining Albertsons decal from the window, our last little obvious reminder of the building's former tenant.

     So that's really all there is to Ocala's former Albertsons store anymore. Besides the semi-modified facade, that's really all we have left to remind us of Albertsons' time in Ocala.

     A few more exterior photos will finish us out with our coverage of this former Albertsons store, before we take a quick look at the remainder of the plaza.

     At one time you could buy donuts here, but now the only donuts you'll find in this plaza are the marks from ones people do with their cars in the middle of the night in the empty parking lot.

     Turning our attention now to the rest of Hillside Center, here's an overview of what the entire complex looks like these days. The strip of stores to the right of Albertsons is original to the plaza's construction as Sears Town in 1966. Only the old Sears building itself was demolished to make room for the new Albertsons, and we'll see the old Sears a little later in this post when we skim through the historic satellite imagery. To the left of Albertsons is a former Dockside Imports store, which was added to the plaza in the late 1990's, a few years after the Albertsons was built.

     Here's a quick glimpse at the former Dockside Imports store before we jump over to the original 1960's portion of the plaza. Dockside Imports was a chain of Pier 1-like stores that sold furniture and home decor items, based out of Orlando. Dockside grew to over 30 locations within Florida before going out of business sometime around 2012-2013, although there really isn't much online about the chain's history or downfall. This space has been sitting empty ever since Dockside closed, and still is empty as far as I'm aware.

     Hillside Center was pretty empty between the old Albertsons and Big Lots, however things got a bit livelier rounding the corner from Big Lots. 

     Big Lots occupies the space that once housed the plaza's TG&Y store. TG&Y closed right around the time Sears moved to Paddock Mall in 1991, with Big Lots brought in to fill TG&Y's void in 1994. Following Albertsons' construction, the rest of the plaza was remodeled to match Albertsons facade, which you can see a sample of here. When Heart of Florida remodeled the facade of the Albertsons building as part of their renovations, the rest of the plaza was again remodeled to match the new design, which we can see above.

     Here's a look along the front walkway in front of Big Lots, their entrance located just ahead to my right.

     Inside, the store is a pretty non-descript, average Big Lots. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary inside that seemed to be a relic of TG&Y, as sometimes these older Big Lots stores have carried over relics from tenants past.

     While this seems like a fairly average Big Lots store on most accounts, there's actually something pretty unique about this location when compared to others - it's really small. While the pictures may not show off the size difference well, as we'll see, this store actually lacks one of Big Lots' most prominent and important departments these days - furniture. Due to the small size of this space, Big Lots had to place the furniture department in its own storefront a few spaces down in the plaza, which we'll see in a little bit. In older Big Lots stores, having the furniture department in a separate storefront wasn't uncommon, however, Big Lots did prefer to have the furniture stores placed immediately next door to the main store. As furniture became a much more prominent product for the company, Big Lots began to integrate the furniture departments into the main product selection, and began phasing out the stand-alone furniture locations. When the furniture stores were located next door to the main store, a cut-through was installed to combine the stores into one (and a good number of stores like this still exist today too). However, having the furniture store completely detached like we have here in Ocala is pretty rare for Big Lots these days, as Big Lots would much rather have the furniture selection combined into the main store somehow.

     Here's a look across the back wall of Big Lots, looking toward the seasonal department in the back left corner. While the regular furniture was in its own storefront, the patio furniture was located here in the main store as part of the seasonal department.

     Some small pieces of back-to-college type furniture was displayed in the main aisle, but that was the extent of the furniture for sale over here.

     A random (but very well presented, at least for Big Lots) grocery aisle in the middle of the store.

     The shelves to my right bump up against the picture window, blocking the bottom half of them.

     So that's all there is to see inside the main Big Lots store. Let's head back outside for a quick look at the furniture store a few spaces down:

     Stepping outside, here's a view from the main store toward the furniture store, located around the corner.

     Here's a close-up shot of the Big Lots Furniture store, which was actually quite large (although I didn't go inside - but it looked big through the window). Big Lots combined a few smaller storefronts to make the furniture store, although I don't know if the furniture store was original to the main store's 1994 opening, or if this department was a later addition.

     Leaving the plaza, we have one last little trace of Albertsons to take a look at - the former Albertsons Express gas station.

     I completely forgot this store had an Albertsons Express, until I was pulling out of the lot and saw the remnant "Express" sign on the food mart. The Ocala Albertsons Express was a later addition to this store, opening in the late 1990's. The gas station would have been sold off around 2008, when Albertsons stopped operating gas stations in Florida. Like many former Albertsons Express locations, this one went to an independent operator, which now operates the station under a Shell affiliation.

     Leaving the plaza, here's a quick look at the shopping center's modernized monument sign facing East Silver Springs Boulevard.

     The ground coverage complete, it's now time to go up in the air for some satellite imagery, starting with our Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:

Front - All these images were captured while the building was still abandoned

Right Side


Left Side

     And now the historic satellite images, courtesy of Google Earth and

Former Albertsons #4388 - 2021

Former Albertsons #4388 - 2018

Albertsons #4388 - 2007

Albertsons #4388 - 1999

Albertsons #4388 - 1995

Future Albertsons #4388 - 1984 - Here you can see the old Sears building that the Albertsons replaced. Certainly a big transformation on that side of the plaza!

     To finish out our post, here's the only image of the former Ocala Albertsons I was able to find while still open, a screengrab from a very old passing of this store by the Google Streetview car (which you can explore in more detail here).

     So that's all I have to say about former Albertsons #4388 in Ocala. Even though this was the only Albertsons in the Ocala area, we'll be coming back to this part of Florida for our next post to explore another funky old supermarket, so be sure to come back in two weeks for that!

Until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger


  1. Welcome back! Cool post to start off 2022. It's good that this building is seeing some new life now, and that it's still mostly recognizable as a former Albertsons even underneath all the new renovations. I especially like that the credit card decal has survived the conversion, too!

    There's some neat stuff in the rest of the shopping center, too, between the Dockside Imports, separate Big Lots Furniture storefront, and former Albertsons Express station. As soon as you thought it was over, this post kept on giving more fun items, haha!

    1. Thanks! Glad I was able to find all those interesting layers in this place, and that credit card sticker too. Even though it didn't seem like there was much left to find here, I was quite surprised with how much there still was to discover in this plaza!

  2. Oh, yes, I remember seeing this location on Google Maps when I took a close look at Ocala on the map several months back. I remember being intrigued by the retail conversion into a public library across the street and you telling me about the former Sears/Albertsons there. Given that, it's interesting to read about all the details of that Sears/Albertsons shopping center.

    Interestingly enough, there is a TG&Y-to-Big Lots conversion not too far from me at the former North Oaks Mall in Houston. Not far from that is this former Albertsons that used to have a Sears Hardware store next to it! Link:

    The TG&Y to Big Lots conversion here did have enough room for furniture, but I'm not surprised that it didn't in Ocala. The separate furniture store is rather interesting as the local Pic-N-Save/MacFrugal's/Big Lots nearest to me (not the TG&Y location, but rather one in a former Greenhouse Kroger) does have the situation you described where the furniture department is next door in kind of a separate, but connected room. I think that when Big Lots eliminated their clothing department, some furniture spilled out onto the main salesfloor, but I can't say for sure that I remember how things are set up now.

    While Albertsons might be long-gone from Ocala, it does seem their legacy there is that the retention pond just behind the old Albertsons still has the Albertsons name! It's not quite Lake Albertsons, but it's pretty neat anyway:

    In other Ocala news, it seems that the former Kmart just down the road from the Albertsons is in the process of being turned into a flea market called the Ocala Mall. It might not be The Swap Shop, but it might be interesting to see if any Kmart relics live on in this building:

    I'm interested to see what Ocala retail treasure you'll be presenting for us next! Just from my random drop in there on Google Maps, it seemed like there was a ton of interesting retail/former retail along Silver Springs Boulevard. Even on the other side of town, the Goodwill over by Paddock Mall looks interesting on the outside and it's odd how there's what appears to be a powercenter near Paddock Mall (Market Street At Heath Brook) built in the style of an outdoor mall with Dillard's as an anchor.

    1. I actually have another TG&Y to Big Lots conversion that I've covered, and that one was set up with the furniture store in a separate storefront next door, but connected to the main store with a pass-through. I guess like a lot of those old 5-and-10 type stores, the building sizes seemed to vary a bit, giving Big Lots the space for furniture in some cases, and in others not. Interesting you mention clothes at Big Lots too - while Big Lots got rid of clothes a long time ago, they actually brought that category back in the last year or so. Now most Big Lots stores have an aisle or two of clothes again!

      I didn't notice the name of that retention pond - that's pretty neat actually. I had heard about the Ocala Kmart being turned into a flea market too. I thought the plans for that died, but it seems that someone else is going to try to give that idea a go now. That old Kmart would be an interesting place to check out once the new flea market opens, as I've yet to come across a flea market that has done extensive renovations to the building they've taken over!

  3. Speaking of Ocala, you could try visiting the Abandoned Publix #609 on Blitchton Rd, that could make for an interesting blog post.

    1. That store looks interesting. It looks like Publix moved next door close to 2015, but the original store still had Wavy Pastel or Metallic Marketplace lettering on the doors in 2017. I'm sure it got remodeled to Classy Market 1.0 before it closed but I still would wonder what it looks like on the interior.

    2. I think this store closed in 2010 instead of 2015. I agree with you about the interior, I'm pretty curious to see what it looks like, also I wonder what the liquor store looks like as well.

    3. Yes, you are right. I found on Foursquare where somebody mentioned the grand opening of the store next door in 2010. That would make the old store even more interesting! The liquor store too.

    4. Maybe the next time I'm out that way I can check out that old Publix - it does seem intriguing considering how long it's been closed for.

  4. That's cool that the Heart of Florida shared those photos online of their interior. It's neat that they preserved the windows for the upstairs offices! It gives off a cool look along with the new interior architecture. And Holy Moly, I didn't realized this location had an Albertsons Express! I think it's cool how the tenant afterward almost always saves the 'Express' sign.

    Speaking of grocery stores that sell gas, I'm pretty sure I saw a Publix branded gas station along US 27 one time while driving north from SE Florida one time about 10 years ago. It seemed like it was between Sebring and Clermont somewhere. Is Publix still running fuel stations? Seems like something they would have experimented with (like Albertsons) and then stopped. Of course is running fuel stations in select locations, just not to scale they did in the 2000's.

    1. Well, after posting I answered my own question. I did a quick search discovered that Publix discontinued their Pix C-stores in 2013. They ran on for several years after Albertsons discontinued their express stores back in '08. I was still mesmerized to see Publix selling gas. For some reason the two don't go together. They probably had a time competing with Kangaroo Express, which was absorbed into Circle K (who is currently as I discovered today, building a new store on Gainesville's north side). And I though Publix had a monopoly in Gainesville!

    2. Yeah, a few of the Publix Pix stores were rebranded Albertsons Express, as Albertsons was about to sell those off right around the time Publix bought many of Albertsons' Floridian stores. Since most of the Albertsons Express locations went to independent owners afterward, it's pretty interesting seeing how little most of those new owners did to the gas stations.

  5. Happy 2022! Silver Springs is a cool place; I remember going there a while back for a glass bottom boat tour and it was worthwhile.

    I know I would much rather have an Albertsons doughnut than what is left in the parking lot now. They are very obnoxious if you happen to be a bystander to the local parking lot gran prix!

    Very cool that you were able to incorporate YonWoo's pictures of the Albertsons relics to the shopping center's current state. I always enjoy learning about how much history many of these shopping centers have -- most of which people would not have a clue about. The Big Lots section was an interesting read too.

    1. Happy 2022 to you as well! Silver Springs park does seem interesting. I'll have to check it out sometime, as a glass-bottom boat tour just seems like an old Florida thing to do!

      This post came together well with the before and after photos, and I'm glad YonWoo was able to get us that before coverage as well! I like enjoying about the histories of these shopping centers too. It's amazing how many tenants these places go through, and how people can know so little about a place that's been under their noses all this time!