Albertsons #4302 / Publix #1319 / Publix #1456
3700 4th Street North, St. Petersburg, FL - 4th Street Station
For our next former Albertsons store, we return to the birthplace of Albertsons' Florida division: Pinellas County. Albertsons' first Floridian location opened in Clearwater on October 9, 1974, the first of two stores planned for Pinellas County during the chain's initial launch. We saw the original Clearwater Albertsons on the blog a long time ago, as a number of contributors were able to send in pictures of that location during its 2015 closing, which you can recap here. Shortly after the opening of the Clearwater store, its sister location to the south in St. Petersburg opened in December 1974, that store being the one we'll tour today.
|Photo courtesy of historicimages.com|
Pictured above is the 4th Street North Albertsons as it appeared in 1975, shortly after opening. Like all of Florida's earliest Albertsons stores, the original St. Petersburg Albertsons opened under the name "Skaggs-Albertsons". Skaggs-Albertsons was a joint effort by the Skaggs company and Albertsons to expand into the Southeastern United States, a territory new to both of these operators. Launched in 1970 with the opening of stores in Texas, the Skaggs-Albertsons partnership would ultimately end 8 years later in 1978. Following the dissolution of the partnership, Albertsons would be the company to take sole ownership of the Florida division, Skaggs getting the Texas stores as part of the breakup deal. The Skaggs-Albertsons stores in Florida were quite profitable back then, so Albertsons was very happy to be the company to retain control of the Florida division. A lot of the early success Albertsons had in Florida was due to the uniqueness of their stores compared to what any other supermarket in the state offered at the time. At 55,000 square feet, Albertsons was running the largest supermarkets in Florida, and Albertsons was also the first in the state to combine a supermarket with a drug store and a large selection of general merchandise (electronics, automotive, etc.) The concept was different, and that unique format is what led Albertsons to grow so much in Florida in the coming decades. Unfortunately, the loss of many of those unique features through the years (especially the large general merchandise departments) made Albertsons more like any average mid-tier grocery store. As Publix and Winn-Dixie began to embrace many of the pioneering concepts Albertsons already had (like in-store pharmacies and larger stores) come the late 1980's and early 90's, it was the beginning of Albertsons' downward projection in Florida.
|Photo courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times|
The 4th Street North Albertsons would become the first of three Albertsons stores to operate in the city of St. Petersburg itself, although many other Albertsons stores would pop up in the surrounding suburbs by the late 1990's. Albertsons always appeared to do very well in Pinellas County, as Albertsons never closed a single store in Pinellas until 2008, when all but two of the county's Albertsons stores were sold to Publix. Even following that, the two stores to survive the 2008 mass sale to Publix were store #4301 in Clearwater, which as mentioned before lasted until 2015, and store #4402 at Largo Mall, which made it into the Safeway days. That's a really good legacy for Albertsons, especially when some areas (like Tampa, just across the bay from St. Petersburg) had some Albertsons stores crash and burn in the 1990's.
|Photo courtesy of Otherstream on flickr.|
In 1998, Albertsons did a massive remodel to this store, adding an 8,000 square foot addition to the right (north) side of the building, redoing the entire facade, and modifying the interior. The 1998 remodel happened around the same time Publix built a brand new store across the street, so it seems like Albertsons wanted to keep this store fresh in the face of some modernized competition popping up so close by. In the end though, the 4th Street North Albertsons was one of the 49 stores Albertsons sold to Publix in 2008, and it became a new Publix shortly after. The other Publix is still there across the street too, and this situation in St. Petersburg is probably the most famous example of Publix and their habit of operating two stores so close to each other, the situation made notable because of this Tampa Bay Times article from 2013 explaining the odd arrangement.
|The remaining Publixsons photos are courtesy of foursquare.com|
Publix did very little to this former Albertsons store upon taking it over in late 2008. The building had a facade repaint and a minor decor swap, switching out Albertsons' previous Blue and Green Awnings decor for Publix's Classy Market 2.0, but very little else was done to modify the building from its Albertsons days.
One of the only other major modifications Publix made to this building was swapping out Albertsons' swinging doors for sliding ones, a pretty standard change found at most Publixsons conversions.
Thanks to some old photos I found on foursquare.com, we'll be able to head inside for a quick glimpse at the interior of the old Publixsons. Following the 1998 expansion, it appears most of the original Albertsons layout was preserved, with the bakery and deli in the front left corner of the building, produce following in the back left. One thing to note in the above photo was that the pharmacy was relocated to an island just inside the front entrance as part of the remodel. The island setup is very reminiscent of a design Albertsons would make standard in the Grocery Palace stores. Since this store remodeled in 1998, and Grocery Palace didn't debut until 1999, this would have been one of the very first stores Albertsons prototyped the pharmacy island in.
Like many Publixsons stores (especially in the older Albertsons buildings), the grocery aisles were split with short aisles of non-foods and HBC items in front of the main grocery aisles, which you can see the markers for in the background of the above image.
A strange perspective that appears to have been taken from up on a ladder (or by a freakishly tall person), we see the bakery and produce department on the left side of the store, as seen from one of the grocery aisles on the other side of the building.
More grocery aisles, with the meat counter and windows for the upstairs offices visible in the background.
Along the front end, we have some relics of the Blue and Green Awnings decor that used to be in here - namely that angled crown molding piece along the top of the wall. Interestingly, even though this store was expanded along the right side in the 1998 remodel, it appears the old side entrance was preserved following the expansion (visible beyond the check lanes). Albertsons usually sealed over those side entrances in favor of using that space for relocated/expanded pharmacies or liquor stores in the more extensive late 90's/early 2000's remodels, so its quite intriguing that the side entrance was preserved at this store.
Lastly, here's a night shot of the Publixsons facade, our last glimpse of this store while it was still standing. In late 2013, it was announced that Publix would close this store in order to tear it down and replace it with a modern building after only 5 years of operating here. The Publixsons officially closed on December 28, 2013, with the new store opening roughly a year later in late 2014.
Getting back to my photos, we find ourselves at the Publix that replaced the remains of Albertsons #4302. Besides a little old Florida architectural detailing, what we see here is a pretty average 2010's Publix, a 54M model specifically. Publix's 54M model includes a larger prepared foods selection and a more spacious "grand aisle" compared to the typical Publix, which looks similar but is much more condensed in the area around the fresh departments. You can peruse a detailed tour of a 54M Publix here if you want a better idea of what one of these stores looks like. Our tour of this store is going to be a bit of an express tour, as I had more interesting supermarkets to visit following this place (which was my first stop of the day), and we've seen plenty of modern Publix stores before.
The new Publix is of a comparable size to the old Albertsons, roughly the size of the Albertsons building before the 1998 expansion. Publix used the little bit of space gained from shrinking the building to add in a drive-thru pharmacy lane on the building's south side, as Publix's new building doesn't abut the southern property line like Albertsons' building did (a change you can see later in this post during the satellite imagery).
Since we're here we'll do a quick spin around the inside, although there really isn't anything out of the ordinary with this store anymore:
The front walkway continues the facade's old Florida theme, with some fake windows and shutters lining the walkway between the entrance and exit doors.
Inside, we turn to the right to find the bakery in the front right corner of the building.
Here's a slightly more zoomed out photo of the bakery department, as seen from the edge of produce. Produce takes up most of the space in the store's "grand aisle", with the service departments lining the perimeter wall.
Following the bakery is the deli, located along the right wall. Some coolers and a salad bar can be found in front of the deli, with a small dining nook located just out of frame to the right of the deli counter.
Here's a better look into the produce department, which feels rather large in these 54M stores.
Here's an overview of the grand aisle as seen from the back, with produce, deli, and the bakery all visible here.
Spinning around 180 degrees from where I took that last photo, we find the wine and specialty cheese departments. These departments are located at the very end of the grand aisle in the store's back right corner.
The specialty cheese counter is typically reserved for Publix's higher-end stores, featuring a number of fancy cheeses to pair with all the wines conveniently located in the department next door.
Leaving the grand aisle, we encounter the seafood and meat departments along the store's back wall.
Like most larger-size modern Publix stores, the grocery aisles have a drop ceiling over them, with the perimeter and center store frozen food aisles using the exposed warehouse ceiling.
Since I was here very early in the morning, the front end (and the entire store itself) was rather calm and empty. Like most Publix stores, just wait a few hours and the place will be packed!
The meat coolers on the back wall transition into dairy right about where that 'Restrooms' sign is hanging.
Frozen foods occupies two aisles in the center of the store, the photo above depicting one of them.
Here's one last look at the back wall. The dairy products seen here wrap around into the store's last aisle (aisle 14) as well, which can be seen in the next photo:
The pharmacy, which is located in the front left corner of the building, and had yet to open for the day at the time of my visit. I always liked the look of the pharmacies in these Classy Market 3.0 new-build stores, mostly because of the effect from the shiny glass tiles used here.
Turning around, a few short aisles of pharmaceuticals extend out from the front of the pharmacy counter, with the check lanes following those.
The check lanes coming into view, that completes our quick spin around the new Publix that replaced former Albertsons #4302.
Publix's new liquor store, which is attached to the right side of the building.
So that's the new Publix for you. However, if you couldn't find everything you needed during your shopping trip here...
…you can just make the 7 minute walk across the street to the other Publix to buy what you couldn't find at the other store - how convenient! Just what will Publix think of next to make my shopping that much more pleasurable?!
And I did just that too. Since the two stores are so close together, I just left my car parked at the former Publixsons and walked across the street for a few photos of the other Publix. Waiting for the light to change at the crosswalk on 4th Street North, I took this photo of the sign for the Publix across the road at Northeast Park Shopping Center (the former Publixsons site directly behind where I was standing to take this picture). The Northeast Park Shopping Center Publix goes back a long ways, which is why the plaza has this classic trapezoid-shaped Publix road sign out front.
My 1500-foot journey completed, Publix #640 at Northeast Park Shopping Center comes into view.
Opened in 1998, this store replaced an older Wing Store-era building just around the corner from here, which we'll take a look at in a moment.
This is one of the larger format late 90's/early 2000's Publix stores. While the facade is quite interesting with all the arches, the interior isn't anything out of the ordinary for a store from this era. I didn't go inside this Publix, but if you want a taste of what the inside looks like, Google has you covered.
Turning the corner from modern Publix #640, we find the store it replaced, old Publix #42. Publix #42 was a Wing Store that opened with the shopping center in 1959, and appears to have expanded at least once during its time in operation (as an addition was built onto the back of this building). Publix #42 relocated around the corner in 1998, when an entire wing of the original shopping center was demolished to make way for the modern Publix. Following Publix's move, the old store was converted into a Stein Mart, which closed with the chain in 2020. I happened upon this space as it was in the process of being converted into a new Crunch Fitness. While Crunch's signage was up at the time, the interior remodeling was still in progress during my visit.
When Stein Mart moved in, they removed all traces from Publix's time here. Looking toward Stein Mart's entrance, we see it was all rebuilt to the usual Stein Mart design, with a pair of display windows to each side of the doors. Inside, a construction crew had gutted out everything from Stein Mart in order to begin the conversion into Crunch Fitness, so there weren't any traces of anything supermarket-esque left in there.
Turning away from the former Stein Mart/Publix space, here's a look down the remaining original strip of the 1958-built plaza. Along the base of the windows, you'll see some decorative green marble. That marble would have matched Publix's original facade, as marble was a big part of Publix's older facade designs. The remaining marble is about the only trace of anything left here from Publix's original store, with how everything else was so heavily remodeled since Publix's move.
The morning sun glare wasn't helping me here, but here's one last look at the exterior of the original Publix store in the present day, with its neighbor Office Depot popping into the picture too.
At the very end of the plaza was this CVS store, which was previously an Eckerd, this space completing our stroll around Northeast Park Shopping Center.
Now that we've walked the entire length of the plaza, it's time to head back across the street to the Publixsons site for some aerial images, starting with some Bird's Eye aerias courtesy of Bing Maps:
Front - All of these bird's eye images show the modern Publix store
And now some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4302 - 2021
Former Albertsons #4302 - April 2014 - The new Publix building under construction
Former Albertsons #4302 - January 2014 - The original Albertsons building is still standing here, but is being prepped for demolition
Former Albertsons #4302 - 2012
Albertsons #4302 - 2008
Albertsons #4302 - 2002
Albertsons #4302 - 1998 - The image above shows the building after the major remodel that year.
Albertsons #4302 - 1994 - The building in its original form
Albertsons #4302 - 1984
Future Albertsons #4302 - 1969 - Albertsons took out an entire block and a half of the original street grid to make way for the new store
With all the historic aerial images for the old Albertsons out of the way, for fun, let's take a look at a few aerials of Northeast Park Shopping Center across the street:
Here's Northeast Park's current arrangement. The modern Publix is the large building with the lighter roof to the right, with the original Publix being the big building in the older wing at the bottom of the image, the building closest to the newer Publix store.
Here's an image of Northeast Park from 1994, showing the plaza's original arrangement. Everything to the right of the original Publix was demolished to make way for the new store, which was over half of the original complex.
And for fun, here's Northeast Park Shopping Center in 1969. If you look really close at the Publix building in the above image, do you notice anything interesting about it?
Zooming in for the answer to that question - you can see the tips of Publix's wings in the aerial, which I thought was pretty neat! I always like a good Wing Store-era Publix, as these buildings were classics, and such a large portion of Florida's supermarket history.
Ending this post with an aerial image of a Wing Store seems pretty fitting, as our next post will dig deep into Publix's past for a look at some really old, but really well preserved, Publix stores. The next post will be pretty interesting, so be sure to come back in two weeks to check that out!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger