Albertsons #4372 / Publix #1346 / Future Publix #1781
4840 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL - The Landings
We've seen it happen numerous times in the past with these Publixsons stores - Publix grows tired of the large size and numerous oddities that come from operating in a building designed for the taste of someone else. While the old Albertsons buildings worked for a while to establish the store, once the time rolls around for the next remodel, sometimes Publix gets the desire for something new and takes things to the extreme. Unfortunately, Publix decided to take that extreme option here with former Albertsons #4372, and everything we see in the photo above is now sitting in a pile of crumbled concrete at the Sarasota County dump. However, unlike most times in the past when Publix has decided to tear down and rebuild one of these former Albertsons stores, I was lucky enough to visit this one before its date with the wrecking balls came to be. Thanks to a tip that came into my inbox, I was able to make the drive to Sarasota in time to see the Publix while still operating in the old Albertsons building, so former Albertsons #4372 will be able to live on with more in-depth documentation than some of its other demolished comrades have. But before we jump into the details of today's tour, let's get things going with a little background on this place, as well as the background on Albertsons' delayed entrance into Sarasota:
Albertsons #4372 was the first Albertsons store to open in Sarasota, and one of three that would eventually be built in town. While store #4372 didn't open until July 20, 1988 (its grand opening advertised in the ad above, sent to me by YonWooRetail2), Albertsons had hoped to get a much earlier start in Sarasota. Albertsons originally tried to enter Sarasota in the early 1980's, when the company made a bid for a piece of property at the intersection of Bahia Vista Street and Beneva Road, a site about 5 miles northeast of where store #4372 would be built, and in a more residential part of town. The property at the intersection of Bahia Vista and Beneva was previously used by the Sarasota County School Board as a home for some offices, offices the school board no longer needed and was looking to sell. Albertsons came in as the highest bidder for the property, with the intents of putting one of their modern 24 hour "super stores" on it. However, Albertsons' bid was contingent on the property getting rezoned from government use to commercial use, an issue that would have to go up for vote in front of the county zoning board. Residents in the condominium complex next to the subject property weren't happy with the thought of a new 24 hour supermarket opening up in their mostly residential neighborhood, citing the usual noise and traffic concerns. Residents from the complex swarmed the zoning board meeting where the Albertsons vote was to happen, and the residents managed to sway the board to vote "no" on changing the property's zoning, effectively canceling Albertsons' bid and any chances of the store getting built. While Albertsons hit that first hurdle in coming to town, they successfully came back to Sarasota a few years later with their more prominent location on Tamiami Trail. Ironically, the developer that finally brought Albertsons to Sarasota in 1988 was the same developer that later bought the property at Bahia Vista and Beneva from the school board - that developer building a small shopping center anchored by Eckerd (now CVS) where Sarasota's first Albertsons store could have been.
|Photo courtesy of Where It Used To Be in Sarasota, FL|
Albertsons had a solid (nearly) 20-year run at The Landings, a shopping center built along Sarasota's busiest north-south thoroughfare, US 41 (aka Tamiami Trail). The Landings was built a few miles south of downtown Sarasota, close to many well-off neighborhoods along the waterfront and nearby Siesta Key (a popular tourist destination, and pretty well-off area too). Publix bought this store from Albertsons in 2008, as part of the 49 Floridian locations Publix bought from Albertsons that year. The time between Albertsons' closing and Publix's grand opening was pretty quick, with Publix opening at The Landings on December 4, 2008. Come 2012, Publix did a more thorough remodel to the building in order to bring it more in-line with the company's standards, spending $1.5 million on that venture. The results of the 2012 remodel are what we'll see when we step inside for our tour.
After spending 13 years as a Publix, this building served its last shoppers on November 13, 2021, ending the building's 33 year run as a supermarket. When this post goes live for the first time in March 2022, the shell of the new Publix store will have just begun to emerge from the rubble where an Albertsons once stood, the beginnings of this store's next phase of life. While modern Publix stores are nice and all, the store to replace the one we'll be touring today certainly won't be as unique!
The design of the facade we see here was one of the most common designs Albertsons used for these "superstore" era locations in the mid-late 1980's. Publix didn't do much to the exterior through the years besides switching out the signage and repainting the building from white to gray, opting for more interior upgrades in the 2012 remodel.
Even though this building was 33 years old when it came down, it looked like it was still maintained pretty well. I didn't notice any major issues with the place like stains on the ceiling from roof leaks, cracks in the tile, or other signs of structural damage or neglect, unless Publix is really good at hiding those things from the public eye. I also wouldn't put it past Publix to tear down a perfectly good building just because they have the money to do that, and can build a store more to their likings here.
The liquor store is located just beyond the right side entrance, and blends in with the rest of the shopping center.
Here's a better look at the attached liquor store, as seen straight-on from the parking lot.
Like pretty much every other Albertsons store from this era, the building has two sets of entrances - one on the right side of the building that enters into the grocery service departments, and another on the left that takes you to the pharmacy. We'll enter the store through the right side doors, accessible under the archway where the "FOOD" sign is. Albertsons would have had a similar "FOOD" sign there too, just in their own font.
As usual, Publix replaced Albertsons' swinging doors with sliding ones, a modification that was most likely done when Publix first moved in.
We'll start off our interior tour with one of the most distinctive traits from one of these "superstore" era Albertsons buildings - the large row of angled windows over the front end. Behind those windows are upstairs manager's offices and the employee break room, from which you can look out over the store. The ceiling raises higher over the front end to accommodate the windows and the second level, making for a very distinct trait in these buildings.
The service desk is also pictured here too, located in an island in typical 2010's Publix fashion. When Albertsons was here (and possibly in Publix's early days too), the service desk would have been located along the front wall in front of the check lanes. Publix has since walled off the old service desk space for more offices of some kind.
Turning away from the front end, we find the floral department. Floral was located in a small island between the service departments and the grocery aisles. Floral is the one department I can't remember the original placement of in one of these "superstore" Albertsons buildings, but Albertsons always seemed to like putting floral near the front entrance in some manner.
After floral, the next service department we'll encounter is the deli. The deli is located in the front right corner of the building, in the same location Albertsons would have had it. All of the remaining service departments in this building follow the same arrangement that Albertsons had, although Publix did modify some departments more extensively in the 2012 remodel.
Here's a more pulled back view of the deli, with the grab and go coolers visible in front of the main counter.
Following the deli is the bakery on the right wall. While the bakery was always located in this spot, Publix rebuilt this entire department during the 2012 remodel. The curved lower ceiling and the arrangement of the prep area behind the cases is 100% a modern Publix design, and not a leftover from Albertsons.
It's a bit interesting that Publix put a decent amount of effort into remodeling this store in 2012, just to tear the place down 10 years later. Some Publixsons stores that are still operational have seen less work than this store to bring the service departments more in-line with Publix's standards, yet they still stand. I would love to know what makes Publix decide if one of these older stores gets a regular remodel or a total rebuild, as I'm still perplexed by some of Publix's decisions on that. The area this store is located in is considered pretty high-income, so I don't know if that played a factor into the rebuild decision too, with Publix wanting to bring something new here with a more "upscale" vibe than an old 1980's Albertsons building could provide.
The produce department starts to creep in on us for this last shot looking back toward the deli and bakery. The "grand aisle" here is quite spacious, as you can see above, but certainly not an overwhelming amount of space to the point where Publix is totally lost on what more to stuff over here.
Turning around, here's our first look into the produce department, located in the building's back right corner.
The photo above does a good job showing the entirety of the produce department. The spaciousness of the grand aisle certainly helped me pull that off, with the low sightlines and lack of people lingering around in the bakery department blocking my way! (It appears everyone wanted to crowd around in the back of the produce department, which worked in my favor!)
The produce department at this store had an interesting variant of the Classy Market 2.5 produce sign, a variant that was typically used in new-build stores with this decor. The more common Classy Market 2.5 produce signage looked like this, matching the design of all the other signs in the store.
A few leaves are hanging out in the back of the produce department, over the orange juice cooler.
Leaving produce, here's a look across the store's back wall. Meat coolers follow the orange juice case, with the meat/seafood service counter following about half way down.
The first grocery aisle was this very spacious one following the grand aisle, home to international foods. This was the only grocery aisle I remember feeling overly wide, as all the others seemed more normal in width. Still, super wide aisles seems like a better way to hide unused space than the big empty patches seen at the front of this Publixsons.
Returning to the back wall, here's a look toward the meat and seafood service counter. The beginning of dairy follows the counter, which we'll see in a little bit.
Returning to the grocery aisles, we find the remainder of the aisles are of a fairly standard with for Publix. The placement of the poles worked out nicely too, being all the way to the side like we see here. Generally the poles like to get in the way of the aisle more!
Peeking out from the end of that aisle, we see the service desk again, behind the row of short aisles that spans the front of the store.
The bakery and deli again, as seen from the front near the check lanes.
Like a lot of Publixsons stores, especially the ones in older Albertsons buildings, most of the general merchandise items/health and beauty/greeting cards/etc. is kept in these short aisles that separate the front lanes from the main grocery aisles behind them.
Skipping behind the short aisles, here's a look across the front of the main grocery aisles.
And in turn skipping to the very back of the store, that was a quick overview of the three main "actionways" that run side to side in this (now former) Publix store. The photo above, in particular, gives us a more detailed look at the seafood service counter, with the dairy coolers following after that.
Back to the grocery aisles we go for some more center store scenes:
In addition to the back wall, the remainder of dairy could be found randomly in aisle 6. A random aisle of dairy in the middle of the store is a pretty common Albertsons carryover that Publix never changed, but the situation here was a bit different. Usually these dairy aisles bump up against frozen foods when frozen is located in the middle of the store, bringing a little more sense to the placement. However, frozen in this store is all the way on the building's far left side, making this a randomly isolated half-aisle of coolers in the middle of the store!
Following the dairy coolers in aisle 6, we find the wine located next door in aisle 7. While a random row of dairy coolers down a grocery aisle is a bit of an oddity to me (especially with frozen foods being on the other side of the store), I guess keeping the cheese in the aisle next to the wine is convenient for some folks.
Leaving the wine aisle, we find ourselves looking at the "Sun Gear" department. This aisle has sun block, water toys, beach towels, and such in it, catering to the folks stopping here on their way to the beaches on Siesta Key. While this store isn't on the main road to the beach, it is located between the two main causeways used to access Siesta Key, so it still must draw enough beach traffic to get a dedicated "Sun Gear" section like this.
However, our beach gear and that fun in the sun will have to wait until later, as I still need to finish this tour first! Back to the grocery aisles we'll go for a little bit as we work our way to the other side of the store:
Zig-zagging through the grocery aisles, I spotted these relics by the bleach. Those "Tighten Caps" labels are from the Wavy Pastel era, as that's one of the fonts used a lot in that decor package! Publix would have opened this store with Classy Market 2.0, long after the retirement of Wavy Pastel, so I don't know where these labels would have come from.
Publix's historic photo collage along the front wall is visible here, one of the best decor elements Publix ever implemented. Sadly, these collages were only used in Classy Market 2.0 and 2.5, and as stores have remodeled away from those packages, these collages were discarded.
Getting closer to the left side of the store and the pharmacy, we find an aisle of health and beauty products.
While this is a rather intriguing display of beer and chips for the upcoming (at the time) Super Bowl 55, I'm pretty sure I took this picture because the display incorporated a model of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (visible behind the "L Trophy V" logo in the middle window of the display). The Sunshine Skyway is arguably the most famous bridge in Florida, and a symbol for the Tampa Bay area (where Super Bowl 55 was held, and later won by our very own Tampa Bay Buccaneers). The Sunshine Skyway is a favorite bridge of mine, and of course only myself could be intrigued by this display for the road geek reference, and not the sports one!
Bridging the gap from that last photo, we now find ourselves at the pharmacy counter. The pharmacy is located in the front left corner of the building, next to the left side entryway. The pharmacy is another department Publix rebuilt in the 2012 remodel, as the pharmacy's current design is Publix's standard and not a remnant from Albertsons.
Looking at the pharmacy from a side profile, we can see the left side entryway come into view.
Aisle 13 is another rather wide aisle, home to the cold beer and half of the frozen foods department (with frozen spilling over into aisle 14, the last aisle in the store).
And speaking of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that chip display in the middle of the aisle was made to resemble their mascot, Captain Fear.
Leaving aisle 13, here's one last look toward the meat and seafood departments.
Turning the other way, we find aisle 14 and a sign for the dairy department. The dairy department ends in this corner, with the entirety of aisle 14 home to the remaining frozen foods.
Here's aisle 14, and the row of frozen food coolers.
With frozen foods covered, we're just about done with our tour. Here's one last look across the store's front end as we prepare to head out:
Thank you for shopping at Publixsons for the last 13 years, and a big thanks for the heads up on this store's demise, Publixaurus Knight, so I could make it out here in time for some photos!
While the support poles in aisle 2 were being cooperative with the layout, that light pole certainly wasn't being cooperative with my photo taking! (And you're not helping either, stop sign!) With all the trees (and poles), it was really hard to get a decent overview of the entire facade of this store without something obstructing my view, which is why most of my exterior photos were taken from pretty close up.
Walking further down the plaza, here's a less obstructed view of the old Publix, although more zoomed out. To get rid of the ground obstructions, let's go up high and take a look at our usual satellite images, starting with some bird's eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now for some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Starting off our historic aerial views, here's a current one showing the entirety of The Landings shopping center. The old Albertsons is the large building at the right side of the above image, or the plaza's northernmost anchor. The plaza's other anchor (the large building at the left end of the plaza, most recently an Office Depot), was a short-lived Lechmere store upon the center's opening. Lechmere closed its Sarasota store in 1989 when the company pulled out of Florida. The What It Used To Be In Sarasota blog actually has a photo of that space from when Lechmere was there too, which you can see here. That blog also contains detailed descriptions of the former tenants in many of the plaza's spaces (both large and small), which you can read in the post here (and just Ctrl+F "The Landings" for the easiest way to get to that part of the post, which is pretty long).
Anyway, our overview of the plaza out of the way, let's look at a few historic aerial images of the old Albertsons building to finish off this post:
Former Albertsons #4372 - 2020
Albertsons #4372 - 2008
Albertsons #4372 - 1995
Future Albertsons #4372 - 1984
I'm glad I got to visit this Publixsons before the bulldozers arrived, making this post possible. This is just one of many former Albertsons buildings that has fallen to Publix's modernization efforts so far, and knowing Publix, it won't be the last. Actually, while on the topic of more Publixsons stores meeting their demise, just in the last week I got confirmation of another one coming up for a tear down and rebuild later this year: Publix #1331, which operates out of former Albertsons #4413 in the southern part of Fort Myers. Thankfully I was able to visit that location recently as well, as rumors of that store coming up for replacement have been swirling around for a while. We'll see store #4413 come to the blog later this year, as that store is going to be quite the fun tour for a variety of reasons. Back to Sarasota though, the new store planned to replace old #4372 is going to be identical to this location from what I understand, a big change for the entire shopping center. If all goes as planned, the new store should be open sometime in late 2022.
That's everything I have to say about this former Albertsons store. We'll come back to Sarasota to explore the town's two other former Albertsons stores at some point, but for next time, it will be something different. The next post coming to the blog will be a guest post written by one of the blog's frequent contributors and commenters. Our guest author will be exploring an interesting topic relating to Publix and a long-gone supermarket chain, a combination that created an obscure little piece of Floridian retail history. We'll meet our guest author next time, so be sure to come back in two weeks for his post!
So until next time (or better phrased, the post after next),
The Albertsons Florida Blogger