Family Mart #XXX / Florida Choice #XXX / Albertsons #4381
7100 North University Drive, Tamarac, FL - Family Mart Shopping Center
AFB returns to South Florida with today's post, where we'll be taking a look at a former Albertsons store in suburban Broward County with an interesting history behind it. For the most part, Albertsons preferred to build their stores brand new in Florida, with only a small number of exceptions to that rule through the years. Some examples of Albertsons taking over a building from another retailer included #4382 in Stuart (former ground-up build Florida Choice), #4423 in Winter Park (former Xtra Super Food Center), #4422 in East Naples (Former Walmart), #4428 in Tallahassee (former Kmart), #4455 in Miami Gardens (former Xtra Super Food Center), and #4496 in Pensacola (former Delchamps). You also have the 7 stores Albertsons bought from Jewel-Osco thrown into that mix too (#4401-#4407, all around Tampa Bay). Sadly, a good number of those stores were either remodeled beyond recognition or outright demolished in the years since Albertsons left, with only #4496 and a handful of the former Jewel-Oscos still retaining any of their original supermarket characteristics today. #4381, which we'll be touring today, still had a little bit from its past to share. It's not a lot, but at least there were some clues about this building's past left behind for us to take a look at today!
The building we see here opened in August 1979 as an A&P-owned Family Mart store. Family Mart was a supermarket chain developed by A&P using the (then very futuristic) "one stop shop" grocery format. The "one stop shop" format meant the new supermarket would be a large store featuring a selection of everything you could imagine: a full service deli and bakery department, a camera shop and film developing center, a lunch counter, a service pharmacy and drug store, and a full liquor store as some of the primary features. Coming in around 55,000 square feet, the new Family Mart store was very large for the time too, its size relaying the point that everything you could want was located under one roof. If the format of Family Mart sounds familiar to you, it should, as the Floridian Albertsons stores of the time were operating under a identical format. According to Family Mart's advertising executive Tom Hoye, Family Mart was directly patterned off Albertsons. To quote Mr. Hoye directly from an article I read about the opening of the new Tamarac Family Mart, "We come by plagiarism, honestly," he said, in reference to Family Mart's resemblance to the new Albertsons stores opening at the time. Family Mart itself was developed by a few A&P executives who had come to the company from Albertsons, and decided to copy the format after seeing how much success Albertsons was having with it. A&P began opening Family Mart stores in South Carolina in 1977, then moving into Georgia, and then Florida, where the new concept would for the first time be going head to head with its clone, Albertsons.
The Tamarac Family Mart was the 16th location for the chain when it opened in August 1979, and Florida's first Family Mart as well. Tamarac was chosen to be the site of Florida's first Family Mart due to its rapid growth rate at the time, and its easy access from other nearby highways. At the time this store opened more Family Mart locations were planned for South Florida, but that grand expansion in the area never happened. Family Mart opened a second South Florida store in West Palm Beach shortly after this one opened, but after that Family Mart decided to focus all their efforts on expanding into the Tampa Bay area and Western Florida instead. I was actually surprised to learn this location in Tamarac was the first Family Mart in Florida, as Family Mart became much more closely tied with the Tampa Bay area during the chain's time in Florida, so I always thought Family Mart started their Floridian expansion there. I guess Tampa Bay became much more attractive to Family Mart as they continued their research on where to build stores in Florida, as you'll find the remains of many old Family Mart stores in that area. Family Mart's Floridian office was also established in Clearwater too, with South Florida becoming more of an afterthought during the chain's time in Florida. Near the end of Family Mart's time in Florida the company experimented once again with opening stores on the state's Atlantic Coast, getting a few projects off the ground in Brevard County as well as a second West Palm Beach location. However, most of those stores were either short-lived or never opened at all. Family Mart bowed out of Florida in 1987, citing mounting pressure from other competitors like Albertsons and Kroger's new Florida Choice stores, which were of a similar vein to Family Mart. Kroger was actually the one who bought all of the Floridian Family Mart stores from A&P, converting most of them to Florida Choice. However, Florida Choice was discontinued shortly thereafter in 1988, with all the company's stores being sold to other grocers. Kash n' Karry bought the largest chunk of Florida Choice's stores, including all of the Tampa Bay and West Coast stores. The Florida Choice stores along the East Coast and in Central Florida stores were bought piecemeal, with Albertsons purchasing the former Stuart Florida Choice and the old Tamarac Family Mart from Kroger. Florida Choice only had a brief stint here in Tamarac, opening in late 1987 and closing with the rest of the chain in mid-1988. Albertsons would be in place in this building by the beginning of 1989.
Albertsons did very little to this building after taking it over in 1989. Since Family Mart was a complete rip-off of their own concept, I guess Albertsons was content with what they inherited. Albertsons #4381 ended up being the indirect replacement to Albertsons #4335 about a mile south of here, which closed in 1990 after the new #4381 stole most of the original location's business. In the early 2000's Albertsons did a complete overhaul to store #4381, upgrading it to the facade we see in these photos I found online from a long-gone real estate listing. Albertsons heavily remodeled this former Family Mart building into a Grocery Palace-style location during the remodel, based on the design of the facade. I don't know how elaborate the interior remodel was, but from the noticeable relocation of the liquor store and the closure of the old side entrance, Albertsons did dump a decent amount of money into this store and did some rearranging inside.
Sadly, the elaborate early 2000's remodel wasn't for much, as the Tamarac Albertsons ended up closing on July 30, 2006, as part of a closing round following the breakup of the original Albertsons company. Shortly after Albertsons closed the left half of the building was subdivided for a new dd's Discounts store, a popular reuse for a number of former Floridian Albertsons stores that closed in the mid-2000's. dd's kept Albertsons' 2000's era facade during the conversion, giving us this really nice close-up shot of what the building would have looked like in Albertsons' later years. While the awnings and liquor store facade were added by Albertsons in the remodel, the striped concrete pattern on the building's main wall is a remnant from the Family Mart days. Originally the darker yellow stripes would have been home to river rock panels (in the vein of Albertsons' design - another way these Family Mart buildings were a complete rip-off of Albertsons' design), but those were stuccoed over in the remodel.
This last older photo looks toward the former Albertsons space from the edge of the small shopping center it's located in. While none of the road signs mention it, the plaza's official name (to this day) is still Family Mart Shopping Center. Over 30 years after Family Mart left this site behind, the plaza still holds onto the name of its original anchor!
Even with the arrival of Aldi come 2013 (who completely rebuilt their half of the facade), Albertsons' original facade continues to live on with dd's. It's a weird, somewhat lopsided, facade paring with the mash-up of old and new, but not the worst facade mash-up I've ever seen on a subdivided building.
While not a standard early 2000's Albertsons design due to the blocky nature of it, plenty of Albertsons traits are still easily apparent in dd's facade, such as the grooved columns and the little square tile-like accents used. Considering how most of the funky Albertsons conversion stores have zero remnants left from either Albertsons or its prior tenant, I was happy to see this little bit of original facade got to survive here!
We'll start our interior tour by taking a quick spin around dd's, then popping into Aldi next door before we finish. Here we're looking from Aldi toward dd's, with the small shopping center sticking out beyond that.
dd's entryway occupies the original main entrance form Albertsons, dd's swapping out Albertsons set of sliding doors for two sets of manual doors. A very strong Grocery Palace-era feel still lingers here in front of dd's, with the original Albertsons architectural elements present in the facade. Albertsons' exit doors would have been located behind me, but all traces of those were covered over when Aldi remodeled their half of the building.
Stepping inside dd's, it's a pretty standard dd's store. This view looks from the front entrance toward the back of the store. dd's rebuilt the interior of their space prior to moving in, removing any traces from Albertsons or Family Mart that would have remained in here.
The (rather empty) wall we see here is the partition between dd's and Aldi.
Due to the building's past, I'm not sure how the layout in here would have looked following the late 2000's remodel. With Family Mart's original layout, the bakery and deli would have been in the front left corner of the building, with produce following on the store's left side. I don't know how much that was tweaked following the remodel, but that's how the building would have been arranged when first built. The photo above was taken from the back left corner of the building, looking toward the front.
I do have a tour of a mostly original Family Mart store to post in the future, which should hopefully clear up any questions about those. Knowing Family Mart was a knock-off of Albertsons clears up a lot about the design of those stores, and when we tour that mostly original one, those similarities will start to become more apparent. Anyway, here's a look across dd's from the left side of the building toward the partition wall. Using the original layout, I'd have been standing in the produce department had this photo been taken 30 years ago.
One last photo from the inside of dd's, looking across the salesfloor.
Back outside, here's a look toward the far left side of the building. The original Family Mart facade design is still apparent here, just minus the original river rock.
From dd's, we'll make our way to the other side of the building for a look at Aldi.
All of Aldi's facade is new following their arrival to the building around 2013. Since that was the case, everything from Albertsons and Family Mart was wiped away on the front of this half of the building to conform it with Aldi's standard design.
Aldi's entrance is on the front right corner of the building, where Albertsons' early 2000's liquor store entrance was located (and visible in the older photos at the beginning of this post). Prior to the early 2000's, the liquor store would have been tucked into a small space off the building's side entrance, designed in a very Albertsons-like manner.
Inside we find the usual modern Aldi fare. This location received the recent decor upgrade, which I'm a fan of.
The decor for the wine and beer wall is quite nice. Most of the Aldi stores near me keep wine and beer along one of the inner aisles, so seeing the deluxe wall decor for this department isn't something I get to see often. The building's side entrance would have originally been located to my right in this general area, but was closed off in Albertsons's early 2000's remodel in order to expand and relocate the liquor store. Aldi absorbed the former liquor store space into their store, so there's no trace of the liquor store here anymore.
Here's a look across the back wall of Aldi. The original Family Mart floorplan would have had the pharmacy located here in the back right corner of the building. I have a feeling Albertsons moved the pharmacy from that location in the early 2000's remodel, as that was a common move Albertsons made during that time in their older stores (as Albertsons' oldest stores also placed the pharmacies in the back of the building).
Since Aldi was unable to install an open warehouse ceiling in this store during the remodel, the old drop ceiling was retained, but the ceiling tiles were painted gray. The gray ceiling really enhances the overall look of the store, complimenting the rest of the decor.
The second to last aisle is home to the famous "Aldi Finds" department, with a small refrigerated cooler occupying a portion of the aisle behind me.
Dairy and frozen occupy the wall space on the left side of the building. Aldi has a stockroom behind those coolers, which separates their salesfloor from dd's half of the building.
A rather nice photo of Aldi's check lanes on this quiet weekday morning...
Beyond the check lanes is the entrance, taking us full circle around this side of the store. Family Mart's customer service desk was located in the building's front right corner, although I'm sure that placement was also changed in Albertsons' early 2000's remodel.
And out we go to finish off the last little bit of our tour of former Albertsons #4381.
While the entire front of Aldi was rebuilt when they moved in, I do happen to see something interesting on the right side of the building here...
Where the concrete sidewalk narrows heading toward the back of the building signifies where the old side entrance was, the only noticeable marking of where that used to be. However, beyond that...
What do we find but some more original Family Mart striping! You can also see a faint marking from where the original liquor store window was filled in too, to the left of the bottom stripe. It's not much, but it's still fun to find these small traces of grocers long gone still hanging around today.
And with that, we've completed our ground coverage of former Albertsons #4381! Now that we've finished that, let's go up high for our usual dose of satellite imagery, starting off with some Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:
Left Side - It appears the original river rock walls from Family Mart survived back here, hidden behind the rest of the shopping center. I didn't know about the original wall back here until I saw this image putting together the post, or else I would have popped back here and checked it out.
And now for some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4381 - 2022
Former Albertsons #4381 - 2011 - The building as it looked prior to Aldi moving in, with the original shape of the Albertsons store.
Former Albertsons #4381 - 2007 - The abandoned Albertsons
Albertsons #4381 - 2004
Albertsons #4381 - 1999 - The building in its original Family Mart form. From when Albertsons opened in 1989 until 2000 or so, the building would have looked like this on the outside, with the early 2000's remodel severely reconfiguring the facade and possibly the interior from its mostly original Family Mart form.
Future Albertsons #4381 - 1984 - When Family Mart was still here.
Future Albertsons #4381 - 1980 - Family Mart was still very new here.
Future Albertsons #4381 - 1969 - Nothing was here yet, not even the roads.
Interestingly, the intersection of North University Drive and West McNab Road was once home to all three of Florida's major grocery chains - however, the three never co-existed at the same time. Even more interestingly, Winn-Dixie was the one who lasted the longest at this intersection, and Publix was the first to bow out in 1986 (not what you were expecting - right?). Publix and Family Mart co-existed and so did Winn-Dixie and Albertsons, but we didn't have the Floridian trifecta here all at once. Now that we've seen the former Albertsons store, let's jump around to the other sides of this intersection, starting with the former Winn-Dixie store:
7015 North University Drive, Tamarac, FL
Winn-Dixie opened this store in 1999 as a late-era Marketplace location, and was the last of the big 3 Floridian grocers to appear on this corner. I wouldn't be surprised if Winn-Dixie's big new store opening here spurred Albertsons to do the major remodel to their existing store across the street only a year later, as this was the premier Winn-Dixie design at the time. Winn-Dixie did a very cheap Transformational remodel to this store around 2012-2013, leaving behind many relics from the building's Marketplace past. The dressed-up facade is a remnant from the cheap Transformational remodel as well. What's really weird about this store is photos posted to Google from mid-late 2017 appear to show the store began a remodel to Down Down, but the remodel was aborted. The photos (an example of which can be seen here) show the walls were stripped of their Transformational decor and whitewashed, with a red stripe below the white walls. I've never seen anything like that before, or seen Winn-Dixie give up on a remodel part way through. Winn-Dixie ditching the remodel was definitely a sign of things to come, as the North University Drive Winn-Dixie was closed as part of SEG's 2018 bankruptcy closure round.
The Winn-Dixie building was sitting completely vacant during my visit, however, I have found a recent listing online showing that Bravo Supermarket has leased the left half of the old Winn-Dixie for a new store, the rest of the building still available for rent. It will be interesting to see what Bravo does to their half of the space, as their conversions sometimes leave a lot behind from previous tenants.
Now that we've seen both the former Albertsons and former Winn-Dixie store, next we'll take a look at the former Publix that once called this corner home. However, for coverage of the former Publix store, you're going to have to come back in two weeks to see that! The old Publix was interesting enough to warrant its own post, so rather than me making this a really long post I decided to separate out the Publix set into a post of its own. So come back in two weeks to see what's going on at the old Publix building, as it's quite the interesting conversion, that's for sure!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger