Sunday, March 17, 2019

Former Albertsons #4471 - Sanford, FL (Revisited)

Albertsons #4471
300 W. Lake Mary Boulevard, Sanford, FL - Boulevard Plaza

     About a two and a half years ago, I presented everybody with two posts about this former Albertsons store in Sanford. In the first post, we took a look at this former Grocery Palace Albertsons in its abandoned form. In the second post, we got an even closer look inside this former Albertsons store when I caught it being used as a pop Halloween store in the fall of 2015. Both of those posts are quite interesting, and I highly recommend scrolling through them again if you haven't seen my coverage of the former Sanford Albertsons before.

     Anyway, as you can see in the above photo, some big changes have happened here at the former Sanford Albertsons since we last saw it on the blog. In mid-2017, it was announced that LA Fitness would be taking over half of this former Albertsons store. After the announcement of LA Fitness's arrival, the landlord was also able to fill the remaining half of this former Albertsons store with two new tenants: Fancy Fruit & Produce and Learning City. Fancy Fruit opened around the same time as LA Fitness in late 2018, with Learning City still under construction as of my visit in early 2019. In today's post we'll take a quick look at the rather dramatic changes that have occurred here over the last two years, which did a good job of removing many of the remaining traces of Albertsons that once lurked around this site.

     To start off this revisit, we'll begin on the LA Fitness side of the building. LA Fitness takes up the largest chunk of this former Albertsons building, occupying the right half of the building where the pharmacy island, meat and seafood counters, dairy, frozen foods, and the bulk of the grocery aisles were located when this building housed the Albertsons. Unlike in the past, where LA Fitness would take up the majority of a former Albertsons building, they only took a small chunk of it here. I'm not sure if LA Fitness has been shrinking the size of their gyms of late, or if this smaller location is due to an existing full-size LA Fitness being located just four miles to the west of here in Lake Mary (in the same plaza as this former Albertsons store).

     In addition to LA Fitness talking over half of this former Albertsons store, LA Fitness has also begun demolition on the former Longwood Albertsons (#4353) located 5 miles south of here on US 17-92 for yet another new gym. LA Fitness gyms have been popping up like crazy around here, as have strip mall gyms in general. With all the empty retail space becoming available, there certainly has been plenty of opportunity for these gyms to move in.

     However, as we just saw, LA Fitness stripped away just about every trace of Albertsons from their half of the building. Moving over toward Fancy Fruit & Produce, the original Albertsons facade was preserved, just painted gray from its original rusty orange color.

     Fancy Fruit & Produce is actually a small chain of produce stores, with 5 or so locations around Orlando. This location is the chain's newest, opening in late 2018. Fancy Fruit takes up the portion of the building that once housed Snack Central and Beverage Boulevard in this Albertsons store.

     Albertsons' grand archway and entrance has been preserved by Fancy Fruit & Produce. However, this spot where I was standing is pretty much the last place in this plaza where a strong Albertsons presence can still be detected.

     Walking inside Fancy Fruit & Produce, this is what we see. It's certainly not as striking of an impression as what was once here! Fancy Fruit put a lot of work into reconstructing this place, replacing all the floors and even installing a drop ceiling.

     Anyway, straight ahead is the produce department, which takes up about half of the salesfloor in here (and since "Fruit & Produce" is in the name of this place, you'd hope a good chunk of the store was dedicated to that!).

     Even though this store is brand new, the coolers and produce cases look like something out of the 1990's. My guess is these cases were probably bought used, which is a common practice with these smaller grocers to save money.

     Looking toward the front of the store, we can see the small bit of Albertsons entryway that was preserved in the distance. After the first aisle, which was dedicated entirely to produce, the remaining aisles contain a small amount of other grocery items. However, since this is Fancy Fruit & Produce, pretty much all of the center grocery aisles were topped with even more displays of various produce. You just have to push that produce!

     Here's another look down one of the center grocery aisles (complete with the extra produce cases), looking toward the back of the store. In addition to the large produce offerings, this place also had a decent selection of meats. The meat and produce were certainly the two biggest draws to this place.

     Here's a quick look across this store's back wall. While this store looks big from the front, going inside, it's actually quite tiny.

     Frozen foods are located in the last aisle, aisle 6. the yellow and green painted area in the front of the store is also something was added by Fancy Fruit for their service desk and offices. When Albertsons was here, that area would have been home to the restrooms and the beginning of the deli (primarily the prepared foods department). There's a chance some of those walls remain from Albertsons, but even so, they were heavily altered in the remodel if that was the case.

     Here's one final look across the front of this store. The checkouts were located to my right, with the bulk rice and such straight ahead. I wasn't this store for very long, somewhat because it was so tiny, but mostly because it was so cold in here! While it was a chilly January morning when I visited this store (well, chilly for Florida, meaning temperatures in the mid-50's), it was even colder inside this store than it was outside! I was freezing the entire time I was in here, the cold air outside actually warming me up! While this is probably a refreshing store to shop in during the heat waves of July, the cold temperatures inside were less than pleasant on this winter morning.

     So that's Fancy Fruit & Produce. Here's another look at the exterior, pretty much the last trace of Albertsons here now that the renovations have been completed.

     Surprisingly, the landlord was actually able to find a new tenant for the liquor store here. It seems like these old Albertsons liquor stores sit empty for years, even after the main store gets re-tenanted. However, that will not be the case here, as a new restaurant called Akira Sushi and Steakhouse will be opening in this space sometime in 2019. A restaurant is an interesting reuse for one of these old liquor stores, a reuse that I'm surprised doesn't happen more often.

     Between the old liquor store and Fancy Fruit and Produce, we find this storefront, which takes up the space of Albertsons' old deli and produce departments. This is the space that will become home to Learning City, which sounds like it will be an after-school tutoring place.

     So that's what you'll find if you choose to visit the former Sanford Albertsons today - just a sparse reminder that Albertsons was once located here in years gone by. However, after 8 years of sitting empty, it's nice to see something this this building once again... long as we keep in the back of our minds the memory of what was once here. So to finish off today's post, here's an old photo of the Sanford Albertsons from when it was still open. I forgot I even had this photo, as I just found it going through some of the older files in my archives. I probably downloaded this photo from a real estate posting that's no longer active, but at least I thought to download it way back when!

     However, while you can take a Grocery Palace Albertsons and chop it up into multiple new tenants, there's more than one way to repurpose an old grocery store. Next time we'll take a look at another former Grocery Palace Albertsons, however this next store has met a different kind of fate, but more on that in two weeks!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Former Albertsons #4316(2) - Lake Mary (Heathrow), FL

Albertsons #4316 (The Second) / Publix #1304
870 Village Oak Lane, Lake Mary (Heathrow), FL - Colonial Town Park

     While there wasn't much left to see at the longtime Lake Mary Albertsons (#4363) when we toured that store back in April 2016, going up one exit on I-4 we find the second Lake Mary Albertsons. This was the newer of the two Albertsons stores in this town, a store that only lasted a total of 4 years before it was sold off to Publix in 2008. Built as the main anchor of a new "lifestyle center" called the Colonial Town Park, the second Lake Mary Albertsons was built to serve shoppers living in the exclusive gated community of Heathrow. The main entrance into Heathrow is located less than a mile to the west of this store on H.E. Thomas, Jr. Parkway. In addition to over 2,000 private residences, Heathrow is also home to one of the largest office parks in the Sanford area. International Parkway, the main north-south route through through Heathrow that is open to the public, is lined with office high rises, the most notable of which is home to the national headquarters of the American Automobile Association (AAA).

     Considering how new this Albertsons store was, and how nice the area is, I can only imagine that this was a pretty nice Albertsons store during the company's few short years in this building. The Heathrow Albertsons was the second to last Albertsons store to ever open in Florida, holding its grand opening on May 12, 2004. Around the time this store opened, Albertsons was hitting the upper limits of their store numbering bracket set aside for Florida, having recently opened store 4498. Going forward, had Albertsons continued to open more stores in Florida after 2004, we would have seen more store numbers get recycled like we did here. The original Albertsons #4316 was located down in Lauderhill, opening in 1977 and closing in 1990. With that store long out of the picture by the time 2004 came around, the number 4316 was reactivated for this new store.

     This store was one of the handful of early 2000's superstores that Albertsons opened, these stores being part of the last few ever opened in Florida. This stores were different than the usual early 2000's Albertsons stores, opting to put all of the fresh departments in a grand aisle as well as giving the pharmacy a separate entrance on the side of the building. Store #4495 in East Orlando is, for the most part, an exact copy of this store in terms of interior layout.

      Looking across this store's front walkway, we find a small cart storage area. The main exit door is located just beyond the carts, with the pharmacy doors located a bit further down the walkway.

     Heading inside, we enter the grand aisle. The deli department is located immediately to my right upon entering, located just out of frame in this photo. The next department down from the deli is the bakery, located in the back right corner, with the produce department taking up the center of the grand aisle. When I took these photos a long, long time ago, this store was in the middle of remodeling from its original Publix decor (Classy Market 2.0) to the current decor (Classy Market 3.0). As we go through the following pictures, we'll see plenty of construction going on. Post remodel, nothing major really changed outside of some new decor, so the layout and feel of the store is still very much that of an old Albertsons. If you want to see some post-remodel photos of this store, plenty of them can be found on Google Reviews.

     In this photo I have a better view of the bakery department, with the seafood counter visible in the distance.

     For some reason I didn't get many photos of this store's grand aisle when I was here, as this crummy photo looking from the back of the produce department toward the front entrance completes all the photos I took in this part of the store. I certainly wasn't as thorough with my photographic coverage of these stores back then like I am now! Oh well, let's move onto the rest of the store...

     Turning the corner from the grand aisle, here's a look across this store's back wall. The meat and seafood counter is located immediately to my right, with prepackaged meats and dairy further in the distance.

     Part of the floor was ripped up in this aisle, probably to replace some pipes running beneath the store for the remodel. However, I spy something interesting off in the distance...

     Look at that - it's an older style Publix coffee shop! While many of Publix's more deluxe stores that have opened in the last few years have an in-store coffee shop (either generically branded like this one, or featuring Starbucks), a Publix coffee shop in a store opened in the 2008-2009 timeframe is pretty rare. Albertsons probably had a Starbucks kiosk in this general area when they were here, which Publix turned into this. During the remodel, this cafe was completely overhauled to be more in line with the design of the modern cafes, and looks more like this now.

     Leaving the cafe behind, here's a look across this store's front end toward the pharmacy. The pharmacy is located under that curved ceiling off in the distance.

     Another one of the grocery aisles.

     I always liked how the Classy Market 2.0 and 2.5 remodels included pictures of classic Publix stores and Publix memorabilia, an example of which can be seen in the photo above. The addition of classic photos was discontinued in Classy Market 3.0. I don't know if this particular picture survived the remodel, as it did a good job of filling up what would otherwise be blank space on this pole.

     When I first saw these scars on the wall, specifically the ones to the left and right of the old Publix photo, I was overjoyed thinking "Look, Publix revealed some Industrial Circus remnants in this remodel. Cool!" A few seconds later it hit me - "Wait - this store never had Industrial Circus - I'm pretty sure it was built with Santa Fe! Those scars are just from Publix's old decor!" Oh well, it looked convincing at first anyway!

     Here are some more views from the grocery aisles as we continue further into the left side of this store...

     Frozen foods were located in the center of the store.

     The floral island can be seen at the end of this aisle.

     Here's a closer look at the store's pharmacy, which is located in the front left corner of the building. As part of the remodel, Publix added that lower curved ceiling, which is a typical Publix design feature for their pharmacy counters. When Albertsons was here, the pharmacy would have looked more like this.

     Here's a close-up shot of the pharmacy counter, as seen from the end of one of the grocery aisles.

     Health and Beauty is located in the store's last aisle, aisle 17.

     Here we have one last look across the back of the store as we wrap up our tour of this former Albertsons store.

     Publix's customer service desk was located between the checkouts and the pharmacy entrance, in the original location from the Albertsons days. As part of the remodel that was in the process of happening during my visit for these photos, the service desk was moved to an island near the main entrance, which is more in line to what the set-up is like at a modern Publix store.

     Also, here's an interesting little side story: As I was walking through this store, the guy in the green shirt was standing at the service desk for nearly the entire time I was here. As I was working my way out of here, I walked by the desk and glanced at the register's screen, which was displaying a total of over $4,500 in gift cards (and the girl was still ringing more up!). This was all in the week or so before Christmas a while back, so one of these offices in the area was handing out some really nice goodie bags to their employees! (At least that way my theory as to why this guy was buying so many gift cards).

     I would have ended this tour with a photo of the Publix logo hanging above the registers, however that hole in the wall was cut out right where that logo would have been! So I guess this will have to suffice...

     We'll step outside through the pharmacy side door, which is tucked in amongst the books and magazines on the far left side of the building.

     While my interior photos of this place weren't as thorough as I'd have liked them to be, I still think I was able to provide everyone with a nice overview of this former Albertsons store. To wrap things up here in Lake Mary, let's take a quick trip over to the former Albertsons liquor store.

     In most shopping centers, the Albertsons liquor store is usually an obvious little space attached to the left or right side of the grocery store building. Here at Colonial Town Park, the former Albertsons liquor store blends right in with the rest of the shopping center.

     The liquor store's entrance can be seen here. Due to the design of this complex, the liquor store here actually has two entrances, with another one located around the corner and visible in the picture below.

     Turning the corner from the main store, here's the other side of the liquor store. The liquor store here is wider than it is deep due to the way it was incorporated into the strip of stores attached to the right side of the old Albertsons building.

     And immediately across from the former Albertsons liquor store we find Crispers! Crispers is a chain of restaurants focused on serving healthy foods, specifically salads and sandwiches, founded in Lakeland in 1989. Publix actually bought out the Crispers chain in 2007 after having made a previous investment in the company. However in 2008, after Crisper's former CEO was convicted of running an embezzlement scheme, Crispers began to fall into decline, closing numerous restaurants across Florida in the following years. By 2011, Publix decided to unload the Crispers chain due to declining sales, and probably to distance themselves from the chain's tarnished reputation following the unraveling of the embezzlement scheme. Ever since, Crispers has still continued to close locations. I think the company only has 9 locations left as of early 2019, most of which are clustered between Orlando and Tampa along the I-4 corridor. The location you see pictured above has since closed as well, closing sometime in 2018 from what I gather.

     Here's another shot of the Crispers restaurant, yet another example of the many broken chains of restaurants in this country that went from numerous locations to hardly any over the years.

     To give everyone an idea of how this complex is set up, here's an overview aerial image of the Colonial Town Park "lifestyle center". Unlike most "lifestyle centers", the only anchors at this one are the Publix/former Albertsons and an AmStar Movie Theater. The anchor situation here is actually quite similar to that of the "lifestyle center" which replaced the Winter Park Mall, as its anchors are also a Publix in a former Albertsons and a movie theater.

     Here's a look down the main street of the Colonial Town Park complex, with rows of small shops lining each side of the road. There are a good number of restaurants and boutique-type stores in this complex, with the AmStar theater visible in the distance at the end of this road.

     I didn't venture much around the remainder of the Colonial Town Park center besides the area immediately surrounding the old Albertsons. This was just the beginning of my day, and there were plenty of other places to see! However, I did happen to take a picture of the Colonial Town Park Christmas tree. While it's not Christmas time, there's nothing like a nicely decorated Christmas tree to bring everyone some cheer, regardless of what time of year it is! And nothing says Florida at Christmastime like a Christmas tree surrounded by a bunch of palms on an 80 degree day in December!

     Anyway, now it's time for some historic aerial imagery, courtesy of Google Earth:

Former Albertsons #4316(2) - 2018

Albertsons #4316(2) - 2006

Future Albertsons #4316(2) - 2004 - According to Google Earth, this image was taken in February 2004, so there was still some work to get done in time for the grand opening in May.

Future Albertsons #4316(2) - 2003

     That's all I have to say about former Albertsons #4316, the second. In my search for some photos of this store back when it was still an Albertsons, I came across this article announcing the store's closure. In that article are a few pictures of the store, including an oddly-framed exterior photo and one from inside the liquor store. It's not much, but it was the best I could do.

So that's all I have for now. Until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger