Sunday, June 4, 2023

Former Albertsons #4361 - Largo, FL (Walsingham Commons)

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

Albertsons #4361 / Publix #1336 / Publix #1579 
13031 Walsingham Road, Largo, FL - Walsingham Commons

     After that refreshing Winn-Dixie break for the month of May, June takes us right back to our old friend the Publixsons. Sadly, we won't be kicking off June with a super funky Publixsons store either, as this time I've pulled another store out of the "flattened Publixsons" files. Don't worry though, I still have plenty more authentic Publixsons stores in my archives for your viewing pleasure in the future. However, every one of our former Floridian Albertsons stores has a story to tell, even if our former Albertsons friend had to see the ugly side of Publix's bulldozer brigade, like what happened here with former Albertsons #4361. Even though ol' #4361 is probably serving as eco-friendly gravel in someone's driveway these days, it stood here at the intersection of Walsingham and Vonn Roads for 30 years serving locals and beach-goers alike. We'll touch on the supermarkets of past and present that occupied this site in today's post, starting off with some photos of #4361 that YonWoo found in addition to some Google Street View images of the original building. After that we'll see what things look like now, but before we get to that, let's talk about the past first:

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2 - Seeing this, I never knew supermarkets had a position specifically for donut fryers, but I guess that fills a hole in the bakery staffing.

     Once a sleepy citrus farming town, Largo, sandwiched between St. Petersburg and Clearwater, began to grow in size during the 1960's and 1970's as an attractive, quieter suburb to its larger neighbors to the north and south. As the people came so did the supermarkets, with Largo becoming home to 3 Albertsons stores in due time. Albertsons #4361 was the second Albertsons store to open in Largo, opening in the later portion of 1986, 6 years after the town's first Albertsons store opened on East Bay Boulevard (#4338). 6 years after the opening of this store came Albertsons' buyout of Jewel-Osco's Floridian stores, a purchase which gave Largo its third and most notable Albertsons store, #4402 at Largo Mall.

Store recreation photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     Store #4361 was a typical late 1980's superstore building, which appears to have gotten a refresh in the late 1990's to the Blue and Green Awnings decor from its original Blue and Gray Market. Outside of the decor swap, Albertsons didn't do anything major to the building up until it was sold to Publix in 2008, part of Publix's deal to buy 49 of Albertsons' Floridian stores that year.

Photo courtesy of Google Street View

     Publix reopened this store rather fast, with the new Publix #1336 opening on December 18, 2008. That being the case, this store probably got Publix's standard budget-friendly upgrades of new tile flooring, the addition of sliding doors on the front, and a quick interior refresh from Blue and Green Awnings to Classy Market 2.0. During Publix's time in this building, it would have looked pretty close to this inside, just minus all the Classy Market 2.5 upgrades you see at that link.

Photo courtesy of Google Street View

     Interestingly, after Publix took over this building from Albertsons, Publix repainted it a darker shade of brown. Around 2013-2014ish the building was painted into the color scheme we see above, which is closer to the original color scheme Albertsons used during their time in this building. However, one thing that never changed during Publix's tenure in the old Albertsons building was the color of the roof, which remained painted in Albertsons blue all the way until the end.

Photo courtesy of Google Street View

     From the looks of this, it appears Publix remodeled this store to Classy Market 3.0/Sienna at some point (maybe around the time the building was repainted ca. 2013, although Publix does repaint stores independently of remodels quite often).

Photo courtesy of Google Street View

     The attached liquor store was located on the left side of the building, and the only interior photos I was able to find of this store before it was demolished were from the liquor store, an example of which you can see here. That linked photo (which appears to have been taken by the liquor store cashier) also shows the old Blue and Green Awning trim around the interior of the liquor store. Much like how the textured backing from Blue and Gray Market was commonly left behind in the Classy Market 2.0 remodels, that trim was the big remnant Publix would leave behind in the Blue and Green Awnings stores when those were all first converted.

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     After spending 8 years in this building, Publix felt it was time for a really big change. Publix #1336 closed in October 2016 to be demolished and rebuilt for a new store - #1579 - which would be a standard Publix 45M of the time. Publix managed to replace this store in pretty good time, with #1579 opening on August 17, 2017, roughly 10 months after the original store closed. YonWoo passed by this store as it was in the process of being rebuilt, providing us with the photo above as the shell of the building was nearing completion.

     While totally coincidental, Publix #1579 actually has a vague early 2000's Albertsons look to it (it's those arches). As fun as it would be that Publix would pay tribute to this property's predecessor, this is just a common 2010's Publix exterior variant, as I think Publix would love nothing more than to make people forget Albertsons was ever here!

     Similarities to Albertsons aside, the exterior of this store is quite nice, as I like these "old Florida" style designs Publix uses from time to time instead of the usual 45M default exterior. With the 48M having taken over as the new default store design for Publix these days, Publix's most recent stores have varied a lot more in exterior design, as the 48M stores have used a lot more exterior variants than the 45M ever did.

     Back in the early 2010's, this stretch of Walsingham Road used to contain two really interesting Publix stores - this Publixsons, and about a mile west of here, a funky old expanded Wing Store that ended up being Publix's very last store to sport the Wavy Pastel decor package. That store down the street, Publix #98, also met the same fate the Publixsons did in 2013, getting replaced with an identical (interior-wise) modern 45M store (#1471). Unfortunately, I made it out this way much too late to see any of the real Publix oddities of Walsingham Road, however I do have a few photos I saved from the auction listing of Publix #98 if you want a quick look at that store in its final days. As for today's tour, we're going to have to settle for a quick spin around a 45M.

     Since we're here, let's head inside for a quick look at the store that replaced Walsingham Road's longstanding Albertsons building:

     Like any modern 45M store, you find the floral department immediately to the right of the entrance. Beyond that is the bakery in the front right corner of the building, with the deli along the right side wall following that.

     During the Albertsons days, the right side of the building also served as the home for all the fresh departments, although Albertsons would have had deli in the front right corner with the bakery on the right side wall, with produce out in the middle between those two departments.

     We find some drinks in aisle 1 across from the deli here, with produce becoming visible in the back right corner of the store.

     A fairly standard Publix produce department here, with lots of apples and oranges stacked in neat rows (but who am I to compare?).

     Rounding the corner to the back of the store, we find the meat and seafood departments. The seafood service counter and its signage got cut off a bit in the above photo, but we can see the signage for the meat department next door.

     Moving further down the store's back wall, here's a better look at the seafood counter from the opposite perspective.

     Cutting through the grocery aisles, here's a look across the front end, with the pharmacy visible in the distance.

     While I don't see food on the right side of this aisle, I do seafood ahead.

     Meat coolers extend out from the service meat and seafood counters about halfway down the back wall, at which point the coolers transition from meat to dairy products.

     Plenty of snack options to satisfy your hunger here in aisle 6...

     …and plenty of options to satisfy your pet's hunger here in aisle 9.

     Frozen foods are located in the middle of the building here, in aisles 10 and 11 (the aisle pictured above being number 11)…

     …with some chilled products of another kind for sale over here in aisle 12.

     The store's second to last aisle, aisle 15, was home to health and beauty overflow, with the rest of these products finding a home in the few short aisles in front of the pharmacy counter.

     The final aisle in this store is aisle 16, home of the remainder of the dairy department as well as the PB&J supplies, a common product arrangement in many of Publix's newer stores.

     Back up front, here's a look at the pharmacy counter, located in the front left corner of the building (just like a Superstore-era Albertsons would be arranged).

     To wrap up this brief look at Publix #1579, here are a few photos of the front check lanes to transition us back outside.

     The Publix standing at this site today isn't anything special, and certainly lacks the unique charm of the Publixsons it replaced. Since our tour was pretty quick, if you want to see in more detail an identical store to this one, you can view one here to better understand the design of the 45M.

     This was a decently busy Publix store while I was here. Between this being a well-populated area and being on the main route to the nearby Gulf beaches, there's a lot of draw to this store, and I can see why Publix would want to replace the old Albertsons building with this modern location.

     While the original Albertsons liquor store was located on the left side of the building, Publix's rebuild moved the liquor store to the right side, adjacent to the existing strip of stores. The relocation of the liquor store was done to accommodate the addition of the pharmacy drive-thru on the left side of the building.

     And speaking of the remainder of the shopping center, let's take a stroll down there to see if any other retail relics might be lurking around Walsingham Commons, now that it's primary attraction the Publixsons has been removed:

     The facade of the shopping center hasn't been changed since it was built in 1986, keeping its original design that matched Albertsons' facade following Publix's rebuild.

     Toward the far end of the shopping center is this Family Dollar store, which looks suspiciously like a former drug store junior anchor. I was expecting to reveal this space as a former SupeRx or Revco or something of that nature, but it turns out I was totally wrong - this was never a drug store to begin with, and this space actually began its life as a McDuff Electronics Store! We explored the history of the McDuff Electronics chain on My Florida Retail a while back, and you can read that much more detailed coverage here (the McDuff coverage toward the end of that linked post). It appears McDuff remained at Walsingham Commons until the mid-1990's (when the company began to falter). After McDuff closed, this space was retenanted by a location of Bill's Dollar Stores, a Family Dollar-esque chain that went out of business in the early 2000's. After Bill's closed this space became home to a Family Dollar, which it remains today.

     At the far eastern end of the shopping center we find the other anchor space to Walsingham Commons - a thrift store today, but back when the shopping center was first built, this space was home to a location of Florida's famous hardware store chain: Scotty's. The facade of this building is completely original to Scotty's, an example of the chain's famous barn-themed design. At the company's peak, Scotty's had over 150 locations across the Floridian Peninsula, and was the largest hardware store chain in Florida until the arrival of the big box home improvement warehouses in the 1980's and 1990's. The arrival of Home Depot and Lowe's would end up being one of the primary factors to Scotty's demise, as Scotty's stores were much smaller and older than the modern hardware behemoths popping up across the state. Scotty's tried some rebranding efforts in the late 1990's and early 2000's to ward off the threats of Home Depot and Lowe's, including formats that tried to make Scotty's into a hybrid hardware store/dollar store. Odd retoolings of a company's format is typically not a good sign, and for Scotty's, the story wasn't any different. Scotty's went out of business in 2005, bringing to an end another iconic Floridian retail chain.

     If you want to read more about Scotty's and see some more photos of the company's stores, a former Scotty's employee put together a nice tribute page for the chain. As for the location we see here, it remained a Scotty's until the early 2000's, closing a few years shy of the chain's ultimate demise in 2005. In 2004, the building was repurposed into a flea market/vendor mall type place called the Largo Outlet Mall, although that was short-lived, and by 2006 the Indian Rocks Thrift Center was operating out of this building. The Indian Rocks Thrift Center is operated by the Indian Rocks Baptist Church, which has its main church complex located just behind Walsingham Commons.

     Whenever I see a thrift store operating out of a former retail anchor building, I always find it worthwhile to check out what kind of relics of the past may be lurking inside, as thrift stores, especially low-budget church-run ones, are typically not known for elaborate renovations. To get us off to a good start, the two "ENTRANCE" decals on the front doors are remnants from Scotty's, as I've seen those same decals before on other former Scotty's stores.

     Heading inside, we see the Indian Rocks Thrift Center uses a fleet of old Winn-Dixie carts, recognizable by the W/D emblem engraved into the metal panels on the sides of each cart.

     As for the rest of the store, like most hardware stores built in the late 1980's, Scotty's used the traditional warehouse-style approach. As such, there really wasn't a lot for Scotty's to leave behind to be recycled by the flea market or the thrift store that came after it, as the building was just a large empty warehouse to begin with. I pretty much expected to discover such results during my visit, however, sometimes you never know what you might walk into at an unfamiliar thrift store!

     Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No - it's SuperThrift, here to save your Scotty's! Anyway, wall signage aside, here's a look across the width of the building, with the thrift store's front check lanes located under the large Superman logo sign.

     The thrift store's salesfloor only uses the front half of the former Scotty's store, with the back of the building reserved for the thrift store's donation center and some other church offices. The photo above looks toward the back right corner of the building.

     From the back right corner of the thrift store, here's an overview of the salesfloor from the furniture department. As I mentioned before, the building is just a large open warehouse, so there isn't anything too distinctive in here to really make it feel like it was another store prior.

     Even though Scotty's remained in operation until 2005, sadly, I never got to experience a Scotty's store in-person (although I did see the exterior of one on a road trip once, not long before the chain's ultimate demise). Therefore, I really don't know much about what the interior of a Scotty's store would have looked like back in the day, as there aren't many photos of the interior of a Scotty's store floating around online. I'd imagine the interior of a 1980's-built Scotty's wasn't too far off from the average hardware store aesthetic, with aisles of steel rack shelving and some banner signs hanging from the ceiling denoting the different departments.

     Like most thrift stores, clothing took up the majority of the store's salesfloor space, with the remaining space on the right side of the building not used for clothes being dedicated to furniture. The left side of the building was home to the assorted bric-a-brac such as housewares, kitchen items, books, movies, CDs, and the other types of assorted tchotchkes and et cetera.

     Our last photo from the interior of the former Scotty's looks down one of the thrift store's bric-a-brac aisles, with some fake palm trees sprouting out of the clothing department in the distance.

     Since the interior of the thrift store wasn't too exciting, here's one final look at the exterior of the building with its well-preserved Scotty's barn design.

     Off on the right side of the former Scotty's building was the former lumber yard, which was located behind this chain link fence. These days the old lumber yard is where people go to drop off donations for the thrift store (via a gate around back) and also where the church parks its vehicles and the buses for its school. Speaking of the church's school...

     …here it is, located in a former Frank's Nursery & Crafts next door to Walsingham Commons, and also in front of the church's main complex. Frank's Nursery & Crafts closed this store in 2000 when the company pulled out of the Tampa Bay area, and the building was converted into the church's school shortly after.

     Now that we've explored the entirely of Walsingham Commons, here's an aerial overview of the entire complex to better visualize where all the stores we just saw were located. And since we're already up in the air, let's use this opportunity to go back in time and take a look at this former Albertsons through the years in historic aerial imagery, courtesy of Google Earth and

Former Albertsons #4361 - 2019

Former Albertsons #4361 - March 2017 - The building shell for the new Publix looks mostly complete here.

Former Albertsons #4361 - January 2017 - Going back two months prior to that last aerial image, here we see the new Publix building just beginning to get framed out.

Former Albertsons #4361 - 2016 - The original Albertsons building

Albertsons #4361 - 2008

Albertsons #4361 - 2002

Albertsons #4361 - 1995

Future Albertsons #4361 - 1985 - It wouldn't be long after this image was taken that this empty lot would sprout a new Albertsons store.

     It wasn't much to look at, but that's all I have to share about former Albertsons #4361. Thankfully the other two former Albertsons stores in Largo will provide us with much more to look at, as Publix has kindly kept those stores around in much more original condition! Anyway, we'll return to Largo another time, however, in two more weeks I'll be back with more Albertsons adventures to share, so be sure to come back then for more!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger