Monday, December 16, 2013

Goodbye, Kevin - Sweetbay Supermarkets to become Winn-Dixie in Early 2014

A Sweetbay Supermarket that closed in early 2013 in the Green Tree Center in North Naples. Photo from

I touched on this topic rather quickly in the Albertsons Florida Blog introductory post, which you can read below this one, but by early next year, Sweetbay Supermarkets will be no more. In May 2013, Winn-Dixie purchased Sweetbay from their former parent company, Delhaize. Delhaize has slowly begun to pull out of Florida in the last few years, first by closing all remaining Florida Food Lions in early 2012, and now the sale of Sweetbay to Winn-Dixie. While this purchase will be a great boost to Winn-Dixie, who's been trying to make a comeback since their bankruptcy in 2005, it means one less supermarket chain in Florida (that is, unless Albertsons decides to surprise us all and announce a grand comeback all across Florida in 2014...right after this year's white Christmas in Miami). 

I decided to make this post because I've been thinking over the last few days. Once Sweetbay is gone, Publix and Winn-Dixie will be the last two traditional supermarkets chains with a major presence left in Florida. I want to give Sweetbay, another chain that was stuck hopelessly in the middle between Publix and Wal-Mart (just like Albertsons), a proper funeral here on the Albertsons Florida Blog. I don't live near any currently open Sweetbay stores, so if any readers of this live close enough to a Sweetbay that's still open, please send in some pictures for the Sweetbay funeral post that will go up sometime around March. Also feel free to send in any pictures of any Sweetbay (or Kash n' Karry, Sweetbay's original name) memorabilia, along with any Albertsons pictures you may have too. I have some Sweetbay/Kash n' Karry memorabilia in the Albertsons Florida Blog archives that I'm going to throw in also. 

In the mean time, enjoy the site and all of its great Albertsons Florida info, and hopefully I'll see you all in the new year! 

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

P.S. - Let's just hope that Kevin likes his new home with The Beef People. 

P.S.S. - For those of you who are unfamiliar with Sweetbay, Kevin is Sweetbay's crazy spokes-butcher, whose full name is Kevin the Meatbay Butcher.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Hello Internet! Welcome to the Albertsons Florida Blog - Where It means a great post!

On what was probably an unusually warm October day in Clearwater, Florida, a city north of St. Petersburg, in 1974, a new player in Florida's supermarket wars was about to open their doors in the state for the first time. This new store on the block was Albertsons, or at that time called Skaggs-Albertsons. Skaggs Drug Centers and Albertsons partnered up in 1970 to bring a new, one stop shopping experience to the Southeast (beginning in Texas), and now it was Florida's turn to get these monstrous stores of the future. These Skaggs-Albertsons stores would sell everything from the traditional cold cuts, cereal, and bread, to cough medicine and even lawn chairs, clothes, small appliances, fishing tackle and auto parts! There was also a full liquor store and even a full pharmacy in the store. How unheard of! What could possibly be next - computerized price scanners??? No, that can't be, that's just complete science fiction.   

A model of a typical 1970's/early 1980's built Skaggs-Albertsons (and later Albertsons) store. The first 42 Florida Albertsons stores and first 4 Alabama Albertsons stores were of this same design, minus a few little differences here and there. Photo from the St. Petersburg Times Archives on Google News.
The stores Albertsons built when they first entered Florida were pretty different from what everybody else was offering at the time. And they were much bigger. Not as architecturally creative as Publix's classic winged stores from that era, but definitely much bigger and a lot more imposing. The store pictured above is approx. 55,000 square feet. In the 70's most supermarkets (like the winged stores) were in the 30,000 square foot range in terms of size. Now in 2013, a 55,000 square foot supermarket is relatively average for a traditional grocery store, but in the 70's, these were supercenters. 

As the years went on Albertsons grew in Florida, eventually expanding to every region of the state, from Pensacola to Jacksonville across the panhandle and all the way down the peninsula to Key West. When these stores first opened they were a big deal. There would be crowds so big at some Albertsons grand openings, additional security would have to be called in for a week after the store opened to control the crowds and to direct parking because there weren't enough parking spaces available for everyone! There was even an article where the manager of a new Albertsons store was saying he had all 15 checkouts in the store open, and each one had lines backed up down the grocery aisles! I don't think Publix's current grand openings draw that big of a crowd, even with the free green bags!

But if only that were still the case.

Forty years after opening for the first time in Florida and operating a little more than 150 stores here over the years, there are only 4 Albertsons left in the whole state. The original in Clearwater is still here, as well as Altamonte Springs north of Orlando, Oakland Park by Fort Lauderdale, and one in Largo, a suburb of St. Petersburg. Albertsons' fall from grace in Florida began around 2004, right before Albertsons put themselves up for sale. Some might say that Albertsons' demise in Florida began before then. Ever since the late 90's and the failure of the Miami area stores in late 2001, supermarket executives were trying to pressure Albertsons to give up on Florida, but Albertsons wanted to have one last chance. Albertsons felt they had invested too much time and money into Florida to give up just yet. But by 2004, Albertsons' Florida division sales were plummeting and many stores had a corroding image in both shopping atmosphere and price, not to mention that their market share in Florida was slowly shrinking. That was when it began to sink in that Albertsons wouldn't be around in Florida much longer. At that same time Winn-Dixie (Florida's #2 supermarket chain) was about to fall into bankruptcy while Publix (Florida's #1 supermarket chain for many years) was expanding and Wal-Mart was going supercenter crazy. No new Albertsons stores have opened in Florida since 2004. Then the mass closings began. All stores in Jacksonville closed in 2005. When Supervalu/Cerberus bought Albertsons in 2006, more stores began to slowly close. Supervalu took over the profitable regions and Cerberus (Albertsons, LLC) took over the failing ones (which included Florida). 8 stores would close here, and 4 stores would close there as the next few years went on. The biggest slam came in 2008 when Albertsons sold 49 of their remaining 96 or so Florida stores to rival Publix. It was over. In 2010 there were 28 Albertsons left in Florida, in 2011 there were 20, in 2012 there were 17, and in 2013 there were 4. The final 4 mentioned above. The lucky 4. Supposedly these 4 stores were Florida's all time best and most profitable stores. How much longer they'll be here is anyone's guess though. Albertsons also shut down their Florida distribution center in Plant City during the 2012 round of closings, and the next closest Albertsons stores to Florida are all the way in Louisiana, so I have no idea why Albertsons even left those final four stores anyway. That's a long way to go to supply four random out-of-the-way stores. Also, with the 2012 store closings, I believe that leaves the 4 Florida stores under the jurisdiction of Albertsons' Fort Worth, Texas division (also known as the Southern division) since the old Florida division is, well, pretty much gone. 

Publix/Albertsons conversion store from 2008. This was Albertsons store #4417 in Naples. Photo from
Florida has had its fair share of supermarkets that tried operating stores hereonly to later close all of them, sell them all off, or go completely out of business. These stores included large national chains and local Florida ones, like A&P/Family Mart, Kroger/Florida's Choice, Food Lion, Grand Union, Pantry Pride, Xtra Super Food Centers, Delchamps, Bruno's/Food World/Belle Foods, U-Save, Goodings, Jewel-Osco, Kash n' Karry/Sweetbay Supermarkets (who just announced in October 2013 that the remaining 72 Sweetbay stores would be converting into Winn-Dixie stores in early 2014, after Winn-Dixie purchased Sweetbay from their parent company Delhaize in May 2013), and I'm sure there's a few others I'm forgetting that have all given Florida's supermarket wars a shot at one time. Winn-Dixie, Florida's #2 supermarket, has also had a bit of a bumpy ride recently. They had their bankruptcy in 2005 and many rounds of store closures after that, going from nearly 1,200 stores throughout the south right before the bankruptcy (which was more than Publix at the time) to a little under 500 right now (not including the Sweetbay stores). Recently they've been trying to bounce back, opening a few new stores in South Florida and outside the state, and now the former Sweetbays in West Florida, along with giving some their stores remodels and reimaging themselves. Even with all of this happening, they're nowhere close to the power of Publix and Wal-Mart, though Winn-Dixie is still pretty strong in some of the more rural areas of Florida. 

But out of all of these failed grocery stores mentioned above, why would I pick Albertsons over the others? Well, of all of those stores, I'm the most familiar with Albertsons. I used to live near an Albertsons and I would go there all the time. Some of those other stores mentioned above I've only been to once or twice, and some of those stores left Florida before I even came into existence. But I was at our local Albertsons at least every other week. When Albertsons finally closed my local store, it finally hit me. I had been watching Albertsons crumble for years (and I wish I had realized this earlier so I could have saved some more Albertsons memorabilia). Then I started researching Albertsons' history in Florida (though I've been dabbling in retail history for a while). Finally, 150+ stores later, this blog was born, just in time to celebrate Albertsons' 40th anniversary in Florida in 2014, which is also Albertsons' 75th year in business. Also included on this blog are the seven stores Albertsons operated in Alabama from 1977 to 1985, which were considered a part of the Florida division, so technically they were Florida stores too and will have a home here. 

So that's the Albertsons Florida Blog story. Enjoy the blog and check out the store lists, available in table and map form. Store posts will begin (hopefully) in February 2014 (it may be a little slow going here at first, but please stick with me). Feel free to send in any of your own photos of the Florida Albertsons stores, or any stories, information, corrections, additions of planned stores or an Albertsons store I may have not found (though I think I got 99% of them) or photos of any Albertsons memorabilia to the e-mail address found under the Contact Us tab. I will give you credit for your photos under whatever name you wish to provide. Also, the Useful Information tab at the top of the page includes information explaining some common terms and places that will be mentioned often on the blog in case you are not familiar with Florida or Albertsons stores. 

So see you soon, and Welcome to Team Albertsons!
The Albertsons Florida Blogger

P.S. - Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Former Albertsons #4302, St. Petersburg, FL. One of 49 stores sold to Publix in 2008. Photo from