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 


  1. Jewel-Osco has a brief stint in the Tampa Bay area around 1989. About two years later they made a hasty exit selling all their new Florida stores to...Albertsons. I think that remaining store in Largo was one of the former Jewel stores.

    1. I didn't even realize that I left off Jewel-Osco from that list! (Thanks for pointing that out - I added them in). I guess I relate Jewel-Osco with Albertsons so much that they completely slipped my mind when I made that. You are correct that the remaining Albertsons in Largo was a Jewel-Osco, and I believe that store was one of the largest (if not the largest) Albertsons to have ever operated in Florida at nearly 70,000 square feet, which is my theory as to why that store made the final four along with those three older stores. That, and Largo Mall does draw quite the crowd.

  2. This is a neat blog and I like all the work you put into it. I worked for Albertsons from 1991 to 2004. I't sad what happened to this company. I have made many friends who worked there and even my wife. One thing that puzzles me though is why people felt in the early 2000's that the Albertson's looked dated. They did drag their feet on some of the old stores but they really went all out on new stores and remodels. I worked at 4374 in Britton for most of my time with Albertsons. Around 1998 I became part of a team that set up the pharmacies in the new stores and remodeled the pharmacies in older stores. I always thought their newer stores were beautiful. They went all out decorating them with different types of flooring where the butcher block was and even walk through wine/beer coolers. To me, the Publix stores looked dated compared to the new or remodeled Albertsons. The new Publix stores look terrible in my opinion. They are a very contemporary design. Some of the ones they are opening up in NC look like art museums from the outside. I don't think I'm alone, I heard the new one that was built in Britton Plaza (old Albertsons 4374) isn't doing well at all. I heard people hate the design. The old beachy Publix's are the best. But back to Albertsons, as an employee, I think Albertsons had 2 big problems. The first was Albertsons was terrible about cutting hours. When it would get slow instead of having cashiers do other things they would send people home. Eventually they tried more and more to get by with fewer and fewer hours. It wasn't uncommon to walk into an Albertsons during a busy time and see 3 or 4 registers open and the rest closed. At Publix, if it gets busy or even hints at being backed up they open every register. People would complain all the time and eventually I think that people got sick of waiting in long lines at Albertsons. The second thing that hurt Albertsons in Florida was something that I was told by people in corporate positions. To my understanding, Albertsons merged with American Stores (who had enormous debt) and this is what ultimately led to its demise. When this happened, pretty much all the corporate Albertsons people were pushed out and people from American stores took their place. They were horrible and had no idea what the heck they were doing. I quit not long after that but they plummeted after that. I heard the debt was more than they could absorb and handle. People who I know had been with the company for decades were given their walking papers.

    1. By the time you left the company, the great decline was just about to begin. Albertsons probably bit off more than they could chew with the purchase of American Stores. Most people agree that if they never purchased American Stores, Albertsons would be in a much better place now. But back in 1999 when Albertsons made that purchase, they wanted a national grocery empire, and their desire for that did nothing but cause the chain to nearly collapse a few years later. Cutting hours like that is also a sign of weakness, and usually is not a good sign about the future of a company.

      I always liked the look of the early 2000's Albertsons stores, even back then. The Albertsons I always went to all the time opened in 2000 and had the interior with the walk in beer cooler, individually stylized departments and spinning props. It was like nothing else I've seen. When Albertsons was doing all of this, Publix was still using their 90's pastel interior. Most new Publix stores aren't anything too exciting design wise. From what I understand, the new Britton Plaza Publix is smaller than the old Albertsons building. I don't know why they came back to that site, considering there's another Publix not to far away going south on Dale Mabry.