Thursday, March 13, 2014

Will Kroger be the Next Supermarket Chain To Attempt Florida?

     Back when Albertsons did their 2012 round of closings in Florida which left them with 4 stores left across the entire state, I heard quite a few rumors that Kroger was interested in purchasing what remained of Albertsons Florida. As you can see, that never seemed to least yet. 

     However, the other day I was doing some Googling and I stumbled across two very interesting articles about Kroger from the Cincinnati Business Courier and the Jacksonville Business Journal (Although the articles are from July 2013, they're still pretty interesting). Back in January, Kroger finalized their purchase of the Harris Teeter chain. Harris Teeter only operates one store in Florida, which is right over the Georgia border in Fernandina Beach, Nassau County, north of Jacksonville. Supermarket analysts consider this to be Kroger's "foot in the door" to re-enter the Florida market after a failed attempt back in the 80's. 

Example of a typical Kroger built SupeRx Food and Drug store. The early SupeRx Food and Drug stores had the distinctive rounded awning over the entryway, which you can see in the photo above. This store was located at 5275 Babcock St. NE in Palm Bay, FL - in the Country Club Plaza. 
An old SupeRx price tag I found on some old Christmas light bulbs at the thrift store yesterday, coincidentally. 
     As I said, and as you can see above, Kroger tried entering Florida once already back in the 80's. Kroger opened their first Florida store, a SupeRx Food and Drug combo store in Indian Harbour Beach, Brevard County, back in 1980. As the 80's went on, Kroger began opening more Florida stores under the names SupeRx Food and Drug (along with regular SupeRx stand alone pharmacies, which were primarily in shopping centers), Orlando Foodway, and Sunshine, with some having attached liquor stores. Since there were so many supermarket chains already competing in Florida in the 80's, Kroger found it hard to find its niche. In 1986, as an attempt to save its Florida division, Kroger began a re-branding campaign, renaming all of their Florida stores Florida Choice as a way to unite their Florida stores under the same banner.

     With the rebranding to the Florida Choice name, Kroger began to remodel and replace older SupeRx Food and Drug, Orlando Foodway, and Sunshine stores and replace them with larger, more upscale oriented Florida Choice stores to compete with stores like Publix. Around the same the the Florida Choice rebranding was occurring, Florida's 107 SupeRx stand alone pharmacies were sold off to Rite Aid when Kroger eliminated their stand alone pharmacy division (and Rite Aid pulled out of Florida soon after). Also in 1987, Kroger purchased Family Mart from A&P, bringing the Florida Choice store count to 43 stores across the state.

The logo for Kroger's short lived Florida Choice division.
     But by 1988, Kroger deemed Florida Choice a failure, and sold off the remaining Florida Choice stores to Kash n' Karry in the western part of the state and Goodings in the central and eastern parts of the state. However since 1988, more and more supermarket chains have closed or left Florida, leaving Publix and Winn-Dixie as the only traditional supermarket chains with a major presence left in Florida (once Sweetbay is gone in May). This would make it a great time for Kroger to re-enter Florida now that the competition has been weeded down since the 80's, when everybody wanted a piece of the Florida market. According to the articles, the only thing holding Kroger back from re-entering Florida is Publix. Publix is a powerhouse that nobody has tried to mess with for years, and they rule the Florida supermarket industry. Unlike financially burdened (yet starting to recover) Winn-Dixie, Kroger does have the money and stability to attempt a Florida expansion to compete with Publix. Kroger's newer stores also have a similar upscale feel like Publix's too, and Kroger could very well give Publix a run for their money if they try a serious Florida expansion.

     Kroger hasn't said anything official about this yet, and they won't comment on it, but maybe in the next few years, we'll see Kroger stores appearing in Florida once again. As always, the Albertsons Florida Blog will keep on top of this if anything new appears. 

     If you want to read the two articles I mentioned earlier, you can access them here and here.

Until Next Time, 
The Albertsons Florida Blogger   

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Former Albertsons #4368 - Indian Harbour Beach, FL

Albertsons #4368/Winn-Dixie #2328
961 E. Eau Gallie Boulevard, Indian Harbour Beach, FL
Ocean Springs Shopping Center

     Well, here you have it! Albertsons Florida Blog store post #1! Our first post will take you on an extensive tour of the former Indian Harbour Beach Albertsons. While this store may not be the most perfectly preserved Albertsons in the state, there's still plenty to see here. So, why did I pick this store to be the feature of post #1 you ask? Well, I wanted to start this off the Albertsons Florida Blog in true Florida style, by going to the beach! This store was built directly across the street from the beach, which you'll see down below. Actually, this Albertsons was the closest ever built to the Atlantic Ocean.

     Albertsons opened here in 1988, building one of what I call a 'superstore' model Albertsons, going off a name many of these stores were referred to during this time (You can read more about Albertsons Florida store models under the Useful Information tab). This Albertsons only lasted 10 years, closing in 1998, long before Albertsons started their major exodus of Florida in the mid-2000's. Of the three Albertsons Florida stores built within a mile of the Atlantic Ocean, which were this one, #4365 in Jupiter, and #43XX in Hallandale Beach, they all didn't last very long, all closing in the 90's. I find this surprising because these beach areas gets loads of tourists, especially in the peak season during the winter months when most stores and businesses in Florida make their largest profits. I visited this store in January and it was busy! 

     As you can see from the photo above, this Albertsons has since been converted into a Winn-Dixie. Winn-Dixie opened here in August 1999, replacing two older stores nearby (which we'll look at a little later).

     From the exterior, Winn-Dixie didn't change all too much since Albersons left. The one major modification Winn-Dixie made was moving the entrance/exit to the center of the building. Originally, these Albertsons superstore model stores would have had two sets of entrances and exits facing the side of the building, which would be accessed by walking under those rectangular archways located on the far left and far right side of the building, which you can see in the very first photo. Also, those two white rectangles above the old entryways would have said 'FOOD' on the right side one and 'PHARMACY' on the left one. I zoomed in on one of these below for you to see. 

     The area where Winn-Dixie's entrance is today would have just been a wall in Albertsons days. Behind that wall and between the two entryways would have been the original customer service desk and offices, which Winn-Dixie relocated elsewhere.

       The only other thing Winn-Dixie did to the exterior was add that little pointed piece above their entrance. That pointed piece was common on their 90's built stores. In this store's Albertsons days, this part would have only consisted of the rectangular area where the Winn-Dixie logo is currently, with the Albertsons logo in approximately the same place. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any photos online to show you exactly what this store looked like when it was an Albertsons since it closed so long ago.

     Here's a close up of where the original left side entrance would have been when this store was still an Albertsons. It has now been converted into a sitting area. Those 2 lights at the very top of the photo are right over where the in and out doors would have been. 

     And here's where the original right side entrance would have been. You can see those same two lights here also.

     Now, time to go inside! (And let me take this time to apologize for any photos that may have come out slightly blurry or weird looking - I'm still new to this!)

     Unfortunately, there isn't much Albertsons left inside. Winn-Dixie reconfigured most of the departments in this store into a typical Winn-Dixie layout. All of the tiles and even all of the lighting has been replaced with the Winn-Dixie standard. Albertsons would have originally had fluorescent light strips going across the store. I'm just not sure if Winn-Dixie did most of the reconfiguration when they first took over this store in 1999 or when they upgraded this store to it's current look. The interior you see above and throughout this store was Winn-Dixie's interior package that came out after their bankruptcy in the late 2000's, and was used until just recently when they changed it again to a look that relies on signs with the department names on them instead of the letters mounted to the wall (which seems to be the current trend in other supermarket chains as well). Winn-Dixie has upgraded many of their stores from the dated 90's pastel 'America's Store' interior to the look featured in this store, which, I must say, doesn't look all too bad, although some untouched 90's stores still remain. So, I guess this post will serve to preserve this former Albertsons and give all of you a tour of a very nice Winn-Dixie. When this was an Albertsons, the interior would have most likely looked similar to this. I saw that interior called the 'Blue and Gray Market' somewhere online, but I don't remember where. I don't think that was the official name for that look, but I'll go with it. Albertsons used that look from the late 80's through the mid-90's. But, more on Albertsons interiors at a later time. 

     The two photos above show the floral department, which is the first thing you see when you walk to the right once you enter this store. The floral department takes up what would have been the right entryway vestibule when this was Albertsons. 

     As you keep walking to the right, you enter Winn-Dixie's produce department. This area would have originally been the Deli in Albertsons' days. The Albertsons Deli would have ran from the right entryway vestibule to right in that corner, where the bakery would have began running along the right side wall. 

     The photo above looks from the produce department diagonally across the store. 

     Winn-Dixie's current Deli department. This is in the area where Albertsons' Bakery would have been. Winn-Dixie's current bakery is to the left of the deli here in the same place where Albertsons' would have been, but just a little smaller since the deli was crammed into the same area. You can see the bakery here:

     The area out in front of the bakery was being used for fresh and prepared foods, like a salad bar, Mediterranean bar, rotisserie chicken, etc. One of the things Winn-Dixie has been focusing on with their new and remodeled stores is an expanded selection of fresh offerings as a way to keep up with Publix. This Winn-Dixie even had a Cheeses from Around the World counter in this area, which is one of their newest offerings:

     And a look back at where we just came from:

     As we continue to the back right corner of the store, we enter Winn-Dixie's Beer and Wine Department.

     This area would have been Albertsons' Produce department. See that area in the back corner that looks like a part of an octagon, where the word 'beer' is? That area was a distinctive feature in every Albertsons superstore model's produce department. 

     As we continue our tour, we now head along the back wall of the store and come across the Seafood Department, located just to the left of the Beer and Wine Department. 

      I believe this was the same spot where Albertsons' Meat and Seafood counter would have been. One of the things people in Florida liked the most about Albertsons was their Meat and Seafood Department. 

     So, let's take a quick look at some of the grocery aisles. Before we do, here's a directory of the store so you have kind of an idea of how it's currently laid out. 

     Winn-Dixie keeps referring to this store as the Melbourne Beach store (which you'll see again later). Melbourne Beach is actually two cities south of here on the barrier island. This store is technically considered to be in the city of Indian Harbour Beach.

      Wall o' Chek soda, one of Winn-Dixie's signature brands. I know some people who go crazy over this stuff. It's sort of a southern staple.

     Close up of the aisle sign. Definitely much nicer than the generic looking ones Winn-Dixie used in the 90's interior with the ads on them.

     Aisle 6 comes out right by the Meat Department, which is along the back wall in approximately the same area as Albertsons' was.

     Winn-Dixie's frozen food department is located in the center of the store, which was typical for a 90's Winn-Dixie. Albertsons' Frozen Food Department would have been all the way to the left side of the store, which is where Winn-Dixie's Health and Beauty and Dairy Departments are (we'll take a look there in a bit).

     This is the center aisle that runs across the right side of the store, looking back toward the bakery. The left side of the store also has a similar center aisle, but the frozen food cases block the two from connecting. Albertsons would have had this center aisle run right across the store. 

     Now for a few shots of the grocery aisles on the left side of the store, on the other side of the Frozen Foods Department. This area is mostly the non-food items, except for the dairy department, a half aisle of snacks, and bread. 

     The shelves in the Pet Center were actually curved, which you can see if you look closely at the photo above. It makes the area seem more open and less cluttered. The Health and Beauty aisles behind me in the above photo were the same way, but I didn't get a photo of those. 

     A closer up view of the Lunch Meats Department you see in the background of the Pet Center. 

     The final aisle that runs along the left wall of the store is the Dairy Department. I think Albertson's Dairy Department was along this same wall too. They usually put the milk and such near the Frozen Foods Department, which is what this area used to be in its Albertsons days. 

      The last department for us to look at is the Pharmacy. This is located in the front right corner of the store. Albertsons' Pharmacy would have been in this same area, and most likely would have had the Sav-On branding, which was common for the superstores, though some newer Florida stores just had Albertsons Pharmacy signage.

     Now just a quick look at the front end before we head back outside:

     Winn-Dixie's current Service Center is located in what would have originally been Albertsons left side vestibule. Albertsons Customer Service counter would have been where Winn-Dixie's entrance is now. Another distinctive feature of these Albertsons superstores was that they had offices running along a second floor over the Customer Service area, with slanted windows to overlook the store. Here, when Winn-Dixie moved the main entrance and exit, these offices and windows were removed. 

     And just another thing to note, there was a little area to the left of Service Center that was being used to sell Florida souvenirs and beach stuff, which you can see a little bit of in the photos above.

     I'm pretty sure Winn-Dixie added that lowered ceiling area over the checkouts. I've never been to a Florida Albertsons that had something like this. 

     Thank You for Shopping Your Melbourne Beach/Indian Harbour Beach Albertsons (if this was 1997)! And back outside we go for a quick look at the former Albertsons Liquor Store, out to the right of the main store.

     One of the distinctive features of every Albertsons store was the attached Liquor Store. I'm almost positive every Albertsons in Florida had one, whether it was in its own building attached to the main store (like above), tucked into a part of the main store (this was mostly with the older Skaggs model Albertsons), or out in the middle of the parking lot somewhere if there wasn't enough room to attach it to the main building. Winn-Dixie and Publix also run attached Liquor Stores, but they only have them in select locations. However, Albertsons always had one. I think Albertsons even has their own specialty line of house brand liquors they would sell here!

     According to Florida law, grocery stores are allowed to sell beer and wine inside the main store (which you saw a little of above). However, if a grocery store wants to sell the hard stuff, it must be in a separate, independent area with its own entrance and exit and cash registers. Along with liquor, these attached liquor stores also sold some additional beer and wine. 

     I don't think the liquor store was altered very much from its Albertsons days.

     And finally, to round our our tour of former Albertsons #4368, the street sign next to Winn-Dixie's entrance to the plaza. This is a classic Albertsons street sign, modified to hold the names of other stores in the plaza along with Albertsons' (most of the time these only housed the Albertsons sign). These signs looked like a giant Y with the Albertsons sign slipped in between the two branches of the Y. Also, although the official name of this shopping center is Ocean Springs Shopping Center, there aren't any signs displaying the name anywhere. 

     And as you can see, the other anchor of this shopping center is Walmart:

     This store is still a non-super Walmart, 80's style with the entrance in the middle. I think the only reason it's still this way is because there's no place in the area to build a new Supercenter, and I'm sure Winn-Dixie had a clause in their lease that prevents Walmart from expanding as long as they're still here. I have a few additional pictures of the Walmart I'll post on Flickr later today. 

     For those of you familiar with the Acme Style Blog, Acme Style ends all of their store posts with satellite views and historic aerials. I think this gives an interesting perspective on the featured stores, and I'll try it out here on the Albertsons Florida Blog. 

Non-Bird's Eye Satellite Images and Historical Satellite Images courtesy of Google Earth.
     Here's a little overview of the shopping center as of 2013. The Albertsons/Winn-Dixie is the large store to the left, facing A1A. Walmart is the large building on the bottom right, facing Eau Gallie Boulevard/Route 518. 

     Some Birds Eye Views of the store, courtesy of Bing Maps:


Right Side


Left Side

     A quick view of the Walmart, with the Subway signage still up if you look closely. When I visited, the Subway inside had closed and has been converted into a Florida gift shop.

     Now a little trip through time:

Former Albertsons #4368/Winn-Dixie #2328 - 2013
Former Albertsons #4368/Winn-Dixie #2328 - 2005
Abandoned Albertsons #4368 - 1999

     Here the Albertsons sits abandoned, waiting for Winn-Dixie to move in later in the year. 

Albertsons #4368 - 1994

     The only available image of this store still as an Albertsons. 1994 is the oldest available satellite images I could find for this area.

Ocean Springs Shopping Center - 1994

     Compare the number of cars in front of Winn-Dixie in the 2013 satellite image of the plaza to the number of cars in front of Albertsons in the 1994 image above. Winn-Dixie was slammin', Albertsons...not so much. I don't know why this Albertsons did so poorly in such a busy spot like this. 

     As I mentioned earlier, the Winn-Dixie currently occupying this former Albertsons replaced two older Winn-Dixies nearby. I placed their locations on the following map.The old stores are indicated with the old Winn-Dixie logo, and the current store with the new logo. Yeah, I realize the map came out looking bad and slightly pixely. My graphics skills aren't the greatest.

     And just a really quick look at the two older Winn-Dixies that were replaced by the current store in the former Albertsons:

Former Winn-Dixie #2291 - Indian Harbour Place (the one at the top of the map to the left of the current store):
270 E. Eau Gallie Boulevard, Indian Harbour Beach, FL

Former Winn-Dixie - Indian Harbour Place - 2005

Former Winn-Dixie - Indian Harbour Place - 2013

     This former Winn-Dixie was torn down in late 2005 to make way for a large new Publix, which moved from across the street.

Former Winn-Dixie #2299 - Beach Plaza/Seaside Centre (store at the bottom of the map)
1220 N. State Route A1A, Indialantic, FL

Former Winn-Dixie - Beach Plaza/Seaside Centre - 2005
Former Winn-Dixie - Beach Plaza/Seaside Centre - 2013
     This former Winn-Dixie sat abandoned until 2009, when the entire shopping center was renovated and renamed the Seaside Centre from its original name, Beach Plaza. The Winn-Dixie space is currently unrecognizable at first glance and serves as offices for something called the Innovation Center.  

     Both of the old Winn-Dixie stores replaced by the current one in the former Albertsons were typical 70's stores that looked similar to this originally.

     And just one last satellite image I'd like to share: 

     Like I said at the beginning of the post, this store is located directly across the street from the beach. A quick jump across A1A after your shopping and you're greeted with this:

     Not a bad view, huh? Just a few quick shots of Canova Beach across the street from the good ol' former Albertsons, near the boardwalk. Florida's retail history does have its perks. 

     Well, I think this post is long enough. Overall, Albertsons #4368 has been converted into a relatively nice Winn-Dixie, and there's still plenty left over of this store's past life to where you can look at it and go 'Aha! A former Albertsons!'.

     I hope you all enjoyed this first post. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think, or comment on the store. I'll be here trying to work on more posts for you over the next few months. And remember, feel free to send in any Albertsons pictures! 

So, until next time, and with one final look across the exterior of former Albertsons #4368,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger