Saturday, June 7, 2014

Former Albertsons #4466 - Port St. Lucie, FL

Albertsons #4466
900 SW St. Lucie West Boulevard, Port St. Lucie, FL
Cashmere Corners

     Oh, the once mighty St. Lucie West Albertsons. A store that at one time many people loved to shop at. A store that at one time was one of the best Albertsons stores in the state in terms of sales, and one which had a sign on the wall stating, "We're not going anywhere anytime soon. We're your neighborhood Albertsons." (It was something close to that anyway). A store that seemed like it was going to fight to the bitter end. A store that now sits empty and lifeless, and has been that way for two years now, those labelscars still looking fresh. The mighty St. Lucie West Albertsons #4466 opened its doors on May 3, 2000, and served its last shoppers on June 9, 2012, when 13 of the last 17 Florida Albertsons stores closed their doors for good (although the Key West store technically closed a little earlier than the other 12). 

     I seriously thought the St. Lucie West Albertsons was going to be one of the last to close in Florida. In theory I wasn't too far off with that prediction, since making it to the final 17 was quite enough of an achievement to begin with. This was one of the stores I personally visited quite a few times over the years, and I have to say this store always seemed to draw a bit of a crowd. Employees at this store would always tell me this store did really good. I remember times when the line at the meat and seafood counter here was twenty people long. I even knew many people that would drive out of their way, even from different counties, just to shop at this Albertsons since it was the last one left (at the time) between Vero Beach and Oakland Park.   

     However, all that support wasn't enough to save the St. Lucie West Albertsons. I remember the day the closings for those 13 stores were announced, and reading through the list of the closing stores. I was in disbelief that St. Lucie West was among them. I wasn't until after doing some thinking that I realized the four Florida stores Albertsons saved were the 3 oldest remaining stores (Clearwater, Altamonte Springs, and Oakland Park - all of which opened in the 70's and were in buildings Albertsons owned, meaning less overhead) and the largest (Largo, a former Jewel-Osco store that was almost 70,000 square feet, and located in one of the busiest shopping centers in Pinellas County). St. Lucie West had the fact that is was a newer, leased store going against it. Newer stores would have higher rent, and going from the fact this shopping center had quite a few vacancies when I visited here, the rent here probably wasn't cheap. A local who was very familiar with this store told me in an e-mail that Albertsons did sign a 10 year lease for this store back in 2010, meaning Albertsons still has control over this space. I just don't know why Albertsons would sign a 10 year lease, just to close this store two years later. 

     It was quite the sad sight to come back to this once mighty store and see its empty shell sitting lifeless. This Albertsons, as mentioned earlier, is located in the St. Lucie West neighborhood of Port St. Lucie. St. Lucie West is one of Port St. Lucie's three major shopping districts, with the other two being the Route 1 corridor on the east side of town (where Port St. Lucie's other Albertsons, store #4362, was located - a story for another day) and Tradition, located out west of Interstate 95 in the southwest part of town. St. Lucie West is a newer development, constructed in the late 80's after developer Thomas J. White lured the New York Mets into built their spring training stadium out here. However, most of the retail didn't begin to appear in St. Lucie West until the mid/late 90's and early 2000's. St. Lucie West's commercial strip along St. Lucie West Boulevard is getting close to buildout, which makes it surprising to me that nothing has tried to move into this old Albertsons yet. 

     As for the store itself, the St. Lucie West Albertsons was a typical Plaza model store from the early 2000's, which also had accompanying the Plaza interior (or Theme Park or Grocery Palace interior depending on your naming preference). The typical characteristics of a Plaza model Albertsons are that large arch over the entryway, and the exit being offset to one of the sides of the entryway. You can see all of these characteristics in the photos above and below. 

     Now it's time for us to take a closer look at this store. This is a better photo of the typical Plaza store entryway setup. The entrance is right in front of me, with the exit being that other set of doors a little further down. Cart storage would have originally been behind those windows between the two sets of doors, however, this store received a weird remodel around 2009 that stripped out most of its unique Plaza interior characteristics, leaving the most generic, bare bones version of The Plaza interior left inside. The original cart storage area was turned into a 10 for $10 deals/sale items aisle, with the carts now stored outside the store to the left and right of the entryway on the walkway you see above.     

     Here's a clearer view down the walkway that runs along the front of the store.

     I tried to take a photo looking up into the arch in front of the entryway to show just how high up it goes, but the effect isn't quite the same in the photo as seeing it in person.

     This old payphone stand was located off to the left side of the entryway doors. I would have to assume this phone probably wasn't here for years even when Albertsons was still open. It's extremely rare nowadays to find one of these still operational, although I saw a Kmart in the last year that still had one working. (Just to note: that was not meant as a Kmart joke - I really saw one there!). 

     "We are now closed" signs still hanging two years later. During my visit here I actually saw a woman walk up the these doors and just stare at them for a while like she didn't know this store had closed. I saw her and told her the Albertsons closed two years ago, and she replied to me "No ingl├ęs", then walked away. I'm still not sure where she came from or went off to. 

     Anyway, I'm sure everyone is curious to see what the interior of this place looks like, so let's take a peek through the glass...

     And we see remnants of this store's original Plaza interior are still intact as we take a glimpse through the entry doors. I always thought it was an interesting touch to have that tile Albertsons logo on the floor right as you walked in. The restrooms were through that doorway to the left. There was originally a Starbucks in that area where the checkered tiles are straight ahead, with the bakery along the back wall right in front of us, behind where the grocery aisles used to be. If you turned left after the restrooms you would have first entered the prepared foods area, followed by the deli along the left side wall. The main Pharmacy counter was on the other side of that island in the right part of the photo.

     Moving a little over to the right on the entry doors and we can see a little glimpse into the produce department, which was located in the back left corner of this store, just to the left of the bakery. 

     Here's a closeup of some of the remnants of the bakery department and its decor. That doorway to the right of the 'Pastries and Donuts' awning led into the backroom. The bakery counter would have ran from the backroom door to that angled wall in the very left of the photo, then angled in to make a bakery alcove.

    Here's a closeup of some of the old produce graphics (on the left). The produce graphics were supposed to look like old time advertisements, and each one had its own spotlight over it. It's hard to make out what the four in this photo say since the zoom on my phone isn't the greatest. That brown area to the right of the produce signs is the bakery alcove I mentioned before, however the graphics of cakes and cookies that were originally on there were taken down.

     One last look at the left side of the store before heading down that row of windows toward the exit doors. 

     Along that wall to the right of the pharmacy express drop-off counter was the original home of the customer service counter and a DFS Dry Cleaners drop-off. During the 2009 remodel, the customer service counter was moved over where the old photo center counter was in the front right corner of the store, and the cleaners were removed entirely. This wall was then used for more sale items, like the old cart storage area. Also, originally there would have been a wall separating the cart storage area and the aisle with the customer service counter. The front of this wall facing the carts would have had "Welcome to you neighborhood Albertsons" on it, and the back of this wall would have been the Albertsons Reading Center, with racks of books and magazines lining that wall. This wall was also removed during the 2009 remodel.   

     Now looking in through the exit doors, we can see the fake decorative windows left behind from the Plaza interior. One of the illusions of the Plaza interior was to create an individual feel for all of the departments, like as if you were shopping in multiple stores in an old fashioned downtown plaza. That open doorway straight ahead was originally used to store the clothes from the dry cleaners. To the right side of this wall ahead of me was the floral department, and if one was to walk to the right and into the main part of the store, that's where the checkouts were located.

     I wasn't able to get any good views of the right side interior of this store. If you look through the small opening into the store you can kind of see the old meat department alcove in the far back, and part of the awning from the florist counter. Behind that wall with the bulletin board was what always seemed to look like an abandoned cafe, which was always used for storage during the times I shopped here. I mentioned earlier this store once had a Starbucks, which I believe was there since the beginning. That was over by the entrance though, so I don't know if that little cafe was ever used for anything.  

     Heading back outside now, and looking down the front part of the main store from the exit doors to the entrance. 

     Here's a view of the exterior of the right half of the main store. The Liquor store is under that archway partially blocked by the walkway roof and the tree. Let's head over there and check that out...

     Walking from the main store down to the Liquor store. Albertsons used to have palates of mulch and other outdoor items lining this walkway when they were open. 

     Closeup of an old emergency exit door. I believe this door was right behind the old Photo Center/post-2009 Customer Service Desk.

     Approaching the liquor store, which is behind that first set of doors on the left.

     And here's an exterior shot of the Liquor store at this former Albertsons. The archway over this Liquor store is a mini version of the archway over the main entrance. The 'Liquor' labelscar is still visible.

    Liquor store entryway. I'm surprised Albertsons left all of their hours and lettering on the windows here. All of that was scratched off the windows on the main store, leaving only the entrance and exit decals. 

     Albertsons even left their name up! Now for a peek inside:

     A perfectly intact example of The Plaza's Liquor store decor, lettering and all. Pretty much every Albertsons liquor store from the Superstore model on had the exact same layout, or the reverse of it (depending on which side of the main store it was on). Glass door coolers on the far back wall, open coolers on the right, and approx. 4 aisles for wine and liquor. Compare the layout here to the layout at the former Palm Bay Albertsons Liquor store, which dates back to 1994. Nearly identical layout. Here's a few more interior shots:  

       Now we've covered the main store and the liquor store, but out trip to the St. Lucie West Albertsons isn't done yet. There's still one more thing to look at...

     And that would be the former Albertsons Express gas station! Albertsons Express gas stations were first introduced in 1997, and Albertsons quickly began building gas stations at their stores across the country after that, adding them to new and existing stores. It was another feature Albertsons could add to their longtime goal of having a one stop shopping experience for their customers. I don't quite know the exact number, but I think approx. 20 Albertsons Express gas stations were built in Florida. Around 2008 or so, right around the time of the sale of the 49 Albertsons stores to Publix, Albertsons discontinued the Albertsons Express gas stations in Florida, selling most off to independent operators, which you can see above from all the Texaco signage (however the Texaco has since closed and this former Albersons Express sits abandoned once again). The Albertsons Express here, however, was unique because it was the only Albertsons Express in Florida that was built attached to the main shopping center. Usually Albertsons Express gas stations were detached and built near the edge of the parking lot.   

     The 'Express' sign still on the building is left over from this gas station's days as Albertsons Express. You can still see the faint scar from the Albertsons logo to the left of the word Express. According to some online research, this gas station became a Citgo after closing as an Albertsons Express, and then switched to Texaco sometime before closing again. 

     All of the fixtures were left inside the old convenience store after it closed. The checkout counter was off to the left in this photo.

     One more look inside the convenience store before going back out.

     Former Albertsons Express/Texaco road sign on St. Lucie West Boulevard. This sign is extremely small when driving by, making it hard to read the prices on the sign (if there were any).

     And a couple of photos of the main Albertsons road sign out on St. Lucie West Boulevard, with the Albertsons logo blacked out. 

     This was a nice surprise! A local who shopped at this store fairly often, but wished to remain anonymous, sent us in a map of the layout of the Albertsons from before the mentioned 2009 remodel (click on the map to see an enlarged view of it). It looks pretty close to what I remember from shopping here. This was pretty much the basic layout of a Florida Plaza Albertsons, although some stores were built with a reversed layout of this.   

     Before we get into the satellite imagery, I just wanted to comment on some of the local competition. A little further west on St. Lucie West Boulevard is a Publix and a Walmart Supercenter, however, when I was doing some research on the area, I discovered plans for a new Walmart Neighborhood Market and Aldi at this same intersection. Walmart is planning to built a new Neighborhood Market and accompanying shopping center on one of the last large, undeveloped commercial lots in St. Lucie West (although a Walmart Supercenter is just a little over a mile west of here). The Treasure Coast's first Aldi will be built on an out parcel of that Home Depot. Both stores plan to open in late 2014/early 2015. I find it interesting that neither of these stores seemed to show interest in the empty Albertsons building. Walmart Neighborhood Market has been taking over many former Albertsons recently, and Aldi has taken over half of many former Albertsons, like we saw in Palm Bay. Maybe the Albertsons was still open when these stores were shopping for locations in the area. Or maybe Albertsons, since they still hold the lease, wouldn't let these grocery stores take over their space, although I don't see why Albertsons would care if another grocery store took over their old store. They completely left the area. Does Albertsons want to reopen the once mighty St. Lucie West Albertsons? Probably not, but my hopes for an Albertsons Florida revival won't be completely crushed until those final four stores meet their end. 

     UPDATE 6/25/2014: Apparently, Walmart's plans for a neighborhood market at this intersection were rejected by the PSL city council back in May. However, it seems like they're going back to the drawing board to try to win over the city council once again. A commentor left a link to an article about this in the comments section of this post. If Walmart's plans don't get approved once again, they were hinting at taking over this Albertsons for their Neighborhood Market, although there are no definite plans for that at this time. Check out the article for more info.

     Bing Maps didn't have any Bird's Eye imagery available for this area, so we'll just jump right to the historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth:

Albertsons #4466 - 2012 - This image must have been taken earlier in the year before this store closed. The former Albertsons Express is at the top of the image.

Albertsons #4466 - 2004

Still under construction here - Future Albertsons #4466 - 1999

And a whole lot of nothing, back when that described most of St. Lucie West -  Future Albertsons #4466 - 1994

     And I thought I'd finish this post with a few of my mementos that I collected from the St. Lucie West Albertsons:

     Albertsons Pharmacy giveaway magnet (they had a whole basket of these in the store at one time), a staple on my refrigerator. Now that I think about it, this store's pharmacy was never given the usual SavOn signage. It was always just called "Albertsons Pharmacy". 

    I also found a receipt from this store after digging through some old papers.

     I actually paid this store a visit during it's closing sale. I've been to many store closing sales over the years, but this one stood out to me more than anything. I took these price tags off of some empty shelves I walked by. They're stamped with the store number 4466 on the top if you look closely. One of my two biggest Albertsons regrets was not taking photos of this store during that day I was at the closing sale. However, I didn't think of taking photos of these Albertsons, compiling the store list and starting this blog until a few weeks after all of these stores closed.  

     One final look at the exterior of abandoned Albertsons #4466, with a view of the large empty parking lot for effect.

     And a better zoomed in view of the exterior. 

     And as the sun now sets on the former St. Lucie West Albertsons, we will conclude this post with the blacked out road sign at the Cashmere Boulevard entrance to the plaza. No matter what the future may hold for the former mighty St. Lucie West Albertsons, it's legacy will forever live on here on the Albertsons Florida Blog, as with many others to come.  

So Until Next Time,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Summer Schedule

     Hello everyone!

     Now that the Memorial Day Weekend has passed, it's now the unofficial start of the summer season! I figured now would be a good time for me to announce the Albertsons Florida Blog summertime posting schedule for everyone. The next few months are going to be relatively slow here due to personal matters. I have only one post per month scheduled through August, and my normal twice a week Flickr uploads will be on hold until August beginning June 10th. All new posts on The Albertsons Florida Blog will go up on the first Saturday of each month. This month's post will be an extensive tour of another former Florida Albertsons, and it's one that I've actually gotten a few requests for. It's a post you don't want to miss! July and August will feature two shorter Albertsons posts to hold us over through the summer. I hope to have everything back up and running at a normal pace in August.

     Anyway, I hope everyone has a happy and safe summer, and hope to see you here for our new posts on June 7th, July 5th, and August 2nd! 

Until then,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger