Friday, February 13, 2015

The Winn-Dixie of the Future - Minton & Malabar - Palm Bay, FL

Winn-Dixie #2230
190 Malabar Road SW, Palm Bay, FL 
Palm Bay West Shopping Center

UPDATE 3/2/2015: Apparently, the Winn-Dixie of the Future is now the Winn-Dixie of the Past, interior-wise anyway. I recently found out Winn-Dixie just rolled out a new interior decor in the last few months that replaced the one that will be featured later in this post (which I thought was still the current interior when I originally wrote this post). Click here to see an example of the new interior at a Winn-Dixie in Heathrow, FL that just held its grand reopening last month. The new interior features an all lime green and dark green look, doing away with the original transformational interior's many colors. It also features the names of the departments on letters mounted to the wall instead of preprinted signs, and the word 'freshly' is used much more sparingly. If you read through the rest of the post, what I just said will make much more sense if you're confused or have no idea what I'm talking about. Anyway, back to the original post...
     Time for something a little bit different this month. I figured with all of the recent Kroger/Winn-Dixie hype, which now looks as if it won't be going anywhere, it was about time that I rolled out the newest feature of The Albertsons Florida Blog - Bonus Buy Stores. Bonus Buy Stores (named after Albertsons' old sale slogan) will be featured here periodically, and will showcase supermarkets other than Albertsons/former Albertsons that are either unique, interesting, historic, or significant in some way to the Florida supermarket industry. I figured this store would be a good pick as a Bonus Buy Store since its one of the only 25 or so transformational Winn-Dixie stores in existence right now, out of the roughly 500 Winn-Dixie stores currently in operation. Trust me, this place is nothing like those stereotypical Winn-Dixie stores that are old, small, dirty, and have a funny smell; stores that plagued Winn-Dixie's with image issues in the 90's and early 2000's, and still fill people's minds to this day. Winn-Dixie does have some potential, but their problem is that they don't have the power and money that companies like Kroger and Publix have to remodel and replace their stores on a constant basis anymore. That's why ever since this transformational Winn-Dixie remodeling program was introduced back in 2010, so few stores have gotten it. It's really a shame, honestly, because if Winn-Dixie could make all of their stores like this one, they may be able to stand a fighting chance. I guess only time will tell what will happen to Winn-Dixie, who will be turning 90 years old this year.  

    For those of you who have visited our Store Models and Interiors page, I referred to this model of Winn-Dixie as the Farmer's Market Model due to the unique entryway setup the ground up stores of this type get. At a typical Farmer's Market Winn-Dixie, the entryway is set up like a roadside farmer's market, with bins of produce set outside the curved entry overhang, leading you into the main part store through a large open entrance, sometimes without any doors (see here for an example of what I mean by that). However, Winn-Dixies that were remodeled to this look (like this one) don't get the deluxe entryway treatment like their ground up built counterparts, instead featuring a similar yet smaller rounded entryway with a cart storage area underneath and non-existent or very limited produce displays, more in the style of a typical supermarket. As far as ground-up built Winn-Dixies of this style go, I can only think of 3 of them off the top of my head, all in Louisiana, although they're may be one or two more floating around out there that I'm forgetting. I do know that none of this style have been built from the ground up in Florida - at least yet anyway. A new ground-up Winn-Dixie was supposed to be built in Islamorada in 2012, but it seems those plans fell apart.   

      As far as the history of this particular store goes, it first opened in 1989 as a pretty tiny 80's awning style Winn-Dixie store in a shopping center co-anchored with Kmart, Walgreens, and a movie theater that's changed hands too many times for me to confirm who the original tenant was (Nova Cinemas was the oldest listing I found) (UPDATE 4/16/15 - I believe the movie theater was originally Cobb Cinema Palm Bay 10 after looking through some old newspapers I recently acquired, one of three Cobb Cinema locations in South Brevard at the time). This Winn-Dixie received its first expansion in the late 90's into a very large Marketplace style store, which included an addition onto the right side of the store. Currently, Winn-Dixie is the only original anchor tenant left in this shopping center today. Kmart closed their store in this plaza in their 2002 post-bankruptcy wave of closings, Walgreens (now the Dollar Tree in the above photo), moved to a new store across the street in 2005, and the movie theater has recently become Palm Cinema, a budget cinema that plays previously run movies at a discount. In 2011, Winn-Dixie decided this store was to be one of the first to be remodeled into their latest prototype, thus beginning an approx. 6 month intensive remodel of a tired old store into the chain's 9th transformational store, celebrating their grand reopening on March 8, 2012. 

     I do have to say, I am a fan of the rounded mirrored glass look over the entryway. It looks really nice in person, and even better on the stores with the full treatment.

     Close-up of the entryway. Sorry about the glare on this one. The sun was beginning to set during my visit here and created a bit of a glare on some of my exterior photos. There was quite the healthy crowd at this store. There was a steady stream of people going in and most of the checkouts were open, with lines. For this store to have gotten this remodel in the first place must mean it does some healthy business, and considering this is actually this store's second major remodel in its 25 years in operation, this store must really be a money maker, especially since there are still many Winn-Dixie stores out there that haven't been touched in 25 years. The next closest supermarkets to this store are a Walmart Supercenter about 2 miles to the east of here, with a Publix located in the next plaza over from the Walmart. The plaza this Winn-Dixie is located in is pretty isolated out in the middle of Palm Bay, surrounded by pretty much nothing but houses and a few small businesses in all directions around it. Most of the retail in Palm Bay is clustered in the northeastern part of town, which which accounts for less than 25% of Palm Bay's massive 69 square mile size. This really is a community supermarket for those who live in the rest of Palm Bay.  

     Under the mirrored glass canopy. The set-up here isn't quite as exciting as that of a ground up built store, and is fairly empty, with no displays spilling outside from the produce department. There is cart storage directly behind me, but that's about it here.

     Turning the other way in the entryway, where you can see the cart storage I just mentioned. Finally, it's time to go through those doors to see the transformational interior...

     And a large sign for prepared foods greets you as you take your first steps inside, front and center. One of the main focuses for transformational Winn-Dixie stores is fresh and prepared foods, which we'll take a much closer look at below since its such a major part of this store, and Winn-Dixie wants it to be a major part of their future.

     Turning around and looking back toward the front entrance. That's the BBQ Bar in front of that bin full of rolls. 

     Stepping over to the right after you first walk in leads you into the produce department. The Prepared Foods, Deli, and Bakery departments are all located in an island to the left of the produce department, just a little out of sight from the left edge of this photo. Floral is directly behind me in the front right corner of the store...

     Getting back to Produce...

     Also, due to the lighting in this store, most of my photos of the department signage came out with a glare from the spotlights shining on the signs. This is the sign in the Produce department. Instead of just labeling the departments as "Produce" or "Bakery", Winn-Dixie uses the terminology "Freshly (verb relating to the department)" on all of their signage (like "Freshly Farmed" above, and "Freshly Grown" on the Floral sign). They're really trying push the fresh thing with these stores. Seriously, the word "freshly" was on just about every sign in this place! 

     Looking from the back of the Produce department toward the front of the store and Floral.

     Spotted these old W-D wet floor signs over in Produce, probably the only artifact left over from this store's Marketplace days. There wasn't a trace of anything left over from this store's previous interior, not even the old ceiling or floor were kept!   

     Continuing on, now we'll take a look at what this store is all about - the fresh offerings. The Prepared Food section occupies the front part of the island above, followed by the deli to its right. Winn-Dixie is really trying to push the fresh foods as a way to rival Publix. Honestly, this store's offerings of fresh and prepared foods really topped most Publix stores in size and selection, although I know the new Publix stores opened in the last two years or so are getting a much larger spread of fresh offerings compared to some of their older stores. 

     A closer up view of the Prepared Foods prep area. Under the "Freshly Carved" sign was a carving station and sub station, and in front of that Coke display is the Salad Bar. There were a lot of people in here picking up prepared food (including a certain supermarket blogger who got tempted into a few things as well). There was an entire team back there as well continually cranking out more food to put out the entire time I was here, probably getting ready for the dinner rush at the time. 

     The Deli, aka "Freshly Prepared". Personally, I think this sign and the "Freshly Carved" sign should have been switched to more accurately describe the two departments. 

     And the "Freshly Baked" Bakery just to the right of the Deli on the center island. 

     Now that we saw all of the fresh departments, here's a quick sampling of some of the fresh foods that were offered. Like I mentioned earlier, I was impressed at the selection they had here. At most other Winn-Dixies, fresh foods are limited to a some fried chicken, a few prepackaged items, and a rotisserie chicken warmer with a few containers of whatever the deli felt like making that day thrown in with the chickens.   

     Let's first start off with the BBQ Bar:

     The Salad Bar...

     The Sub Station (slightly smaller offerings compared to Publix's famous Deli subs, but still nice for Winn-Dixie to offer it here)...

    The Carving Station (complete with Prime Rib too). This and the BBQ Bar were the two most popular things here during my visit...

     More Salads...

    Moving over to the bakery...

     The bakery cases here were set up just like Publix's, showcasing all the fancy cakes and pastries like an upscale gourmet bakery. I don't think I've ever seen a Winn-Dixie with this many gourmet cake options, with a selection similar to Publix's expansive (and pricey) Decadent Desserts line. The Winn-Dixie I usually go to has an extremely tiny bakery that's limited to one case and a few tables of sheet cakes and cookies.

     These cupcakes conclude our sampling of Winn-Dixie's new and expanded fresh offerings. The reason I've spent so much time detailing these fresh foods departments is because these are what Winn-Dixie wants to focus much of their future (and what limited money they have) on. Winn-Dixie believes that if they want to make it out there with the likes of Publix and Whole Foods, expanded fresh foods are the way to go with these new store remodels. By my observations at this one store alone, it seems like Winn-Dixie is making the right choice from that standpoint. What do you think, is Winn-Dixie doing the right thing? Though their future is still a bit shaky at the moment, especially on the verge of a possible Kroger Florida invasion (by natural expansion), do you think Winn-Dixie can pull themselves together over the next few years? Some things to ponder while we view the rest of the store. 

     The Beer and Wine (and shockingly not the "Freshly Brewed", "Freshly Aged", or "Freshly Fermented" department) resides in the back right corner of the store.

     Another one of the big things from the grand reopening article (which you can read here) was this store's expanded wine selection from the US and around the globe, as you can see here, complete with globally themed knickknacks on the shelves above.

     As we begin to head into the grocery aisles, here's a store directory I found to give everyone a general layout of the store. Maybe it'll be helpful, maybe not, but I thought I should include it anyway. 

     The Seafood aka "Freshly Caught" department is located around the corner from the Bakery/Produce/Fresh Departments along the back wall of the store. 

     Going down Aisle 1, home to chips and soda. The Fresh Departments are located behind that wall to the left side of the photo.

     The updated tri-sided aisle signs. 

     Looking toward the back of the store from Aisle 4. 

     Turning left from Aisle 4, looking down the back wall. The Meat Department runs along the back wall from Seafood to Dairy, which runs along the left side wall.

     Aisle 6.

     My one complaint about this remodel were the concrete floors. I know exposed concrete floors are the new thing right now, and when made to be a smooth, finished floor in newly built stores I don't mind them so much. However, since this was a remodel from a store with tiled floors, there were all kinds of cracks and patches in the floor (you can see an example of what I mean in the photo above if you look closely at the floor) that just looked really bad to me, which were most likely thought would always be covered by tile. That's something that wouldn't bother most people other than myself, but I thought it really threw off the classy effect from the store. 

     Looking into the back left corner from Meats. 

     The thing I find interesting is that the only updated signage given to most older Winn-Dixie stores is in the Lunch Meats section (see here and here for examples). The signs used in the older stores are a shrunken down version of the one you see above. 

     Moving into Frozen Foods now. The Frozen Foods section is located along the left side of the store, and takes up an aisle and a half, plus an alcove in the front corner for ice cream. Winn-Dixie has always put the Frozen Foods section in an aisle down the center of the store for many, many years, going back to their 70's stores. This new look is brings about the first time this department has made a major move in 40 years! Even the stores remodeled right after the bankruptcy kept their frozen food sections in the center of the store. 

     Looking into the ice cream alcove. This alcove was the original home to the Bakery back in this store's Marketplace days. 

     The last aisle. Strangely, none of the Frozen Foods aisles were numbered, although this is technically Aisle 14. Although this store only tops out at 14 aisles, the place is pretty big. The Fresh Foods area takes up a big chunk of space, and the aisles were much wider than normal, although the pictures don't really show it well. Dairy runs along the left wall, with the remainder of Frozen Foods on the opposite side of the aisle.

     Although I didn't get a picture of it, the Dairy department wall signs just repeated the "Freshly Farmed" saying from Produce, which you can see on that banner above with the picture of eggs on it. I guess things like "Freshly Homogenized"  and "Freshly Pasteurized" wouldn't have resonated well with shoppers (although neither is a bad thing!). 

     Heading back toward the checkouts is the Pharmacy, which is located along the front wall next to the exit and the registers. A few small aisles of over the counter medicines were to the left of this photo, but ended up getting chopped off. The pharmacy is the only department that never moved from its original location during the remodel. Other than being totally redone, it's in the same spot, although it expanded into the space where the customer service desk was originally located.  

     And a few perspectives across the front end:

     The customer service desk. This is located to the left after you first walk in. 

     This Winn-Dixie painting was done by some local elementary school students, and was hanging on the wall next to the customer service desk. Even they had to include the word 'fresh' on this! 

     Heading out through the bustling front end...

     Next to the exit and in front of the registers was this little seating area. It was called the "Community Connection" (or something like that, I can't remember exactly, but I know it wasn't "Freshly Connected"!). They had free Wi-Fi and free coffee here. This photo really doesn't capture anything exciting about this little area. I wanted to take this photo pointing in the other direction where you could see the windows and the coffee machine (and not a wall and a cart full of garbage), but there was a group of people sitting and talking at one of the tables over that way, giving me looks, so I guess this will have to do. In this store's original form (before the Marketplace remodel), this area was the original entry vestibule.    

     And back outside we go...

     Looking down the front of the store toward the entrance. 

     The exit. The current exit area is where the Marketplace era entryway was located.

     As a part of the remodel, this fancy sign was installed along Malabar Road, complete with a digital screen. 

     And the much plainer roadside sign at the Minton Road entrance. The large blank spot on both signs used to be for the Bealls Department Store that took over three quarters of the former Kmart (the other quarter is home to Ace Hardware). The Bealls closed around 2013 or so, supposedly due to the landlord raising their rent due to Winn-Dixie's remodel...

     Aerial Time:

     Bird's Eye Views (Courtesy of Bing Maps):

     Front View - Bing Maps still shows this store in its late 90's-2011 form. The wall that sticks out under the Winn-Dixie sign in the aerial is where the row of windows in the cafe is currently.

Back View - The loading dock that looks like a square with a notch taken out of the bottom left corner looks just like an Albertsons loading dock set-up.

Google Street View Extra:

     Typically I don't bother posting Google Street View images, but this store was an exception. Google happened to capture some very clear images of this store in June 2011, not long before the massive transformational remodel began, giving us a clear picture of what this store used to look like: 

     You wouldn't even think this was the same store only 4 years ago!

     If you zoom in on the photo above you can see some of the old Marketplace decor and the Maroon and Purple checkout lights through the front doors. Winn-Dixie left absolutely nothing original here. It would have been really interesting to watch this store getting remodeled in person.

Historic Aerials (Courtesy of Google Earth):

This is an overview of the entire Palm Bay West Shopping Center. The Winn-Dixie is the large building in the left part of the shopping center, the former Kmart (later Bealls and Ace Hardware), is the large building at the bottom right of the plaza, and the movie theater is the building in the corner between the two pieces of the shopping center.

2014 - Closeup of Winn-Dixie after the Transformational/Farmer's Market remodel.

2006 - This Winn-Dixie in its Marketplace form. That slightly darker area just below the former Walgreens (the smaller store above the Winn-Dixie) was added on in the late 90's during the Marketplace remodel.

1994 - Winn-Dixie in its original form. A section of smaller stores was torn down for Winn-Dixie's later expansion. From this aerial, it looks like this was a 70's/80's style awning store, although the property records say this store opened in 1989, after that model was supposedly retired in favor of the 1st Generation Marketplace style stores. 

      Well, this post turned out much longer than I expected, but my goal was to take a really close look at a trnasformational Winn-Dixie store, which I've wanted to do for a while. Anyway, what do you think of this store? Do you think Winn-Dixie has the right idea? I was impressed with this store in terms of selection and design. The word "fresh" (or more specifically here, "freshly") was used to death, but that also seems to be another one of the current supermarket trends. It'll be interesting to see what Winn-Dixie will do if Kroger does begin to enter Florida, if they'll try to shape up or sell out. Either way, this store is The Real Deal (I had to slip that in somehow), and the atmosphere was nothing like any Winn-Dixie I've ever been to before, and I mean that in a good way. Happy 90th Winn-Dixie, and let's see what the future has in store for you, be it more stores like this, or on the flip side of things, possibly a Kroger logo slapped up on that mirrored glass.  

Until Next Time,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger