Sunday, September 20, 2015

UPDATE - Former Albertsons #4466 - Port St. Lucie, FL

Albertsons #4466/Future Walmart Neighborhood Market #7299
900 SW St. Lucie West Boulevard, Port St. Lucie, FL
Cashmere Corners

     For this post we return to the mighty (torn apart) St. Lucie West Albertsons. As you can probably guess from the above photo, things have changed quite a bit here since this store's original feature on AFB back in June 2014 (to read the original St. Lucie West Albertsons post, click here). Back in June 2014, this store was still sitting empty for two years at that point, amid the announcement of a new Aldi and new Walmart Neighborhood Market to be built on opposite corners at this same intersection. The construction of the Aldi on an outparcel of the Home Depot on the other side of Cashmere Boulevard went as planned, and Aldi opened their first Treasure Coast store in that spot in February 2015. However, Walmart and their plans to build the Treasure Coast's first Neighborhood Market on the other side of St. Lucie West Boulevard on an empty 16 acre lot, along with an adjoining shopping center, didn't fare as well with the city of Port St. Lucie as Aldi's plans did. The city rejected Walmart's original plans after numerous complaints from nearby residents about traffic and quality of life issues that would have been created by building the new shopping center, and the city zoning board wasn't too thrilled with Walmart's plans for handling the increased traffic on St. Lucie West and Cashmere Boulevards. After factoring all of that in, Walmart had to go back to the drawing board. As Walmart tried to fix their plans, the owner of the land the new store was to be built on, Martin Health Systems, who owns a medical facility next to the planned Walmart site, began to have second thoughts about the new Walmart shopping center after the original plans were rejected. Late last year, Martin Health Systems announced that the 16 acre undeveloped lot the new Walmart Neighborhood Market was to be built on would instead become greenspace, meaning Walmart's plans for the new shopping center were officially canceled.  

     However, even after residents kept complaining about how this new Walmart Neighborhood Market was only a little over a mile from an existing Supercenter to the west, Walmart still wanted to put a Neighborhood Market in St. Lucie West even after their original plans were foiled. That's when Walmart began to gravitate toward the former Albertsons across the street from their original site. Walmart presented their plans for opening a new Neighborhood Market in the former Albertsons space to the city council, and the plan was approved in April 2015. Construction on the new store began in July 2015, with an expected completion and Grand Opening sometime in early 2016. I happened to stop by here in mid-August to see how the transition was coming along, and I was surprised by the amount of work Walmart was putting into the place. They were ripping the entire building apart! Walmart has opened two Neighborhood Markets in early 2000's Albertsons stores similar to this one (#4463 in Orlando and #4482 in Brandon), and it didn't look like they did anything to the exteriors on either of those stores (I can't speak for the interiors of those two stores yet, although I'm sure Walmart probably put some work into those).  

     If you look closely behind the fence, you can see where Walmart began ripping apart the right portion of the facade. Thankfully, this construction fence had an opening to allow for cars to pass by the front of the store, so I wasn't stuck all the way back here trying to get pictures of this place. We'll have some closeup photos of the construction coming up in a moment. 

     Looking over the construction fence that runs through the center part of the parking lot. In here is where the construction office is and where the construction workers park, along with material storage. 

     Heading around toward the front of the store...

     The left portion of the canopy still hasn't been touched, and if you look closely, you can see the faded circle from where the old Starbucks sign was. This store's Starbucks closed around 2009, before the rest of the store closed. 

     Now we can have a better view of the construction (or more so destruction) that's going on.

     According to the drawings of the new Walmart that I found on the city of Port St. Lucie's website, Walmart is going to be moving their main entrance closer to where Albertsons exit doors were located (under that chunk of exposed wood). Interestingly, Walmart's new exterior is supposed to look exactly like Albertsons' - including an almost exact replica of this archway they're tearing apart in these photos to be built over their new entrance, even to the extent of matching the original detailing and the little blue diamonds from Albertsons! It'll be an exact copy of an early 2000's Albertsons facade, but constructed by Walmart. You can see the drawing of the new exterior here by scrolling all the way down to the last page. I'll also be explaining the other changes you might see in those plans as we go along in this post. 

     If you ever wanted to know what the inside of an Albertsons canopy looked like, here's your answer. 

     Looking out into Albertsons parking lot from the front of the store, which is now the construction staging area. 

     Even with all this fencing blocking the front of the store, I was still able to get a few glimpses at what they're doing inside. Let's take a peek...

     The original main entrance into the former Albertsons, which looked like this before all the construction started. As you can see here and in the coming photos, the interior has been completely gutted to the shell and trusses. All the walls, flooring, lighting and even the HVAC system from Albertsons is gone. For fun, this is what the view through the front door looked like last year when the store was still sitting empty. 

     That small hole of sunlight flowing into the interior of the store is coming in through the emergency exit door that was located in the back of Albertsons' Frozen Foods department, near the dairy cases. 

     Looking to the left as one would have originally entered Albertsons. As you can kind of see in the darkness, there is a row of steel beams running from floor to ceiling from the front to the back of the store from just left of Albertsons' main entrance. According to the plans for the new Walmart, the new store is only going to occupy 43,880 sqft. of the former 55,922 sqft. Albertsons space. Those beams are the framework for a new wall that chop off the left side of the former Albertsons, where the prepared foods, deli, and produce sections were located, to be leased by someone else, while Walmart takes over the rest of the store.  

     Zooming in through the giant hole that's now in the front of the store to see the remains of the interior, and by that I mean there remains nothing of Albertsons' interior. If you look closely in the background though, there's a backhoe in here. It was running during the entire time of my visit. I could hear it backing up and making loud crashing sounds the entire time.

     See here for a similar view back when everything was still intact. This is looking down the front walkway toward the right side of the store.

     The exit door was on the right side of this picture, and a row of windows was on the left where all the drink bottles are.

     That little bit of light trickling in from the former Frozen Foods/Dairy emergency exit door gives us a another decent view of the current status of the interior. 

      This will be the approximate location of Walmart's new main entrance. 

     Looking back toward the left side of the store. Here's another similar comparison from a little over a year ago. 

     The cherry picker wasn't being used while I was here, but I assume earlier in the day there was someone up there ripping apart the facade. Most of the work being done while I was here seemed to be taking place in the far back interior of the building. 

     And here's another comparison photo from last year similar to the view in the above picture. 

    Walking down the front of the store from the construction fencing toward the former liquor store. Nothing has changed over this way...yet.

     The former Albertsons Liquor store, still sitting empty. You would think since this space is already approved to sell liquor, and since it would be attached to the new Walmart Neighborhood Market, that it would make perfect sense for Walmart to use this space as an attached liquor store, like many of their Neighborhood Markets have to begin with, right? Wrong. According to Walmart's plans, the former Albertsons liquor store here will be torn down in order for Walmart in install a drive thru pharmacy window on this side of the building, and a U-shaped access road to get to it. Only the liquor store space will be torn down for the drive thru. The main Albertsons building and the rest of the plaza to the right of here will remain intact. 

     While the liquor store hasn't changed since our last visit here, I figured a few more photos of it wouldn't hurt, especially since it's going to be town down soon, if not already by the time this post goes live.

     The last remnants of the Theme Park/Grocery Palace interior to be seen here. However, even though the Albertsons liquor store is going to be torn down for the pharmacy drive thru, Walmart still wants to have a liquor store at this location...

     And the Walmart liquor store will be located in the Food Mart of the former Albertsons Express gas station. It's a bit of a walk to get down here from the main store if you want your booze, but I guess Walmart really wanted that pharmacy drive thru. The gas pumps will remain and will be converted into a Walmart brand gas station according to the plans, and not MurphyUSA like Walmart usually uses for their gas stations around here. The new liquor store will act as a 'food mart' of sorts for the gas station, although in order for them to be able to sell the hard liquor, they can't offer much more than a rack of chips and a small soda cooler or so inside, not that Walmart gas stations really offer much of a food mart to begin with. Florida has some of the loosest laws regarding alcohol sales when compared to most states, but the one thing the state is very picky about how and where hard alcohol can be sold. The photo of the gas station above is the one from the original post. I didn't get a new picture of it during my return visit since there were two cops sitting in their cars between two of the pumps talking (I didn't want to draw attention to myself and have them start asking me questions), but nothing changed yet while I was there. 

     The road sign still features Albertsons' painted over logo.

     Back over to the main building, if you look really close, you can still make out the Albertsons labelscar. 

     While the construction crew works hard on stripping this building of everything Albertsons, the mighty St. Lucie West Albertsons will continue to live on here on AFB, well, at least in abandoned form in the original post. I'll finish off this post with a final, and probably the most striking comparison of this entire photo set. Compare the above photo to the one below: 

      At least I was able to get some pictures of this place before Walmart stripped it of everything from its previous life. But no matter what they do to you ol' 4466, I'll never be able to think of this place as anything else but Albertsons.  

Until the next time,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Largo Albertsons Makes the News

Photo Courtesy of Adam R.
     Thanks to Pseudo3D for sending in the link to this article. The Tampa Bay Times published an article yesterday about the Largo Albertsons. The article, which you can read here, talks about the economic mystery of why Albertsons has chosen to keep the three Florida stores, and remodel them even though they are not a major player in Florida's supermarket industry anymore. While that is mentioned, the main focus of the article is on the loyal shoppers who continue to patronize the last Albertsons in Tampa Bay, even after the majority of Albertsons' stores in Florida closed over the last decade. From the article, it seems as if there are still plenty of Albertsons fans out there. I like this one shopper's reasoning for why he prefers to shop at Albertsons over the other grocery stores in the area: "I come here because I don't like Publix taking over everything. And I love their cookies." (Those Albertsons chocolate chip cookies he was referring to from the bakery are pretty good). Even if the remaining Albertsons stores only do half the sales that a typical Publix would, those sales are enough to keep Albertsons alive in Florida, for the time being anyway. It's a pretty interesting article, and I recommend reading it if you have a chance. Also, one last thing to mention is the last line in the article: "Neither Proffitt [Albertsons's Houston Division spokeswoman] nor the company president would elaborate on why they are retaining the Florida stores." Hmmm...I don't know if it's just the way that's phrased, but it makes it seem like Albertsons does have some kind of secret motive for keeping the three Florida stores alive. I just wish I knew what it was.

     And before finishing this off, just another reminder there will be a new store post on the 20th.

So Until Next Time,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, September 6, 2015

It's Been Their Pleasure for 85 Years - Happy 85th Publix!

     On this day 85 years ago, George Jenkins opened the first Publix store opened at 58 4th St. SW in downtown Winter Haven, FL. George Jenkins was a man who held various odd jobs in his younger days before finding his place in the supermarket world. Before Publix, George Jenkins found himself working at various Piggly Wiggly stores in West and Central Florida as a manager in the late 20's. After many of the unfortunate events in Florida and the US in the late 20's (the Florida Real estate bubble of 1925, direct hits by two hurricanes, and the stock market crash of 1929), the owner of the Piggly Wiggly stores in Florida was forced to sell his stores to a new owner. After the new owner purchased the Florida stores, he decided he didn't want to make the trip to Florida to visit his new acquisitions. When George Jenkins heard this, he decided he should make a trip to the new owner's office in Atlanta to introduce himself and discuss what the future would hold for the Piggly Wiggly stores in Florida. When George Jenkins arrived in Atlanta, he arrived at the new owner's office and asked his secretary if he could speak with him. His secretary replied that the new owner was in an important business meeting at the moment. However, George Jenkins could overhear in the other room that the new owner was on the phone with someone, discussing his recent golf game. This absolutely enraged George Jenkins. He returned to Florida and decided to quit his job as manager of the Piggly Wiggly after the incident in Atlanta, and decided he would open his own grocery store right next door to the Winter Haven Piggly Wiggly he formerly worked at. Jenkin's new store, named Publix after an old movie theater chain on the brink of failure named Paramount-Publix (Jenkins once said he chose that name because he liked the sound of it), opened on September 6, 1930. Jenkins declared war on the neighboring Piggly Wiggly with various rival sales and one-upsmanships. After a year or so of battling, the Piggly Wiggly conceded and closed up shop, while Publix continued to prosper, relocating to a new state-of-the-art store in 1940, dubbed a "food palace" by George Jenkins. That new store would have looked just like the drawing on the bag in the photo above, called the "Art Deco" style Publix. Publix continued to open stores of this style into the 1950's all across Florida, until their famous wing stores made their debut later that decade. And Publix is still growing today. Publix currently has 1,103 stores in 6 states (Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and North Carolina), and supposedly Mississippi is somewhere on the horizon, although nothing official has been announced yet. Of Publix's 1,103 stores, 760 of them are located in Florida alone, where Publix enjoy's a nearly 50% market share and title of #1 supermarket chain, that is, after chasing off or nearly killing practically every other mid-range supermarket competitor in the state over the last two decades. Who would have thought that a supermarket founded out of spite and named after a dying movie theater could have turned into such a success? Publix has become a Florida icon, and they'll probably be around for another 85 years since they have yet to find rival who could really challenge them in their home state. 

Signs like this just appeared within the last week at Publix's stores. This is one of three different sayings featured on these signs. 
Anyway, more Albertsons coming on the 20th...

Until then,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger