Albertsons #3304 (Formerly #4304 - more on that later)
503 E. Altamonte Dr., Altamonte Springs, FL - Palm Springs Center
NOTE: I pre-wrote this post before any of the Albertsons Florida is or is not becoming Safeway thing came to light. Pending further information and/or investigation, the original text of this post will remain, and there is no mention of any change into Safeway beyond this note in this post. Now that I have addressed that issue, on with today's regularly scheduled post:
Lying in the shadows of the Altamonte Mall, tucked into the back of a shady tree filled parking lot in the sprawling northern suburbs of Orlando, resides a place that is now as rare as the Florida panther roaming freely in the wild. A relic of an empire long gone yet still managing to survive among the numerous predators stalking it in the retail jungle it calls home. That, my friends, is the Altamonte Springs Albertsons. Yes, an Albertsons building that is not occupied by a Publix, Walmart Neighborhood Market, Aldi, Ross Dress For Less, elementary school, church, or telemarketing call center, but Albertsons itself. In the flesh (well, stucco). A retail relic of a bygone era, and attempt to find their niche, a reminder of the once competitive Florida supermarket industry, a now polarized field where Publix reigns, and all the others bow down to them or bail out. A reminder of what was, and what it can be again.
Wow, I sure call that a pretty powerful introduction to the Altamonte Springs Albertsons. Fluffy elevated language and metaphors aside, the Altamonte Springs Albertsons continues on its journey 41 years later, in an era where this store has the title of being one of only three Albertsons stores left operating in Florida, a slim remainder of a chain that once had over 100 stores in the state a little over a decade ago. And now that the Clearwater Albertsons (#4301) has joined the likes of the other 166 Albertsons stores that have ever operated in Florida at some time in the past, Altamonte Springs now has the title of being the oldest remaining Albertsons store in the state, opening in late 1974, only about month or two after the Clearwater Albertsons opened as Florida's first Albertsons.
The Altamonte Springs Albertsons is a fairly original Skagg's model Albertsons. This store did receive a remodel in the late 90's where the exterior was updated and the old river rock walls were stuccoed over. The interior was also remodeled, presumably from the very dated by then 70's Stripes interior to the Blue and Green Awnings interior, which this store retained until September 2015, when this store began its long overdue and pretty unexpected remodel to Albertsons current interior, something all three of the remaining Albertsons stores in Florida began in late 2015. When I made my visit here, all of the department signs and wall decor had been taken down in preparation for the installation of the new decor, which I'm curious to see, along with how extensive this remodel is going to be in the end. I visited here early on in the remodel process, so I can't say for sure how involved the remodel will be, but from the looks of it, it seems to be mostly a decor swap with some new fixtures replacing some older ones.
So nice seeing Albertsons up there for a change.
The right side of the building. The old Skagg's model detailing still visible, although modernized.
Looking toward the left side of the building and the liquor store.
Ready to head inside to see a live Florida Albertsons? This is the left side entrance that enters into the pharmacy area, but let's go in from the right side doors into the grocery departments:
For the first time in three years, I step inside a live Albertsons.This is looking toward the right side entry doors from the interior. However, due to the remodel, there was absolutely no decor in this place whatsoever, except for the aisle markers and some category markers in Frozen Foods. It was really throwing me off, and it made the store feel really, really bland. I really hope these remodels will pay off for Albertsons in the end. You can see some of the barren walls in this picture, and will see much more of them before the end of this post. Let's head deeper into this store.
Like in a typical Skaggs Model Albertsons, the deli is in the front right corner of the store. This was the Grab n' Go case in front of the deli with some chilled pre-made foods in it.
Along the front wall before turning the corner into the deli is the Albertsons Specialty Cheese counter. Not quite as fancy as the cheese counters in Publix's new stores (which come complete with an attendant), but the selection was comparable to what most Publix stores offer.The specialty cheese sign also looks to be fairly new. The main deli counter is to my left from here.
Stepping a but further back from where I took that last photo, creating an overview of the front left corner of the store. From this view you can see how horribly bland the walls look with all the decor taken down. I want to revisit this store after the remodel is complete to see what they did and what the new decor looks like. I'd like to come back here and be impressed with something that looks like this, but I'd settle for this even (just imagine Albertsons logos where it says Acme in those pictures. I'm pretty sure Albertsons' new decor uses the same basic style as Acme's).
Moving down the right side wall is the bakery, located next to the left of the deli, with produce in the background. I've always liked Albertsons bakery. Their bakery and their meat department are two of the things I miss the most about them. Everyone always raves about Publix's bakery, and they do make good stuff, but it's very pricey for a lot of things. Albertsons bakery usually had better prices and the quality was just as good. I always liked their breads and bagels, and there's nothing like a bag of Albertsons bakery chocolate chip cookies. Nothing.
Now that I've rambled on about the bakery, it's time to head into the back right corner of the store and into the produce department. This photos was also taken looking toward the front of the store.
Looking into produce from the edge of the bakery and deli.
As a lot of you may already know, Albertsons/Safeway (although it may have originated from Safeway pre-merger) recently rolled out their "It's just better" campaign earlier in 2015. Even these lonely Florida stores got signage from that campaign, like this one, and elsewhere throughout the store. Let's hope this seemingly reborn interest in the Florida stores turn into something better, because things have looked pretty bad for Albertsons Florida for over a decade now.
One last look at produce before moving on...
The grocery aisles have this center aisle that runs the entire length of the store. Let's start heading over that way...
Starting into the first of the grocery aisles with aisle 2. The merchandise presentation was very nice and neat at this store.
An example of an "It's just better" shelf sign.
The famous Albertsons Meats and Seafood counter. Albertsons' claim to fame in Florida was this department. I've heard many people in Florida say Albertsons was the best place for meats and seafood. Even people who weren't very big Albertsons shoppers would still go there just for their meats, and I've seen some crazy crowds build at these counters before (something I've never seen at Publix or Winn-Dixie). I was here early on a Tuesday morning, and there were already two people in line at the meats counter waiting as I took this picture.
Heading back up aisle 3. Here's one of the Blue and Green Awnings aisle markers for you, the last decor remnants left in this store. Here's a few more grocery aisles:
Frozen foods in the center of the store. Like I mentioned earlier, the category makers still remain as well here.
This photo didn't come out as clearly as I had hoped, but I was trying to get a shot of the original Albertsons wood paneling behind the meat cases. Albertsons has always loved using wood paneling in their stores. They even used it in their stores built into the early 2000's, even though most would have considered it to be out of style by that point.
Another "It's Just Better" sign, advertising Albertsons new push to offer better sales.
Drinks in aisle 8.
Close-up of one of the aisle markers. One thing I noticed on a lot of these were those index cards hanging from the bottom panel, like on this one. It's hard to read in the picture, but there were names written on these cards. There were quite a few that said "Mike", and I also remember ones that said "Joey" and "Eric" on them. I wonder of those were employees claiming them as souvenirs for when they're taken down. I would have liked one myself if that was the case, but I don't know when I would ever be out this way again to pick it up.
Looking down the back wall toward the left corner of the store. If you think that looks like a lot of panels hanging from those aisle markers, that's noting compared to this one.
Heading back into the grocery aisles, more so the general merchandise part of the store. They had a rather large amount of gardening supplies here. One thing Albertsons was famous for back in the 70's was offering more general merchandise selection in their stores than other grocery competitors, such as large selections of gardening, automotive and clothing items among other general merchandise offerings. It really made them stand out and that varied merchandise mix is considered to be one of the reasons Albertsons became successful in Florida back in the 70's and 80's. As time went on, Albertsons began to cut back on their general merchandise offerings in order to focus more on groceries, and that's what began to hurt them. They turned into just another ordinary supermarket chain.
Which one of these things doesn't go with the others?
Here's another example of the index card attached to the aisle sign. If my theory is correct, I never would have thought of these as popular souvenirs. Either that, or those are the people whose job it is to clean and straighten these aisles at the end of the day...
Stockroom door in the back. You can actually see the wood paneling much better in this photo.
Interesting combination of products in this aisle. I think some people claim that wine can be used as an analgesic though...
Due to the location of the pharmacy, the last two aisles in this store, numbers 14 and 15, are shorter than the rest.
This is about as much of a decor overload as we're going to get at this store, for the moment anyway.
Looking down the blank back wall at what we just covered.
Heading back up front. The pharmacy is located to the left in this picture. Originally in these Skaggs model stores, the pharmacy would have been located in the back of the store. The pharmacy was most likely moved to this spot during the 90's remodel. The pharmacy here goes under the Sav-On branding, which you probably saw from the exterior signage. Since all the decor was gone, there was no mention of the Sav-On name inside. With the Florida Albertsons it was pretty hit or miss whether a store's pharmacy got the Sav-On branding or just generic "Albertsons Pharmacy" branding, although I believe the Sav-On branding was slightly more common.
This empty space was located to the left of the pharmacy in the front left corner of the store. My guess was that this was the old video/video rental department, as this area was added into the space where the former side entrance was located during the 90's remodel. The side entrance was closed in to allow for the expansion of the liquor store.
The Pharmacy/Health and Beauty aisles.
Looking down the front end of the store from the pharmacy.
I found it strange that they put the grocery clearance rack right up at the front of the store. Usually supermarket psychology says to put the clearance merchandise rack/table all the way in the back of the store (sometimes in an almost hidden spot) so you have to walk through all the full priced merchandise to get to it.
"Live Healthy. Be You." is Albertsons' pharmacy's latest tagline, complete with a big tri-sided sign mentioning it over the pharmacy department.
That was fun seeing a live Albertsons for a change. I wish the interior was a little more exciting than it turned out to be, but it works for now. Time to head back outside...
The liquor store, located in the front left corner of the store. Originally the liquor store would have been tucked into the left side of the building next to the side entrance. Like I mentioned before, when this store was remodeled in the 90's, the liquor store was expanded and it's entrance was moved to the front of the building, which meant the elimination of the side entrance.
As for the store brand items here, I know I'm a little late than others at showing pictures of the changeover, but here's my look at things.
As you've probably seen or heard, Essential Everyday is on its way out. The clearance rack featured a shopping cart full of Essential Everyday brand chips.
And in it's place comes Safeway's brands, which are currently in the process of switching over from Safeway Kitchens/Select/Care/etc. to Signature Kitchens/Select/Care/etc. Here's an example of some of the older Safeway Kitchens brand items that have found their way onto the shelves of the Altamonte Springs Albertsons. From what I've heard, these items are being brought to Florida's three lonely Albertsons from a Safeway distribution center located in Texas, which was originally used to supply the Randall's chain.
Safeway items with Essentail Everyday. Get out of the way, Essential Everyday!
And finally an example of what is going to become Albertsons/Safeway's new, unique store brand, Signature Kitchens. Safeway designed packaging with Albertsons' leaf thrown into the logo. It's so nice to see Albertsons carrying a brand unique to their company once again.
Safeway's other brands are joining the fun at Albertsons as well, like their soda brand Refreshe, which gave Super Chill the boot. It's still not A+ Cola though.
And the loaves of French Bread still show the Albertsons Market logo. Albertsons Market was what Cerberus rebranded all of their remaining Albertsons stores to in late 2012 as a way to differentiate their stores from the SuperValu owned Albertsons stores. However, the Albertsons Market branding was mostly retired shortly after in 2013 when the company was reunited once again, however the Albertsons stores in West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico, which are controlled by Albertsons' United division, continue to use the Albertsons Market branding for some reason, even though all the stores are a part of the same company again. Other than the logo changing from the old script style Albertsons packaging logo to the one seen on here, the bread bags have looked just like this for as long as I've ever shopped at Albertsons.
But there's nothing like seeing the good old Albertsons logo on something. The chocolate chip cookie bags are the last piece of packaging to still carry the Albertsons name.
Also, another discovery I made while I was here, which you saw at the beginning of the post, was that the store number changed from the original 4304 to 3304. The picture below was the first I noticed of the change.
This was an employee's cart that they were using to hang price tags. When I saw the 3304 on this paper, I though it was just a typo that they were too lazy to fix, but some other evidence proved me otherwise:
3304 appeared on the bakery packaging...
And 3304 on the reciept as well. And that survey they mention...
...3304 as well.
My assumption for the change was that this was done to avoid duplicating numbers with existing Safeway stores. This was the only Florida store effected as you can see in the above picture. However some regions (like Texas) had many more changes than this, however the changes usually involved bumping the first digit up or down one or two, or dropping one or both of the first two digits. The new Acme stores opening in the former A&Ps don't even follow a clear numbering pattern, and don't fit in at all with Acme's old 7700-7999 bracket.
The circular still refers to this store as 4304, and that's what I'll more than likely be using on the blog to refer to this store by. However, compare this list of stores to the list on a circular I saved from 2012.
And if you're really interested, this is the rest of the circular.
The bags at this store, however, are still stuck in 2012. This was one of the bags I got from the Altamonte Albertsons, featuring the "It means a great deal" slogan that was retired 3 years ago.
And as I begin to wrap up this post, here a picture of the road sign. Kind of interesting seeing the Albertsons logo in red.
And now for some aerials as we wrap this up, beginning with some Bird's Eye Views courtesy of Bing Maps:
And some historic aerials courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Albertsons #4304/#3304 - 2015 - This place still draws a decent crowd, even with a Publix right across the street.
Albertsons #4304/#3304 - 2005
Albertsons #4304/#3304 - 1999
Albertsons #4304/#3304 - 1994 - It's hard to see, but this is the original building from before the late 90's renovations began
Albertsons #4304/#3304 - 1980 - The two parts of the shopping center weren't joined together yet.
Future Albertsons #4304/#3304 - 1969 - There was nothing in this area at the time except for some citrus groves and a few houses. The Albertsons, next door Altamonte Mall, and next door Florida Hospital were still a few years away. It was the construction of the mall in the early 70's that turned this area into a retail hub.
To conclude this post, I'll leave everyone with my favorite photo that I took of this store. A supermarket relic and an automotive relic, what I believe is a 70's Chevy Malibu (I'm not a car expert, so I could be wrong about that). The Albertsons also dates from the same time as the car. I'll leave it to you readers debate which is in better shape: the store or the car.
Also, an interesting article about this store was published back in July 2012 in the Orlando Sentinel about Albertsons' current situation and why they chose to keep it as one of the final four stores. If you feel like it, you can read the article by clicking here.
I hope everyone enjoyed our look at one of the last three Albertsons stores in Florida. It'll be interesting to see what the future holds for this store and the other two Albertsons Florida stores. Albertsons, you don't make any sense sometimes. Anyway, like how the Florida panther tries to regrow its numbers after being nearly brought to extinction over the years, maybe Albertsons Florida will look to the panthers, and try to do the same.
And on that note, I'll spare you from any more metaphors.
Until the next time,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger