Sunday, August 28, 2016

How Sweet(bay) it is to Shop at Winn-Dixie

Kash n' Karry #1792/Sweetbay Supermarket #1792/Winn-Dixie #2465
3250 US 27 South, Sebring, FL - Desoto Square

     Before starting this post, I'd like to thank everyone for coming to the blog and reading my posts. In the last week AFB hit the milestone of 100,000 pageviews! Thanks everyone, and I have lots more to share with you all!

     Anyway, as you may remember, back in early 2013 Delhaize sold off their Sweetbay Supermarkets division to Winn-Dixie's parent company Southeastern Grocers. In the later part of 2013, Southeastern Grocers made the announcement that all of the remaining Sweetbay stores they purchased would be converting to the Winn-Dixie name in early 2014. Southeastern shut down the remaining Sweetbay stores in large batches throughout March and April of 2014, and reopened each batch of stores six days later under the name Winn-Dixie. On April 18, 2014, the final batch of Sweetbay stores reopened under the Winn-Dixie name, ending Sweetbay's short 10 year run in Florida, and the much longer history of their predecessor, Kash n' Karry, which dated back to 1947.

     For a while I've wanted to feature one of these converted Sweetbay stores on the blog. Winn-Dixie did practically nothing to these stores after they took them over, and essentially the store is a Sweetbay filled with Winn-Dixie's merchandise. When Winn-Dixie took over the 72 remaining Sweetbay stores, they announced they would not change the decor or the location of any of the items in the store, or the employees, as to not isolate or anger any of the former Sweetbay shoppers who would be making the transition over to Winn-Dixie (and the last thing Winn-Dixie needed with this purchase was to chase more people over to Publix).

     As for the background on this particular store, it originally opened as a Kash n' Karry in 1985, and in 2001 an addition was built onto the right side of the building where some small storefornts once stood. This addition is now the home to the service departments. By the mid-2000's (somewhere around 2005 or 2006), Kash n' Karry switched the branding of this store to Sweetbay as a part of their chainwide switch to the new name, which also included a complete remodel of the interior to what you see today. This Sweetbay was included as a part of the batch of 35 stores that closed on March 29, 2014, and ropened as Winn-Dixies on April 4, 2014.

     So now that we have an understanding of what's going on here, let's head inside...

     Upon first entering the Sebring Sweet-Dixie, you enter the produce department. Like I mentioned before, just about all of the signage and decor in here is left over from Sweetbay. The Sweetbay interior you will be seeing in here was the same interior (other than some minor variation) Sweetbay used for their entire 10 year run. The decor (and really everything about Sweetbay) was supposed to be a Florida spin on Delhaize's Hannaford stores, which are located throughout New York and the New England states (and at one time in Virginia and North Carolina). Even Sweetbay's logo included that same little triangle of food that Hannaford's logo uses.

     Just beyond produce in the back right corner of the store is the deli and bakery. That graphic behind the deli sign is part of Sweetbay's/Hannaford's food triangle logo. Honestly, this store felt nothing like a Winn-Dixie, mostly due to them keeping all of the old decor intact. It really felt like Sweetbay was still alive in here.

     Next to the deli was the bakery. The sign for the bakery actually says "Bake Shop", however the orange color of the "Bake" letters blends in with the orange graphics in the background.

     And to the left of the bakery along the back wall was the Seafood counter.

     The main back aisle of the store, looking from the Deli/Bakery/Seafood area into the grocery aisles.

     These pictures were taken before all of that "Down Down" madness with Winn-Dixie started earlier this year. Honestly, if I was in this store back when Down Down began with every store's overabundance of the "Big Red Hand" overhead signs, shelf tags, and balloons, it may have felt more like Winn-Dixie in here.

     And an overview of the front of the store. The only modification Winn-Dixie made up here was switching out Sweetbay's (more interesting) pennant style register lights for those plain white cube style ones when Winn-Dixie replaced the POS systems. Other than that, everything is still the same from Sweetbay.

     Now for a little more from the grocery aisles:

     Along the back wall is the Meat department. As a part of the (not really much of a) remodel Winn-Dixie did here, they added this "The Beef People" sign to the back wall, matching the old Sweetbay decor's font.

     Now for a little more from the grocery aisles:

     Closeup of one of the Sweetbay aisle signs.

     Frozen Foods takes up the last two and a half aisles of this store. We'll come back to frozen foods shortly, after a quick look around the Pharmacy and Health and Beauty departments:

    The pharmacy is located in the front left corner of the store. Like in many stores, pharmaceuticals and health and beauty products are located in short aisles in front of the pharmacy box.

     To the right of the pharmacy box was this door. While currently an emergency exit, it looks like it was originally intended to be a side entrance into the pharmacy. I don't know if the conversion of this door to an emergency exit was Winn-Dixie's doing, or if this was done in the Sweetbay/Kash n' Karry days.

     Health and Beauty department signage.

     Back into Frozen Foods we go by heading down aisle 13. The pharmacy and health and beauty departments lie directly behind me.

     Dairy takes up the coolers along the wall, with additional frozen foods on the other side.

     One last look at the back of the store, this time looking toward the deli/bakery, as we make our way out...

     The customer service desk in the front of the store, behind the registers. And with that, we've completed our look around this Sweet-Dixie. Bing Maps didn't have any Bird's Eye satellite imagery available for this area, so let's jump on over to the Historic Aerials courtesy of Google Earth: 

Winn-Dixie #2465 and Plaza - 2014 - The big building at the bottom of the image closest to US 27 is an old Wal-Mart. I have a quick look at that coming up in a moment.

Sweetbay Supermarket #1792 and Plaza - 2008

Kash n' Karry #1792 and Plaza - 2004

Kash n' Karry #1792 and Plaza - 1999 - This image shows the building before the 2001 expansion, which was added onto the right side of the building. A small section of storefronts had to be removed in order to accommodate the expansion.

Kash n' Karry #1792 and Plaza - 1994

     Now for a quick look at that old Wal-Mart at the other end of the plaza:

Wal-Mart #666
3310 US Highway 27, Sebring, FL - Desoto Square

     This is the old Wal-Mart I mentioned earlier. Wal-Mart was the other original anchor to this plaza, along with Kash n' Karry. The Wal-Mart opened a little before the rest of the plaza, opening in 1984. This is a very typical small town, 80's style Walmart. The building itself is only 56,000 square feet - extremely small compared to a typical later generation non-Super Walmart. In 1993, Walmart combined this store with the old Avon Park Walmart (Store #717) when they opened a much larger non-Super Walmart in the northern part of Sebring (with the combined replacement store taking on the store #666). That store was expanded into a very large Supercenter in 1998. In 2007, Walmart returned to Avon Park with a new full size Supercenter there as well (Store #3887), probably due to the slight upswing in population the area has seen in recent years.

     The old Sebring Wal-Mart is still very recognizable, even after it was split between a Tractor Supply Company and Agero Call Center in the early 2000's. Above is a closeup of the preserved Wal-Mart entryway, which now serves as the main entrance into Agero.

     To conclude this post, I've included this map showing the two main supermarkets in South Sebring - the Winn-Dixie we just looked at, and the Southgate Shopping Center Publix. The old Southgate Publix was featured on the blog back in February, and you can see that post here. The 52-year old Publix there closed on December 26, 2015 in order for a new store to be built in its place. The new Publix will open later this year if everything is still on schedule. So for now, this Winn-Dixie is the only grocery store on the south side of town, and they're probably enjoying every moment of that. However, when Publix opens that new store in a few months, Winn-Dixie will probably lose a lot of their traffic. So will this Sweet-Dixie be able to compete with a brand new Publix? I guess we'll have to wait and see...

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Former Albertsons #4362 - Port St. Lucie, FL (US 1)

Albertsons #4362
10105 S. US Highway 1 (Federal Hwy.), Port St. Lucie, FL - Towne Centre

     Since the very early days of the blog, I've brought everyone detailed coverage of the St. Lucie West Albertsons (Store #4466) from its days sitting abandoned through its transition into a Walmart Neighborhood Market. However, until today, I've pretty much neglected the existence of Port St. Lucie's other Albertsons store, store #4362, located on the eastern side of town along US 1. This was Port St. Lucie's original Albertsons store, built along a strip of US 1 that became home to the young city's first retail strip in the late 70's and early 80's. Just about all of Port St. Lucie's retail scene was concentrated along US 1 until the late 90's, when St. Lucie West began to open up for development, followed by the city's other western development, Tradition, which began to grow in the mid-2000's. The plaza Albertsons opened in, named Towne Centre, was the second major retail development along US 1 in Port St. Lucie, preceded by the now torn down City Center outdoor mall a mile to the north of here. The Towne Centre project was to bring anchors Walmart, Bealls, Scotty's, Staples, Frank's Nursery and Crafts, and Albertsons to the city. The plaza opened in 1986, and at 1/2 mile long, is one of the longest strip centers I've ever come across (you'll see just how long this center is in the satellite imagery below). Toward the end of this post I'll talk a little more about some of the other anchors in the plaza, but right now let's focus on the star of this post, the Albertsons store.

     Albertsons opened with the rest of the plaza in 1986. This store was a typical late 80's/early 90's Superstore Albertsons. It opened with the typical Blue and Gray Market interior of the time, and was remodeled to Blue and Green Awnings in the late 90's. As the 2000's wore on, sales at this store began to slip, and in 2005, this was one of the 11 underperforming Florida Albertsons stores selected to be converted into Albertsons' new Super Saver format. Albertsons abruptly closed this store in 2005 to begin its conversion to Super Saver. I remember one of my relatives stopped by this Albertsons on their way home from work the day it closed to be converted to Super Saver, just to find the doors locked and nobody around. Many others found out about Albertsons' closure here the same way. Over those next few weeks, the store was restocked and repainted to feel more like a discount grocery warehouse store. Super Saver actually began to do quite well here, however the breakup of Albertsons in 2006 led to Super Saver's ultimate demise when their new owner, Cerberus, announced the closure of just about every Super Saver store.

     In 2007, the mess of a subdivision you see here today came to fruition. At least the start of it. I feel the current exterior of this building is one of the ugliest retail exteriors I've ever seen, probably due to the fact that it's extremely unbalanced and all over the place. dd's Discounts was the first new tenant for the old Albertsons, taking over the left half of the building. The right half of the building sat empty until 2009 or so when the Hispanic grocery chain Bravo Supermarkets opened one of their new Freshco format stores in that half of the building. Not long after opening, Bravo rebranded all of their Freshco stores to the Bravo name (don't ask me what the difference between Bravo and Freshco was supposed to be, I've never been able to figure it out. Both stores felt the same). In 2010, Bravo closed this store, and the right half of this building began to sit empty again. In 2011, Save-A-Lot announced they would be opening a store in the empty space left behind by Bravo, and they took over half of the empty right half (yes, you read that right) of the old Albertsons building. Save-A-Lot opened on November 10, 2011. To this day the left half of the right half of the building still sits empty.

     Now with the history of this store out of the way (and the complex backstory of this building's last ten years out of the way as well), let's begin our look at this place! First up, let's take a look around the Save-A-Lot portion of the building:

     Save-A-Lot kept Albertsons' old entryway set up intact, leaving the entrance facing the side of the building, leading into a shortened vestibule due to only taking over half of the empty half of the building. I don't know why they did this, but when Save-A-Lot first opened here, somebody messed with the entrance door and reinstalled it backwards, causing it to swing out the same way as the exit door. (I think somebody was looking at the blueprints upside-down). Never had I seen anything like that before. In order to enter the store without getting whacked by the door, the motion censor that operated the door was moved over the the wall facing out to the parking lot so the door had enough time to open before someone turned to walk into the store. However, if you turned to the right to get a cart before walking in, sometimes the motion sensor wouldn't go off in time and you'd nearly get hit by the door swinging out. Thankfully, that mess has since been corrected, and during this visit the door swung in like it should have all along. Although, it's not as fun now that I don't have to jump out of the way of the opening door to get in!

     Heading inside Save A Lot you first enter the produce department. Produce takes up the vestibule space and continues along the partition wall dividing Save A Lot from the empty half of this half of the old Albertsons.

     Save A Lot's space takes up the part of the Albertsons that contained the deli, bakery, produce, and the first few grocery aisles. The aisle seen in the photo above runs through space that once contained Albertsons' grocery aisles. When Bravo occupied this space, they preserved the entire right half of the Albertsons by leaving the original layout pretty much in tact, including the location of the service departments. As you can see, Save A Lot stripped most of that out, but a few traces still remain as we'll see in a moment.

     The back aisle. Save A Lot moved their back wall further up from where it was in the old Albertsons in order to increase their backroom space.

     Going back toward the front of the store we can see something left behind from Albertsons. Originally, under the now red painted wall toward the top of the above photo was Albertsons' deli and later Bravo's cafe. Save A Lot's registers are located in the space that was originally Albertsons deli prep area, leaving the lower ceiling and angled wall in-tact.

     Another look into the old deli area.

    Save A Lot's Frozen Foods department is located in Albertsons old Bakery prep area. See that beam that runs above this aisle and then angles out toward the wall toward the back of the store? That is a remnant of the short wall that used to cover the bakery prep area, and extends out from where the lower ceiling ends near the registers (you can kind of see the transition in the photos of the front end). Where it angles out toward the right side wall is where the bakery transitioned into produce, which was located in a pocket similar to this (but a little bigger) in the back right corner of the store.

     From this perspective toward the back of the store, you can see the angled transition from Albertsons old Bakery department into the produce department much better.

     So that's all of the highlights from inside of Save A Lot. Let's head back outside to see the rest of the building...

     Those windows to my right look into the unoccupied half of the building that Save A Lot did not take over. Here's a peek inside:

     The area is actually more spacious than what it looks like from the front. From the front, you get the impression that there's only a small sliver of the building that Save A Lot didn't take over. This space includes the rest of Albertsons old right side vestibule, and expands into some more of the grocery aisles. The decor remnants you see in here are from Freshco/Bravo, who also added those arches you see in the background. Other than the arches and new decor, Freshco/Bravo did very little to this space, and it still felt very much like Albertsons inside during their few short years in this space.

     Currently, there isn't any access into this space from the front, so I'm assuming the only way in here right now is through the back.

     Looking back toward Save A Lot and the empty portion of the building. The lady in the background with the white hat and shirt kept giving me dirty looks while I was here. She was handing out some kind of flyers to people, and I think she was onto the fact that I was walking around taking pictures of the place. However, that wasn't my only experience with others trying to figure out what I was doing while I was here...(More on that later).

     For now, let's move on to the left half of the building, home to a dd's Discounts store. dd's did more work to their side of the building, including building their own exterior details and relocating the entrance from the side of the building to the front.

     Here is where Albertsons' old left side entrance was located before dd's moved the entrance to the front. Now if you tried to enter the store here, it would be a painful experience.

     Now for a quick spin around dd's. While dd's rebuilt the interior here like they typically do at the old Albertsons stores they've taken over, this side felt more like Albertsons to me than the Save A Lot portion of the building currently does. This is looking down the right side of dd's, along the wall that separates them from the empty portion of the building.

     dd's space occupies the part of the old Albertsons that included frozen foods, dairy and the pharmacy. The above photo is looking toward the back of the store.

     More from around dd's:

     Frozen foods and dairy would have been in this area.

     The pharmacy would be located in this corner, with health and beauty aisles located perpendicular to the main grocery aisles in front of it.

     Now let's go back outside for a look at the old Liquor store...

     Looking from the front of the liquor store toward the location of Albertsons' old left side entrance.

     4362's liquor store has been sitting abandoned since Albertsons closed in 2005. I can't remember for sure if Super Saver operated the liquor stores after they took over, but I'm pretty sure they didn't (correct me if I'm wrong though). 

     Taking a look through the doors, and we find the old liquor store left as it was when Albertsons closed. You can see traces of the old Blue and Green Awnings interior in here, such as the peach colored trim that runs along the top of the walls.

     Before I take any interior pictures through the glass at these places, I usually peek inside first just to see what the interior looks like. While I was peeking through the glass in the exit door of the liquor store, a woman came up behind me and started peeking through the glass of the entrance door next to me. She startled me, then turned to me and said, "I didn't know this place closed." I really didn't know how to respond to that (this place has been gone for 11 years), so I replied, "It looks like it's been closed for a while." She looked at me and then kept walking toward dd's. It was somewhat of a strange occurrence, but at least she saw me before I pulled my phone out and started taking pictures through the glass. That would have been tougher for me to talk myself out of.

     So that finishes up our look at the liquor store. Big Maps doesn't have Bird's Eye imagery available for this area, so we'll skip on ahead to some historic satellite imagery courtesy of Google Earth:

Former Albertsons #4362 - 2016

Former Albertsons #4362 - 2010 - This is after Bravo closed and before Save A Lot opened.

Albertsons #4362 - 2005

Albertsons #4362 - 1999

Albertsons #4362 - 1994

     And here's an aerial image of the entirety of the Towne Centre plaza. I wasn't kidding when I said it was really long. The plaza runs continuously from the Wal-Mart logo at the top of the image all the way down to just before the Frank's Nursery logo, and also includes the Scotty's and Frank's buildings as well, and land for future expansion near the old Frank's building. The map above shows the logos of all of the original anchors to the plaza. To finish off this post, I've included some bonus photos of some of the other anchor stores in Towne Center, as well as the former anchors to practically retail dead plaza The Marketplace at Port St. Lucie across the street:

Scotty's #XX
10011 US 1, Port St. Lucie, FL - Towne Centre

     Scotty's was a hardware chain based out of Winter Haven, with most of their locations in Florida, although at their peak they were in other states in the Southeast. They went out of business in 2005 after increased pressure from Home Depot and Lowe's. Scotty's opened their store here with the rest of the plaza in 1986, and closed it sometime in the 90's. Later this building housed a call center, and now it is home to a church and thrift store.

Wal-Mart #929 (1st location)
10045 US 1, Port St. Lucie, FL - Towne Centre

     This was home to the first Walmart in Port St. Lucie, which opened in 1986 with the rest of the plaza. Only 6 years later in 1992, Walmart relocated across the street to a larger non-Super store. After Wal-Mart left this location, this building became home to offices for Liberty Medical, and is now offices for Express Scripts. The old Wal-Mart pylon entryway is still in-tact, just modified.

     Those are all of the pictures I have of Towne Centre. Bealls and Staples are still in the plaza, and the Frank's Nursery building at the far southern end of the plaza is now a doctor's office and is practically unrecognizable now. Now for a few quick pictures of The Marketplace at Port St. Lucie across the street:

Wal*Mart #929 (2nd location)
10400 US 1, Port St. Lucie, FL - The Marketplace at Port St. Lucie

     Wal-Mart relocated to this building from Towne Centre plaza across the street in 1992. Wal-Mart spent 10 years in this building before relocating to a new Supercenter about 1/2 mile to the south at 10855 US 1 on October 16, 2002. After Walmart left, Liberty Medical opened up an office here as an expansion of their office across the street, in the original Wal-Mart. As of when I took these pictures, this building had been abandoned, however a recent news article I found said a call center would be opening up in here.

Winn-Dixie #2361
10330 US 1, Port St. Lucie, FL - The Marketplace at Port St. Lucie

     This Winn-Dixie opened in 1997, and closed as a part of the wave of closures Winn-Dixie held following their bankruptcy in 2005. It wasn't long after this store closed that Keiser University opened in this space. Over the last decade, the tenant mix in The Marketplace at Port St. Lucie has shifted to where 90% of the plaza has become office space of some kind, with only a Dollar Tree and Aaron's Rent to Own as the only retail left in the entire plaza, making The Marketplace at Port St. Lucie more or less The Officeplace at Port St. Lucie.

     I have some additional photos from The Marketplace at Port St. Lucie that will be posted to my flickr page at some time in the future. For now, it's time to conclude this post...

     And to finish off this post, we will conclude with a final overview of the entirety of former Albertsons #4362. Even to this day I still can't get over how strange the exterior of this building looks in its current form. It throws off the entire look of the plaza seeing this. Anyway, that's the story of Port St. Lucie's original Albertsons.

So until the next time,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger