Sunday, September 25, 2016

How Shopping Became a Pleasure - A Look at The First Publix Store

     Earlier this month, Publix celebrated the 86th anniversary of their founding. In those 86 years, Publix has grown into a chain of over 1,120 stores with locations in 6 (soon to be 7) states, and has become the nation's 5th largest grocery chain, and the United States' 13th largest retailer overall. Publix has become a powerful force in the grocery world (especially in Florida) over the last 86 years, with no signs of slowing down. However, today I want to focus on something else. Rather than featuring a typical modern (or modern-ish) Publix, like the early 2016 opened store in the photo above, I want to take a trip back to the very beginning - September 6, 1930 to be exact - to take a look at the original Publix located in downtown Winter Haven, FL. While the original Publix hasn't operated as a Publix in nearly 75 years, it's still amazingly well preserved as we'll soon see. So let's begin our tour of how shopping became a pleasure...

The Original Publix Store (Publix #1)
58 4th St. NW, Winter Haven, FL

     This little storefront you see here in downtown Winter Haven was the home of the first Publix store, which opened on September 6, 1930. Last year for Publix's 85th anniversary, I wrote this post explaining the background of Publix's founding, and Publix founder George Jenkins' motive for breaking away from managing the Piggly Wiggly store located next door to the first Publix. I'll go into a little background history in this post, but today's post will be mostly focused on the building itself. If you'd like a more detailed explanation of the history of Publix, please feel free to read that post I linked to.

     Other than some new paint and a new awning, this building still looks exactly the same as Publix left it when they relocated to their new store down the street in 1940. This building was built in 1916, and has housed many tenants other than the first Publix over the last hundred years. The most recent occupant of the Publix #1 building is a Mexican restaurant called El Norteño, which opened in July 2015. I found this article that talks about the new restaurant opening the the space originally home to the first Publix store.

     Closeup of the original storefront. All of this is original too.

     This is the building immediately to the right of the original Publix. From what I've researched, this is the building where the Piggly Wiggly was that George Jenkins managed. In early 1930, the Piggly Wiggly changed owners, and as manager, George Jenkins felt he should visit the new owner to introduce himself and talk about plans for the store's future. So George Jenkins traveled all the way to Atlanta for this meeting, just to be snubbed by the new owner. This enraged George Jenkins, and caused him to quit his job as manager of the Piggly Wiggly and open his own grocery store next door. Within a year, after a fierce pricing war and one-upsmanships, Publix drove the Piggly Wiggly out of business, and the rest is history.

     An overview of some of the other buildings on the block. Downtown Winter Haven is very quaint, and very historic (outside of being home to the first Publix as well). If you're ever in the area, I recommend taking a quick drive down the main street, Central Ave., or taking a little walk around. I have a few more photos of downtown Winter Haven coming up shortly, but a few last things about the original Publix:

Photo courtesy of - The Publix photo timeline at that link is pretty interesting to take a look at!
     The photo above shows the original Publix store back when it was a Publix sometime in the 1930's. They've come a long way when you compare this to the photo of the modern Publix at the beginning of this post. All of the little details you saw from the present day photos are also present in the historic photo. 

The Original Publix Food Store
Photo courtesy of Josh Hallet's flickr photostream
     And here's something neat that Publix did for their 75th anniversary back in 2005. The home of their original store was vacant at the time, so Publix decided to decorate it like it would have looked back in the 30's when Publix was still here! This only lasted for that one year to celebrate their 75th anniversary, but it would have been neat if they left the building like this and turned it into a Publix museum (like what Walmart did with their first store). 

     A quick screengrab from Bing Maps showing all of the buildings on the block.

     As I mentioned before, Publix relocated from their original location on 4th St. in 1940 to a larger store, which was considered the first "modern Publix Supermarket". Many people consider this next building to the be the original Publix, even though the storefront a few blocks away was technically the first. Let's take a walk over to the 1940 store from the original store, and take in a few of the other sights along Central Avenue in downtown Winter Haven as we make our way to the relocated Publix #1:

    Turning the corner from 4th St and looking east along downtown's main street, Central Avenue. The next few photos are just some random photos of downtown that I took as I made the short walk from the original Publix to its relocation.

     A small breezeway between two restaurants.

     Looking west on Central Ave.

     Closeup of the large neon sign hanging over the front entrance of the Ritz Theater. While the sign looks old, it turns out it isn't. I discovered this sign was only installed in 2013. Even though it's new, they did a really good job replicating a historic theater marquee sign to match the historic vibe of downtown Winter Haven.

     And there it is straight ahead - the second location of the original Publix. 

The Original Publix Supermarket (Relocation of the store on 4th St.)
197 W. Central Ave, Winter Haven, FL

     This building is where the original Publix moved to after establishing itself as a successful grocery store. This new store was considered George Jenkin's "dream store" and a "food palace", and included such features as "piped-in music, air conditioning, cold cases for frozen and refrigerated items, in-store donut and flower shops, and electric-eye automatic doors." Here's a photo of what this store looked like back in the 1940's. Other than having the top of the center glass block panel chopped off, this building is also very well preserved, and is still very recognizable as a former Publix. This store was the first of Publix's Art Deco store prototype to be built. These art deco style store were primarily located in downtown areas, as the era of the surburban shopping center had yet to take off when this model was introduced in the early 1940's. When suburban shopping centers began to become more commonplace in the mid to late 50's, Publix stopped building these tiny art deco stores and switched to their most famous design of all time: The Publix Wing Store. Many of these tiny art deco style Publix stores still exist, and are very well preserved. For example, here's a creative reuse of one of these art deco style Publix stores in St. Petersburg.

     Currently, the 1940 Publix is home to St. Matthew Regenerations Thrift Store. From what I can tell, this thrift store has been here a really long time.

    The windows and the marble trim are all original to Publix. The marble trim under the windows was a design feature Publix used in their stores all the way through the late 70's.

     Another view of the windows. As you can tell, I visited this store around Christmas time.

     Looking in through the front door for a peek at what the interior currently looks like. The thrift store wasn't open for the day yet, so this is all we'll be able to see of the interior. The ceiling in this front part of the building looks like something out of 1940, but it looks like much of the rest of the building has been gutted or modified over time. In the very back it looks like there is an exposed ceiling, which is not original. The first ten photos you can click on at this link (other than the one of the parade) show what this store looked like in the 40's, including interior pictures from right before the grand opening! It's pretty neat seeing what this store looked like inside back in 1940, and I highly recommend clicking though those photos.

     And a final parting photo from the 1940 Publix.

     And here's a quick Bird's Eye aerial image of the building. The skinny addition coming off from the right side of the main building was added on after Publix left I believe. The buildings behind the old Publix aren't a part of the old Publix.

     So that's pretty much it from the original Publix stores. I really don't know when the 1940 store closed, but I believe it was replaced by either the Northgate Plaza store on 6th Street, or Southeast Plaza store on Cypress Gardens Boulevard. Both of those stores date back to the Wing Store era, although both were later rebuilt in the 2000's. However, if you'd like to see some additional historic Publix photos, this article has a bunch from different Publix stores all over the state, including a few from the two original Winter Haven stores I just covered.

UPDATE 9/28/2016: Commentor duckman66 shared a link to a very interesting publication from the Lakeland Ledger published in 1980 to commemorate the Publix's 50th anniversary. It's a fascinating read about Publix's first 50 years in business, and I highly suggest reading it (it's a bit long however, so plan a little time if you want to read the entire thing). Here's the link:

     To officially conclude this post, I decided to include this picture of the man who started it all, George "Mr. George" Jenkins, looking snazzy in that custom made Publix suit jacket. This photo was sent in a while ago by flickr user Otis "Joe" Smith, and I believe it dates back to the 80's. George Jenkins was very active with Publix all the way until his death in 1996 at the age of 88, and was very well liked by his employees. Even after becoming wheelchair bound due to a stroke in 1989, he still continued to work for the company and visit stores. To this day his legacy lives on as Publix continues to grow into new markets and continues to grow stronger. Still to this day, Publix places a photo of Mr. George in every one of their stores (usually behind the customer service counter), showing that they will continue to uphold the beliefs their founder laid out for them 86 years ago.

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Publix to Test In Store Starbucks Kiosks


     In the last few days, Publix has announced they will allow Starbucks to open kiosks in four of their stores as a part of a pilot program. In the last few years, Publix has been experimenting with operating their own cafes, but this will be the first time Publix will be offering a cafe kiosk operated by an outside source. The four test locations will be the Publix stores located on Gandy Boulevard in Tampa and the Winter Park Village Publix in Winter Park, and also two Publix stores in North Carolina in Charlotte and Winston-Salem. (Ironically, this will be Starbuck's second time appearing within the walls of that building in Winter Park, as that Publix was originally home to an Albertsons that opened with a Starbucks. You can read the post about that store here.) As you all probably have heard, the new Florida Safeway stores all added Starbucks kiosks as a part of their conversion from Albertsons to Safeway. According to speculation, Publix is supposedly testing in-store Starbucks kiosks as a service to better compete with new chains entering their territory (not only in Florida, where Safeway and some new organic stores are popping up, but chains like Wegmans that will be overlapping with Publix in North Carolina and Virginia). However, I have to wonder if the Florida debut of Safeway has something to do with this pilot program in the two Florida stores, like how a threat by Wegmans probably influenced those two test locations in North carolina. Anyway, the first two links in this post will direct you to articles with more information about this new pilot program if you'd like to read more about it.

So until the next post, 

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Former Albertsons #4486 - Lake Worth, FL

Albertsons #4486/Western Beef #304
4624 Hypoluxo Road, Lake Worth, FL - Hypoluxo Village

     Today we journey down to South Florida to take a look at the 7th to last new Albertsons store to open in Florida, store #4486. This Albertsons opened in 2003 as a part of the final wave of new stores to open in Florida, and was the last Albertsons to be built with the original early 2000's design. After this store, this look was modified to include a different interior layout and two entrances on opposite sides of the store, which I refer to as the "Early 2000's Modified" design. Anyway, this store would be one of three stores to operate in Lake Worth, coexisting for a time with store #4328 four miles to the north of here, and store #4384 six miles to the west (the last new Albertsons to open in Florida). However, as Albertsons began to falter, Lake Worth slowly began to lose their three Albertsons stores. First to go was #4384, which closed in 2006 after barely two years in business. #4328 went next, closing in October 2009, leaving this store as the last Albertsons in Lake Worth. However, this store's triumph over its sister stores in Lake Worth wasn't much of a victory in the end. In February 2010, four months after #4328 closed, #4486 closed with 6 of the remaining 7 Albertsons stores in South Florida (with the lone exception in that closure wave being the Oakland Park store).

     From February 2010 until 2012, this building sat vacant. In late 2012, Western Beef, a New York City based grocery chain, announced they would be opening a store in this former Albertsons. Western Beef's stores are primarily clustered in the 5 Boroughs of New York City, with a few outlier stores on Long Island, and in Westchester, NY and North Jersey. In 2009, Western Beef began a push into South Florida (skipping all the way down here from New York) to open a store in an old Winn-Dixie in Boca Raton. Definitely a strange move for a somewhat small, family owned chain, but it sure isn't the first time a random, isolated Florida division of a northern chain has popped up here. Western Beef eventually opened a second Florida location in the former Pembroke Pines Albertsons (#4380) in 2011, followed by their third location, this one, which opened on December 15, 2012. So far, Western Beef has kept their Florida division at three stores, and I have yet to see any plans for more around here any time soon.

     In addition to the photos I took during my visit to this store, also included in this post are some photos sent in by AFB contributor Graham B., who frequented this store back in its early days as Albertsons. Graham's photos are designated by the letters 'GB' underneath the photo, like the photo above. 

     Overall, Western Beef didn't do a whole lot to the exterior of this building. Other than some new paint, this was exactly how the Albertsons looked. This store also had a very similar exterior to that of store #4466 in Port St. Lucie. Inside, Western Beef did a good amount of work to the interior, and not a whole lot from Albertsons remains inside. Western Beef takes up three quarters of the old Albertsons space, with a Dollar Tree taking up the remaining portion of the main store building.

     If you look closely above the doors in the above photo, you can make out the faint labelscar from Albertsons' pharmacy sign.

     Moving along to the front walkway...

     The main entrance lies just ahead behind that pallet. For perspective, click here for a similar view of this area from 4466.

     Let's go inside for a look around...

     Going inside, here's a look at the cart storage area between the entrance and exit doors. Also up on the wall there is a sign introducing shoppers to Charlie the Cactus, Western Beef's mascot. Kind of like Disney's "Hidden Mickeys", Western Beef has "Hidden Charlies". So if you see cactuses in random places in the coming photos, this is why.

     Going into the store itself, with our first official look at the interior. Walking in from the entrance you find yourself surrounded by a small selection of produce and baked goods. Bakery is the first official department as you go into the left side of the store, and the rest of produce lies in front of the service departments.

     I still can't decide if I want to call Western Beef's interior "fun and whimsical" or "slightly creepy". Anyway, all of the smiling cupcakes, breads, fruits, etc. are a different element compared to what other stores use for decor. When Albertsons was here, this store would have had the Blue and Green Awnings decor, installed as part of that package's brief revival in the 2002-2003 timeframe. Interestingly, that awning you see running along the perimeter of the service departments looks like something out of Albertsons' Industrial Circus decor package, although I'm 99% store Western Beef was the one to install that.

     Here's a closeup of that awning I just mentioned, along with more of our smiling pastry friends.

      The next department beyond the bakery is the deli.

     An overview of produce.

     In the back left corner of the store is the meat department, also known as Charlie's Meat Market. One of the unique things about Western Beef is that all of their stores have a walk in meat department, which is essentially a giant cooler customers can walk into to select their meats.

     Let's take a quick look inside here...

     And yes, since the meat department is essentially placed in a giant cooler, it was very cold in here! When people say something is "as cold as a meat locker", they're not lying! (And they must have shopped at Western Beef before.) However, it's actually quite nice to walk around in here after spending time driving around in the humid Florida afternoon air.

    Here's a few more photos from around the meat cooler:

     I think that's enough from the meat cooler, so let's defrost and head back out onto the main sales floor...

     A look across the back of the store, looking back toward the meat department.

     One of the grocery aisles.

     And now for a few photos from the front end...


    More of the action going on in the grocery aisles...

     The seafood counter is located immediately next to the walk-in meat department.

Looking toward the back right portion of the store from the main back aisle.

     Yet more grocery aisles...

     Those fish on the wall look way to happy for being frozen in a block of ice!

     The frozen foods aisles are located in the center of the store.

     A small selection of bulk foods occupied the rest of the back wall between seafood and dairy.

     And finally, a look at the last few grocery aisles.

     Essential Everyday lives on at this former Albertsons, as Western Beef uses SuperValu as their supplier.

     While milk was located in the back corner of the store along the back wall, the rest of dairy ran along the right side wall in the final aisle of this store.


     Beer and Wine is located in its own little pocket in the front right corner of the store, next to the front registers. The beer and wine glasses in the wall graphics are looking a bit tipsy themselves.

     Looking back across the front end, this time from the other side of the store.

     In front of the registers was the customer service desk and a small jewelry counter.

     Time to go back outside...

     Looking from the former Albertsons toward the rest of the small strip center that comes off of the right side of the building. The rest of the center was designed to match the main Albertsons building.

     Although their sign is blocked by that palm tree, the remaining small portion of the main Albertsons building has since become home to a Dollar Tree store. I didn't realize the Dollar Tree was in part of the former Albertsons building until I was about to drive out of here, so I didn't go inside. Considering most of the other Dollar Trees I've visited in repurposed buildings, I don't think there was anything from Albertsons left inside, so I don't think we're missing much.

     Looking back toward Western Beef.

     Over on the left side of the main building is the former Albertsons liquor store. After Albertsons closed, the liquor store was taken over by an independent operator who renamed the liquor store "Beer and Liquor Store". (Creative name, right?).

     The Albertsons decals still remain on the front doors.

     As I mentioned earlier, the liquor store kept all of Albertsons wall decor in tact. On the walls you'll see one of the common texture patterns from the Blue and Green Awning package, living on all these years later.

     The road sign. I believe this is the one facing Hypoluxo Road.

     Now time for some Bird's Eye Aerial Images, courtesy of Bing Maps:

Front - Albertsons was still open when these images were taken.

Right Side


Left Side

     And now for some historic Aerial Images, courtesy of Google Earth:

Former Albertsons #4486 - 2016

Former Albertsons #4486 - 2011 - The building was sitting empty at this point.

Albertsons #4486 - 2006

Albertsons #4486 - 2004 - A fairly new store at this point.

Future Albertsons #4486 - 2002 - An interesting view showing this store while it was under construction.

Future Albertsons #4486 - 1999 - It looks like this store was built on top of some old farmland.

     And that's that for this former Albertsons. Thanks again Graham for sending in those pictures of this store!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger