Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Loss for Winn-Dixie in Gainesville

Winn-Dixie #160
2500 N. Main St., Gainesville, FL - Northside Shopping Center

***Photos for this post are courtesy of contributor Ian W.***

     Winn-Dixie has had image issues for years. People always complain about many of Winn-Dixie's stores being old, dirty, smelly, stuck in 1990, etc. Ever since emerging from their bankruptcy, Winn-Dixie has come up with a few classy prototypes that have turned what were once old, dated stores into something very presentable, something that could turn all of those previous thoughts and perceptions about Winn-Dixie completely around. Some of Winn-Dixie's most ambitious remodeling campaigns included the 2011-2013 "Transformational Stores", and their most recent remodeling campaign introduced earlier this year for the rollout of the "Down Down" promotion. Amongst all of these high hopes, fancy prototypes, and promises for more widespread store remodeling, Winn-Dixie's post-bankruptcy financial burdens still haunt them, and so does that long ingrained image of the condition of their stores from the early 2000's. Most of Winn-Dixie's current image issues stem from the fact that they don't have the money to do elaborate remodels to all of their stores, leaving the vast majority of their store base untouched since the early 2000's (or in many other instances, decades prior to that). This store was one of the worst offenders to prolonging Winn-Dixie's image issues. This store really hasn't been touched on the inside since the early 1990's. As we will soon see, this store was one of the last Winn-Dixies in existence to still be sporting the Neon Markeplace interior in some form. According to Ian, this store was Gainesville's dirtiest and most unpleasant Winn-Dixie, and other locals seem to agree on that front as well. According to one review of this store, written by a Winn-Dixie employee sent here from another store to help out, had this to say about ole 160: "This store is known in Winn-Dixieland as "Store #160," and even the mention of the store's number leaves many W/D employees shuddering as it's known to be one of the worst Winn-Dixies in the entire state of Florida. It's called "the store that care forgot."" (You can read that entire review by clicking here and scrolling down to the review written on 3/31/2009).

Google Streetview image of the front of the store.

     This Winn-Dixie originally opened in 1977, and was expanded to the left into a former Revco drug store in 1992. That 1992 expansion brought to us the interior design and decor we'll be seeing below. As the 2000's progressed and Winn-Dixie emerged from bankruptcy, Winn-Dixie considered relocating this store to a new building, although those plans fell through when the shopping center's landlord agreed to fix up the exterior of the plaza and resolve some parking issues that needed to be addressed. Even after the relocation plans fell through, Winn-Dixie put this store on its list to be given an elaborate remodel into one of their "Transformational" stores. However, that remodel never happened due to BI-LO's buyout of Winn-Dixie in 2012, killing all hopes of a remodel here. In its final years, this store just withered away as a grocery box still clinging onto the design trends of the late 1980's/early 1990's. This store began the closing process on September 7, 2016, and closed for good in early October 2016. Also to note, a Winn-Dixie store in Winter Park, FL (7580 University Boulevard) also began its closing at the same time, making that store and this one in Gainesville the company's most recent casualties as of the time this post was originally published. Anyway, with that long backstory out of the way, let's get to the good stuff and take a look at what was going on inside...

      Ian took these pictures fairly late in the closing process, sometime in late September 2016. As we'll see in most of these pictures, there wasn't much left in the store at this point. These first two photos are of some of the barren grocery aisles...

     Heading over to frozen foods now. I don't know if the coffin coolers in this store are original to the store's opening in 1977 or not, but they sure look pretty old! The coffin cases are throwing off an especially 70's vibe. In the background you can see the Neon Marketplace "Pharmacy" sign.

     Looking into the left side of the store. This picture was taken looking into the space that was added on during the 1992 expansion. We also get a very clear look at the stripe pattern on the walls, which matches the color scheme of the Marketplace decor that would debut a few short years later.

     A look toward the back wall from the frozen foods department. And what's that I see in the background?...

    It's the 80's in all of it's shiny, neon-y glory. Winn-Dixie's Neon Marketplace interior included the use of lots of neon signs, and lots of shiny, chrome-like wall paneling. You can see an example of the full version of Winn-Dixie's Neon Marketplace interior here. The Neon Marketplace interior at this store was stripped down a bit being a later install of this decor, but it never left, and stayed in tact until 2016. Call it dated or whatever else, but this sign itself is an unbelievable find, and a great way to finish off our short look at the now former Northside Shopping Center Winn-Dixie.

     Before finishing, I have these Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps to share for a little more perspective on this store:

    This is an overview of the Winn-Dixie building. The part of the store with the darker roof was the space Winn-Dixie expanded into in 1992.

     And finally, I figured I'd throw in this aerial image of this other former anchor to Northside Shopping Center, Kmart. This Kmart opened in 1977, and relocated in 1994 to the site of the former Gainesville Mall (where the Lowe's currently is on 13th St. - also, if you want to know more about the old Gainesville Mall, you can read an interesting article that mentions the old Gainesville Mall and other classic Gainesville area retail here). After Kmart left the Northside Shopping Center, their space was divided between an Ashely Furniture Homestore and Big Lots. Since this image was taken, Big Lots relocated to a new home over on 13th St., and the Ashley furniture store closed. Currently, the only occupied portion of the former Kmart is right third of the building, where a Harbor Freight Tools and a pawn shop recently moved in. Throw in the now closed Winn-Dixie, and this plaza will be pretty empty. However, 13th St. seems to be the go-to place for retail in northern Gainesville now, as that area has seen some growth recently, and empty spaces getting filled fast.

     With the closing of the Northside Shopping Center Winn-Dixie, that leaves Gainesville with only two Winn-Dixies remaining, both on the south side of town (one of which is a former Sweetbay, and the other is an older store remodeled around 2011 to the post-bankruptcy interior). Winn-Dixie's two remaining Gainesville stores are nothing compared to Publix's 13 Gainesville locations (with a 14th location currently under construction). I know Florida as a whole is very biased toward Publix, but what's going on in Gainesville is a bit crazy...

     Anyway, that's all I have for now. Thanks again Ian for sending in these pictures! Be sure to come back next Sunday for the regularly scheduled feature post!

So until the next time,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Former Albertsons #4471 - Sanford, FL - Part 2

Albertsons #4471
300 W. Lake Mary Boulevard, Sanford, FL - Boulevard Plaza

     It's now time to conclude our tour of former Albertsons #4471 in Sanford with the second part of this two part post series. As you can see for Part 2 of this tour, we will get to go inside part of this former Albertsons thanks to the appearance of this pop up Halloween store! The photos for Part 2 of this post were actually taken before the photos for Part 1. I came by here the first time not expecting this Halloween store to be here, so this was an interesting surprise for me! After Halloween I was by here again, which is when I took the photos you saw in the Part 1 post to provide the other, more abandoned perspective of this store. Every October since this Albertsons closed, Spirit Hallowen has operated here. That includes this year as well, so if you're in the area and want a peek inside this store, you still have another week to do so. However, if you can't make it to Sanford this week, this post will provide an interesting perspective of this store. Also, if you want a recap of the Part 1 post from this store earlier this month, please click here.

     UPDATE 10/28/2016 - Commentor cflguy visited this store again in the last few days, and took some very interesting photos which you can view here. Instead of opening on the left side of the building as my pictures show, Spirit opened in the right half this year, giving an entirely new perspective to this store. Also, cflguy reports that Publix has bought the lease to this building, and has plans to open a store here sometime in 2017, bringing an end to the long abandoned Sanford Albertsons.

     Before we go inside let's take another quick look around the exterior...

     The right side of the building.

    Looking toward the left side of the building and the liquor store. Nothing different was going on over at the liquor store that we didn't see already in the first post, so this post won't feature any photos from over there. If you want a look at the liquor store, scroll toward the bottom of the Part 1 post.

     Are you ready to head inside...if you dare...

     Welcome to Albertsons Spirit Halloween! This interesting mashup of logos greets you when you first walk through the front door, although I think Albertsons' giant leaf logo on the floor overpowers Spirit's banner hanging on the wall. Spirit Halloween's sales floor only takes up the left half of the old Albertsons (home of the deli, bakery, produce, Snack Central, Beverage Boulevard, and the Pharmacy), with the remainder of the old Albertsons blocked off by temporary plywood partition walls. Most of the reason as to why I came back here the second time was to get pictures of the remainder of the store that Spirit blocked off, which kind of worked out. However, for a perspective of this area when the Halloween store isn't in operation, click here.

     If this store had a Starbucks (which more than likely it did when it first opened), it would have been immediately to my left here. To the right is the left side wall of the pharmacy island, which also doubles as a great place to hang some skeletons from.

     Looking back at the hallway Spirit has set up to funnel shoppers into their salesfloor, which begins at the side of the pharmacy island and runs almost all the way to the back wall. Throughout this post we'll get to see many of the custom tile patterns that were used in the Theme Park/Grocery Palace decor to individualize the different departments (one of the main goals of that interior). In the foreground you can see the road pattern used for Beverage Boulevard (home to all of the non-alcoholic drinks). Whether coincidentally or intentionally, Spirit uses the alignment of Beverage Boulevard as the main aisle through their salesfloor. 

     This was taken looking into the front left corner of the store. If you look closely above Spirit's princess castle prop, you can see the awning that surrounds the front of Albertsons' old deli.

     Looking back down Beverage Boulevard from the center of Spirit's salesfloor.

     Looking into the back of the store. Above the temporary plywood wall in the back you can see where Albertsons' bakery department juts out.

     Another look down "Halloween" Boulevard.

     From this angle you can better see the old bakery, and also a few of the produce lamps to the left of the bakery. Spirit's temporary plywood walls do a good job at blocking most of Albertsons' old wall decor from view...

     However I was able to sneak this one picture from behind the plywood wall. Spirit had a plywood door built into the wall near the bakery department to access their stockroom space. The two pieces of plywood that made up the door didn't quite line up right, leaving a crack between them. The crack was just large enough for the lens of my phone's camera to capture this look at the old Bakery space, showing all of the bakery decor still in tact (minus all of the cases and such, and the food collage on the jut out).

     Back out to the main salesfloor for a look at where Snack Central used to be. Snack Central used this star tile pattern throughout the department, and took up a good 3 or so aisles. 4466's Snack Central had aisles that ran parallel to the front wall before its 2009 remodel, a set up that seems to be more unusual compared to most other Theme Park/Grocery Palace Albertsons stores. This store had the more common Snack Central with all perpendicular to the front wall aisles. However, a discussion about Snack Central just wouldn't be complete without a photo of one of the coolest grocery store decor pieces ever thought up: Snack Central's giant bowl of party mix! (although I will admit, Beverage Boulevard's giant bucket of soda bottles was equally as neat).

     Another look across Snack Central. The only snacks over here now are unknowing customers if one of those zombie props gets hungry.

     Moving further to the right from Snack Central into this area, where Health and Beauty was located.

     This is looking into the rightmost portion of the space Spirit occupies. Beyond the plywood wall you can see the ceiling reaching into the other half of the store, home to the remaining grocery aisles, meats and seafood, dairy, frozen foods, the pet alcove, and the old checkout area. There weren't any cracks in the plywood to get a good look into that part of the store, and I wasn't climbing up that wall for a peek either!

     Spirit's salesfloor cuts off where the beer and wine department once was. This is the tile pattern that was used for that department. Above this department would have been a hanging wooden grid that was supposed to make this department more reminiscent of a vineyard, and in some stores the wooden grid was decorated with fake grape vines. You can see a shrunken down version of this setup in the background of this photo, but the stores with an open ceiling had larger version.

     Continuing down the plywood side wall from beer and wine we see some of the floor decals left over from Albertsons' old greeting cards and party supply aisle.

     And finally, a look at the old pharmacy counter.

     The pharmacy at this store was given the "Sav-on" branding, as can be seen in the signage that was left behind. As I've mentioned on here before, it was always hit or miss as to what Albertsons Florida stores got the Sav-on branding for their pharmacy, and which ones got generic "Albertsons Pharmacy" branding. Even within the same areas you could find both brandings on stores from any era, so I don't know how Albertsons decided when to name a pharmacy Sav-on and when not to.

     Closeup of the old pharmacy sign. Behind the picture of the group of pharmacists you can see a labelscar, which to me looks like a labelscar from the generic Albertsons Pharmacy signage (I can't find a photo of it to link to at the moment). It was just the word "Pharmacy" spelled out with a slight arch to it, leading me to believe the Sav-on branding was added to this store later in its short life as Albertsons. Spirit was using the area immediately in front of the old pharmacy window as space for their registers, and the inside of the pharmacy island was being used for storage and more backroom space.

     So that ends our tour of the interior of this former Albertsons, as we enter the plywood lined hallway back to the exit. It was a nice surprise finding this Halloween store operating in here for this interesting perspective of the interior of an abandoned Albertsons.

     Back outside, looking toward Albertsons' old exit doors. Since Spirit wasn't using this half of the building, they papered over the windows, preventing me from getting any interior pictures of this side of the building during this visit. However, in the Part 1 post from this store I have some photos taken through these windows from after Spirit left, so check out that post if you want a quick glimpse into this side of the building.

     Seems a bit confusing to put a "Now Open!" sign on the door Spirit wasn't using.

     Looking back across the front of the store, from just beyond Albertsons old exit doors looking back toward the main entrance.

     A parting shot of the exterior as our tour of former Albertsons #4471 comes to an end...

     To conclude this post, I have this picture of Boulevard Plaza's road sign, the one which faces Lake Mary Boulevard. Spirit even stuck a small sign on here for themselves (the bright orange one) in one of the small rectangles. Albertsons' logo was actually on the large blank rectangle at the bottom of the sign.

     I hope everyone liked this two part tour of the former Sanford Albertsons! I enjoyed walking around inside of that Halloween store taking in all of the Albertsons remnants. It was a strange feeling, but seeing the old Theme Park/Grocery Palace decor brings back a lot of memories for me. Anyway, I have another short bonus post coming up this Sunday, and then back to the regular schedule to cover another former Albertsons store in two weeks.

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Quick Glimpse - Former Albertsons #4436 - Valrico, FL (And More!)

Albertsons #4436
3313 Lithia Pinecrest Road, Valrico, FL - Albertsons Plaza

***Photos of this Store and the Bonus Store at the bottom of this post are Courtesy of Kristin C.***

     Sorry, this post was supposed to auto upload this morning, but I forgot to click the schedule button. Anyway, without any further delay, here it is:

     Thanks to new contributor Kristin C., today we'll take a quick look at the former Valrico Albertsons. Valrico is an inland suburb of Tampa, located in the eastern portion of Hillsborough County where suburbia begins to fizzle out in exchange for larger tracts of land. The Valrico area began to turn from semi-rural into more suburban in the late-80's and early-90's, as development of the Tampa metro area began to push further inland. With all of this new growth coming about, Albertsons joined in and opened a new store in this area in 1997. This store was built in the style of a typical mid-90's model store, with the single entry/exit under the main arch. This store survived all of the rounds of Albertsons Florida closures until the 2012 near-exodus of Florida closure sweep that sent Albertsons down to 4 Florida locations from 17. This store closed for good on June 9, 2012, and is still empty as of my writing of this. A reliable source had informed me that a "natural foods grocer" was interested in this building, but it seems like nothing has come from that claim yet, as the building is still sitting like this.

UPDATE 10/26/2016 - It has been confirmed from this article that Sprout's Farmer's Market will be opening up in this building sometime in 2017 as a part of their entrance into Florida, which includes a few other stores throughout the Tampa area that will also open in 2017.

     Here you can see the Albertsons labelscar much clearer (although partially blocked by that 'available' sign), as well as the typical mid-90's style entryway.

     The left side of the store, with the liquor store off at the edge of the building. The Food labelscar is visible in this photo.

     The right side of the building. Behind those windows was the cart storage area. The windowed in cart storage area was another typical trait for these mid-90's stores. Pharmacy labelscar is also visible above the windows.

     Closeup of the entrance and exit doors. Albertsons' exit decals are still up on the exit doors.

     And here's a quick peek at the inside, complete with the Blue and Gray Market interior featuring the early 2000's brown update. By 1997, Blue and Gray Market was horribly outdated, as that interior was first introduced around 1985. 1997 was the year Albertsons finally retired Blue and Gray Market when they replaced it with the Blue and Green Awnings interior, which was a much needed refresh. Unfortunately, this store was built prior to the rollout of Blue and Green Awnings. For such a modern looking store from the exterior, the interior made this store feel ten years older than it really was.

     Moving along from the interior to a closeup of the former Liquor Store.

     And last but not least, the road sign facing out to Miller Road, which runs along the left side of the building.

     To wrap up this Quick Glimpse post, here are some aerial images of this store. First is this Bing Maps Bird's Eye aerial image of the store, showing it when it was still open.

     And finally, an aerial image of the building from Google Earth, taken after the store closed.

     Thanks Kristin for sending in these photos of the former Valrico Albertsons! However, that isn't all that Kristin sent in. To finish off this post, I will be sharing some photos she took of the very high volume Gandy Plaza Publix in Tampa:

Publix #310
3615 W. Gandy Boulevard, Tampa, FL - Gandy Shopping Center

     Publix opened this store on Gandy Boulevard in 1985 as a replacement for their older wing store located in Britton Plaza a mile to the north. (Interestingly, Publix's old store in Britton Plaza later became home to Albertsons #4372, and was then sold back to Publix in 2008, and was then rebuilt by Publix in 2015, but that mess is a story for another day). This store is a very busy and high volume Publix. Even though this is an older store, it has gotten very thorough remodels over the years, and will be one of the 4 pilot Publix stores to be getting a Starbucks kiosk in the coming months (and the only non-2010's built Publix that was chosen as a test location). Overall, Publix does a very good job at keeping their older stores looking modern inside and out, and this store is no exception.

     As with most 80's and 90's built Publix stores, the entrances are located facing the sides of the building. So let's head inside...

     Heading inside and turning right, you find the dining area in the front right corner of the store. In most Publix stores with a dining area, it's usually just a small alcove with some tables in it. However, this store received a "Publix Cafe" as well here. Publix Cafes, from what I've seen, have been limited to newer stores or stores with extra space near the front. They sell coffees and ice cream primarily, and they never look busy to me the few times I've come across them. For the Starbucks kiosk test, my guess is the Publix Cafe will be ripped out, with Starbucks replacing it in this same location. I think the having a Starbucks in here is a much better move than the Publix Cafe, and I have a feeling the pilot program will be successful.

     This photo is looking at the grocery aisles from the back right corner of the store.

     Looking toward the left side of the store from the front main aisle. This store has either 17 or 18 aisles, which is a lot for a typical 80's built Publix. Most 80's Publix stores top out around 14 aisles.

     Looking over at the front end, we see the giant angled inlayed light over the registers, one of the most interesting features of these 80's and (more typically) 90's Publix stores. This thing isn't a skylight (which many people assume it is). It really is one giant lighting fixture.

     Express lane light, with a closeup of the giant angled inlayed light behind it.

     The front wall. The customer service counter is located behind where Kristin took this picture. You can also see one of the windows looking down on the store from the upstairs offices.

     Here's an overview satellite image of Gandy Shopping Center. The shopping center is essentially made up of just the Publix (the building on the right) and a Target (building on the left), along with a few outparcels.

     Many times I appreciate the fact that Bing Maps rarely updates their Bird's Eye imagery. Here they captured this Publix back before the most recent remodel where they painted it brownish-orange. This was likely the original look of this store from 1985, and you really can't get much more 80's Publix than this!

     Thanks again Kristin for sending in these pictures! As always, if you would like to contribute pictures to AFB, feel free to send them in. They're always welcome!

     Next week, we will conclude our tour of the former Sanford Albertsons, so be sure to come back then and check that out!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger