Former Publix #219
350 US Hwy. 27 North, Lake Placid, FL - South Highlands Shopping Center
As I've mentioned many times in the past, Publix is always pushing their latest and greatest ideas and remodels to all of their stores. Unlike some other chains that are to remain unnamed, Publix almost always steps in and upgrades their stores at least once every decade. I've even seen some Publix stores get thorough remodels every 4-5 years, but that's just how Publix is. Their track record of modern, up-to-date stores has gotten them to where they are now - a powerful chain of 1,140+ stores that's rapidly growing into new cities and states throughout the southeast, while continuing to dominate Florida's grocery scene. Even with Publix's remodels and store replacements running rampant throughout Florida, every once and a while you find a nice little throwback like this tiny old Publix in the small town of Lake Placid, FL. Lake Placid is a town of 2,100 located 15 miles south of Sebring along US 27, and is definitely one of the smallest and most isolated towns in Florida to have a Publix of its own. Usually these small rural towns in inland Florida only have a Winn-Dixie or an independent grocer as their primary grocery options, however Lake Placid managed to attract Publix way back when. This Publix opened as the second Publix store in Highlands County on July 12, 1980. This store used a slightly modified exterior design compared to the more typical 1970's Publix store design, which had just begun getting phased out around the time this store first opened. And in this store's entire 37 years in operation, the only thing Publix ever did to modify the exterior was add on that glass enclosed vestibule, an addition that probably occurred in the latter part of the 80's or the early 90's. The signage on the front of the store is original to when the store opened, including the "where shopping is a pleasure" tagline sign, which Publix stopped putting on the front of their stores in the early 80's. This store was the last Publix to still be sporting the 70's/early 80's version of the "where shopping is a pleasure" sign on the front. Almost every other Publix that still had that sign was either remodeled or replaced by the early 2000's. So why was it that this Publix remained virtually untouched for all these years? In the early 2010's, rumor began circulating that Publix was interested in replacing this store. About the only reason a Publix as outdated as this one would still be sitting in such original form would be due to potential replacement plans on the horizon. In 2016, it was officially announced that Publix would be building a new store in Lake Placid to replace this one. The new store would be built at the northern edge of the same plaza the original store was in, and would be 5,000 square feet larger than the original at 45,000 square feet. Construction on the new Publix began in the Spring of 2016, and on January 12, 2017, Publix #1547 officially opened to replace ol' #219, which closed for the last time the night before the new store opened. And with the opening of the new store, yet another classic Publix was lost (but not before I could get some pictures of the original).
What really made this store a classic Publix was the "where shopping is a pleasure" sign. Everything about this sign just takes you back to a different era of Publix, one full of funky pastel colors and tile murals...
...and speaking of those tile murals, an early 80's Publix just wouldn't be complete without them! The most common and most generic Publix tile murals were those of the cornucopia and the wine bottles. However, many stores had custom designed murals to reflect some aspect of local flare. The Lake Placid Publix had one of the custom designed murals, however I can't figure out the significance of what this store's mural depicts. This store has two murals in total - a long one near the left side entrance, and a smaller one next to the right side entrance. Both murals depict the same theme of a small farming village with mountains in the background. Maybe this mural reflects on the early lives of some of the area's early settlers? I don't know, but maybe someone from the area may know more about the message in this mural. It would have been much easier to figure out the significance of the mural if it was of a bunch of caladium plants! (Caladium plants are Lake Placid's claim to fame, which you can read about at that link.)
When entering the store from the left side, the mural continues through the doorway. This odd set-up was due to the fact that this vestibule with the doors on the sides was added later in this store's life. Originally, the front doors would have faced straight out toward the front of the building, like what can be seen here.
Also, right as I finished taking this photo, a guy walked in through the door. He for sure saw me taking pictures of the mural, and he gave me a weird look as he walked by me. He was probably thinking "Why is that crazy guy taking pictures of the wall?". In response to his stare, I responded to the guy by saying: "I'm just appreciating some art that won't be here much longer." That caused the guy to stop for a second and look at the mural, just to give me another look before continuing into the store. Not the most exciting story in the world, but I feel that more people should take the time to appreciate these Publix tile murals. These things are made up of thousands of hand painted tiles, and I'm sure creating one of these things was no easy task! However, I'm probably one of few people who takes the time to analyze the art gracing the walls (well, is the wall in this case) of the local grocery store.
Like most Publix stores, upon entering you encounter a small area of promotional and seasonal merchandise. While I didn't get a picture of that area here, I did get a picture of this store's customer service counter, which was located just beyond all of that. As with most 70's and 80's Publix stores, customer service was located in the front right corner of the store. I always found this location to be odd as it puts the customer service desk more in the grocery department rather than being close to the front end. Throughout the entire store, you'll see the flooring is the original green striped terrazzo, the classic Publix flooring. Modern Publix stores still use the terrazzo floors, however they're just plain white now.
The decor throughout this store was 2nd Generation Classy Market, probably installed around 2009 or 2010. As I was walking into this store, I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, this store would have been a Wavy Pastel holdout given the time warped exterior and pending relocation. Considering how Publix is, it didn't surprise me one bit when I turned the corner into the main store and saw this. As much as a part of me still hopes there's a really old Publix still floating around somewhere with Wavy Pastel, I think those days are gone.
As with most 80's Publix stores, the dairy department lines the right side wall in aisle 1. Off in the distance you can see the beginning of the deli department.
Looking up aisle 2, back toward the front of the store.
Health and Beauty resides in aisle 3, with the deli sign peeking out in the background. This store did not have a pharmacy counter since it opened prior to Publix introducing in-store pharmacies, and a pharmacy was never added. This store's larger replacement does have a pharmacy, although I don't think Publix would open a new store these days without one. From what I understand, Publix pharmacies do very well.
Leaving health and beauty, here's a look at this store's deli. The deli was located in the back right corner of the store under that lower trapezoidal ceiling. The deli area received some upgrading in the 90's, and if you look closely in the photo, you can see where the flooring changes under the deli drop ceiling - hinting at expansion in this corner at some point.
Turning around 180 degrees from where I took the previous photo of the deli, here we can see down the back wall of the store. This store wasn't very big, you can clearly see the left side wall off in the distance. Meats takes up much of the back wall space, along with a tiny seafood counter, before finding yourself in the produce department.
Here's a look at a few more of the grocery aisles as we make our way toward the left side of the store.
As you may have seen bits of in the prior photos, these old Publix stores from the 70's through the 90's had a higher ceiling over the center grocery aisles. In the 70's and early 80's era stores, the sloped wall between the higher and lower ceilings would have been covered with wood paneling. If you go to some older repurposed Publix stores, you can still spot that original wood paneling Publix would later cover over.
Aisle 10 begins the transition into the frozen foods department, which takes up the remaining grocery aisles.
The tiny seafood counter, located between the meat coolers and produce. That employee you see stocking the cooler was unpacking a box of some kind of frozen seafood. However, if you zoom into the photo and take a look at the box being unpacked, you'll see the old Publix ribbon logo on it! That logo was used on all Publix brand products until 2004, when that logo began to be replaced with the current dot logo packaging. I guess Publix still has a lot of old boxes lying around somewhere.
Here's another look back toward the deli, taken from near the seafood counter.
As in most older Publix stores, produce is located in the back left corner of the store. During that 90's remodel, the produce department was pushed into an alcove from the main sales floor. As you can see in the above photo and in the next photo, the flooring in produce switches from the striped terrazzo to while tiles. More than likely, this alcove was once backroom space before produce was pushed in here.
A look inside the produce alcove, as viewed looking toward the back wall of the store. Those produce cases seem pretty old.
Leaving the produce alcove, you would have found yourself in aisle 11, this store's last aisle. This aisle contained the remainder of frozen foods. In the distance is the bakery.
Sorry for the crummy picture, but the bakery was bustling during my visit! There was a good crowd standing by the bakery counter just out of frame to the right. The way the bakeries are situated in these older Publix stores doesn't make it easy to get a photo of them either. These older Publix stores have the bakery located in an alcove in the front left corner of the store. In addition to housing the baked goods, the bakery alcove also contained the freezers in which ice cream was stored. You can see the ice cream freezers in the background of this photo.
This look across the front end completes our interior tour of the tiny, old Lake Placid Publix, probably the last time anyone will see the interior of this building as a Publix. Let's squeeze our way through the front and finish off with a few loose end on our exterior tour...
When we entered this store, we came in through the left side door. We're going to leave through the right side door so we can see the other portion of this store's tile mural. The mural on this side of the store continues the village and mountains theme from the other side of the store. On this side we can also see some of the classic Publix marble wall underneath the mural. The marble on the other side of the store was blocked by a stack of Christmas trees.
Of course they had to carve out a spot for the ATM right in the middle of the mural! However, that's not as big of a scar as this mural had to endure. Anyway, this is the entirety of the mural on the right side of the building. It was much easier getting a photo of this one than its much larger counter part on the other side of the building. Unfortunately, like so many of the other Publix tile murals out there, this one and its counterpart will more than likely become a bucket of tile fragments now that the new store has opened. Speaking of the new store, this is probably a good time to talk about that:
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the new Publix #1547 opened on January 12, 2017, with store #219 ceasing operation the evening before. Just as a fun fact, Publix #1547 was the first new Publix store to open in 2017. There really isn't anything all too special about the new store design-wise. It's your average 45,000 square foot format Publix. The new store, unlike the old one, will have a pharmacy with a drive thru as additional services, as well as an extra 5,000 square feet of sales floor space compared to the old store. In my diagram above you can see where the new store was built in relation to the old store. The entire relocation was only a matter of a moving a few hundred feet to the north to that empty lot. Now that the new Publix is open, the plan for the old store is to remodel it into a much larger home for the Bealls Outlet currently in the plaza (whose original location I marked in the diagram) and space for another storefront. Bealls Outlet is going to take up a good 30,000 square feet of that former Publix, so that's going to be one big Bealls Outlet! As well as the remodeling going on at the old Publix space, the rest of the original plaza will be getting an exterior remodel. Also, the small portion of the plaza that faces south at the southern end of the plaza is to be torn down as a part of the remodeling, leaving only the portion of the plaza facing east.
|Photo from Google listing of Publix #1547 - Taken by Jonathan Perez|
I was able to find this photo on Google of the new Publix, taken from the air (probably by drone). It looks like every other new Publix from the exterior, although Publix's current store design looks pretty nice with the burgundy accents this store got.
As for the future look of the old store, I was able to find this drawing of what the left half of the old Plaza will look like after construction is finished. This drawing came from one of the Highlands Today articles about the new Lake Placid Publix. I think some of the original Publix look will remain based off of this drawing, although a good amount of modification will be made. I don't know what's going to happen to the tile murals once construction is finished, but more than likely they'll probably be removed.
Now that we've discussed what's going on with the Lake Placid Publix, let's take a quick look at some of the other grocery stores around town (and a little more). First up, let's take a look at the former Winn-Dixie diagonally across the street from the Publix:
70 Plaza Avenue, Lake Placid, FL - Lake Placid Plaza
This Winn-Dixie opened in 1985, 5 years after the Publix opened on this corner. I don't know if this store was a relocation for a very old Winn-Dixie or Kwik Chek downtown or if this was Winn-Dixie's first store in town, as there are a few buildings further in town that look like they could have been old grocery stores. This Winn-Dixie experienced a quick Purple/Maroon remodel in the early 2000's, although it retained the original coolers and colored floor tiles from the original 80's decor this store opened with. In April 2014, Winn-Dixie took over the Lake Placid Sweetbay Supermarket located 2.5 miles south of here on the fringe of town. That store and this one co-existed for a good 9 months before Winn-Dixie made the decision to keep the old Sweetbay and close this store. The official announcement of this store's closure came on January 6, 2015, with the official closure coming two weeks later. With the Winn-Dixie's closure here, they left Publix as the only grocery store in Lake Placid proper. With this quick look at the former Winn-Dixie out of the way, let's take a quick trip to the south side of town for a look at the replacement:
Food Lion #877/Kash n' Karry #1879/Sweetbay Supermarket #1879/Winn-Dixie #2548
1519 US 27, Lake Placid, FL
This store originally opened in 1990 as a Food Lion, one of three Food Lion stores to open in Highlands County (in case you were interested, the other two Highlands County Food Lions were store #872 in Avon Park and store #888 in Sebring). All three of the Highlands County Food Lion locations opened between 1990 and 1991 during Food Lion's big sweep to open stores in Florida. That big sweep by Food Lion to open a bunch of stores in Florida in a short amount of time caused Food Lion to pick some Florida sites that were a bit odd, including building stores in the middle of nowhere and building stores off side streets in the middle of neighborhoods. This store was one of the middle of nowhere sites, located 2.5 miles south from the center of town. Food Lion may have seen some potential from the mega developments built to the south of Lake Placid in the 70's and 80's that were supposed to draw thousands more new residents to the area. While those developments have built up some over the years, the draw the developers expected never happened and much of them still lie empty. And if Winn-Dixie chose to keep this location over the downtown one, this little store on the edge of nowhere must have some kind of a following. Anyway, this Food Lion, along with the Avon Park location, converted to the Kash n' Karry format in 1999 when Food Lion shrank their Florida presence to only the Daytona Beach and Jacksonville areas. Food Lion had purchased Kash n' Karry in 1996 in an attempt to boost their Florida division, which was never very successful and was struggling to survive. Food Lion was hoping that the more traditional format, long established Kash n' Karry brand would be the boost they needed to gain traction in Florida (spoiler alert: it wasn't). The Sebring Food Lion was closed at this time due to being located next door to an existing Kash n' Karry. The Lion n' Karry's were nothing more than a more than a glorified purple/green/pastel version of a Food Lion, and hardly did anything to boost either Food Lion or Kash n' Karry. By 2004, Kash n' Karry was still struggling. After a closure round that wiped out their stores in Eastern and Central Florida (and the Avon Park store) in February 2004, Kash n' Karry announced later that year that all of their remaining stores would be converting to a new name, Sweetbay (for more about Sweetbay, this post provides some good insight). The Lake Placid Kash n' Karry converted to a Sweetbay sometime between 2004 and 2008, the window in which all Kash n' Karrys were converted to the new Hannaford-inspired Sweetbay format. As we all know, Sweetbay also never caught on, and in 2013, Winn-Dixie's parent company (then known as BI-LO Holdings) purchased Sweetbay from Delhaize. In 2014, all remaining Sweetbays were converted into Winn-Dixies. However, the Lake Placid Sweetbay was not supposed to become a Winn-Dixie at first. Originally, the FTC was going to force BI-LO Holdings to divest this location, along with three other Sweetbay stores in close proximity to existing Winn-Dixies, to Rowe's IGA Markets (yes, that small operation out of Jacksonville). For one reason or another, Rowe's was not able to take over the 4 Sweetbays they were supposed to purchase (probably for good reason too - they were all quite far from Rowe's small cluster of stores around Jacksonville). In the end, those four stores were allowed to be converted into Winn-Dixie as well when Rowe's pulled out, and a Winn-Dixie is what this store is now. So that longwinded backstory explains how Winn-Dixie ended up here, as well as the history of Food Lion in Highlands County and much of the Food Lion/Kash n' Karry/Sweetbay lineage. I have an entire album of photos of this Winn-Dixie to post either to the blog or my flickr account (I haven't decided yet) sometime in the future. It's a Winn-Dixie that looks like a Sweetbay with the layout of a Food Lion. I thought it was interesting. With that speech out of the way, let's move on to a non-retail related but very interesting Lake Placid icon before we leave town:
You may have seen on the location map a few photos ago a label for the "Lake Placid Tower". Well, this is the Lake Placid Tower. You can begin to see the top of it as you drive into town along US 27, beaconing the location of the center of Lake Placid. The tower is located directly across the street from the town's Publix, so of course I had to stop by and get a closer look at it!
The Lake Placid Tower was one of three tourist towers built throughout the central part of the state, and the southernmost of the three. These tourist towers were built in mostly rural (at the time) parts of the state along popular tourist travel routes. By climbing to the top of any of these towers, one was able to get a view of the many Central Florida orange groves for miles in each direction. The Lake Placid Tower opened on January 1, 1960, and also included a restaurant at its base. The tower itself is 270 feet tall and built out of concrete block. One of the many gimmicks meant to lure tourists to climb to the top of the tower (outside of the view) was that the Lake Placid Tower was home to "Florida's highest payphone". Who wouldn't want to stop and make a call from that?! However, a payphone 270 feet above the ground wasn't enough to get people to visit the tower. The Lake Placid Tower was never as big of a draw as Clermont's Citrus Tower or Lake Wales' Bok Tower (both of which are still open today). From the late 60's through the early 2000's, the Lake Placid Tower underwent various name and ownership changes in attempts to lure travelers to stop at the tower. However, none of those attempts were very successful and the Lake Placid Tower sat abandoned for much of the last decade. The Lake Placid Tower is currently part of a mostly empty strip plaza, and it looks like the old observation tower has since been converted into a cell phone tower.
So now that we've had our tour of all of the sights to see in Lake Placid, let's go back over to the old Publix and wrap up this post with some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth:
Publix #219 - 2014
Publix #219 - 2006
Publix #219 - 1999
Publix #219 - 1994 - 14 years prior to when this satellite image was captured, the Publix and accompanying plaza site were also a part of that citrus grove you can see to the north and west of the plaza.
So let's end this post with one final image of the original, classic Lake Placid Publix that served this town for 37 years. The replacement of the Lake Placid store comes just months after the South Sebring Publix was demolished and rebuilt, and also just months after another small south-central Florida town, Arcadia, got their very own Publix for the first time. It looks like all of this may have been part of a plan by Publix to refresh and expand their presence in this rather rural area of Florida. There is also online rumor (nothing concrete that I could find though) that Publix may also be scouting another small south-Central Florida town, Wauchula, for a new store (which many in Wauchula seem to be eagerly begging for). Even with Publix on the move throughout Florida and the Southeast with remodels and new stores, let's just take this moment to remember how Publix once was, and how their stores have changed so much over the last 37 years.
So that's all I have for now. Until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger