Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SEG Summer 2017 Closings Spotlight: Winn-Dixie #678 - Riverview, FL

***Photos for this post are courtesy of Kristin C.***

Winn-Dixie #678
9822 S. US Highway 301, Riverview, FL - River Bay Plaza

     In light of the recent closure wave by Winn-Dixie's parent company Southeastern Grocers, AFB contributor Kristin C. has kindly sent in a few photos of one of the 24 (and counting) Winn-Dixie, BI-LO, and Harvey's stores being closed this summer. Our contributor Kristin frequented this store, and she was quite sad to see that it was one of the stores chosen to close. This Winn-Dixie in Riverview was the only Tampa Bay area casualty this round, and one of four Winn-Dixie stores in Florida that are currently set to close by the end of June 2017. To view the complete list of effected stores, please click here.

    Just some quick background on this store before jumping into the rest of the photos: This Winn-Dixie opened in 1984 as a typical pre-Marketplace style Winn-Dixie. In 1995, this store received a major renovation in which the exterior and interior were practically rebuilt in order to transform this older location into a "modern" Marketplace format store. This store was hardly ever touched again after 1995, with the only major interior alteration since then being the replacement of the Marketplace-era aisle signs in favor of the Purple/Maroon decor ones from the early 2000's. In October 2016, this was one of five Tampa Bay area Winn-Dixie stores to lose its pharmacy, with the announcement of complete closure of the store coming shortly after in May 2017. This store's final day will be sometime in June 2017. With that out of the way, Kristin and I will take you on a short tour of this Winn-Dixie:

    The outside of the store. You can also see the blue awning. From what I can tell, there is no store closing banner outside, but there are plenty of store closing signs taped to the front window.

     The enter door.

     The cheese shop and deli area. But wait, what do I see? THE 80'S MARKETPLACE DECOR! That's right, this store still has the old 80's decor laying around. The original variant of the Marketplace decor, which is the salmon/teal version seen in this store, was used from the debut of the Marketplace decor in 1986 through 1995 or so. Over those 9 years, Winn-Dixie did tone down the colors of the decor. The original version was a bit of a pastel overload, like something right out of Miami Vice. For the remainder of the Marketplace era, from approx. 1996-2000, the Marketplace decor color scheme was switched to the yellow/aqua variant.

     The service counter to the meat department, also home to seafood.

     A look down aisle 12. Aisle 12 looks to be relatively well stocked, although some patches are beginning to thin out. These photos were taken relatively early in the closing process of this store. All of the aisle markers in this store are the shrunken version of the typical Purple/Maroon aisle marker. This is a photo of the more typical size, taken in a store where these smaller ones would have been much more appropriate!

     Lunch meat area. While the grocery aisles were still relatively full, the refrigerated goods were thinning out at a much faster pace.

     Aisle 14, home to dairy.

     The meat area.

     A store closing sign telling shoppers to go to another store. The store at 6929 US Highway 301 (#2475) is a former Sweetbay located 1.8 miles to the north of this closing Winn-Dixie, which probably took much of the business from this location. The 179 Bloomingdale Avenue store (#676) is a little over 5 miles northeast of here, and is located in a former Family Mart/Florida Choice building.

     The checkout area. This store has 6 checkouts. Also note the rather subtle store closing signage, unlike the signs used by some other retailers we know...

     Customer service desk.

     The two exit doors. So, I guess this serves as a good parting shot from this closing Winn-Dixie. Thank you Kristin for sending in these photos! I've been hearing that this recent closure round may just be the beginning of yet more closings to come later this year throughout Southeastern Grocers' brands. However, the only confirmed locations as of this post going live are the 24 locations listed here, but I guess we'll see as the year progresses.

But anyway, R.I.P Winn-Dixie #678.

Until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Winn-Dixie with Something Xtra to Show

Xtra Super Food Center - Cresthaven / Winn-Dixie #221 / Fresco y Mas #221
2675 S. Military Trail, West Palm Beach, FL - Shoppes at Cresthaven

     As I promised to you in the last post, today's post is all about Xtra Super Food Center (with some Winn-Dixie thrown in too). In that last post, we took a look at an Xtra Super Food Center that Albertsons had taken over in Winter Park, FL (Store #4423). Unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot to be seen in that last post of either of that building's former tenants. Today though, we'll get a small look into what Xtra Super Food Center was all about, as Winn-Dixie kept a good amount of things original here after they took over this former Xtra store.

     So, before we go any further, I should probably address the question "What was Xtra Super Food Center?" The Xtra Super Food Center concept was originally developed by the Pueblo supermarket chain in Puerto Rico. Pueblo was the largest supermarket operator in Puerto Rico during the 1980's, and to this day they still control a large amount of the market there. In the early 1980's, Pueblo began experimenting with a warehouse grocery store model in their home base of Puerto Rico, which they named Xtra. The first Xtra store opened in Puerto Rico in the early 80's. These stores were very large, ranging from 60,000-80,000 square feet, and offered a full selection of grocery products and departments, along with some extras like a full seafood department and an "in-store orange juice factory". The stores were set up and presented much like a Sam's Club is, with little effort put toward merchandise presentation and warehouse style metal shelving. Xtra was also operated their stores with fewer employees, yet another way they were able to reduce costs and operate using their discount format. The Xtra Super Food Center concept worked well in Puerto Rico, so Pueblo decided to expand the concept to the US Virgin Islands, and then Florida. The first Florida location of Xtra Super Food Center opened in 1983 in Hialeah, which is located near Miami. As the 80's progressed, Xtra would open a total of 10 stores throughout South and Central Florida. In South Florida, Xtra was able to grow powerful enough to become the 4th largest grocery chain by market share in that area, behind Publix, Winn-Dixie and Albertsons. The reason that the South Florida Xtra stores started off so well was because their stores carried a large selection of Hispanic oriented foods (including hard to find Hispanic products), a selection much larger than what most other mainstream grocers in South Florida were carrying at the time. From this, Xtra began to garner a rather loyal following. While the South Florida stores seemed to have found their niche, the Central Florida Xtra stores were having a more difficult time finding a following. The first Central Florida Xtra store opened in 1986 in Winter Park, which was featured in my last post. Xtra said they wanted to build three more stores in Central Florida by 1987, expecting Central Florida to be a huge hit for them much like their South Florida stores had become. However, sales at the Winter Park store turned out to be much less than Xtra had predicted, causing a stall to their grand Central Florida expansion plans. In 1989, after three years of trying to boost sales at their Winter Park store, Xtra decided to take a chance and opened a second Central Florida location in Altamonte Springs. Much like the signs that were coming from the Winter Park Xtra, the Altamonte Springs location turned out to be a big flop, becoming the shortest lived Xtra store of the bunch when it closed in late 1993. The Winter Park Xtra store closed soon after in May 1994, leaving Xtra with only their 8 stores in South Florida. Even with the following Xtra was able to build for themselves in South Florida, sales at those stores also began to slip as the 90's progressed from increased pressure from Publix, Winn-Dixie, and Albertsons, all of which were embarking on large expansion projects throughout South Florida in the 90's. Xtra's parent company, Pueblo, was also having financial issues throughout the early 90's, which eventually led to them being bought out by a Venezuelan retail operator called Cisneros Group. Cisneros decided there was no hope for Xtra in Florida anymore, and they officially pulled the plug on the remaining Florida Xtra stores in March 1996. Even with Xtra's former locations all being rather large compared to what most stores operated, at least 7 of their 10 locations were picked up by other grocers soon after Xtra closed (Winn-Dixie took over four that I know of, Albertsons got two, and Broward's Penn Dutch Market got one). Some of the other former Xtra buildings were either redeveloped or split into multiple storefronts.

     The former Xtra Super Food Center we'll be taking a look at today was one of the ones Winn-Dixie took over. This store opened as an Xtra Super Food Center in 1987, during the peak of Xtra's Florida expansion. This Xtra closed with the remaining 8 stores in March 1996 when Xtra called it quits. Winn-Dixie moved in here soon after Xtra closed, probably opening by 1997. In December 2016, this Winn-Dixie was converted into a Fresco y Mas store, part of a group of 5 South Florida Winn-Dixie all converted to new format at the same time. Fresco y Mas is Southeastern Grocers' new Hispanic-oriented grocery brand, which now has 11 locations throughout South Florida as of May 2017. I'll talk about Fresco y Mas in more detail later in this post.

     The exterior of this building is completely original from Xtra Super Food Center, and it gives off a feeling that this is a big store. Xtra's main entrance was located under the giant arch, with the exit located further down the walkway in the center of the building.

     As I approached the building, I walked toward the giant arch assuming that's where Winn-Dixie's main entrance was. Turns out, that part of the building was all sealed off, and Xtra's old exit further down the building now served as Winn-Dixie's main entrance and exit. After we finish out look around the interior, we'll come back over to the sealed off side of the building, as I have some questions about what happened with that space in the years after Xtra closed. Presently, the Winn-Dixie (now Fresco y Mas) takes up 80% of the former 67,000 square foot Xtra building (and this was one of Xtra's smaller stores, too), making this store about average size for a Winn-Dixie. This is the view down the spacious front walkway toward Winn-Dixie's main entrance, as viewed from the area under the archway.

     This isn't the most inviting looking entrance that I've ever seen, especially after seeing that grandiose exterior from the parking lot. As plain as it is, let's step inside and see what's going on in there...

     ...but first, here's a store directory that I took a photo of in case anyone wants to use it for reference to better visualize this store's layout in their mind. Now to see what we have in store...

     Stepping inside, one would get a rather odd first impression of this place upon first glimpse of the botched Transformational Decor remodel that looks to have happened in here. This "remodel" looks to have happened in 2012 or 2013, later in this decor's life. As you'll see throughout the interior photos, this store's original 90's Marketplace decor flooring, layout, fixtures, wall texturing, and a good number of the wall accents were left in-tact during this so-called "Transformational" remodel. All Winn-Dixie did here was paint over whatever was on the walls and throw up a few new signs, a complete 180 degree turn from what the original Transformational remodels were supposed to achieve. In the link earlier in this paragraph, you can see an example of one of Winn-Dixie's elaborate early Transformational remodels. This remodeling scheme was supposed to be the new direction of Winn-Dixie as they tried to fight Publix. It included a modern store design, expanded fresh food offerings, and a more upscale atmosphere. Those early Transformational remodels were extremely nice, and some of the most impressive looking Winn-Dixies I've ever seen. However, it seems that right after BI-LO swallowed up Winn-Dixie in 2012, Winn-Dixie's remodels began to cheapen out, leading to results like what you'll see here.

     Here we step out of the front end alcove for our first look into the main store. After Winn-Dixie took over this space from Xtra, they did a bit of work to bring the building to their standards. I think the Xtra stores used a warehouse-style exposed ceiling throughout most of the store, but I'm not completely sure of that. I do know the ceiling here was either added or redone by Winn-Dixie, as it's the exact same ceiling style that can be seen in other 90's Winn-Dixie stores. The layout of this store is definitely not from Winn-Dixie, and doesn't match any layout they ever used. Again, I can't say for sure if Winn-Dixie's layout is exactly true to Xtra's, but I'd say it's probably close to the layout Xtra had. Again, if anyone has any clarification on this, please leave a comment at the end of this post!

     Anyway, the produce department takes up the front left corner of this store. In a typical 90's Winn-Dixie, produce is located in the front right corner. One of the only major pieces of construction done during the botched Transformational remodel here was the addition of the wood-style flooring in the produce department, and the addition of some wooden produce bins. In addition to that new stuff, you can also clearly see part of the original Marketplace pattern floor and clear remnants of the Marketplace decor on the walls.

     Looking into the front left corner of the store.

     The beer and wine department was located in an alcove between produce and the deli. Behind the wall to the left is the back of Winn-Dixie's liquor store, which we'll see later in this post. In this photo, you can see very clearly how the old Marketplace wall decor was just painted over.

     Beyond the beer and wine alcove are the bakery and deli departments, which share a space in the back left corner of the store. The typical placement of these departments in a late 90's Winn-Dixie would be in the center right side of the store

     Leaving the bakery and deli now for a view across the store's back wall. You can plainly see the leftover details of the Marketplace decor on the back wall. Looking at this photo, you can still fall under the impression that this is a rather untouched 90's Winn-Dixie!

     One of the grocery aisles.

     Center aisle.

     Here's yet another closeup of the Marketplace decor remnants on the back wall.

     Skipping back to the front of the store as we prepare to enter the frozen foods department...

    Like in an average 90's Winn-Dixie, Frozen Foods can be found in the center of the store. The coffin coolers go down the center of the aisle, with the standard freezers with doors on the outer sides of the aisle.

     The last few grocery aisles as you neared the right side wall contained health and beauty, paper products, and cleaning supplies.

    Looking back toward the bakery and deli from the opposite side of the store.

     The Seafood department was somewhat randomly shoved into the back right corner of the store due to the layout of the old Xtra store. In a typical 90's Winn-Dixie, the very back right corner would be the deli, with seafood to the left of the deli counter. Also notice the original Marketplace era diamond shaped advertisements that still remain behind the counter.

     The last two aisles in this store, aisles 14 and 15, were shorter than the rest due to the way the pharmacy counter was situated in the front right corner of the store.

     And here's a look at the pharmacy counter. This was a very odd looking Winn-Dixie pharmacy. I've never seen a Winn-Dixie pharmacy designed like this before. In the typical late 90's Winn-Dixie, the pharmacy would either be in the front left corner of the store, or located along the front end between the customer service desk and the bakery. I don't think Xtra operated pharmacies, so this I'm pretty sure was added in by Winn-Dixie.

     The dairy department took up the rest of the right side wall beyond the pharmacy. You can also see part of the seafood department in the distance.

     I tried to get a decent picture of the "thank you" sign, but this was the best I was able to do. Instead of saying "thank you for shopping at your West Palm Beach Winn-Dixie", Winn-Dixie instead opted for "Palm Beach County". I know this building is technically in unincorporated Palm Beach County, but it just seems strange to me seeing the county name up on the sign instead of a city name. At least this sign is technically accurate, unlike the one at the Indian Harbour Beach Beach Winn-Dixie - Melbourne Beach is three cities south of there!

     A look across the front end, looking back toward where we started our interior tour.

     A look across the registers. At the time I was here, it seemed like there were a decent number of people doing their shopping here.

     Let's head back outside, where things will begin to get a little more confusing as far as the history of this place goes...

     On the far left side of the building was the old Xtra Super Food Center liquor store, which Winn-Dixie also took over when they moved into this building.

     Back under the spacious front walkway we go, where we can see that sealed off portion of the building I mentioned earlier in this post off in the distance. Everything about this place seemed rather straightforward until I walked over there and took a peek inside...

     Like I said earlier, this grand archway would have led you to Xtra's main entrance, which Winn-Dixie no longer uses. If you were to walk through this archway today, this is what you would find:

     ...and that would be a blacked out locked door. I was curious too see what was in this closed off portion of the building, thinking that maybe some kind of rare Xtra Super Food Center relics might still lie behind that door. Thankfully, there was another window just out of frame to my right that wasn't blacked out, so here's what we had lying inside this closed off portion of the building...

     ...Huh? Those aren't Xtra Super Food Center relics! This is old Winn-Dixie Marketplace decor! As much as I was hoping to give everyone a rare glimpse of some original Xtra Super Food Center relics, I guess I came 20 years too late. I'm not sure what exactly happened in here, but it looks like Winn-Dixie originally occupied the entire 67,000 square foot former Xtra when they first opened here in 1997. I'm assuming shortly after that they decided 67,000 square feet was too much for them, and they cut the store's size to what you saw earlier in this post. Considering that the current main store had entirely Marketplace decor before that cheapo remodel we saw, this store was shrunken down in size by 2001, which is when the Marketplace decor and concept was finally phased out. The department immediately in front of me looks like it would have been home to floral, and is probably the original layout from Xtra (as I've never seen a floral department layout like this in a Winn-Dixie). The "Wall of Special Values" looks to be the back wall of the pharmacy, with a partition wall further down showing where this space was cut off. As always, if anyone knows any more about what Winn-Dixie did here, please let us know in the comments section below.

     Another look into what I believe was Xtra's floral department. Beyond this it looks like the ceiling changes into a grid pattern, but I can't make out much else in that space behind the coolers. Did Winn-Dixie keep this place practically untouched from Xtra when they first opened here? I think most of the Winn-Dixie-fication of the current main store happened when they shrunk the size of the store. Other than the Marketplace era "Wall of Special Values" sign, this place doesn't feel much like a former Winn-Dixie space, oo I guess we still got a little glimpse into Xtra after all!

     Here's one final exterior view of the store before we head into the satellite imagery, beginning with some Bird's Eye aerial views courtesy of Bing Maps:

Front - This is what the exterior looked like before the cheapo "Transformational" remodel.

Right Side


Left Side

     And now for some historic aerial imagery, courtesy of Google Earth and

Winn-Dixie #221 - 2016 - This is also an overview of the entire Shoppes at Cresthaven, with the former Xtra/former Winn-Dixie/current Fresco y Mas being the big building at the bottom of the plaza.

Winn-Dixie #221 - 2009

Winn-Dixie #221 - 2004

Winn-Dixie #221 - 1999 - Considering there are more cars toward the north side of the building, it looks like Winn-Dixie was still in the entire space at this time.

Former Xtra Super Food Center - 1995 - This satellite image was dated 1995, and shows the Xtra building empty. My research showed this store closed in March 1996, though. I'm not sure what happened here, but either the date of the satellite image is off or this image was taken on a holiday.

Future Xtra Super Food Center - 1979 - Just a big empty lot still.

Photo courtesy of The Shelby Report
     As I mentioned earlier in this post, Winn-Dixie converted this store into one of their new Hispanic-oriented Fresco y Mas prototype stores in December 2016, the only one so far outside of Miami-Dade County, where the concept originated in June 2016. The photo above is an example of what a typical Fresco y Mas interior looks like, taken in one of the converted stores in Miami. Here's an album of photos of what this store looks like now as a Fresco y Mas if you're interested. They layout is essentially the same, however the cheapo transformational decor was switched out in favor of the new Fresco y Mas decor - which is that painfully bright electric yellow version of the current "Down Down" decor. I really think they should have picked a more muted yellow if they wanted these stores to be yellow so bad. This color hurts my eyes. At least this remodel included the removal of all traces of the Marketplace decor from the store we just took a look at. For more on what Fresco y Mas is all about and what makes these stores different, this article provides a rather nice explanation of all of the new features that were included.

     Now that I've covered what seems to be the future of this store, here's one one last little thing I found about this store's past. As I was researching this store, I stumbled across this multi-page guide published by the Palm Beach Post about the grand opening of this very store. Included in the guide are a bunch of pictures of this store from its grand opening in November 1987, including photos of what looks like a funky neon interior. Unfortunately, viewing that guide and all of the photos in it is blocked by a paywall. If you don't have an account, you can still make out the big photo on the first page, and read the article in the text box at the bottom.

     So that's been our Xtra experience here on the blog. Especially in South Florida, you can still stumble across one of these massive old stores in various states of repurposement. This one, the Penn Dutch in Margate, and the Altamonte Springs Winn-Dixie are probably the best preserved Xtra stores that I can think of if you ever want to see one of these in person. So this is yet one more of the many former supermarket chains that has attempted to make it for themselves in Florida, and I have plenty of others to cover in the future as well. However, next time it's back to our favorite former Florida supermarket chain as we take a look at yet another former Florida Albertsons store.

See you then,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger