Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Modern Publix Mural

Photo courtesy of Rob Z.
     Today, August 31, 2017, marks the grand opening of Publix #1567 (Publix at Hamlin Cove) in Winter Garden, FL. While Publix openings aren't typically anything special (Publix is constantly growing, and they open 30-40 stores a year at least) this particular new Publix has a few interesting characteristics to it. AFB contributor Rob Z. sent in a few photos of this store after he noticed something unique about the exterior. While the design of this particular Publix is rather nice (especially with the extra windows - most modern Publix stores don't have that many windows), he noticed this Publix has a mural on the front of it. While I don't think this particular mural is made of tiles like the classic Publix ones, I thought it was pretty neat to see a modern Publix with a mural on the front of it. It's sort of a Publix throwback feature. According to an article I read, this store's mural depicts an orange grove, which is what this store was built on top of. The Publix sign on the bracket above the building is also another 80's/90's throwback for Publix - I don't think I've ever seen that treatment on a Publix built after the mid-90's before.

Photo courtesy of Rob Z.
     Here's an overview of the mural itself, located to the left of the entrance. It's rather big.

Photo courtesy of The Orange Observer
     In case you want to know more about this particular Publix, the Orange Observer has a rather nice write up about this store's opening, which you can read here.

So that's all I have for now. Until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Get Your Lion's Share of Publix

Food Lion #828 / Kash n' Karry #1875 / Publix #1102
1851 North US Highway 1, Fort Pierce, FL - Taylor Creek Commons

     What do you get when you cross a lion with an upscale supermarket? You get one of the weirdest supermarket conversions I've ever seen before. Welcome everyone to the Publix of Taylor Creek Commons, located on the northern side of Fort Pierce near the causeway to North Hutchinson Island. This store is by far one of the strangest Publix stores one could ever step into, much of which has to do with this building's interesting past. As you may know, Publix has taken over many former supermarket buildings in the past, including buildings that once housed stores such as Albertsons, Kash n' Karry, BI-LO, Martin's, and Winn-Dixie. However, as far as I know, the Publix at Taylor Creek Commons is the only Publix that has ever opened in a building that once housed a Food Lion. Taylor Creek Commons originally opened in 1990 with anchors Food Lion and Eckerd pharmacy. Food Lion was in the midst of a huge expansion across Florida at the time this store opened, where they were trying to blanket much of the Florida Peninsula and Eastern Panhandle with stores. While Food Lion did eventually achieve a rather widespread Florida presence by the mid-90's, their small, rather bare bones format was quite odd compared to what other supermarkets in Florida were doing at the time. For that reason, Food Lion began to have difficulties luring Floridian shoppers into their stores. As an attempt to revive their Florida division, Food Lion purchased the struggling West Florida grocery chain Kash n' Karry in 1996. Food Lion hoped that by pouring money into remodeling, improving, and expanding the familiar Kash n' Karry chain, that it would help offset the rather dismal outcome of their namesake stores' expansion in Florida. During the late 90's, Food Lion would expand Kash n' Karry into the Orlando area, Kash n' Karry's first major expansion outside of Western Florida. With sales at the namesake Food Lion stores still struggling throughout most of Florida, and things at Kash n' Karry looking better, Food Lion made the decision to convert almost all of their Florida locations to the Kash n' Karry name in 1999, with the Food Lion name only being used in the Northeastern and North Central parts of Florida (Daytona Beach to Jacksonville, and Gainesville to Lake City). That mass conversion of Food Lion stores now brought Kash n' Karry to Florida's East Coast for the first time, with this Food Lion in Fort Pierce being one of those East Coast stores. Even though Food Lion thought Kash n' Karry would be their saving grace in Florida, all they essentially did with the conversions was create a bunch of purple and teal Food Lion stores throughout Florida. Other than the new decor, these new Kash n' Karry stores were just Food Lions in disguise. As the 2000's began, Kash n' Karry was struggling even worse than before, now with even more intense competition from a rapidly expanding Publix and the further growth of Walmart Supercenters. In 2004, Kash n' Karry announced they were closing 34 stores throughout Florida, including complete pullouts from Florida's East Coast and the Orlando area in order to focus on their core Western Florida markets. This closure round was also one of the preludes to Kash n' Karry's eventual conversion into Sweetbay Supermarkets, a topic I discussed previously at this post. Of those 34 locations Kash n' Karry closed in 2004, Publix stepped in and offered to buy three of the effected locations. Those locations included one in South Orlando, this one in Fort Pierce, and one in Auburndale. The South Orlando and Auburndale Kash n' Karry stores were both really nice mid-late 90's built Kash n' Karry stores, still very modern for the time, well kept, and both over 45,000 square feet. And then they took this place too - a tiny 30,000 square foot former Food Lion with no pharmacy. I think this store's location to the higher income areas on Hutchinson Island is what made Publix take this location, as that's about all this place has going for it.

     And while Publix has since torn apart some rather nice former Albertsons stores that you would have thought fit their model better (for example, Albertsons #4390 and #4473), they seem oddly content with keeping their tiny old Food Lion in North Fort Pierce completely in-tact. There's even plenty of space off to the left of this building too for Publix to expand into, but they don't. I really don't understand Publix sometimes. From the exterior to the interior, this place is essentially a Food Lion with Publix decor, which makes this place rather strange to walk through (although I will say, the Pub-Dixies I went to were rather strange to walk through as well!).

     So let's head inside the Pub Lion for this rather unique experience...

     Upon entering, there is a small floral department when you turn right from the vestibule. Immediately to the left of the Floral department (from the vantage point the above photo was taken at), is produce.

     The produce department is located in the front right corner of the store, and is set up to be the first department you walk through upon entering. This is an unusual layout for Publix, as they usually push produce into either the back right or back left corner of the store, depending on when the store was built. If you are familiar with the layout of a typical 80's or 90's Food Lion, this store has that exact floorplan still. If you don't know that particular layout, you will see what it is as we continue through our tour.

     Looking from produce toward the left side of the store. Usually when Publix takes over a building that wasn't theirs originally, even if it's a building they only do a decor swap to, they still take the time to redo the floor tiles. However, that wasn't the case here. The tile pattern you see on the floor is the 90's Food Lion pattern (the brown and tan stripes).

     The very first aisle is Frozen Foods, which runs along the right side wall of the store. I know this was the typical placement for Frozen Foods in these older Food Lion stores, but it just seems strange seeing frozen foods on this side of the store (at least around here). I think what makes the placement strange (at least to me) is that the natural layout of the store pushes you into Frozen Foods first here, rather than toward the end like in many other stores.

     Behind the Frozen Food department was this small fishing section, complete with fishing poles for sale. You don't see fishing poles for sale at Publix too often! This store is right across the street from the Indian River, and right at the end of the causeway to North Hutchinson Island and the beaches, all of which are popular fishing spots in this area.

     Just about the entire back wall of this store is dedicated to meat and seafood. The coffin cooler to my right is filled with frozen meats, and looks to be original to Food Lion (as do all of the other coolers in this place).

     A better view across the back of this store, taken from the other side of the coffin cooler. Here we can see all the way down to the left side wall, where dairy begins.

     The meat and seafood counter, located about center along the back wall.

     A few of the grocery aisles...

     Seafood department signage.

     Here we can see part of the meat and seafood counter close-up. I'm pretty sure the tile backsplash is Publix's, as it looks more like one of their tile designs than something Food Lion would have used (although I don't remember what Food Lion's tile backsplash would have looked like, but I think it was more tan and didn't have as many colors as you see here).

     Here you can see where the meat department begins to transition into dairy.

     In the back left corner of the store is this wide corridor that leads to the restrooms, the stockroom, and the walk-in freezer. This is another very typical 80's/90's Food Lion trait. Because this corridor is so wide, usually this area is used to store random pallets, overstock merchandise, or even a phone booth.

     Aisle 13 is the last aisle in this store, and is home to dairy and ice cream.

     In the front left corner of the store is the tiny bakery and deli, which still retains the very Food Lion style setup. Publix tried to get the most out of what space they had here, and placed a bunch of display tables and a deli cooler in front of these departments, making for a very cramped environment.

     Close-up of the bakery. In addition to this part of the store being very cramped, it was also very busy, especially by the deli counter where a giant cooler takes up much of the floor space in front of it.

     Looking toward the deli from the bakery. The part of the deli counter where the fried chicken is kept actually encroaches a bit onto the bakery side.

      Here's that giant cooler in front of the deli counter I mentioned a few times.

    Between the deli and the front entrance is the customer service counter.

     A look across the front end.

     And that wraps up our tour around the inside of the Pub Lion. This place is something you really have to experience in person to get the full Food Lion effect, and to truly appreciate the uniqueness of this particular Publix.

     And outside we go. Now that we're back outside, let's take a look at some historic aerial imagery, courtesy of Google Earth:

Publix #1102 - 2017 - Here's an overview of the entirety of the Taylor Creek Commons shopping center, with the location of the Pub Lion marked. As you can see, there's a large empty patch next to the Publix where a shopping center expansion was probably planned, but never happened. Also, the old Eckerd (later CVS) two spaces up from the Publix in the plaza is now empty again, leaving a number of options for Publix if they wanted to build a new, slightly larger store here. Not that I want to push Publix to get rid of this unique store, but I'm kind of surprised they seem to not mind this building so much. But if they're happy with this store for now, then let them be happy with it.

Publix #1102 - 2012

Publix #1102 - 2005

Kash n' Karry #1875 - 1999

Food Lion #828 - 1994

     While much of this post was dedicated to looking for Food Lion artifacts in this particular Publix, it did spend those 5 years as a Kash n' Karry, as one of their few Eastern Florida locations too (even though there wasn't much left behind from that period in this store's life). So I will wrap up this post on a Kash n' Karry note, with this Kash n' Karry commercial from the early 2000's. This commercial features Kash n' Karry's odd spokesman from that period (who has been identified by a commentor below as comedian Jim Menskimen, and you can read about this particular ad campaign here), as well as a few glimpses of the deluxe version of that purple and teal interior I mentioned before. However, a discussion of Kash n' Karry's interior will be the topic of a future post here on AFB.

     Well, that's all I have for now. In lieu of a feature post two weeks from now (September 10th), I will instead use that day to debut a new project of mine that I think many of you will enjoy. Just be prepared to have a lot of information thrown at you that day!

So until then,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Former Albertsons #4359 - Apopka, FL (Semoran)

Albertsons #4359
2400 E. Semoran Boulevard, Apopka, FL - Piedmont Plaza

     It looks like its time to get things started once again here on AFB. Today we'll take a look at former Albertsons #4359 in Apopka, the older of the two Albertsons stores that once inhabited this town. This store opened in Fall 1985 as the first true "Superstore" model Albertsons in Florida. While the late 1984 opening of Albertsons #4357 probably marked the first actual Superstore model Albertsons in Florida, that store had to face some size restrictions due to the property it was built on, so that store really didn't live up to the "super" part of the Albertsons "Superstore" title. Albertsons spent much of the late 1970's and early 1980's using the Skaggs-Albertsons designs from when they first entered Florida in 1974 (or designs based off of that original model), so the Superstore Albertsons were the first to head in a different direction. These stores were larger than their Skaggs-based predecessors, and offered a more spacious design, dual entrances, as well as offering expanded deli, bakery, and health and beauty departments. The Superstore era also brought about the introduction of Albertsons' Blue and Gray Market interior, which would outlive the Superstore design and be used by Albertsons all the way through the late 1990's. Since this store in Apopka (as well as the tiny store #4357 in Vero Beach) were the first prototype Superstore Albertsons stores built, they did carry over some exterior design features from the previous era of Albertsons building design, such as the boxy exterior and the river rock walls. However, after those first two stores, Albertsons began to change up their Superstore design to be a bit more creative. This was the most typical Superstore style exterior variant, however some locations were a bit more unique, such as the brick fortress look of the Winter Springs store, and a good number which also incorporated arches into the exterior design. Store #4359 remained relatively untouched until its closure on June 9, 2012, with the only major remodeling being an early 2000's repaint of the Blue and Gray Market interior to a green and brown color scheme.

     In 2013, Hobby Lobby announced they would be taking over this former Albertsons location as part of their expansion into the Central Florida market. After doing a pretty extensive interior remodel and reconfiguration of the Albertsons entryways, Hobby Lobby officially opened their Apopka store on April 11, 2014.

     Even though new build Hobby Lobbies have a large vestibule with two side entrances, for some reason they always consolidate Albertsons' two entrances into one small single one. Hobby Lobby decided to put their new main entrance where Albertsons' old right side entrance was, which meant the left side entrance was to get sealed up. Instead of trying to match the existing river rock walls, Hobby Lobby just stuccoed over where Albertsons old doors and windows were, making it rather obvious where they once were.

     Trying to enter the store from this side of the building isn't recommended anymore. The left side entrance would have taken you into Albertsons near the pharmacy and health and beauty departments. Hobby Lobby did leave the two lights that would have been over each door when this was Albertsons, if you look at the overhang.

     This emergency exit was added by Hobby Lobby.

     The sealed-in windows on the left side of the building.

     Let's take a stroll down the front walkway to the right side vestibule, where Hobby Lobby's main entrance is now...

     This little indent along the front of the store between the two entrances was also a common trait of these Superstore model Albertsons (mostly the older ones, though). I think this area was supposed to be used for pallets of merchandise (like potting soil, mulch, or other specials of that nature), but I don't know for sure.

     Unlike the left side vestibule, Hobby Lobby left the right side one relatively in-tact. The biggest modifications here were moving the doors from the side to the front of the building, and adding another set of doors inside of the vestibule.

     The Hobby Lobby lobby, looking toward where Albertsons' entry and exit doors once were. This area is now used for a small selection of furniture.

    This is more or less what the view would have been like when walking into Albertsons (minus all of the furniture in the way, of course!).

     Stepping inside of Hobby Lobby and turning right, we enter the area that was once home to Albertsons' deli and bakery. The deli would have been to my right, and the bakery would have been straight ahead. I'm pretty sure Hobby Lobby gutted the place when they moved in, as they didn't leave a trace of Albertsons in here.

     Looking along the right side of the store, from front to back. This would have been looking from the bakery/deli toward produce in the Albertsons days.

     Looking across the back of the store. The meat and seafood departments would have been to my right, with the grocery aisles to my left.

     Looking across the right side of the store again, this time looking from back to front. I'm standing in what would have been Albertsons' produce department. However, the only produce you'll find back here now is that apple patterned cloth sticking out from one of those racks on my left.

     The right side wall.

     The back wall. Refrigerated cases would have lined this wall back in the day.

     Another back of the store view, this time looking from somewhere on the left side of the store toward the right side.

     This was taken somewhere in the center of the store near where Frozen Foods would have been.

     Albertsons' old pharmacy/health and beauty department was now home to a Christmas wonderland when I was here. The old left side entrance would have entered into the store somewhere behind that nativity scene.

     An overview of the left side of the store.

     The left side wall. I took this photo from where the pharmacy box would have once been.

     Finally, a few more photos from the center of the store to wrap up the interior tour of this place...

     Heading out...

     Now that we've seen the main store, let's take a look around the former liquor store...

     As usual, the liquor store is still abandoned, and is a time capsule into what this store would have looked like as an Albertsons. This liquor store here is attached to the left side of the main store.

     Looking from the liquor store toward the now sealed-off left side entrance.

     And just like the main store, the liquor store also had the brown "refresh" of the Blue and Gray Market decor. This is the right side of the old liquor store.

     It looks like Albertsons even left some of their old shelves behind as well.

     This is an unusually large Albertsons liquor store. They had enough space in here to have a double wide aisle off to the far right side, something you never see in one of these old Albertsons liquor stores.

     The left side of the liquor store, looking into the backroom and toward where the coolers would have once been.

     Between the old Albertsons and this plaza's other anchor, Bealls Department Store, was this long strip of abandoned storefronts. Even before Albertsons closed, this part of the shopping center wasn't doing so well. By the time I took these photos, the entire strip was empty. However, what I didn't know when I took these photos was that a redevelopment of Piedmont Plaza was apparently in the works, which I will discuss in more detail shortly. But before we get into that, let's checkout the other anchor to this plaza...

Zayre #610 / Ames #2610 / Builder's Square #1321 / Kmart #9450 / Bealls #53
2302 E. Semoran Boulevard, Apopka, FL - Piedmont Plaza

     As you can see, as lot has changed over the years at this end of Piedmont Plaza. This building originally opened as a Zayre discount store in 1985. When Zayre was bought out by Ames in 1988, this store would convert to that name. Ames closed this store when they pulled out of Florida in 1990. Sometime between 1992 and 1994, the old Zayre/Ames building was converted into a Builder's Square. Builder's Square lasted here until that chain went out of business in 1999. Kmart, who had owned Builder's Square until 1997, still controlled the lease to this building even after they sold off Builder's Square. So in 2000, Kmart decided to open their own store in this building, with this building becoming one of a few former Builder's Square sites that would later house a Kmart. This Kmart was among one of the last new stores that chain would ever open, and would actually be the second to last new Kmart to open in Florida. However, this Kmart was short lived, and closed during Kmart's 2003 bankruptcy closure wave. Shortly after Kmart closed, Bealls took over this building and extensively remodeled it (into a design, which to me, looks a lot like something from a 70's Kmart). Here's a photo of another Builder's Square-turned-Kmart so you can visualize (sort of) what this place would have looked like before Bealls opened here. Bealls has taken over many former Kmarts in Florida over the years, and as usual, they didn't leave a whole lot from the former occupants behind. However...

     ...Bealls never touched the old garden center! The garden center was added on when Builder's Square opened here in the early 90's, and it was remodeled when Kmart moved in to feel very Kmart-like. The point over the garden center entrance is a remnant of the Builder's Square exterior that Bealls wiped away from the rest of the building. How about a peek inside...

     Like I said, this garden center still feels very Kmart-like. Kmart even left behind the stands where their registers would have been.

     If you look at the wall to the left, you can see where Bealls sealed in the opening that connected the garden center to the main store.

     The exterior portion of the garden center. Compared to other Builder's Square stores I've seen, this one had a very small garden center. From looking at satellite imagery, Builder's Square's outdoor lumber yard was also preserved behind the garden center all this time, however I didn't go around to that part of the building for photos. Unfortunately, with the redevelopment of this plaza that I mentioned earlier, the Bealls space has been heavily modified, and with that came the demolition of the old garden center and lumber yard.

     The road sign facing Semoran Boulevard, which was clearly installed by Albertsons. The sign facing Piedmont-Wekiwa Road is also of the Albertsons style:

     And now time for some satellite imagery, starting as usual with some Bird's Eye view images of the old Albertsons courtesy of Bing Maps:


Right Side


Left Side

     Since there are currently no satellite images of this shopping center available showing Piedmont Plaza post-redevelopment, I decided to present the plaza's new layout using this diagram posted to the landlord's website. The strip of stores to the left of the old Albertsons was unaffected by the redevelopment, as was the old Albertsons building (which Albertsons owned independently from the rest of the plaza). However, the strip of stores that connected Albertsons to the Bealls building was completely demolished to make way for a new Party City and 24 Hour Fitness, as well as additional parking. The Bealls building was also completely overhauled. The Bealls store, which originally took over the entirety of the main Zayre/Ames/Kmart building, was shrunken in size by half in order to make room for a Bealls Outlet and a pet store. The abandoned Builder's Square/Kmart garden center and lumber yard were torn down in order to construct a Fuddrucker's restaurant, a strip of small storefronts, and additional parking.

     With this plaza's future out of the way, let's take a look at this plaza's past with some satellite images, courtesy of Google Earth:

Former Albertsons #4359 - 2016 (as well as an overview of the original Piedmont Plaza)

Albertsons #4359 - 2012

Albertsons #4359 - 2002

Kmart #9450 - 2002 - I included this image to show what this building looked like with the Builder's Square/Kmart era facade. If you looked at that example photo earlier, this store looks to be the flip of the one in that photo, by going off the shape of the facade in the aerial.

Albertsons #4359 - 1995 - This store never looks busy in any of the satellite images. However, it had to have something going for it if it made it all the way to 2012.

Future Albertsons #4359 - 1980

     As a bonus, I included some Google Streetview images of this store. In May 2011, the Google Streetview car drove across the front of Piedmont Plaza, capturing some rather clear images of this building when it was still an Albertsons. Let's take a peek at some of the highlights:

     This is what the left side entrance to the store looked like prior to Hobby Lobby closing it in.

     I tried to see if I could get any glimpses of the interior through the windows, but this image and the next one were the best I could get. In the image above, you can see rather clearly the "Welcome to Albertsons Apopka" sign on the wall.

     The original look of the right side entrance.

     And to round out the Streetview images, here's one of the liquor store back when it wasn't abandoned.

     Lastly, while doing some Googling, I did find a single picture of this store's interior online. Someone named Misty J. posted this photo of 4359's front end on Yelp, showing the "Thank you for shopping...Albertsons" sign in April 2012, just days after it was announced that this store would be closing with 16 other Albertsons locations throughout Florida. So this is our little taste of what this store was like near the very end.

     So that's about it for Albertsons #4359 in Apopka. While Hobby Lobby removed much of the Albertsons-ness from the inside of this store, it's still pretty obvious from the outside who was here originally. However, this Albertsons is pretty dull compared to its much younger sibling, store #4498, on the other side of town, which will be featured on the blog in the coming months.

     Before ending this post, here's a photo of Albertsons #4359 back in May 2006, courtesy of the Orange County Property Appraiser.

So that's all I have for now. Until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger