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


  1. I agree with you, it's extremely weird (given their track record) how Publix seems so content with this store! It has all the makings of a cheap conversion... and even though I can understand the exterior to an extent, it really does seem odd for Publix not to have replaced the cases or the flooring (or changed the layout; speaking of which: how on earth did Food Lion think putting frozen foods on aisle one was a good idea?!). Perhaps the store has remained so untouched because Publix has had some plans in the works to expand it into those spaces you mentioned are available. But if that is indeed the case, you'd think they'd have said something about it by now, and for that matter, that they'd have done it much sooner than now. Such a crazy situation! :P

    Is this store the only supermarket in town, by chance? Because that's the only way I'd understand Public's lack of effort in this store...

    Oh, and I'm looking forward to seeing that new project of yours! :)

    1. An old Food Lion is probably one of the last things you'd ever think Publix would have wanted to purchase (at least without the desire to flatten the building and start from scratch with their own). Even in some of the other stores they've taken over, they have remodeled the bakeries and pharmacies (for example) to their liking, even if they left much of the other features from the previous tenant in-tact. They did nothing here. (And speaking of the frozen food situation - Food Lion eventually learned that putting frozen foods in aisle 1 was a bad idea, as I've seen other Food Lions from this era get the frozen food coolers flipped to the other side of the store during remodels - I guess enough people with melted frozen foods complained!). The other two stores Publix purchased at the same time as this one have gotten much more love over the years from Publix than this one, which also makes me wonder if they want to replace this store eventually. But who knows with Publix...

      This Publix is the only grocery store in this part of town, with the next closest grocery store being a Save-A-Lot two miles to the south, and then another Publix and Save-A-Lot about another mile south of there (Fort Pierce isn't known for it's wide variety of retail, but that's a story for another day). Fort Pierce's Walmart is all the way on the other side of town by the interstate, but that's essentially all the grocery competition in town (which isn't much). Considering the lack of competition, that may be one of the reasons why they don't feel the need to do anything here right away.

      Thanks! I think you'll like my project!

    2. I've seen this situation going on with an old Albertsons. There is the huge debate going on within Publix on if they should just close the location, rebuild it, or remodel it completely. (The store is about the oldest Albertsons Florida floor plan wise that I have seen)
      That store is much larger however at 50k+ square feet

  2. Food Lion failed in Florida because of its extra high prices, lack of food and pharmacy departments, and bad decisions from stores to corporate offices.

    Publix #1102 is among the 104 non-pharmacy stores Publix presently operates. Publix is reducing the number of non-pharmacy stores by adding pharmacies to existing non-pharmacy stores, or by replacing or rebuilding non-pharmacy stores with stores having pharmacies.

    If Publix should address Publix #1102, it could likely build a replacement store with a pharmacy with a drive thru and liquor.

    1. In addition to those reasons, Food Lion also picked some very bad locations for stores as they tried to grow fast across the state (some were literally in the middle of nowhere). It was a disaster from the beginning.

      This store doesn't fit Publix's current standards at all, so a replacement store will probably happen here sooner rather than later, especially since they do have the space for a new store.

    2. Food Lion made bad decisions to overextend itself into distant markets with rinky dink stores. The end result would be exiting Florida, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.

      Food Lion is active updating stores. The current round of updates still lack extra low prices, the necessities of food and pharmacy, and progress in quality and service. Food Lion remains sub-par to other Ahold Delhaize banners: Giant Food of Maryland, Giant Food Stores, Hannaford, Martin's, and Stop and Shop.

      Publix #1102 would require extensive work to be on par with Publix's standards and necessities. A replacement store is the way to go.

  3. I grew up in central Pa and in the 90s food lion came to town with their extra low prices. They build smaller stores with the frozen section in the first aisle. I remember saying of you get your frozen items first, wont they be soft by the time your done. They were no match for Giant, Weis, and festival foods. I think they lasted two years. They tore down an old A&P to put up a new food lion.

    1. Putting frozen foods in the first aisle wasn't a good idea. Pennsylvania was another bad move for Food Lion. They pushed all the way up to Altoona and Reading at one point, but I think they only have one PA store left somewhere down by Gettysburg now. Two years was pretty good for your local Food Lion - I think the Reading store lasted less than a year before it closed.

    2. Food Lion has a small quantity of stores in Pennsylvania remaining. Those stores are closer to the Maryland state line. Food Lion aimlessly entering Pennsylvania with rinky dink stores became an instant fail.

      I know a store in South Carolina that operated for 14 months.

  4. After looking at the pictures again, maybe this was a test store for publix. Seeing how they could use and old food lion store and what the results were.

    1. Publix can operate 28m (28,000 square feet) and 39m (39,000 square feet) store with bakery, delicatessen, floral, meat, pharmacy, produce, and seafood departments. Publix #1102 is between those sizes. Its layout and costs for major improvement are greater than a replacement store.

  5. That is an interesting Publix... and can definitely tell it was a Food Lion. I don't think those coolers and freezers are original though. Food Lion and Delhaize always used Kysor Warren, and these are all typical Hill Phoenix that Publix uses since the 90s.

    I was wondering about those round lights on the ceiling. I can't quite remember Food Lion having round lights or not, but I do remember some Publix stores having them, but those stores were much older than when Publix would have taken over this store. I can recall one or two random ones in the Lake Placid store. Those cylinder fixtures on the front look Kash N Karry/Food Lion style, and the front looks very unique with Publix signage.

    The tile walls look to me to be something from Kash N Karry's purple era. I don't recall Food Lion having tile walls like that, but they didn't have seafood counters or windows either I don't think. Possibly when they converted to Kash N Karry they could have added a fish and seafood counter and those tiles came about? But they also MIGHT be something that Publix added, they do kind of match their decor.

    The fishing rod display is neat, definitely not something you see everyday.

    This is a unique store, thanks for posting.

    1. Publix did nothing to remove the Food Lion feel from this store. It's one of the strangest Publixes I've ever been to for that reason, and I've been to a lot of Publixes. The coolers just seemed rather old to me (at least older than 2004, when the Publix opened), which I why I assumed they were from Food Lion/Kash n'Karry.

      I know some older Food Lions had strange round hanging lights in the produce department, but I don't remember the round ones here. I looked through some other Food Lion photos I have (including some from the Lake Placid and Avon Park stores), and I didn't see them. I guess Publix added those lights, but I don't know what purposed they serve (they seem rather redundant).

      After I wrote this post, I went to another former Food Lion/Kash n' Karry store and saw those same seafood tiles. They were from Kash n' Karry's purple era, but they match Publix's current decor rather well. Food Lion I believe used wood paneling back here now that I think about it, but I'm not certain.

      Glad you liked this store, and the post!

  6. The Kash 'n Karry guy is Jim Meskimen, who also did very similar ads for Schnucks.