Sunday, September 24, 2017

Former Albertsons #4438 - Orlando, FL (Union Park) - Part 1

Albertsons #4438 / Super Saver #1532 / Metro 25/7 Gym / Lucky's Market #25
11750 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL - Alafaya Village

     After submerging everyone in lists of Kmart, Food Lion, and Grand Union stores last week, it's time we get back to business here on AFB with yet another Albertsons feature post. I'm breaking the post for this store into two parts, since I was able to visit this store during two different phases in its life. Today, we'll be taking a look at Albertsons #4438 while it was sitting abandoned prior to finding its current life as a Lucky's Market. Before we get into how this building looked in late 2015, let me first go over the history behind this particular Albertsons:

     Albertsons #4438 opened in 1997, 11 years after the Alafaya Village shopping center was originally built. When first built, Alafaya Village did not include a major anchor of any kind, and was originally constructed as an L-shaped shopping center consisting entirely of small storefronts. In order to accommodate the new Albertsons store, a stretch of storefronts in the middle of the shopping center was torn down, with the Albertsons building also taking up a portion of an empty lot behind the shopping center. This building only lasted 8 years as an Albertsons, as it was one of the 11 underperforming Florida Albertsons stores selected to be converted into the new Super Saver discount grocery format in 2005. Ultimately, all of the Florida Super Saver locations would close in 2006. This building sat vacant until 2009, when Metro 25/7 Gym moved in. The gym closed in 2011, supposedly after getting evicted. In late 2015, Lucky's Market announced they had chosen this location for one of their first few Florida stores, with Lucky's opening in this location in June 2016. For Part 2 of this series, we'll focus on this building in its current incarnation as Lucky's Market. Today though, we'll get to see this building in slightly more original form as it sat abandoned, waiting for Lucky's to begin construction.

     Another thing to note about this store is that it is located only a mile away from the University of Central Florida, right on the edge of a large retail strip that spans Alafaya Trail between Colonial Drive and the SR 408 Expressway. While this particular locations seems to have a lot of positives going for it, it's a complete nightmare to get in and out of this plaza (especially if you're coming or going from certain directions) due to the way the bordering roads are designed and the heavy traffic on both of them. That could have been a contributing factor to why Albertsons was having troubles with this store (they've claimed traffic problems as a reason for closing a few of the shorter-lived stores), but who knows. Hopefully Lucky's will be able to do better here.

     Other than the unusual detailing to match the rest of the shopping center, this was an average mid-late 90's style Albertsons store with the Blue and Gray Market interior. Essentially, this store would have been the reverse layout of this one.

     Metro 25/7 Gym left all of their signage up when they vacated this building in 2011. From the reviews of this place online (which are still up currently), this place had more critics than supporters in its short time open. I'm sure that didn't help their situation any.

    As you can see here, the gym left Albertsons' entryway and exterior completely in-tact.

     The typical windowed-in mid-late 90's exterior cart storage space was left in-tact during this building's period as a gym, but would eventually be removed when Lucky's moved into this building. As we'll see in the next post, Lucky's did a good amount of alterations to this building, including moving their main entrance to that brown portion of the facade where the "UGoFit Nutrition" sign currently is.

     Looking into the old cart storage area. Once Lucky's moved in and the cart storage area was removed, this portion of the walkway became home to an outdoor cafe seating area.

     Now try to imagine this space filled with a bunch of these...

     The original Albertsons entryway setup was retained by the gym as well. The address number is also in the original Albertsons font. To the right of the address was a handwritten poster that said "Future Home of Lucky's Market". Seeing that sign this day was the very first time I had ever heard of Lucky's Market. I thought it was going to be a small, locally owned operation when I first saw this sign, but that assumption turned out to be wrong.

     An original Albertsons door decal also managed to survive! However, Lucky's removed all of these doors during their remodel. They only took over the left half of this building, and replaced these doors with a single set of manual doors for whenever a future tenant decides to take over the rest of this space.

     Looking through Albertsons' old front entryway I saw this. Nothing from Albertsons in here unfortunately, but we can see that Lucky's had just began some initial prep work. I don't know how much the gym left from Albertsons, but usually gyms don't leave much behind when they take over an old grocery store. However, this gym seemed like a rather "budget minded" operation from what I saw in those reviews linked to earlier (and the old liquor store), so Albertsons traces could have very well lasted in here until Lucky's began their remodeling.

     Looking toward the back of the building, we can see an old mezzanine level that would have been hidden from public view above Albertsons' stockroom. Like I mentioned earlier, this side of the building we're looking at now is still empty. This part of the store would have contained Albertsons' produce, bakery, and deli departments.

     Turning the camera for a look into the left side of the old Albertsons. This is looking into the space that Lucky's now occupies. The left portion of the building would have contained the seafood and meat counters, but would have been mostly the grocery aisles.

      Since the inside of the main store wasn't so interesting, let's continue on with our walk around the outside of the building. Off in the distance here is the liquor store, which we'll get back to shortly...

     Walking around the cart storage area for a quick look at the left side of the building...

     What you see here is the wall where Lucky's new entrance and exit would be carved out of.

     The section of small stores that faces E. Colonial Drive. For a plaza that was going on 4 years without its anchor at this time, there were some vacancies, but the plaza seemed to be mostly full.

     Looking into the corner of the plaza from the edge of the old Albertsons building. For some reason this corner is elevated higher than the rest of the plaza, leading to the use of a series of ramps as you go in and out of this corner. The empty storefronts you see pictured here were once home to a DMV office.

     A reversal of the previous photo - here we're looking from the corner toward the old Albertsons.

     Time to walk back to the other side of the building to check out the old liquor store...

     If you look closely in the above photo, you can see the labelscar from Albertsons' "Food" sign (an example of which can be seen at that link).

     Metro 25/7 Gym also took over the old Albertsons liquor store, making it their "Metro Kids Care" daycare center.

     Some Albertsons decals still on the doors.

     I don't know what the entire story was, but this sign taped to the liquor store door was how I discovered that the gym was apparently evicted. Anyway, ready for a peek inside here?...

     As usual, the old liquor store never lets us down. There are plenty of traces of Albertsons' Blue and Gray Market decor in here (although slightly modified by the gym).

     Even the lettering on the walls that the gym added is somewhat reminiscent of the font from the Blue and Gray Market interior. You can also see the marks from where the liquor aisles once were. Considering how little the gym did to get rid of all of the traces of Albertsons in here, it makes me wonder if they gave the main store the same minimal treatment too.

     Back outside now, here we look from the front of the liquor store toward the main store entrance.

     The small strip of stores that extends out from the right side of the old Albertsons building. A Chinese restaurant at the very end of the strip modified their facade a bit with the addition of that pagoda style awning.

     One final look at the exterior of this former Albertsons we we begin to wrap this part of our tour up...

     And here's a look at the back of the building and the loading docks. You can also see the emergency exit from the second floor mezzanine we saw inside of the building earlier in this post.

     And lastly, the very Albertsons-esque road sign.

     Before I wrap up this post, I would like to talk about two of the supermarkets that once existed on this same corner as the old Albertsons - the Fairway/Piggly Wiggly right behind the Albertsons, and the Florida Choice/Publix on the opposite corner. I've included the above map in order to show exactly where everything is. First we'll take a look at the old Fairway:

Fairway Market / Piggly Wiggly / Big Lots #536
11672 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL

     Fairway Market opened at this location in 1980, making it one of their last few new stores. Fairway Market isn't a store we've discussed on the blog before, so let me tell you a little bit about their history:

     Fairway Markets was a chain of 12 grocery stores at its peak, and operated in the Greater Orlando area as well as in Sanford and Kissimmee. It, along with Gooding's, were Orlando's two hometown grocery chains back in the 70's and 80's. Unilke Gooding's, who managed to keep most of their stores around until 2001, just about all of Fairway's stores were closed by the mid-late 1980's after the founding family sold off the chain to a new owner. If you would like to read more about Fairway in detail, this article and this article from the Orlando Sentinel go into more depth about their history. As for this particular Fairway location, this store closed sometime around 1986 when the founding family sold off most of their stores. If you want to take a look at it, while researching this store I found an ad for this particular Fairway store in a copy of UCF's school newspaper from 1983 (it's on pages 12 and 13 of the paper, or pages 13 and 14 if you go by the page numbering of the PDF file). By 1986, this store was home to a Piggly Wiggly, which seems to be the brand most of the Fairway stores switched to after they were sold off. Piggly Wiggly's days in Orlando lasted into the early 90's, by which time they all faded away. (In case you were interested, there are still a few Piggly Wiggly stores in Florida up in the Panhandle, mostly in smaller towns). By the mid 90's, this old Fairway/Piggly Wiggly had become home to a Big Lots. The building still looks very supermarket like from the outside...

     ...and also to an extent on the inside, primarily if you look at the floor. Outside of the funky colored floor tiles that appear around the store, that's the only obvious hint that a supermarket once operated in here. Throughout the store are various ribbons of green, red, orange, blue, gold, brown, and probably a few other colors of floor tiles, all signifying where the old grocery departments once were. In the photo above you can see some green tiles that were located near the front right corner of the store if my memory serves me correctly. My guess is these tiles once signified the produce department.

    And here in the back left corner we have these brown tiles, which look like they once wrapped around some kind of service department counter.

    And here we have some green and gold tiles in the furniture department, which was in the front left corner of the store. I have many more photos of this Big Lots to upload to my flickr photostream in the future, but I just wanted to give everyone a small taste of this store in this post.

     Now that we covered the old Fairway, let's jump across East Colonial to take a look at the old Florida Choice...

Photo courtesy of Bing Maps
Florida Choice #737 / Publix #370 / Academy Sports #231
11955 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL - Alafaya Commons

     This building was one of the few built from scratch Florida Choice stores, and opened in 1988. Like most of these new build Florida Choice stores, this store barely lasted a few months, and was only one of two Florida Choice stores to open in the Orlando area (with the other being located in Winter Park - coverage of that store will be coming up later this year on AFB). There was another Florida Choice under construction in Apopka when Kroger shut down the Florida division, and they also had plans for another store that never began construction in the Conway neighborhood of Orlando. This store would have been an exact copy of the Florida Choice location seen in the second half of this post. This was one of two Florida Choice locations Publix bought off of Kroger when they pulled out of Florida, with Publix opening here in either late 1988 or early 1989. Publix remained in this building until November 14, 2013, when they moved to a new (and smaller) store half a mile to the east of here. The new store, Publix #1440, opened on November 15, 2013. You can read more about the opening of the new Publix and their reasons for moving in this article. I really wish I could have visited this store when it was a Publix, as it looks like Publix retained many of the original features from Florida Choice. Unfortunately, Academy Sports and Outdoors would be the tenant to take over this space, and they stripped this old Florida Choice building to the walls and rebuilt the exterior by the time they opened here in late 2015. There's absolutely nothing left to be found from Florida Choice if you were to stop by here today. As such, I didn't even bother to stop by here for photos of my own. However, I did scour the internet to compile as many photos of this store as I could in order to show you how this place looked as a Publix:

Photo courtesy of
     Here we have a close-up of the entryway into the Publix. Publix did reconfigure the old Florida Choice entryway, but they otherwise left the exterior original. The brown stripes would have originally been blue, with the rest of the facade being white.

Photo Courtesy of
     Another look at the entryway. Under the "P" in Publix is where the old Florida Choice liquor store was located. Publix didn't operate liquor store back in the late 80's, so this store never had one. From the looks of it, the old liquor store looks to have been either left abandoned or windowed in to make it more salesfloor space for the main store. I'm not sure which was the case though.

      And while in Orange County, it always pays to check out the property appraiser's website for a few outdated photos. Here's a look at the left side of the building.

     And one last exterior photo, showing off the entirety of the old Florida Choice building.

     Thanks to someone who posted photos to, I was also able to find two interior photos of this store. In this particular one we can see the produce department, which would have been located on the right side of the building.

     Also from Foursquare, here we have a photo of the bakery, which I think was located in the back right corner of the store. Like I said before, coming up in about a month we'll take a trip over to the former Winter Park Florida Choice store. I believe that store will finally give us a very good taste at what Florida Choice was like, another one of the many things I've been trying to accomplish on the blog. Anyway, that's a small taste of what I have coming at you later this year, but for now let's get back to business:

     And here's the East Colonial Florida Choice store as it stands today in this Google Streetview image. Nothing special at all anymore.

     Now with all of that extra stuff out of the way, let's jump back across the street to finish up today's tour of former Albertsons #4438 with some satellite images. First up, some Bird's Eye aerial views, courtesy of Bing Maps:

Front - In the Bing Maps images, we'll see the building as it looked as an abandoned Super Saver.

Right Side


Left Side

     And now some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth:

Former Albertsons #4438 - 2016 - This image was taken prior to the opening of Lucky's Market.

Former Albertsons #4438 - 2008

Super Saver #1534 - 2006

Albertsons #4438 - 2002

Albertsons #4438 - 1999

Future Albertsons #4438 - 1990 - Here's how Alafaya Village looked prior to the construction of the Albertsons anchor.

     And lastly today, here's a look at this former Albertsons as it appeared in late 2006. The Super Saver had just recently closed, with a very apparent labelscar visible over the main entryway. With that I will conclude the first half of our look at former Albertsons #4438. For the next post, we'll take a look at this former Albertsons in its current use as a Lucky's Market. In addition to seeing what this place looks like now, I'll also get to show everyone what a Lucky's Market is like if you're not so familiar with that chain, especially since they've come up as a topic on the blog a few times in recent months. So that's what you have to look forward to in two weeks - see you then!

Until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger