Tuesday, November 21, 2017

This is a Winn-Dixie?!

Winn-Dixie #2325
100 Canaveral Plaza Boulevard, Cocoa Beach, FL - Canaveral Plaza

     For all of you who think Winn-Dixie runs only dingy, dumpy old stores, this post will change your thoughts on that completely. While I'm sure there are some less-than-stellar examples of Winn-Dixie stores floating around out there, the brand new Cocoa Beach Winn-Dixie actually gave me a glimmer of hope that this company can do something right if they put the effort into it. By now you've probably seen some examples of the semi-cheap remodels Winn-Dixie has done at select locations, typically where they replaced an older, pre-bankruptcy decor with the current look, and not doing much else otherwise. Here and here are some examples of the more common remodel scheme if you haven't seen it yet. It's not fancy or anything too special, but it's not horrible. The Winn-Dixie to Harvey's remodels are even cheaper looking, but that's a topic for a future post. Here in Cocoa Beach, we have an entirely different case here. The interior of this store was completely rebuilt from scratch, leaving a final result that actually looks really nice! (It's comparable to the remodels seen here and here, although with a few less frills). We'll get to see much more of the interior shortly, but first, a little background on this store:

     This Winn-Dixie opened On July 23, 1985 in a building that was once home to a Wing Store Publix, replacing a much older Winn-Dixie closer to downtown Cocoa Beach. Publix moved from this location in 1983 when they opened their new store in Banana River Square down the street (which is currently in the process of being rebuilt, with the new store opening in mid-2018). It's kind of odd to think of a Winn-Dixie opening in an old Publix, but this isn't the first time that's happened. However, Winn-Dixie remodeled this building so much after they moved in, you'd never have thought this building originally housed a Publix way back when - this place looked and felt like any other 70's/80's built Winn-Dixie. I've also seen the reverse of this situation - Publix stores in an old Winn-Dixie - but that is an odd experience to be discussed in a future post! Anyway, while Winn-Dixie never did anything the to exterior of this store since it opened (the facade was straight out of 1984), the interior did receive the Marketplace remodel in the 90's. Other than receiving the Purple/Maroon aisle markers and register lights in the early 2000's, this Winn-Dixie was a time capsule all the way to 2016. I have a post on My Florida Retail featuring some photos of this Winn-Dixie from 2015, which you can view here to get a feel of what this store was like prior to the remodel. While this store sits right on the busiest corner in tourist-heavy Cocoa Beach (the junction of Routes A1A and 520, the latter being main causeway into town) this store had shown signs of weakness in recent years. This store lost its pharmacy department in 2014 (although the Walgreens and CVS sitting in this store's parking lot didn't help that situation much), and never seemed very busy the few times I ventured into it prior to the big remodel. In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew brushed along Florida's East Coast, coming closest to shore in the area between Cocoa Beach and St. Augustine. While a last minute weakening spell and eastward wobble spared much of Florida's East Coast from Matthew's fury, many of the barrier islands (which Cocoa Beach lies on) sustained some heavy damage. Some of that damage included part of this Winn-Dixie's roof caving in from the storm. You'd think that a struggling chain would use this as the perfect excuse to close what seemed like a weaker location. However, either this store wasn't doing as bad as most people thought, or Winn-Dixie still had a lot of faith in the people of Cocoa Beach. Almost immediately after news broke that this store's roof collapsed, Winn-Dixie made the announcement they were going to reopen this store after a total makeover.

     After spending nearly 10 months putting the roof back in place and completely reconstructing the interior of this store (as well as dealing with a minor setback), the Cocoa Beach Winn-Dixie reopened to much fanfare on July 26, 2017. That article explains all of the new features in this store, along with the addition of a guided video tour of the remodeled Winn-Dixie, led by the store's manager (pictured in the grand opening circular above). 250 people showed up for the grand opening, and thousands more came by the store later that same day. If you watch the guided tour video from grand opening day, you'll get a feel of just how crazy crowded this place was! I think Winn-Dixie made the right choice by rebuilding this store rather than throwing in the towel to the two Publix stores it's sandwiched between. From what I've seen, this store is usually packed post-remodel, and whatever problems it had in the past are probably behind it. The new store is absolutely beautiful and rivals both of the nearby Publix stores! Not only that, but with one of those two Publix stores out of commission until next summer, this store will probably enjoy even more business than usual.

     I visited this store just a little over a week after its grand reopening, and managed to pick up this special grand opening circular featuring many of the new amenities to be found at the reinvented Cocoa Beach Winn-Dixie. The circular also reintroduces everyone to the same familiar faces they remember from the old location.

     Not only did Winn-Dixie rebuild their original store here, but they also added a brand new liquor store as part of the remodel in a former gift shop next to the main store. We'll see the liquor store later in this post.

     The special grand opening feature was wrapped around the weekly circular, which you can see here. There wasn't anything special to this, but I took a picture of it anyway. One thing I can point out here is how Winn-Dixie has been trying to revive their longtime "The Beef People" slogan of late. We'll see "The Beef People" again as we take a closer look at the interior of the new store.

     While heavily remodeled and reconfigured, this is still the original building. Other than some of the original brickwork still lurking around, that's one of the only clues left from the old store's look.

     Here in the outdoor cart storage area, we can see some of the old brickwork much better, just painted over in white to match the more modern look of the new exterior.

     I know when I first got here, I was especially eager to see what the interior looked like. I'm sure all of you reading this are eager to see it too, so let's finally head inside and see and see what a modern Winn-Dixie looks like!

     Here you have your first sight walking through the main entrance. It doesn't look like much yet (the first impression in person is much more striking), but trust me this gets much better! As we keep going through the interior of this store, you'll be repeating the same question in your head that I was as I walked around this store, "This is a Winn-Dixie?!"

     Inside of the cart stall, we have our official welcome to the Cocoa Beach Winn-Dixie. As we'll see later in this post, Winn-Dixie tried incorporating a little bit of local flare into this store, which is always nice to see.

     In the last few months, Winn-Dixie has been replacing the cart fleets in pretty much all of their stores from these black carts (a design which dated back to their emergence from bankruptcy, so they weren't too old) to these silver ones. And instead of a more typical double-decker cart for smaller shopping trips, those carts on the right are a strange looking mini-cart that acts as a substitute for those.

     And before we get back to the store itself, here's yet another souvenir I picked up while I was here: a store directory. I figured I'd put this here in case it helps anyone visualize this place any better.

     Upon turning left after first entering, the deli and "the kitchen" are the first departments you see, with the bakery just beyond that. Just from this photo alone we can tell this wasn't any bargain remodel. In most cheap "Down Down" remodels, the deli/bakery/kitchen continues with the usual red walls seen throughout the rest of the store. Instead of that, this store's bakery/deli/kitchen walls use a wood-grain pattern, along with some other modern design details that could only be found in a store whose remodel stripped the place to the bare walls.

     While the sign in the above photos says "Deli" this side of the counter facing the entryway is more-so part of The Kitchen instead. The Winn-Dixie kitchen is comprised of a pizza station, sandwich shop, an expanded grab-and-go selection, a hot bar, and a salad bar. This store also has a dedicated register in The Kitchen for customers. The entire arrangement and look of this department is really nice, and the fresh food selection is decent as well. In those cheaper recent remodels I keep mentioning, the remodeled stores do get "The Kitchen", however "The Kitchen" feels more like an afterthought in those stores, whereas this entire department is much more pronounced here.

     And yes, being I was here, I had to try a slice of Winn-Dixie's pizza from "The Kitchen". (You don't see a Winn-Dixie with a pizza station often!). They make the pizza in-store, as I was watching one of the employees stretch the dough and put everything together as I was perusing this part of the store. The pizza was good too.

     While this decor isn't the most exciting look in the world, it looks really good in this store. It has to be because everything else in the store is new and modern as well, and there aren't any artifacts from the 90's still floating around in here to take away from it!

     I didn't look too closely at the deli counter itself, but the selection of deli meats seemed pretty small compared to the typical Winn-Dixie. The deli at this store was definitely much more focused on the prepared foods.

     Just beyond the bakery and deli, things become much more red as far as the decor is concerned! Here we see the very large produce department. I'm not entirely sure what was going on with those mostly empty produce bins behind the display of peaches, but hopefully someone working on filling those. Those bins were filled with shaved ice for chilled fruits and vegetables to be stored on. 

     Beyond produce, the back wall transitions into the meat department.

     Bacon! Yes, it has its very own department signage here!

     As we saw in the circular earlier in this post, here is yet another example of Winn-Dixie's revived version of "The Beef People" slogan. While "The Beef People" tagline was never actually retired, it lost much of its prominence until the last few years. While Winn-Dixie isn't very clear on what their official tagline is anymore, I'd say "The Beef People" is probably it since they feature it on some advertisements and in parts of the store. It's nice to see Winn-Dixie still embraces this part of their past, as their meat department was always one of their stronger areas.

     Moving back into the grocery aisles, the first section we find after produce is Wine & Beer.

    Wine & Beer was also one of three center store departments to get one of these large hanging square signs. Of course, I have pictures of the other two signs coming up shortly. Another thing worth mentioning here are those big columns we see in between these two aisles. These columns mark the dividing line between the part of the building that was originally the wing store Publix (which was the part of the building to the left of these columns, from this vantage point) and the addition that Publix added in 1976 (just 7 years before relocating down the street - thanks Graham for finding out more about when the addition on this building happened!). When we get to the satellite images, we'll get to see the original building and the addition much clearer.

     Just beyond Wine & Beer we find the Sand & Surf department. This is a special department that was added due to this store's close proximity to the beach (which is right across the street). With that being the case, and considering how few fancy remodels Winn-Dixie is currently doing, I figured this sign will end up being a rather rare one! The amount of beach stuff (sunglasses, chairs, towels, beach toys, etc.) was rather impressive here, and much larger than what the old Banana River Square Publix carried. I also like how they customized the sign to include palm trees and waves.

     Beyond the Sand & Surf department (and those boogie boards), we get back into the standard grocery store offerings. The remainder of aisle 4 is home to sodas and other beverages.

     The grocery aisles were all neat and tidy here.

     And yes, "Down Down" is still very much alive and well at Winn-Dixie, going on nearly 2 years later. The signage for it has been toned down a bit though, compared to scenes like this from Down Down's early days (and that photo didn't even have the Down Down balloons in it!). They also don't play the Down Down jingle on the PA loop anymore, but I figured this would be the perfect opportunity for me to get that stuck in your head all over again!

     Here's a closeup of one of the Down Down decor's aisle signs. It continues this decor's theme of plain and simple, but not completely awful.

     Over in the health and beauty department, we find the last of the three hanging square signs. Both aisles 10 and 11 are home to health and beauty produces, as well as cosmetics. The revamped Winn-Dixie does not have a pharmacy, just like the old store did in its last two years before the roof collapse.

     The meat and seafood counter resides in the back right corner of the store, and uses the same light brown wood theme we saw back in the bakery and deli. The wood-style background is a nice way to break the monotony of the red walls, and makes the service departments feel a bit classier.

     Between health and beauty and the last aisle, we find two aisles dedicated to cleaning and paper products.

     The last aisle, aisle 14, is home to dairy and a portion of the frozen foods department. The new store is actually two aisles shorter than the original, which had 16 aisles. The two aisle loss came from the reconfiguration of produce to take up a much larger space on the left side of the building, rather than being in the front right corner like it was before, with aisles coming out behind it. Actually, the photo at that last link is a good before and after to the photo above, as they were taken from the same general area. It's amazing how different those two views are now!

     Anyway, since dairy is located along the inside portion of this aisle, it didn't get a wall sign (like frozen foods did). Also in relation to the dairy department, I'm sure most of you are wondering about that "What sound does a cow make?" button on the pole. While I didn't press the button, flickr's YonWooRetail2 decided to at a different store, and this was the result (that video also contains some of his commentary on this interior as seen at the Winn-Dixie in Lady Lake). These animal sound buttons are one of Winn-Dixie's way of appealing to children (specifically millennials with children), which also included the addition of child-sized carts, special parents with children parking spaces, and a few other small things, all of which are explained rather well in this article from the Florida Today.

     Nearing the end of aisle 14, we see part of the Frozen Food alcove in the front right corner of the store, as well as another animal sound button (this one featuring "What sound does a chicken make?" - if you watch the guided tour video linked earlier in this post, you can hear what happens when this button is pushed).

     Wrapping around to the front wall was the remainder of frozen foods, located in the space that was originally this store's produce department.

     Here's a better look at how Frozen Foods wraps around on the wall, as seen from the registers.

     As you can see here, this place had quite the healthy crowd this particular afternoon! I was in this store a few times prior to the remodel, and never had I seen as many people in this store as I did this particular day. I know the store was still relatively new when I visited here, but hopefully this store continues to generate a crowd going into the future. This remodeled store has so much more going for it than what was here prior, and could easily solve any of the problems this store had prior as far as declining sales were concerned.

     Here's a much better overview of the front end, with the deli and bakery off in the distance. All of the white on the walls up here made this part of the store feel very sterile, but I guess that's all a part of Winn-Dixie's modern, minimalist prototype.

     The customer service desk is located just in front of the registers, in what used to be the original entry vestibule. The new Winn-Dixie decor also lacks register lights, but this decor isn't the first time Winn-Dixie did away with those. The Deluxe Purple/Maroon interior also didn't have register lights.

      All of the rewards card banners made it rather difficult to photograph the Thank You sign above the entryway (although they did make the front end feel less bland).

     As we prepare to leave, we find ourselves back near the seating area for The Kitchen (something which I didn't get a good photo of prior).

     And a close-up of the new Winn-Dixie logo, as viewed from the cafe table where I ate my lunch.

     Our last interior photo before we leave this store is a side view of the customer service desk. What I was trying to capture here was the photo collage in the background, above the service desk. In the center of the collage it says "Winn-Dixie Cocoa Beach", with 4 photos of various scenes from around town surrounding it (mostly beach scenes, along with one of the famous Cocoa Beach Pier).

     Back outside once again, here we see the brand new Cocoa Beach Winn-Dixie Liquor store, which is technically Winn-Dixie store #2315 (Winn-Dixie Liquor stores are assigned their own store numbers, rather than using the same store number as the main store). Store #2315 is a recycled number, and was originally the number for a Winn-Dixie in Rockledge that closed in the 90's. However, Winn-Dixie's store numbering system is a discussion for another day...

     As I said before, this space was once home to a gift shop, and was completely overhauled for the new liquor store. The grand opening circular featured at the beginning of this post contains a few interior photos of the new liquor store, and you can see a few more photos of it here.

    As I was walking back to my car, I saw this van parked in front of me. After reading the side of it, I thought this was a van for some kind of new grocery delivery service that SEG was launching, which would have been a good idea as Publix and Safeway are trying their own grocery delivery options in various Florida markets. When I got home, I Googled "Southeastern Grocers City" to find out more, just to discover that City wasn't a grocery delivery service, but a refrigeration installation and repair service! In 2015, former SEG CEO Ian McLeod made a partnership with the City refrigeration company to be the exclusive refrigeration service at all of SEG's stores. This article has more on that partnership, but it was pretty disappointing to find out this wasn't a delivery service.

     With that being said, let's move on to some Bird's Eye aerial images, courtesy of Bing Maps:

Front - Clearly prior to the recent remodel. From the roof you can see the transition between the original building (which dates back to the Publix Wing Store days), and the addition added onto the left side when Winn-Dixie moved in.

Right Side


Left Side

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

Winn-Dixie #2325 - 2017 - This image was taken prior to the store's grand reopening (the Winn-Dixie is the large building at the south end of the plaza). The white patch at the back of the building shows the area where the roof caved in during Hurricane Matthew.

Winn-Dixie #2325 - 2014

Winn-Dixie #2325 - 2005

Winn-Dixie #2325 - 1994

     My visit to this Winn-Dixie renewed so much of my faith in SEG, although I wish it wouldn't have to take a partial roof failure to motivate them to do a remodel like this to some of their other stores. If every Winn-Dixie looked like this one, they would be in such better shape and could actually give Publix a run for their money. Unfortunately, my next stop after visiting this store was one of the new Harvey's conversion stores. When I stepped into that place, all of the newfound hope I discovered for SEG from visiting the Cocoa Beach Winn-Dixie went right out the window. That place was the epitome of all of SEG's problems under one roof, masked with electric yellow paint. The Harvey's I visited will be the subject of a post coming up early next year, as I know many of you are interested in seeing what one of those stores are like. In recent days, some (purely speculative) articles have been published about SEG and their financial problems and have been finding their way around the online retail forums, mentioning everything from potential bankruptcy in the coming year or two to how SEG will be completely gone in 5 years. Again, all of this is purely speculation, but one thing that is fact is SEG has some big debt that will be maturing over the next year and a half, and they're going to have to do something about it. However, how SEG chooses to handle their debt is something that we will need to watch later next year, and I wouldn't make any plans for a final visit to Winn-Dixie just yet. However, if you happen to be near Cocoa Beach, I highly recommend planning a visit to this particular store. This store is a rare glimpse into what Winn-Dixie could be if they tried harder to turn themselves around, and is just as nice as any of the nearby Publix stores.

     So that's all I have on the completely revamped Cocoa Beach Winn-Dixie. While the new look is rather simple and plain as far as the decor is concerned, you have to give Winn-Dixie some credit for trying a super modern approach with their current look. I will say though, the new decor looks much better in the stores that had their interiors completely rebuilt, compared to what this decor looks like when it is cheaply forced into an older store. What do you think?

     Lastly, another programming reminder: The next feature post on the blog will be the last one for 2017 (wow, this year went by fast), and will be going up on Wednesday, December 6th, just a little over two weeks from when this post goes live. As usual for the last post of the year, I try to feature an Albertsons store with something a little bit special about it. I hope this year's final store of the year will not disappoint, as we'll be checking out an abandoned Albertsons with a super rare decor (for Florida, anyway)! Be sure to check back on the 6th for that post!

So until then,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger