Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Remembering the Grand Union

Grand Union #506 / Big Lots #578
4515 Lake Worth Road, Greenacres, FL - Mil-Lake Plaza

     Jumping across the street from the former Albertsons store we looked at last time, what do we find but Big Lots. Yes, that's true, we are going to be looking around a Big Lots store today, but the hunt for closeout bargains wasn't the reason that Greenacres was the place for me on this particular afternoon. It was this building's past tenant that brought me here, because the hunt for interesting old supermarkets is the life for me! (OK AFB, that's enough references to old TV shows). Anyway, if you haven't realized it by the distinctive arches that grace the front of this building (or the title of this post), this Big Lots is housed in a very well preserved Grand Union supermarket building.

     I've searched through quite a few former Grand Union stores that have operated around Florida through the years, and this has to be one of the best preserved ones I've found. There are some other decently preserved Grand Union stores around Florida from a variety of eras, but I found this one particularly intriguing due to it being one of the later built stores during Grand Union's tenure in Florida. Most of Grand Union's Florida locations were built from the 1950's through the 1970's, however this was one of the very few Grand Union stores to have been built in Florida in the early 1980's with the distinctive arched window design, a design more commonly seen in Grand Union's home turf of New York and New Jersey (like this store in Toms River, NJ, also a Big Lots now. However, here's a similar looking store photographed when it still was a Grand Union, just for fun).

     So, you're asking, "Just what was Grand Union, a supermarket synonymous with New Jersey, New York, and parts of New England, doing way down in Florida?" Trying to get a piece of the fast growing supermarket scene in Florida, that's what, where numerous people from up north were moving to escape the harsh winters. Grand Union first entered Florida in the early 1960's, during that's chain's peak of growth and expansion. While Florida may seem like a rather strange place for Grand Union to have operated, the company at one point boasted stores in some far flung places like Ohio, Texas, and the Carolinas from various expansion and acquisition efforts. Even at their peak, Grand Union's Florida presence was contained mainly to South Florida, Tampa Bay, and Southwestern Florida, with South Florida in particular having quite a large number of Grand Union stores at one time. Things were looking good for Grand Union until the late 1970's, when some management changes caused Grand Union's position as one of the largest supermarket chains in the country to crumble. With that fall from grace also began the curtailment of some of Grand Union's outlying divisions, such as Florida. Grand Union managed to last in Florida until 1985, when the last few of their stores closed in order to focus more on their core set of stores in the Northeast.

     Like I said before, what makes this particular former Grand Union location so special is the fact that it was one of the very last Grand Union stores to open in Florida before the chain pulled out of the state. The Greenacres Grand Union opened with the rest of the plaza in 1982, just three years before Grand Union left Florida for good. Grand Union never sold out to anyone in particular when they left Florida, so all of their stores would later become reused in a variety of ways. At one point in 1985, shortly after Grand Union pulled out of Florida, ShopRite (yes, that ShopRite) even made a bid for a few former Grand Union stores in South Florida. I don't believe ShopRite ever carried through with getting those stores, but would't it have been crazy if they did?! ShopRite in Florida, who would have ever thought that? It just goes to prove that at one point, there was nothing stopping all these supermarkets from entering Florida. As for this store in Greenacres, I'm not sure of its exact closing date, but regardless of when it closed, it was extremely short lived as it could have only operated for a maximum of three years. I'm not sure what, if anything, operated in this building during the 15 year span from when Grand Union closed to when Big Lots opened. My guess is this place sat empty for those 15 years, or at the very least was something that would do very little to this building, as this place is still seeping with Grand Union relics over 30 years after Grand Union left Florida.

     Big Lots opened in this former Grand Union building around 2000 and did hardly anything to the place since they moved in. Here we're looking at the left side entry and exit doors to the old Grand Union. Big Lots only uses the right side doors, leaving these locked all the time. Even though these doors are now just an emergency exit, they're original to Grand Union, as are the magic carpets, the sun-baked address stenciling above the door, and possibly those really faded stickers on the doors themselves. The bright red stickers on the doors are from Big Lots, announcing these doors are now for emergency use only.

      Stepping around to the other side of the building, here's a quick look from the front doors toward the plaza's entry from Military Trail. The plaza's road sign is visible in the distance here. I don't know if the road sign is original, but with the way the rest of this plaza has been so well preserved, I wouldn't be surprised if it was.

      The door has been left open for us, so let's see what kind of Grand Union relics we can find by stepping inside...

     See, I told you guys that you wouldn't be disappointed in this place! 35 years later, this place still feels like a Grand Union inside. Knowing Big Lots, I'm pretty sure they replaced the overhead lighting with the fluorescent strips you see now, but all the remnants on the walls and the dingy floors are relics of Grand Union. I'm a fan of the row of arched windows that run across the front of the store, which not only look nice, but bring a lot of natural light into the building.

     Stepping out of the entryway and moving to the right just a bit, Big Lots' front registers come into view. Above the registers we see that large orange rectangle, which designates where Grand Union's old checkstands once were. More than likely, the area within that rectangle would have just been a lower ceiling when Grand Union was here, similar to this. However, some 80's Grand Union stores got a slightly more deluxe treatment over the checkstands, getting this awesome looking stained glass fixture over the registers. Wouldn't it have been neat if this store had that stained glass light, and Big Lots kept it!

     Moving away from the front end, we'll dig deeper into the interior as we move into the front right corner. I really don't know much about how Grand Union stores had their departments laid out (I've never been to a Grand Union), although from other pictures I've seen online, I believe this part of the store was home to the produce department. And yes, all that painted over wood paneling running above the tops of Big Lots' shelves is a remnant of Grand Union's old decor. Grand Union loved using wood paneling in the 1980's, as seen in this picture from a Grand Union store when it was still open. However, the Grand Union decor remnants aren't limited to a bunch of painted over wood paneling - it get better!

     Turning the corner from where we were standing in the last photo, what do we have here? Yes, you can still see the marks on the wall from where Grand Union's department signs used to be! The wood paneling curves out of the way so signs could be mounted to the wall, and all Big Lots did was paint over it. I was oddly excited when I saw this. I really don't know what Grand Union's 80's decor looked like, but I'm imagining it looking quite similar to this, considering the use of wood paneling and the somewhat 80's-esque look of the decor in that photo.

     Nothing like some 35 year old decor remnants to make a place all the more interesting, right? Anyway, moving on, here's a look down the right side of Big Lots. This side of the store is home to all of the housewares, with the furniture department in the distance.

     But before we move further toward the back of the store, here's another look across the front end. The front end is located under this lower ceiling, with the ceiling rising over what was Grand Union's (as well as Big Lots') main sales floor.

     Looking toward the front from one of Big Lots' main aisles, we can see more wood paneling remnants on the transition between the lower and higher ceilings.

     Now that we've spent a decent amount of time up front, let's head deeper into the store to see if any other Grand Union remnants are still lurking in this place...

     Big Lots' furniture department took up the majority of the back of the store. I want to say Grand Union had their deli and meat departments back here based on some photos of other Grand Union stores I've seen, but again, I'm not 100% certain on anything from Grand Union's original layout.

     More furniture can be see as I turn the camera toward the left. Beyond the front end and the right side wall, there weren't too many Grand Union remnants left in the back of the store, unfortunately. The back of the store was probably redone by Big Lots when they covered over all of the old service departments, which led to the demise of any remnants back here (such as more wood paneling).

     The seasonal department was located in the back left corner of this store, home to patio furniture at the time. I will say this Big Lots store had a very nice, wide open space for their furniture selection. I've seen many Big Lots stores cram all of their furniture into a corner, so the extra space they had in this building really worked in their favor.

     While Big Lots has their perimeter aisles running parallel to the front of the building, the center aisles, like this one, run perpendicular to the front like Grand Union would have had them. In this view looking toward the front, the wood paneling remnants become visible to us again.

     The left side wall of this store was home to storage containers and some other odds and ends. I don't know what would have been over in this part of the building when Grand Union was here.

     Back up front, here's a better look toward the unused left side entryway into this store. The area leading up to these doors is currently used as a small clearance section for Big Lots, this part of the store rather untouched from the Grand Union days.

     We'll wrap up our tour of this former Grand Union store with a few last looks across the front end, where most of the obvious traces of Grand Union still remain.

     Like I said before, I really like these arched windows, both for the look and the amount of sunlight they let into the store.

     From the previous photo where we were looking out the arched windows, we now must look in as we go outside to conclude our tour of this former Grand Union store. All you need to do is slap this logo up were Big Lots' has theirs, and you could call this place Grand Union again!

     For the remainder of this post, we'll take a look at some satellite imagery, starting off with some Bird's Eye views courtesy of Bing Maps:

Front - Here you can see the old Grand Union with its neighbor, a former drug store. I haven't been able to figure out exactly who the drug store tenant in this plaza was originally, but more than likely it was an Eckerd. I also am thinking it was an Eckerd based on the fact that a CVS was built in the parking lot of the old Grand Union around 2005. CVS bought all of Eckerd's Florida locations in 2004, and I could see the store in the parking lot being a relocation of one in the strip behind it. Interestingly enough, CVS actually closed their fairly new freestanding store in the parking lot without replacement in 2017, making for an interesting sight now, an abandoned freestanding 2000's CVS store.

Right Side


Left Side

     And now for historic satellite imagery, courtesy of Google Earth and

Big Lots #578 - 2017 - In this image you can see the entire plaza. The Grand Union building is the large building at the right end of the strip. The large anchor at the left side of the strip is a former Scotty's Hardware (now Habitat for Humanity ReStore).

Big Lots #578 - 2010

Big Lots #578 - 2005

Big Lots #578 - 2002 - The little red building in front of the Big Lots (which was demolished to make way for the new CVS) was originally a Wag's restaurant. Wag's was the sit down restaurant division of Walgreens, who operated 91 of these Wag's restaurants throughout the country before getting out of the restaurant business in 1988.

Former Grand Union #506 - 1999 - It doesn't appear that Big Lots has moved in just yet from the above image.

Former Grand Union #506 - 1995

Future Grand Union #506 - 1979

      That's all I have to say about the former Greenacres Grand Union. Even though Grand Union left Florida more than 30 years ago, they left quite an impact on the state. Unlike stores such as Florida Choice and Jewel-Osco, which faded into obscurity rather fast after such short runs in Florida, Grand Union managed to last over 25 years in Florida. That isn't too shabby in the grand scheme of things! Even though the legacy of Grand Union is much stronger in the Northeast, Grand Union put up a good fight in Florida, operating over 70 stores here at one time. While many of those former Grand Union stores have been demolished or made unrecognizable over the years, there's still a surprising number of well preserved Grand Union stores floating around the state. If you're interested in looking through some old Grand Union Florida locations, I have a list of them hosted on the AFB Retail Database. To end this post, I have the above image showing the Greenacres Grand Union with its neighbor, Albertsons #4328, visible on the opposite side of Military Trail. We toured that former Albertsons last time, and you can review that post by clicking here.

     With that being said, not only is this post finished, but so is AFB for the year 2018. Posting will start up again on January 20, 2019, so I'll be sure to see everybody then!

Until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Celebrating 5 Years of AFB!

     Has it really been 5 years of AFB already?!?! It really doesn't feel like it's been that long since I started this blog! And 5 years ago there were still 4 Albertsons stores left in Florida. Now there are none, after the three Florida Safeway stores got absorbed into Publix (because they don't have enough stores in Florida already). In addition to that big news, we also saw SEG dive into bankruptcy in 2018, Lucky's Market expand like crazy, and Publix debut their retooled GreenWise Market stores. So yes, 2018 was a busy year for supermarkets in Florida! It will be interesting to see where 2019 will bring us, although I can guarantee you one thing: more Publix stores will be opening near you!

     In 2018, we've covered plenty of interesting stores here on the blog, from a Publix in an old Winn-Dixie, to an Albertsons that went up in flames, to a Winn-Dixie inspired by the culture of China. Florida supermarkets and retail are quite unique, and I'm happy to bring you even more of my home state's weird, interesting, and unique grocery stores, in addition to continuing my journey to cover all of these old Albertsons stores still floating around this state (before Publix gets any more ideas!). 2018 has been a great year for the blog (nearly 320,000 pageviews strong!), and I hope 2019 brings us even more great times and fun adventures!

     Keep scrolling down to see this year's review of posts and some other random facts and figures. Below that you'll also find today's feature post, where we revisit an Albertsons store with some pretty neat Albertsons artifacts left behind! 

Enjoy, and thanks for another great year everyone!

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The Year in Review (and Some Random Stats):

Albertsons Stores Covered:

#4412 - Oviedo, FL (The most popular feature post of the year)

Bonus Buy Stores Covered:

Harvey's Supermarket #1714 - Cocoa, FL (Second most popular feature post of the year)
Kash n' Karry Lives - Kash n' Karry #1895 - Ocoee, FL (Third most popular feature post of the year)

Safeway Florida Store Count: 0 (-3 from 2017)
For Comparison, Publix's store count in Florida: Just about 800 (Yeah, we have a lot of Publix stores here! That's three quarters of Publix store base!)

Additionally, 2018 marked the launch of AFB's new sister site, My Florida Retail. Be sure to check that out too!

Former Albertsons #4328 - Lake Worth, FL (Revisited)

Albertsons #4328 / Presidente Supermarket / Supermercado El Bodegon
4481 Lake Worth Road, Lake Worth, FL

     To celebrate yet another year of AFB, we'll be taking a look at a store that may seem familiar to all of you. As 2018 nears its close, AFB returns to the original Lake Worth Albertsons store. This store was first featured on the blog at the end of 2014 as a viewer submission, wrapping up that year of posting. Since this store is so interesting, why not take a second look at it? If you recall from the original post, this former Albertsons store still retains quite obvious remnants of the early 2000's Industrial Circus decor. A while back I was in the area, so of course I had to stop by this store to see the Industrial Circus decor remnants for myself!

     I covered the history of this store in a bit of detail in the original post, but I will go over that again briefly. This Albertsons opened for business on December 6, 1978, exactly 40 years ago from the day this post went live (how fitting!). This store received a decent remodel in 2003 before finally closing for good on October 22, 2009, just shy of 31 years in business. After Albertsons closed, this building became home to a location of Presidente Supermarket, a small Hispanic grocery chain with a few locations throughout South Florida. Presidente wasn't in this space very long before the store switched ownership to Supermercado El Bodegon, which is also a small Hispanic grocery chain. Neither of the stores that came after Albertsons did much to this place, which makes for an interesting look into this building's past.

     As usual with these Skaggs Model stores, river rock panels line the front and sides of the building. Even after the early 2000's remodel (which exterior-wise only reconfigured the entryways), the river rock panels were allowed to remain mostly untouched.

     The tower and archway over the main entrance were added as part of the early 2000's remodel, which also brought the Industrial Circus decor to this store.

     Entering through the main entrance and turning to the right, what do we have but out first look at those Industrial Circus remnants! While the color scheme of the walls and signs themselves have been modified, it's still an interesting sight to see. Here we're looking into the front right corner of the building, which was originally home to Albertsons' deli and bakery departments. There was a small selection of baked goods in this part of the store, as the Hispanic grocery stores in Florida typically have very small bakery selections. With the extra space from having such a small bakery, El Bodegon instead turned this portion of the store into a cafeteria style restaurant, featuring a variety of freshly prepared Hispanic dishes to choose from.

     An aisle directory for your convenience. A lot of things in the grocery aisles have been moved around since Albertsons left, but much of the store's perimeter is the same layout as Albertsons would have had it.

     Just beyond the restaurant we find the produce department. It feels like there's quite a bit going on in this part of the store, with all of the low hanging spotlights (an Albertsons remnant), a palm tree, and some giant bananas hanging from the ceiling!

     More Industrial Circus signage in the produce department. For these flat signs, it was more common to see the lettering in yellow, although I have seen a few other examples of this decor using white lettering on the signs.

     The dairy coolers are located in the back right corner of the store. In addition to the coolers of milk and cheese in the corner, there were coolers just out of frame to my left with more dairy products, like butter, yogurt, eggs, etc.

     Here's a slightly less obstructed view of the dairy corner.

     Moving into aisle 2, we find a rather unaltered Albertsons sign for the Wine Cellar. This sign is rather reminiscent of something from the Grocery Palace decor package, considering its shape and size. The top of the wine shelves were decorated with fake grape vines, although I don't know what store's idea it was to do that.

     Here are a few grocery aisle views for everyone. Not anything too distinctive left over from Albertsons here, other than the general feel of the store.

     At some point (probably during the early 2000's remodel), the deli counter was moved from its home near the bakery to the back of the store by the meat counter.

     Here you can see where the deli counter transitions into the meat and seafood counter, all with the old Albertsons signage and tile backplashes still in-tact. Above the deli counter you can see the row of windows from the upstairs offices, a common feature in in the back of these older Albertsons stores.

     A very large meat and seafood counter here! Albertsons was very well known for their meats and seafood here in Florida, and these Hispanic grocers typically have very busy meat and seafood counters too from what I've seen. I think I got lucky catching this counter as empty as it was here!

     Here's a close-up of the Industrial Circus seafood department sign while we're back here.

     Frozen foods were near the left side of the store, taking up aisle 8 and possibly 9 (I can't remember exactly).

     Aisle 11 was this store's last aisle, home to mostly pallets of water and other bulk products. When Albertsons was here, this side of the store would have been home to the pharmacy and health and beauty products. After Albertsons left, this side of the store was converted into booths for independent small businesses to rent. These booths are a common feature in Hispanic supermarkets in Florida.

     We'll begin to wrap up our revisit of the Lake Worth Albertsons with this look at the front end. In front of the registers was more space carved out for independent businesses, such as the Real Estate office whose sign you can see here. The Real Estate office is located where Albertsons' customer service desk would have been.

     Register 9 was actually this store's customer service desk, which was relocated to a small island counter from the front wall. In the distance is the side entrance and exit, which is where we'll be heading to depart this former Albertsons store...

     Out we go...

     To the left of the side entrance was this door, which led into the old Albertsons liquor store. The liquor store has since been turned into a dentist's office, which is an interesting reuse for an old Albertsons liquor store.

     The archway over the side entrance.

     On the left side of the building is the sign for the dentist's office that occupies the old liquor store.

     Interestingly, this store also has a charging station for electric cars in the parking lot (and it seems like these stations are still somewhat rare, at least in the area where I live). This had to be added by either Presidente or El Bodegon, as I can't see Albertsons having done this.

     And not only was there an electric car charging station, but also an electric car that took up the offer to park here! (Although it wasn't using the charger).

     Anyway, we didn't come to AFB to discuss fancy electric cars - we came here for Albertsons! These were featured in the original post, but here's a quick recap of some historic satellite imagery of this store, starting off with some Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:

Front - These aerials were taken during the time after Albertsons closed and before Presidente/El Bodegon opened, which would probably date them back to early 2010 if I had to guess.

Right Side


Left Side - The side entrance and the liquor store are to the right side in this image. If you look closely at the left end of the building, you can see some stairs leading up to the backroom's second level door.

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

Former Albertsons #4328 - 2014 - The former Albertsons now as El Bodegon.

Albertsons #4328 - 2009 - Still a pretty healthy crowd shopping here even as the end nears.

Albertsons #4328 - 2002 - The building still in its original form before the 2003 renovations.

Albertsons #4328 - 1995 - I'm really impressed with the crowds this store was able to draw over the years!

Albertsons #4328 - 1979 - The store not long after opening. Still mostly woods around the store, and some houses on larger sized lots.

Future Albertsons #4328 - 1968 - Little did the owners of all those small buildings there know that in 10 years, some newfangled supermarket chain would be buying them all out to build a "superstore of the future" on their property.

     Doing a little digging, I found a clip from WPTV NewsChannel 5 on YouTube that featured some exterior shots of the Lake Worth Albertsons after an unfortunate incident that happened in the parking lot in 2009. This is what the store looked like in its final years as Albertsons.

     Now that we've seen the store in its final years, let's jump back in time to the very beginning! The above photo was sent in by AFB contributor Graham B. for the original post about this store in 2014. This photo was taken a week before this store opened for business, with everything looking fresh, new, and ready to go here! Oh, the good old days of Albertsons.

     So I hope everyone enjoyed this revisit to the Lake Worth Albertsons. In a little less than two weeks we'll see the final AFB post of the year, which will be of a store that lies not too far away from this Albertsons. Some interesting things to be found at the store that will officially wrap up 2018 on AFB!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger