Saturday, March 31, 2018

Introducing the Updated Store Models & Interiors Directory!

     Some of you may have noticed that the Store Models & Interiors page, one of the blog's most popular features, has been down for the last month or so. In that time I have been working to to clean up the page, add some new photos, and update some of the information. Well, after a few delays, the wait is now over and the Store Models & Interiors page is back up and running! Some things remain the same, but you will notice a few differences too. To check out what's new, you can visit the Store Models & Interiors page by clicking here. Enjoy!

     Also, no post tomorrow (April 1, 2018) in observance of Easter. Posting will resume to the normal schedule beginning April 8, 2018. See everyone then!


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Kash n' Karry Lives!

Food Lion #746 / Kash n' Karry #1895 / Tropic Save Supermarket #2 / Quadro Supermarket #2
23 W. Silver Star Road, Ocoee, FL - Ocoee Plaza

     In the middle of a mostly residential neighborhood near downtown Ocoee we find a small shopping center, a small shopping center with a Hispanic Market, Family Dollar, a pizza place, and a few other small tenants. At first glance nothing seems too exciting about anything here, that is until we start uncovering the history of this plaza's grocery anchor, and the remnants of that anchor's past... 

     Constructed on a small former citrus grove, this shopping center was built in 1990 with Food Lion as the first grocery store to occupy this space. Food Lion was the one who also developed this shopping center. As Food Lion was rapidly expanding and trying to increase their store count in Florida in the early 1990s, they were picking some rather odd locations for stores. This store was built a bit off the beaten path from any other retail in the area, in the middle of a residential neighborhood at the north side of Ocoee's downtown (which is not exactly the most bustling downtown - it's mostly residential too, with a few small industrial sites mixed in). However, Food Lion picked much worse locations in their rapid push to expand throughout Florida than this. At least this location was decent enough to have continued operation as a supermarket all these years later, as many of Food Lion's less-thought-through locations are still sitting empty, or have been converted into non-retail uses.

     By 1999, Food Lion was struggling in Florida. Between being crushed by better competitors and having somewhat of a "discount" concept that never really caught on in Florida, Food Lion was looking for a last ditch effort to salvage their Florida division. In 1996, Food Lion had bought Tampa-based Kash n' Karry, a long established Florida supermarket chain that had fallen on financial troubles, which Food Lion hoped to turn around. In order to salvage their Florida stores, Food Lion decided to convert all of their stores outside of Northern and Northeastern Florida over to the Kash n' Karry brand, including all of their Central Florida locations. The Ocoee Food Lion converted to Kash n' Karry in 1999, and would later receive an interior remodel and exterior facelift to make this Food Lion feel more like a Kash n' Karry. However, these conversions weren't very successful. Food Lion didn't do much to expand the selection carried at these stores, or add/expand the fresh departments to feel more like a traditional Kash n' Karry. Essentially, these stores were nothing more than a purple and teal Food Lion. In 2004, with sales still faltering and Kash n' Karry still struggling, Food Lion pulled the brand out of Eastern and Central Florida. This move would allow Delhaize to focus on Kash n' Karry's core store base located in Western Florida, a plan which would later include rebranding all remaining Kash n' Karry stores to Sweetbay (which you can read more about here). After it was announced that this Kash n' Karry store in Ocoee would be closing in 2004, Topic Save Supermarket took over this space almost immediately after Kash n' Karry closed. Tropic Save was a Hispanic-oriented grocer, which would later change its name to Qudaro Supermarket in the early 2010's. 

     While I've talked about Kash n' Karry before on the blog, I've only ever gone into their history from the time they were bought by Food Lion in 1996 up to their demise as Sweetbay in 2014. Since Kash n' Karry is the star of today's post, I might as well quickly explain their history:

     Kash n' Karry dates back to 1947, when Salvatore Greco opened his first supermarket in Plant City, Florida. Mr. Greco immigrated to the United States from Italy, and began his working career in the United States by selling vegetables on the streets of Tampa in 1914. Mr. Greco would later grow his vegetable business into a small supermarket that he ran from his home, before finally taking the big leap in 1947 with his first official supermarket. Mr. Greco's first store took the name "Big Barn", a name which would later change to Tampa Wholesale as the Greco family began to open more stores throughout the Tampa Bay area. In 1962, Kash n' Karry was officially adopted as the 9-store chain's new name. The name "Kash n' Karry" was just a retooling of the phrase "cash and carry", which reflected the simplistic, self-service nature of the Greco's stores. By 1979, the Greco family had grown Kash n' Karry into a 46 unit chain with the third largest market share in Western Florida, and the largest market share in Tampa itself. It was in that same year that the Greco family sold off Kash n' Karry to Lucky Stores (yes, the California supermarket chain - I'm not kidding when I say that everybody wanted a piece of the Florida supermarket scene back in the day!). Lucky did a lot to help Kash n' Karry grow rapidly throughout the 1980's. Lucky would retool and re-imagine Kash n' Karry by modernizing and expanding their existing stores, improving service and selection in the stores, and beginning a push to grow Kash n' Karry even further throughout Western Florida. By the end of Lucky's ownership of Kash n' Karry in 1988, Kash n' Karry had 96 stores, and was the #1 supermarket chain in the Greater Tampa Bay area, above Publix and Winn-Dixie. After Lucky was acquired by American Stores Co. in 1988, Kash n' Karry was taken independent once again after a leveraged buyout by executive management. This was the beginning of Kash n' Karry's problems. Even though Kash n' Karry continued to grow and open new prototypes, the chain was drowning in debt that occurred from the leveraged buyout, in addition to mounting pressure from a growing Publix, Winn-Dixie, and Albertsons. Sales fell to an all time low in 1994, and Kash n' Karry lost $38 million that year. Amidst all of this trouble, Kash n' Karry declared bankruptcy in November 1994. Even after emerging from bankruptcy, Kash n' Karry was still struggling with the mounting competition they were facing, launching yet another new prototype in 1995 to try to turn things around. In 1996, Food Lion bought Kash n' Karry in hopes to fix both chain's Florida woes by joining forces, a plan which we all know now would ultimately fail.

     With that little bit of history out of the way, let's turn our attention back to the Ocoee store. The exterior of this building was modified to include the curved roofline and other exterior details during the Kash n' Karry remodel. None of that would have been there when this place was Food Lion. The facade would have just had a plain rectangular look, like this.

     Slowly approaching the front of the store and the main entrance, what do we find but some old Albertsons carts in the main cart corral! I thought this was neat, and I've never seen those honeycomb style Albertsons carts before. There's a small chance these carts could have came from the former Ocoee Albertsons just east of here on Silver Star (which closed in 2005, around the time this place had just opened as Tropic Save), however they could have come from anywhere. I wanted to use on of these Albertsons carts as I walked around the store, but they were all buried behind other carts. I just grabbed one of the many other carts from this store's mix of old shopping carts to use as I strolled around this place. However, these old Albertsons carts are just the beginning of what makes this store so interesting - just wait until we get inside!

     Turning around from the cart corral, we see the main entrance. What you see here are the doors on the right side of the vestibule. Amongst the many decals stuck to the glass on the doors, the "No Soliciting" decal at the bottom right (near that bench) is a remnant from Kash n' Karry. Neat! If they left that decal there, just what other remnants from Kash n' Karry could Tropic Save and Quadro have left behind in here?...

     Well, to answer that question - just about everything! Yes, Kash n' Karry lives here in Ocoee! Both Tropic Save and Quadro Supermarkets left Kash n' Karry's late 90's/early 2000's decor completely in-tact! This is what you see upon entering through the right side entrance and turning out of the vestibule. Kash n' Karry's register light, Kash n' Karry's hanging light fixtures, Kash n' Karry's aisle signs in the background, and an old Albertsons cart just for good measure! (I'm sure that cart isn't always there, but it seemed to complete the scene in the above photo).

     While the decor is all Kash n' Karry, the layout of this store is still the original Food Lion layout. We saw this layout before in our post about the Pub Lion in Fort Pierce. Produce is located in the store's front right corner, and is the first department you walk into upon entering the store.

     Like I've said before, this decor uses a purple, teal, and orange color scheme. These converted Food Lion stores had a more basic version of this decor. Ground-up built Kash n' Karry stores from this era appear to have had a slightly fancier version of this decor, which you can catch a few glimpses of in this commercial from the early 2000's. Unfortunately, there are very few photos online of the interiors of Kash n' Karry's stores. What I do know about Kash n' Karry's interiors is that they had an interesting yellow and orange decor in the early 90's (along with a matching exterior scheme). There was also a teal and white decor that had oversized aisle markers which lit up (which I can't find any photos of online - that one I just happen to remember). I believe that decor was from the mid-1990's, but I don't know for sure. The only other Kash n' Karry decor I recall is the one we'll be seeing in this post (as well as its deluxe variant), which I believe was Kash n' Karry's last decor package before the conversion to Sweetbay.

     So the fact that anything about what the inside of a Kash n' Karry store looked like is so rare these days made finding this place even better! Actually, this supermarket is one of two remaining examples of this decor package floating around out there. The Caribbean Supercenter, an independent supermarket located in a former Food Lion-turned-Kash n' Karry in Pine Hills (right across the street from the Albertsons we took a look at last time) still has this decor preserved as well. If you know of any other well preserved Kash n' Karry stores out there, feel free to let me know about them in the comments section below!

     Anyway, back to the photos of this store in Ocoee. In the photo above we have a close-up of one of the produce coolers. Hung on the produce coolers and in other places throughout the produce department were little signs sharing fun facts about various fruits and vegetables, another Kash n' Karry remnant. In the photo above is the sign sharing some fun facts about peppers. Did you know that the chemical that gives peppers their heat is called capsaicin, and capsaicin levels in peppers are measured in Scoville heat units? If you didn't, there's one more bit on knowledge you can arm yourself with the next time you enter a pub trivia competition. The things you can learn at Kash n' Karry...

      Now that we've taken a moment to educate ourselves about chili peppers, we can let all of that information sink in as we take a look at this overview photo of the produce department. I thought the fake palm trees were a neat touch in this department, and are one of the few things in this photo that doesn't date back to Kash n' Karry!

     Looking from produce across the store's front end. Definitely lots of Kash n' Karry elements going strong up here!

     Looking down the right side wall, produce transitions into Quadro's bulk foods department.

      What is now Quadro's bulk foods department was originally Food Lion's and Kash n' Karry's frozen foods department. Quadro kept the freezers along the side wall, but removed the inner aisle of freezers in favor of the warehouse style shelving you see there now.

     While the big sign says deli meats, most of the space underneath the sign is dedicated to regular packaged meats. And in case you were curious (as it's hard to tell in the photos), the department sign lettering is actually printed on clear plastic panels mounted a few inches out from the wall to give the signage depth.

     Some old hanging signs for deli meat were tucked underneath the lower ceiling.

     More from the bulk food aisles...

     Transitioning away from bulk foods to see the rest of the grocery aisles...

     Close-up shot of one of the old Kash n' Karry aisle markers. Some of these aisle markers were a bit beaten up in this store from getting moved around, age, and probably from getting hit by ladders and such from employees while working. The round numbers hanging from the bottom of the sign match the round register lights up front. Aisle 2 is the first officially numbered aisle in this store. None of the bulk foods aisles were numbered, although one of those aisles had a sign missing a number. Taking into account the bulk foods section, aisle 2 should really be aisle 4.

     While this store is branded as being an IGA affiliate, they also carried quite a bit of Western Family brands as well. This can be seen in the photo above, where the IGA and ShurFine brand barbecue sauces are placed next to each other on the shelf.

     Returning to the back wall, it's time for a few more photos of this store's meats department...

      It was somewhat difficult to get a good photo of the "Fresh Meats & Seafood" sign with the way the aisles and cases were laid out back here, and the curved metal awning didn't make things any better! In this spot would have been a full service meat and seafood counter when Food Lion and Kash n' Karry were here, although either Tropic Save or Quadro removed the full service counter in favor of more coolers for prepackaged meats.

     If that tile pattern on the wall looks familiar to you, that's because we saw that same pattern behind the meat counter at the Fort Pierce Pub Lion too. It's amazing how much Publix left in tact at that old Food Lion/Kash n' Karry they took over, and that store high up there on my list of strangest Publix stores in existence. That post is definitely worth a look if you haven't seen it yet.

     Looking down one of the grocery aisles, toward the meat and seafood counter.

     The aisle markers look a bit odd from this angle, and almost seem to blend in with those pinatas hanging from the ceiling over the front end. However, hitting one of those aisle signs with a stick will just cause dust and plastic shards to come crashing down, rather than candy!

     The front end becomes a bit less cluttered with merchandise as we move further toward the store's left side. Customer Service and the former Deli/Bakery can be seen under the lower ceiling in the distance.

     An eclectic mix of products could be found in aisle 6, where this store's "$1 Deals" section is also located. To be honest, I can't remember if any of the products mentioned on the aisle marker could even be found in this aisle anymore!

     Yes, that is a giant bottle of seasoned salt hanging from the ceiling. It's not from Kash n' Karry, but I thought it was interesting. How often do you see giant bottles of seasoning hanging from the ceiling in your local supermarket?

     Pet supplies and paper products found their home in aisle 9.

     More of the various Kash n' Karry signage and decor that could be found along this store's back wall, as the meat department transitions into the former beer department. The floor tiling in this store is a remnant from Food Lion, and was the common tile pattern used in most of their late 1980's/early 1990's built stores.

     The signage for the beer department. Back in the Kash n' Karry days, it appears that a small alcove was created for an expanded beer/alcohol department in the back left corner of the store in some former backroom space. Quadro's selection of alcohol was either very small or non-existent, as I don't remember seeing much of a beer or wine selection at this store. Since alcoholic beverages aren't a big part of Quadro's sales, they converted Kash n' Karry's beer department into space for extra storage of pallets and back stock.

     Behind the coolers we can see the pallets of overstock rice that now occupy the beer department.

     A wide selection of cookware and sodas could be found in aisle 10, which was the second to last aisle in this store.

     Food Lion and Kash n' Karry had their deli and bakery crammed into the front left corner of the store, typical for a 90's built Food Lion. Quadro doesn't operate any type of deli or bakery here, so this entire space is blocked off by pallets of water for use as storage.

     All of the old bakery and deli cases, equipment, and ovens lie unused behind the pallets of water and soda.

     The last aisle in this store is home to dairy products and a small amount of frozen foods. This is also the same set up as Kash n' Karry and Food Lion would have had, although the coolers to my right would have primarily been home to ice creams and other frozen desserts (with the other miscellaneous freezer products in the main frozen section on the other side of the store).

     Yes, this store also had a random foosball table placed in the middle of the dairy aisle. I don't know why, but I'm sure it's a good way to keep the kids busy while parents try to do the grocery shopping.

     The dairy coolers stretch under the lower ceiling, and continue up to the opening that leads to the bathrooms and the stock room.

     Turning 90 degrees to my right from the previous photo, here we have a better look into the former beer department. You can see some marks back here from where the old beer coolers once were located against the walls.

     A final look across the back of the store as we being to make our way up front to leave...

     Customer Service was located in a small area to the side of the former deli department. Two of the three employees in the store during my visit were hanging around the customer service counter, with the third unpacking some boxes over by the dairy department. Usually I say the reason my photos make the store look dead is because I try to avoid getting other people in my pictures. That wasn't the case here - this place really was dead! Besides those three employees, I was the only other person in this place during my visit here. It was pretty early in the day when I paid a visit to this store, but my impression of this place was that it wasn't a high volume operation even at peak times.

     A look at the store's 5 registers. Like the new Safeway decor, this old Kash n' Karry decor also uses cylindrical shaped register lights, a style that I like personally.

     So that's all I have for this look at Kash n' Karry's late 90's/early 2000's decor. Time to head back outside...

     Now that we've taken a look at the well preserved interior of this store, it's time to turn our attention to the sky for a look at some Bird's Eye aerial images, courtesy of Bing Maps:

Front - The space immediately to the left of the former Food Lion/Kash n' Karry building was originally a Rite Aid, which closed in 1995 when they pulled out of Florida.

Right Side


Left Side

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

Quadro Supermarket #2 - 2017

Tropic Save Supermarket #2 - 2010

Tropic Save Supermarket #2 - 2005

Kash n' Karry #1895 - 2002

Food Lion #746 - 1995

Future Food Lion #746 - 1990 - The shopping center is under construction in this photo.

Future Food Lion #746 - 1980

     Out of curiosity I went into the Orange County Property Appraiser's database and looked up what kind of old photos they might have had of this place. While I knew it probably wouldn't go back far enough for a photo of this place with the Kash n' Karry signage, I did find a photo of this place from 2006 of how it looked as Tropic Save. The exterior color scheme you see here was the original color scheme from Kash n' Karry. The building's current green and yellow color came later on, probably during the name change to Quadro if I had to take a guess. 

    While that sign on the front of the building says Quadro Supermarkets, Kash n' Karry still lives within the walls of this building. I always find it interesting to see other supermarkets continue to use the remains of a store that came before them, and it's even more interesting when those remains come from a supermarket chain that is now long gone. With how rare Kash n' Karry relics have become, this store is a neat little throwback to give us a glimpse of what Tampa Bay's #1 supermarket once looked like. Being from Eastern Florida, Kash n' Karry is a chain that I rarely got to experience. While I did have a few opportunities to see a Kash n' Karry while they were still around, I wish I could have had more chances to see what their stores were like. Anyway, I hope everyone enjoyed this little trip back in time to experience another one of Florida's dearly departed supermarket chains. While maybe not quite as well preserved as this former Kash n' Karry, there are plenty more former supermarkets to bee seen around Florida - including many more Albertsons stores - which we will continue our coverage of next time.

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger