Sunday, September 23, 2018

Pub-Dixie - Where the Beef People are a Pleasure

Woolworth / Winn-Dixie #2357 / Publix #1150
415 21st Street, Vero Beach, FL - Treasure Coast Plaza

    While Albertsons buildings becoming a Publix have been a common occurrence of late, it's surprisingly rare to find a former Winn-Dixie building that has become a Publix. While Publix has taken over some former Winn-Dixie locations in the past, in more recent times Publix had the tendency to get rid of the old Winn-Dixie building completely and start fresh with a building of their own. However, here in Vero Beach, we find one of the 6 examples of the "Pub-Dixie". With a little paint and some updated decor, Publix felt that was enough and opened the doors to this unusual supermarket. The Vero Beach Pub-Dixie still feels very much like a 90's Winn-Dixie inside (albeit a bit cleaner and lacking of pastels). I had to keep reminding myself this was a Publix when I was in here, as the Winn-Dixie feeling is still very strong in this building!

     While today it is pretty apparent that this Publix is in an old Winn-Dixie building, this building was originally constructed to house a Woolworth discount store. When Treasure Coast Plaza was constructed in 1970, this part of Vero Beach between US 1 and the Indian River, known as the Miracle Mile, was the main shopping district in town. Vero Beach's Miracle Mile consisted of three major shopping centers: Treasure Coast Plaza, Miracle Mile Plaza, and Vero Plaza Shopping Center (the latter two I will discuss more later in this post, as they both tie into the story of how this Publix ended up in an old Winn-Dixie). Treasure Coast Plaza was the newest of those three major shopping centers, featuring a Pantry Pride Supermarket, a very large Woolworth discount store, and SupeRx Drugs as anchors, alongside smaller tenants including Hadley's She Shop, Finance America, Rhodes & Son, Sunshine Coin Laundry, Treasure Coast Travel Agency, Treasure Coast Opticians, Mommy Golden's, G&H Seafood, Treasure Coast Barber Shop, Charleston Restaurant, Carvel Ice Cream, Toy King, Fabric King, Treasure Coast Beauty Salon, and Citizen's Federal Bank. At the far left side of the above photo you can see a TJMaxx store, which was home to the Pantry Pride supermarket from 1970 until 1984. In 1984, Pantry Pride closed and became the independent Keen's Supermarket, with Keen's lasting until the early 1990's. SupeRx closed in 1985, prior to the sale of those stores to Rite Aid. The old SupeRx space, located immediately to the right side of Publix, is now an Ulta Beauty store after housing a Dollar Tree for a while in the late 1990's and early 2000's. In 1994, Woolworth closed their massive Vero Beach store, leaving Treasure Coast Plaza anchorless. Later in 1994, the rather sad Treasure Coast Plaza was sold to a new owner, who spared no time trying to court new tenants for the dying shopping center. By 1995, the new landlord had signed on Winn-Dixie, TJMaxx, Bealls Outlet, and Dollar Tree to fill the plaza's large voids, bringing the plaza back to life after almost instantly after years of decline. This Winn-Dixie was a relocation from an older store across the street, which I'll talk more about later. Winn-Dixie opened this massive new Marketplace store in 1995, which included many more amenities than the 60's era store it replaced across the street. Winn-Dixie lasted at this location until 2007, closing as a result of cost cutting measures as Winn-Dixie began to emerge from their crippling bankruptcy in 2005. Almost as soon as Winn-Dixie announced the closure of their Miracle Mile store, Publix jumped on this location to replace a smaller store they had across the street (again, more on Publix's original store later). By November 2007, Publix had their new Miracle Mile store up and running, much of that speed attributed to the fact they changed very little from when Winn-Dixie was here!

     All you need is a fresh coat of paint and a Winn-Dixie Marketplace can easily transform into a new Publix! When Winn-Dixie was here, this store and the adjoining shopping center were painted white much like any other Marketplace era Winn-Dixie store. After Publix moved in, the paint scheme changed to the brown and yellow color scheme you see today.

     One blatantly obvious Winn-Dixie relic that Publix left behind was the stained glass window above the entryway. All Publix did was remove the "W✓D" panel from the center of the window and replace it with a piece of clear glass (surprisingly keeping the rest of the stained glass window while at it, rather than removing the window entirely). These stained glass windows weren't all too common of a feature to be found at Winn-Dixie stores, unfortunately, as I thought they were a nice touch. Besides the new paint and the removal of the Winn-Dixie logo from the window, Publix also replaced Winn-Dixie's swinging doors with sliding ones, however keeping the shape of the old concave-shaped Winn-Dixie entryway.

     Stepping inside...hmmmm...this new Winn-Dixie decor looks a lot like Publix's Classy Market 2.5 decor! This particular photo doesn't do a good job at showing just how strong the Winn-Dixie vibe is in this place, but it should become more apparent as we continue through our interior tour that this place still feels a lot like a Winn-Dixie. Stepping through the front doors, we find ourselves behind the checkouts. Going past the checkouts and a small sitting area (which I'll have a photo of a bit later), we find produce in the front right corner of the building. This Publix still uses the exact layout of a mid-late 90's Winn-Dixie Marketplace store, so if you can picture that in your mind, that's exactly how this Publix is laid out. The only slight modifications Publix made to Winn-Dixie's layout were moving the floral department to the side wall by the deli (rather than leaving floral on an island behind produce like Winn-Dixie had), and moving beer and wine to the center grocery aisles (which would have originally been in a few short aisles between produce and the deli).

     In late 2017, Publix remodeled this store from the Classy Market 2.5 decor to Classy Market 3.0. All the remodel entailed was a decor swap, so this place still feels the same as you'll see in these photos, just with new signs on the wall. When Publix first opened this store in 2007, this store would have had the Classy Market 1.0 interior. Those columns on both sides of the department signs in my photos of this store are a remnant from the Classy Market 1.0 days.

      Anyway, the above photo is another overview of the produce department, this time taken near the floral section and deli counter looking toward the front of the store. I think one of the main reasons this place still feels so much like a Winn-Dixie has to do with the fact that Publix kept Winn-Dixie original fluorescent lighting in this building. Those rectangular "grid" lights were a staple of Winn-Dixie Marketplace era stores. Publix stores with a drop ceiling typically feature little square shaped lights. In this photo you can even see the distinctive lower ceiling the Winn-Dixie Marketplace stores all had over the front registers, but I have some better photos of that coming up later as well. The rows of spotlights you see over the produce department were installed by Publix, although post-bankruptcy Winn-Dixie stores would eventually get similar spotlights installed in their produce departments.

    Looking beyond the produce department, the deli counter is visible in the back right corner of the store. The Floral department was moved between the deli counter and the produce department where the wall swings out, so Publix could use the space that previously housed Winn-Dixie's floral island and wine department for more deli coolers and a salad bar.

     Here's a closeup of the floral department, which actually fits in quite nice in this little corner of the store.

     And one final look toward produce as we begin to shift our attention to the deli department...

     In front of the deli counter we find the hot foods bar, with the salad bar behind it. This is one of the few non-deluxe prototype Publix stores with a hot food bar of some kind, with this store's hot bar featuring a selection of prepared Asian foods from what I can remember.

     Turning the camera a bit more to the right, we can see the deli counter itself. The sub station is located closest to where I was standing, with the sliced meats just beyond the sub counter in the distance. And yes, this place was crazy crowded when I was here. When I pulled in here, the parking lot was packed and there were people everywhere in this store. Even in the satellite images you'll see this place with nothing but a packed parking lot for as long as Publix has been here. It's no wonder they wanted this old Winn-Dixie so bad!

     The above photo looks into the store's back right corner, where the service deli counter wraps around into some self-serve coolers.

     Adjoining the deli is the meat and seafood counter, which is partially cut off in the above image. However, we can also see clear across the back of this Pub-Dixie in this photo, where the back wall begins to transition into the meat coolers.

     It's always such a pleasure to shop at a store that's getting better all the time, isn't it? Here we are in one of this store's first few grocery aisles, looking toward the back of the store.

      Up at the front end, the Winn-Dixie-ness of this place is pretty striking. Here we can better see the lowered ceiling over the registers, a very Winn-Dixie design characteristic that Publix kept perfectly in-tact. Even the color scheme up here is pretty close to how Winn-Dixie had it, just minus the pastel accents. This is why supermarket conversions are so interesting to see, as one chain's traditional designs can seem so out of place for another!

     From the front we skip straight to the back for another look at the the meat coolers.

     It's hard to tell from these photos, but Publix redid the floors after Winn-Dixie left with tiles that are meant to emulate a pattern like that of a terrazzo floor. As we all know, every store Publix has ever built themselves has a terrazzo floor of some kind. Usually when Publix takes over someone else's building, they just put in plain white floor tiles. However, Publix decided to class up this old Winn-Dixie with the faux terrazzo, and it came out looking pretty nice.

     In front of the registers is a small seating area Publix installed for those wanting to enjoy their lunch or snack in-store, a nice reuse for a space that was once Winn-Dixie's photo center.

     As I mentioned before, Publix relocated the beer and wine to the center of the store from near the deli and produce. Beer and wine can now be found running the length of aisle 7.

    The frozen food department is located in the center of the store in aisles 8 & 9. The coolers look to have been replaced by Publix, as these coolers appear to look more like ones Publix would have used instead of Winn-Dixie. However, I could be wrong with that

     The coffin cooler only runs the back half of the frozen foods aisle, with the more traditional freezers taking up the other half of this department.

     Frozen foods also spill over a bit into aisle 10, where the bagged ice and ice cream are kept. The other half of aisle 10 is home to greeting cards and party supplies.

     Paper products are located in aisle 11.

     While Publix heavily modified its appearance, the pharmacy is still located in the spot where Winn-Dixie would have had it, tucked between the customer service desk and the bakery. 

     The front left corner of the store is home to the bakery, another department that Publix heavily modified but left in the same place as the Winn-Dixie days. The curved appearance of this store's bakery was probably added in the remodel to Classy Market 2.5, as that's when this design first appeared. I would have to guess the original look of Publix's bakery would have been closer to the way Winn-Dixie would have kept it.

     This store's bakery is one of the only departments that feels more like something out of a scratch-built Publix than one in a former Winn-Dixie. The layout and design of this department is exactly to Publix's liking.

     Next, a few quick photos of the last few grocery aisles. The aisle above is aisle 16, home to books and magazines as well as baby supplies. Those metal wrapped support columns are another classic Winn-Dixie trait.

    Snack foods in aisle 17.

     A small portion of the dairy department warps around to the back wall, as we can see in the above photo. This photo is looking back toward meat, seafood, and the deli, which is located way off in the distance.

    Aisle 18 is this store's last aisle, which is home to the remainder of the dairy department, exactly how Winn-Dixie would have had it.

     Now that we've seen just about everything that's in here, we find ourselves up front again as we get ready to head back outside.

     Thank you for shopping your Vero Beach Pub-Dixie, where the beef people are a pleasure.

     So that's what a Pub-Dixie is all about! I still can't decide which store was a stranger experience: the Pub-Dixie we just saw or the nearby Pub Lion. Seeing a Publix in the context of both of those stores is rather odd, especially considering how both Winn-Dixie and Food Lion (especially Food Lion) have always been grouped as stores that were quite a few notches down from the quality and experience of Publix. 

     Now that we've completed our tour of this store, let's take a quick look at how this Publix ended up in an old Winn-Dixie building to begin with:

    The Pub-Dixie is actually Publix's third location to have existed over the years on Vero Beach's Miracle Mile. The above map shows all three locations that Publix has operated out of over the years. The Pub-Dixie is the store at the bottom of the map. Publix's first location in Miracle Mile Plaza is designated at the top left, with the second location in Vero Plaza Shopping Center at the top center of the map. (Yes, Publix has really gotten themselves around on the Miracle Mile!). Let's start off by first taking a look at the Publix that came immediately before the one currently in the old Winn-Dixie:

Winn-Dixie #2351 / Publix #642 / The Fresh Market
526 21st Street, Vero Beach, FL - Vero Plaza Shopping Center

     Across the street from Treasure Coast Plaza is the Vero Plaza Shopping Center, which dates itself back to the early 1960's. The Vero Plaza Shopping Center originally opened with anchors WT Grant, Winn-Dixie, and Eckerd Drug. I wasn't able to pinpoint the location of the old Eckerd, but the old WT Grant and Winn-Dixie spaces were torn down in the late 1990's to accommodate the construction of Publix #642, which you can see pictured above in its current form split between The Fresh Market and Pet Supermarket. Ironically enough, after Winn-Dixie relocated from this shopping center to their new store at Treasure Coast Plaza in 1995, Publix decided to take over this former Winn-Dixie too! However, like most cases when Publix takes over an old Winn-Dixie, the old Vero Plaza Winn-Dixie was torn down in order to accommodate to construction of this brand new Publix, which opened in 1998 to replace the original Publix next door. This Publix was a typical late 90's smaller-format store, and is probably one of the most modern Publix stores to have been replaced to date. Even though Publix hadn't been in this building for even ten years when they decided to move across the street in 2007, I can see why they made the jump. Publix #642 was pretty small at only 35,000 square feet, and had a rather small parking lot too. This store was a busy location for Publix, and the larger Winn-Dixie building across the street and its larger parking lot were probably much better equipped for handling the large crowds this Publix was drawing. After Publix moved across the street, they announced that old #642 was to become one of their new Publix Greenwise Market stores. However, after Publix shelved the expansion of their Greenwise stores in 2008 after opening three prototypes, the plans for opening a Greenwise store in Vero Beach were also scrapped. By August 2009, the old Publix building was split between The Fresh Market and Pet Supermarket, and continues to operate as such today.

     Here's a closer-cropped view of the old Publix building. The exterior of this building was kept exactly as Publix left it, but that's all that remains from the old Publix. The Fresh Market reconfigured the store's entryway during their remodel, as well as any trace of Publix that may have been left behind inside the building.

     Publix's original entryway would have jutted out at an angle near the right edge of where the facade just out, which isn't the case here anymore.

     Fortunately for us, the Indian River County property appraiser keeps all the old photos they've compiled over the years for all the properties in the county. Due to that, here are a couple of pictures I pulled from their database showing this Publix store back in the early 2000's when it was still open. 

     Considering how Publix was only in this building for 9 years, I'm sure it kept the 90's teal exterior signage and Wavy Pastel interior for its entire run. In the above photo, you can see how Publix's entryway was configured before The Fresh Market moved into this building.

Publix #61
612 21st Street (Miracle Mile), Vero Beach, FL - Miracle Mile Plaza

     Moving a few hundred feet to the west from Publix #642, we find the Miracle Mile Plaza and the home of the Miracle Mile's original Publix store. However, from the ground, there really isn't much left here to even tell a Publix once occupied this space. Back when this Publix first opened in 1960, it's facade was of the classic "Wing Store" design. I doubt the wing design lasted here until Publix moved next door in 1998, although I couldn't find any photos of this store from when Publix was still operating here to know what this place looked like in its later years. After Publix moved next door, their space was carved up into a few smaller storefronts and a new facade was added, wiping away almost every trace of a Publix existing here. However, there still remains one obvious trace of Publix being in this building. In the satellite imagery, the old peaked roof of the early Wing Stores is still plainly visible, so not all has been lost here.

     And speaking of satellite imagery, let's take a look at some historic aerial images of Treasure Coast Plaza and its neighbors to officially conclude this post:

Publix #1150 - 2016 - You can see in these images how this store always seems to draw a decent crowd.

Publix #1150 - 2010

Former Winn-Dixie #2357 / Future Publix #1150 - 2007 - It appears work to convert this building into a Publix is still going on in this image.

Winn-Dixie #2357 - 2005 - Even Winn-Dixie was still able to draw a decent crowd here.

Publix #642 - 2005 - Just for fun, here's an image of the old Publix across the street when it was still open. That parking lot is looking pretty full, which I'm sure was a problem with this store during peak shopping times. I don't have concrete proof of this, but I really think the space constraints of the parking lot and the building itself are what prompted this store's move to the old Winn-Dixie after only 9 years.

Winn-Dixie #2357 - 1999

Future Winn-Dixie #2357 - 1994 - Here you can see all the abandoned anchor spaces at Treasure Coast Plaza before the big revival later in 1994. It wouldn't be long before that large empty parking lot was filled once again!

Publix #61 and Winn-Dixie #2351 - 1994 - To finish off the satellite imagery, here's what Miracle Mile Plaza and Vero Plaza Shopping Center looked like with their original supermarket anchors still in place. The Publix was in the plaza to the left, while Winn-Dixie was in the plaza to the right.

     Since the Indian River County Property Appraiser likes to hold onto their old photos, why not end this post with a few old photos of the Treasure Cost Plaza Pub-Dixie back when this place was still a Winn-Dixie? The photo above shows the left half of the building, where the main "Winn-Dixie" sign was located. The store's main entrance is located at the far right edge of the photo.

     The far right side of the building, pictured here, had the "DELI" and "PHARMACY" signs, while the large "Marketplace" sign was located just out of frame to the left, to the right of the entrance.

     And with that, we have concluded our tour of the Vero Beach Pub-Dixie and our brief overview of the retail history of Vero Beach's Miracle Mile. I know there were lots of supermarkets moving and taking over other supermarkets in this post, so hopefully everyone was able to follow along! The photos don't really do the best job at conveying just how much this place still feels like a Winn-Dixie, but hopefuly everyone was still able to get some of the experience. This store is certainly worth a visit if you're ever in the area, just to get the full effect of seeing this rare supermarket conversion in person. And if you make it here, you might as well just go the extra 13 miles down US 1 and see the Pub Lion too - make it a day trip of Publix conversion stores! Even with how un-Publix-like this store is, it's certainly one of Publix's busiest stores. I'm surprised Publix hasn't done any more work to this place considering how busy this store is, but I won't complain. I like it the way it is! So I'll end the post with this question - what Publix conversion stores do you find the most interesting (or strange?). Pub Lion? Pub-Dixie? Publixsons? There's also Pub n' Karry and Publix's Choice stores out there, and let's not forget Publix-Osco and even Pub Teeter too! There are even some other ones if you look outside of Florida, like Pub-LOs and Pubkrops stores. So even though Publix can be very picky about the buildings they take over, even knocking some completely down for a store of their own taste, you'd be surprised at what you'll find out there, and how much Publix will leave behind.

While you guys contemplate that, I've run out of things to say. So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger