Sunday, December 22, 2019

A White Out at Winn-Dixie

Winn-Dixie #141
11701-10 San Jose Boulevard, Jacksonville, FL - Medical and Merchants Center of Mandarin

     UPDATE: This store will be closing by November 1, 2020, as Winn-Dixie prepares to relocate to the former Earth Fare across the street (which, ironically, is located in the same building Winn-Dixie abandoned for the store featured in this post 25 years prior).

     Rounding out AFB's recent taste of Jacksonville retail, we'll finish off with the hometown pride and joy: Winn-Dixie. Headquartered in Jacksonville's Southside neighborhood, Winn-Dixie takes a lot of pride in their hometown stores. Pretty much every Winn-Dixie in the Jacksonville area has been remodeled in some way since the company emerged from its 2005 bankruptcy, and some of Winn-Dixie's nicest and fanciest prototype stores lurk in these parts. Even with Jacksonville being Winn-Dixie's hometown, and home to a decent concentration of Winn-Dixie stores, Publix is still the area's #1 grocery chain. That fact may not be much of a surprise since this is Florida, but it's nice to see one region where Winn-Dixie really tries their hardest to make a good impression on shoppers.

     The Winn-Dixie store we'll be touring today is no exception to the rather nice fleet of stores the company has operating in the Jacksonville area. While the inside of this store was presentable, just look at the exterior of this place! This is certainly one of the fanciest exteriors I've ever seen come out of Winn-Dixie. Upon its opening on November 9, 1995, this had to be one of the fanciest looking Winn-Dixie stores in the entire chain. Even today I'd say that statement holds true. While the exterior is stately and grandiose, the interior of this store was no more than the typical Marketplace fare of the mid-1990's.

     Since its opening in 1995, this store has been remodeled twice: once in the late 2000's in the post-bankruptcy era, and then again in 2015. That's quite a bit of remodeling for Winn-Dixie, as many of their 1990's built stores still have yet to see a remodel of any kind.

     Before we head inside to see what that's all about, let's begin our walk to the main entrance. Stepping onto the front sidewalk, here's a look across the front of the building. The exit doors are visible up ahead, with the entrance located behind me to the right.

     Spinning around, here's a look toward the entrance. A 2015 remodel would suggest this store was one of the last few to get remodeled to the Green Interior. While the Green Interior is my personal favorite of all the decor packages Winn-Dixie has come up with since their 2005 bankruptcy, it sometimes takes a bit more than that to motivate me to make a stop. Stepping inside this store....

     Ummm, huh? What is this? White walls, strange fonts, odd hints of the Down Down decor, what's going on in here? Well everyone, what you see here was yet another highlight of my trip to Jacksonville: a super rare prototype decor Winn-Dixie created in 2015, a decor package I call "The White Interior" for fairly obvious reasons. Let me explain...

     The photo you see above came from Winn-Dixie's Facebook page in 2016. I was randomly on their page scrolling through stuff when I found this photo. Noticing the odd decor in the background, I was intrigued - was Winn-Dixie up to something new? The problem at the time was I had no idea what store this photo was taken at, as Winn-Dixie didn't mention a location in the description. It bugged me for a few days where the weird decor Winn-Dixie was, and what the heck was up with this store. With not much to go off of, I gave up my search and threw the above photo into my archives, hoping someday I'd get lucky and figure out what the story was about this place. Fast forwarding to the night before my Jacksonville trip, I was tracing my route for the next day on Google Maps when I accidentally scrolled too far down San Jose Boulevard from the nearby Pub Teeter. Seeing a Winn-Dixie icon appear on the screen a few blocks south of the Publix, I clicked on it, curious as to what decor the store had. I wasn't expecting much, figuring I'd see a few photos of the post-bankruptcy interior before losing interest and going back to tracing my route. You should have seen the shock on my face when I realized the Winn-Dixie I scrolled to by accident was none other than the mysterious white Winn-Dixie I had tried to find three years prior! I can confirm the above photo was taken at the Mandarin Winn-Dixie, as everything in the background matches with my photos below. I didn't make any hesitation with adding this store to my list of stops, making it a priority stop if nothing else! I'm 98% sure the white decor we'll be seeing today is a one-off, with no other examples of it out there. As you'll see, the White Interior has some very prototypical signage that would later appear in Down Down, with this decor as a whole appearing to be a rough first attempt at what would later become Down Down, which would launch a few months later in Jacksonville's Baymeadows neighborhood.

     Before we get into more of the strange decor, here's what we see after turning to the right upon entering the store. Produce takes up the front right corner, as is typical for a Marketplace era store.

     The front portion of the produce department is under a lower ceiling, which is probably a remnant from when Winn-Dixie used to run photo counters (a department that would have been located somewhere in this area, removed in the early 2000's).

     Produce is the only department in this store to have walls painted a color other than white. More fitting for produce, the walls here are painted bright green.

     Here's a close-up of the produce department signage, which was glared a bit by the overhead spotlights.

     Beyond produce we find the bakery and deli, visible up ahead in the sea of white. Standing between us and those departments are the natural foods, which we'll venture through next...

     "Naturally Better" is what Winn-Dixie calls their natural foods department. This particular store was large enough to get a decent sized natural foods section, something you don't see often at Winn-Dixie. The "Naturally Better" sign, as well as the other square shaped signs we'll see in this store, were all carried over to Down Down.

     The "organics" sign on the wall carries over the color scheme from produce, before switching to white as we near the bakery.

     The Naturally Better department also got its own custom category markers, featuring the leaf logo seen on the main sign.

     Here's one last look at the green corner of the store, as the remainder of this post will demonstrate how I came up with the term "The White Interior".

     Like most late-era Marketplace stores, the bakery and deli are placed next to each other along the right side wall.

     Bakery products spill out into the large open area that could be considered a part of this store's "grand aisle". The remaining space in this part of the store is home to pallets of promotional items, with the seafood department visible in the background.

     Unlike the white letters on lime green walls we saw in the produce department, the black letters on the white wall stand out much better, especially with the thin font used for this decor.

     In this photo we can see both the bakery and deli departments much better, as well the the accompanying signage.

     Pre-packaged deli meats are located in the back right corner of the store, beyond the bakery.

     Zooming out a bit, we can see the other department located in the back right corner of the store: Kosher foods. This store had 4 short aisles of kosher items, in addition to these coolers of kosher foods. Mandarin must have a decent Jewish population for Winn-Dixie to have installed such a large kosher department like this, as Winn-Dixie's kosher section is usually a small selection lumped in with the rest of the international department.

     Here's an endcap of some of the kosher items you could buy at this store. I'm not sure if the kosher department has always been here, or was added in one of the last two remodels.

     If you're in the market for matzo bread and gefilte fish, this would be your place to find it.

     Leaving the kosher department, the seafood department comes into view...

     Here's the signage for the seafood department, panning the camera toward the seafood counter itself.

    Looking across the back of the store, the place looks very...white. The floors, the ceiling, the walls, they're all white. At least the wall over the meat counter had a little pop of red to break things up just a bit!

     Returning to the front of the store for a moment, we'll head there by meandering through the Wine & Beer department.

     The Wine & Beer sign is straight out of the Down Down decor, featuring Down Down's colors and font. Ultimately it was this font and color scheme that won out, as we've seen with Winn-Dixie's most recent remodel rampage.

     Turning the corner from the Wine & Beer department, here's a look across the front of the store. The registers are hidden behind the large display of chips, but we'll take a closer look at the front end later in this post.

     Turning another corner, here's a look into the first official grocery aisle, featuring the sodas and juices.

     Also designed in the vein of the Down Down decor is this store's aisle markers. However, if you have a sharp eye, you'll notice a difference between these prototype markers and the ones to officially make it into the Down Down decor - the font used. If you have an even sharper eye, you'll notice the font on the aisle markers changed between the early Down Down and more recent Down Down remodels. The prior link shows the more recent font, although the earlier remodels had aisle markers that looked like this.

     In the back of the store once again, here's another look across the back of the building.

     More from the grocery aisles...

     Frozen foods can be seen here in the center of the store

     They got dinner and breakfast up there on the sign, so why not use up the third blank panel to add 'lunch'!

     The meat coolers take up the back wall of the store, with the 'fresh meat' sign being one of the only signs to be found on the back wall.

     After frozen foods, we enter a few more grocery aisles...

     This photo is the closest I have to the image I found on Facebook a few years ago. If you compare the two, it's easy to tell the Facebook photo came from here, which removes any doubt of there being another store with this decor floating around out there.

     The milk coolers are located in the back left corner of the store, with the remainder of dairy wrapping around the left side wall.

     Hardware and cleaning supplies could be found in the back of aisle 9, with health and beauty lying ahead.

     Again, the beauty sign was also a carryover to Down Down, although it's white and gray color scheme blends in well with the White Decor.

     In front of health and beauty is the pharmacy counter, with the service desk located just out of frame to the left.

     Like I said before, the remainder of the dairy department could be found here in the last aisle, aisle 10, with paper products located on the opposite side.

     Lots of white here in the dairy aisle, with all the white paper products adding to the encapsulation in white!

     Working our way back to the front, here's a look down the center aisle dividing the grocery aisles in half.

     Leaving the dairy aisle, here's another look toward the pharmacy counter and service desk as we work our way through the front end.

     The registers are visible to my left, with this store having a decent little crowd the morning I was here.

     Jumping to the other side of the registers, here's a clearer view toward the service desk, with the exit doors partially visible to my left.

     Thank you for shopping your San Jose Winn-Dixie, and thank you Winn-Dixie for not making that logo up there on the wall an official one - that checkmark looks quite disproportionate!

     Stepping back outside, the set of doors we see in the distance leads into Winn-Dixie's liquor store.

     And here's what the liquor store's exterior looks like. The "Liquor" sign is original from 1995, using the old Marketplace era font.

     The Mandarin Winn-Dixie was a fun store to visit all around, with the rare interior to compliment the super fancy looking exterior. In addition to the funky white interior we just saw, Winn-Dixie was doing some other decor experiments in 2015 as well. 2015 also brought us a black and white version of the Green Interior, which exists at a Winn-Dixie in Coral Gables. While I feel the Green Interior got short-changed, having only been used from 2013-2015, it seems like Winn-Dixie was trying to phase out that decor naturally before going all in with Down Down in 2016. It's kind of strange how Winn-Dixie when from two prototype black and white decor packages to ultimately choosing one with super bright colors engulfing the walls!

     As I wrap up this post, here's a look at the plaza's road sign. In addition to the Winn-Dixie, the other anchor to the plaza is a large medical office building (as this is the Medical and Merchants Center of Mandarin, after all). Unlike many shopping centers, where medical offices are usually retrofitted into vacant big box spaces, this plaza was built with the office space. It's an interesting concept to build a shopping center from scratch with a grocery anchor and a medical anchor, and it seems like a combination you'd see more frequently these days as commercial landlords look to develop shopping centers with a more diverse range of tenants.

     Speaking of those medical offices, here they are. This building isn't occupied by a single medical tenant, but instead contains multiple suites for smaller practices. And before you ask, no, the black Maserati in the foreground is not the AFB mobile - I believe that belongs to one of the doctors instead!

     Across the street from the Mandarin Winn-Dixie was this building, which was very clearly an old Pic N' Save store (as the angled greenhouse over the entryway was a distinctive trait of these old Pic N' Save stores). Pic N' Save was a discount chain based out of Jacksonville, which had about 40 stores located throughout Northern Florida at its peak. Pic N' Save was founded by the same family that owned the longtime Jacksonville grocery chain Setzer's Supermarkets, but the story of those two chains is very long and a topic for another day! Anyway, even though Pic N' Save has been gone since 1996, this building is very well preserved, even though it appears to have been divided up between multiple tenants since Pic N' Save left the building.

     So that's all I have to share about this place, yet another addition to the list of Winn-Dixie stores with super rare interior decor packages. So what do you guys think? Would you like to have seen this decor go beyond one store, or are you glad Winn-Dixie came up with Down Down instead? Personally, the White Interior looked very prototypical to me, like Winn-Dixie was trying a lot with this store to see what stuck and what didn't. I'm not saying the decor looks bad, as the all white walls were quite calming compared to what Down Down's sea of bright red can sometimes do! Anyway, I'm glad I got to see this rare decor in person, and that I could share it all with you.

     With our tour over, that's also a wrap for AFB for 2019. AFB will pick up again in the new year on January 19, 2020, when we depart Jacksonville and journey to a completely different region of the state for our first former Albertsons of the new year. I have lots of great stuff coming up for the new year, so be sure to come back and join in on the fun!

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all as well! Until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger