Albertsons #4304 / Safeway #3304 / Publix #1661
503 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs, FL - Palm Springs Center
With my flickr woes (mostly) out of the way, it's finally time to kick of AFB in 2019 the right way - with a Safelixsons store! As you all know, in June 2018 it was announced that Publix had bought the three Florida Safeway stores after only two years in operation. By August 2018, the Safeway stores had closed and their transition into Publix would begin. It's amazing at just how little Publix did to these stores to get them up and running once again. I know we've seen in the past how Publix has done very little to some of the buildings they've taken over before (like the Pub Lion, the Pub-Dixie, and a good number of the Publixsons stores). These days, Publix seemed to be more thorough with their remodels of buildings they've taken over, resorting to heavily remodeling those buildings beyond recognition or rebuilding them entirely from scratch. That's why I'm amazed at how Publix was satisfied with only repainting the walls and restocking the shelves with the three Safeway stores they took over. I know Safeway dumped a lot of money into these stores only two years ago, however I'm still really surprised Publix didn't do more work on these stores. As you'll see in the coming photos, the remodeling budget was surprisingly cheap. Remember, this is a company that flattened a 2002-built Albertsons store because it didn't meet their standards. But then again, it's also the same company that ran a store in a practically untouched Food Lion building for 15 years, so who knows what Publix is thinking! It's been rumored that Publix wants to do some heavier remodeling at these three former Safeway stores in the near future, however as of January 2019, nothing has come from those rumors yet.
On the exterior, all Publix did was replace the signage. The paint scheme is exactly how Safeway had it.
Publix...it's just not the same as what used to be here.
Heading inside, just what will we find?...
...that this place looks essentially the same as when we toured it as a Safeway, but with different colored walls. Publix kept Safeway's old layout exactly the same, and even some of their old fixtures and equipment (though not all). The salad bar was definitely the same one that Safeway used, even in the same place that Safeway had it. The flooring is also Safeway's, as is the wooden trim that runs beneath the department signage. This photo is the closest I have to a view from a similar vantage point from the Safeway days. Publix went very cheap with the decor here, only bothering to repaint the walls and add a lone sign for each department. As we've seen in the past, there are some fancier things Publix can do with their current decor, even in stores not built with it. The cheap remodeling from the transitional period leads me to believe that the rumors about a heavier renovation in the near future may be true, but who knows?
Looking back to where we entered this store, not even a Thank You sign resides in the big blank spot above the right side doors here. I really think if not a Thank You sign, Publix should have put something above the doors (a banner, a poster, decorative stock photos - just something) to break up the blankness of the walls. The Classy Market 3.0 decor usually has some little pictures or graphics to go along with it, but none were included in this store.
In the very front of the store (in front of the registers) is the Publix dining area, which is nothing more than a seating area where you can eat your lunch from the deli or whatever other snacks you may have. The leftmost portion of the dining area was home to a Starbucks kiosk when Safeway was here. Surprisingly, the Starbucks kiosk was removed when Publix converted this store. Publix does operate Starbucks kiosks at select stores, and they even kept the Starbucks kiosks at the former Oakland Park and Largo Safeway stores too. I don't know why they removed the Starbucks kiosk here if they went ahead and kept the other two, unless sales at this store's Starbucks were just that pitiful...
Looking across the front of the building, we see the floral department followed by the registers. The pharmacy is located off in the far distance too, but of course some better shots of the pharmacy counter will be coming up later in this post.
Like Safeway did (and even some of the larger sized Publix stores do), Publix broke the deli counter into two portions. The portion seen here is located along the front wall, and is home to the prepared foods, sub counter, and fresh sushi. When Safeway was here, their selection of prepared foods was more elaborate, featuring pizzas, breakfast sandwiches, a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, and a chicken wing bar in addition to sandwiches and sushi. Here's an overview shot of what Safeway's prepared foods selection looked like. Also, the TV screens you see hanging above the sub counter are another holdover from Safeway. Safeway used a lot of those TV monitors throughout the store. Publix decided to keep these monitors as part of their deli menu board, as well as a few other select monitors throughout the store, but most of them (including the ones displaying ads over the main salesfloor) were removed. However, I've heard this was not the case at the Largo store, where some of the old Safeway monitors still hang over the salesfloor in parts of the building unused.
Stepping back into the produce department, here's an overview of the entirety of this store's deli department. In addition to the prepared foods at the deli counter directly in front of us, the counter off to the left is where the traditional deli sliced meats and prepackaged salads could be purchased.
Here's a closeup of the deli counter, looking toward the bakery department just beyond it.
Speaking of the bakery, that's the department we'll be taking a look at next. The bakery signage can be seen here, behind all of the perfectly displayed produce. I particularly like how those aloe leaves are displayed, looking like a giant flower bud waiting to bloom.
Unfortunately, the Albertsons chocolate chip cookies have made way for Publix's version. Publix's bakery cookies are still very good, but they just aren't the same as Albertsons' cookies were.
The next counter beyond the bakery is the produce counter, where the fresh cut fruit is prepared. While the produce counter is located toward the back of the store, the produce displays take up much of the center of the grand aisle behind me.
This Publix also had a very nice selection of bulk foods. Finding bulk foods at Publix is very hit-or-miss. Some of their stores lack bulk foods entirely, some have a small section stuffed in one of the grocery aisles or near produce, and a select few have a large bulk food spread like this. Safeway's bulk foods section was located in this same spot, and featured a similar sized selection of foods (just laid out a bit differently).
I'll try to spare you all from any of my wine-ing about how much blander Publix's decor looks compared to what was here only a few months ago. (See what I did there? Yes, you did, and you're still cringing over that pun.)
Here we can see the bakery and deli departments, as they appear from the front of the wine and beer section. On the opposite side of that row of shelving is the bulk foods, as well as produce.
When Safeway was here, this gray tiled section in front of the meat and seafood counter was home to the organics and natural foods department. Publix removed the dedicated natural foods department and placed their Aprons Simple Meals demonstration counter back here. (And in case anyone was wondering, the day's simple meal was Lentil Bolognese over Zoodles. Put in even simpler terms, it was zucchini spiral cut to mimic spaghetti with a lentil tomato sauce, something I had a sample of at a Publix I visited later this day. I must say, was a very good way to trick someone into eating their vegetables!). AFB's food critiques aside, in addition to the Aprons demonstration counter, the former Safeway organic food department made way for Publix's rather large international foods section. Rather than putting all their organic products together in one location, Publix disperses their organic foods into the regular aisles to be near their conventional counterparts. While Publix has had special organic sections in their stores in the past, those have been mostly done away with in favor of the format used now.
Here is an example of one of the aisles of international foods offered in this part of the store. Publix has a very nice offering of international products at their stores, with most of their modern and larger stores having three-quarters to a full aisle of international foods available.
More international foods in the next aisle, where we can see the meat department poking out in the background.
Looking down the store's back wall now, here we have a better overview of the meat and seafood counter itself.
Entering aisle 1, we find one of many perfectly stocked and straightened grocery aisles. This aisle is stocked so perfect, it almost looks like this store just held its grand opening!
Briefly emerging from the grocery aisles, here's a look across the front end. The floral department is on an island to my left, with the pharmacy in the distance.
Anyway, up to this point, I've only discussed the flooring in this store in passing. Like I said earlier, the flooring in this place is all Safeway's. Publix didn't even bother to replace the flooring with their common tile pattern for buildings they take over that weren't their previously. Since Publix famously uses terrazzo floors in every store they build, seeing that trendy modern faux wood flooring in a Publix is a bit weird! Honestly, walking around this store even today, you can still easily convince yourself you're shopping at Safeway with how little Publix did.
Lunchmeats and cheeses are located in these coolers in aisle 3.
Frozen foods take up aisle 4. The coolers you see in this aisle are also a holdover from Safeway.
Looking into the store's back left corner, we find the home of the prepackaged meats and the dairy department. The decor in this part of the store just fizzles out into some beige walls and some lonely looking wall signs, lost in the sea of beige. While Publix did repaint all of the walls prior to opening this store, the color scheme Safeway used in this area was pretty similar to the beige color Publix has here now.
The grocery aisles between frozen foods and the pharmacy were quite wide and spacious. In their remodel, Publix eliminated a grocery aisle in this part of the store, as Safeway had a total of 13 grocery aisles, while Publix now has 12. Since Publix isn't as keen on running larger stores like Albertsons/Safeway was, Publix's larger stores (almost all of which were something else previously) tend to feel very spacious as Publix doesn't know what to do with all of the extra space they have. This situation is especially apparent at the former Jewel-Osco stores Publix bought from Albertsons, most of which were around 70,000 square feet (which is 10,000 square feet larger than Publix's largest prototype, the 61M, which is pretty rare to begin with).
Even with a pole in the middle of it, getting two carts side by side through this wide aisle is a breeze!
The back wall looks especially blank and barren in this photo.
In addition to this small section on the store's back wall, the dairy department also wraps around to continue up part of aisle 12, which runs along the building's left side wall.
Entering aisle 12, here's the rest of the dairy department I mentioned before.
Well weren't you just being lazy Publix! Stepping into the pharmacy department, what do we see but more of Safeway's old decor practically in-tact. Here's what the pharmacy looked like when Safeway was still here. One major siimilarity you'll notice is that Publix kept the shimmery glass paneling behind the pharmacy sign. Coincidentally, the pharmacy counters in modern Publix stores also use a shimmery glass tile effect too, as well as wood trim. All Publix did was repaint the background color of the wall to a pale blue from Safeway's beige. I actually like Publix's blue treatment better than what Safeway had here, although Publix's rather small pharmacy sign doesn't really stand out much here.
Here's another look at the pharmacy counter. With the glass tiles and wood trim, it's almost like Safeway was trying to copy Publix's pharmacy design when they came up with this decor. Safeway might as well have modeled the rest of their decor after Classy Market 3.0 rather than Winn-Dixie's Down Down look, as they could have saved Publix some more remodeling troubles in the end!
Besides eliminating the Starbucks counter and removing a grocery aisle, the only other significant change Publix made in here was adding new checklane counters. These are the counters Publix replaced, as I'm sure replacing the counters was much easier for Publix than trying to retrofit Publix's computer system onto those Safeway ones.
Part of the dining area can be seen here behind the floral displays. However, this generic "Dining" area is certainly no comparison to "The Roost" in terms of local flare and uniqueness.
While all of the local flare has been removed and painted beige, this is a very nice little seating area to enjoy a quick snack or a lunch from the Publix deli.
I decided to grab myself a little snack while I was here, and perched myself at one of the high top tables that overlooked the store's front end. I took this photo before I ate, enjoying a little break from a hectic day of visiting a list of stores I had prepared.
Unlike the store's right side entrance, the left side doors contain the "Thank you for shopping Publix" message. With that being said, let's head back outside to finish this tour of the Altamonte Springs Safelixsons...
The liquor store is tucked into the front left corner of the building. Like the main store, Publix only did minimal remodeling to this part of the building too. Interestingly enough, the Publix across the street also has a neighboring Publix liquor store. Speaking of that Publix across the street...
...I'm really not kidding when I say that other Publix is located across the street! The above screenshot from Google Maps shows just how close the Safelixsons is from the original Publix on the other side of Route 436 - 0.3 miles! I still think having two Publix stores this close together is a bit ridiculous, although this type of situation isn't all that uncommon with Publix. All three of the Safeway stores Publix purchased were across the street from an existing Publix, all of which remained open. I believe the Safelixsons has a slightly larger selection of prepared foods and grocery items since it is larger than the store across the street, but other than that, there isn't much differentiating the two stores from each other. So if you're at Safelixsons and they happen to run out of an item - don't fret! An employee from the store across the street can throw the item across the street for you! 😀 I didn't go into the Publix across the street from the Safelixsons when I was here. That Publix, which is store #742, is a typical early 2000's larger format Publix. If you'd like a peek at that store, Google has some images of it you can see by clicking here.
So while Publix's purchase of the three Safeway Florida stores brought an end to a 44 year legacy of Albertsons in Florida, it also brought the end of yet more supermarket variety in Florida for some more Publix. With over 800 stores in Florida alone, it's no shock that Publix is king here! And for as long as we can all tell, it is king that Publix will remain in Florida. So if you're tired of Publix and want some supermarket variety in your life, just head across the street and you can change things up by shopping at a Publix in the shell of one of their long gone competitors instead!
While that's all I have for this post, our next post continues the theme of Publix operating in buildings they took over from others. Just what kind of Publix conversion will we see next? Check back in two weeks to find out!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger