Albertsons #4373 / Hobby Lobby #540
16880 US Highway 441, Mount Dora, FL - Tri-Cities Shopping Plaza
Boy, it's great to be back on the blog, here to share yet another former Albertsons store with you! While sometimes it's nice to have a break from blogging, I tend to miss putting these posts together for you guys more than anything while I'm gone. Without any further ado, let's head up to Lake County for today's retail adventure...
Lake County, Florida is located northwest of the Orlando metropolitan area, comprised of a variety of small to mid-sized towns including Clermont, Mount Dora, Eustis, Tavares, and Leesburg amongst a multitude of others spanning this skinny, oddly-shaped county in Central Florida. For today's post, we'll be making a quick pit stop in the northern part of the county. I visited the former Mount Dora Albertsons as part of a trip to some retail destinations in Lake County's Golden Triangle area, the Golden Triangle being comprised of the towns of Mount Dora, Eustis, and the county seat of Tavares. It turned out these tiny towns held some interesting destinations that day, but we'll see more of that here and on My Florida Retail in the future. The Mount Dora Albertsons was the only Albertsons to ever be constructed in Lake County. However, back when Albertsons opened their store in Mount Dora in 1988, the Golden Triangle/Leesburg area was the most populated part of the county, so it made the most sense for Albertsons to consider that area more than the Southern Lake County/Clermont area back then. Had Albertsons continued to open new stores into the mid-2000's, a second Lake County Albertsons down in the Clermont area probably would have happened, as Clermont and Southern Lake County experienced a large population boom around the turn of the 21st Century.
The large oak trees in this parking lot weren't doing my photo taking any favors, and neither was the early morning sunlight. This Albertsons store opened in the midst of the "Superstore" era, an era that provided some really nice looking and stately stores. This store, however, was one of the more boring looking Superstore-era Albertsons stores to be built in Florida. Plain stucco walls and not much detail left very little to see here. It's not like Albertsons really needed a fancy looking building here, as the foliage did a good job of blocking most views of the building anyway!
This Albertsons was given a remodel from its original Blue and Gray Market interior to Grocery Palace in the early 2000's. However, the Grocery Palace remodel wasn't super extensive, and this store's Superstore-era layout and design were left mostly in-tact post-remodel. This Albertsons remained in business until October 2011, when Albertsons trimmed their Florida store count down from 20 stores to 17 in the Sunshine State. Closing at the same time as this store in Mount Dora were the last Albertsons stores in both Tampa and Gainesville (#4326 and #4314, respectively). After sitting vacant for two years, it was announced that Hobby Lobby would take over this building as part of the company's push to expand in the Orlando market in the early 2010s. Hobby Lobby opened their first Orlando area store in 2010, which would later be followed by a larger push of new stores come 2013. Hobby Lobby's big push into Orlando came upon the demise of Albertsons, when the company scooped up three of the area's former Albertsons stores in 2013 (this location in Mount Dora, as well as store #4376 in Winter Springs and store #4359 in Apopka). This former Albertsons opened as a Hobby Lobby in October 2013 after a decent amount of renovation, which we'll see in just a moment.
Looking toward the right side of the building in this shot, here's a look at Albertsons' old right side entry vestibule, which led into the grocery departments. As usual in these Albertsons-to-Hobby Lobby remodels, Hobby Lobby closes off these old vestibules in favor of creating a new one of their own.
Here's more evidence of the sun not wanting to work in my favor! Anyway, walking into that cut away would have taken you to Albertsons' right side entry doors.
Here's the wall where those doors would have once been located.
Looking across the front of the building, we can see that Hobby Lobby left the vestibule windows completely in-tact, even though the vestibule was removed. The windows have been blacked out, and I'm pretty sure these are walled over on the inside.
The address number on this window is a relic from Albertsons.
Hobby Lobby repainted and re-stuccoed the center portion of the facade where Albertsons' once had their logo. Other than that, the building still looks the same from the outside as it did when Albertsons was here.
Hobby Lobby carved their main entrance out of Albertsons old left-side vestibule, placing the doors where a row of windows would have been when Albertsons was here.
Even though Hobby Lobby's entryway now faces the front of the building, this photo happened to be taken looking into the vestibule as one would have seen it walking into Albertsons pharmacy-side entrance. Hobby Lobby uses their vestibule to store various pieces of furniture, more of which could be seen in the alcove behind me.
Stepping into the main store, here's a look down Hobby Lobby's main left side aisle. When Albertsons was here, this part of the store was home to the pharmacy and health and beauty sections. Hobby Lobby did a rather thorough renovation to this place prior to opening, so there really weren't any traces of Albertsons to be found in here.
Here's a look back toward the entryway, as seen from the main aisle.
Health and Beauty would have been located along this wall originally.
The grocery aisles have now been replaced with aisles of artsy craftsy froofy stuff. While I'm not a big consumer of decorative froofy stuff, I do like those Route 66 signs hanging on that endcap.
Here's another look across the center of the store. While the flooring and lights have been replaced and most everything else redone, this place still has a tiny bit of an Albertsons feel to it.
This is Hobby Lobby's main back aisle, looking across the building from the left side of the store.
The dairy department and meat coolers would have lined this back wall when Albertsons was here, with the meat and seafood counter also back here too.
The right side of the store, which we can see here, was home to most of the fresh departments in these Superstore-era Albertsons stores. Here in the back right corner would have been produce (where I was standing to take this photo). Along the right side wall would have been the bakery, with the deli in the front right corner.
Along this wall would have been the bakery counter when Albertsons was here.
Looking down Hobby Lobby's main front aisle, we find ourselves in a forest of fake flowers. The front end is located somewhere in the distance behind all those flowers.
This photo looks into the area where the deli counter would have been located when Albertsons was in the building.
Looking down the building's front wall, the space that once contained the right side entry vestibule would have been somewhere on the left, followed by the customer service desk. These Superstore era Albertsons buildings would have also had a second level for store offices, with windows looking down on the front end. Hobby Lobby either removed the second level here, or simply covered over those old windows.
This is a random photo looking into one of Hobby Lobby's center aisles.
With the front end visible in the distance here, let's head back outside to finish up our tour of this former Albertsons store...
Here's another look at the exterior of this old Albertsons store, the old liquor store located under the overhang on the left side of this image.
Here's a look at the exterior of the old liquor store. The design of this store's exterior makes the liquor store blend in with the rest of the building, rather than making it look like an afterthought tacked onto the side of the building.
Hobby Lobby has some extra carts stored where Albertsons' pharmacy-side doors were located. However, the much more interesting empty liquor store's entrance is visible to our left. I think all of us want to see more of what may lie in there...
For whatever reason these old Albertsons liquor stores are just left to wither away empty for years, usually standing as our last glimpse into what the main portion of this building would have looked like back in the Albertsons days.
Albertsons decaling still remains on the entrance door, reminding us to not forget our reuseable bags in the car. Whether I left my reuseable bags in the car or not, they won't help me much here anymore (except to potentially use them as a shield for excess glare when taking interior pictures through the windows).
Peeking through the doors, remnants of the Grocery Palace liquor store decor remain on the walls 8 years after Albertsons closed this store.
Here's one last look toward the liquor store and the main building. However, I have one last place to address here at the Tri-Cities Shopping Center:
16900 US Highway 441, Mount Dora, FL - Tri-Cities Shopping Plaza
When this plaza was built in 1988, Kmart joined as the other anchor to this shopping center. Kmart lasted in Mount Dora until June 2013, when it was included in one of Sears Holding's many closure lists. This Kmart, while a somewhat typical late 80's built store, held a small significance in Kmart history. The Mount Dora Kmart contained the second to last operational Kmart Restaurant in the chain. While Kmart's stores usually contained a small snackbar or KCafe/Little Caesar's in later years, full-service Kmart Restaurants were mostly phased out by the early 90's. However, for whatever reason, this restaurant was able to make it until the main store's demise in 2013. I would have loved to visit this Kmart and eat at that restaurant, but I was just getting into the adventure of photographing retail back in 2013, so I never made it here. The last operational Kmart Restaurant was located in Belle Vernon, PA, a small town located about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh. The Belle Vernon Kmart became a bit of a destination in the retail fan community in its final years due to that restaurant, much like the last Super Kmart in Warren, OH did. Unfortunately, the Mount Dora Kmart, or its restaurant, didn't get as much coverage as that store in Belle Vernon did. While the Belle Vernon store's restaurant was actually called the "Kmart Family Restaurant", Mount Dora's was simply called "The Eatery", even though both were run by Kmart.
Shortly after the Mount Dora Kmart closed, the building was demolished and replaced by a strip of stores including Ross Dress for Less, TJMaxx, and Dollar Tree, so I couldn't even document the restaurant in an abandoned or repurposed state. At least Google thought to drive through this plaza in 2011 with the Streetview car to provide us with some documentation of this store! (Those Streetview images visible in the links in the previous paragraph).
With the history of the Kmart out of the way, it's time to jump into some satellite images. First up are some Bird's Eye aerial images, courtesy of Google Maps:
Front - Google's satellites happened to capture these images in the period when this store was sitting abandoned.
And next, some historic satellite images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4373 - 2017 - The entirety of the Tri-Cities Shopping Center can be seen here.
Former Albertsons #4373 - 2013 - The Albertsons is abandoned and Kmart is still standing, although Kmart doesn't have much time left here.
Albertsons #4373 - 2007
Albertsons #4373 - 1995
Future Albertsons #4373 - 1980 - The plaza was built on a former citrus grove. While you can find citrus groves all over Florida, Lake County became especially famous for its citrus groves after the construction of the Florida Citrus Tower in 1956.
While this former Albertsons found its new life as a Hobby Lobby, let's finish off this post with a look at this store back in the good old days:
Our Albertsons photo sleuth YonWooRetail2 was able to dig up some old photos of this store, including the exterior photo above and the following interior photo. The above photo came from an article about the closing of this store, I believe.
More interestingly, here's a photo that gives us a glimpse at the interior of this former Albertsons store. While this photo was taken to showcase this store's new Starbucks kiosk, we get a nice glimpse of its Grocery Palace interior in the background. Even with the low ceilings in this building, Albertsons still found the room to hang Snack Central's giant bowl of chips in this place!
Like with the next door Kmart, the Google Streetview car also passed by the front of the old Albertsons store in 2011, giving us some nice clear looks at this store's exterior. This is a screengrab that YonWooRetail2 took of this store, capturing most of its exterior. If you want to look at this store in more detail or play around with the Streetview images more, here's a link to them.
So that's all I have for this post. If you've been following My Florida Retail over the summer, you'll have seen my series of posts on the remodel of a Publix and a Winn-Dixie store located in New Smyrna Beach. Next time on AFB, we'll conclude that New Smyrna Beach series with a special post on a special store that relates to the series you've been seeing. You're going to love this next store, as it's a true relic of Florida's supermarket past. Be sure to come back in two weeks to see that store!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger