Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Not a "Lucky" Break For Florida

Future Lucky's Market - West Melbourne, FL

     Big news for the Floridian grocery scene - Lucky's will be closing 20 of its 21 Florida locations on February 12, 2020, with liquidation sales beginning on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. In addition to this news, Lucky's is closing 32 of the company's 39 stores throughout the USA, and presumably canceling the opening of the 15 stores currently under construction too (the majority of which are in Florida). This news is a huge blow to Florida, as Lucky's was stepping in to fill many vacant grocery boxes throughout the state with their quirky, innovative approach to selling organic foods. These closures are fallout from Kroger backing out of their investment in Lucky's, a partnership that began in 2016. That money was supposedly being used to fuel Lucky's impressive growth, most of which was focused on Florida. Lucky's was really priming themselves to be Florida's largest organic grocery chain, so this is a big shift. After this closure wave, only 1 of Lucky's remaining 7 stores throughout the USA will be left in Florida: the West Melbourne Lucky's, pictured above as it was preparing to open in early 2017. Oddly enough, said Lucky's is my local store, and I shop there all the time. The place is always packed, so I can see why it was kept. However, being a far-flung location of a nearly crippled chain is never a good sign, so I guess I'll have to enjoy Lucky's while I can, a scenario I was never expecting. This news will really shift the organic grocery scene in Florida, and hopefully Sprouts and Greenwise will pick up some of the soon-to-be-vacated Lucky's stores as part of those chain's expansion efforts. Anyway, I'll link to some articles below about this breaking situation below. I plan to cover the closing of at least one of the soon-to-be-former Lucky's stores photographically, and I'll probably present it on the blog before long. I know organic grocery chains aren't usually the focus of my blog posts (unless one happens to find itself taking up residence in a former Albertsons store), but I feel like Lucky's was a different situation. They had such large prospects for Florida, which looked so good, but ultimately crumbled fast like so many others that tried before them. However, we'll discuss that in detail at a later date. Anyway, it's sad to see Lucky's fail like this, but I'll keep everyone posted as news unfolds. For more on the current situation with Lucky's, a few good articles are listed below, and thanks to Reviewer Jay for tipping me off to this news this afternoon!

Lucky's Market Closing Florida Stores - The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Lucky's Market in West Melbourne to Remain Open as Lucky's Stores Close Across Florida - The Florida Today (An interesting look from the perspective of the last Lucky's standing in Florida)

There are lots of articles about this situation online if you want to Google more, as this announcement is grabbing major headlines. However, I feel the three articles above provide a well rounded explanation of what's happening right now, especially from a Floridian view.

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Former Albertsons #4436 - Valrico, FL

*** Abandoned photos of the building courtesy of Jackson C. of the GTB Area Retail Blog ***
Albertsons #4436
3313 Lithia Pinecrest Road, Valrico, FL - Albertsons Plaza

     It's a new year and a new decade and all that stuff, so of course AFB is going to kick off the year with...an Albertsons store we've already seen before. Even though we've taken a quick look at this former Albertsons in the past, today the former Valrico Albertsons is going to get the full AFB treatment. Since I originally posted Jackson C.'s photos of the abandoned Valrico Albertsons store, some things have changed here:

     Well, not just some things have changed here, but quite a bit has! Before we get to the present day though, let's go through a recap of Jackson's photos for a look at this store while it was still abandoned:

     Opening in 1997, the Valrico Albertsons was a typical mid-90's store. Since this store didn't come along until the later part of the 1990's, the exterior design used the arched look more commonly associated with early 2000's built Albertsons stores. While the exterior was the updated design, the interior was still the traditional Blue and Gray Market fare Albertsons had been using since the late 1980's. This store remained rather original until its closure on June 9, 2012, the day Albertsons closed 13 of its 17 remaining stores in Florida. The Valrico Albertsons building sat empty until late 2016, when it was announced that a new Sprouts Farmer's Market would "sprout" up in a portion of the building. This was one of the first few Sprout's stores announced for Florida at the time, with Florida's first Sprouts opening in the Carrollwood section of Tampa in 2017. After a year of renovations, Sprouts opened their new Valrico store on February 21, 2018. In addition to Sprouts, the other half of the former Albertsons became home to a new Petsmart, which opened around the same time as Sprouts.

     The above photo shows some of the labelscars that graced the front of this building, four years after Albertsons vacated the premises. Most of what you see here is now home to Petsmart, with the exception of the liquor store in the distance. After all the recent renovations, the only clue left behind from Albertsons is the liquor store's facade, as the interior of the old liquor store was also gutted out to accommodate a new tenant.

     Like most mid-90's Albertsons stores, this store had a glass-enclosed cart corral to the right of the main entrance, pictured here. Sprouts takes up this side of the building currently.

     The classic Albertsons entryway, located under the main arch.

     Before jumping back to the present, here's a look inside the abandoned interior of the former Valrico Albertsons. The only major update this store ever had was a brown repaint to the original Blue and Gray Market decor. A brown-colored refresh was a common update for the Florida Albertsons stores that retained this decor into the late 2000's. Looking straight ahead we see the scars from the grocery aisles and the holes where the meat coolers used to be. Use this moment to soak in all the Albertsons relics, because once we jump to the present day, we'll be hard pressed to find any remnants from this building's past life...

     By the time I made it out this way for pictures of my own, the deed had been done. Sprouts and Petsmart have since made themselves at home in the former Valrico Albertsons building, wiping away any traces of their predecessor. The main store building was completely gutted for the renovation, the original facade torn off for what you see today. The other Albertsons to Sprouts conversion we saw on the blog had similar same results, but at least Jackson was able to bring us some coverage of this store before all the changes were made. Now that we've had our small taste of what used to be here, let's jump into what's in here now...

     Unlike the Sprouts I linked to in the last paragraph, which was a new prototype, the Valrico Sprouts features the company's longtime standard design. Even if I fell short on the Albertsons relics, at least the Sprouts we'll be touring today is a little bit different than the one we saw last time. Since we're here, let's head inside for a quick lap around the store:

     Stepping through the front doors of the Valrico Sprouts, we enter near the nutritional supplements and health and beauty products, which are housed in the store's front right corner. Bulk foods lie in the distance ahead, with produce taking up a large chunk of the floor space in the back of the building behind that. Sprouts takes up the portion of the building where Albertsons' pharmacy and seafood counters once were.

     Sprouts' older decor is what we'll be seeing today, which had more of a rustic farmhouse theme to it compared to the sleeker stuff being used in the newer stores.

     After the health and beauty department, frozen foods begin to line the right side wall. Sprouts' dry grocery aisles are to my left, with the dairy department located straight ahead (where the cow marks the spot!)

     Popping back into the main aisle, here's another look toward the produce department. Over the produce department is a large mural depicting various farm scenes, as this is Sprouts "Farmer's Market" after all. Even in their most recent prototype, Sprouts still maintains the farm theme in their decor, just with a more modern flare to it.

     Here's a peek down one of the grocery aisles as we near the dairy coolers.

     Dairy resides in the back right corner of the building, where Albertsons old meat and seafood counter used to be.

     Here's a better photo of the mural on the back wall of the store, which hangs over the produce coolers.

     You are the apple of my pie, reads the sign over the apple display. Like Ollie's Bargain Outlet, Sprout's is also a company that can't hold back a good pun.

     Turning around now, here's a look from produce toward the front of the store.

     The very middle of the store is home to bulk foods, with the front end peeking out behind that.

     The left side of the building is home to Sprouts' selection of fresh departments, including the bakery, deli, and butcher. Pictured here is the butcher, with a variety of hot and prepared food bars taking up the middle space in the "grand aisle".

     Here's a closer look at the butcher counter. To the left of the butcher (under the "Friendly Service" sign) was a small prepared foods counter, where I believe items like sandwiches and pizza could be ordered (although I didn't look closely at the menu to see what exactly was served there).

     Baked goods were located in the front left corner of the store, as well as the floral department (which I don't believe had any signage). Albertsons' original entrance would have been just on the other side of this partition wall, entering into the right side of Petsmart's current space. And is it just me, or does the decor in this corner of the store seem vaguely reminiscent of Albertsons Industrial Circus decor? I think it has something to do with the corrugated metal background and yellow letters.

     Moving toward the front of the store, we find a little bit of seasonal merchandise as we return to the front end.

     Keeping with the farm theme, a silhouette of a barn was built to overlook the front end. Walking through the opening in the barn was a small cafe seating area, tucked within some windows along the front of the building.

     "Have a healthy day!" Sprouts wishes us as we depart the store, completing this half of our tour.

     While I've only been to Sprout's a handful of times since the company's Floridian debut, I've come to like their stores. Sprout's is one of the more "laid-back" organic chains, or one of the chains that tries to make organic foods seem more approachable, more affordable, and fun to outsiders, unlike some of the snobbier competition in this field. In addition to Sprout's, there's also a Fresh Market on this same corner, along with a Publix, so this little pocket of Valrico has a decent variety of organic options.

     However, the time has come to move on from organic foods to pet foods. Looking down the walkway, the front entrance to Petsmart lies just up ahead, beyond that yellow motorcycle. Somewhere around this spot was Albertsons original entryway, although no scars or anything was left behind to better pinpoint where that was located.

     Here's a look at Petsmart's front entrance, with the former Albertsons liquor store poking out beyond that. Since I'm already down here, why not pop into Petsmart for a moment?

     Walking into Petsmart, this is the view we see. Here we're looking down the store's main aisle, which runs the length of the building. The cash registers are just out of frame to my right, with small pets and accompanying supplies to my left.

     A little canary told me I wouldn't find anything Albertsons related in here, and that little canary was right. Since that was the case, I ended up spending more time photographing the pets than the building while I was in here. 

     The cat adoption center is located along the store's left side wall, in the area that would have been home to Albertsons' produce department. Petsmart takes up the portion of the building where the majority of Albertsons' fresh departments were located, including the homes of the bakery and deli.

     Kittens! What blog post isn't complete without a bunch of kittens? Of course I caught the kittens during nap time, as they were all cuddled together in this image. However, that one kitten at the top seems to be giving me the stink eye, trying to figure out why there's some crazy guy taking pictures on the other side of the glass. I guess its better the kitten was giving me that look than one of the human customers or employees though!

     Because we don't have enough cats in this post, a few kennels over was this shy little girl named Dixie. According to the story sheet on the window, she was rescued from a local parking lot, hopefully on her way to a much more loving home soon. Unlike the kittens, Dixie was awake and alert, sprawled out on her blanket and taking it easy.

     Now that we've said hello to the pets, we'll swing around the corner to the back of the store. I took this photo from Petsmart's back left corner, which was originally the home to Albertsons' deli. Looking across the back wall, meat coolers would have once lined this space.

     Working our way out, here's one final look down Petsmart's main aisle. The exit lies straight ahead...

     Last but not least, we find ourselves at the former Albertsons liquor store. As I mentioned earlier, the liquor store facade is the last original element from Albertsons remaining here in Valrico. Now occupying the former liquor store is Orangetheory Fitness, a good reuse for these otherwise hard to fill former liquor store spaces. Walking out of Petsmart I peeked through Orangetheory's propped open front door, and there weren't any traces of the liquor store left in here either. The archway is the best we're going to get...

     For comparison, here's Jackson's photo of the old liquor store during this building's days of abandonment.

     Underneath the arch, the old lights from Albertsons are still in place.

     Our tour of the old Albertsons building now complete, here's a quick peek over at the small strip center that extends out from the right side of the old Albertsons store. These small shops were a later addition to the complex, not appearing until the mid 2000's, a good 8 years after the Albertsons store opened.

     As cool as it would have been to see this store in abandoned, mostly original form, not all was lost here. At least there's still one arch to give us a clue this building began its life as something else! And with the help of Jackson C., we still got a glimpse of what this place was like as an Albertsons, so everything still worked out in the end. With that being said, the time has come to go through the aerial imagery, beginning with some Bird's eye screengrabs from both Google and Bing Maps:

      The Bird's Eye aerial images on Bing Maps were updated to show the building in its current form...

     ...however Google's Bird's Eye imagery still shows us an abandoned Albertsons for comparison. Anyway, next up are the historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth:

Former Albertsons #4436 - 2019 - The building post-remodel

Former Albertsons #4436 - 2016 - The building in abandonment

Albertsons #4436 - 2010

Albertsons #4436 - 2002 - The attached strip center had yet to be built here.

Albertsons #4436 - 1999

Albertsons #4436 - 1995 - A few buildings had to be taken out and the road moved to accommodate the future Albertsons.

     For fun, I decided to include this screenshot of the entire intersection of Lithia Pinecrest Road and Bloomingdale Avenue. At one time, all of Florida's big three supermarkets operated on this corner, simultaneously for a few years in the early 2000's too. Winn-Dixie was the first grocery store to open at this corner, opening in 1989. Albertsons came next in 1997, then Publix in 2003. In addition to being the first one in, Winn-Dixie was the first supermarket on this corner to close, that store's closure occurring in 2005 during Winn-Dixie's bankruptcy. Albertsons closed next in 2012, and of course, Publix still stands. Across the street from Publix is The Fresh Market (not labeled), which opened in 2014, and then Sprouts opened in the old Albertsons in 2018. While it's a different scene now, this intersection has managed to grow back to three supermarkets once again.

     To finish out today's post, we'll conclude with one of Jackson's photos, this one showing Albertsons' blanked out road sign facing Miller Road. Albertsons' road sign frames were retained after the remodel, now featuring Sprout's and Petsmart's logos respectively.

     Now that we've had our first taste of Albertsons for the year, we'll jump to a bonus store for our next post. This upcoming bonus store is something that's been discussed a quite a bit recently in relation to Floridian grocery stores, and quite a few of you are curious about what's in store. Recently I got a chance to see an example of this in person, so we'll get to take a nice look at what's in store...well, kind of. You'll see what I mean by that next time.

So until then,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger