Sunday, March 29, 2020

Former Albertsons #4350 - Montgomery, AL (South Boulevard)

Albertsons #4350 / Food World / Vowell's Cash Saver
2020 E. South Boulevard, Montgomery, AL

     For today's Albertsons tour, we'll be leaving Florida to visit our neighbor to the northwest: sweet home Alabama, where the skies were quite blue when our contributor YonWooRetail2 made the journey out this way last summer. As part of his Alabama excursion, YonWoo visited both former Montgomery area Albertsons stores. The location in eastern Montgomery (store #4336) was featured on the blog last fall. This time around, the former South Montgomery Albertsons store is making its way to AFB.

     The South Montgomery Albertsons was the newer of the two Albertsons stores to once operate in town. After the opening of the East Montgomery Albertsons in 1979, South Montgomery got an Albertsons of its own three years later in 1982. Unfortunately, Albertsons came and went pretty fast in Alabama. Being a new entrant to the state with a relatively small store base, Albertsons was no match against the big names in Alabama grocery retail of the 1980's, names that included Bruno's, Delchamps, and Winn-Dixie. In 1985, Albertsons sold their 7 Alabama locations to Bruno's, who was the #1 grocery chain in Alabama at the time. That transaction included the relatively new South Montgomery store as well, which would convert to Bruno's Food World banner upon finalization of the sale. Food World was Bruno's discount grocery banner, and these discount stores made up a good chunk of Bruno's store base in the company's final years. Bruno's was a dominant force in Alabama's grocery scene up until the 1990s, the decade when the company began to enter its decline. A tragic plane crash in 1991 and subsequent sale of the company to private equity would send Bruno's on a turn for the worse. Going into the 2000's, Bruno's began closing stores, as well as changing ownership multiple times. As Bruno's bled, their South Montgomery Food World store got the ax in a 2009 closing sweep. Being in one of the poorer parts of town, the old Albertsons building sat vacant for a good number of years after Food World closed, the building becoming a hard sell to new investors or tenants. After an unsuccessful auction in early 2014 to sell off this building and other blighted properties in the area, the Vowell family decided to step forward and give this building a chance. The Vowells are a family who owns over 20 grocery stores in Alabama and Mississippi, both under the Vowell's Marketplace and Cash Saver names. For the new South Montgomery store, the Vowell family decided to use the discount-focused Cash Saver name. After $5 million in renovations, the Vowell Family was able to get this building back up and running as a grocery store once again, with Cash Saver's grand opening happening in March 2015.

     Unlike Food World, which occupied the entirety of the former Albertsons store, Cash Saver only uses the left most three-quarters of the building. While the interior was subdivided, the exterior still looks very much like a mid-80's Trapezoid model Albertsons. The Vowell's appear to have fixed up this building quite nicely, while still retaining much of the building's original attributes.

     Like similarly designed Albertsons stores, the entrances and exits are located on the portion of the building that angles outward. Cash Saver's left side entrance (picture above) is in the same place as Albertsons'. However, due to the building's subdivision in 2015, the right side entryway was shifted over a little from the original location, and is now placed facing the parking lot.

     Like its predecessor Food World, Cash Saver is also a discount grocery chain. However, unlike the no-frills discount atmosphere of stores like Save-A-Lot and Aldi, this store does have some more "upgraded" features like a floral department, a pharmacy, hot foods, and service counters. Also unlike Save-A-Lot and Aldi, Cash Saver uses a "cost plus" pricing format. What that means is the shelf price of all products in the store is what Cash Saver paid for that product per unit from the wholesaler. Cash Saver makes its money by adding a 10% fee to every purchase, a process done to make up for the lack of product markups in the shelf price.

     With all that explanation and admiration of the original river rock walls out of the way, it's time to head inside for a quick look around this long forgotten about Albertsons store:

     Entering the store through the right side vestibule, we find ourselves in the produce department. The wall to YonWoo's left is the partition wall dividing Cash Saver from the portion of the building they did not occupy, a space that now houses a beauty supply store. As I mentioned before, the entry doors on the right side of the building were moved from the angle to a new spot slightly to the side, a change that can be seen above. The original Albertsons entry doors would have been located in the little floral department pocket straight ahead, with the new doors visible to the right of that.

     Here's a better look toward the floral department and the old vestibule.

     Produce lines the partition wall on the right side of the building. While this building had a bit of work done to it when Cash Saver moved in (especially on the interior), the inside still has a bit of an Albertsons-like feel to it. I think the rows of tube lighting overhead create that effect.

     Beyond produce, the back right corner of the store is home to meats. It's quite easy to tell this photo was taken nearly a year ago, as an unattended pallet of toilet paper would not be that well stocked (or present at all) with the way things are now!

     The back of the store is home to this wide aisle, home to a variety of deals and dump bins. The back wall of the store is home to more meats, and along that wall would have been Albertsons' original service butcher counter.

     Here's a close-up of the meat coolers along the store's back wall.

     Leaving the back wall, into the grocery aisles we go. Pictured here is one of the first few aisles, home to the "Value Zone". You can never go wrong with a good Value Zone.

     A quick look back toward produce as we pass through a few more grocery aisles:

     While this store runs on a discount format, the presentation of the place is more along the lines of a traditional grocer (products neatly placed on shelves, etc.) than your usual discount store.

     The left side entryway is visible at the end of this aisle.

     Dairy is located in the back left corner of the building, which is approximately the same location to where Albertsons would have kept their dairy products.

     The very last aisle is home to frozen foods and chilled beer. Unlike the Florida Albertsons stores, the Alabama locations lacked the attached liquor stores, as the state of Alabama controls the sale of all hard liquor.

     Spinning around from the previous photo, here's a look into the store's front left corner, home to the deli and bakery counters.

     From what I've seen in these photos, Cash Saver had a decently sized bakery and deli department for a discount-oriented grocer. When Albertsons was originally here, the bakery and deli would have been located in the front right corner, in the portion of the building where the beauty store is now. Cash Saver's bakery and deli is located where Albertsons' pharmacy counter once was. Speaking of pharmacies, Cash Saver advertised a pharmacy in their outside signage, but I never saw a pharmacy in any of these photos. YonWoo will have to fill us in on where the pharmacy was exactly (and potentially give us more detail on the bakery selection as well, as YonWoo is our grocery store bakery taste tester 😀).

     Some kind of hot foods bar is pictured here, with what appears to be a cafe behind that. Also in the background of this image, we have a better look at the left side entryway.

     Here we're looking across the front end, as seen from the deli.

     Customer service is located in front of the check lanes, in approximately the same area where Albertsons's service desk would have been located.

     Back outside, here are a few more looks at this we'll preserved former Albertsons exterior. This place hasn't been an Albertsons for 35 years now, but it sure still looks like one!

     Hair Plus Beauty takes up the remaining space in this former Albertsons building, occupying Albertsons' old deli, bakery, and produce departments. Had this been a Florida Albertsons store, the liquor store would have been located on this corner (as this is the corner that faces the intersection). 

     Here's one last exterior photo before we jump into satellite imagery, starting with some Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:


Right Side


Left Side

     And now some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and

Former Albertsons #4350 - 2018

Former Albertsons #4350 - 2013 - A sad looking place back in 2013...

Former Albertsons #4350 - 2002 - When Food World was open.

Former Albertsons #4350 - 1998

Future Albertsons #4350 - 1981

     To finish off this post, YonWoo was able to track down a photo of this Albertsons store from its grand opening in 1982. Not only that, be he tried to match the grand opening photo with a photo from modern times for this interesting comparison shot. Since these Alabama Albertsons stores came and went pretty fast, it's nice to see some photographic evidence of these such short-lived stores.

     While the blog's time in Alabama is over for now, I have to give a big thanks to YonWoo for providing us with some pictures of these far flung former Albertsons locations. It will probably be a while before we see any more Alabama Albertsons coverage on the blog (as my retail travel plans are focused elsewhere right now), but if any of you happen to find yourself in the Heart of Dixie, feel free to send in some photos!

     Next time, we return to the land of orange blossoms and Old Folks At Home (which is not just a description of most of Florida's residents, but the name of our state song), for a look at another one of Florida's many former Albertsons stores. But which one you ask? Tune in two weeks from now to find out!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Alabama Florida Blogger

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Results Are In...

     On March 26, 2020, the auction for the assets of Lucky's Market was held. The results of the auction were released today, which included the sale of 23 stores and the Orlando distribution center. Nothing too surprising from the results though, as most of the interested parties were released already. Publix and Aldi got all the stores they originally wanted, however Winn-Dixie only got 4 of the 5 locations they had expressed interest in (Melbourne, Fort Myers, Lake Mary, and Gainesville - Naples is the one they did not get in the end). Also, the founders of Lucky's Market were only able to save 2 of the 6 "go forward" locations in the end, including the original Lucky's Market in Boulder, CO, and the other Colorado location in Fort Collins. Essentially, Lucky's will be right back to where they were before they began to set their sights outside of Colorado. For a complete breakdown of the results and a refresher of who got what, this article has a nice breakdown for everyone.

So until the next post,


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Former Albertsons #4424 - Boynton Beach, FL

Grand Union #511 / Albertsons #4424 / Burlington (Coat Factory) #580
9839 South Military Trail, Boynton Beach, FL - Boynton West Shopping Center

     While the former Albertsons store we'll be touring today was at one time an average late 90's location, its backstory is average by no means. Like so many stores we've seen in the past, the story of this place is the perfect example of just how convoluted supermarket history in Florida is. Actually, the history of this place sounds more like the timeline of an old supermarket building in New Jersey than one in Palm Beach County, Florida. The more I dig into the history of Floridian supermarkets, the more convinced I am that Florida has had the most bizarre assortment of grocery stores of anyplace in the country back in the day - all this out of a place now totally controlled by a single chain. But in the end, it's Florida. If anything was to make sense here, online news sites would have nothing to make fun of, and I would have nothing to ponder over for hours on end. Just like how most Floridians are a bit crazy, our supermarket scene was apparently modeled after that theme, which brings me to the backstory of Albertsons #4424:

     Upon its opening in 1981, the Boynton West Shopping Center featured anchor tenants Kmart, Grand Union, and SupeRx Drugs - your typical suburban "discounter, pharmacy, grocer" shopping center. Of particular interest to us in today's post is the Boynton West Grand Union store. Opened only a few years shy of Grand Union's slow but steady downfall, the Boynton Beach Grand Union would have been quite similar in appearance to this location in Greenacres upon opening. Even though Grand Union's store count peaked in the early 1980's, the company wasn't in the best shape at the time. As Grand Union's financial problems began to catch up with them, the company began to retreat from many of its far-flung operating regions, such as Florida. In 1985, all remaining Floridian Grand Union stores closed in one big sweep. In the time following the closures, many of the former Floridian Grand Union stores found new lives as other businesses and grocery stores, but as we'll see today, a surprise or two can come out of a sudden massive departure. In an only-in-Florida twist, an unexpected grocery chain made a surprise bid on the leases of four recently vacated Grand Union stores: ShopRite. Yes, that ShopRite. It took me a while to finally prove this, but ShopRite did go through with their bid on at least one of those Grand Union stores they were interested in. The single location I was able to find opened in 1986, marking ShopRite's first and possibly only Florida location, adding yet another Northeastern grocery chain to make the giant leap into Florida.

     While I haven't been able to confirm if the Boynton Beach Grand Union transitioned into a ShopRite or not (or if anything came about of those other two stores ShopRite was interested in), the ad above confirms the former Grand Union store at 5025 Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach did reopen as a ShopRite in 1986. There is hardly any record of ShopRite's short tenure in Florida online, so I was excited when I found this ad on confirming that fact (an ad which MFR contributor Cape Kennedy Retail kindly clipped from behind a paywall for me). From what I can tell, the West Palm Beach ShopRite didn't last very long, closing by the end of the 1980's (as that's the last time any mention of ShopRite of West Palm pops up in a county record search). According to the ad, the West Palm ShopRite carried actual ShopRite branded products too, so those products would have had to travel quite a long ways to get here. While I don't know what ultimately killed ShopRite in Florida or what other issues could have been present, I'm sure this store's far-flung location and isolation from the remainder of ShopRite's other stores at the time didn't help the situation any here.

     Even if ShopRite didn't operate in this building, I still find it a bit crazy they considered putting a store here. It's even crazier they went through with opening at least one of those potential 4 Florida locations too. While ShopRite's dealings with this building will remain a mystery, after Grand Union closed, this building spent a few years operating as Sun Supermarket. From what I've found, Sun Supermarket was a small Broward County based grocery chain that expanded in the 1980's by buying up empty Grand Union and Pantry Pride stores in South Florida. Sun doesn't appear to have been very successful, as after their mid-1980's supermarket shopping spree, the company went out of business in 1991. After Sun Supermarkets went out of business, the old Boynton Beach Grand Union store sat vacant once again. Even with Kmart remaining as an anchor, the Boynton West Shopping Center began to struggle without its supermarket. After a few years of sitting empty, a plan was developed to bring new life to Boynton West, a plan that included a much sought after new supermarket tenant: Albertsons. While the redevelopment plan was good news to those living around the plaza, construction of the new Albertsons store suffered a short delay after some controversy over the lack of a left-turn lane into the plaza from Military Trail. Once the turn lane issue was resolved, construction on the Albertsons could began. The new Albertsons store brought the demolition of the former Grand Union building, as well as the next-door SupeRx (later Rite Aid) to make room for the large new Albertsons store. Albertsons officially opened in Boynton Beach in 1996, bringing new life to the struggling plaza. Around the same time Albertsons opened, the Kmart store at the opposite end of the plaza underwent a large expansion. After a period of decline, the late 1990's were finally bringing some good news back to this shopping center.

     While the Boynton West Kmart closed as part of the company's 2002 bankruptcy, the Kmart building was quickly re-tenanted with a Bealls Department Store. Albertsons hung around until 2006, closing in one of Albertsons' first closure rounds stemming from the company's 2006 breakup. By the end of the 2000's, the old Boynton Beach Albertsons became home to the tenant we see here today: Burlington Coat Factory. While these pictures still show the store with its old "Coat Factory" moniker on the front of the building, the front sign has been updated more recently to drop that portion of the name. Otherwise, nothing much has changed here since my visit to this store a while back.

     Since this is an older Burlington store, not much was done to alter the facade of the building, with the exterior retaining its original Albertsons design. Albertsons' entryway was left completely in-tact too, with the swing-door setup common to these mid-90's built stores.

     While the exterior was left alone, the interior looks like a rather typical Burlington store. The photo above was taken looking toward the right side of the building, not too far from the front entrance.

     Burlington's front walkway zig-zags a bit as we approach the shoe department. This photo looks toward the front right corner of the buiding, where Albertsons' pharmacy counter once was.

     I don't know what it is with people always throwing shoes on the floor, but Burlington's shoe department was looking a bit rough during my visit. While this sight will make most retail employees cringe with fear, it's going to be hard to beat what I witnessed during the great shoe-nado of 2016.

     Shoes were located the store's front wall, in a small dip in the front of the building. Albertsons' service desk and video rental center would have been located in this area originally, their removal most likely contributing to the dip.

     Here's a view across the front of the building, as seen from the front right corner. At 55,000 square feet, this place is rather large for a modern Burlington store. Until the last decade or so, Burlington ran extremely large stores for an off-price clothing retailer. Burlington used to have stores that ran as large as 80,000-90,000 square feet, some of which would take up the entirety of a former Kmart or mall department store anchor. In recent years, Burlington has streamlined their merchandise selection in order to cut their average store size down to 40,000 square feet. That's still a larger footprint than stores run by Burlington's main competition (Ross, TJMaxx, etc.), but nowhere near as large as the stores Burlington used to run. While some of the supersized Burlington stores still exist, in those stores you'll see large expanses of unused sales floor space, an unfortunate side-effect of Burlington's streamlining. Burlington is currently in the process of either replacing those large stores with smaller locations, or subdividing those large stores to get rid of the unnecessary space. At 55,000 square feet, the Boynton Beach Burlington will probably remain as-is. While larger than a modern Burlington store, there weren't any large expanses of emptiness in here. It's those stores with lots of unused sales floor space where downsizing or relocation will soon occur, if it hasn't already.

     One of the more interesting aspects of how Burlington reused this former Albertsons store involves the former attached liquor store. Instead of keeping the former liquor store as a chronically empty separate space (as we've seen many times before on the blog), Burlington actually expanded their sales floor into the space where the liquor store once was. The photo above looks toward the area where the old liquor store entrance was located. Besides the creation of an alcove in the front right corner of the building, the transition into the old liquor store space is seamless from inside of Burlington.

     The liquor store alcove is located to my right in this image, the old liquor store space occupied by racks of children's clothing now.

     Here's a look down the length of the former liquor store space, toward the old entrance.

     Moving along to the back of the store, we find Burlington's housewares department. The housewares are located in the area where Albertsons' meat cases were once located. The entirety of the housewares department is located under a lower ceiling. I feel pretty certain Burlington was the one to add the lower ceiling, as I can't picture an Albertsons from this era having a ceiling like this in the back of the store. The only way the lower ceiling could be an Albertsons remnant is if Burlington expanded into some of Albertsons' former service department/stockroom space, the lower ceiling being some kind of remnant of a ceiling height transition between the sales floor and ex-service counter space.

     Here's a look across Burlington's back wall, under the lower ceiling section.

     The ceiling height transition once again, this time seen going from low to high.

     A random center of the salesfloor photo. Burlington's fitting rooms are located in an island to my right.

     The left side of the Burlington building (pictured here), is home to men's clothing. In the Albertsons days I would have been standing within the store's fresh departments as I took this photo, facing the bakery from the center of the produce department. Albertsons' deli would have been located behind me.

     Pictured here is a look down Burlington's left side wall, originally home to Albertsons produce coolers.

     As we can see in the above photo, while Burlington no longer refers to themselves as a "Coat Factory" due to all the random kinds of merchandise they now sell...

     ...I still felt it wouldn't be right to leave this place without getting a photo of the coat department itself!

     As we get ready to head back outside, we find ourselves at Burlington's front end. These check stands are located in the front left corner of the store, once home to Albertsons' bakery department.

     While many older Burlington stores have remodeled and gotten the new queue style check stands, this store still had the older style check lanes during my visit (and, as far as I'm aware from looking at Google images, still has this older setup).

     Here's one final look at the check lanes before we head outside...

     While we had to use our imaginations to recreate the interior layout of this former Albertsons store, we don't have to do as much thinking to visualize the exterior. Looking down the front walkway, this is exactly what we would have seen in this building's Albertsons days (just with a gray and white paint scheme in place of all the current brown and beige). Those round inset lights along the canopy ceiling are a classic Albertsons trait.

     Even though the old liquor store space is now a part of Burlington's main sales floor, its entrance blocked in many years ago, the liquor store facade is still here in original form. While the liquor store facade doesn't serve much practical purpose anymore, it does serve as yet another reminder of what used to be here.

     From the liquor store, here's a glimpse through all the foliage toward the store's main entrance.

     From Albertsons'/Burlington's entryway, here's a look at the strip of stores connecting the former Albertsons to the former Kmart building. Albertsons' main entrance is located where the old SupeRx Drug Store was once located, the remainder of the store built over Grand Union's footprint. While the Albertsons building is newer than the rest of the plaza, everything we see in the distance here is original to Boynton West's 1981 grand opening.

     As I mentioned earlier in this post, the other anchor to the Boynton West Shopping Plaza is a Bealls Department Store, a rather large Bealls too. Bealls occupies the entirety of the old Kmart store, which received a sizable addition in the late 1990's. When Bealls arrived shortly after Kmart's departure in 2002, Bealls wasted no time gutting the old Kmart store and rebuilding the facade to fit their needs. However...

     ...sometimes you just can't hide that Kmart legacy. While Bealls added their fancy arched facade to the front of the building, the original Kmart ribbed concrete block still makes up the majority of the building's exterior. I had some extra time during this visit, so I popped inside this Bealls store for quick tour. That tour is in my archives for a later date, so for now, these few exterior photos will have to do.

     Anyway, my ground coverage is done, so let's fly up to the sky for a look at some satellite imagery of the former Boynton Beach Albertsons. First up, some Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:


Right Side


Left Side

     And now, some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth:

Former Albertsons #4424 - 2019 - The former Albertsons is on the right, the Bealls/former Kmart on the left. The two-tone roof on the Bealls building shows the division between the original Kmart building and the late 1990's addition, the white part being the addition.

Former Albertsons #4424 - 2009

Albertsons #4424 - 2005

Albertsons #4424 - 2002 - Here you can clearly see where Kmart's original entryway used to be. Kmart left the entrance in its original place during the expansion, but modified the facade from its original design (this) to something similar to (but probably not as fancy as) this as part of the expansion.

Albertsons #4424 - 1999

Future Albertsons #4424 - 1995 - In this image we can see the original Grand Union and SupeRx buildings where Albertsons will eventually appear, both sitting empty in 1995. Kmart had yet to expand here too, a project that would coincide with the construction of the new Albertsons store.

     Who needs to travel to New Jersey to have a discussion about Grand Union, ShopRite, and even Foodtown, when we can head down to Palm Beach County and find traces of all these stores right here in Florida? While Grand Union was in Florida for a while, ShopRite was a surprise dud, and Foodtown is still doing their own Floridian thing, you never know what surprises you might find when digging through Florida's supermarket history (or what surprises you could pull out of an Albertsons Coat Factory). So while the former Boynton Beach Albertsons seems rather unsuspecting at first glance, peel back a few layers, and the crazy competitiveness of the Floridian supermarket scene of the 1980's shines in all of its glory here in Boynton Beach. I'll finish off this post with an old photo I downloaded of Albertsons #4424 while it was still open, most likely from an old real estate listing. While that's all I have from Boynton Beach, more Albertsons will be coming your way in two weeks!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger