Sunday, April 26, 2020

It's the "O.G." Publix - The "Original Greenwise" Publix, That Is

Publix #16 / Publix Greenwise Market #1159
21230 Saint Andrews Boulevard, Boca Raton, FL - Boca Village Square

     2020 really seems to be the year of the organic grocery store, doesn't it? Since the beginning of the year we've discussed (in some form) Sprout's, Lucky's Market, and Earth Fare. With those three chains growing like crazy in Florida the late 2010's, in addition to more expansion from organic stalwarts Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, it makes sense that Florida's #1 grocery chain and supreme retail overlord would want to join in on all the fun too. In response to all the action emerging in Florida's organic grocery industry in the late 2010's, Publix announced it would be debuting an organic grocery chain of its own in 2018: Greenwise Market, named after Publix's longtime brand of organic products. While the Greenwise Market of 2018 was designed to mimic the likes of Sprout's and Lucky's, the history of Greenwise Market goes back long before any Floridian would have ever known what a Lucky's was. Publix began experimenting with organic grocery retailing for the first time back in 2007, when the company opened the first Publix Greenwise Market. While the new Greenwise is interesting in its own respect, we need to understand the past first before getting too involved with the present. For today's post, we'll head off to Boca Raton to look at (what was) the very last remaining example of an original Publix Greenwise Market concept from 2007. Never would I have thought of an organic grocery store as a destination for one of my retail road trips, that is, until I visited this place.

     With Whole Foods growing in popularity during the early 2000's, Publix began to see opportunity in the emerging organic grocery trend. Having already offered a broad assortment of organic products in its own stores for a while, Publix felt they too could run a successful organic-focused grocery store designed in the vein of Whole Foods. That's how Publix Greenwise Market was born. Publix opened its first Greenwise Market prototype in Palm Beach Gardens in September 2007, across the street from the high-end (and very successful) Gardens Mall. In addition to focusing on organic products and prominently featuring Publix's Greenwise branded items, the new Greenwise store also included some fancy new features not seen at other Publix stores at the time. These new features included an expanded prepared foods area, including Asian food, Mediterranean food, a carving station, a salad bar, a soup bar, a coffee shop, and more. In addition to that, Publix Greenwise Market also offered a walk-in Floral cooler, a mezzanine dining area, an expanded wine selection, a large body care department, and Florida's first cheese maturation cave. You can read all the details of what was in store at the first Publix Greenwise Market in this article.

     After opening that first location in Palm Beach Gardens, Publix had at least 7 other sites selected for new Publix Greenwise Market stores come late 2007, all these planned locations projected to open throughout 2008 and 2009. Those planned Greenwise stores were located in Tampa, Boca Raton, Vero Beach, Coral Springs, Tallahassee, Orlando, and Naples. Of those locations listed, the Boca Raton Greenwise Market was the second location to open in May 2008, with the new Tampa store following in November 2008. Unfortunately, after the opening of the Tampa store, Publix announced it was canceling all plans for any further Publix Greenwise Markets, meaning those other planned locations I mentioned would never open. Instead of opening more Greenwise stores, Publix announced they would take what they learned from Greenwise and incorporate some of the experimental concepts into new "hybrid" Publix stores, like the expanded prepared foods selections and coffee shops. Essentially, the retirement of Publix Greenwise Market led to the creation of the modern 56M Publix store, which features many of the deluxe concepts once only found at the Greenwise stores (and interestingly, the 56M prototype I just linked to opened at the site of one of those never-opened Greenwise stores listed above). Even though Publix shelved the Greenwise Market concept after the opening of the third location, the three existing Greenwise stores Publix did open were left to operate as they were intended to, remaining virtually the same until 2018. When Publix announced the revival of Greenwise in 2017 as a completely retooled concept, that announcement seemed to spell danger for the original three Greenwise stores, which ran on a completely different operating model. With Greenwise going in a different direction, something had to be in the works for the original three prototype stores, but what? The first answer to that question came in late 2018, when Publix announced the Palm Beach Gardens Greenwise store would close without replacement on December 29, 2018. In July 2019, Publix announced that a new concept Greenwise store was in the works for Tampa, located only a few miles away from the existing Publix Greenwise Market location. Even though the new Tampa Greenwise isn't projected to open until 2021, Publix announced that the original Tampa Greenwise store would convert to a traditional Publix location by Fall 2019. With Palm Beach Gardens and Tampa down, that left the Boca Raton Publix Greenwise Market as the last original prototype standing. While Publix had announced in late 2018 that Boca Raton had been selected as the location for a retooled Greenwise store, details on the fate of the original store remained murky (unlike what happened in Tampa, where the announcement of the new store came with an announcement of the original's conversion). It wasn't until the new Boca Raton Greenwise Market opened on December 12, 2019 that the fate of the original location was confirmed: the original Boca Greenwise would begin conversion into a traditional Publix immediately, ending the run of Publix Greenwise Market after 12 years.

     Knowing the Palm Beach Gardens store had closed outright, and that the Tampa store was in the process of converting, I knew I had to work out a way to make the trip to Boca Raton to see the last Publix Greenwise Market in existence. I had originally planned to visit this store in September 2019, but on that day I got distracted by too many by other stores in the northern part of Palm Beach County, effectively running out of time to make it all the way down to Boca. Since I was too easily distracted by those other stores, I came back down this way a month later, finally achieving my goal of making it to Boca to see the last Greenwise.

     Unlike the other two Publix Greenwise Market stores that opened, both of which were built from scratch, the Boca Raton Greenwise was an extensive conversion done to an existing Publix which had been in operation since 1978 (that store being location #16 - the number recycled from an older, unrelated Publix store that closed in 1977). Considering how much was changed around inside, I'm assuming Publix had to close old #16 completely in order to convert it into the Greenwise we'll be seeing today. Inside, there is absolutely zero trace of the original store. In fact, stepping inside, you'd never think this building dated back to 1978! The only clues of this building's heritage come from the exterior. The exterior still contains the single vestibule added on during the 1980's, as well as the general shape of a Publix store from that era. The best part though, Publix did keep this store's original tile murals during the Greenwise conversion! Pictured here is the mural on the left side of the building, with another mural continuing the old-timey village theme on the other side of the vestibule.

     Stepping inside, the first thing we see is the dining area. Since this was an older store converted into a Publix Greenwise Market, the upstairs mezzanine wasn't something that could be easily added here. Instead, the old enclosed vestibule space was turned into a seating area, an odd thing to see when first stepping into the store. One thing I will mention about this store before going any further is this place had a really funky floor plan, one of the weirdest I've ever seen in person at a grocery store. While the purpose-built Publix Greenwise Market stores had an odd department arrangement to begin with, the fact Publix had to stuff that layout into an existing building didn't help much. There were lots of odd-length aisles, alcoves, and cut-aways in here. I was actually quite confused about how this store was laid out prior to visiting it in person, and only then did everything I'd seen in the Google photos began to fall into place. Since I try to arrange my photos in a semi-ordered fashion of a circle around the sales floor, hopefully the layout here will be easier to follow than when I was trying to decode it from a bunch of randomly assorted Google review photos!

     Stepping into the store, the customer service desk was located next to the vestibule, immediately to the left upon entering. Customer service was oddly stuffed among the prepared food departments, as there was really no other place to put it. Immediately to my right in this image was the main prepared foods counter (we'll see that in more detail shortly), with a Grab and Go alcove located next to the service desk.

     The Grab and Go alcove can be seen here. In this little section were some bottled drinks and pre-made salads and sandwiches, most of which were the type you'd find in a regular Publix deli section. The customer service desk was designed to serve as the main checkout area for people using the Grab and Go section, adding a little bit of sense to the counter's placement within the store.

     While still in the Grab and Go alcove, here's a look in the opposite direction, looking back toward the customer service desk. Here we can see the sign for the "Pacific Wok", one of the hot food options available. In this photo, we also get our first taste of the Publix Greenwise Market decor. All the decor in here is original to the store's 2008 opening, and Publix Greenwise Market's inception in 2007. While the decor still looked nice and modern for being 11 years old at the time of my visit, technically, this was one of the most outdated Publix decor packages still floating around out there (as we all know how much Publix loves remodeling)! The Publix Greenwise Market decor was influenced by Classy Market 2.0, which came out around the same time the first Greenwise store opened in 2007. It's super rare to find a Publix store with Classy Market 2.0 still operating (even though that decor was only retired around 2011), and whatever stores are still clinging onto that decor are most likely up for replacement in the near future.

     Stepping out of the Grab and Go alcove, we find ourselves staring at the store's coffee shop. The coffee shop located in a small island between prepared foods and the check lanes. In addition to coffees, teas, and other cafe fare, the coffee shop also served gelato (fancy, right?). This was one of the concepts carried over from Greenwise into a handful of other Publix locations throughout the early 2010's, evolving into this.

     Here's a better look across the front of the coffee shop, where this time we get to see more of the counter itself.

     Across from the coffee shop, we see the prepared foods counter, one of the features of this store that set it apart from others (especially other Publix stores). The prepared food selection here was quite extensive, offering one of the broadest selections I've seen of prepared foods from Publix. In addition to the Pacific Wok we saw around the corner, the front of the prepared foods department features the Mediterranean Oven, The Carvery, and (just out of frame) The Grill. The Mediterranean oven featured predominantly Italian selections like pastas and pizza (the latter of which being a Publix rarity, as only the Greenwise stores have the ovens to make a Publix deli pizza). The carvery was a meat carving station for dishes like pulled pork and sliced brisket. The meat carving station is actually a concept that Winn-Dixie has taking a liking to recently. After experimenting with those at the Transformational stores, they've begun popping up in some of Winn-Dixie's recent remodels, as well as a few unremodeled stores with busy delis.

     All the balloons got in my way of getting a decent close-up photo of The Carvery sign.

      Making our way to the other end of the prepared foods counter, the last section we have to encounter is The Grill. The Grill features items like hamburgers and grilled chicken sandwiches, most of which appeared to be grilled to order.

     I visited this store about a half-hour before the lunch rush began, so the employees were just beginning to put out the first batches of food for the day while I was here. While I linked to some online photos of the food served here before, here's my quick overview of some of the food that was out while I was here. I believe this was part of the counter between the Mediterranean Grill and The Carvery, with a lot of those trays appearing to have barbecued meats in them. Looking at all this food is making me hungry, and it's not helping that I'm writing this portion of the post before dinner! What is there that can possibly distract me from my empty stomach?...

     Well, turning around, I believe the sight of a giant flower pot hanging from the ceiling will do a good job at distracting me from my hunger! Like something straight out of Grocery Palace, Publix decided to skip a normal sign for the Floral department and opted for a giant prop instead. This is the first and probably only time we'll ever see Publix go all in with a crazy decor piece like this, but I certainly approve! The flower pot was designed to hang over the walk-in floral cooler in the larger Greenwise stores. However, due to this store being more cramped than its scratch-built counterparts, some normal floral coolers and displays were placed under the flower pot instead. As fun as the giant flower pot is, this was the only example of an over-sized prop in the store. All the other decor we'll be seeing is your usual sleek and modern Publix stuff, although the special Greenwise decor had quite a bit of detail to it.

     Don't worry, I have more pictures of the giant flower pot coming up later in this post (did you really think I'd only take one photo of that piece?!). However, we're going to continue along the left side of the store, venturing past the prepared foods and over-sized flowers toward the bakery and deli departments. However, before we get there, we find the Coffee and Tea department. It's not often coffee and tea get their own special section and sign in a grocery store, but they did here. The Greenwise decor featured a number of department signs designed exactly like this one, which hung throughout the perimeter of the store.

     The coffee and tea department was tucked underneath the back of the flowerpot, which was so large, that sprinkler heads had to be installed on the bottom of it (much like the bowl of party mix in Grocery Palace Albertsons stores did). The coffee and tea aisle was an odd half-aisle located before the main grocery aisles. Here I'm looking back toward the prepared foods counter, although behind me, the coffee aisle made a 90 degree turn into produce.

     While in this aisle, I'd also like to make a note about the product selection here. While the focus at Publix Greenwise Market is organics and Greenwise branded products, Publix Greenwise Market did carry traditional national brands too (as you can see the Folgers and Maxwell House coffees on the shelf here). While mainstream grocery brands were carried by Publix Greenwise Market, the house brand was almost exclusively Greenwise (as I saw hardly any of the traditional Publix branded products here).

     Stepping out of the coffee and tea aisle, the Publix Greenwise Market logo looks out over the store as we enter the bakery department.

     Bakery displays take up a portion of the main aisle, with the service counter poking out in the background.

     The bakery department is located in the middle of the store, with the deli department in the distance toward the back. In front of these two departments are the grocery aisles, which run parallel to the front of the store (another odd thing about this place, as that type of aisle arrangement isn't the most common thing to see at a grocery store, let alone in a Publix!)

     There was quite a bit of detail in the bakery decor, including the shiny glass tiles on the wall and textured wood paneling for a classy touch.

     However, I thought the best part of the bakery decor was the collection of rolling pins attached to the wall. The rolling pins can be seen up close in the above photo, but also throughout all my other photos of the bakery department. It's sometimes those little touches that can take a decor package to a completely new level.

     As fun as the rolling pins are, let's turn our attention away from those for a moment to get a better look at the shiny wall tiles behind the bakery counter. All the detail really brings this department together.

     Before jumping into the grocery aisles, here's one final overview of the bakery department, looking back toward the main entrance.

     Like I mentioned earlier, the grocery aisles in the Publix Greenwise Market stores ran parallel to the front of the building, a rather unusual arrangement. Pictured here is one of the first few grocery aisles, this one featuring juices and breakfast cereal.

     Here's my attempt at a close-up of one of the aisle markers, although the lighting wasn't doing me any favors. The markers were typical Publix tri-siders, just modified in design a bit to reflect the uniqueness of the Publix Greenwise Market concept. The Greenwise aisle markers were designed to have a wooden look to them, matching the earth tones theme of the store.

     One of the major features in the original Greenwise stores was the large "Body Care" department, which we'll see in the next few photos. In the scratch-built Publix Greenwise Market stores, Body Care was prominently featured in the middle of the sales floor in its own dedicated area, almost like a "store within a store". Since Publix hds to work with the space they were given here in Boca, Body Care was moved to the middle of the grocery aisles. It was still a rather large department though, taking up two of the store's ten grocery aisles. As a small consolation, Publix did place a tall "Body Care" department sign in the middle of the two aisles, which could be seen from around the store.

     Since this was a special department for Publix Greenwise Market, Body Care was given its own custom category markers and shelving units. For a classier touch, instead of the usual grocery store metal shelves, the Body Care department received fancy wooden shelves. These shelves looked a lot like bookshelves to me, but they certainly made this department stand out from the rest of the store.

     Here's a look down the second aisle of body care, looking back toward the bakery department.

     Under the Body Care sign, we find an attendant's area. When these stores first opened, the Body Care departments featured a HealthNotes kiosk, which was a touch screen display shoppers could browse through to find nutritional information and health tips. While those kiosks have long since been removed, I'd guess it was originally located somewhere around here.

     Here's another grocery aisle as we continue further into the back of the store. Going through all these photos, have you guys noticed anything odd about this store? (Besides the fact it's a rare prototype store featuring a concept Publix gave up on over a decade ago, that is). Look downward for your answer - this store (and the other two Publix Greenwise Market stores) were built with concrete floors, not terrazzo. As you know, when Publix builds a store themselves, the floor is always terrazzo, a legacy design feature that dates back to the 1940's. Instead of the usual terrazzo, the Publix Greenwise Market stores got these two-tone concrete floors - the two tones being orange tinted concrete along the store's perimeter, and dull regular concrete center store. It's really weird seeing a Publix with polished concrete floors, and I can't even think of any other examples of a Publix with polished concrete floors besides the other two Publix Greenwise Markets. Even the new format Greenwise stores use terrazzo. Since this building was originally a Publix from 1978-2007, it would have featured the classic Publix striped terrazzo floors. Since terrazzo isn't something you can remove easily (as from what I understand, the terrazzo mixture is also the building's foundation slab), Publix must have went through a lot of effort to either remove or somehow conceal the old terrazzo that was here.

     Flooring aside, let's step back into the main aisle for a look toward the deli counter. The deli counter is the last of the service departments located on the left side of the building, just beyond the bakery.

     Since the prepared foods section was given its own special department at the front of the store, the main deli counter was rather simplistic here, primarily designed for cold cuts and not much more.

     Even though the aisle marker is blocking most of the deli sign, what you see here is the majority of the deli counter. The cold cut cases were in the front of the deli, with the Pub sub station located around the corner. However, we'll go around the other side of the deli counter in a little bit. Since we're already in Aisle 8, let's swing through the last few grocery aisles before venturing into the beck left corner:

      Aisle 8 was home to chips and drinks, as well as the beer cooler.

     Here's a look toward the other end of aisle 8, with a preview of the Dairy department signage. Later in this post we'll go down the right side of the store, seeing more from the dairy department then.

     Frozen foods take up the last aisle and a half of the sales floor. Although unnumbered, this full aisle of frozen foods would have been aisle 9. To designate this department, a series of signs was hung over the aisle, matching the other hanging department signs in the store.

     Leaving the grocery aisles, here's one final look down the left side of the store. Now that we've covered the left side of the store so thoroughly, let's move into the back left corner:

     While the deli counter itself was small, this store's selection of cheeses was not. Immediately next to the deli was the Artisan Cheese department (the name of which is on that round overhead sign, just washed out by the lighting - my phone camera and spotlights are two things that have never gotten along well with each other).

     The artisan cheese department consisted of a variety of coolers with just about every cheese imaginable in them. With all that cheese, Publix Greenwise Market also included an on-staff cheese attendant, stationed behind the island cooler under the round sign. In addition to all the cheese, the sub station at the deli counter can also be seen to my left, followed by some more cheese coolers beyond that.

     Like any good cheese department, it needs to be paired with a good wine department, right? Naturally, tucked into the back left corner of the building next to the cheeses was Publix Greenwise Market's large wine department (its sign also washed out by the spotlighting). Unlike the scratch-built Publix Greenwise Market stores, which had the wine department prominently featured near the front of the building, the wines got shoved into an odd little alcove in the back left corner of this store. 

     Stepping into the wine alcove, there were all different kinds of wines to be found here from all over the world. Like most organic stores, Publix Greenwise Market prided itself on its large selection of wines. While I'm sure being tucked into a back corner wasn't Publix's first choice for the location of the wine department, it did give this area a nice, secluded wine cellar type effect. The string lights hanging above the alcove helped the effect too, a touched I liked. Again, it's all about those small details.

     Leaving the wine alcove, we find ourselves in the back of the store. Here's a look down the store's back aisle (unnumbered aisle 10), which contains some overflow frozen food and dairy coolers. In addition to the coolers, the meat and seafood departments were located along the wall back here. Immediately to my left was the meat counter, with seafood under the blue awning in the distance.

      A small sushi counter was tucked between the meat and seafood departments.

     Approaching the back right corner of the store, we find the seafood counter.

     Due to the way this store was designed with the horizontal grocery aisles, getting decent photos of the meat and seafood department decor wasn't easy, as most of the decor hung over the back aisle on the awnings (thereby blocking most of it from view from the back aisle, as you walked underneath all the signs). This was the best picture I got of the Seafood department decor, even though most of it is glared out and blocked by a dairy sign.

     While the back wall of the store wasn't the easiest thing to photograph, the right side of the store fared much better in my coverage. The entire right side of the store is home to the dairy department, with those coolers lining the wall. Dairy is the only department in this store that's roughly in the same location it would have been in the 1978-2007 Publix the Greenwise Market replaced.

     Looking back toward dairy, the last major department in this store we've yet to cover is produce, where we'll be moving to next.

     Publix Greenwise Market's produce department takes up the front right corner of the store. If I entered the store through the doors on the right side of the building, this would have been the first department I encountered upon entering.

     Since produce was another major focus of Publix Greenwise Market, this department was given a lot of space, and a lot of detail in the decor.

     It would have been so cool if the artichoke/mushroom mobile over the produce displays spun, but unfortunately, I don't think it was ever designed to do so. A spinning mobile would have been a neat compliment to the giant flower pot!

     Also located within the produce department was this store's Apron's Simple Meals counter. When Publix Greenwise Market first opened, the Greenwise Aprons counters would feature special recipes designed for living a healthy lifestyle. Over time, those special recipes morphed into the recipes featured at every other Publix store.

     A wall of bulk foods was located along the side of the produce department, separating produce from the check lanes.

     As we prepare to finish this tour, we'll end on a high note with a few more overviews of the centerpiece of the Publix Greenwise Market decor: the giant flower pot.

     The floral department is located behind the check lanes, with the coffee and tea aisle running behind the floral displays. To my left are the check lanes, which due to the way this store was designed, seem rather hidden.

     In order to squeeze in all the prepared foods counters, as well as a decently sized produce department in the front of the store, the check lanes had to be crunched together. While this store had 8 lanes total, they were doubled up with four lanes in the front, followed by another four lanes behind them.

     Here's a better look at how all the lanes were crunched together.

     Our last interior picture of Publix Greenwise Market looks across the original vestibule once again, as I prepare to exit through the doors on the right side of the building.

     Stepping outside, we're transported from the rare prototype back to this store's quaint days as a regular Publix, the original entryway and tile mural seen here.

     The tile mural on the right side of the building is a continuation of the theme we saw earlier in this post. I always enjoy seeing these murals still floating around in the wild, especially considering how many of these have been lost through the years as Publix relocates and rebuilds their older stores. 

     Like lots of other concepts from Publix's past (Food World, Publix Gourmet Plus, Publix Pix), Publix Greenwise Market is also history as of December 12, 2019. When the new Greenwise Market opened a few miles away that day, this store officially became a normal Publix, with a remodel to commence to reflect the change. Interestingly enough, unlike the Tampa Publix Greenwise Market, which received a very thorough remodel when it became a normal Publix, Boca Raton's remodel was extremely half-hearted. From these pictures I found online from April 2020, besides receiving new exterior signage, Classy Market 3.0 aisle markers, and a few other random Classy Market 3.0 signs, nearly all of the original Publix Greenwise Market wall decor was retained here. I'm surprised Publix went so cheap on this store's conversion (especially considering how the Tampa conversion went), unless there's a plan to demolish and replace this store with a more modern prototype in the works. I could see that as a possibility. This is a busy Publix located next door to Boca Town Center Mall, and the building itself is old with a weird layout. I don't want to jinx this place though, as Publix's cheap remodel makes this store an interesting nod to the company's past, and certainly an interesting place to visit if you're ever in the Boca Raton area!

     Now that we've experienced the original Publix Greenwise Market store, one month from now we'll get to experience the new Greenwise Market. However, the new Greenwise store we'll be visiting won't be the one that replaced this store. I had considered coming back down this way to visit the new Greenwise, but my plans later took me in a different direction. While we'll see the new Greenwise a month from now, we'll continue to hang around Boca for my next post. There is a former Albertsons in town, so next time we'll head over there and see what traces of that store I can find. Be sure to come back in two weeks for that!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger