Sunday, August 23, 2020

A Nifty Thrifty Old Winn-Dixie

Winn-Dixie #29
1961 A1A South, St. Augustine, FL - Anastasia Square

     If you didn't have enough fun looking at the retail relics in last week's post on My Florida Retail, then you're in luck, as today's post will have even more relics - today's being just as, if not even more groovy and bodacious than what we saw last week! We'll conclude our series of retail in St. "August"-ine with a look at this former Winn-Dixie store, located on the other side of the Route 312 causeway from the Albertsons/Zayre plaza we spent so much time at during the last two posts. The store we'll be seeing today was a last minute addition I spotted as I was putting together the itinerary for my St. Augustine trip - my curiosity from clicking on a map icon turning into the findings of a must-see destination, as I was absolutely stunned with what I found inside of this rather non-descript, long-closed, since subdivided former supermarket.

     The store we'll be touring today is located on Anastasia Island, the barrier island across the Intracoastal Waterway from St. Augustine. Along with Vilano Beach to the north, Anastasia Island comprises the remainder of St. Augustine's beachside, and is home to the city of St. Augustine Beach (whose boundary lies just to the south of this plaza - because of that, the plaza itself is officially a part of the city of St. Augustine, whose limits encompass the northern portion of Anastasia Island). The former Winn-Dixie we'll be touring is located at the major junction of SR 312 and SR A1A, SR 312 being the main road for tourists coming from I-95 to access Anastasia Island. Opening in 1980, Winn-Dixie built their store in the perfect location for tourists to make a quick pit stop on their way to the beach. While this location had a lot going for it, by the time the 1990's came around, Winn-Dixie had quickly outgrown this small building. In 1998, a new Winn-Dixie Marketplace built 2 1/2 miles to the south would replace this store, the old store being subdivided in the years to follow Winn-Dixie's departure. 

     Currently, the original Anastasia Island Winn-Dixie has been divided into space for four tenants: a thrift store, a gym, a pawn shop, and a billiards hall, with a Dollar General taking up a former in-line Eckerd next door. While that doesn't seem like the classiest line-up of tenants to have in a shopping center located at the gateway to St. Augustine's beachside, I promise you, Anastasia Island is actually a very nice place!

     Anyway, as you've probably seen from the last few exterior photos, the outside of the old Winn-Dixie was left very well in-tact, even given the amount of subdivision the place went through. The gym uses Winn-Dixie's original right side entryway, the doors for the pawn shop and billiards hall carved out of the wall next to that.

     While we're on this side of the building, here's a quick look at the Dollar General occupying the former Eckerd space. Eckerd eventually moved into a freestanding building across the street from here, where a CVS operates today.

     While that's the summary of the right half of the building, we're going to spend the rest of our time exploring the left side of the building, home to the thrift store. The thrift store, officially called the Betty Griffin Center Thrift Store, occupies about one third of the former Winn-Dixie, the side of the store that one housed Winn-Dixie's bakery, deli, and frozen food departments. As I mentioned at the very beginning of this post, my discovery of this former Winn-Dixie was by complete accident. While on the road, if I feel I'm going to have some extra time, I'll scout out some thrift stores in the area I'll be visiting. That's what I was doing in the days before my trip, when I happened to notice the Betty Griffin Center Thrift Store was in an old Winn-Dixie. That's fun and all, so I pulled up the interior images from Google Maps on a whim, hoping to find any vague traces of Winn-Dixie, and that's when I made sure to give this place high priority placement on my schedule!

     Stepping onto the front walkway, besides the accumulation of lots of stuff, not a single thing has been altered here since Winn-Dixie left the building in 1998. The brick is original, as are the doors in the distance. While I don't know exactly when the Betty Griffin Center opened their thrift store, it appears to have been shortly after Winn-Dixie vacated the premises in 1998.

     Look at that - old Albertsons carts - logos completely in-tact too! I hadn't even stepped inside the building yet and I was off to a good start! I'd have to guess these Albertsons carts have been with the Betty Griffin Center Thrift Store since the nearby Albertsons closed in 2005. I can't say that for sure, but that would appear to be the most likely case (as I doubt a locally-run non-profit thrift store is importing carts from far away places). The green plastic carts mixed in with the Albertsons ones are from Gander Mountain, again, those most likely coming from St. Augustine's Gander Mountain store that liquidated with the company in 2017 (although the St. Augustine Gander Mountain did reopen under Gander's new ownership the following year). And no, I did not come here to see the Albertsons carts - those were just a fun bonus I spotted upon my arrival to the thrift store. What I really came here to see was this:

     Yes, yes, yes - you are seeing that right - those are very obvious remains from Winn-Dixie's late 70's/early 80's decor on the walls! For a refresher on Winn-Dixie's decor from that era, the pre-Marketplace days, check out my post on the long-abandoned Winn-Dixie store in New Smyrna Beach (a great post, by the way, if you've never seen it before - it's one of my personal favorites). While the photos of the decor remnants at the old New Smyrna Winn-Dixie will give you an idea of what this store looked like back in the day, what we see in here in St. Augustine is a slightly different decor variant (as New Smyrna lacked the curved wooden trim we see here in its decor, but the colors, fonts, and wall graphics were very similar or the same between the variants). Here's a photo of what the decor remnants in this particular would have looked like when it first opened. Unfortunately, the thrift store ripped out the matching striped colored tiles when they moved in, opting for the exposed concrete instead, but considering what else was left behind, I wasn't too concerned about the floors being ripped out. Usually, like we saw at the St. Augustine Big Lots, the floor is sometimes all that remains from a prior tenant's decor, if any of that is lucky to remain after the fact. Rarely, if ever, is the wall decor the survivor instead!

     My excitement of this discovery out of the way, the photo above depicts the scene after exiting the vestibule and taking our first glimpse into the main sales floor. Housewares take up the right side of the thrift store, with clothes and furniture toward the left.

     Delving deeper into the thrift store, here's a look into the store's front left corner. Winn-Dixie's deli and bakery departments would have been located along the wall we see just beyond the thrift store's jewelry counter - the department names located within the larger rectangles formed by the wooden trim. And not only do we have the original trim surrounding the perimeter of these departments, if you look closely at the above photo, you'll see another surprise lurking in the distance behind all the piles of thrift and et cetera...

     Diving deeper into the old deli/bakery space, the lower ceiling above marks the original transition between the sales floor and the prep space for the deli and bakery counters. 

     And when it comes to a Winn-Dixie deli counter from the late 1970's or early 1980's, one of the most distinctive characteristics from that era was the department's funky red-orange wall tiles, pictured above. If the wall decor remnants weren't enough, the old deli/bakery wall tiles were a nice added bonus to the former Winn-Dixie experience. While the old deli/bakery prep area looks blocked off by a wall of junk - it's not. There's more thrift to be had back there, as Winn-Dixie's deli/bakery departments were turned into a book nook. You can see the bookshelves back there as you shop, however, it took me an embarrassingly long time to find the entrance into the book nook (which, as I found out, is located straight ahead of me, located somewhere within that mess!)

     Entering Betty's Book Bakery, we find the prep areas from the deli and bakery departments to be impeccably in-tact, although cook books have now replaced all the actual cooking Winn-Dixie used to do back here. Unlike the rest of the store, the original flooring from the prep areas survived back here, probably because these ceramic tiles are harder to scrape up than the old vinyl tiles that would have been found in the remainder of the sales floor. The deli/bakery alcove in this store would look nearly identical to the scene in this shot if you were to remove the maze of stuff piled up in here, complete with the little ramp to the raised floor too.

     Here's an actual close-up shot of the old tiles, which are real tiles, and not some kind of cheap linoleum or wall covering. I'd have to guess it'd be quite hard to find this tile color at my local tile shop these days, as I don't believe funky orange colors have been trendy in a number of years!

     Here's one last look across the deli/bakery book nook, looking into the front left corner of the building. Now that we have that funky orange color burned into our eyes, let's head back to the main sales floor and take in the more sedate wall decor relics a bit more:

     Departing the book nook, here's a look into the building's back left corner. Where I stood to take this picture would have most likely been home to the frozen foods department when Winn-Dixie was here, as 1980's built Winn-Dixie stores typically had frozen foods located in the last two or three aisles closest to the left wall.

     Here we have some lovely 70's/80's furniture to go along with the wall decor of the same vintage. A wicker chair, a floral print couch, and a ruffled rocking recliner - if only I could have transported this stuff over to the Big Lots for this picture, we could have had a really nice throwback scene!

     Anyway, the wall we see in the background of this photo is actually the partition wall that separates the thrift store from the gym. Interestingly, when the thrift store moved into this space, someone liked the design of Winn-Dixie's old decor on the other three walls well enough to replicate the pattern on to the partition too! That's pretty neat someone took the effort to make all four walls have matching decor, replicating what has been in here since 1980. You can tell the design on the partition was a later addition, as the pattern of the large, medium, and small rectangles isn't quite the same as the other walls, but it's still a really nice replication, and such a minor detail most people besides me would never catch.

     Turning the camera 90 degrees to my right, here's a look toward the front of the building, in the direction of the book nook (which is hidden behind all the furniture now). Lots more floral patterned furniture and wicker chairs to appreciate here, although being in Florida, there's always plenty of wicker furniture making its way into the local thrift store.

     Taking a closer look at the back wall of the store, Winn-Dixie's dairy and meat coolers would have once ran along this wall, under the lower ceiling. Dairy would have been in the very corner, with meat taking up the remainder of the back wall.

     While The Beef People's butcher counter would have been somewhere along this wall (with a matching sign in one of the large rectangles), The Thrift People use this corner for a variety of odds and ends - furniture, toys, sporting goods, hardware, and quite a bit more it seems.

     From the thrift store's housewares department, here's a look toward the vestibule. This is the best photo I have of the inner vestibule, as I was too eager to see the rest of the store, I forgot to get a vestibule photo as I was walking in! Oh well, I don't recall any super exciting Winn-Dixie elements up there, although very little of the vestibule was altered from the original design.

     As we prepare to leave, here's one last look at the old decor remnants that have been gracing these walls for 40 years now. It's always fun seeing such obvious relics from a former tenant last in some form, especially from a design that has been nearly extinct from active Winn-Dixie stores for years now.

     So there you guys have it - a nifty thrifty old Winn-Dixie! While this store will officially conclude our tour of St. "August"-ine retail for now, I do have some more photos from the area in my archives to share at a future date. But while we're here, we are really close to the beach, so why not pop over there for a moment to close out this series?

     For reference, the screenshot above shows the location of the old Winn-Dixie in relation to the beach - just a short drive down the road.

     A short stroll down the quiet shores of St. Augustine Beach is a nice way to finish out our little tour of the retail of St. Augustine, appreciating all the great things Florida has to offer - white sand beaches and funky old supermarkets.

     While that's all I have for today, be sure to come back in two weeks for a very special AFB post. My next post just so happens to fall on a very significant day for Floridian retail, with a tour of a very special store to mark the occasion. It's going to be a fun post, so be sure to come back in two weeks for that!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Former Albertsons #4367 - St. Augustine, FL

Albertsons #4367 / Rowe's IGA Supermarket / Hobby Lobby
200 State Route 312, St. Augustine, FL - Riverside Center

     Happy August everyone! My little summer break has come to an end, and it's time to get things back up and running here on the blog. While I was away from the blog, I managed to hit the road a few times and visit some great stores to bring to AFB in the future, so I had a productive few weeks off. Getting back to today though, since we're jumping into August already, I figured it was fitting enough to use this month to explore the retail of St. "August"-ine! Not only is St. Augustine home to numerous historic sites, being the oldest continually inhabited city established by European colonists in North America, but there's plenty of old retail to be found in this town too. While none of the stores we'll see date back to St. Augustine's founding way back in the year 1565, or contain the fountain of youth, it's still pretty neat stuff for the retail fans of the world (especially when we get into some of the 1980's retail relics in the upcoming posts - to us, 1980's retail relics are just as good as finding archaeological artifacts from 1565!)

     To start off our time in St. Augustine, we first pop into the town's lone Albertsons store. Opened in 1988 at the corner of US 1 and State Route 312, St. Augustine's new Albertsons store opened alongside Zayre to anchor the new Riverside Center. Located in the heart of St. Augustine's primary retail district, the new Riverside Center fit in well with the other retail establishments in the area, including shopping centers featuring Kmart, Wal-Mart, Publix, Winn-Dixie, and also the Ponce De Leon Mall. With the exception of the Ponce De Leon Mall (which is a story for another day), St. Augustine's retail district has managed to expand and evolve into a bustling hub in the modern day. As for the subject of our post, the St. Augustine Albertsons had a 17 year run before it met its demise in 2005. This store was included as part of Albertsons' retreat from the Jacksonville market, in which the 7 Jacksonville area Albertsons stores were sold off to former supermarket executive Rob Rowe. As we've discussed before, Rob Rowe would use these newly-acquired Albertsons stores as the basis for founding his own chain of grocery stores called Rowe's IGA Supermarkets. We discussed in detail the rocky start of Rowe's IGA Supermarkets in this post from December 2019, the story of Rowe's Supermarkets being a shocking tale of decline in order to jump-start the chain's recent push toward success. If you haven't seen or don't remember that post, I highly recommend you read that one to learn about all the trouble Rowe's has gone through to get to where they are today. However, as a product of Rowe's unsuccessful initial push from the mid-2000's, Rob Rowe closed his St. Augustine location in early 2007 after two years in business, claiming the location no longer saw promise as a grocery store. Upon the closure of the St. Augustine Rowe's Supermarket, Rob Rowe made a deal with Hobby Lobby to sublease the former supermarket space. By late 2007, Hobby Lobby was up and running, and they've since made themselves at home in the former St. Augustine Albertsons space.

     As usual with these Albertsons to Hobby Lobby conversions we've seen on the blog, Hobby Lobby tends to leave the original Albertsons exteriors in-tact. That's also the case here in St. Augustine. With the exception of a new coat of paint and the usual reconfiguration of the entryway, the exterior is still the exact design from this building's days as Albertsons. And speaking of the entryway reconfiguration, here we have a look toward Albertsons' old left side entrance, which would have taken shoppers into the pharmacy side of the store. As usual Hobby Lobby sealed up both of the old Albertsons entryways, combining them into a single entryway in the middle of the building.

     There's just a wall where Albertsons' pharmacy side doors would have been, those two spotlights on the ceiling above designating where the original doors would have been.

     Switching our attention to the other side of the building, here's a look toward Albertsons' second entrance. The doors on this side of the building would have led into the store's grand aisle and fresh foods departments (bakery, deli, and produce).

     And the complimentary wall to go with the one we saw on the opposite side of the building, marking where Albertsons' old doors would have been.

     In the middle of the building we find Hobby Lobby's current entryway, carved out of a portion of the building where Albertsons' customer service desk would have been. When Hobby Lobby added their new entrance, they also added that new facade above the doors where their sign is now. When Albertsons was here, that part of the building would have looked just like it did where the "Seasonal" sign is now (located to the right of Hobby Lobby's logo).

     Stepping through the front doors, we enter Hobby Lobby's lobby, which was carved out from Albertsons old service desk space.

     Stepping into the main store, we spy not only a massive amount of fake floral froof, by also an old Albertsons relic - the raised ceiling over the front end. These raised ceilings were a common trait in these mid-1980's "superstore" model Albertsons buildings, installed to accommodate the windows from the store's upstairs offices that overlooked the salesfloor. When Hobby Lobby took over this store, they covered over those windows, but left the raised ceiling in place. I'm not sure if the second floor offices are still hidden back there above the front end (just window-less now), or if those were removed completely when Hobby Lobby began to tear apart the old supermarket interior for their new store.

     Aside from the raised ceiling, Hobby Lobby did a pretty thorough gut job of this building, reconstructing the perimeter, re-tiling the floors, and adding new lighting throughout the space. In the photo above, we're looking away from the front end, into the front right corner of the store, where Albertsons' bakery and deli departments were once located.

     Along the store's front wall, here's a peek back toward the vestibule, as well as a look at some doors that probably lead to store offices (or maybe stairs to the second floor?...)

     From a vantage point closer toward the old deli and bakery departments, here's a look across the front of the building, the raised ceiling over the front visible as well.

      Like I said before, after leaving the front end, there isn't much left to see from Albertsons in here. This photo is looking down the store's right side wall into the former produce department, the old bakery counter having been immediately to my right.

     Even though some leafy greens found their way into this picture, taken in the general area of Albertsons' old produce department, I wouldn't recommend eating those!

     Here we're looking down Hobby Lobby's main back aisle, looking across the width of the store.

     Meat coolers would have once lined the back wall here, with a service meat counter back here as well.

     I believe we're looking down the store's left side wall here, as seen from somewhere in the back of the building. Health and beauty would have been over this way, with the pharmacy counter located straight ahead in the front left corner.

     Returning to the front of the store, here are a few more photos from near the front end:

     Above all those knickknacks on the wall would have been the second floor windows, all of which are now dry-walled over.

     My final interior photo gives us this nice overview of the front end, as well as the effect of the raised ceiling.

      While it seems like most of the Albertsons to Hobby Lobby conversions out there tend to strip away most interior remnants from Albertsons (well, at least the other three of the four that have appeared here in Florida), it was nice to see a little bit of Albertsons remain inside the St. Augustine Hobby Lobby. In case you were wondering, the other three Albertsons to Hobby Lobby conversions were in Apopka, Mount Dora, and Winter Springs, all of which have been covered on the blog in the past.

     The last part of our tour at the former St. Augustine Albertsons brings us to the liquor store, which has poked out in some of the other exterior images throughout today's post. The former liquor store has found a new life as a Sherwin Williams Paints store, a good reuse for a space that seems to be hard to re-tenant in many cases.

     Here's one last look at the Liquor store as we begin to bring this tour to a close...

     Leaving the Albertsons building, the shopping center angles back a little bit before straightening out. The angled portion of the center has the tenant signs on these decorative beams that project out from the rest of the building, and I thought it was an interesting touch.

     Walking down the plaza to the other side, we find Riverside Center's other anchor, the former Zayre store. The plaza's Zarye opened a little before the rest of the center in 1987, one of the last few Zayre stores to open before the company was sold off to rival discounter Ames in 1988. This Zayre would convert to an Ames as part of the buyout, although the conversion was short lived. Ames would declare bankruptcy in 1990 due to accumulating too much debt from the purchase of Zayre. As part of the bankruptcy restructuring, Ames closed 221 stores that year, including all of their stores in Florida (which were all ex-Zayre stores acquired in the recent purchase, and Ames' most far-flung and isolated locations at the time of the bankruptcy). After Ames closed, the building was split into space for multiple stores, including Big Lots, Harbor Freight, and Bealls Outlet. Big Lots dates back to the days when this building was originally subdivided, and Bealls Outlet has been in this building for a while too. Harbor Freight is a more recent addition, opening in the mid-2010s in a space formerly occupied by Dockside Imports. However, we'll go into more detail about this building later, as our St. "August"-ine adventure will take us to this former Zayre next weekend on My Florida Retail.

     Before jumping into the satellite imagery, here's a look at the road sign for Riverside Center, this sign facing traffic on SR 312. Since this is the sign located immediately in front of the former Albertsons store, it appears Albertsons was the one who put this up. This sign matches Albertsons' design of the time, and the sign's column match the columns on the front of the old Albertsons store too!

     That out of the way, here we go with the satellite imagery, starting with the Bird's Eye aerial images, courtesy of Bing Maps:


Right Side


Left Side

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

Former Albertsons #4367 - 2018 - Here's an overview of the entirety of Riverside Center, the former Albertsons at the top of the image, the former Zayre all the way to the right.

Former Albertsons #4367 - 2008 - Hobby Lobby would have been less than a year old when this image was captured.

Albertsons #4367 - 2005

Albertsons #4367 - 1999

Albertsons #4367 - 1994 - Don't let the empty parking lot mislead you in this image, nothing is permanently closed or abandoned here! According to Google Earth, this satellite image was captured on Christmas Day 1994, so none of the stores in the plaza were open when the image was taken.

     I try my hardest to find pictures of these Albertsons stores when they were open to include with my posts, but my search for photos of this store would only lead me to the small pixelated one above, which I downloaded many years ago. You can make out the general idea of what the place used to look like in this image, and the minor change Hobby Lobby made to the facade after they moved in. At least Hobby Lobby left the exterior of this building in-tact, and the image above wasn't our only trace that Albertsons ever existed here!

     While that's all I have for today's post, my St. "August"-ine series continues next Sunday on My Florida Retail with a tour of the former Zayre at the other end of Riverside Center. The Sunday after that we return to AFB for the conclusion of the St. "August"-ine series, where we'll find a fun little surprise from supermarkets past I wasn't expecting to see! Be sure to come back for all that!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger