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