Earth Fare #582 / Bravo Supermarket of Lake Nona
13024 Narcoosee Road, Orlando, FL - The Shoppes at Nona Place
The Great Organic Supermarket Collapse of 2020 had quite the large effect on Florida's supermarket scene. The two chains that made up the great collapse - Lucky's Market and Earth Fare - were both in the midst of large expansion pushes throughout Florida when the bottom suddenly fell out on both of those chains. While Lucky's and Earth Fare weren't in Florida long, their short time here will be remembered through all the interesting building conversions those chains have given us, as other grocers, both large and small, have been slowly bringing these buildings back to life. We've seen a few Lucky's and Earth Fare conversions on the blog already, and we'll continue to see more as time goes on. Today's post is yet another installment in our conversion saga, as we get a taste of how different operators (such as Publix, Winn-Dixie, Aldi, and some independents) are making use of these buildings.
Before we get to the interesting part - the conversion - let's take a quick look at today's store prior to its liquidation as Earth Fare. For those of you sharply eyed readers out there, the photos in the first part of today's post will look familiar to you. Why? That's because I posted all of these photos in the past, in this My Florida Retail post where I documented the liquidation of Earth Fare. So why am I posting these photos again you ask? Well, a few reasons: 1) I actually never posted any photos of Earth Fare (while in operation) to AFB before, so I figured I'd give Earth Fare a little representation here, in addition to what I've covered already on MFR. 2) It'll be fun to compare and contrast the before and after photos of this place with everything fresh in your mind from seeing it again.
So what I'm trying to say is just treat the first part of the post as a refresher, so you can get the full picture of just what Bravo did (or should I say, what little Bravo did) during their conversion process. If you'd like the full backstory on Earth Fare's situation in Florida, you can check that out here in the first few paragraphs of my original post on this store.
To begin our little recap of the Lake Nona Earth Fare, here's a little background on the store itself: Earth Fare opened this location on September 29, 2018, anchoring a small plaza off Narcoosee Road near Lake Nona High School. Lake Nona is a relatively new suburban community in Eastern Orlando, with the community really sprouting to life in the early-mid 2010's (and is still expanding as of the present). Earth Fare built their store as part of a little plaza in the heart of Lake Nona's new retail district, which is located along Narcoosee Road south of the Route 528 toll road. For a trendy up-and-coming community like Lake Nona, a specialty organic retailer seemed like the perfect fit the area. Like most of the Floridian Earth Fare stores, the Lake Nona location had a short life - only 1 1/2 years in length - when it closed for good on February 25, 2020 with the rest of the company's stores. While some of Earth Fare's stores were sold at a bankruptcy auction (an auction at which Southeastern Grocers purchased 4 former locations for conversion into new Winn-Dixie stores), the Lake Nona store was not purchased by anyone at the auction. While there were no takers at the auction, it wasn't long after that when Bravo Supermarkets decided to give it a go with this former Earth Fare location. After some light remodeling, Bravo opened on December 18, 2020, but we'll see more of Bravo in the second half of this post.
The above photo (as well as the prior one) showcase Earth Fare's produce department. Since I visited this store about halfway through its liquidation process, the produce department had already emptied out, and was being used to sell off random store supplies and fixtures. While plastic containers aren't something I'd call "Fresh Organic & Local", the produce department provided the most empty space to store and sell all this stuff.
From the edge of the produce department, here's a look across the front end. The registers were located behind that stack of crates in the distance, with the prepared foods counters poking out from the side wall.
While a lot of the merchandise had depleted as discounts hit 60% off in some categories, the entirety of the sales floor was still open during my liquidation visit. Seen here is the store's rightmost aisle, home to bulk foods. During my visit, almost all the bulk foods had been sold out.
The Meat and Seafood counter was located in the back right corner of the store, with the seafood portion of the counter wrapping around into the corner itself (although I didn't get a picture of that). I like how the signage was attached to a shiny chrome-like backing, which is somewhat reminiscent of the shiny paneling Winn-Dixie used in late 1980's Marketplace stores (though sans the neon here at Earth Fare). Apparently, Bravo was a fan of this style too, as well see in a bit (your first hint of what's to come).
Looking across the back of the store, we see the empty dairy coolers off to my right. The center of this aisle was also being used to house some additional random fixtures that were for sale.
A sad liquidation shot of one of the depleting aisles...
Here's a look across the front of the store, toward the "grand aisle". And its not a supermarket liquidation without a few racks of greeting cards that no one seems to be buying!
Frozen foods was located in the center of the store.
Earth Fare's wine department can be seen here, nestled in a little pocket behind health and beauty.
Stepping away from the wine, here's the health and beauty department I just mentioned, which took up two aisles between frozen foods and the fresh departments.
Returning to the back of the store, here's one final look toward the grocery aisles.
The bakery department was located in the back left corner, the very last department in the "grand aisle" (the remainder of which is out of frame to my left).
Since we were over half way through the closing at the time of my visit, none of the fresh departments were open anymore. I'm surprised this side of the store wasn't roped off yet, actually, but the lack of caution tape made picture taking that much easier!
Stepping back a bit from the last photo, we can see the deli counter, the salad bar, and the hot foods bar. To my right were coolers for drinks and beer, which were also empty (except for one cooler at the very front of the aisle, which had a few random drink bottles consolidated into it).
Like just about every modern Earth Fare store, the city or neighborhood name was incorporated into the name of the prepared foods department, which was called the "Nona Place Kitchen" here. Nona Place is actually the name of the small shopping center this store is located in, and not the name of the area (which is Lake Nona). No matter how they phrased it though, it was still a fun little addition of local flare.
To the left of the Nona Place Kitchen was the juice bar, which like all the other fresh departments, was closed.
Here's a quick look at the front end as we wrap up our pre-closure refresher, this view looking back toward the produce department.
Thanks - see you soon, Nona Place. By soon, we mean in just a few seconds, when we return to see this store in its new life.
So that's what this building was like when Earth Fare was here. Now that we have those images fresh in our mind, let's fast forward through time by a year and see what Bravo has done to the place:
If you haven't picked up on my rather strong hints thus far, Bravo didn't do much to this building after moving in. On the exterior, besides swapping logos, everything is exactly the same as Earth Fare had it. Even the signs on the red awning to the left of the entrance were carried over, stating things like "Humanely Raised" and "Certified Organic" - all things that were part of Earth Fare's operating philosophies, and not necessarily Bravo's.
For those of you unfamiliar with Bravo (as I believe this is the first time I've shown one of their stores on the blog), let me explain what they are. Bravo is a chain of Hispanic-oriented supermarkets based out of New York City, where the company operates a number of stores. Bravo made a jump from NYC to Florida in the 2000's to take advantage of the state's growing Hispanic population, and of all the Hispanic-oriented grocery chains in the state, Bravo has the most widespread distribution of stores (with locations in most decent-sized cities from Ocala southward). Bravo is structured where each store is owned by someone different, although some owners do own multiple locations. That structure leads to some wide variety in Bravo's stores, with some of their locations shoved into tiny 10,000 square foot spaces in odd locations (like old drugstores and furniture stores), to more mainstream 30,000-40,000 square foot stores in major shopping centers. Upkeep also varies between owners too, and in Florida, Bravo doesn't have a reputation for being the cleanest place to shop. While I've been to a good handful of Bravo stores through the years, this one does take the prize for being the nicest Bravo I've ever seen. The building is practically new, the remodel turned out nice, and the place was clean. Unlike most places Bravo operates, Lake Nona is probably one of the most upmarket areas I've seen them open a store, so this store has some higher standards to fulfill if they wish to be successful here.
The new Lake Nona Bravo is owned by the same person who owns the majority of the other Bravo stores in the greater Orlando area, so this location is one of nine that falls under the same management (you can read more about the owners in this article).
Bravo kept Earth Fare's outdoor seating area, which is an addition to a small seating area inside on the other side of those windows. Like most Hispanic supermarkets in Florida, Bravo has a large prepared foods kitchen/cafeteria, which works well for all these seating areas inherited from Earth Fare.
Bravo installed this sign on the front, one of the few other modifications they made to the exterior.
Heading inside, we start off with a photo taken within the store's produce department, looking toward the new "Wall of Values". While produce was confined to only this corner while Earth Fare was here, Bravo expanded produce into the store's first aisle, which we'll see more of in just a moment.
Stepping further into the expanded produce department (which spills into the store's first aisle), here we get our first taste of the "where supermarkets collide" decor we'll see in the remainder of this post. While Bravo installed their own decor in places, they also left Earth Fare's decor completely in-tact in others. From what I understand, Bravo does have some standardized decor packages owners can use, however, owners have some freedom in what decor actually gets installed. While some Bravo stores in Florida use 100% Bravo decor, many others end up mixing the standardized decor with bits and pieces of stuff inherited from others, like we have here. The "Wall of Values" sign is from the standard Bravo decor, while the "Farm Fresh Choices" sign is very much left over from Earth Fare.
The "Fresh Produce" sign was installed over Earth Fare's old paneling, after all the old signage from the bulk foods department (which Bravo doesn't have) was removed. To make room for more produce displays and those coffin coolers, Bravo eliminated Earth Fare's first two grocery aisles. A lot of the rearranging Bravo did came from moving around the grocery aisles, to the point where Bravo now has more grocery aisles than Earth Fare had. We'll see how Bravo accomplished that in just a moment.
Turning around, here we have another view of the produce department as we begin to make the transition to the meat and seafood counter (which looks quite familiar, doesn't it?).
Bravo left Earth Fare's meat and seafood signage completely in-tact, and it looks like the meat and seafood cases themselves were carried over too. Unlike my original photos from Earth Fare's liquidation, the photo above gives a better perspective of how the counters are arranged, with seafood in the corner under the angled wall.
Turning around, here's a view looking across the back of the store. Bravo made the back aisle much wider than Earth Fare had, and Bravo installed new (and larger) coffin coolers to run down the center of the aisle too.
However, in order to make up for the spacious perimeter aisles, space had to get cut somewhere else. In order to get 9 full of aisles of groceries to fit in this small building, the center grocery aisles were quite narrow - barely wide enough for two carts to pass by comfortably.
Turning out of the aisle, here's a look across the front end. The check lanes are all new, as they're set up differently than the ones Earth Fare had.
Another grocery aisle shot before we turn our attention to the back of the store again...
Beyond the meat and seafood service counter, Bravo swapped out the signage for the departments back here. Originally, Earth Fare's dairy department was located along the back wall between meat and the bakery, however, Bravo relocated dairy to one of the grocery aisles in order to make more room for pre-packaged meats.
The wood paneling visible behind Bravo's "Fresh Meats" sign is a remnant from Earth Fare's dairy decor. All Bravo did was change the signage itself, not the backing paneling.
The grocery aisles stay pretty narrow until we get to Frozen Foods.
Frozen foods and dairy are located in this aisle, located just before the service departments and the "grand aisle". Earth Fare had a single aisle of coolers, which Bravo expanded upon by pulling the two rows of coolers further apart and adding another coffin cooler to the center of the aisle.
Frozen foods again, as seen facing the other direction.
The store's last aisle is still home to the deli, bakery, and prepared foods departments, with some open-faced beer coolers replacing Earth Fare's drink coolers that once lined the right side of this aisle. Bravo also relocated the wine department from the grocery aisles into an alcove (called the "Nona Winery" - nice local flare there!) in the back corner, that space formerly home to the gourmet cheese coolers.
Most of the Bravo stores I've been to don't have much of a bakery, although large bakeries aren't something a lot of Floridian Hispanic supermarkets feature. Interestingly, Bravo was running a full-service bakery here, complete with a selection of breads and pastries.
Turning around, here's a look back toward the Deli and the Nona Place Kitchen. Another unusual-for-Bravo feature I saw here was a full-service deli with sliced meats and other cold cuts. That's not a common feature at Hispanic supermarkets around here either, with the "Deli" instead serving as a large cafeteria in most cases.
While full-service bakeries and a nice selection of cold cuts are rarities, this was a first for me at any Hispanic supermarket that I've ever been to - a sushi counter! Yes, sushi is not the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of a store like this, but this is a full-service sushi counter added into Earth Fare's old juice bar. According to the website for The Escobar Kitchen (which is an independent entity that Bravo must rent out this space to), The Escobar Kitchen was created to "fuse together the explosive tastes of the Latin and Asian Cuisines to bring you a unique culinary experience". That being said, Bravo's sushi counter aims to blend those two very different cuisines together, which ties this sushi counter back into the store's Hispanic theme. A Latin fusion sushi counter is certainly not something you see everyday, and a nice upmarket twist to fit the Lake Nona community.
As we get ready to leave for the last time, here's a look across the front of the store again, looking back toward produce. Bravo has 6 check lanes to my right, with a small service desk (not pictured) in front of those.
Thanks - see you soon, Nona Place. (Why do I feel like I've said that before?)
I always find it interesting to see a new supermarket reuse bits and pieces from a prior occupant in the building (or imported remnants too - those are just as interesting of a sight!). Bravo had a creative way of incorporating bits and pieces of Earth Fare into their new store, however, it all came together well. As time goes on, it will be interesting to see how others reuse these buildings too, and in the process, maybe we'll find some other pieces of the past along the way!
So that's all I have for today's post. More Albertsons coming your way in two weeks, so be sure to come back then for more!
Until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger