Sunday, November 21, 2021

Former Albertsons #4316(1) and #4335 - Lauderhill, FL

Recreation of store #4316(1) courtesy of YonWooRetail2

Albertsons #4316(1)*
2999 NW 56th Avenue, Lauderhill, FL

*The (1) after the store number is to differentiate this location from Albertsons #4316(2) in Lake Mary, FL, an unrelated Albertsons store that reused location number 4316 later in Albertsons' Floridian tenure.

     After giving control of the blog to Retail Retell for our last post, AFB himself returns today with a double dose of former Floridian Albertsons stores for everyone! The pair of Albertsons stores we'll be looking at today have quite a few similarities to each other, as we'll see throughout the post, but the most interesting similarity these two stores have in common is that both were early causalities for Albertsons in Florida. Neither of Lauderhill's Albertsons stores lasted beyond the early 1990's, and it was different reasons that contributed to each store's early demise. These early Albertsons closures are quite fascinating to me, as the memories of these buildings as Albertsons have mostly faded into obscurity, a small blip in Albertsons' 40+ year run in Florida. Today we'll take a quick look at each of these stores to pull out those memories of supermarket days gone by, beginning with the older (and still standing) of Lauderhill's pair of former Albertsons stores, that being store #4316(1) at the corner of Oakland Park Boulevard and Inverrary Boulevard/NW 56th Avenue:

Store #4316(1)'s grand opening ad, pulled from newspapers.com thanks to YonWooRetail2

     The City of Lauderhill was still in its infancy when Albertsons opened their first store in town on October 13, 1976. Lauderhill got its start in the mid-1960's as a small community of homes carved out of land in Central Broward County, land purchased by a man from New York named Herbert Sadkin. Sadkin's original Lauderhill development was based off architectural plans he had purchased from Macy's Department Store, Sadkin having already used those plans once before to build a community on Long Island. Lauderhill would rise to success in 1970, when the city was chosen to become home to the new Inverrary Country Club, a sprawling luxury golf course development that would become home to the PGA Tour's Jackie Gleason Inverrary Classic. Gleason, the famous actor and comedian of The Honeymooners fame, was one of the early residents of the Inverrary Country Club, and the club's (and city's) most notable resident (who could have shopped at this former Albertsons store, for all we know). 

     Being a growing new city with a new country club to boot, Lauderhill had all the credentials to be the perfect place for Albertsons to put a store. The opening of store #4316(1) was actually a significant occasion for Albertsons, not just due to the attractive demographics surrounding the new location, but the fact that store #4316(1) was actually the first Albertsons to open in all of South Florida, kicking off the company's long-standing tenure in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. For a store that faded off rather fast, #4316(1) had a little notability for itself in relation to Albertsons' time in Florida.


     Unfortunately, going into the late 1980's, Lauderhill began to change. While the Inverrary Country Club, located immediately on the other side of Oakland Park Boulevard from the former Albertsons store, is still a very nice and luxurious community, the neighborhood located on the opposite side of the road (where Albertsons is) began to slide downhill. On December 27, 1991, a pair of armed robbers held up this Albertsons store at gunpoint (per a newspaper article YonWooRetail2 references here). According to the article, those robbers managed to get away with $89,000 worth of cash, checks, and food stamps, a huge blow to this store. That robbery must not have resonated well with Albertsons' corporate office, as only a month later on January 28, 1992, Albertsons #4316(1) closed for good. While I haven't seen anything definitive linking the robbery to the store's closure, the timing of everything is just a bit strange for those to events to be totally coincidental. Regardless though, the changing of the neighborhood wasn't helping Albertsons any, leading to this location's early demise.


     Following Albertsons' closure, the City of Lauderhill wanted to see another supermarket or retailer take over the building, but there weren't any takers. In 1996, a local pastor offered to buy the Albertsons building in order to convert it into a new church. The city resisted the pastor's plan, still holding out hope another retailer would bite at the Albertsons property, citing that the pastor was "trying to put a church in a commercial area". However, in 1998, the city eventually gave in to a non-retail use for the old Albertsons building, and allowed the United States Postal Service to open a sorting facility in half of the space. Realizing retail was never again in this building's future, the city of Lauderhill reached out to Nova Southeastern University to take over the remainder of the building, however, the pastor who wanted to take over the entire building in 1996 was also interested in that remaining half of the building as well. Who would become the new tenant of the empty half of the building became a bit of an issue locally, with the church eventually winning the battle to take over the space. In the years since all that happened, the USPS sorting facility has closed, its space re-tenanted as offices for a private shipping service. The church that took over the other half of the building had a not-so-divine downfall that made a lot of lawyers happy, its space being subdivided for a daycare center, a UFC Training Gym, and a much smaller Hispanic church.


      Even with Albertsons calling it quits here nearly 30 years ago, and all the fuss and subdivision to follow in this building's later years, the place still looks exactly like an old Skaggs model Albertsons store from the outside. It's not the most pristine looking building anymore, but you can certainly drive by this place and say with confidence, "Look Ma, it's an old Albertsons store, just like the ones that crazy guy on the internet writes about!"


     While this building and its mostly empty parking lot aren't the most jumping place in town anymore, all of the tenants in the former Albertsons are open, but they're not really the types of businesses that would attract a crowd. Thankfully for the sake of my picture taking it was quiet when I was here, although I was still a bit on edge taking photos of a building containing a low-profile shipping service, a daycare, and a UFC gym. I don't know to which one of those businesses I'd rather have had to explain my photo taking too had someone caught on to what I was doing!


     Looking toward the left side of the building, we see the space that was formerly home to the USPS sorting facility, now home to the private shipping service. Interestingly, while the right half of the building received a new stucco job in its later years, the left half of the building didn't, so the original river rock exterior walls were preserved on the left side of the building.


     Getting a little closer to the left side of the building, we can see the original river rock walls better in the photo above (you can zoom in on the photo too for a better look at those). I didn't venture too close to this side of the building, as there was a group of people loading mattresses into that box truck you see backed up to the shipping service's front doors.


     Returning our attention to the right side of the building, here's a nice photo showcasing many of the building's original Albertsons design traits. The original entryway was reconfigured and the picture windows covered over, but there's still a lot of 1970's Skaggs-Albertsons vibe going on here.


     With the way the building was subdivided in its later years, the parking lot was oddly reconfigured as well (the reconfiguration is more visible in the historic aerials to follow). USPS reconfigured their side of the lot entirely when the sorting facility moved in, and then the daycare modified the front of the lot for a pick-up/drop-off area, in addition to creating a small greenspace for a playground (which is visible in the above image).


     As I was leaving this former Albertsons store, I decided to venture onto the building's front walkway for close-up photos of this side of the building. Here's a look down the front walkway toward the daycare's entrance. The walkway appears to have been rebuilt in the years after Albertsons left, as Albertsons walkway would have been much wider than this.


     We'll finish out our little tour of former Albertsons #4316(1) by going around the right side of the building, where we'll find the old side entrance and liquor store:


     Looking down the side of the building, the building's facade still bumps out to designate where the side entrance and liquor store used to be. Currently, the small Hispanic church occupies this corner of the building, is entrance located where the side entrance and liquor store used to be. (A bit of a strange sight seeing a church in an old liquor store, though, but there are lots of strange things about this building!).


     The walkway on this side of the building is still original to Albertsons, the slope in the walkway for shopping carts to roll down designating where Albertsons' original doors were located. The church's much plainer doors are in roughly the same spot as Albertsons' were. Interestingly, I found a photo from inside the church, taken just on the other side of the door you see here. Inside, there's actually another preserved river rock panel, just painted black! In that linked photo, the wall on the right side of the image was added after Albertsons left, as the side entrance was originally concave, like this. That's how the panel ended up inside the building, although outside of that, no other Albertsons relics are jumping out at me in that photo.


     Here's one last look toward the former side entrance, as we make our way toward the back of the building.


     The last of the current tenants we have yet to see is the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Gym. The UFC Gym's entrance is located on the back right of the building, the gym taking up a good chunk of what would have been Albertsons' backroom space. While it seems like an odd spot to take up shop, the gym actually has good exposure to Oakland Park Boulevard, the busier of the two crossroads at the intersection upon which this store was built. The UFC Gym is actually the building's newest tenant, having opened in late 2020. Inside, the space was heavily renovated, but interestingly, the gym preserved Albertsons' old backroom mezzanine space, which is quite neat.


     From the back corner of the former Albertsons building, here's a quick look across Oakland Park Boulevard toward the local Publix. Publix came about long after Albertsons closed, this particular location not opening until 2005.


     It's not often I get photos of the back of one of the former Albertsons stores, but I happened to here. Nothing too exciting to see, but I do spot a set of stairs leading down from an emergency door on Albertsons' (now the UFC Gym's) mezzanine level.


     So that wraps up our first tour of this two-part post. We'll take a look at our usual satellite images to finish up our coverage of former store #4316(1), before jumping across town to take a look at what I could scrounge up for our look at Lauderhill's other former Albertsons store. Up first, some Bird's Eye aerial images, courtesy of Bing Maps:


Front


Right Side


Back


Left Side

     And now for some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:


Former Albertsons #4316(1) - 2021 - You can tell how the building is all chopped up these days by the funky parking lot and the patchwork roof visible above. Also note the empty lot right off the corner, in the middle of the parking lot:


     That little empty lot was home to something many years ago - possibly a gas station from the older aerial images we'll see below. Whatever used to be here was gone by the early 2000's though. All that was left to see here were some random patches of concrete, and a lot a trash from where some homeless people had set up camp in the surrounding brushline.

     Anyway, that little diversion aside, back to the aerial images:


Former Albertsons #4316(1) - 2010


Former Albertsons #4316(1) - 2004


Former Albertsons #4316(1) - 1999 - Only the postal facility was operational in the building at this time.


Former Albertsons #4316(1) - 1995 - Totally abandoned building.


Albertsons #4316(1) - 1980


Future Albertsons #4316(1) - 1969 - Nothing here at this point, and even Oakland Park Boulevard was still a dirt road.


     From former Albertsons #4316(1) (bottom right of the map), we'll cut through the Inverrary Country Club and head three miles northwest to our next destination, Lauderhill's second Albertsons store, former location #4335:


Albertsons #4335
5545 N. University Drive, Lauderhill, FL - Universal Plaza

     Three years after the first Albertsons opened its doors in town, a second Albertsons store popped in in Lauderhill in 1979. That second location, Albertsons #4335, was one of four anchors for the new Universal Plaza Shopping Center, a new development at the busy intersection of Commercial Boulevard and University Drive. In addition to Albertsons, the other anchors of the shopping center included a large Modernage Furniture showroom (the other large building in the plaza), a Standard Brands electronics store, and Eckerd Drugs. 


     The Albertsons store in this plaza was quite successful, however, it was Albertsons themselves that brought on this store's demise. Following A&P's decision to close all their Floridian Family Mart stores in 1988, Albertsons agreed to purchase the former Family Mart building at the intersection of University Drive and McNab Road in Tamarac, located only a mile north of store #4335. That former Family Mart would become home to Albertsons #4381, which opened in 1989. The new Albertsons store up the road essentially stole all the business from the existing #4335, leading Albertsons to close the older store in favor of the new one only a year later in 1990. Following Albertsons closure in Universal Plaza, the building sat empty until 1994, when a new upstart chain called KidSource (a children's clothing and toy superstore concept) moved in. KidSource was a bit of a bust, with the entire chain going out of business in 1996, leaving the Albertsons building empty once again. The late 90's were a rough time for this shopping center, with KidSource and Standard Electronics closing, and many of the smaller tenants jumping ship. In order to turn the shopping center around, the landlord managed to attract Target to build a store at the property, the new Target at the Universal Plaza site being South Florida's first Super Target store. To build the new Super Target, the entire shopping center, including the old Albertsons store, was demolished, with all the remaining tenants in the plaza forced to relocate to accommodate Target's arrival.


     Target's new superstore was built at the back side of the property, right over the spot where the Albertsons' building once stood. In addition to the new Super Target, a small strip of stores was built onto the building's side to accommodate any of the remaining tenants in the original Universal Plaza that wanted to stay, and a new freestanding Eckerd store was built in Target's parking lot to accommodate Eckerd's relocation.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

     The Lauderhill Super Target, store #1778, opened on July 25, 2001, and served as a replacement for an older Target store located further north on University Drive in Tamarac (the old location being an ex-Gold Circle that Target had purchased upon the chain's entrance into Florida in 1988). Being South Florida's first Super Target, and Florida's second Super Target overall, this place was quite the showstopper upon its opening. However, as the demographics of Lauderhill continued to change going into the 2010's, even the Super Target began to struggle. Sadly, Target announced in late 2017 that their Lauderhill superstore would close in February 2018, bringing abandonment back to the Universal Plaza site once again. Since this store wasn't doing so well in its final years, Target stopped putting money into it, so the store retained its original neon decor all the way to the end, a decor package that was mostly eliminated from Florida by the late 2010's due to various remodel campaigns.


     A year after Target's closure, plans were announced to demolish the old Super Target building and replace it with a complex containing 501 new apartment units. Come mid-2021, the plans for the redevelopment began to gain more traction, with demolition of the old Target building and construction of the new apartments planned for sometime in early 2022. Even though the Albertsons building has been gone for 20 years now, I wanted to get over here for a few photos of the old Super Target before that was demolished as well, as I feel an abandoned Super Target is a better substitute for the old Albertsons than photos of one of those new apartment developments that seem to be popping up everywhere right now - especially at the site of abandoned retail buildings.


     The old Albertsons building would have stood somewhere within Target's massive sales floor, the old Super Target containing about as much square footage as the entirety of the original Universal Plaza that once stood here.


     Target's grocery entrance is the one seen above, located on the right side of the building.


     The building was sealed up tight with all the hurricane shutters pulled down, so there weren't any opportunities to peek inside and see of any of the old neon decor remained on the walls following the store's closure.


     I've been inside Super Targets of this same building design before, and while these are very big stores, these buildings just appear so much bigger when they're abandoned and no one is around.


     Here's one last look at the facade as we begin to leave the property...


      The old Target garden center separates the Super Target building from the small strip of stores that run down the property's side. The small strip of stores along the side of the property will remain as part of the redevelopment, but the Super Target building and its parking lot will all be removed to make way for the new apartments.


     A super-sized blank square marks where Super Target's logo was once located on this sign. So from an Albertsons-anchored shopping center to a Super Target to apartments, this property has seen quite a bit of change through the years. Really, both of Lauderhill's former Albertsons stores have been through a lot as times have changed - #4335 going through massive site redevelopments and the funky subdivisions we saw over at #4316(1). It's just another day in the life of an online retail blogger to document all these things, and who knows what kind of craziness we'll uncover next.

     So that's all I have to share for now. AFB returns two weeks and one day from now, on Monday, December 6, 2021. As you probably know, December 6th is the blog's birthday, so I try to save something really interesting to mark that occasion, and I think I have something good to share with everyone this year. I'll leave everyone with that, so be sure to come back on the 6th for our next installment into the saga of Florida's former Albertsons stores!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Former Albertsons #4317 - Mobile, AL

Grand opening ad from the Mobile Register, January 26, 1977. Courtesy Newspapers.com

Former Albertsons #4317
258 Azalea Road (4013 Airport Boulevard), Mobile, AL -- Azalea Center

     Hi everyone! Retail Retell here, proprietor of the Mid-South Retail Blog (and sometimes-contributor to this blog's sister project, My Florida Retail). Earlier this year, your very own Albertsons Florida Blogger was kind enough to help me out by guest-authoring a post on my blog while I was busy earning my professional credentials. To return the favor, today I am serving as your guest author here on the Albertsons Florida Blog, showcasing my recent visit to the former Mobile, Alabama, Albertsons.

     Albertsons opened its very first store in Alabama in the city of Mobile in 1977, while the chain was still partnered with Skaggs. The Alabama stores were considered part of the Florida Division of Albertsons, and Mobile likely made sense as a starting point because of the city's location along the Gulf Coast, just 30 miles or so from Alabama's border with the Florida panhandle. Over time, Albertsons expanded northward throughout the state of Alabama. However, compared to Florida, in Alabama Albertsons had a sparser footprint. This meant fewer stores spread farther apart, as can be seen in the map below:


Oh wait, that's a map of all of the Albertsons stores in Mississippi, the product of several weeks' worth of research conducted by AFB and myself a few years back! Silly me, how did that get there? ­čśä

Here's the actual Alabama map:


     As you can see, Albertsons' presence never really grew very much in Alabama. The chain wound up with only seven stores in the entire state, scattered about. Following the 1977 grand opening in Mobile, it took Albertsons three more years before materializing anywhere else in Alabama, with three new stores in Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, and Dothan opening in 1980. Another in Montgomery and one in Huntsville opened in 1982, and the chain's final Alabama store was a second location in Huntsville, opened in 1983. 

     Just two short years after that, Albertsons called it quits in Alabama, selling all seven stores to Bruno's. This exit from Alabama was considerably early in comparison to Albertsons' large-scale exit from Florida, which wouldn't take place until 2008. As a matter of fact, Albertsons' stated reason for its retreat from Alabama was so that it could use the money gained from the sale to invest more in its stores in Florida and Texas, where business was better -- that's kind of ironic, in hindsight!

     The 1985 sale to Bruno's was seen as a major success to that Alabama-based legacy family-owned chain, which continued riding high in the immediate years to follow. Unfortunately, Bruno's fortunes took a sad turn in 1991, when the crash of the corporate jet took the lives of all nine people on board, the two pilots plus seven corporate executives with the chain. The Wikipedia article for Bruno's sums it up succinctly: "Following the crash, the company was never the same, and within four years, it was sold."

Ad from the Mobile Register, December 20, 1982. Courtesy Newspapers.com. Thanks to YonWooRetail2 for clipping and sharing these!

     Albertsons actually had several other dealings with Bruno's in the years that followed, including transactions in Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga, which have been covered previously on my blog. Likewise, information on the other six Alabama Albertsons stores has been shared before here on the Albertsons Florida Blog, most notably on the comprehensive store list but also in a series of two posts documenting both of the former Montgomery, AL, stores, with photos contributed by YonWooRetail2. But since the subject of this post is specifically the Mobile Albertsons, I'm going to leave it to all of those other resources to share the details of those other items; today, we focus on 258 Azalea Road.

     After the Mobile Albertsons was sold to Bruno's in 1985, Bruno's continued operating in the building until around 2004-2005. The store sat vacant for a few years after that, while being actively marketed for new tenants. Due to the unique positioning of the building at the southwest corner of a major intersection (pictured below), it is the north, or right-hand, side of the building that faces the main road, rather than the front -- and thus it is that same northern/right-side wall that was subdivided, so that the two primary new tenants could take advantage of the roadside visibility. I was unable to track down exact opening dates, but it seems like both of those tenants opened in short succession, sometime around 2010: Dollar Tree, and Haverty's Furniture. (An odd pairing for sure!)

Screengrab courtesy Google Maps



     Following a quick aerial view to help us get our bearings, we begin with this view of the north wall, facing Airport Boulevard, which is what the building considers its address today (as opposed to the cross-street of Azalea Road, where Albertsons and Bruno's both had their addresses). As you can see, the narrow side wall makes for a bit of an unusual conversion, not to mention the unconventional tenant duo here. The new fa├žades for both Haverty's and Dollar Tree certainly look nice, but the unfortunate downside to carving those new fa├žades out of the side of the building like this is that there are no former Albertsons traits to be had... and similarly, we'll soon find that the interiors of both stores were gutted as well.



     We'll explore the Dollar Tree half of the subdivision first. Of the 56,000-square-foot structure, Dollar Tree takes up approximately 10,000 square feet in what would have been considered the front right corner of the grocery store. AFB informs me that this area would likely have been home to the pharmacy counter and health and beauty department during the Albertsons days, as well as a side entrance to the building, perhaps where Dollar Tree's entrance is now -- although of course, Dollar Tree's entrance does not reuse any old doors that may have been left over from Albertsons. Unlike the Florida stores, there would not have been an Albertsons liquor store on this side of the building, as Alabama's liquor laws disallowed those.




     Inside, we find pretty standard Dollar Tree fare, up to and including the usual layout with seasonal goods on the right, as soon as you enter. One somewhat interesting layout feature to note is the center cut-through aisle, seen in the bottom image above, perhaps necessitated by the store's narrow width resulting in a deeper layout than normal.



     The back wall of the store has some refrigerated and frozen foods coolers, again standard fare for Dollar Tree these days. I'm not sure if they would have been here originally when the store opened circa 2010, however. Between this and the Dollar Tree pantry department, at least the building still sells a tiny bit of food!




     Walking down the left-side wall of Dollar Tree -- which would have been the front wall of Albertsons -- and circling back to the store's entrance. There is an emergency exit door on that left wall, which can be seen five images prior to the final one above. However, as best as I can tell, it doesn't actually open up to the outside of the building, so clearly there must be some stockroom space or other hallway/corridor of some sort hidden behind that Cleaning Supplies wall.



     Exiting Dollar Tree and entering Haverty's. If even Dollar Tree didn't have any Albertsons remnants, then certainly Haverty's would not. The construction on this space was pretty extensive, even raising the ceiling here at the front foyer area for a grand first impression! We can see that the lighting is entirely different from Dollar Tree, and it seems that the drop ceiling is higher, too. (On that note, it is technically possible that Dollar Tree's ceiling and lighting remain unchanged from Albertsons and Bruno's, but I doubt it.)



     Two pics looking toward the back of the store, one from the front entrance, the other from a spot already quite close to that Guest Services counter in the back right corner. Lots of nice-looking furniture in here! This was actually my first time in a Haverty's, so I enjoyed looking around. Even better, the salespeople were not pushy at all, and let my family and I look around in peace, which was very refreshing compared to the typical furniture store experience.


     This pic looks back toward the front entrance to Haverty's, while the shot below looks across to the salesfloor's right-side wall, which is in fact the rear of the building. Gotta love those fake TV sets that furniture stores use as decorations for staging! And sarcasm aside, I actually do love the elegant-looking divider walls and columns that Haverty's constructed to add some sophistication and division to its interior layout.


     Compared to Dollar Tree's 10,000 square feet, Haverty's takes up approximately 35,000 square feet of this 56,000-square-foot building: in other words, the majority of the space. As a result, it's probably fair to say that Haverty's salesfloor and backroom space spans all the way over to the opposite, left-side wall of the former grocery store. This would mean that the area now home to Haverty's would once have encompassed much of Albertsons' grocery aisles, its centrally-located frozen foods department, and the dairy, meat and seafood, and produce departments along the rear wall. (For a good visualization of all of this, be sure to check out this store's "number neighbor," store #4318, in Tampa.)

     In addition, a good chunk of space behind Albertsons' salesfloor between it and the rear wall would have been home to the stockroom, with mezzanine offices above: but we see that Haverty's clearly tore all of that out, as those windows straight ahead indicate that the other side of that wall is indeed the exterior of the building. So, lots of work was done in converting the space from its grocery use to Haverty's, for sure.


     One last shot from the interior of Haverty's shows us another angle on that grand front foyer area, with the curved, raised ceiling piece, complete with hanging chandelier-style light fixture, and the geometric-patterned windows comprising the main entrance, featuring some colored glass pieces to add some extra visual interest. This is absolutely a far cry from the dull-in-comparison Blue & Gray Market dairy d├ęcor that likely would have occupied this corner back in the Albertsons days! But still very fun to explore, nonetheless.




     Thankfully, as we exit Haverty's and round the corner to the front of the building (facing away from the main road, Airport Boulevard), the difficult task of making out former Albertsons features becomes less impossible, and more like child's play! (Get it? Because this portion of the building is now occupied by a pediatric hospital? Okay, fine, I'll leave the puns to AFB from now on.)

     Seriously though, over here at the true front of the building, we find the old Albertsons architecture virtually untouched, and easily recognizable. Quite the change of pace from the Dollar Tree/Haverty's side of the building.




     Infirmary Pediatrics leased what I presume is the final 8,200-square-foot chunk of space in 2015, and while they did seal up and plaster over most of Albertsons' original door and window configuration -- compare to YonWoo's screengrab here -- the overall architectural design, again, is mostly unaltered. 

     As we'll see down below, the hospital's use of plaster continued across to the panels adjacent to the entrance on the left half of the front wall of the building, meaning that all of the trademark river rock detailing on the structure was replaced... all, that is, except for a lone, singular set of panels along what serves as Dollar Tree's left-side wall, in the very front right corner of the building. Naturally, I couldn't resist getting a close-up of that! Forget my actual master's degree; as a student of UAF (that's University of Albertsons - Florida Campus, where we are all just pupils under chancellor AFB), capturing that middle view above felt like graduation day :)




     You can see better in these images that surviving section of river rock wall as discussed above, as well as the way Infirmary Pediatrics covered over Albertsons' old doorway setup and introduced their own. The parking lot, too, has been reconfigured somewhat here at the front entrance, in order to accommodate some handicap spaces. As a whole, though, the old Skaggs-Albertsons model still feels very much alive and well on this portion of the former Mobile store. 




     Some shots looking over toward the left half of the former front wall of the Albertsons store. Notice how Infirmary Pediatrics' sign is left-aligned along the main fa├žade piece, to coincide with the awning the hospital placed above their newly-located entry vestibule.

     That signboard you see outside of the front door informs us that the waiting room was still closed due to the pandemic. My visit to this former Albertsons was on June 3, 2021, while we were on vacation in nearby Fairhope, AL.




     While the original rough stucco goes nicely with its newer, smoother counterpart below, I have to admit I am rather surprised that the smooth version was continued all the way across to the left-hand wall of the building, which simply opens up into an access alleyway. I was fully expecting the old river rock to have been left alone over here... oh well.



     I should note that the stone detailing, carried over from the Dollar Tree and Haverty's side of the building, looks quite nice, too. And the trees in bloom as well as our angle up on a slight incline here certainly make the building look nice in this view.





     Heading out to the edge of the parking lot for a series of views looking at the front of the building, for yet more of that Albertsons architectural goodness. As part of occupying the last available section of square footage, Infirmary Pediatrics was stuck with converting some of the toughest areas of the store: the former deli and bakery service departments, as well as a majority of the front end. That said, being a hospital, everything would have had to have been gutted anyway, so I suppose it wouldn't have mattered which departments they were stuck with.

     (In other retail conversions -- for example, let's say a former Super Kmart -- you'll typically find that retailers will prefer to take over the general merchandise side before the grocery side, because there's less work involved due to less equipment having to be removed, etc. In a grocery store I imagine such hassles are spread pretty evenly across the entire building, but still, I'm sure some spaces are better to work with than others.)




     While it was not at all on our radar as part of our initial vacation plans, I was very excited to gain the opportunity to see a former Albertsons building of this iconic architectural style in person for the first time. Even better, this store was part of the Florida Division, which is what made this Albertsons Florida Blog post possible. As you can tell, I had a great time visiting here, and like AFB, I was clearly more than thorough in documenting the exterior of the store!




     The nature of the property layout meant that Infirmary Pediatrics, which presumably never has too awful many cars at a single time, was left with this enormous expanse of empty parking lot. But don't worry, I can top that: what if I told you that the *entirety* of the former Albertsons building was once overflow parking for the building next door?! While I didn't get any pictures of it (besides maybe the tiny sliver that can be seen in the image below), AFB informs me that that building was once home to Bellas-Hess, built in 1963 as one of the very early hypermarket concepts, spun out of an old catalog retailer. The company went out of business in 1971, so its Mobile store certainly didn't last very long, but it is still identifiable today by that funky grid-pattern roof. Neither AFB nor I had heard of Bellas-Hess before, but apparently they are rather famous in retail history, for the Supreme Court ruling which established the legal precedent that a business can only charge sales tax in a state where the business operates physically. Who knew! AFB was kind enough to share several links for those of you who may be interested in reading more about Bellas-Hess, so feel free to check those out here, here, and here.




     Last but not least where my photos of the property are concerned, above you'll find a view of the road sign facing Azalea Road -- notice how this one is a lot shorter than the one facing Airport Boulevard -- as well as some final, straight-on views of the former Albertsons/Bruno's storefront. I think it's amusing how you can see, at the far right edge of the fa├žade, the clear switchover to the fa├žade style that Dollar Tree and Haverty's use! Additionally, I'm very happy with how that last pic above turned out.

     We've now reached that point in the post where it's time to turn to some aerial imagery, first up from Bing Maps Bird's Eye View:


Left Side


Front


Zoomed out on the front -- here you can see the old Bellas-Hess building next door.


Right Side


Back -- notice the windows along the wall, corresponding with those we saw inside Haverty's.

Next, some historic aerials courtesy of Google Earth:


Former Albertsons #4317 -- 2020


Former Albertsons #4317 -- 2016 -- Infirmary Pediatrics is new here.


Former Albertsons #4317 -- 2015 -- before work began on Infirmary Pediatrics. Note the old parking lot layout and the roof prior to its replacement.


Former Albertsons #4317 -- 2007 -- recently closed as Bruno's in this view. Before Dollar Tree and Haverty's moved in.


Former Albertsons #4317 -- 2002 -- Bruno's in full operation.

Finally, to go back even further in time, we must call on Historic Aerials:


Albertsons #4317 -- 1980 -- the only aerial view of Albertsons' short-lived tenure in Mobile.


Future Albertsons #4317 -- 1967 -- here we can see how the Albertsons was built on Bellas-Hess' overflow parking lot.


Future Albertsons #4317 -- 1955 -- no development yet along Azalea Road.

     As a bonus before concluding this post: I mentioned earlier how, after hightailing it out of Alabama in 1985 and selling all seven of their stores in the state to Bruno's, Albertsons would go on in later years to have several other transactions with Bruno's, often becoming the purchaser rather than the seller. Interestingly, around 1996 or 1997, Albertsons assigned a store number (#4453) to a new property in Mobile, located at the northeast corner of Moffett Road (US 98) and Schillinger Road (CR 31). 

     This property is located at the outskirts of the city, and seems like an odd site to select for a new store and attached shopping center, not to mention how odd it is in the first place that Albertsons would attempt to make a return to Alabama more than a decade after they had exited the state. After discussing it with AFB, he says the more he thinks about it, the more he's convinced that this mysterious second property in Mobile was simply the result of one of those transactions with Bruno's in the 1990s, with Bruno's lumping the unbuilt property in Mobile into a package deal alongside several other existing stores that Albertsons purchased from them. 

     Albertsons would go on to rid themselves of the property in 2002, and it would seem from the circumstances that nothing was ever intended to materialize from it... but the fact that Albertsons assigned a store number to it, rather than just sitting on the property until they were able to sell it off, implies that perhaps there was a little more to the story than meets the eye. Alas, whatever that story may be, it will have to remain a mystery, as no other information seems to exist regarding Albertsons' motives with that property.


The intersection of US 98 and CR 31 on the western edge of Mobile as it appears today. The northeast corner doesn't really look to have much room for an Albertsons and attached shopping center, so I'm not really sure how that would have looked had it ever come to fruition. Other corners of the intersection host a Walmart, Walgreens, and former discount store or supermarket now subdivided between AutoZone and Ollie's. 

     I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed visiting the store and writing about it. Even though it's located in Alabama, visiting a former Albertsons Florida Division store feels like checking off a bucket list item to retail fans like myself, so I'm thrilled to be able to say that I've had that experience. As a matter of fact, while on this same vacation, I almost ventured into Florida itself, where I would have stopped by a true-blue former Albertsons Express convenience store in Pensacola that I had set my sights on... but due to time and travel constraints, it had to be strictly one or the other, so I opted for Mobile, seeing as how there was another fun retail destination in town that would make missing out on the Pensacola opportunity more than worth it. That said, I think being able to shed some light on the more obscure Alabama operations of Albertsons' Florida Division was ultimately a more worthwhile outcome anyway; and as for that other store that I visited in Mobile, you can "expect more" from that to appear on my flickr photostream sometime in the future!

     Thanks for reading this installment of the Albertsons Florida Blog. Your normal blogger, AFB, will return in two weeks, with another former Albertsons store that will take the blog back into its familiar Floridian territory. So be sure to stick around for that; and for now, until the next post,

Retail Retell