Albertsons #4417 / Publix #1337
8833 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, FL - Marketplace at Pelican Bay
It's back to business here on AFB after my little rest break. I hope everyone had a nice summer themselves while I was gone, and I certainly had some fun retail road trips during my time off too. While I keep amassing hundreds of store tours to feature, I just need to work on getting more of those tours published to the blogs! Anyway, today's post pulls another small contribution out of my massive backlog, as we dive deeper into the history of Albertsons in Southwest Florida. Featuring the major cities of Port Charlotte, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Naples, Southwest Florida is famous for its tranquil gulf coast beaches and stunning sunsets. For the retail fans in the room, Southwest Florida is also home to some rather fascinating supermarket relics too. While today's post won't be covering one of the region's more fascinating relics, we'll be seeing one of the more interesting examples of retail in the area next time on AFB. However, today's store does hold a small historical significance for both Albertsons and Publix, so let's dive into the backstory of this store and learn more about it:
Compared to the other major cities in Southwest Florida, Naples has always had a sleepier, small-town feel compared to larger cities like Fort Myers and Cape Coral to its north. Over the years, Naples has made a name for itself as being the "Golf Capital of the World", and being a haven for rich retirees looking for a waterfront estate (and what goes better together than rich retirees and golf?!). Naples is by far the ritziest of all the Southwestern Florida cities, and I can certainly attest to that too as I saw two Bentleys in the parking lot of this Publix as I was walking into the store (amongst other quite nice cars - putting may car in the running for the dumpiest one in the lot!)
With the Naples area growing a bit slower than the areas to the north (especially in terms of more middle-income suburban development), it took Albertsons until the early 1990's before touching the market with its first stores. It wasn't until 1994 when Albertsons made its debut in Collier County, opening store #4417 on the northern end of town (the location we'll be touring today) and #4422 in the firmly middle-class East Naples neighborhood further south on Tamiami Trail (a tour for another day). With Naples being a slower-growth area, and Albertsons not really being known as a classy store, it makes sense it took them a while before entering Collier County. The US 41 corridor from the Lee County line into downtown Naples is a very high-end area, especially the further south you go toward downtown. Albertsons tried to give store #4417 a higher-end exterior compared to the typical store of the time, although I've never seen any interior pictures of #4417 to tell if Albertsons tried to do anything fancy in there (like adding a cheese counter or an expanded wine department).
The only photos I could find of Albertsons #4417 before Publix came along were these grainy old photos showing the store in the middle of the conversion process, courtesy of an old real estate listing that no longer exists. Albertsons #4417 was one of the 49 locations Publix bought from Albertsons in 2008. While most of the stores Publix bought in that deal were converted by the end of 2008 or the beginning of 2009, old #4417 was an exception. Instead of the cheap conversions many other stores received, Publix decided to use this building (and its affluent location) to their advantage. After taking control of the space, Publix decided to completely gut and rebuild the interior of old #4417 and turn this building into a new "hybrid prototype", the precursor to Publix's modern 54M design. The "hybrid prototype" was supposed to combine a regular Publix store with the best features from the original Greenwise Market concept from the late 2000's, and this new format was a major contributing factor to the original Greenwise Market's demise. The Sing Oil Blogger recently took us on a tour of the second "hybrid prototype" location in Brookhaven, GA on MFR, which you can recap here (where he goes into much more detail about the prototype's origins). The new Publix #1337 that would open in the shell of former Albertsons #4417 was a significant opening for Publix - debuting the new prototype layout, as well as a new decor package - Classy Market 3.0/Sienna (yes, that package's 11-year run began right here in a former Albertsons in Naples!)
So even though Publix didn't leave us much in terms of Albertsons relics (besides the exterior, which is completely original), this is still an interesting Publix to tour due to its significance within the company. Publix #1337 opened on October 21, 2010, replacing store #249 in The Pavilion Shopping Center across the street (which closed the night before #1337 opened).
Considering how well-off this area is, I can see why Publix would want to use this location to debut the new store design. Publix's 54M prototype is typically reserved for high volume stores in well-off areas, and #1337 checks off both of those boxes.
Now that we've seen the exterior, it's time to put the Albertsons relics behind us and step inside, however, there is one more thing I should mention about this store...
…sadly, I visited Publix #1337 right as its remodel to Evergreen was nearing completing. Even if Publix wiped away all traces of Albertsons from the interior, I was hoping that at the very least, I can see this store with the very first installation of Classy Market 3.0/Sienna still in-tact. I probably shouldn't be surprised Publix remodeled this store, as its decor was 11 years old at the time the remodel happened (and Publix likes to remodel stores every 5-6 years if they can). CM 3.0/Sienna was a very nice decor that held up well over the years, so it's pretty sad to see it going away almost as fast as it originally appeared everywhere!
The previous photo was a general overview of the store's grand aisle that you see upon entering, while the photo above shows the new dining nook, located immediately to your right after walking through the main entrance. When this store remodeled to Evergreen, Publix made some minor tweaks to the layout, and this dining nook was one of the modifications. Originally, the store's cafe would have been located where the dining nook is, the dining nook originally in a small room off to the side of the deli counter.
As for the cafe, that was shifted over to the left from its original space, taking over a piece of the old bakery counter in its expansion. In my travels, I've actually noticed there are actually 4 different cafe options Publix might include in a store, the one we see here being the basic coffee/tea/soda/pastry option. Publix has a special cafe option for their South Florida stores, which while branded exactly like the one here, offers a totally different Hispanic-oriented menu of pastries and coffees. Then you have the stores with Pours, which is just the cafe we see here with a beer and wine tap added on, and the last option being the Publix stores with a Starbucks inside. I'm surprised Publix has such a variety of cafe options available, as the cafes aren't exactly a common feature to stumble across.
To the left of the cafe is the bakery, which had yet to have its department sign installed (the Evergreen remodel was about 95% done when I took these photos, so while most things look complete, we'll notice some things aren't quite right as we continue through the rest of the store).
Following the bakery is the deli counter (which we saw in our very first interior photo), followed by the Aprons catering counter (which occupies the room where the original dining area was located).
Produce occupies the large space in front of all the service departments, completing the 54M's "grand aisle". Albertsons' "grand aisle" would have been located on this side of the building too, with bakery in the same corner where Publix's bakery is now (oddly enough), and the deli in the back right corner where the wine department is now, with produce running in-between.
Here's a straight-on look at the new catering nook, located in the original dining alcove. The original catering counter would have been located under the drop ceiling to the left of the current "CATERING" sign, the old counter's space now used for an expansion of the wine department (the old drop ceiling not serving much of a purpose anymore with the move). To the right of the catering nook we see part of the deli, which retained its original older CM 3.0/Sienna brown wall tile, which clashes with the rest of the new gray-colored decor (and don't get me started about how the gray clashes with the original brown-painted ceiling too!)
Here's a look back at what we covered so far in the grand aisle, looking through produce toward the new cafe and dining area.
Like most 54M Publix stores, we have a large wine department located in the back right corner of the store, where Albertsons' deli was located originally. The wine department here is very large, and even has a counter for the in-store wine attendant. Sadly, the attendant was nowhere to be seen when I was here, so I couldn't ask Publix's resident sommelier if the $500 bottle of Dom Perignon they had for sale would pair well with my PB&J sandwiches.
Following the wine department, we continue along the back wall toward the meat and seafood counter, located next door. The small counter immediately to my right (which got partially cut off in the photo) was a dedicated sushi counter.
Finding the meat counter to my right, I spy a rare early CM 3.0/Sienna relic back there - the brick-like (or "striated muscle", as the Sing Oil Blogger put it) wall texturing and matching brown service meat case! Here's a better look at this department in original form, where you can see more of the original brick patterning that didn't make the cut for the later CM 3.0/Sienna stores. Sadly, I didn't realize what kind of wall texturing was still lingering behind when I was here, or else I would have taken a better photo of the meat counter. Only recently has the Sing Oil Blogger gotten me to analyze the nuances of Publix's tile backsplashes to date various remodels, and I don't think I'll ever be able to look at tile the same way again now!
Leaving the service departments behind us, we'll begin our transition into the store's grocery aisles. As the original 54M "hybrid" design, this store was also the first Publix to debut the "hybrid" drop ceiling/warehouse ceiling look that all larger modern Publix stores (49M and up) use. I quite like the hybrid ceiling design, as it creates a neat effect that makes the perimeter areas feel larger than they really are.
Returning to the front of the store, here's a look across the ridiculously busy front end.
Not only was this store's front end busy, the entire store was a madhouse when I was here, and I visited on a Monday morning! If this was the crowd on a weekday morning, I'd hate to see the crowd this store draws on a Saturday afternoon...
After fighting the crowds up front, we return to the slightly calmer grocery aisles as we make our way toward frozen foods.
Two aisles of frozen foods are located in the center of the store, in the break between the two sets of drop ceilings. It seems that Publix keeps the original mustard yellow color of the coolers in stores that remodel to Evergreen rather than repainting the trim, leaving for an interesting color contrast with the brown ceilings and gray walls.
The (crowded) back wall transitions into dairy following the meat coolers, with dairy extending to the back left corner of the store.
Also, have you noticed anything peculiar about the aisle markers yet? If you haven't, you'll see that the aisle markers received their new gray Evergreen placards, but the numbers had yet to be switched over the new Evergreen design. I guess what we see here proves that the original Sienna aisle marker frames get reused in remodels, since the design of the signs themselves didn't change, just the colors of the placards.
From the back of the store, we'll continue along in the second frozen food aisle as we continue to meander through the remaining grocery aisles...
Along with the missing bakery sign and the in-transition aisle markers, aisle 12 is probably one of the most obvious examples of how this store's Evergreen remodel wasn't quite finished yet. Some product in the aisle was still being shuffled around, and the row of shelves to my left had yet to be rebuilt in its new home.
From the end of aisle 12, here's a look at one of the dairy department signs, although the sign itself got quite glared due to the presence of the spotlights.
One of the funkiest aspects of this store's layout can be found on the left side of the building. Typically in a 54M Publix store, dairy wraps around the store's back left corner and continues up the left side wall. In this store, dairy is located entirely within this alcove in the back left corner of the building, with the overflow extending along the back wall toward meats. I don't know if this alcove was Publix's intent for 54M hybrid stores going forward, or just a one-off oddity due to this store being shoehorned within the walls of a former Albertsons.
From the alcove, here's a look toward the remainder of dairy along the back wall, looking back at what we've covered so far.
Since dairy found its home in that alcove, the store's last aisle (where dairy would typically be, with bread, peanut butter, and jelly on the shelves opposite) is home to health and beauty products. It just feels weird seeing diapers along that wall and not dairy coolers!
The pharmacy counter is located in the store's front left corner, and the Evergreen decor pairs quite well with the Sienna pharmacy design and its glass tiles.
Albertsons' pharmacy would have been located in the same spot at Publix's, and it's quite strange how much of Albertsons' mid-1990's layout resembles that of a 54M Publix! Like Albertsons would have, a few small aisles of pharmaceuticals extend out from in front of the pharmacy counter.
Here's one last look at the store's bustling front end, as we head back outside for a few final looks at the exterior...
The attached liquor store is located to the right of the main supermarket building, its entrance visible here. Publix modified the original Albertsons liquor store entryway into one of their own when this store was under construction.
Returning to the parking lot, here's the exterior of the liquor store, still in its original Albertsons design.
A very nice store for Publix, and I'm sure this was a very nice store for Albertsons too.
With our ground level coverage out of the way, let's go up in the air for some satellite images, starting with some Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:
And now for some historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and historicaerials.com:
Former Albertsons #4417 - 2021 - The empty anchor building to the south of the former Albertsons is an old Stein Mart, which closed with the rest of the chain in 2020.
Former Albertsons #4417 - 2014
Former Albertsons #4417 - 2010 - This image must be from early 2010, as it shows Publix's conversion work still going on.
Former Albertsons #4417 - 2008 - Abandoned Albertsons at the time.
Albertsons #4417 - 2005
Albertsons #4417 - 1995 - The southern portion of the shopping center had yet to be built.
Future Albertsons #4417 - 1984 - Nothing where Albertsons was, but the shopping center at the top of the image shows the relatively new Publix #249 across the street, which was replaced by #1337. While the image makes it seem like Publix plopped a store in the middle of nowhere, there's actually a large neighborhood right behind the plaza. It just took a while before the intersection built out.
That's all I have to report on for former Albertsons #4417, Naples first Albertsons, and Publix #1337, the store that gave us the 54M and CM 3.0/Sienna. We'll be sticking around the Naples area for our next post, a really fun bonus store that should be an easy guess if you've been following recent Floridian supermarket talk (and was my main motivation to drive all the way out here when I did). You're going to love our next destination, as it's at store that is the last of its kind, so be sure to come back in two weeks for that!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger