Sunday, January 29, 2023

Life After Lucky's - Hitchcock's Green Market - St. Petersburg, FL


Lucky's Market #32 / Hitchcock's Green Market
6765 22nd Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL - Tyrone Square Mall

     So what happens when your luck runs out twice? You get Hitchcock's Green Market, that's what. Picking up not too far from where we left off last time, we find ourselves at St. Petersburg's Tyrone Square Mall for the latest installment in my "Life After Lucky's" series. Unfortunately, unlike most of the other installments we've seen thus far, today's doesn't have a happy ending. Hitchcock's Green Market, the store we'll be touring today, was a complete flop, lasting only two years as part of an odd foray into the natural foods segment by a chain that's primarily concentrated in small towns in North Central Florida. That being said, this was one of the stranger Lucky's conversions I've explored over the last few years, so let's dive into this supermarket anomaly with a little bit of background on this site, before we jump into the details of the strange Lucky's knockoff standing before us today:

Photo courtesy of Lucky's Market

     The plot of land on which Hitchcock's Green Market stood began its life in retail back in 1968, when Sears built a large freestanding store at this site. Only 4 years after the Sears store opened its doors, the Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation (the developer behind many of Florida's enclosed malls) constructed Tyrone Square Mall, a new enclosed shopping center that would be attached to the existing Sears building. In addition to the existing Sears, the new mall would feature three additional anchors including JCPenney, Maas Brothers, and Robinsons of Florida. Sears remained at Tyrone Square until it was included in one of Sears Holding's famous closing rounds of the 2010's, the round in question occurring in late 2016. The Tyrone Square Sears officially closed for good in January 2017, with the mall's current owners, Simon Property Group, already having redevelopment plans in place to follow the closure of Sears. To replace Sears, the old department store building would be demolished and replaced with 4 new junior anchors, including Dick's Sporting Goods, Petsmart, Five Below, and the Tampa Bay area's very first Lucky's Market. Lucky's opened in St. Petersburg in June 2018 to a huge buzz, like most of Lucky's new store openings in Florida. The photo above (which I took from the store's old Google Maps photos page) shows the new St. Petersburg Lucky's Market shortly after it opened, the seemingly indestructible leader in natural food sales in Florida ready to grow, grow, grow...

     …until, well, you know what happened. Come January 2020, the seemingly unstoppable Lucky's was brought to its knees after its primary investor, Kroger, scrapped its involvement in the company. The pulling of Kroger's investment was the end of Lucky's Market as we knew it, the company financially crippled, forcing Lucky's to close most of its stores and declare bankruptcy. The St. Petersburg Lucky's Market closed alongside almost all of the other Floridian Lucky's Market stores in February 2020, bringing to an end the story of one of the craziest supermarket expansion efforts Florida had seen in years.

     At bankruptcy auction, the former St. Petersburg Lucky's Market store was purchased by a surprising buyer - Alachua, FL based Hitchcock's Markets. I have a post coming up in a few months where we'll go into much more detail about Hitchcock's Markets and its history, but in short, Hitchcock's is currently a chain of 11 stores primarily clustered around the Gainesville area (with one odd outlier in Indiantown, FL, a small town west of Stuart in Martin County along Florida's Atlantic Coast). Hitchcock's is a chain that has always focused on operating stores in smaller towns without a lot of other grocery options, hence the chain's longevity and relative stability in our very Publix-centric grocery scene. That being the case, I have no idea why Hitchcock's decided to buy this former Lucky's in the middle of Florida's 5th largest city, which Publix rules hands-down. Hitchcock's did go through an ownership change in 2019, so my guess is the new ownership (which was trying to expand the chain at the time) wanted to try something new and see if Hitchcock's could find a system that appealed to city shoppers via Lucky's format. Well, sadly, they didn't.

     According to a really good article from the Tampa Bay Times about the new Hitchcock's Green Market store, one of the things that appealed to Hitchcock's when looking through the locations Lucky's was shedding was that "the St. Pete Lucky’s performed well sales wise, which is what attracted Hitchcock’s to bid on it." While the store may have done well for Lucky's, it must have begun to slip under Hitchcock's. Hitchcock's opened this store on July 10, 2020 to a crowd of 300 waiting for the doors to open. Hitchcock's tried to make the most of their new store by copying as much as they could from Lucky's - offering similar products, similar services (like the cafe, sushi, and sip and stroll), and even a similar atmosphere and decor. Stepping inside, you were essentially walking into a low-budget version of Lucky's. It was an interesting attempt, I'll give Hitchcock's that, but running a natural foods store in a big city was just a bit of a stretch for this small-town grocery chain. This small-town chain got chewed up by the big city, and Hitchcock's learned the hard way what happens when you play with the big boys in Floridian grocery.

     Hitchcock's Green Market closed in June 2022, just shy of its 2nd anniversary. An official reason for the store's closure wasn't given, although from what I saw here during my visit (which happened about halfway through this store's life), the store didn't seem very busy, and the product selection didn't seem all that great (especially in the fresh departments, which a lot of space in this store was dedicated to). Something about the store seemed very off when I was here, like the store was struggling. I even thought to myself I was surprised this place was still in business while I was here, with the sparseness of the products and dead vibe I was getting.

     The old rusty carts weren't helping set the scene much as I was walking in, and definitely went along with the small-town low-budget independent store feel over the big city natural foods store vibe.

     Stepping inside, it's not the strong beverage you chose for your sip and stroll playing with your mind, you are seeing that right - Lucky's lives! Turning to the right after stepping inside, we see the cafe, which is practically untouched from how Lucky's left it. The menu board appears to be the only thing over here Hitchcock's modified, otherwise all the remaining signage and furniture are direct holdovers from Lucky's. The large table in the center of the photo was custom designed for this store by Lucky's, and had a special St. Petersburg theme to it. Every Lucky's store got one of these themed tables for its cafe, a staple of the cafe decor. That being said, I of course forgot to walk over and get a better picture of the table. I didn't even think about the table when I was here, actually, as looking at this photo while writing this is what made me remember it was there. If you zoom in on the above photo, it appears the picture in the middle of the table was of the downtown skyline, with "St. Petersburg, FL" printed in the red rectangles on each end. Even though I slacked a bit here, I did get a good photo of the table at the former Winter Park Lucky's if you want to see a better example.

     Turning around from the cafe, we walk past the check lanes for a look at the produce department, where we well begin our tour. Unlike the cafe we just saw, the produce department, while it does reuse most everything from Lucky's fixture-wise, actually has a new wall sign. When Lucky's was here, that faux-wood (at least I think it's faux-wood) panel on the wall would have contained Lucky's famous "Food Glorious Food" sign, which usually substituted for an official produce sign. While Hitchcock's did reuse a lot of Lucky's old signage, they also added some new signs of their own that heavily mimicked Lucky's old decor, like we see here in produce. If you didn't know any better you'd probably think this produce sign was carried over from Lucky's, as Hitchcock's did a really good job matching Lucky's style with all the signs in the store.

     At the front of the produce department was the juice bar. Neither Lucky's nor Hitchcock's ever used the juice bar as a fully staffed counter where one could order juice drinks (like Earth Fare did), as it instead served as a station where an employee would prepare the various fresh squeezed orange juices, infused fruit waters, etc. sold in the produce department every day. I think Hitchcock's only used this station to make fresh-squeezed citrus juices (orange, grapefruit) from what I saw, which were kept in ice-filled containers in front of the counter.

     Hitchcock's reuse of all the fixtures and much of the decor helped speed up this store's reopening, with the gap between Hitchcock's purchase of the store in March 2020 and its reopening the following July being 4 months. Even with that fast turnaround, Hitchcock's Green Market ended up being the second re-tenanted Lucky's to open, missing out on the honor of being first by Seabra Foods in Orlando, which held its grand opening one day prior to Hitchcock's Green Market on July 9, 2020.

     Hitchcock's had a really nice produce department in this store, probably one of the strongest departments they had in here. From reading other reviews online, it seems like this store also had a decent following for its meats too. I didn't look too closely at the meats while I was here (as buying meat three hours away from home doesn't do me any good), but from what I read Hitchcock's carried a lot of cuts that were hard to find elsewhere in the area.

     That sign in the corner looks like something straight out of Lucky's, but yet again, that's another Hitchcock's knockoff. While Hitchcock's older stores are pretty blah when it comes to decor, the current owners did a really good job with whoever designed the decor for the company's newer stores. I visited another Hitchcock's that opened around the same time as this store, and it had a really neat, professionally designed custom decor package that intertwined a lot of local color into it. We'll tour that store eventually, but we need to visit one of Hitchcock's legacy stores first to get the full picture of this chain.

     While not as prolific here, Hitchcock's did try to intertwine some local flare into the signage here. Much like the last sign we saw, another Florida reference was slipped into the main produce sign, and what better way to do so than with a giant orange? Oranges are the state fruit of Florida after all, with orange juice being our official beverage and the orange blossom being our state flower. We love oranges so much here, we even put them on our license plates too!

    Behind these carts of freight someone left out, we can see down the left side wall of the store, looking toward frozen foods (where we'll be heading shortly).

     How do you like them apples? I don't know, these apples taste a lot like oranges to me! (And people say there's no comparing the two!) Oh, those kooky Floridians and their oranges...

     Anyway, another way Hitchcock's tried to copy Lucky's vibe was with these quirky signs containing various jokes and puns, another Lucky's staple (see here and here for some examples). There were a number of these signs throughout the produce department, a few more of which can be seen in the next photo (such as "You look radish-ing today", the rather clever "Grape deals before your berry eyes", the somewhat lackluster "You used to call me on my celery phone", and the always classic "It's party thyme.")

     If Hitchcock's carried some of these punny signs over to more of their stores, they could have given Ollie's a run for their money!

     Including the lone aisle of frozen foods, this store had 7 aisles for groceries, the same number of aisles Lucky's had. Even though this store was called "Hitchcock's Green Market", most of the dry grocery selection was the usual grocery store fare, skewing more heavily toward traditional supermarket brands with a few natural/organic options thrown in. Like Lucky's, the service and fresh departments are what most of the emphasis was on at Hitchcock's Green Market, which had more full-service features than just about all of Hitchcock's other stores (most of which lack all service departments outside of a tiny deli and meat counter). We'll see more of the grocery aisles shortly, but first, frozen foods:

     A lone aisle of frozen foods occupies the first grocery aisle, providing shoppers with a condensed variety of frozen staples.

     What's interesting about the Frozen Foods sign on the wall is that the sign itself appears to be original to Lucky's, but Hitchcock's put a new design on the letters to make them look like ice cubes (instead of the original plain red color from Lucky's). Red is too warm of a color for a frozen foods department, symbolizing fire and all that, so I guess ice makes more sense here!

     Turning the corner out of Frozen Foods, we find dairy located along the back wall behind the grocery aisles. While convincing, yet again, we find the dairy signage was installed by Hitchcock's, and not the original dairy signage installed by Lucky's. I actually think Hitchcock's dairy sign looks better back here than Lucky's did, as it takes up more of the blank wall space than the original did.

     Turning the corner into aisle 2, we find our usual dry grocery stuff (canned tuna, pickles, etc., etc.)

     From produce, here's a look across the front of the store, looking back toward where we entered.

     The aisle markers seen in here are the standard issue ones for newer Hitchcock's stores, and as a fun local touch, they include the names of local roads on the bottom (something supermarkets seem to be doing a lot these days, especially smaller, locally-owned stores - although Safeway's three Florida stores had the same feature).

     Hitchcock's primarily carries Supervalu's Essential Everyday brand as their house brand, as Hitchcock's is a longtime Supervalu partner (with some of the chain's older stores being branded as "Hitchcock's Supervalu Foods"). Interestingly, Hitchcock's does carry their own brand of jams, jellies, and other jarred fruit, pictured here, which I found intriguing. I know there are a lot of small locally-owned manufacturers of jams and jellies out there, so Hitchcock's probably partnered with one of them to make these products, adding to the locally-made theme Lucky's was also known for.

     Pasadena Avenue (aka aisle 6) brings us to the small selection of cleaners, paper products, and other non-food items sold by Hitchcock's Green Market.

     Bulk foods occupy the front of the store between produce and the check lanes. Hitchcock's kept the original footprint of Lucky's bulk department, which was quite large (about 3 full aisles worth), and I'm quite impressed a small-budget store that doesn't sell bulk foods at any of its other locations managed to keep this department going as-is for so long. However, while the original size of the bulk department was kept, its original sign from Lucky's was not.

     The last signed grocery aisle, Pinellas Point Drive aisle 7, was home to the classic combo of chips and beer. While beer was located here in the aisle, if we turn the corner...

     …the beer sign magically transforms into one for the wine department! How neat is that? (What this store lacked product pizazz, it made up for with the decor - Lucky's old beer and wine sign certainly wasn't as interesting as this one!). The display of chips blocks it, but wine lines the side of the last (unnumbered) grocery aisle, with the meat coolers between that and the service counters.

     I like pork butts and I cannot lie, these punny signs are clever you can't deny! (I think you people dread the thought of me walking into a store with too many puns on the wall by now, and I've never even posted about an Ollie's yet!) Now that both you, the reader, and myself have that song stuck in our heads now, we'll turn our attention to the sushi bar behind the aforementioned meat cooler. Originally, that counter was co-branded as the sushi and ramen bar when Lucky's was here, however Hitchcock's scaled that back just a bit, converting the island into solely a sushi counter. Hitchcock's swapped out the signing due to the change, but they did leave behind that Kroger-esque wooden "basket sign" decoration piece from Lucky's (so maybe Kroger did have some subtle influences on Lucky's decor?).

     Behind the sushi island is the back wall, home to more meat coolers, with the service meat and seafood counter straight ahead before the Cheese Shop.

     Since we saw the side of it before, here's a look at the front of the sushi counter, with its accompanying sign. In front of the counter was the olive bar (to my left) and a partially empty salad bar (to my right), which were a bit sad looking when I was here. The counters still have Lucky's original graphics on them, with Hitchcock's stickers covering the old Lucky's logos on both counters.

     The "Meat & Seafood", "Cheese Shop", and "The Kitchen" signs are all original signs from Lucky's. While prepared foods were supposed to be a large aspect of this store, it was this part of the store that felt the most lackluster to me. As I mentioned before, Hitchcock's doesn't do a lot of prepared foods in their other stores, as slower, small-scale, small-town stores typically don't do the volume to justify a massive prepared food experience like we see here. Hitchcock's was a bit out of their comfort zone with this area, so a lot of what we see here was very experimental for the chain, and when I was here, it was pretty clear they were struggling with all this.

     The Kitchen, which also served as the store's deli counter, can be seen up close here. In addition to the traditional deli cold cuts, Hitchcock's was also running a sandwich counter and a pizza kitchen here. However, I didn't see either of the latter two for sale when I was here, as I would have tried a slice of Hitchcock's pizza just to see if it tasted just like Lucky's pizza did (as Lucky's made some of the best pizzas I've ever had). Hitchcock's had a lot of deli salads to choose from though, with a tiny hot food bar as well.

     From the front of The Kitchen, here's a look back toward the grocery aisles. If I remember right, that lone barbecue grill was part of a raffle the store was holding, with some random tiki torches next to it for a little backyard inspiration.

     The very corner of the kitchen was home to the bakery, with the apothecary in the alcove next to it.

     Hitchcock's replaced Lucky's original bakery sign with one replicated in the same vein, with the bakery displays lining the main aisle in front of the apothecary alcove.

     While I started this tour over in produce and grocery, the better put-together parts of the store, my actual visit here began over in prepared foods, which was how I began to piece together this store was a bit sad around the edges. An empty, leaking cooler partially stuffed with canvas bags to make it look somewhat full wasn't the best first impression for me, and must have been a sign of this store's eventual fate less than a year after my visit.

     Also shoved in this odd corner between the bakery and the apothecary was this small cooler. Hitchcock's wasn't using this cooler (the old mochi ice cream cooler) for anything, so it was just left here to fill up some empty space (with Lucky's logo still on it - my main reason for taking a picture of it).

     As you probably expect, Hitchcock's apothecary department was a bit lackluster. While there were some fancy soaps for sale on that display table, most of this area was dedicated to regular health and beauty items, with some coolers of chilled drinks filling space along the back wall under the department sign ("Dedicated to your health and happiness" - I guess that means I should grab a Diet Coke from the cooler instead!) The Apothecary sign is a carryover from Lucky's, with Hitchcock's just putting a sticker over the spot where Lucky's logo used to be.

     Returning to the front of the store, we can see a few of the check lanes come into view. The check stands themselves are a holdover from Lucky's, although the lane lights were installed new by Hitchcock's, as those are Hitchcock's standard issue lights used in their newer stores.

     While I admire the attempt Hitchcock's made at trying to mimic Lucky's, I think this store was a bit too much to chew for Hitchcock's. That really came across in the prepared food and service departments, which certainly weren't running at full capacity, and made the store seem like it was much emptier than it should have been. Of all the former Lucky's stores I've been to, Hitchcock's Green Market was the best replication of Lucky's I've seen though. While Publix, Winn-Dixie, Seabra Foods, etc. all tried to copy some elements of Lucky's in their converted stores, Hitchcock's was the only chain I saw that tried to replicate the entire experience. With a little more money and experience maybe Hitchcock's could have made this store work, but in the end, I don't think this store was a good fit for the chain. However, I have to give honorable mention to the decor designer for this store, as the replication of Lucky's style was really good, and even better than Lucky's original decor in many places!

     Back outside, here's a look from the front of Hitchcock's Green Market toward the mall entrance. The big glass entrance was added as part of the redevelopment of the Sears store that once stood here, as that would have been Sears' mall entrance back in the day. I didn't go inside Tyrone Square while I was here, but if you're curious to see what the inside is like, here's the mall's Google Maps photo album.

     From what I can tell, the former Lucky's Market and Hitchcock's Green Market space is still sitting empty as of January 2023. Tyrone Square is a healthy mall, so there shouldn't be any issue in finding somebody interested in this space. Another supermarket to fill this void will probably be a bit of a stretch though, as all the big names are accounted for nearby (Publix, Winn-Dixie, and Aldi, and Sprouts is in the process of opening a new store up the road from here in the old Kmart building). However, the nearby Publix is a whole half-mile away from here, so I guess that could be just enough buffer room between stores for them, especially considering this scene across town!

     As sad as it is to see Hitchcock's fail here, hopefully something new comes along to fill this space. I'm glad I was able to visit this store when I did, as this was probably the most interesting of the "Life after Lucky's" conversions I've visited. I still have more former Lucky's stores to share with all of you in the future too, but that will have to wait for now, as next time we're back with more Albertsons for your reading entertainment (no guarantee on less puns though!).

I'll see everyone in two weeks! So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Former Albertsons #4312 - St. Petersburg, FL (Kenneth City)

Albertsons #4312 / Publix #1322
3900 66th Street North, St. Petersburg, FL

     Hello everyone and welcome to another new year of AFB! A new year means some new adventures, and what better place to start off the year than Pinellas County? The birthplace of Albertsons' Florida division, Pinellas County was a stronghold for the chain all the way until the end, when Publix finally bought the company's three experimental Safeway stores in 2018 (including a location a few miles north of here in Largo). Boasting 16 Albertsons stores at one time - all 16 of which operated simultaneously, mind you, from 1996 to 2008 - Pinellas County had the most Albertsons stores of any Floridian county (beating out the runner-up, Broward County, by one store, and Broward had a number of Albertsons stores that closed early on too, so all 15 of those never operated simultaneously). I think it's safe to say Pinellas County was Albertsons' best market in Florida, with all those long-lived stores concentrated in one area. The performance of those stores is also reflected in the statistic that 15 of Pinellas' 16 former Albertsons stores were bought by Publix. Publix purchased many of Albertsons' better performing locations throughout Florida in their various deals throughout the years, Publix's gains coming from the weakness of Albertsons in the late 2000's. With all those stores Publix bought, Pinellas County is also home to the highest concentration of Publixsons stores too, and we'll be touring yet another one of those today as we explore former Albertsons #4312 in St. Petersburg:

     Albertsons #4312 opened as the third Albertsons store in St. Petersburg, built to serve the western extents of town near the small enclave of Kenneth City. Opening in 1976, this location was built in the typical Skaggs-Albertsons design of the time, operating as Skaggs-Albertsons until the breakup of the partnership a year later in 1977. In 1977, Albertsons took full control of the Floridian stores, changing the landscape of Floridian supermarkets with their large store size and pioneering Food & Drug combination. According to a documentary about Publix I watched a while back, it mentioned that Publix's decision in the late 1980's to build larger stores with an in-store pharmacy was a direct response to Albertsons' growth and success throughout the state. So remember - Albertsons actually played a role in shaping the Publix of today. As much as Albertsons might regret enabling Publix to modernize and copy some of their ideas now, if it weren't for Albertsons entering Florida, Publix would probably be a much different store today.

     The best view I was able to get of this store while Albertsons was still here was this awkward shot looking at the corner of the building from a 2007 Google Street View image. During Albertsons' 32 years in this location, the building was never modified too far from its original styling. A late 1990's remodel brought about an expanded and relocated liquor store, a new pharmacy, and the removal of some of the front windows, but otherwise, much of the original Skaggs-era exterior design was preserved.

     Publix purchased Albertsons #4312 as part of their deal to buy 49 Floridian Albertsons locations in 2008. Publix's deal to buy those stores from Albertsons closed in September 2008, with this store reopening as Publix #1322 on November 20, 2008 - an approximately 2 month turnaround. As you can see in the image above (which is Publix's official photo of this store on the company's website), not much was done to this place in the initial conversion, which would be expected from such a fast reopening process. I imagine this store got a light remodel with some new flooring and a quick decor swap from Albertsons' Blue and Green Awnings decor to Classy Market 2.0.

     However, that image on Publix's website we just saw is horribly outdated, as in mid-2011, Publix decided to dump a lot of money into this store. After three years, the time had come for this building's true "Publixification". In addition to a somewhat thorough remodel to Classy Market 2.5 on the inside, Publix dressed up this store's exterior to make it look a bit more modern compared to the rather plain exterior Albertsons left behind. It wasn't very common for Publix to heavily re-do the exteriors of one of these Albertsons buildings they inherited, with most exterior modifications being minimal, if any.

     The modifications Publix made to the exterior were all cosmetic, with the doors and the liquor store all staying in the same places where Albertsons had left those. The bones of the original Skaggs-Albertsons facade are still here, but dressed up a bit with the modern gray paneling and faux-stone accents.

     Publix dressed up the facade to make the doors on the right side of the building looks like the main entrance, with the awning and logo all aligned on this side. That being the case, we'll enter from this side of the building, so let's go inside and see what the interior is all about:

      As of the time of my visit (and as of January 2023, per Google Images), this store still retained its 2011-installed Classy Market 2.5 decor. Even with this store going on 12 years since its last remodel, it still looks really good, which we'll see more of as we continue our tour. 

     Anyway, our first interior photo looks across the front of the building toward customer service and the check lanes. Unlike many Publix stores remodeled to Classy Market 2.5, the customer service desk still resides in its original home along the front wall from the Albertsons days, rather than being moved to an island next to the check lanes like Publix had a tendency to do in remodels from this era.

     I visited this store shortly after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their recent Super Bowl win, so there were plenty of displays and products front and center in the store displaying pride for the home team (and a neat neon sign too!).

     Captain Fear would approve of these snacks for ye landlubbers to enjoy!

     As you'd expect from a 1970's Albertsons store, the deli is located in the front right corner of the building, immediately to the right of the doors. Publix has the deli set up with the main cold cut counter to my right along the building's front wall, with the hot foods and Pub Sub station straight ahead along the side wall.

      Here's a closer look at the main deli counter, as well as its accompanying signage on the wall above.

     Beyond the deli, we look out into the store's grand aisle. The bakery is to my right, with floral and produce straight ahead.

     The bakery was always located here along the right side wall next to the deli, however, Publix rebuilt the bakery during the 2011 remodel to conform it to the typical Publix design of the time. When Albertsons was here, the bakery would have been flush with the rest of the side wall, the curved lower ceiling a new addition by Publix.

     I thought this view made for an interesting perspective, looking out toward produce from the under the bakery awning.

     The lighting did something funny with this photo, but otherwise, it gives us a good overview of the width of the building and the center grocery aisles.

     The bakery had a few tables of product spread out into the grand aisle to fill up space, but otherwise this store didn't feel too oversized for Publix's taste. These 1970's Albertsons stores usually came in around 55,000 square feet in size, which is almost the same size as Publix's most common large-format stores (which are around 54,000 square feet). That being said, these buildings typically don't feel as spaced-out or underutilized like we've seen in some of the larger, 60,000+ square feet later-built Albertsons buildings Publix inherited.

     Here's a nice overview of the bakery and the deli in relation to each other.

     Walking back a bit, here's a similar perspective to the last one we saw, but taken from further into the produce department. From this angle we get a nice look at the floral island and its signage as well.

      Produce occupies the back right corner of the building, with the produce and chilled juice coolers surrounding the displays of fruits and veggies in the center.

     While Publix's Classy Market 2.5 remodel was fairly extensive, they did leave behind one small trace of Albertsons in that remodel - the crown molding. We've seen that molding before in other Publixsons stores, a tell-tale reminder that Albertsons' Blue and Green Awnings decor once graced these walls. That Blue and Green Awnings crown molding was a common piece for Publix to leave behind in these store's original remodels to Classy Market 2.0, as well as later Classy Market 2.5 remodels. I don't recall seeing the molding survive a Classy Market 3.0/Sienna remodel or later though, so when this store eventually remodels to Evergreen (and hopefully not be selected for option B), the molding will probably be removed.

     Here's a close-up of our Classy Market 2.5 department sign, with our Albertsons decor remnant molding gracing it from behind. According to some research by The Sing Oil Blogger, it turns out that Publix's official internal name for Classy Market 2.5 was "Bamboo". I believe that name derives from the fact the department signs were mounted to a decorative bamboo wood panel (or at the very least, that would be the explanation that makes the most sense, anyway). From what we've learned recently from the research done by The Sing Oil Blogger and GeorgiaPubDude, Publix seems to derive their official decor package (or "interior environments", as Publix likes to call them) names from a random element of the decor's construction - paint colors being a common choice for the package's official name (Classy Market 1.0's official name of "Kiwi" and Classy Market 2.0's "Invigorate" being derived that way). Classy Market 3.0's "Sienna" was named after a type of tile used on the walls, however, all of us are still baffled about what element Publix chose in coming up with the name of the current (not very green) Evergreen decor!

     Leaving the grand aisle, here's a look across the store's back wall. The meat coolers are the first thing we encounter back here, with their original CM 2.5 category markers still hanging from above. If you look closely at the old crown molding, you'll notice a break in it about halfway down the back wall. This was done because the window from the upstairs offices got in the way.

     Moving further down the back wall, the meat and seafood service counter begins to come into view, as well as each of those department's respective signs. We'll get a closer look at the service counter in a little bit, so for now, let's snake through some of the grocery aisles as we work our way across the rest of the store:

     Some nice wide grocery aisles can be found here, like the canned food and crackers aisle seen above.

     Like most other 1970's and 1980's Albertsons stores Publix inherited, this location also has the dual front actionway setup, with short aisles of non-foods and health and beauty items in front of the main numbered grocery aisles.

     While Publix replaced the floors in this store prior to its reopening in 2008, one thing Publix skimped on in both the original transition remodel and the more thorough 2011 remodel were the lights. The fluorescent tube lights you see above are an Albertsons holdover, as Publix prefers classier recessed fluorescent lights in their stores built with a drop ceiling. If Publix replaced the lighting, they would have installed their usual square lights, that linked example coming from former Albertsons #4332. The replacement of the lights really affects the feel of the store, as the ambience with the slightly dimmer square lights make the store feel more Publix-like, while the original tube lights give off a stronger (and brighter) Albertsons feel.

     Poking out from one of the main aisles, here's a look into one of the short aisles at the front of the store. This particular aisle is home to beach toys, towels, and other beach accessories (we're not too far from popular Madeira Beach here), with an fancy endcap of dishware next to all that.

     So as long as the dish doesn't run away with the pool noodle, we'll return our attention back to the grocery aisles, as we work our way back to the meat and seafood counter.

     The meat sign was placed immediately over the opening that lets shoppers look back into the butcher room, this store's only example of a "stacked" variant of the Classy Market 2.5 signage. The seafood sign was placed further down the wall, over the dedicated Seafood service counter.

     The further to the left we go in this store, the narrower the aisles got, oddly enough. However, aisle 5 in the photo above isn't as bad as what I saw in aisle 6:

     Aisle 6 was really narrow! I don't know how this happened in such a large store, as Publix is usually pretty good about keeping wide aisles in all their stores (regardless of its lineage). Maybe someone messed up the spacing between the grand aisle and the original placement of Albertsons' coolers, and this is what we were left with? I don't know, but of all the aisles to end up as the claustrophobic one, I guess beer and wine wasn't a bad choice, as a little bit of this stuff and you'll think the walls are closing in on you anyway.

     Returning to the back wall, here's a better look at the meat and seafood signage as we get closer to those respective counters. Meats takes center stage here...

     …with seafood (and more of our Blue and Green Awnings trim) being the star of this shot. Publix did a good job of making that old trim fit in with the decor, although like we saw at former Albertsons #4413 in Fort Myers, Publix can be clever with incorporating relics from the building's predecessor into their own decor.

     Plenty of paper products prepped for purchase by Publix in aisle 9...

     …and poking precariously from our new perch at the end of the aisle, a plethora of personal care products are presented in the peripheral.

     Preparing to part from my penchant for the letter "p", here's a quick look at the front end from one of the short front aisles. We'll get to see more of this area toward the end of the post though.

     Looking toward the pharmacy in the front left corner of the building, both Captain Fear and that lady are staring me down. Glares aside, the pharmacy is still in its original configuration from when Albertsons left, as the old trim is still in place throughout this area. Albertsons moved the pharmacy to this corner from the back of the store during a late 1990's remodel, closing off the building's old side entrance in favor of an expanded liquor store and a larger pharmacy space.

     Health and beauty products occupy the front aisles closest to the pharmacy counter, with more grocery items behind.

     Chips and snacks for sale here in aisle 11...

     …although next door in aisle 12 we find baby care items and the remainder of health and beauty.

     Aisles 13 and 14 are the last two aisles of this store. Aisle 13 is home to half of the store's frozen foods, with aisle 14 containing the rest. Like aisle 6, aisle 13 is pretty narrow, however the poles in the middle of aisle 13 make things a little more challenging when two carts try to pass by.

     Here's one final look across the store's back wall before we enter aisle 14, the last aisle in the building.

     Dairy occupies the back left corner of the store, with the dairy coolers transitioning into frozen foods coolers about halfway down the aisle, which we can see in this next photo:

     The wall colors and category markers switch color from yellow to blue where the transition from dairy to frozen occurs. It was a nice little detail how Publix managed to match the color of the category markers match the color of the wall paint too. However, one of the more interesting parts of the frozen food decor in this store would be the banners over the coolers to my left. Those banners (which say "frozen" on the panels) were Publix's primary way of designating the frozen food department in the Classy Market 2.0 decor. While primarily associated with Classy Market 2.0, early Classy Market 2.5 installs also used those banners, which also confirms this store's 2011 remodel date (as CM 2.5 made its debut in 2010). Since this store went from Classy Market 2.0 to 2.5, these were probably Publix's original banners installed when the store opened in late 2008, just left to carry over in the remodel (as in 2011, these would have still been in use with the new decor anyway).

     Rounding the corner from the last aisle, here's a closer look at the pharmacy counter. While Publix added new tile to the counter in the CM 2.5 remodel, much of this department was left as it was from the Albertsons days. A small room was also added over here for Publix's BayCare Telehealth examinations, although that was most likely carved out of existing office or backroom space left behind by Albertsons.

     Looking the other direction from the last photo, here's an overview of the store's front end.

     Before we jump too much deeper into the front end, here's one final look across the inner front actionway, as seen from the pharmacy side of the store.

     If I remember right, this store had 10 check lanes (counting the two express ones), a decent number for Publix.

     Of course, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to photograph one of the (rapidly declining in number) historic photo collages common with Publix's Classy Market 2.0 and 2.5 decor.

     Overall, this was a pretty nice Publixsons. It didn't feel too outdated or depressing inside, and besides that odd aisle spacing, Publix seemed to have a grip on all the space they inherited from Albertsons.

     Passing through the check lanes, here's a better look at the customer service desk along the store's front wall. I didn't get a good photo of it, but the alcove immediately to my left (which Publix was using as the home for a few kiosks) appears to have been home to either the former video rental center or the old in-store bank branch from the Albertsons days.

     One last look at the photo collage, and it's time to pass through those doors and head outside once again:

     From the parking lot, it's now time for one last look toward the entrance as we begin to shift our attention toward the liquor store:

     The liquor store is located at the front left corner of the building, moving here from around the corner during the Blue and Green Awnings remodel in the late 1990's.

     In order to increase floor space in these 1970's buildings, Albertsons would often build a new liquor store attached to the side of the building, or in some cases where that wasn't possible, move the liquor store to its own building out in the parking lot. This store happened to have the third case, where the liquor store was just carved out of the building's front left corner, the building's original footprint not changing at all.

     Turning the corner, we can see the scars from where the liquor store used to be.

     On the left side of the building, it's extremely obvious where the old side entrance and original liquor store used to be. The plain stucco panels from where the original doors were located stand out quite a bit from the sections of original 1970's river rock that remain over here, just painted over in gray now.

     The side entrance was the larger patch to the right, with the old liquor store entrance to the left. Other than those patches (and the paint color), this side of the building still looks very much like it did when Albertsons first built this store in 1976.

     So that's all I have for our main tour, so let's wrap up this post with some satellite imagery, beginning with some Bird's Eye aerial views courtesy of Bing Maps:


Right Side


Left Side

     And now for the historic aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and

Former Albertsons #4312 - 2021

Former Albertsons #4312 - 2010 - The building before Publix made their exterior modifications

Albertsons #4312 - 2008

Albertsons #4312 - 2002

Albertsons #4312 - 1998 - Based off those trailers on the side of the building (the bottom of the image), it appears the store was in the middle of its Blue and Green Awnings remodel when this image was taken.

Albertsons #4312 - 1994 - The building in its original form

Albertsons #4312 - 1984

Future Albertsons #4312 - 1969 - A few small buildings on this corner were removed to make way for the new Albertsons store.

     With one final look at the exterior, that's all I have to say about former Albertsons #4312. We'll stay in the area for our next post to look at an interesting bonus store, a somewhat timely subject too. What that store is will be revealed next time, so be sure to come back in two weeks for that post!

So until next time,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger