Saturday, March 25, 2023

Hitchcock's Markets Presents: A North Floridian Supermarket Anomaly

Hitchcock's Market
6005 US 301, Hawthorne, FL - Hawthorne Square Shopping Center

     Dark skies, an empty parking lot, and an old grocery store that looks a little worse for wear...while that could have been an interesting scene for an Alfred Hitchcock movie, I'm not setting up the premise for a Hitchcock movie, but my visit to Hitchcock's Market instead. (No relation between Alfred Hitchcock and the supermarket chain though, as far as I'm aware). Our supermarket travels today will take us north by northwest into the Floridian Peninsula, to this grocery store in the small town of Hawthorne (located about 20 miles east of Gainesville). Situated at the crossroads of State Route 20 and US 301, Hawthorne is a junction town of roughly 1,500 people, its main attractions being this shopping center and a truck stop located next door. We touched a little bit on Hitchcock's Markets earlier this year when we toured the company's failed "Hitchcock's Green Market" down in St. Petersburg, however, today we'll explore the chain's history in a little more detail, while we explore one of the company's older "legacy" stores that more or less gives us a feel of what the rest of the Hitchcock's chain is like. So while I keep a close eye on the growing flock of birds gathering in the parking lot, let's talk a little more about the history of Hitchcock's Markets:

     In 1945, Bob Hitchcock and his father opened the first Hitchcock's Market in the city of Alachua, a small town about 15 miles northwest of Gainesville. Under the control of Bob Hitchcock, Hitchcock's grew its Alachua store from a storefront on the town's Main Street (now named "Bob Hitchcock's Main Street") to a new modern supermarket building at the corner of Main and US 301, which opened in 1977. A year later, Bob would pass control of his grocery store to his son Alan. Alan wanted to grow his father's business even more, so one of Alan's first projects as the new head of the company was to begin an expansion effort. The second Hitchcock's Market opened in 1979 in the small town of Archer (located southwest of Gainesville), followed by stores in Jasper, Trenton, Williston, and Newberry. One of the largest expansion efforts that Hitchcock's Markets undertook was the purchase of select stores from the Miller's Supermarket chain in 2001 when they went under, which added 5 new stores to the company (including the one we'll be touring today).

     Hitchcock's saw a lot of growth under the control of Alan Hitchcock, who established the brand as a staple for small towns throughout north-central Florida. By 2008, Hitchcock's had grown into a chain of 12 stores, evading many of the problems that plagued most other Floridian supermarket chains by focusing their service on small towns that the big names in the Floridian grocery scene wouldn't touch. Most of the towns Hitchcock's serves are not only small enough to lack a Publix, but are small enough to lack Winn-Dixie too, with Hitchcock's being the only grocery store in town in many cases (like here in Hawthorne). 2008 was a pivotal year for Hitchcock's, as after 63 years in family control, Alan Hitchcock decided that year to sell the chain to Huag Enterprises, a fellow Supervalu affiliate (Hitchcock's supplier at the time), as he prepared for retirement. Under Huag's control Hitchcock's remained relatively stable, with a few really small stores being cast off, and a new modern prototype store opening in Old Town in 2013. Huag also refreshed the Hitchcock's brand and created the chain's current logo. However, come 2019, Huag Enterprises sold the Hitchcock's chain once more to a man named Carlos Alvarez, who would run the company alongside his daughter, Giselle. The Alvarez family were the ones who tried to once again expand the Hitchcock's brand, pushing the chain to its limits with new stores in far flung areas of Florida like Indiantown (near Stuart in Martin County) and Homosassa Springs (near Crystal River). The Alvarez family also created the concept of "Hitchcock's Green Market", which we toured a few months ago on AFB. While the Alvarez family had good intentions and no shortage of ambition at the start, most of those crazy new projects were big flops, with both the Green Market and the new Homosassa store closing after only two years in business in 2022. The fancy new prototype store in Old Town, opened under the prior ownership, was also sold off by the Alvarez family. However, the far-flung new store in Indiantown seems to have been one success for the Alvarez family so far, as it's still open, and one of the 11 stores Hitchcock's currently operates. As far away as the Indiantown store is from the rest of the chain, the Indiantown location does fit the mold of Hitchcock's traditional operating pattern, of being a small-town store with no other competition around for miles. Other than some of those big new expansion projects failing rather quickly, Hitchcock's still seems relatively stable under the ownership of the Alvarez family as we continue further into the 2020's, which is good, as the chain serves a purpose in these towns too small or isolated to get the attention of Publix and/or Winn-Dixie.

GIF courtesy of Alachua Freenet's Hawthorne Page

     So that's the summarized history of Hitchcock's Market, however, if you'd like to read some more details about the chain's past, this 2006 article from the Gainesville Sun and YonWooRetail2's post about the (now closed) Old Town Hitchcock's are also an interesting read. As for the Hitchcock's store we'll be touring today, this was one of the 5 stores Hitchcock's bought from Miller's Supermarket in 2001. Miller's Supermarket was, like Hitchcock's, a small chain of supermarkets that served small towns in North-Central Florida. However, there really isn't much more detailed history than that available online about Miller's Supermarket. I do know the Hawthorne Miller's opened in 1986, around the same time Miller's built similar stores along the State Route 20 corridor in Interlachen and East Palatka (which are also Hitchcock's stores today). Amazingly enough, I found the GIF above (which came from a website that looked like it was made in 1996), which contains a number of images of the Hawthrone Square Shopping Center from the late 1980's or early 1990's, including one of this store's exterior when it was still Miller's. Even though the image will pass by quickly, you'll see all Hitchcock's did to this store was swap out the "Miller's" sign for one of their own, and Hitchcock's even placed their sign on an angle just like Miller's did too! The entire exterior of this store looks the same today as it did back in 1986, and you can very much use that as a hint for what the interior of this store will look like too...

     Stepping inside, the vestibule is filled with pallets of bottled water, blocking us from heading straight ahead and forcing us to loop around and proceed into the store's produce department:

     Produce is located in the front right corner of the building, in a little alcove. For a small-town grocery store, the produce department (and this store in general) was quite large. The store itself comes in around 20,000 square feet in size, which is on the larger side for Hitchcock's (and for a supermarket in a town of 1,500 residents). When Hitchcock's bought those 5 stores from Miller's in 2001, 4 of the 5 stores purchased were these larger-sized stores. However, Hitchcock's also bought a tiny store in Astor, Lake County, from Miller's, which Alan Hitchcock even described as nothing more than a "glorified convenience store with a meat market". As such, Hitchcock's ended up closing the Astor store after only a few years due to its size, however the other 4 stores purchased from Miller's remain with the Hitchcock's chain today.

     I'm pretty sure all the wall decor in this store originates from Miller's, as the other three Miller's conversions still in the Hitchcock's chain have this exact same decor, and I've never seen it in any of Hitchcock's other stores either. While I feel pretty confident the decor originated with Miller's, I can't say for sure that it's original to this store's construction in 1986. The decor is old and somewhat dated, but it doesn't look quite 1980's dated (it seems more late 1990's to me). However, the decor is generic enough it still could be from 1986, and as a smaller chain, it's possible that Miller's passed up on some of the fancier features like neon and pastel that were all the rage back then!

     The back wall of the produce alcove is home to the "Wall of Values", which acted as a pseudo-dollar section of sorts, where Hitchcock's kept a selection of dollar store type deals and items. In front of the Wall of Values were a few tables of sale items, which upheld the Easter theme of the area.

     From the produce alcove, here's a look across the front of the store toward the deli and bakery. We'll work our way over there shortly, but for now let's make a right turn and head down aisle 1:

     Here's a look down aisle 1, which abuts the store's side wall. According to the aisle marker, aisle 1 contains canned juices, Kool Aid, and school supplies. I'm guessing the school supplies were moved at some point, unless teachers are asking kids to being canned yams to school these days!

     Coming out from aisle 1, we find the meat counter along the store's back wall. From what I understand, the meat department is one of the highlights of Hitchcock's Market, and where a lot of the company's business comes from.

     Looping back around into aisle 2, we find a lot of cardboard displays. Thankfully it wasn't very busy while I was here, as I can see this aisle getting cramped with all those displays in the way at busier times.

     While I took a photo of Hitchcock's house-brand jellies at the Green Market, this photo shows the company's house brand also expands into canned fruits and pickled vegetables as well. Outside of this though, Hitchcock's uses Supervalu's Essential Everyday house brand for most everything else. Originally, Hitchcock's started out as an affiliate of Foodway, which was a brand used by a lot of independent grocery stores in small towns throughout Florida. Like Miller's, Foodway's history is a bit hard to come across, however, they seemed to operate like IGA. However, I don't quite know what happened to the Foodway brand or when Hitchcock's switched to Supervalu as a supplier. Miller's was a Supervalu affiliate, so I don't know of the purchase of those stores from Miller's is what brought Hitchcock's into the Supervalu system, or if Hitchcock's affiliated with Supervalu prior to that as Foodway's original distribution program dissipated.

     Moving along to aisle 3, we find frozen foods.

     At the very back of aisle 3 is this small coffin cooler, straddled between aisles 3 and 4. While positioned to look like an extension of the frozen foods department, I believe the coffin cooler was mostly home to more meats.

     Some more meat coolers occupy the back wall of the store as well, taking up the remaining back wall space between the meat service counter and the back left corner.

     Cereal, candy, crackers, and cookies - all of our C's are accounted for here in aisle 4.

     Even though this store is only 20,000 square feet in size, it doesn't feel small when you're in here shopping. It's an interesting illusion, and the fact that the sales floor is almost perfectly square probably helps, as you don't have a narrow dimension giving you the impression the store is tiny.

     Here's one last look at the store's back wall, looking toward the meat counter.

     Paper products and baby supplies found their home in aisle 6.

     The store's last aisle is aisle 8, home to the dairy wall and soda.

     Aisle 8 spills out into the bakery and deli alcove. These two departments share a counter in an alcove in the building's front left corner, although the counter skews much more heavily toward deli products than baked goods. The store's selection of baked goods is mostly limited to the prepackaged goods on these tables in front of the counter itself.

     The service deli counter was fairly large, especially for a small-town grocery store. The fact that a town of 1,500 has a grocery store with both a full-service deli and meat counter is pretty impressive, so this store must do a decent amount of business (although I'm sure being the only grocery store around for miles helps with that too).

     The remainder of the deli and bakery alcove is home to snack foods and "beverages". While soda, juice, and water may have been located over here at one time (at least going off the graphic on the wall sign), the "beverage" department in the alcove skews toward the more potent kind of beverages these days. Also, that creepy advertisement trellis looks perfectly fitting to be placed in a store called "Hitchcock's".

     From the deli and bakery alcove, here's a look across the front of the store back toward produce. Like I said before, this store is very good at misleading you into thinking it's much larger than it really is! The store looks pretty wide from this viewpoint, but the way the produce alcove was carved into the right side of the building adds on a tiny bit of length.

     This store had 4-5 checklanes plus the customer service desk, which was located in an island between the checklanes and produce. Those curved lamp-like check lane lights I believe were installed by Hitchcock's (probably when the store was converted and the registers were swapped out), as I've seen those style lights at other Hitchcock's stores besides the ones acquired from Miller's.

     Thank you for shopping Hitchcock's, the sign reads in large letters visible from the back of the store. If the font used for the "Thank you for shopping" part of the sign looks familiar to you, that's because it's the same font Winn-Dixie used for the wall signs in its Marketplace decor. That font (which is called 'Laser', in case you were curious) was pretty popular in the late 1980's and 1990's, as I've seen it make its rounds in other retail uses as well.

     Back outside, here's a look at the cart corral. I probably should have placed this photo toward the beginning of the post, but here it is now. The cart corral is another one of the few instances where we saw the current Hitchcock's logo in use at this store, although it appears after my visit, the main sign on the front of the building was updated to the current logo as well. Since the Alvarez family has taken control, they've been trying to roll out the current logo to all the chain's storefronts, as most of the chain's stores still had a patchwork of old signs and inconsistent logos, dating back to ones from the Foodway days.

     In addition to that, I believe all the carts Hitchcock's was using at this store were old Food Lion carts, as they looked pretty similar to the ones Food Lion used to use.

     Over by the left side doors (which don't appear to be used anymore, as they were locked during my visit), I spotted this relic of the past - a payphone (which, according to that snarky sticker above it, still works). While I didn't test that claim, I wouldn't be surprised if this was the phone that people used to dial 'M' for murder...

     Off in the plaza's left wing is this Family Dollar store, which is a longtime (if not original) tenant to Hawthorne Square (as it was visible in the old GIF posted at the beginning of the post). In addition to Family Dollar, the plaza's other original junior anchor was Eckerd. The Eckerd was at the opposite end of the plaza, and converted to a CVS in 2004 with all of the chain's other stores. CVS eventually moved to a freestanding building out in the parking lot, with the original Eckerd space now home to an O'Reily Auto Parts (which was under construction during my visit, but appears to be open now).

     Turning our attention back to Hitchcock's, here's one last look at the store's exterior to wrap up our post with. Hitchcock's leogetivity here in Florida most likely comes from the chain's penchant to serve small towns mostly overlooked by other grocers. The company found its need, and for almost 80 years now, continues to serve shoppers in rural North Florida (and Indiantown). I think a lot of the reason Hitchcock's new ventures into St. Petersburg and Homosassa Springs failed so bad was because Hitchcock's wasn't used to operating in such highly competitive areas. I don't know what the new owners plan to do with Hitchcock's going forward, but if they want to expand, I think it would be best for them to stick to other small towns and not try to make a leap into a big city again. Considering their niche, I think Hitchcock's is in a good position to stick it out as an anomaly of Floridian retail. Hopefully the new owners will continue to invest in the current stores as well, as a lot of them (like this location) could use a freshening up (and whoever the Alvarez family contracted to design the decor in the St. Petersburg and Homosassa Springs store did a really good job too, so it's a shame all that went to waste!)

     Anyway, that's all I have left to say about Hitchcock's Market. It's a bit of an oddity that there's a tiny supermarket chain hiding in the woods of North Central Florida that people rarely talk about, but Hitchcock's serves its purpose, and hopefully the chain will be around for many years more.

While that's everything for today, I'll be back in two weeks with more Albertsons, so until then,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Former Albertsons #4314 - Gainesville, FL (NW 13th Street)

Albertsons #4314
2323 NW 13th Street, Gainesville, FL - Albertsons Plaza

YonWooRetail2 - this post is for you!

     Hello everyone and welcome to Gator Country! (Sorry 'Noles fans, but we'll be back in Tallahassee eventually.) While most people come to visit Gainesville for something related to the University of Florida, I'm the only nutball who drove all the way here just to visit the supermarkets (and former supermarkets) around town. While I've done my due diligence in the past visiting Gainesville and doing the usual tour of the university campus, the retail was the star of this trip, with former Albertsons #4314 being one of my stops for the day. If you follow YonWooRetail2 on flickr, this store may look familiar to you. Albertsons #4314 was YonWoo's local Albertsons for a number of years, and he documented this building quite a bit as it transitioned into its current state (in addition to doing quite a bit of research on the history of this building too). As we go through today's post, we'll see a mixture of photos taken by myself and YonWoo, as well as some of the historical photographs YonWoo dug up in his research of this building. This should be an interesting post, so let's begin:

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     Albertsons #4314 opened on August 18, 1976, an early addition to Albertsons' Floridian store fleet. In Albertsons' earliest years in Florida, the chain was primarily focused on the larger urban markets for expansion, such as Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Orlando, Pensacola, and Fort Lauderdale. By 1976, two years after first entering the state, Albertsons began opening stores in some of the smaller (at the time) cities further removed from those core urban areas, beginning with a group of three stores - one each in Fort Myers (#4313), Gainesville (#4314), and 'Nole Country Tallahassee (#4315). As time went on Albertsons began to make moves into most corners of Florida, but those three stores were the first push by Albertsons to break free from the metro areas most new-entrant supermarket chains try to stick to.

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     Albertsons #4314 opened at the tail end of the Skagg-Albertsons partnership era, and the building would have looked similar to this originally. Opening with the 70's Stripes decor, Albertsons #4314 would later remodel to the Blue and Gray Market decor, followed by a fairly thorough remodel in early 1999 to the the Blue and Green Awnings interior. That remodel also changed the design of the facade to what we've seen in these last few photos, the facade that remains in-tact to this day too. The usual changes of reconfiguring the entryways, relocating the liquor store and pharmacy to the front corner of the building, and sealing off the side entrance were done too.

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     YonWoo's experiences with this store were primarily in its later years, so a lot of what he remembers about this store comes from the era where Albertsons was beginning its Floridian decline. However, he did have this to share with us about his time shopping at Albertsons #4314: "This is the Albertsons store where I learned that both they have a fantastic bakery, and the store where I realized the biggest reason Albertsons was failing in Florida. The store stunk of soured mop water in places and seafood several times I went in, and there was even a Deli counter worker who treated me rudely. I was so devoted to Albertsons, I still shopped here, just not the Deli counter". I have heard similar sentiments about the older Floridian Albertsons stores as they neared their ends, as Albertsons was beginning to let their stores slip to a much larger degree following the 2006 breakup of the company. At least the original Albertsons management was trying to keep the Floridian stores afloat with remodels and some expansion, as well as better store upkeep, but the new management following the breakup essentially began a very slow wind-down of the Florida division.

     Also, in the photo above, you'll see two benches on the store's front walkway - keep those benches in the back of your head for the end of this post.

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     In the end, Albertsons #4314 had a not-too-shabby 35-year-long run when it closed on October 8, 2011, the same day stores #4326 in Tampa and #4373 in Mount Dora also closed. Making it into the final 20 of Florida's Albertsons stores was pretty good too, outlasting Gainesville's other Albertsons store by 3 years (#4389 on Archer Road, which was sold to Publix in 2008). However, I'm sure by 2011 sales were slipping quite a bit here, with the store closed for that reason, and not because it was haunted by a disgruntled shopper like the photo above would lead you to believe! (Although that would make for a much better story!) The above photo shows us a look down one of #4314's grocery aisles, with the Blue and Green Awnings aisle markers and trim visible too. YonWoo edited out the person posing in the aisle for this photo, hence the reason for the ghostly looking figure.

Photo courtesy of Wes Lindberg on flickr

     In addition to the photo down the aisle, YonWoo also discovered the above photo on flickr, giving us an eerie look from above at the store's emptied out grocery aisles following its closure in October 2011. Maybe it's just me, but this photo seems scarier than the one with the ghostly figure standing in the middle of the aisle!

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     After a year of sitting vacant, it was announced in early 2013 that Big Lots would be opening a new store in the left half of former Albertsons #4314. The new Big Lots would replace the company's older Gainesville store about a mile to the east of here in the Northside Shopping Center (a space that's now home to an Ollie's, ironically). The Northside Shopping Center was also home to an extremely dated Winn-Dixie, which YonWoo provided us with a short tour of just before that store closed for good in 2016.

     The new Big Lots opened in July 2013, with its neighbor BioTest Plasma Blood Donation Center (now Biomat USA) coming along a few years later in 2017 (although we'll talk more about that space later). The liquor store was later rented by a local moving company, creating an odd trifecta of tenants for this former Albertsons building.

     Besides repainting Albertsons' old blue trim black, the remainder of the building hasn't been painted since Albertsons left, even with all the new tenants moving in. Between Big Lots' and BioTest's signs, you can still clearly see where the 'Albertsons' labelscar was blotched out. Even with the subdivision, the design and characteristics of the building still hold strong from Albertsons, as the new tenants even placed their entrances in the same spots where Albertsons had theirs.

     Just to add to the strong Albertsons vibe, old #4314 still has most of its original river rock panels exposed and in-tact along the front and side of the building.

     The set of windows to my left is original from Albertsons. Big Lots blacked out all but two of the window panels closest to the vestibule, as now their check lanes stand on the opposite side of these windows.

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     Entering Big Lots, we find that a small vestibule was added. Originally the outer set of doors would have been the only set you walked though, taking you into the store's front end. Big Lots also swapped out the original swinging doors from Albertsons with sliding ones when rebuilding the front entrance and creating the vestibule.

     Moving along to the sales floor, we're going to find that most traces of Albertsons have been removed from the interior of the building. Sadly, modern Big Lots conversions aren't as fun as older ones can be, and even then, Big Lots' recent remodeling campaign has removed a lot of the old decor remnants from those older stores that managed to hang on into the late 2010's and early 2020's.

     The left half of Albertsons #4314 contained the store's deli, bakery, and produce department, all located along the building's left side wall. The meat and seafood counter would have been located over here too, near the back left corner. The photo above looks down the center partition wall, separating Big Lots from BioTest. Big Lots uses the right half of their space for the furniture department, extending out in front of us beyond "The Lot".

     The Gainesville Big Lots still retains a classic Big Lots layout, one where Big Lots would arrange the departments however they saw fit to fill the space (unlike the more standardized "Store of the Future" layout of today). The way this store is laid out has furniture along the right side of the building, housewares in the back beyond that, food in the middle, and everything else wrapping around the back and left side of the building toward the seasonal department in the front left corner.

     As you'd expect, Big Lots has a lot of space dedicated to furniture, filling the area where Albertsons' grocery aisles once ran. My pictures seem to make the furniture department in this store seem small, but the department was really just long and narrow, and had the usual full furniture assortment most Big Lots stores sell.

     I don't know how closely you guys follow Big Lots news, but Big Lots' primary supplier of upholstered furniture declared bankruptcy suddenly last November. That one supplier, the United Furniture Company, supplied roughly 80% of the sofas, loveseats, and reclining chairs sold in the furniture department, including all the upholstered furniture sold under the Lane and Broyhill brands. According to that linked article, the goods from that one supplier accounted for 7% of Big Lots' total sales in 2022 - so that's a big blow to get out of nowhere for the company's most lucrative department. That announcement came after a few rough sales quarters for the company, as well as the announcement that Big Lots would close some stores as the company's growth stagnated. As I've mentioned before, Big Lots seems to change focus on what kind of a store they want to be every year or so, going from being a closeout store to various tangents like wanting to be a furniture store, to being a HomeGoods with a grocery department, to being a mini-Kmart, to trying to be a closeout store and all of that at once. All I know is Big Lots isn't as fun to shop at any more, as their stores began to evolve into whatever they're trying to be now (which, apparently, is a small-town discounter, which the company sees as the answer to all their recent problems).

     Anyway, in relation to the chain's furniture supplier bankruptcy, until Big Lots finds a new supplier, stores have been told that once remaining inventory sells out, to not sell the floor display sofas and chairs for any reason so the furniture department doesn't look empty. Shortly after the news of the bankruptcy transpired, I was at a different Big Lots, and as I walked by the furniture department the furniture employee was arguing with a lady who really wanted to buy one of the couches from the bankrupt supplier. The employee was telling her that due to "unforeseen circumstances" (which I knew was the bankruptcy), he couldn't sell her anything on the floor, even if it was the last one and she really wanted it, per an order by corporate. I've yet to find any updates online of what's going on with Big Lots and trying to find a new furniture supplier, although I'm sure creating a deal like that will take a while.

     That speech out of the way, let's get back on track here! The above photo looks across the store's back actionway, from furniture into the back left corner where Albertsons' produce department used to be.

     No traces from Albertsons to be seen here on the back wall, where the meat coolers used to be, but instead a large selection of hanging wall art and small appliances.

     Moving toward the left side of the store, here's a look from the back left corner back toward furniture.

     A random food aisle scene, the closest this building gets to reliving its glory days as an Albertsons.

     Moving along to the left side actionway, here's a look from the back of the building toward the front, where Albertsons' "grand aisle" used to be. Where I'm standing would have been the old produce department, looking up toward the bakery and deli.

     Like the back wall, the left side wall has been stripped bare as well.

     Looking into the former deli corner, we find the seasonal department and a smattering of the Christmas items that were for sale while I was here.

     The aisle to my right is the beginning of the zig-zag queue line for Big Lots' recent checklane modification, something that has been rolled out to most stores. In the older stores (and even the original "Store of the Future" locations), the individual checklane islands were ripped out and replaced with a queue setup like you'd find a TJMaxx (or similar store). While that setup works for small purchases, the setup is an odd fit for Big Lots, as I've seen people fill carts up with groceries at Big Lots before. I feel the older set-up is more efficient in that regard, as the cashiers only have a very tiny counter to work with now.

     I didn't get a very good picture of the new queue lanes here, but I have better photos of the new setup in other Big Lots tours we'll see in the future. Anyway, as we finish our lap around Big Lots, here's a look toward the exit as we head back outside for a look at the rest of this former Albertsons building:

     Prior to Albertsons' 1999 remodel, the store's main entrance would have been to my left, approximately where that cart return is now. The entire wall to my left would have been windows as well, which were sealed up when Albertsons relocated the entrances to the ends of the building

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     Moving along to the right side of former Albertsons #4314, we'll take a quick look over there at the portion now home to the Biotest Plasma Center. YonWoo took the above photo in late 2016 as Biotest was in the process of remodeling their half of the building. YonWoo has more photos of the construction on this side of the building in his flickr album of this store, which you can view here.

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     Biotest would end up opening a few months later in early 2017, these next few photos taken by YonWoo in the weeks leading up to the center's opening.

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     Visiting late at night shortly before it opened to the public, YonWoo was able to get these photos, as well as a sneak peek inside:

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     As you'd expect from a medical office, the right side of the former Albertsons building was gutted and rebuilt, which the above peek through the window confirms. Biotest was still getting their equipment set-up in the above photos, but it looks like it wasn't much longer until this place opened for business.

     Biotest would later be bought out by Biomat USA, which is the exact same concept that Biotest was, just with a different name. You can see the updated signage in the above photo, although the swapping of the signage was the only modification made to the building due to the merger.

     During my visit here, I only managed to get that one photo of the Biotest/Biomat side of the building, as there were a number of people lingering out front. Thankfully YonWoo had all those pictures he took of the Biotest/Biomat side, so we were able to get a better look at that portion of the former Albertsons. Anyway, moving along, we'll work our way to the front right corner of the building to take a quick look at the former liquor store:

     The liquor store you see here was constructed during the building's remodel in 1999, moving from around the corner where the two patches in the river rock panels can be seen now. In 2021, local moving company UF Mover Guys took over the former liquor store, however, neither YonWoo nor myself know what UF Mover Guys is using the space for (offices, storage, etc.).

     The liquor store's exterior hasn't been changed at all since Albertsons was here, with the original doors still present. However, UF Mover Guys blacked out the glass on the windows and doors, so I wasn't able to peek inside and see what it looked like in there.

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     However, YonWoo did manage to capture a few glimpses inside the liquor store with a video he took back in 2019, a few still frames from which we'll take a look at. The first of those just looks from the liquor store back toward Biotest/Biomat, however, we'll now turn our attention to the interior:

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     Looking through the window before it was blacked out, we see some clear remnants from the Blue and Green Awnings decor inside.

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2
     From what I can tell, the walk-in beer cooler was located along the right wall rather than in the very back, which explains the strange layout and the wall projecting out from the right side.

     How much UF Mover Guys may have changed inside the old liquor store will remain a mystery for now, but at least YonWoo was able to capture those few images prior that new tenant moving in. (This is AFB, so of course that pun was intended!)

Photo from a really old real estate listing

     The right side of the building has barely changed since it was built, although the lack of a stucco job in the 1999 remodel (which sometimes happened in remodels from that era) really helped keep that classic Albertsons look alive. The closure of the side entrance and the relocation of the liquor store were the only major modifications made over here during the last 45 years.

     Besides the obvious stucco covers where the side entrance and former liquor store windows were sealed, the little ramp up to the curb also acts as a reminder of those long-gone Albertsons features.

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     So while the interior of former Albertsons #4314 isn't much to note anymore, the exterior of this building couldn't be any more original!

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     At the time of its closure in 2011, Albertsons #4314 was the northernmost Albertsons store left in Florida, following the closure of the Panhandle's last Albertsons in 2009 (#4497 in Tallahassee). Adding in the closure of Albertsons #4388 in Ocala (which also happened in 2009, in the same wave that took out #4497), #4314 was quite isolated from the remaining Florida stores. For its last two years in business, the next closest Albertsons to Gainesville was #4373 in Mount Dora, almost 90 miles south of here.

     Before we wrap things up here in North Gainesville, let's take a quick look at the little strip center that sticks out from the left side of the building, over by Big Lots:

     What I found interesting about the little strip center was that it was designed to match the architecture of the Albertsons building, using complimentary stucco trim and river rock walls. Most of these late 1970's and early 1980's Albertsons stores weren't intended to be part of a shopping center, so it was rare to see a matching little building like this. Also, I really hope that "Hogan's Great Sandwiches" in the strip plaza sells hero sandwiches, as it would be extremely fitting to walk in there and order one of Hogan's Heroes! (Hey, if a sandwich shop by me can theme itself around the series M*A*S*H, this place could have run with the Hogan's Heroes theme!)

     Finishing out our ground coverage, here's a look into the parking lot at the original Albertsons road sign facing 13th Street, which has now been divided into multiple panels for the plaza's multiple tenants.

     That being said, let's now take to the skies for a look at some aerial images of this store, beginning with some Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:


Left Side


Right Side

     And now for historical aerial images, courtesy of Google Earth and

Former Albertsons #4314 - 2019

Former Albertsons #4314 - 2015

Former Albertsons #4314 - 2012

Albertsons #4314 - 2010

Albertsons #4314 - 1999

Albertsons #4314 - 1995 - The building before all the modifications were made in the 1999 remodel.

Albertsons #4314 - 1984

Future Albertsons #4314 - 1964 - It appears an entire neighborhood of duplexes was demolished to make way for the new Albertsons store.

     Leaving #4314, as I was driving out of the parking lot, I spotted a relic of the past out of the corner of my eye. Said relic was located behind the Pet Supermarket outlot in front of the old Albertsons building, that relic being a blue plastic Albertsons cart pushed against the back of the building. I had to do a double take and drive behind the Pet Supermarket for a closer look, confirming that I wasn't seeing things! 10 years after the store closed, an old cart from Albertsons was still roaming around over here - crazy! I would have gotten a picture of the cart, but a Pet Supermarket employee was leaning against it while taking a smoke break (which makes me wonder if Pet Supermarket acquired a stray Albertsons cart back when they were still here, and said employee rolled it outside to have something to lean against while on break). However, that wasn't the end of the Albertsons relics that haunted me on this trip:

     On my way home, I was about 20 miles outside of Gainesville when I decided to stop at a small roadside hamburger stand for a late lunch/early dinner. Of course, as I walked up to the order window, I spotted this! Remember at the beginning of the post I made a comment about some benches that could be seen in one of the old photos of #4314? Well, here's one of them! (At least, it seems like a very strong possibility this was one of them). If nothing else, this bench is the same design as the one in the photo from the beginning of this post, the little blue plaque containing an Albertsons' logo on each end, with a little statement about recycling in the middle. Of course, out of all the random places I could have stopped at for lunch, it had to be one with Albertsons relics!

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     Thankfully I managed to make it home without any more relics of supermarkets past haunting me, but that was a weird way to finish off a trip where a lot of weird things happened to me. We'll talk more about some of those other experiences another time, as we'll wrap up this post with a recreation YonWoo made of Albertsons #4314 prior to its 1999 remodel. Hopefully I did a good job summarizing the legacy of this store, and that I can officially stamp this post with the following:

The official YonWooRetail2 stamp of approval!

     While that's all I have to say about Albertsons #4314, we will stick around Gator Country for our next post, so be sure to come back in two weeks for that!

So until the next post, sincerely foodsincerely,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger