Wednesday, December 6, 2023

This Blog is My Grocery Palace - 10 Years of AFB

Albertsons #4462 / Sedano's #40
12981 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL - Southchase Plaza

Today's post is a presentation of Orange County retail

This Blog is My Grocery Palace

     10 years ago today, a much younger AFB decided it was finally time to launch a retail blog. After thinking and debating about making the dive into this madness for a while following his discovery of the (now defunct) Acme Style Blog, the closure of his local Albertsons store finally sparked him to get going on making his thoughts of a retail blog a reality. Following the success of Acme Style, a blog about Acme's sister store, Albertsons, and its faltering Florida division would be just as successful, right? After a year of researching and locating all of Florida's Albertsons stores, the moment of truth came on December 6, 2013: would this crazy idea of an unofficial Floridian offshoot of Acme Style prove to be a success? Much to the shock of its blogger, yes, I think this blog has been a success, otherwise I would have given up on this a long time ago!

     Over the span of the last decade of writing this blog, my coverage has sent me all over the Floridian Peninsula to document hundreds of retail stores - grocery and otherwise - for your entertainment. To date I've been to 200 Publix stores, 117 Winn-Dixies, every former Albertsons site in the Floridian Peninsula except one (#4459 in Homestead has proven to be a pain to motivate myself to visit), and a variety of other stores from Kmarts to the last Goodings to some of the last remaining fragments of Kash n' Karry. It's been an interesting experience, and this blog has gotten me to visit a lot of different parts of Florida I probably wouldn't have thought to visit otherwise. Prior to this blog, documentation of Floridian retail was fairly non-existent on the internet. I'm happy to have made my contributions to correct that over the last 10 years, and have inspired others to go out there and preserve the legacy of the stores in their community - be it in Florida or elsewhere. In a way, over the last decade, I've made this blog my Grocery Palace, a kingdom dedicated to the preservation of Floridian stores and supermarkets. Thanks to all the readers of this blog, this has all been possible, and here we are celebrating ten years of success and building a community dedicated to preserving the past.

     To mark the 10th anniversary of this blog, we're going to revisit what (I find to be) the most interesting former Albertsons store in all of Florida - former Albertsons #4462 in South Orlando. We first toured store #4462 back in 2016 to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of AFB, and I couldn't think of a better store to feature in the post to mark the blog's 10th anniversary (although store #4459 in Homestead was a strong contender until I discovered Sedano's ripped out the vast majority of that building's original Grocery Palace decor in the last year or two, which also hasn't helped to motive me to make the drive down there to see it either). Unlike its sibling in Homestead, the South Orlando Sedanosons still has the vast majority of its original Grocery Palace decor in-tact, and knowing how much of a sucker I am for Grocery Palace in any form, I feel it's only fitting to have this store mark yet another AFB anniversary celebration!

     We'll reflect more on the last decade of AFB toward the end of this post, but I'm sure most of you came here for the store tour, so let's jump right into that and see what's changed here at the South Orlando Sedanosons since we last visited it in 2016:

     Like the now former Kissimmee Sedanosons store we toured last time, the South Orlando Sedanosons was part of the same package deal where Sedano's bought three of Albertsons' Orlando-area locations in 2009, marking that chain's entrance into Central Florida. Following the closure of the Kissimmee Sedano's in 2021, Sedano's continues to serve the Orlando area from its two remaining former Albertsons locations - #4462 on South Orange Blossom Trail, and #4347 on South Semoran Blvd. about 15 miles north of here. As I mentioned in our posthumous tour of the Kissimmee store, Sedano's has never expanded in Orlando beyond those original stores purchased from Albertsons in 2009. The two remaining Orlando Sedano's stores seem to hold their own, but with other Hispanic grocery chains in Orlando expanding quite a bit these days, and Sedano's shrinking, I'm not really sure what the future for these stores hold. Sedano's appears to have only opened 2 new stores since buying those 3 Orlando Albertsons locations in 2009 - one in Coral Gables around 2012, and a new prototype store in Hialeah in 2019, with a few random store closures here and there. In addition, another new Sedano's was supposed to open somewhere in Miami in 2022, but it appears that store was canceled. Maybe Sedano's is complacent with their current fleet of 35 stores, and they're fine with the status quo after purging a few loser stores? However, the canceled store from 2022 is a bit strange, and adds to the mystery what might be going on at their corporate office. I'm not super familiar with Sedano's operations to have a better idea of what may be going on behind the scenes, or if I'm just overthinking things. At least from my experiences shopping at Sedano's, their stores always appeared to do fairly well, especially in their home turf in Miami-Dade County, so who knows what the company is up to.

     As we've seen in the last few exterior photos, Sedano's has repainted the exterior in recent years, as back in 2016 the building still sported its original exterior paint scheme from Albertsons. A few small modifications have been made to the interior as well since our last visit, but the glorious Grocery Palace decor from Albertsons' June 1999 opening is still going strong inside:

     Stepping inside, it still feels like I should still be staring at a giant Albertsons A-leaf logo on the floor. Even without the Albertsons logo on the floor anymore, we still have the pharmacy island to greet us upon entering the store. During our 2016 visit the pharmacy space was vacant, however, Sedano's has since found a new independent pharmacy tenant to occupy this space, operating as "Southchase Community Pharmacy" (Southchase is the official name of the neighborhood this store is in).

     Albertsons' original deli now operates as a large cafeteria space, with a full-service coffee, pastry, and sandwich shop along the front wall, and a self-serve hot foods bar around the corner where Albertsons' deli counter used to be.

     In the last few years, Sedano's has modernized and expanded this store's prepared foods department, replacing the old coolers (which probably dated back to Albertsons) with new fixtures. Sedano's updates to this part of the store came at the expense of the spinning chef sign and the "Meals to Go" signs that used to grace Albertsons' Grocery Palace deli. While all that original signage was removed, the original floor tiles and wall texturing have remained in place.

     The original deli prep space was converted into an enclosed dining area, relocating the tables from the main salesfloor in front of the ordering counter. The old dining space on the salesfloor was replaced with additional coolers for prepared foods, with all full-service cafeteria operations consolidated into the counter along the front wall (Sedano's used the old deli space as a coffee shop before consolidating that into the prepared foods counter).

     The cafeteria was the busiest part of the store with a lot of people lingering around, so none of my photos of that area came out spectacularly well during this trip. From within the produce department, here's my best attempt at an overview of the former deli/new cafeteria space.

     Turning around, at least we find the produce department is still mostly the same from our last visit - just like Albertsons left it!

     Sedano's only modification to the produce department since 2016 was replacing Albertsons' old produce spotlights with additional strip lights, which now make this part of the store really bright.

     The spotlights shining down on the original produce wall graphics didn't help with photographing them, washing out a lot of the detail, but they're still there.

     The produce crate graphics on the back wall are also from Albertsons, and it almost seems like Sedano's knocked off this wall prop with something similar in the produce department of their former Kissimmee store.

     Following produce, moving along to the store's back wall we find the bakery department. Back in 2016, Sedano's was using the bakery as another cafe/coffee shop. That secondary cafe was removed and this part of the store was reverted back to its original use as a bakery, although Sedano's selection of in-house baked goods is pretty small (mostly limited to some loaves of Cuban bread), with the majority of the baked goods offerings being outsourced.

     Even though it wasn't one of the crazier props in this decor package, I've always liked the Grocery Palace bakery sign. While Grocery Palace never explicitly put the word "bakery" on this department, that sign still does a good job of getting the point across!

     The bakery tile pattern extends out to the right of the former bakery service counter, into space that was home to additional pastry cases (to my right) and the prepackaged breads (to my left). With Sedano's small bakery selection, most of the former bakery floor space was absorbed back into the grocery aisles, with random pallet drops now being housed in the space that would have been home to baked goods display tables.

     Dipping into the grocery aisles, we can admire the star-studded walk of fame down Cereal Boulevard, formerly known as Beverage Boulevard. While some Grocery Palace stores had a full-blown road on the floor to compliment Beverage Boulevard, other stores used this star pattern on the floor like we see here...

     …and you can see this version of Beverage Boulevard in the photo above in all of its glory, the photo above having been taken inside store #4462 about two weeks after it opened in June 1999. That photo comes from an interesting article published in the Orlando Sentinel about consolidation in the grocery industry and how grocers were adapting to change at the time. It's an interesting read that still rings true in a lot of ways today, just minus the crazy over-the-top grocery decor designs that were much more common at the turn of the 2000's! The Sing Oil Blogger clipped this article from for me, so if you want to read it in full, you can do so here (with its continuation here).

     Moving over an aisle, we find assorted baked goods and promotional items in the former home of Snack Central (also visible in the 1999 newspaper photo we just saw). However, Sedano's isn't the one to blame for removing the giant bowl of party mix from the ceiling in this store - Albertsons did that themselves. Most Floridian Grocery Palace stores that survived into the late 2000's received "refreshes" by Albertsons that reconfigured the grocery aisles, which resulted in the loss of the giant party mix bowl and Beverage Boulevard's bucket of Coca-Cola as the aisles were straightened out and the sales floor realigned to follow a normal supermarket aisle pattern.

     Turning around, here's another look down that same double-wide aisle, this time looking toward the front of the store and the pharmacy counter.

     Even sans the giant bowl of party mix hanging from the ceiling, Sedano's "Snack Central" still lives on in the general area of its predecessor, even if the selection was shrunken down a bit from what Albertsons offered.

     Returning to the back wall of the store, we find another decor casualty from the last few years - sometime between 2016 and 2023, the old "International Deli" sign was removed. While the big original sign is now gone, the assorted international knickknacks on top of the coolers are still hanging in there, dust and all.

     While it may not be called the "International Deli" anymore, the prepackaged deli meats and cheeses were still located in this alcove. Ironically, even though Sedano's is a store that sells a lot more international products than grocers like Publix, Winn-Dixie and even Albertsons, the selection of deli meats and cheeses in the "International Deli" was quite American with all the Kraft and Sargento cheeses, and Oscar Meyer meats visible in the coolers!

     Looking out from the International Deli alcove, we see the pharmacy counter in the distance. Let's head up there for a closer look:

     When Albertsons was here, we would have been looking at the main pharmacy drop-off/pickup window to my right. These days, this part of the pharmacy counter is blocked off by stacks of grocery products, with all of the pharmacy's operations now being conducted at Albertsons' express drop off window on the other side of the island just inside the entrance (which we saw in our first interior photo).

     Leaving the pharmacy, we return to the grocery aisles to find ourselves in the Wine Cellar. While the original decor may have been partial to the fermented grapes in terms of signage and aesthetic, the selection of barley-based alcoholic beverages could also be found over here too, in the coolers to my left. At the very end of this aisle we can still see the original "Please, walk in" sign for the beer cooler as well, however, that sign appears to be wrong these days. I didn't try to open the door to the walk-in, but the lights inside were off, so it didn't seem like Sedano's wanted anyone wandering in there!

     While Sedano's has removed some of the original signage in here (like the original Wine Cellar sign), I really can't whine too much about their treatment of the decor overall, considering 80% of it is still in place in 2023.

     Exiting the Wine Cellar, we find the meat and seafood counter housed in its faux rustic fish house.

     Much like I remember from Albertsons, the meat and seafood counter was busy while I was here, and certainly one of the main draws to this store after the cafeteria (which was equally as busy). Sedano's did nothing to the meat and seafood counter during their tenure in this building except replace Albertsons logo on the ribbon atop the faux facade with a sticker of their "circle S" logo. The same goes for the aisle markers as well, which are all original to Albertsons except for the stickers over Albertsons' logo. Interestingly enough, Sedano's replaced all of the original aisle markers at the Homestead store a few years before it remodeled, but Sedano's has never bothered to replace the ones here yet. Looking closely at the aisle markers here, some of the panels seem a bit brighter and newer, making me wonder if Sedano's has been making new replicas to hang from these signs (as this wouldn't be the first time I've seen a supermarket create replica pieces of someone else's old decor).

     Entering the baby aisle, it's still left as it was from Albertsons, even though the dangly ribbon thing from the greeting card aisle next door was removed. What's quite interesting about the letter blocks on the floor is that those aren't stickers or any other kind of printed decals you see - that's actually colored floor tile cut to look like that! I can't imagine how time consuming it was to cut and shape all 26 letters in tile like that. Just installing all the funky flooring patterns in a Grocery Palace store had to be time consuming, with all the different ones used throughout the store.

     From the edge of the pharmacy island, here's a quick peek across the store's front end. Sedano's actually kept Albertsons original check lane lights here too, however, the advertisements that Albertsons used to place on the lights have been permanently replaced with papers featuring Sedano's logo. I actually think the lights looks much better with Sedano's logo on them than the random advertisements Albertsons used to feature there.

     Turning around, here's a look at the part of the pharmacy island closest to the check lanes. This side of the island once featured the Floral counter. The floral service counter has since been blocked off with shelves of assorted promotional items. As far as I'm aware, Sedano's doesn't sell any kind of Floral arrangements at all, so I'm surprised they left the Floral sign hanging from the ceiling (especially after removing other random signs from throughout the store). Maybe Sedano's only removes signs as they fall apart, and not because they lack a purpose anymore?

     Moving further toward the right side of the building, we'll zig-zag through a few more grocery aisles.

     Hay mucho aceite y especias en este pasillo.

     The old pet department, which Sedano's was using as their equivalent of Beverage Boulevard in their version of "El Palacio de Comestibles" back in 2016 (complete with a reskinned version of the old spinning pet department sign) has since been converted into a (very busy while I was here) barber shop. While the reskinned pet department sign was removed when the pets-turned-beverage corner was transformed into a barber shop, oddly enough, the original aisle markers for aisles 23-25 were left in place to hang over the barber shop box (so if you need a haircut while shopping, you can find one of those in aisle 23). The original graphics for the pet department are still on the wall above the barber shop as well, although I don't know which is a stranger combo - a "beverage center" with graphics of playful pets on the wall, or a barber shop with those same graphics, and matching pawprints on the floor too!

     Arroz, pasta, y frijoles en el pasillo dieciséis.

     To the right of the meat and seafood service counter is the packaged meats alcove. Like the International Deli on the other side of the service counter, the meat alcove also lost its hanging sign since 2016. However, those fancy curved category markers along the top of the cooler are original from Albertsons.

     Even without the big hanging sign, the meat alcove still has a strong Grocery Palace feel.

     Let's make a clean sweep through aisle 19, as we only have three more aisles to go!

     Moving next door to aisle 20, yes, that is a bird perched in the middle of the aisle. The little bird just stood there for the longest time to, bobbing its head a little, but otherwise not at all minding the crazy guy a few feet away taking a picture. As I pushed my cart closer to the bird he eventually flew up to the rafters and perched himself up there. Hopefully he's not living up there and managed to find his way back out!

     Returning to the back right corner of the store, we find the dairy department. Being a Grocery Palace store, I think we all know what to expect back here:

     Yep, the famous milk barn!

     Milk still resides in the barn under Sedano's ownership of this store, with the remainder of dairy wrapping around into aisle 22.

     Aisle 20 is home to paper products, but we can also see from here the signage for Frozen Foods and Dairy on the wavy lower ceiling transition.

     The wavy ceiling extends out into the middle of aisle 21, covering the side of this aisle with frozen foods coolers. Sodas occupy the opposite side of the aisle.

     Aisle 22 is the store's last aisle, with frozen foods taking up three quarters of this aisle. The remainder of the dairy department occupies the rest of the aisle, with the dairy products housed in the open-face cooler.

     Leaving aisle 22, here's yet another overview of the store's front end. The alcove in front of the check lanes is currently home to Sedano's customer service counter. When Albertsons was here, that alcove was home to the Photo Center and cigarette counter, with customer service located at its own desk in front of the pharmacy island by the front entrance. While customer service has most likely been located in the above pictured location ever since Sedano's first took over the building, they left the original signage for the Photo/Cigarette counter up after taking over this store, but that signage has since been removed.

     Customer service would have been located along the wall to my right when Albertsons was here, with a small dry cleaners to the right of that in the pharmacy island. The space to my left (which the security guard is leaning against) is the old video rental department. These days, Sedano's rents out all these little nooks to independent businesses, a common practice at these Hispanic grocery stores in Florida.

     Back outside, here's a look across the front walkway once again, left mostly the same as it was from when Albertsons was here.

     To the left of the main supermarket building is the old Albertsons liquor store, now operating as a location of Knightly Spirits Liquors, a small chain of liquor stores throughout the Orlando area (whose name is probably a reference to the University of Central Florida's mascot).

     Coming to the end of today's post, I hope everyone enjoyed today's revisit to former Albertsons #4462, the closest you can get to experiencing what a Floridian Albertsons was like without ever having to leave the state! Every time I walk into this store it's a real blast from the past, and the fact that I spent a lot of time shopping at a nearly identical Grocery Palace Albertsons store for so many years also helps with my nostalgia trips when visiting this store. As of late 2023, this store still looks exactly as you saw it in the previous photos. After seeing what happened to other Grocery Palace Sedanosons in Homestead, I can't help but wonder if this store will end up with a similar fate. However, Sedano's, at least for now, seems pretty content with the spot updates this store keeps getting here and there, rather than going all-out with a full-blown remodel like they did in Homestead. As much as would have loved to see the Homestead store before it received that remodel, at least I still have this Sedanosons to visit, even if it lacked the original Beverage Boulevard and Snack Central signage like Homestead had until recently. From looking at recent photos of the Homestead store, even though that store looks pretty blah in most places now, a few Grocery Palace relics may still be lurking in there, even if this is now the Beverage Boulevard of broken dreams. Maybe one of these days I'll finally motivate myself to go down there and cross my last Peninsular Albertsons store off the list, scoping out what remaining relics I can find, but for now, at least we still have one decently preserved Grocery Palace museum in Florida.

     Anyway, thank you all for 10 years of readership of AFB! I know there are a lot of you who have been following this blog since the start, and some that came along much later. We've seen a lot happen here in the Floridian supermarket scene over the last decade - losing Sweetbay, Albertsons, and Safeway, gaining and then losing Lucky's Market in a spectacular burst of zeal, seeing Winn-Dixie go from bankrupt to a viable company again, with a bizarre turn of evens following Aldi's recent announcement to purchase Winn-Dixie. Those events were only the highlights of the last decade too, and who knows what the next decade will bring to Floridian supermarkets (although I suspect many more Publix stores will be on the way, as even with 830 stores in this state alone, Publix is still finding room to cram more stores in here). Even with all the crazy news that seems to stem from the Floridian grocery industry, thank you for following my travels to all of these stores of past and present, seeing how they've changed and how they've contributed to this unique state I call home. And I still have plenty more stores to write about as well, as I've yet to make it through writing about all of Florida's former Albertsons stores yet. Hopefully within the next decade I'll get around to completing that goal, but I'll see where time takes us and go from there!

     I hope everyone enjoyed this special AFB posting series to commemorate the blog's 10th anniversary. I've written a lot lately, so I'm going to take the rest of the year off from AFB, with posting to resume next year on January 21, 2024. I might write an MFR post during that time, but we'll see what happens. Anyway, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and I'll see everyone again next year to kick off the 11th year of AFB!

Thanks for your readership all of these years, and until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

P.S. - Be sure to scroll down for my annual year in review!

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The Year in Review (and Some Random Stats):

Albertsons Stores Covered:
Albertsons #4312 - St. Petersburg, FL (Kenneth City) (My most popular post of the year)
Albertsons #4315 - Tallahassee, FL (North Monroe St.) (Guest post by The Sing Oil Blogger)
Albertsons #4402 - Largo, FL (Largo Mall) (My third most popular post of the year)
Albertsons #4462 - Orlando, FL (South OBT) - Revisit (This post)

Bonus Buy Stores Covered:
Hitchcock's Green Market - St. Petersburg, FL (A Life After Lucky's feature, store since closed too)
Hitchcock's Market - Hawthorne, FL (A look at a location from this rural North Florida grocery chain) (My second most popular post of the year)
FoodMax/Albertsons #4729/Publix #119 - Hendersonville, TN (A guest post by the Sing Oil Blogger featuring one of the Tennessee Publixsons stores, with a Bruno's twist too)
Kash n' Karry/Sweetbay Supermarket #1916 - Wesley Chapel, FL (A tour of the last round Kash n' Karry prototype store still operating with its original layout)
Winn-Dixie #2234 - Apopka, FL (A tour of one of Winn-Dixie's newest stores built from the ground-up)
Food Ranch - Inglis, FL (A tour of a really neat small-town supermarket still mostly in-tact from its 1985 opening)
Safeway #3411 - Tacoma, WA (A guest post by The Sing Oil Blogger featuring an Albertsons to Safeway conversion in Washington State)

And considering this is the blog's 10th anniversary, I thought it would be fun to feature my top 10 personal favorite posts that I've written over the past decade. Some posts just come together well, some have fun content, and some have a little of both. Anyway, here's what I think has been my best over the last 10 years:

#10 - You Should Have Chosen Florida Choice (Originally published October 22, 2017) - A tour of (what was) the best preserved former Florida Choice store in Florida through the windows of the building following the closure of the Winn-Dixie that once called the building home. This store answered a lot of my questions about Florida Choice, but also arose many more!

#9 - Former Albertsons #4462 - Orlando, FL (South OBT) (Originally published December 6, 2016) - A tour of the best preserved Grocery Palace Albertsons left in Florida, what's not to love about that?

#8 - Former Albertsons #4357 - Vero Beach, FL (Originally published October 11, 2015) - A fun tour of an abandoned Albertsons store.

#7 - Former Albertsons #4346 - Venice, FL (Originally published December 6, 2021) - Another fun tour of a former Albertsons store, and I got a good scare here too!

#6 - I Saved, They Saved, But We Couldn't Save U-Save (Originally published June 2, 2019) - This post has become one of my most popular posts of all time, and features a tour of a former U-Save Supermarket in Okeechobee.

#5 - The Most Famous Shopping Center in Florida (Originally published January 21, 2018) - This post took us on an exterior overview of Lakeland's noted Southgate Shopping Center, famous for its large arch gracing the plaza's facade. I thought this post came together well, on top of being a fun tour of a noted piece of Floridian architecture.

#4 - Former Albertsons #4316(1) and #4335 - Lauderhill, FL (Originally published November 21, 2021) - These two Albertsons stores weren't the most extravagant relics of former Albertsons stores in Florida, but my writing was pretty good this day!

#3 - Former Albertsons #4471 - Sanford, FL - Part 2 (Originally published October 23, 2016) - I had no idea Spirit Halloween was operating out of this former Grocery Palace Albertsons when I visited it way back when. It was a fun surprise, and a really fun tour inside a vacant Grocery Palace Albertsons store!

#2 - Former Albertsons #4466 - Port St. Lucie, FL (St. Lucie West) (Originally published June 7, 2014) - A really old AFB post, but you can never go wrong with a glimpse of some Grocery Palace relics through a window, right?

And what has been my favorite blog post to date? Well, here's the answer:

#1 - The Winn-Dixie That Time Forgot (Originally published August 25, 2019) - Surprise, my favorite AFB post actually has nothing to do with an Albertsons at all! While not an Albertsons, a Winn-Dixie that had been sitting abandoned for nearly 30 years also provides some entertaining subject matter. I just feel everything about this post meshed together well, the photos of the abandoned store and its interior, the writing, everything. If you haven't read this post check it out sometime, it's a fun read!

So that rounds out this edition of AFB's Top 10. Thanks again for 10 years of fun and adventure on AFB, and see you all next year!