Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Albertsons #2997 - Chandler, AZ

***Today's post is a guest post courtesy of new AFB contributor Monique Sammi, who will be giving us a look at an interesting still-operational Albertsons store in Arizona***

     On November 1, 1989, Utah invaded Arizona.

     It was an invasion that wasn’t announced by tanks, ships, and airplanes. Instead, it was announced with low grocery prices, newspaper ads, everyday low pricing, and analyst predictions of “World War III in the grocery business”.

     It was the day that Smith’s and Albertsons came to Phoenix. Smith’s had an interesting history before it merged with Smitty’s (after rumors of merging with Albertsons!), was bought by Fred Meyer, and then merged with Kroger. Today, the only Smith's stores in Arizona are in Mohave County, all close to Las Vegas, where that banner endures; the rest were all switched to Fry’s in 2000.

     But perhaps more intriguing—and certainly if you like 20-year-old grocery decor packages—is the roller coaster ride that has been Albertsons’ 35-year grocery history in Arizona.


     Really, that’s 50 years. Albertsons opened its first Arizona store in Yuma’s Southgate Mall on January 30, 1974. (It later moved the store across the street in April 1990, occupying a former Mervyn’s, and opened a second unit there in 2002.) However, despite the company making a name for itself in seemingly every surrounding state, the chain didn’t announce its intent to blitz Phoenix until January 1989, two weeks before Smith's followed suit.

     Smith’s and Albertsons were really two nearly identical sides of the same coin because they had such similar business plans. Aside from Fry’s and Smitty’s, the grocery market leaders in Phoenix, most Valley grocery stores were smaller, on the order of 25,000 to 30,000 square feet. Albertsons was bringing a 60ksf prototype and Smith’s 80ksf. Most Valley grocery stores also employed high-low pricing; Smith’s was EDLP chainwide and Albertsons in about half of its units. Both chains relocated their Southwest division headquarters from Albuquerque to the Valley. A local broker told Progressive Grocer that Albertsons had “big, clean, beautiful stores”.

     Albertsons grew from that first store—at Guadalupe and Rural roads in Tempe, now closed and slated to become an EoS Fitness gym—to 11 units by the end of 1991. Of those, just three are still Albertsons stores, and another two operate as different grocers. The Arizona invasion expanded in January 1994 with the opening of the first Albertsons store in Tucson, a market Smith’s had previously entered before building in Phoenix. And over the 1990s, Albertsons entered Kingman, Lake Havasu City, Prescott, Flagstaff, and other outstate cities, almost all of which they later left with closures or in the 2010s with the Haggen spinoffs. When Albertsons split into three in 2006, there were 60 units in Arizona, half of them in the Valley. It had 11.7 percent of the grocery market, fourth behind Safeway (15%), Bashas’ (15.9%), and Fry’s (28.1%). World War III never came: the high/low operators survived in the besieged market.

     Then something curious happened. After February 2004, when the chain opened its doors on three locations, Albertsons stopped opening new stores—in the mid-2000s, when Valley sprawl was unbelievably hot. The Arizona Republic business section carried a story, “Albertsons not buying: Company’s no-growth strategy could vault Wal-Mart to No. 4 in the grocer market”. Fry’s, Bashas’, and Safeway were opening two to five new stores a year in the metro. Walmart was building more super centers and Neighborhood Markets. And Albertsons was nowhere to be seen. One analyst noted that the chain, accustomed to pushing for first or second place, could not do it without acquiring someone else, and no other grocer was for sale.

     In 2006, Albertsons LLC closed nine of the 60 stores (eight in Phoenix and a ninth in Kingman) which together accounted for just 5.8 percent of overall sales in the 81-store Southwest division (Arizona, New Mexico, and El Paso). The Republic quoted the president of UFCW Local 99 as saying, “Albertsons has been struggling for so long in the Phoenix marketplace. We heard they were trying to sell the Phoenix division.” If they had done so, and the buyer wasn’t Bashas’, it might have been good news for them: Albertsons stores in Arizona, with the exception of the two Yuma units, are non-union. Of the nine closed stores, only one was picked up by another conventional grocer: Bashas’, which acquired the store in Gilbert’s new Morrison Ranch development—the last one Albertsons had opened. Their interest in Albertsons assets was reported in the press: Mike Proulx, the president and COO, told the East Valley Tribune that he was shocked to be bidding on them and said, “Albertsons was the gem of the industry. They were the envy of everybody in the industry.” It operated with the Santa Fe (Albertsons Marketplace) decor package until being renovated in 2018.

     Closures due to underperformance and the Great Recession have whittled the store base of the Albertsons banner down steadily. In 2010, the company had 44 Arizona stores; it made an unsolicited offer to buy Bashas’ out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which was rejected. Some of the loss of stores since came in the Haggen divestitures, which included locations in Prescott and Flagstaff where the company now only operates Safeway stores, as well as several units it bought back into the chain when Haggen failed; some units have closed due to their proximity to Safeways. As of 2023, there were 30 Albertsons stores statewide in just four Arizona counties (Maricopa, Pima, Yuma, Mohave) to 105 Safeways in 14 of the state’s 15 counties.

     The future of the Albertsons end of Albertsons Companies in Arizona will be up for shakeup if the Kroger-Albertsons merger goes through. 24 Albertsons Cos. stores and the rights to trade as Albertsons in Arizona will go to C&S Wholesale Grocers in the divestiture package. This raises some questions, namely which stores are planned for divestiture. One would imagine most are already wearing the Albertsons name, but some Safeway stores could go to C&S. In all honesty, one wonders if the Safeway banner will survive after more than 95 years; its Arizona presence dates to the 1928 merger with Pay’n Takit (Arizona Grocery Company), with the stores being bannered Safeway–Pay’n Takit until 1939. Weekly circulars here list both logos with the words "Serving Arizona Since 1928” beneath. While Safeway has had the reputation of being higher-priced, that is a lot of name equity. Not many businesses can say they have traded under the same name, especially in this state, since before World War II.


     With that huge history out of the way, we can get down to seeing the last intact visual relic of Albertsons’ best years in this market. In early 2000, Albertsons took its plans to build a 57,560sf Albertsons plus an outlot Albertsons Express fuel center to Chandler City Council. The stores would anchor Copper Point, a neighborhood shopping center at the northwest corner of Ray and McClintock roads. The neighbors weren't happy with the initial plans; they wanted more room between them and the store, prompting Chandler City Council to wait two months to approve construction. With approval, Albertsons paid $14.6 million for the 2.8 acres. For whatever reason, this caused the plans to slide back from an early 2001 opening to June 22, 2002. Inside the Albertsons when it opened was a branch of Compass Bank, a Starbucks (even though the shopping center also had one with a drive-thru), a video store…

     Oh, and Grocery Palace decor.

     This store has been repainted a couple of times, and the Osco part of the sign especially shows some massive fading. Which makes sense; this might actually be the last Osco-signed store in Arizona on the inside and outside.

     This shows the “first” repaint to drab browns as well as the Lawn & Garden sign (in green), which hung around a really, really long time after the chain ceased selling such merchandise. Here’s a better look at that area:

     When we enter, we are greeted by sights straight out of the summer of 2002, almost:

     Albertsons’ most significant renovation involved cutting down the full-height wall at the entrance cart corral to a pony wall, which opens the store up right away. This is what you see looking right: the pharmacy/floral island, whose back side contains an Osco Pharmacy sign, a window for the pharmacy manager’s office, and a bunch of in-store displays. The addition of cameras suggests that removing this corral probably helped with store security in various ways.

     That shows the front entrance, which is missing an original feature: the Starbucks Coffee kiosk. Most Grocery Palace stores had these, and I recall it being a new feature to have an in-store coffee shop in this area. This one didn't even last five years, and that’s unusual given that most Albertsons and Safeway stores have a Starbucks. My suspicion is that the reason it closed is…

     You can see a Starbucks out the door when you exit. That is original to the center and has a drive-thru. I wonder if the Albertsons unit cannibalized the sales of the standalone Starbucks and caused the company or the shopping center to complain. (Fun fact: There is now a standalone Starbucks with drive-thru one mile west, one mile north, and one mile east of this store.)

     Other than that, you’ll find the store to be quite intact, though the back service departments (International Deli) have lost their signage and decor; the video department is now an alcove for random machines such as Coinstar and the lottery, the CRTs taking years to leave; and the bank departed after 15 years, replaced with random promotional assortments. (One other area has changed, but we’ll get to it later.) The flooring is original; the layout is mostly unchanged; and it feels like the summer of 2002 barely left.

     The store is set up to channel shoppers to the left when they enter, though there is access on the right between the checkout/floral area and the front entrance. Remember, the wall in front of you would have been full-height originally.

     So let’s get to the front area. This is deli and prepared meats, but with so much room after shedding the coffee kiosk, it tends to be used for promotional displays. One of the counters is pretty much unused.

     Produce is well-signed and does not exhibit some of the fading that some stores have seen in this decor.

     We can look back at produce and see Aisle 1. This is the only grocery aisle on this side of the store, as aisles 2 through 14 are Osco-signed general merchandise, cosmetics, and pharmacy aisles. This store does not have split aisles, a treatment that some units used. Aisle 14 is an Osco aisle but in a reset gained candy, an Albertsons food item, to go along with light bulbs—and it shows in the aisle marker.

     Coming out of produce, we come across that GP classic, the bakery. Bread is displayed under the alcove with its parquet-style floors, while sweets extend on tables further down.

     And past bakery are the International Deli alcove, the service meat and seafood counter, the meat department, and dairy in that order.

     Shorn of its decor and signage (which I remember this having), International Deli makes little sense, but the product assortment hasn’t really changed. It’s a bit weird, especially with my experience with Fry’s and other grocers, to see this department so far from the service deli.

     The service meat and seafood counter with its rustic look and large painted signs has a sort of boardwalk appeal.

     The spotlight in meat provides a clue that it once was signed.

     And what Grocery Palace is complete without the dairy barn?

     After viewing the perimeter departments, we can take a look at center store…

     Starting with the center island that houses an employee break room, floral, and the pharmacy.

     Past floral is the liquor department, also signed Osco.

     One of the last general merchandise aisles is party and cards, which has impeccable original flooring.

     That candy and light bulbs aisle also has…baby flooring.

     Grocery aisles start from 15 and continue to 22.

     The various aisles of groceries end in one and a half aisles of frozen foods. The flooring is original and in fantastic shape.

     Those who have seen other Grocery Palace Albertsons may notice this store never had some of the more extravagant decorations that characterize it for others. There’s no drop ceiling in frozen, no Snack Central, no Beverage Boulevard. I note this is the tail end of this package’s use; the next-oldest Albertsons decor in the Southwest is in the Farmington, New Mexico, store, which uses a Southwestern-flavored version of Industrial Circus and was originally the price-impact Grocery Warehouse when it opened in August 2002.

     One unique thing Albertsons did around this time in Phoenix was have a lawn and garden department including indoor and outdoor sections. (Fry’s Marketplace also had this, going back to when it was Smitty’s.) This did not last past the mid-2000s, though the sign persevered for another decade. Some of the other surviving Grocery Palace stores, especially those that were remodeled to Lifestyle v3 in 2017, had the indoor portion brought into the sales floor and used for liquor. This results in a liquor store signed as it might be in Florida or other states that require such sales to be separate, but it is open to the rest of the store.

     Here, it was at one point converted to a single door, easy to miss, before being restored to use to support pickup and delivery, even with the slider being added back. When it was still a single door, yours truly spotted it open once in 2019, leaving a quick fox time to snap a couple of images inside. It now has industrial refrigerators and shelves of high-turnover center store items to support the DriveUp and Go team.

     This is how it looks now—the only real “reversion” in this store’s history, though the sliders aren’t to lure customers into another department but to help employees with bags on racks.

     The pet department has its original decor, but it’s easy to lose sight of it in this layout. There tends to be patio furniture and seasonal pallets here, too. Pet is kind of out on an island in this layout, not helped by the fact there is one fewer shelf assembly here than the original design specified.

     To the right of pet are the checkouts, but the big industrial ice machine does not do enough to hide the fact that this was also the photo department. Remember when grocers competed with drugstores on photo? It’s surreal to think, but the iPhone was released five years after this store opened, and even then digital cameras were already common enough.

     Video has long since bit the dust, too, but a lot of its trappings minus signage remained for 15+ years, including flooring…

     And CRT television sets. Those have finally come down.

     The in-store bank was Compass Bank, later renamed BBVA Compass when the Spanish banking giant entered. It closed in March 2017…

     …And was promptly turned into more promotional space.

     It doesn’t really fit elsewhere, so here’s a view of the former Albertsons Express, which was rebranded Valero / Corner Store in 2008 and is now Shell / Fast Market.


     It’s fascinating to think I have one of America’s great retail relics a stone’s throw from me—there are definitely people who would drool at the chance to regularly shop this store—and also concerning. Other stores of this vintage that remained with Albertsons have received renovations. Late last year, I happened to visit a sister Grocery Palace store in Gilbert. This store was renovated to Lifestyle v3 in 2017; the lawn and garden area was added to the sales floor as a liquor department (with a walk-in beer cave built over part of the patio), and pharmacy moved to where pet would be in the front corner. The store is warmer in color temperature and brighter—things that 2997 could really use if it gets attention. I remember thinking of this store as downtrodden, and the lighting is a major factor. Warehouse-ceiling grocers do not have to feel so cold; there’s a Safeway six miles from here that has loads of skylights that really, really help.

     But I can’t help thinking of the whys. In grocery retail, capital expenditure is part of the name of the game, yet here is a time capsule from days when Albertsons was a bit more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in this market. Why has this store gone unrenovated for more than 20 years, during which time Bashas’ has remodeled once; Fry’s has renovated three times; and a Whole Foods was built *and renovated*? Why did the Starbucks close so quickly? Why have they not bothered with abolishing remnants of things like photo? This is a cool store for retail enthusiasts, no doubt, but it raises so many questions. With the recently announced closure of the ACME in Milltown, New Jersey, this is now one of the last three locations with this package in all of Albertsons Companies (the others are in Battle Ground, Washington, less than a mile from a Safeway, and Yardville, New Jersey).

     2024 marks the 50th anniversary of Albertsons in the Grand Canyon State and the 35th of its Phoenix-market invasion. Smiths and Albertsons, plus local warehouse chain Megafoods, made Phoenix a famously overstored market in the 90s as they rushed to build stores and gain market share while other grocers also had to add locations to keep up with changing population patterns. Megafoods blinked out of existence by bankruptcy in the late 1990s and sold to Bashas’, though the chain didn't take all the stores. Fleming’s ABCO called it quits in 2001 to focus on price-impact banners elsewhere in the country; the store base was scattered among Bashas’ and other companies. And the Valley has remained cutthroat as ever, not even considering Walmart and Costco: WinCo and now Aldi have presences here, while Fresh & Easy tried and sadly failed. In fact, three weeks after Albertsons 2997 opened, a little store called Sprouts Farmers Market opened two miles down the road, planting the seed from which germinated a locally based national grocer with 400 stores.

     Whoever runs this store in the wake of whatever happens with Kroger-Albertsons will have decisions to make. If this store is marked for divestiture, can C&S give it attention given how far it is from other stores they will presumably own and the reduced size of the Albertsons banner? If Kroger succeeds, does this store get absorbed into the already very busy Fry’s Marketplace a mile away? Could another grocer show up here in a few years’ time? You could say these questions are… Palace intrigue.

***Thank you Monique for sending over this post and sharing these photos - it was great taking a look at one of the last few Grocery Palace Albertsons stores left in the chain! -AFB***

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Former Albertsons #4401 - Clearwater, FL (N. Belcher Road Jewel-Osco)

Jewel-Osco #4102 / Albertsons #4401 / Publix #1300
1921 N. Belcher Road, Clearwater, FL - Beckett Lake Plaza

Today's post is a presentation of Pinellas County retail

     Hello all, and welcome to another year of AFB! How about we kick of 2024 in a big way with a really big Publixsons? If you want a big Publixsons, you don't have to look much further than one of the former Jewel-Osco stores Publix inherited from Albertsons. The 4 former Jewel-Osco buildings Publix still operates out of consist of the 4 largest stores in the chain, with all of these buildings hovering around the 75,000 square foot mark - a good 20,000 square feet outside of Publix's typical comfort zone. It's always fun to pop into a Jewel-Publixsons store, so let's find out a little bit more about this location in Clearwater before we head inside:

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     The Clearwater Jewel-Osco opened on August 2, 1989 as the second of these Floridian superstores dreamed up by the Skaggs Company, opening 5 months after the brand's somewhat messy Floridian debut at Largo Mall. As far as I'm aware, grand opening day at the new Clearwater Jewel-Osco was much more uneventful compared to Largo Mall's total failure of the cash register system.

     And speaking of the grand opening of the Clearwater Jewel-Osco, I managed to track down this photo of the store's ribbon being cut on the morning of August 2, 1989, one of many photos uploaded by Skaggs family member Mindy Skaggs Benkenstein to this fantastic album of photos showcasing many of the Jewel-Osco grand openings throughout Florida. While some of the interior photos in that album could have been from this store (all 7 Jewel-Osco stores opened in Florida looked exactly the same inside, so I can't narrow down where any of the interior photos were taken), the photo above I was able to confirm as being of the Clearwater location, as the building's address number of "1921" is visible above the doors in the background.

     The Clearwater Jewel-Osco operated for just shy of 3 years before Albertsons purchased Skaggs' failing Floridian superstores in early 1992. Following a brief conversion, Albertsons opened in this location in April 1992, and remained here until this store was included as one of the 49 locations sold to Publix in 2008. Publix reopened this store after yet another brief conversion, with Publix's new "superstore" opening on November 6, 2008.

     Outside of the paint color and the decorative trim Albertsons installed around their logo (which now surrounds Publix's), the exterior of the building is still exactly as it looked when Jewel-Osco was here. These massive stores had an equally as imposing facade, all adding to the effect of just how large these store are.

     As usual with these Jewel-Osco superstores, the building has three sets of doors into the main store - a set of doors on the right side of the building that leads into produce and the service departments, a set of doors on the left side of the building to access the pharmacy, and a set of doors in the center of the building that leads to the check lanes and the center aisles. While Publix seems to use all the doors interchangeably as entrances and exits, the original Jewel-Osco configuration used the doors on the far ends of the buildings as the entrances, with the set of doors in the center of the building (behind the check lanes) being a central exit.

     While Publix doesn't designate any of the doors specifically as an entrance or exit, the center set of doors seemed to be the most popular option at this store, with the photo above giving us a nice close-up of the central entrance.

     Stepping onto the front walkway, here's a look down the long sidewalk that connects the three sets of entrances as well as the liquor store (located behind me, which we'll see later in the post). The center set of doors (behind the propane tank case) is the set we'll be entering through, so let's head inside and enjoy a little bit of the oddity that is the Jewel-Publixsons:

     Say what you will about Publix's Evergreen decor, but every time I walk inside a Publixsons or any other ancient Publix and see this decor, I breathe a sigh of relief that it has evaded the replacement list for a few more years. The Evergreen decor you see in this store is the third Publix decor package this building has seen through the years, beginning its Publix tenure with Classy Market 2.0, followed by a remodel to Classy Market 2.5 in the early 2010's, and then receiving Evergreen in early-mid 2021.

     The right side entrance is visible to my left, with the service desk in an island (most likely relocating to the island during the CM 2.5 remodel from one of the alcoves now present on the front wall).

     As you would expect from a 75,000 square foot Publix, there's a lot of wide open space in here, especially along the front end. That tiny table of BOGOs doesn't do much to fill this wide expanse of salesfloor as we look from the service desk toward produce in the building's front right corner.

     Even the produce department itself is pretty spaced out, as Publix had a lot of space to fill in this alcove.

     Following produce are the bakery and deli departments, which we'll see more of in a little bit.

     Floral found its home on the back wall of the produce alcove, a fairly spacious floral arrangement compared to some of the cramped little counters near the front entrance you typically find at newer Publix stores.

     I always like these photos I take from the produce alcove looking toward the other side of these former Jewel-Osco stores. From this vantage point, you can really feel how large these stores are. Way out there in the distance is the pharmacy, with a large expanse of grocery aisles separating us from that.

     As usual in these former Jewel-Osco stores, the deli counter is located in an island near the back right corner of the building. Originally, Jewel-Osco had a small cafe of some kind and a cheese counter at the front part of the deli island, with the main deli counter located toward the back of the island. A small seating area would have been located in front of the island to accommodate the cafe as well. Publix still uses the back part of the island for the main deli counter, with the front part mostly blocked off by grab-and-go coolers and the Pub Sub station. I'd have to imagine Albertsons had a similar deli set-up to what we see here today as well, as Albertsons didn't run any super-elaborate prepared food options like Jewel-Osco was trying to with these stores.

     Also, it is just the photo, or does the "D" in the deli sign over the main counter look like it wants to fall off already?

     Jewel-Osco's former seating area is now home to Publix's soup and salad bar, a few tables of baked goods, and more of that famous empty space. From this angle we also get a view down the inner aisle of this store's dual front actionway, another famous feature at Publixsons stores.

     From the front of the deli island, here's a look back toward produce and the building's right side entrance. For a grand aisle, the one in this store sure is grand due to its size - Publix's smallest store is probably no bigger than this store's grand aisle!

     As we approach the deli island, the grand aisle channelizes itself between the island to my left, and the bakery department to my right.

     While Publix updated most of the decor during this store's Evergreen remodel, there were three major relics of past Publix decor packages that slipped by - the first and most obvious being the floor. While the tile floor isn't exactly decor specific, the tan and white color scheme meshed much better with the Classy Market iterations of the late 2000's and 2010's. I've yet to come across an Evergreen Publix that opened with a non-terrazzo floor, but if the remodel at the Oakland Park Publixsons was anything to go by, this shiny beige flooring is what appears to be the non-terrazzo floor covering that directly compliments Evergreen. Flooring aside, the other major relic of Publix decors past we'll find in this photo is the tile backsplash in the Bakery department, which is a remnant of this store's previous Classy Market 2.5 decor. All said, while you can tell floor and the bakery tile don't perfectly match Evergreen, there are worse clashes with Evergreen that exist in this world.

     As for that third relic of Publix decors past, we'll see that a little later in our tour...

     When someone says "It's too soon for pumpkin spice" and you realize you don't need that negativity in your life - oh no, Publix is bringing Instagram memes to life! #publix #pumpkinspice #afbisawesome #whyamimakingfakehashtags

     Last fall pumpkin spice was everywhere, to the point where a tire shop by me put a similar message to this one on their roadside sign, which I thought was fun satirical spin on the modern pumpkin spice craze. Anyway, there's still a few more months before we have to think about pumpkin spice again (and what new products will be getting a pumpkin spice version this year), so lets move on to the Meat & Seafood department and think about some pumpkin spice steak & shrimp for a moment:

     The Meat & Seafood counter is located behind the deli island along the store's back wall, with an alcove beyond the service counter for the prepackaged meats.

     Aisle 1 begins along the back of the deli island, with water of all kinds to my right, and juices to my left. Looking toward the back of the building, aisle 1 lines up perfectly with the center of the meat and seafood counter.

     Here in aisle 2, we get a better look at the raised ceiling over the center of the store, featuring a similar effect to what we'd find in an older Publix store.

     Wide aisle are certainly one bragging point about this store - all the grocery aisles and actionways in this store were plenty big for carts to pass by. Even though this store is obviously oversized for Publix's taste, I have to say, the spaciousness is really nice for shopping purposes. It's quite annoying having to maneuver around people blocking the aisles in tighter stores, and that's not a big problem here with how much passing room is available!

     While the last photo showcased the inner aisle of the dual front actionway, the outer part of the actionway near the check lanes is even wider, and chock full of filler displays to try to hide all the extra space.

     The cleaning supplies aisle is nice and tidy, as it certainly would have been ironic if it wasn't!

    Returning to the back of the store, here's a look into the meat alcove. The only signage for the meat department was the sign over the service counter, with some of Evergreen's stock photo collages breaking up the blank wall space in the alcove.

     And if it makes you feel any better, I did pick up that package of hamburger buns on the floor after taking this photo - it was bothering me too.

     Pet supplies, hardware, and other assorted general merchandise items could be found here in aisle 6.

     From aisle 7, here's a look toward the doors at the very center of the building. Yes, we are roughly at the halfway point of this tour!

     There is something oddly satisfying about how neatly all those bottles of Sparking Ice were placed on that endcap. I applaud whoever took the time to do that, because that endcap looks very painstaking to stock so perfectly!

     Anyway, reaching the end of aisle 7, the short segment of it between the two parts of the front actionway contain magazines and books.

     Halfway through our tour, we still have plenty more to see, as we still have a bit of walking to do before we get over to this store's last aisle, aisle 15.

     All the comfort foods you need are available here in aisle 9 - candy and soup.

     Here's a closer look at the photo collage in the meat alcove. Pretty much every Evergreen store has this collage somewhere on the perimeter wall, this particular one most commonly found in the frozen foods aisle in newbuilds. This photo collage seems to be a nod to Publix's Floridian roots, with its artistic depictions of palm fronds, the art deco building, and the tropical cocktail ingredients. The middle panel says "I ♥ Green #Publix", stating the theme of the collage (everything featured is green in some way), and may even be a subtle nod to the decor package's name, "Evergreen". Unlike Publix's previous decor packages (which were all named after random paint, tile, or fixture elements within the packages themselves), I wonder if the name "Evergreen" was created as a nod to Publix's longtime corporate color (green) and mantra ("Bleed green"), and isn't just a random named picked out of the Sherwin Williams catalog like some of the others were. So far that's the only theory that makes sense, as the name Evergreen certainly wasn't derived from this decor's primary color scheme! (Hence the tongue-in-cheek "Evergray" name this decor has developed in the supermarket fan community).

     While most of the departments in the store only got one wall sign, Dairy was the exception, getting its name on the wall twice. The sign in the corner is clearly the primary sign for the department, with its complementary textured back paneling (which from closer inspection at another store, is just wallpaper of some kind). The secondairy sign for this department (and I'm sorry if I used that one before, but it's too fitting here) looks like an afterthought, just slapped on the wall without any background directly on the colored stripes.

     Returning to the grocery aisles, we find the health and beauty overflow in aisle 11. The front aisles closest to the pharmacy contain the rest of this store's health and beauty/pharmaceutical selection.

     Near the pharmacy side entrance was this gigantic beer display, which featured signage congratulating the Tampa Bay Lightening for their second consecutive Stanley Cup win in 2021. While the signage is a nice tribute, this display isn't as creative as the faux hockey rink the Palm Harbor Jewel-Publixsons built to fill their extra front end space!

     Earlier in this post I mentioned there were three major relics of Publix decor past floating around in this building - the first two being the flooring and the bakery tile backsplash. The third relic can be found in this aisle, and stands out quite a bit from its gray surroundings - the Classy Market 2.5/3.0 "Cold Beer" sign. No one bothered to yank that sign down during the remodel, and this isn't the first time I've seen that "Cold Beer" sign survive an Evergreen remodel either.

     Following the beer coolers in aisle 13, aisles 14 and 15 contain frozen foods. The photo above shows aisle 14, which is entirely dedicated to frozen food coolers...

     …while aisle 15, the store's last, is three quarters frozen foods, with a tiny bit of the dairy department wrapping around from the back wall into this aisle.

     Speaking of the dairy department, we'll take a closer look at it now. The above photo shows us the secondairy department sign again, as well as an overview of the store's back wall as seen from the building's back left corner.

     The main dairy department sign is located in the back left corner, with the sign taking up the perfect amount of space to fill the corner cut.

     The dairy photo collage was placed on the left wall in aisle 15, although I feel it would have been better if Publix flipped the placement of the secondairy department sign and the collage. The secondairy department sign would have looked less awkward on this wall than the taller back wall.

     Leaving aisle 15, the front left corner of the building is home to the pharmacy counter. The pharmacy counter itself is located just out of frame to the right, with the short aisles of pharmaceuticals in front (and what the above photo is focused on).

     The pharmacy counter itself if pictured here, with the pharmacy side entrance located just beyond the counter.

     Quite a bit has changed here since the pharmacy's days branded as an Osco (although it appears the Florida stores called the pharmacy "Jewel-Osco Prescriptions" instead of just plain "Osco" like the stores around Chicago would, probably because Osco on its own didn't have name recognition in Florida).

     From the pharmacy, here's a look across the front of the store from the inner part of the front actionway...

     …and our final interior photo shows a similar scene to the prior photo, just looking across the part of the actionway closer to the check lanes.

     Exiting the store through the pharmacy doors, here's a look at that set of doors from the exterior, with the liquor store just to the left.

     Here's a better look at the liquor store itself, tucked into the left side of the building.

     While that concludes our tour of the main store, let's jump across the parking lot to see one last element of this store's past, this time with a relic from the Albertsons era:

     At the back of the parking lot, in the tip of the triangle where Belcher Road intersects with Old Coachman, lies the former Albertsons Express gas station. This little corner of the Jewel-Osco property remained empty until the turn of the 21st century, when Albertsons decided to squeeze this gas station on the site. Albertsons Express operated here until 2008, the year when Albertsons began exiting the gas station business (although the company has since returned to operating gas stations). I don't know if the gas station ceased being an Albertsons Express following Publix's purchase of this store in 2008, or if Albertsons began purging gas stations prior to their deal with Publix that August. Regardless, all of the Floridian Albertsons Express locations were sold off piecemeal to independent operators around that time. This station briefly became a Citgo after Albertsons sold it in 2008, then operated independently for a few years before becoming a Valero station in the early 2010's. Today this gas station still operates under the Valero brand, with the convenience store using the name "Fuel Express".

     The convenience store building hasn't seen much change since Albertsons operated it, to the point where the only difference to the building's exterior was Albertsons A-leaf logo being removed for that square sign that reads "Fuel". The "Express" portion of the sign is a remnant from Albertsons Express!

     Even though this gas station has seen nothing more than an obvious cheap rebrand, on my original visit to the area in 2021, I only took those first two interior photos we just saw and drove off to my next destination. Later on I began to regret my decision that day, especially after seeing how other former Albertsons Express stations that were sold off to independents had virtually nothing done to their interiors. Thankfully I ended up in this area again in 2023, and I intentionally made this place my gas stop for the day so I had an excuse to check out the interior of the convenience store.

     Stepping inside the convenience store, the cashier counter is immediately to your left, with a few aisles of snacks and such to your right. the self-serve coffee and drinks are straight ahead toward the back of the building. The above photo was taken from the hallway that leads to the restrooms, which were located behind the cashier counter, looking out toward the few aisles of snacks.

     From the other side of the building, it becomes much clearer that nothing has been done inside this convenience store since Albertsons left! Besides the removal of the A-leaf logos, the wall decor is all original, with the signage for the check out and beverages visible here.

     Now that we've explored the former Albertsons Express gas station, we can head on up to the sky for a quick look at some satellite imagery, starting off with some Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:


Right Side


Left Side

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

Former Albertsons #4401 - 2023

Albertsons #4401 - 2007

Albertsons #4401 - 2002

Albertsons #4401 - 1998 - The Albertsons Express had not yet been built in this image

Future Jewel-Osco #4102 and Albertsons #4401 - 1985 - It looks like the Jewel-Osco was built on the site of a small farm.

     And there you go, another tour of one jewel of a Publix complete! With this tour finished, we only have one more operational Jewel-Publixsons left to see - the Bradenton one, as we've already toured the Jewel-Publixsons in Palm Harbor and Largo. Sadly, I didn't get to visit the Hudson Jewel-Publixsons before that one was ripped down, but we will eventually get a tour of that site in the future. For the remaining Floridian Jewel-Osco stores, we've already seen what remains at the former N. Dale Mabry site, and the Temple Terrace store's remains will come in the future as well. That said, I've finally hit the halfway point in my coverage of the 7 former Floridian Jewel-Osco stores, a modest milestone I suppose. We'll come back to the topic of Jewel-Osco again in the future, but next time we'll take a look at a slightly tamer former Albertsons store, so be sure to come back in two weeks for that!

Here's to a great 2024, and until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger