Sunday, February 18, 2024

Sweet Dreams Have Become Chinese (And Who is Publix to Disagree?)

Publix #81 / Sweetbay Supermarket #1973 / MD Oriental Market of Pinellas Park
7580 49th Street North, Pinellas Park, FL - Park Plaza

Today's post is a presentation of Pinellas County retail

     Moving approximately 1,000 feet west from where we left off last time, we find ourselves at the MD Oriental Supermarket of Pinellas Park. As I mentioned when we toured the Publixsons across the street, the building we see here was Publix's original home in Pinellas Park for just shy of 50 years. After all that time in the same building, you can imagine Publix was anxious to grow into something newer and a little more in line with the company's modern standards, so across the street Publix went when the opportunity arose. After getting situated in the former Albertsons in 2010, another Floridian supermarket chain tried to make a fresh start in this newly-vacated Publix box - Sweetbay Supermarket, who hoped to use this new location as a platform for the Sweetbay stores of the future. Sadly, as we all learned, the early 2010's were the beginning of the end for Sweetbay. Sweetbay's parent company, Delhaize America, announced their departure from Florida in 2013, selling all the remaining Sweetbay stores to BI-LO Holdings (the precursor to Southeastern Grocers, parent company of Winn-Dixie). The new Pinellas Park Sweetbay barely had the time to prove itself before it began its closing sale, ending up as one of the stores closed outright by Delhaize in early 2013 just before the sale to BI-LO Holdings. As we'll see in a little bit, Sweetbay's legacy somewhat lives on in MD Oriental Supermarket, but before we get to the what is, let's spend a little time learning about the what was, going back to the beginning with the original tenant in this space, Publix store #81:

Photo courtesy of ferrett111 on flickr

    I happened to come across a few photos of Publix #81 during its final years on flickr, thanks to photographers ferret111, Otherstream, and who will be giving us a quick glimpse at what this old Publix was like. Originally opening on August 2, 1962 as a Wing Store, Publix was the grocery anchor to Park Plaza, one of the first major shopping centers to be built in Pinellas Park, a growing northern suburb of St. Petersburg. Woolworth, W.T. Grant, and Eckerd rounded up the remaining anchor tenants in the plaza, a healthy mix of stores for the early 1960's. In the late 1980's, the original Wing Store was starting to become a bit small and dated, so Publix expanded the store to the left, nearly doubling it in size. That late 1980's remodel was when the facade was reconfigured into what we see in the photo above, with its single vestibule that most late 1980's newbuild Publix stores would receive. That 1980's remodel was also when this store received a set of tile murals too:

Photo courtesy of ferrett111 on flickr

     To the left of the vestibule was this massive tile mural of the typical cornucopia and wine scene, one of Pati Mills' more standardized mural designs for Publix. The cornucopia and wine murals would also date this store's expansion more toward the mid-1980's than late-1980's, as Pati Mills began to choose more region-specific mural designs for her artwork toward the end of the decade.

Photo courtesy of ferrett111 on flickr

     Off on the right side of the exterior was this smaller tile mural, featuring more wine and a bowl of fruit. Sadly, both tile murals did not survive the conversion of this building into a Sweetbay, so thankfully ferret111 thought to get a photo of these before Sweetbay ripped them out.

Photo courtesy of Otherstream on flickr

     The 1980's expansion was the last intensive remodel this store received, with all later remodels being much cheaper decor swaps. I'd have to imagine this store was remodeled to Wavy Pastel in the early-mid 1990's, with this store receiving one final remodel in the early 2000's to give this store Classy Market 1.0:

Photo courtesy of on flickr, and located by GeorgiaPubDude

     Within the depths of the internet, a few interior photos of old store #81 exist, this first one giving us a look across the store's front end. I'd have to assume that the customer service desk was located in the corner behind me like a typical early 1980's Publix, with the above photo taken from the service desk looking out toward the check lanes. Beyond the check lanes we see a wine alcove, although it's hard to tell what else was over there along the left wall (with that part of the store being the 1980's addition space).

Photo courtesy of Otherstream on flickr

     Zipping along in our office chair to the back of the store, this next photo was the only other interior photo I could find showing off the store's Classy Market 1.0 decor. Above, we see the store's back wall in the meat and seafood department. That photo was taken in the store's expansion space, as we can see the transition between the expansion's while floor tile and the original striped Wing Store terrazzo. This being an expansion store, I'm not really sure how the layout of this building was set up, as Publix expansions would lead to some unorthodox layouts at times. Meat and Seafood was in its usual spot on the back wall, and I'm thinking the expansion could have looked similar to this one, as Publix probably rebuilt all the service departments in the new expansion area for a grand aisle down the left side of the store.

Photo courtesy of Otherstream on flickr

     While it might not show the walls, here's a look at #81's floor, where we can see the store's original 1962 terrazzo floor, still looking good in the late 2000's. Much like the tile mural, Sweetbay didn't want 50-year-old terrazzo in their new store, however unlike the murals, I'd bet you that original terrazzo is still there underneath the faux-concrete linoleum Sweetbay installed. In addition to the floor covering, GeorgiaPubDude also found this photo looking into #81's bathroom, showcasing the old wall tile pattern too.

Photo courtesy of Tamara S. on foursquare

     Following Publix's move across the street, Sweetbay wasted no time and swiftly began remodeling this building into their new prototype, with the announcement of Sweetbay's arrival happening only 3 months after Publix's move. The new Pinellas Park Sweetbay was one of three new Sweetbay prototypes opened in a former Publix shell, joining stores in Cape Coral and Palm Harbor. Interestingly, the old Publix buildings Sweetbay took over in Cape Coral and Palm Harbor were also buildings left behind when Publix relocated to a former Albertsons nearby, so I don't know if this was a package deal of Publix leases Sweetbay bought, of if it was just a coincidence at a time when Sweetbay was looking for the opportunity to expand and try out their new prototype.

Photo courtesy of Amber L. on foursquare

     The new Pinellas Park Sweetbay opened in early 2011, interestingly, as Pinellas Park's first and only Sweetbay store. Unless Kash n' Karry had a really old store in Pinellas Park many years ago, the 2011 opening of this store marked the first time Pinellas Park ever had a presence from either brand, which is interesting since Pinellas County was a good market for Kash n' Karry and Sweetbay, and Pinellas Park isn't one of the county's tinier towns either, with a population of over 50,000. Locals were quite excited for having a new grocery option in town, and Sweetbay seemed pretty eager to show off their new prototype too. Sweetbay gutted and rebuilt the old Publix, the new store opening with a new floorplan and the super rare Sweetbay 2.0 decor. We got a nice look at the Sweetbay 2.0 decor in the chain's very last newbuild store in The Villages a while back, and the decor in here was exactly the same. Only Sweetbay's last 4 new stores to open got the Sweetbay 2.0 decor, along with two additional remodels from the early 2010's, bringing Sweetbay 2.0's total store count to 6 of the chain's 105 stores that operated before Delahize began to wind down operations in 2013. I really liked the aesthetic of Sweetbay 2.0 and where Delhaize was trying to go with the chain, and it's sad the reinvigorated Sweetbay design barely went anywhere.

     And speaking of stores that barely went anywhere, Pinellas Park's Sweetbay was one of them. After only 2 years in business, Delhaize included this store as one of 33 that would close by February 2013, a closure wave that occurred only a month before Delhaize announced that the remaining 72 Sweetbay stores would be sold to BI-LO Holdings. Come early 2013, this building was vacant again. The building would remain empty for another 2 years, before local Asian grocery chain MD Oriental Markets announced this former Sweetbay would become the chain's 3rd (and largest) store in 2015.

     This new store was a big step for the MD Oriental chain, as the company's first two locations (both in Tampa) were about half the size of this one. MD Oriental took the bones of the old Sweetbay and added their own touches to the place, with a little sprinkling of Sweetbay remnants for good measure. MD Oriental's new store has proven to be a success, and is currently the largest Oriental grocer in Pinellas County. MD Oriental is constantly raved about by locals online too, especially for its selection of meats and hot foods. Sweetbay remnants non-withstanding, I agree with the locals that this was a fun store to walk around, as the selection of Asian brands was really extensive, and I even came home with a few different snacks to try.

     From the outside, we see that MD Oriental didn't do anything to the store's exterior since moving in besides swapping out the signs - even the building's paint scheme is original to Sweetbay. Sweetbay left the basic exterior structure from Publix behind (if you compare the before and after photos it's pretty obvious), but reconfigured the entryway, added a liquor store, and dressed up the facade to look more like the typical Sweetbay design.

     Publix's 1980's vestibule structure was kept by Sweetbay, although Sweetbay moved the entrance to a single set of sliding doors along the front wall, changing the design from Publix's set of doors on each side of the vestibule. The vestibule was converted into a large interior cart storage area...

     …which to this day is still filled with Sweetbay's carts and signage! With that sign still prominently on the wall, hopefully MD Oriental is still upholding Sweetbay's low price promise. While MD Oriental did swap out Sweetbay's decor for a new one, MD Oriental didn't remove every last trace of Sweetbay from this building, leaving behind some interesting remnants like this sign (which was printed with the Sweetbay 2.0 font scheme). The low price promise sign is hanging where Publix's right side doors would have been, and is also our sign of good things to come...

     That being said, let's head into the main store to see a little more:

     Stepping inside, you encounter the check lanes. The entrance spills out into the "grand aisle" of service departments, which line the left side of the building. The natural layout of this store takes you in a clockwise rotation, beginning with the grand aisle and ending in produce. However, I ended up walking around this store beginning in produce and ending in the "grand aisle", so we'll be touring this store backwards from how MD Oriental and Sweetbay intended. However, the way we'll be walking through this store was the intended path of how Publix had this place set up, so I guess I'm just so used to Publix's right-aligned layouts I subconsciously began my tour over here!

     The interior layout we'll be seeing in here is basically the same as how Sweetbay left the building, with only a few minor changes. Sweetbay's layout in this store was a bit unorthodox compared to similar Sweetbay newbuilds of the time, probably one of the constraints of trying to convert an expanded 1960's-era Publix building. This store is almost a mirror of Sweetbay's usual layout, however produce was the only department that wasn't mirrored with everything else - it stayed in the same spot in the front right corner where it would have always been, with all the other service departments flipped to the left side of the building.

     MD Oriental swapped out the wall decor from Sweetbay 2.0 to a nicely designed custom package of their own. The main department names are in in Chinese, with English subtitles and complimentary stock photos. Those wooden trellis features hanging from the ceiling are a leftover element from Sweetbay 2.0.

     Not only were the trellises a leftover from Sweetbay, but the fixtures were too. I figured the fixtures were left over after I began seeing examples like this throughout the store:

     WOW! - Sweetbay's promotional signage was still being used by MD Oriental! It's one thing walking into an independent supermarket and seeing reused fixtures, as those get left behind all the time, but seeing the old promo signs was quite interesting! A lot of these signs were quite worn from being used again and again since being made back in in the 2012-2013 era, but if you were left behind perfectly good promo signs from the former tenant, why not make the most of the situation and reuse them?

     We'll be seeing a few more examples of surviving Sweetbay signage like that before the end of this tour, but for now, let's keep the pace and move along to the next department: frozen foods.

     The right-most aisle and a half of this store is home to frozen foods, with frozen foods occupying unnumbered aisles 13 and 12.

     A little bit of frozen foods spills out onto the back wall, with the back wall transitioning into frozen and pre-packaged meats and seafood following that cut-through for the stockroom door.

     After frozen foods is this double-wise aisle, numbered as aisle 11, with the remaining frozen foods coolers on the other side of those pallets in what should be aisle 12. The pallets in the middle of this aisle were assorted promotional and sale items, with bulk bags of rice completing our selection to my right.

     Moving into more of the grocery aisles, we find ourselves in the dry grocery section, with these next few aisles home to assorted snack foods, candy, noodles, spices, and so on. MD Oriental places overstock goods on the top shelves, making these aisles feel taller than they really are.

     I like trying different snack foods, so I spent a little bit of time roaming these aisle for some new things to try. One of the more interesting flavors of potato chips I found was this one - Hot and Sour Lemon Braised Chicken Feet. While the chip flavoring probably didn't contain any actual chicken feet (probably just some kind of chicken flavoring), I wasn't feeling super adventurous this day, so I opted for a seasoned steak flavored potato chip instead to bring home with me (which was pretty good - Lays should bring that flavor to the US).

     The aisle markers in this store were a really neat custom design with two staggered panels, the upper panel featuring product categories in English, with the same (I'd imagine) categories in Chinese on the lower panel. The number on the bottom of the aisle marker is accompanied with its Chinese equivalent as well.

     In the middle of one of the grocery aisles was another display table with its original promo signage, but leftover promo signage wasn't just limited to display tables...

     …this back endcap still had all of its original signage from Sweetbay in-tact too! While you don't see the color purple in a lot of supermarket decor, Delhaize used it quite a bit in Kash n' Karry's final decor package from the late 1990's and early 2000's, as well as in Sweetbay. Like green is to Publix, Sweetbay adopted purple as their corporate color, and as you've seen with the old promo signage, Sweetbay liked to use purple wherever they could!

     Like we saw in that interior photo from Publix, the back wall was home to their meat and seafood coolers, and that was carried over into Sweetbay and MD Oriental too. Publix's meat and seafood service counter was roughly located in the area to my left, with Sweetbay moving the service counter closer to the back left corner of the store.

     Aisle 2 was home to a really broad assortment of general merchandise - I see some stools, cleaning supplies, and dishes, among other items, with aisle 3 (which I didn't get a photo of) containing assorted kitchen tools and knickknacks as well.

     Getting closer to the back left corner, the back wall opens into an alcove, where we find additional meat coolers and the meat service counter itself.

     MD Oriental's signage graces the upper portion of the wall in the meat alcove, with Sweetbay's old category signs lining the top of the cooler.

     Sweetbay's old meat and seafood service counter was walled off with additional cases for packaged meats, with MD Oriental converting the former deli space next door into their new meat and seafood service counter. While the signage and paint is new, the curved overhang and design of the old counter is leftover from the Sweetbay 2.0 design. That pattern on the wall behind the meat sign almost looks original too, as it's the same shade of red that Sweetbay used, but Sweetbay would have had the wall painted plain red behind the sign (like you see at that link), and not with the sunshine pattern there now.

     Here's another look at the old meat and seafood service counter as seen from aisle 1, a short aisle just off the grand aisle that was home to beer and wine.

     Moving into the back left corner of the building, we find MD Oriental's seafood service counter in Sweetbay's former deli department. The butcher and fishmonger station was in the corner where an abundance of fresh fish lying on ice, with the even fresher fish swimming around in those tanks to my left.

     From the front of the building, here's an overview of the store's grand aisle. While the decor was swapped out, the bones of Sweetbay 2.0 are still very prominent in the design of these departments. We've already discussed the meat and seafood departments and the former deli, so next up in the middle of the left side wall is the bakery, which is also located in Sweetbay's former bakery space.

     MD Oriental has a really big baked goods operation here, with a full in-store bakery for cakes as well as Asian pastries and breads. While I was here, I bought a durian roll, which was a sweet roll with a durian cream filling. I'd never had durian before, and I have to say, even though durian gets a bad rap for its stench, it tastes much better than it smells. One of these days I'll have to try plain durian to compare.

     One of this store's biggest claims to fame is its hot foods bar, which locals say has some of the best Asian food in the area according to reviews. Had I not visited this store just after it opened for the day when there was nothing out yet, I would have tried some, but I guess I'll have to find an excuse to come back to Pinellas Park and try it another time. The hot foods bar is located in Sweetbay's old pharmacy space, giving the hot foods a prominent location near the front of the store. Sweetbay's old liquor store was that windowed area next to the hot foods bar. MD Oriental ripped down the liquor wall and converted the liquor store into a dining area, a great reuse for that otherwise dead space too.

     Here's another look at the hot foods bar and the dining area, as seen from the front end. The former liquor store the dining area occupies was installed new by Sweetbay, sacrificing a small portion of Publix's former salesfloor to install that.

     Our final interior photo looks across the store's front end, which consists of 5 check lanes. Even this early in the morning, the store was still attracting quite the crowd, so I'm sure this place gets pretty busy in the afternoons.

     Back outside, here's a look at the former Sweetbay liquor store space from the front walkway. The Liquor store is located where the giant cornucopia mural was that we saw at the beginning of this post, the mural sacrificed to carve out the windows and doors for the new liquor store. When MD Oriental converted the liquor store into a dining area, they closed off the exterior entrance, covering the door with some decals of food photos, with similar decals placed on the windows above. Straight ahead of me, that window on the side of the vestibule would have been the left side doors into Publix.

     While this seems like a strangely framed photo of the exterior to end this post with, there was a reason for the strange angle - I didn't take this photo to capture the facade, I took it to capture that cart return! The advertisement over the cart return is another remnant from Sweetbay, reminding us that our cart still has work to do, so please return it here! MD Oriental slapped a sticker over Sweetbay's logo, but otherwise left another fairly obvious Sweetbay remnant out there in the wild for us to see.

     While we may have been lacking on Publix remnants at this store, I did manage to scrape up a few "sweet" relics in relation to Sweetbay's short tenure in this building. With these Sweetbay 2.0 prototypes being so rare, it was nice to take another look at what one of these stores was like, and I may have another Sweetbay 2.0 related surprise up my sleeve as well for another time. Not only Sweetbay 2.0, but I have some other interesting Kash n' Karry and Sweetbay-related content in my archives for another time as well, and while we'll see more of those two fallen Floridian supermarket chains in the future, it's back to my screenname-sake chain next time, with more former Floridian Albertsons fun coming at you in two weeks.

I'll see everybody then, and until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Former Albertsons #4349 - Pinellas Park, FL

Albertsons #4349 / Publix #1344
4701 Park Boulevard North, Pinellas Park, FL

Today's post is a presentation of Pinellas County retail

     Last time on AFB, we toured a Grocery Palace Albertsons in Arizona (thanks to contributor Monique Sammi). Unfortunately, I won't be able to top that this time, as we're right back to looking at yet another Publixsons store in Pinellas County today! Just in the last few months on AFB, we've toured stores in Washington State and Arizona - two states I never thought would see coverage on AFB. Thanks to our blog contributors we've been able to take a look at what Albertsons has been up to at some of the remaining stores out west, however, us Floridians will just have to settle for this if we want a little taste of the good old days of shopping at Albertsons. Maybe one of these days I'll end up at a Safeway in the Washington, DC area or an Acme to add a little bit of modern Albertsons to our rotation of Publixsons stores (or if the Kroger merger goes through, would the Fernandina Beach Harris Teeter count as a modern Albertsons store?), but for now though, let's turn our attention to our good old friend Publixsons and see what former Albertsons #4349 is all about:

Clipping courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times

     Construction on Albertsons #4349 began on March 25, 1981 at the northeastern corner of Park Boulevard and 49th Street in Pinellas Park, a suburb of St. Petersburg located just to its north, not far from the Pinellas County approach to the Gandy Bridge. The new Pinellas Park Albertsons would bring a new design prototype to the county, a 58,000 square foot store with an "updated and modernized" exterior, a larger produce department and liquor store, and Albertsons' usual features of a deli, bakery, and pharmacy. The new building design mentioned in the article is what I've been calling the "Trapezoid" model Albertsons, based off the shape of the store's vestibule when viewed from above. Only 11 Trapezoid model stores were built throughout Albertsons' Florida division from 1981-1984, a fairly short-lived design overall. A somewhat stylistic revamp to the previous Skaggs-designed building format, the Trapezoid design was replaced by the Superstore Albertsons buildings, a totally new design era for Albertsons come the mid-1980's.

Photo courtesy of Google Streetview

     Albertsons #4349 would opened on December 2, 1981, replacing a few city blocks that once contained a few small business along Park Boulevard and 49th Street, and some trailers on the inner portion of those streets. I'd imagine this store received some kind of remodel by Albertsons in the early 1990's, but it did receive one last remodel from Albertsons around 2003, where the design of the facade was updated to what you see in the Google Streetview image above, and in YonWoo's recreation below:

Photo courtesy of YonWooRetail2

     A few other Trapezoid model Albertsons stores received similar remodels to the one we see here around 2003, and with this updated exterior treatment the stores would usually receive Albertsons' Broadway/Industrial Circus decor on the interior too. I haven't been able to track down any interior photos of this store from the early-to-mid 2000's to confirm what interior it had before it closed, but I feel pretty confident in saying this store closed with the Industrial Circus decor inside, based on the similar remodels elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of ferret111 on flickr

     Besides the paint color on the wall above the doors, YonWoo's recreation of this building from the mid-2000's was pretty spot on. The photo above shows the former Pinellas Park Albertsons in October 2009, as it was in the middle of its conversion into a Publix. This Albertsons store was one of the 49 locations sold to Publix in 2008, and one of the later stores to reopen as a Publix from that batch, with its grand opening not opening until January 21, 2010. Upon its opening that day, Publix #1344 replaced Publix #81 in the shopping center across the street, an old expanded Wing Store we'll discuss in much more detail later.

     As one of the later stores to reopen from that batch of 49 Albertsons locations Publix bought in 2008, this store had a heavier remodel following its conversion. The interior of the store still has the bones of an early 1980's Albertsons, but Publix redesigned and rebuilt all the service departments from the start, not waiting until a secondary remodel in the early 2010's to do such (as was the case with many of the other Publixsons stores from the class of 2008).

     In the years since Publix took over this building, they repainted the walls above the entrances from Albertsons' dark yellow to that shade of blue Publix likes to use on these former Albertsons buildings. Publix also replaced Albertsons' swinging doors with sliding ones, but that's been the extent of Publix's modifications to the exterior of this building since 2010.

     That stucco panel where Publix's logo is now was added by Albertsons in the 2003 remodel. Outside of similar decorative stucco over the liquor store entrance, that was the extent of Albertsons' exterior modifications to this building through the years too. Outside of all those small changes the exterior of this building is still pretty close to original...

     …including the exposed river rocks still visible on the outside walls! While the rocks have been painted over in the years since 1981, the texturing from the rocks is still visible, which still counts.

     Heading inside, here's a look at the store's right side entryway, which brings shoppers into the store's grand aisle. A similar set of doors is located at the opposite side of the vestibule, bringing shoppers into the pharmacy department. The check lanes are located between the two sets of doors, with the customer service desk originally located along the wall between the two sets of doors when Albertsons was here, which Publix has since relocated to an island located on the grand aisle side of the check lanes.

     The interior layout of one of these Trapezoid model Albertsons stores didn't differ much from its predecessor the Skaggs model. The main differences with these Trapezoid stores compared to their predecessors was the reconfiguration of the front vestibule and the location of the service desk, the removal of the side entrance, and pharmacy moving from the back of the building to the front where the side entrance used to be. As such, upon entering the store from the right side entryway, turning to the right we find the deli counter in the building's front right corner, the above photo being a close-up of the deli counter itself.

     Zooming out just a bit, here's an overview of the deli department from out in the grand aisle, showcasing the department's signage, or better said, lack thereof. I happened to visit this store just as it began its remodel from Classy Market 3.0/Sienna to Evergreen in late 2021, so we'll be seeing a lot of blank but colorful walls during this tour. The remodel was in its very early stages, as the only progress made by the time of my visit was the removal of the wall signage. No direct signs of Evergreen were present during my visit, but rest assured, Evergreen is going strong in this store now.

     With its 2010 opening date, this Publix opened with a late-era version of Classy Market 2.0. Publix remodeled this store to Classy Market 3.0/Sienna around 2015 and then remodeled it once again to Evergreen in 2021, keeping this store on pace with Publix's traditional remodel pattern of every 5-6 years that I've seen mentioned in the past (although as we've seen, some exceptions to that rule do exist from time to time, but certainly not to the extent other grocers let remodeling slip by!).

     Panning just a bit more to the left, we see the sign-less bakery. However, the white blotches from where the old signs were pulled down make it pretty easy to recreate the scene in our minds.

     Publix reconfigured the design of the bakery prior to the store's opening to make it conform with the then-current Publix design, with the curved ceiling and upgraded back room space.

     Every time I walk by the Publix bakery, there's always one of the bakers standing back there, making it hard to get a nice close-up of the bakery counter like this. I must have gotten lucky with the baker having stepped away for a moment to get this shot! (Actually, upon zooming in, I think I found the baker - she's sitting at the computer behind that cake poster). That little area with the wall of drawers behind the counter must be the cake decorating area, but I don't recall seeing that so visibly open at other Publix stores.

     Stepping further out into the grand aisle from the bakery, we find ourselves in the produce department. The produce department sign managed to survive the cut since it was hanging from the ceiling, but I'm sure it's days were numbered. Interestingly, that produce sign used to be located further back from that spot (if my depth perception isn't failing me), as the organic produce (which appears to have originally been located on that front display table) used to have a matching CM 3.0/Sienna hanging sign of its own.

     Produce extends out behind the bakery department to complete the store's grand aisle, although the blank walls make the department feel just a bit less grand.

     With a remodel in bloom, not only do we have a closer shot of the produce department above, but the floral department is poking out from the left side of the image as well.

     Floral is located in a small island in what Publix considers this store's aisle 1, that half-aisle of groceries that marks the boundary of the grand aisle. The floral department sign was updated when the store last remodeled from CM 2.0 to CM 3.0/Sienna, but the tile backsplash on the island is actually a remnant from the store's original CM 2.0 decor. That tile matched CM 3.0/Sienna pretty well, so I don't blame Publix for keeping it through that remodel, but that tile pattern will really look strange with Evergreen if it wasn't swapped out during the latest remodel!

     Friends, let us all take a moment of silence to remember our dear friend the CM 3.0/Sienna artichoke stock photo, who graced this wall with its presence for almost 6 years, just to be yanked off the wall with nothing more than a giant white rectangle to remember it by. May the collage of cucumbers, kiwis, and leafy greens carry on your honor.

     I feel like I took a lot of photos of this store's produce department - if so, at least this is the last one before we turn the corner to take a look at the back wall:

     The produce coolers wrap around the back right corner before ending with a shelf of pre-packaged bulk foods. Beyond that is the meat and seafood counter and the meat coolers.

     While the back wall was totally sign-less, we can use the colors to tell what everything is - under the green patch is the seafood service counter, with meats under the red patch up ahead. For the most part, the brown paint was just filler color between the two service departments.

     Between the transition from produce to seafood was a door to the stockroom, as well as a set of stairs that leads to the store's mezzanine level. Unlike Albertsons late 1980's stores with a catwalk above the front end that led to offices and the breakroom, these Trapezoid-era stores had all that over the backroom, with a much smaller window overlooking the store that we'll see in a little bit.

     For now though, let's meander through the grocery aisles as we continue across the salesfloor...

     Aargh you ready to take a look down the store's front aisle, maties? Only in Tampa Bay would you see a giant pirate ship as the focal point of a Frito Lay display, but it would make Jose Gaspar proud (and a reference to Jose Gaspar is fitting for this post, as the big Gasparilla festival in Tampa was last weekend).

     Anyway, behind the pirate ship is the service desk (never would I have thought those words would ever make it into one of my posts!), with the check lanes stretching out beyond that. When Albertsons was here the service desk would have been located along the front wall between the two sets of doors, although Publix relocated the desk to an island when this store opened to conform the front end layout to what you'd find in a typical new Publix of the 2010's.

     The service desk and the check lanes abut the front part of the store's dual front actionway, with the photo above showing us the inner portion of the front actionway, near the beginning of the main grocery aisles.

     With this store having a more thorough remodel prior to opening as a Publix, Publix opted to install the much nicer faux terrazzo laminate in this building instead of the yellow and beige tile pattern most of the other stores from the batch of 49 received. Publix also redid the store's lighting before reopening as well, with the lights being Publix's preferred square style (and giving the store a more Publix-y ambience compared to the former Albertsons buildings that still retain their original fluorescent track lighting).

     From one of the short front aisles, here's a look into aisle 4, home to all of your baking needs.

     If the Seafood counter's signage wasn't removed, we'd have had a pretty good look at it from this spot near the end of aisle 4. The spotlights that once illuminated the seafood sign now shine on a blank wall, although the Sushi sign managed to squeak its way through the first round of signage removal.

     The dark red paint makes it much easier to see where all the marks were left behind and covered when the Meat signage was removed. The window into the butcher's room was located under the meats sign, with the pre-packaged meats extending beyond that along the back wall.

     Before leaving this area, here's a close-up of the seafood service counter, which also retained its original Classy Market 2.0 tile backsplash into the Classy Market 3.0/Sienna days.

     Coffee and cereal are paired perfectly together in aisle 5.

     From the end of aisle 5, we can see clear through the greeting cards toward the service desk, with the Jolly Roger flag poking out near the left side of the photo too.

     Returning to the inner part of the front actionway, here's a look toward the left side of the store from our halfway point, with dairy lining the wall in the distance.

     Baby supplies (complete with their Evergreen category markers and signs) are paired with juices and jellies in aisle 6.

     Moving along to aisle 7, we find the first of the store's two aisles of frozen foods. Also, at the end of aisle 7, we can see the window from the mezzanine level that overlooks the salesfloor.

     Following a break in the meat coolers by a stockroom door, the back wall transitions into dairy, which wraps around into the store's last aisle, aisle 14.

     Aisle 8 is the other aisle of frozen foods in this store, pictured above.

     Yuengling and Little Debbie cakes - that sounds like the diet of most college students there! Anyway, stepping out of aisle 8, here's another look toward the front end through some of the short general merchandise aisles, with some office supplies and health and beauty products visible down those aisles.

     From over the halfway point in this tour, here's a look back toward the bakery from the front actionway.

     Following frozen foods in the grocery aisles, we find wine and beer in aisle 9.

     From the end of aisle 9, here's a look back at the meat coolers and the meat and seafood service counter.

      With the chips and soda in aisle 10, this is the aisle to party in!

     Jumping over to the internet's favorite grocery aisle, number 12, we find Ziploc bags and paper products.

     Last but not least we find aisle 14, which runs along the building's left wall, where we find the remainder of the dairy department. On the other side of aisle 14 you'll find every kind of bottled water imaginable - sparkling, spring, distilled, purified, mineral, flavored, and even caffeinated (yes, that's a thing - what will we think of next to make water more interesting?).

     Approaching the end of aisle 14, we find the side of the pharmacy counter.

     The pharmacy signage managed to survive the signage purge for the same reason the produce sign did - while it looks like the pharmacy signs are mounted to the wall, they're actually hanging from the ceiling a few inches out from the wall. I guess since they weren't true wall signs, they made the cut to hang around this store a bit longer. The pharmacy was totally rebuilt after Publix took over this store, with everything you see being straight out of Publix's 2010's store design.

     Walking away from the pharmacy, here's a really nice overview of the front of the store from the inner part of the front actionway. The low height of the short front aisles gives us a clear view of the bakery on the other side of the store, with the check lanes just on the other side of those shelves.

     And speaking of the check lanes, here they are. Including the 3 express lanes in the middle, this store had 11 lanes total, which is on the higher side for a Publix (it's pretty uncommon to see a Publix with over 10 staffed lanes, so either this store is high volume or just had a lot of extra front end space).

     Pictured above are lanes 10 and 11, with the service desk under the round ceiling behind that.

     Here's a nice overview of the store's front end from the opposite side of the building, this time looking toward the pharmacy counter.

     Publix's online order staging area is in the approximate area of where the service desk would have been when Albertsons was here. In addition to that, the front wall in front of the check lanes was home to more kiosk machines.

     For a change, our final interior photo of this store will be of the pharmacy. When you walk into this store through the left side doors, the pharmacy is right on top of you like this, so there's not a lot of maneuvering through the store if you're coming in just to use the pharmacy counter.

     Back outside, this building is still undeniably an old Albertsons.

     While the exterior is still mostly vintage to 1981, Publix has done a good job of keeping this store up to date, especially inside.

     Now that we're back outside, here's a look toward the attached liquor store, located on the front left corner of the building.

     The trim and stucco detailing was added by Albertsons during the 2003 remodel, but otherwise the remainder of the liquor is just as original as the rest of the exterior.

     Publix usually replaced Albertsons' old swinging doors on the old liquor stores, but opted to keep Albertsons' original ones here.

     I really don't have much else to add about the liquor store, other than I took more photos of it that I thought!

     Down the left side of the building, all that original river rock still lies exposed. After the last few Trapezoid stores were built in the mid-1980's, river rock was retired from Albertsons' buildings. The mid-1980's was when Family Mart also dropped river rock from their store designs, so that must have been around the time when river rock went out of style as a wall treatment, and went back to being used as a garden landscaping material.

     That's about it for the old Albertsons building, but let's head out into the parking lot and back in time 16 years for a glimpse at this store's former Albertsons Express gas station:

     Directly on the corner of Park Boulevard and 49th Street was the store's Albertsons Express gas station, added around the turn of the 2000's in an unused corner of the parking lot. This Albertsons Express wasn't as deluxe as others, and was only a gas canopy with a small booth between the pumps to pay for gas and buy cigarettes. After Albertsons sold off this station in 2008, the new owners tore down the old Albertsons Express and built a fancy new gas station on the site called Racin' Gas, which opened around 2010. Racin' Gas rebranded to Chevron in 2018, and has been a Chevron since.

     We'll finish out our ground coverage of this Publixsons store with a photo of its road sign facing Park Boulevard, which is very much a cheap reuse of the classic Albertsons pillar sign.

     Now that we've seen that, it's up to the sky we go as we begin our aerial coverage, beginning with some Bird's Eye aerial images courtesy of Bing Maps:


Right Side


Left Side

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

Former Albertsons #4349 - 2023 - The old Albertsons is the large building on the right side of the image, while the shopping center to my left contained the original Publix store the current Publixsons replaced.

Former Albertsons #4349 - 2010 - Redevelopment of the old Albertsons Express is in progress here.

Albertsons #4349 - 2008

Albertsons #4349 - 2002 - The building as it appeared before the exterior modifications were made during the 2003 remodel.

Albertsons #4349 - 1998 - Albertsons was doing something right in the 1990's.

Albertsons #4349 - 1984

Future Albertsons #4349 - 1969 - Here we can see all the buildings that were later removed for the new Albertsons store.

     And with this parting shot, that will conclude our look at the Pinellas Park Publixsons. While that exhausts my coverage of this Publix in the present day, as you've probably noticed, I haven't talked much about the original Publix this store replaced. That was by intent - I didn't want to spend a lot of time talking about the original Publix today, as we'll be taking about it a lot in our next AFB post - the original Publix will be the store we're touring next time! Before you get too excited with dreams of Wavy Pastel and Classy Market 1.0 remnants to delight you, let me just say that while we'll be seeing some supermarket remnants next time, they won't be Publix's. However, there's a lot to see and explain about old #81 across the street and what happened to it in the years after Publix left. While it's no Nam Dae Mun, I think you'll still find the store interesting, so be sure to come back in two weeks for that!

So until the next post,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger