Kash n' Karry #1908 / Earth Fare #583
5410 Murrell Road, Rockledge (Viera), FL - Viera East Market Center
This Kash n' Karry store opened in 2000 as the only Kash n’ Karry to ever be built from scratch on Florida’s East Coast. (Long story short, all of Kash n’ Karry’s other short-lived East Coast locations were converted Food Lions, a situation you can read about in more detail here and here). In addition to that, this was also the first supermarket to open in the new Viera mega-development, which was just getting off the ground when this store opened in 2000. This store closed with the rest of the Kash n’ Karrys on Florida’s East Coast and in Central Florida in 2004, when Kash n’ Karry retreated to their core market around Tampa Bay and Florida’s West Coast. That closure wave began the process of converting the remaining Kash n' Karry stores into Sweetbay Supermarkets. After Kash n' Karry closed, this building was subdivided into Sunbay Fitness and HomeCenter. HomeCenter (whatever that was) closed by the early 2010's, and Sunbay Fitness closed in late 2015 or early 2016. After sitting vacant again for a few years, the former HomeCenter half of the building became home to Brevard County's first Earth Fare supermarket, which opened on January 9, 2019. After 15 years, a supermarket finally found itself in this plaza once again, which is pretty neat. The old Sunbay half of the building (the right side) is still vacant as of mid-2019.
With all this coverage of closings here on My Florida Retail, namely the closing of the Melbourne Sears store we've been following since the launch of this blog, why not take a look at a grand opening for a change? Only three days after Brevard County lost its second to last Sears store, some happier retail news was about to happen around here. In the early hours of the morning on January 9, 2019, Brevard County's first Earth Fare store opened its doors to a crowd of eager shoppers. One of those shoppers happened to be me, as I enjoy getting out and going to a good grand opening celebration, especially when a free gift card giveaway is involved 😀 AFB's interest in freebies aside, this grand opening celebration also gave me a reason to check out another one of the many new organic-focused supermarket chains making their way into Florida: Earth Fare. Since we've covered the history of this building rather extensively in previous installments of MFR, today we'll primarily focus on Earth Fare and what exactly this place is all about (and the few remnants from Kash n' Karry that still remain).
Earth Fare was founded in 1975 in Asheville, NC. In the years since, Earth Fare has grown into a chain of 50 stores with locations clustered about in the Southeastern and Midwestern states. Earth Fare opened their first Florida location in Tallahassee in 2010, however a huge push into Florida wouldn't come about for a while. Earth Fare's second Florida location didn't appear until 2014, with a few additional stores opening in Northern Florida through 2017. 2018 is when things would change for Earth Fare in Florida, and new stores began to be announced all throughout the state. With the rise of Lucky's and numerous other "less pretentious" organic grocery chains throughout Florida (like Sprout's and Greenwise Market), the time was now for Earth Fare. Just Googling "Earth Fare in Florida" brings up numerous grand opening articles and announcements of new stores throughout the state.
Like Lucky's, Earth Fare is targeting many markets that the big names in organics (aka Whole Foods) would never think to touch. Also like Lucky's, Earth Fare prefers to select abandoned retail buildings for their new stores, just like this one was. Anyway, my coverage of this store begins on the morning of January 9, 2019, when the first two photos you've seen were taken. The photos in this post are a mix of ones taken on grand opening day, as well as some taken about a week later. Since this place was such a crowded mess on grand opening day, many of my photos from that day turned out showing nothing but a wall of people! A week later things were a bit calmer here, and I was able to put together a comprehensive look at Brevard County's newest grocery store. With that being said, let's head inside and take a look around:
Like most of these organic stores, the first department you enter stepping through the front doors is produce. Produce is located in the front right corner of the store, this photo looking across the store's front end toward the prepared foods and the juice bar (both of which we'll look at in more detail later). Also visible in this photo are some clerestory windows that are a remnant from this building's days as a Kash n' Karry. While Earth Fare and the prior tenants essentially gutted this place to the walls, the clerestory windows from Kash n' Karry were allowed to remain after all these years. It's nice to see these windows remain, as they let a lot of natural light into the store.
If it wasn't apparent, the previous photo was taken during my second visit to this store. Here on opening day, this place was a sea of people! Even with the larger crowd, this early morning picture allowed for a less sun-glared look at the clerestory windows overhead.
Turning around, the produce prep counter is located in the front right corner of this building.
Here's a slightly pulled back view of the produce prep counter from grand opening day, and the swarm of people filling up the produce department.
Still in the produce department, here's a look down the store's right side wall, the clerestory windows in the back of the building visible here. This wall is the dividing wall that splits the old Kash n' Karry space in half. Like I said earlier in this post, this store was one of the unusual round format Kash n' Karry stores. I'm not entirely sure of how the round store layout worked, but it was pretty strange from what I understand. I know there was an island in the center of the store for the deli, and meats were on the back wall. The grocery aisles curved around the center island somehow, but I'm not sure how. I really would have loved to see this place in original form, as the round layout was like nothing else I've ever heard of.
The majority of this store's first aisle is home to bulk foods. Like most other organic stores, the bulk food department offers a variety of bulk candies, coffees, spices, grains, granola, honey, and other things (like the peanut butter grinder visible in the foreground).
Here's a better look down the rest of the bulk food aisle - better meaning more of this department can be seen here, not necessarily a reference to the quality of the picture. Since this was grand opening day, plenty of other people were walking around taking pictures, so the crowd and the thought of getting caught or seen by others taking photos wasn't bothering me that day. What was bothering me was that with all the people in this place on grand opening morning, all the people kept blocking what I wanted to get a photo of!
Coming back a week later after all the fuss dies down really helps! Here's a less crowded photo looking down this store's first aisle, which eventually transitions into the seafood department after leaving the bulk foods.
The back right corner of the store is home to the meat and seafood departments, and was a popular shopping destination on grand opening morning! Not only that, but there were also free sample tables back here as well on opening day, and people weren't going to turn down a free sample of bacon.
Somewhere behind all of those people is a seafood counter - just trust me on that!
There were a few aisles of dry groceries here, I think 3-4 dedicated to a variety of prepackaged foods.
Unlike Lucky's, who carries some non-organic products in order to make themselves look more appealing and less pretentious to people who aren't all-in to the organic fad, Earth Fare is very strict with the organic thing. In order for your product to be carried by Earth Fare, it can't contain any of these ingredients in it, amongst other criteria.
Here's a look toward the remainder of the grocery aisles and frozen foods. You can also see one of the aisle markers poking out here behind the gift cards.
Looking up at the ceiling here, you can see some of this building's former roundness still trying to show.
The wine department is located in the back of the store, behind the health and beauty section we'll be seeing shortly.
Turning around, here's a look toward the back left corner of this store, home to the dairy department.
Frozen foods take up this single aisle in the center of the store.
The next two aisles to the left of frozen foods were home to the health and beauty department, home to a variety of natural personal care products, vitamins, medicines, and aromatherapy goods.
Continuing our trek into the left side of this store, we now enter the dairy department.
Beyond the dairy department in the back left corner of the store was the cheese counter, home to a vast selection of cheeses from around the world. From the looks of it, you could buy anywhere from a small slice to an entire wheel of cheese here.
Moving away from the land of cheese, we'll now turn our attention to the remaining departments located along this store's left side wall. The department located furthest to the back of the store is the bakery, visible here behind the crowd.
With all the people packing into this place on grand opening morning, it was pretty hard navigating through the aisles, especially the aisles along the store's perimeter. Even some of the store's center aisles were getting jammed, as the lines from the front registers were beginning to back up into the grocery aisles by the time I left here on grand opening morning.
Anyway, the next department up from the bakery was the deli, which is just out of frame to my left here. The deli was giving out samples of Earth Fare's chicken salad, which is apparently one of the store's specialty items. I didn't feel like fighting the crowd by the deli counter for a chicken salad sample, but I did fight the crowd for samples of pastries from the bakery. One of the samples I had from the bakery was of a flat fruit filled pastry, which appeared to me to be Earth Fare's healthy, homemade, organic version of a Pop Tart (going off of how it looked), which I thought was interesting (and really good too)!
In front of the bakery and deli departments were the hot foods bars, which you can see pictured here. Since I was here early, the hot food bars were only filled with a small selection of breakfast foods. Later in the day Earth Fare puts out a larger variety of hot foods, which typically follow a theme that changes depending on what day it is.
In addition to the hot food bars, the remainder of the prepared foods could be found over here in the kitchen. However, this isn't just any kitchen, it's the Viera Kitchen - a nice little touch of local flare. The kitchen is where this store's pizza counter is located, as well as the sandwich station.
Immediately next to the kitchen is the juice bar, again, blocked by a wall of people. Here is where you can buy a variety of smoothies and other blended and infused juice drinks, along with freshly squeezed orange juice.
Against my better judgement, I decided to grab two pizza slices while I was here on grand opening morning. While the pizza was good (the crust nice and thin, just the way I like it), the lines here were insane. The line I was in stretched about halfway down one of the grocery aisles, and according to the timestamps on my photos, I waited in that line for 45 minutes for my two slices of pizza! Oh well, like I said, I enjoyed the pizza, so it was worth it in the end. Pictured here is the seating area located in the front left corner of the store, where I was able to find a seat and take a few minutes to enjoy my breakfast. Another nice little thing about Earth Fare's seating area is they offered free iced tea here, which was a plus (and much more exciting than the usual free water!).
Now that I've fought off a crowd and had my breakfast, we can bring this tour to a close as we head back outside for a few final photos...
While Earth Fare's arrival called for reconstruction of the old Kash n' Karry facade, the old round exterior can still be seen poking though the new storefronts if you look closely at the above photo. Currently, the right half of the old Kash n' Karry building (which was previously home to Sunbay Fitness) is still vacant. Earth Fare was using this storefront as storage during the grand opening festivities, but with the new life they've brought to this center, it shouldn't be too hard to find someone to fill up the empty right half of this building.
Even though it took 15 years, this old Kash n' Karry was able to find life as a supermarket once again. Earth Fare's arrival to this plaza really turned things around here. Prior to Earth Fare, and even when Sunbay Fitness and HomeCenter were still here, this plaza was very slow and didn't offer much of a reason for people to come here. With Earth Fare, this plaza is always packed now, completely transforming Viera's most depressing shopping center into one of the area's newest hubs. With the new Viera Boulevard interchange on Interstate 95 about to open soon as well (located less than a mile from this plaza), this store will begin to draw even more people to the area.
So I guess you can say the story of this old Kash n' Karry store had a happy ending. This location was rather perfect for Earth Fare, taking this otherwise dead plaza and turning it into a destination once again. Now if only we can get more stories like that! To close out this post, here's a look at this building from a few years ago, back when it was still semi-abandoned. With the overgrowth cut down, the parking lot repaved, and a new grocery store in place, it does a lot to cheer this place up, right? While I do miss the unique look of this building's original facade, at least some elements from the Kash n' Karry days live on here in Viera.
So that's all I have for this post. Until the next time,