Friday, July 19, 2019

Old Publix Admiration in Lakeland

While in Lakeland in early March 2019,  I stopped by a few of the old Publix markets in town.

Former Publix Super Market #5 (the first)
1065 S. Florida Ave. (SR 37)
Lakeland, FL 33803
March 17, 1949 - November 16, 1965

The first new Publix Super Market to be built by Publix in Lakeland (and fifth new market overall), #5 replaced an All-American store (building no longer exists) at 904 S. Florida Avenue.  Although Publix #36 at Southgate Shopping Center opened a mile south of here in 1957, #5 soldiered on until November 1965, when it was replaced by the second #5 (now a Save-A-Lot) at Wabash Shopping Center, 3 miles northwest.

Grand Opening ad for #5, March 17, 1949. 
(Photos courtesy: Tampa Tribune)

Along with the "Florida's Finest Food Stores" slogan, "More For Your Money All the Time" was Publix's tagline in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Today, old #5 is home to Waller Design and Construction (since the 2000s).  While the 70-year-old building has been modernized, some Publix remnants are recognizable.

Could some Art Deco glass be lurking behind the curved walls at the entrance?

Looking across South Florida Avenue at the first #5. In the foreground is a replica Boneshaker bicycle, serial number #1122, that was likely built in the early 1970s.

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The next stop in Lakeland brings us to the original Publix Super Market #15, now a Polk County Tax Collector office location.

Former Publix Super Market #15 (the first)
916 North Massachusetts Ave.
Lakeland, FL 33801
December 1, 1953 - July 20, 1964

Publix #15 was the third new Publix built in Lakeland, and the first Publix in Lakeland featuring a dedicated parking lot out front.  This YouTube clip from WTVT-TV, Fox 13, features both the first #5 and the first #15 as they were in the 1950s.

This October 25, 2017, Lakeland Ledger article describes store #15 by Jennifer Bush, former Publix historian.
“When this store opened, it was described in the local media as the masterpiece market of the 1950s,” she says. “At that time, this was something really new. This store was the first Publix to be constructed with the store set back from the street and having all that parking in the front.”
Bush says Jenkins, while on a trip to St. Louis, had seen a shopping center that utilized that design.
“He was always looking for ways to make his stores better,” she says, “and he brought that idea back here. It was a big step back then to attribute so much space to parking.”

I believe this store, the largest Publix in Lakeland by far when it opened in 1953 and is now 24,000 square feet, replaced two former All-American units, one at 224 N. Massachusetts Avenue, and the other at 814 N. Florida Avenue (US 98). Both of those locations were demolished long ago.
In September 1964, this building began its second life as a multitude of car dealerships over the years, selling Rambler/AMC, Datsun/Nissan, MG, Kia, and Suzuki vehicles,  but the vast majority of this period saw Datsuns and Nissans being sold, from 1966 to 2001. The last known car dealership here was Michael Holley Kia, in the mid-2000s.  Polk County Tax Collector Joe Tedder purchased the building in 2012, renovated the building, and opened in November 2013.

The below pictures feature two tile mosaics that are reproductions of similar mosaics which were installed at Publix #70, Coral Ridge Shopping Center, Fort Lauderdale, FL.  These were unveiled at the Tax Collector's office in November 2018.

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The third and last stop this trip was a visit to #15's replacement in the Sears Town Shopping Center (now called Town Center) around the corner on Memorial Blvd.

Former Publix Super Market #15 (the second)
919 E. Memorial Blvd. (US 92)
Sears Town / Town Center
Lakeland, FL 33801
July 21, 1964 - 1999

The Searstown Publix Wing, December 1985.
(photo courtesy: Publix archives)

Searstown Publix sometime in the mid-1980s.
(photo courtesy: Pleasant Family Shopping and Tim Fillmon)

Tile mosaic by John Garth, flanking the left side of the old Publix (1964-2017).
(photo courtesy: Pinterest)

In 1964, California artist John Garth was invited back to Florida by George Jenkins to create and install more tile mosaics to beautify two new stores, #15 (the second) and #100 in Winter Haven.  The original mosaics flanking the former Town Center Publix are the only Garth pieces still standing.
Unfortunately in 2017, property management for Town Center saw fit to paint over the old mosaics. More on the mosaics herehere and here.

A view of the painted-over tile mosaic flanking the right side of the old Searstown Publix.  

The original Publix windows, sills, and exterior marble are still here, 55 years later.

The right hand swing-in door was replaced with a much wider sliding one sometime after 1985, and the left hand swing-out door was never upgraded, since replaced with window glass.

They're difficult to see, but the original Publix striped green terrazzo floor lurks underneath Save-A-Lot's linoleum tiles.

Looking inside the left half of the store, which was formerly a Citi Trends Fashion For Less.

Lastly, here is the John Garth tile mosaic flanking the left hand side of the former Searstown Publix.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time,

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Big Lots #5272 - New Smyrna Beach, FL

Walmart #1079 (Original Location) / Big Lots #5272
1998 State Route 44, New Smyrna Beach, FL - New Smyrna Beach Regional Shopping Center

     To bridge the gap between our two remodels, we're going to use this post to take a quick look around the building that housed New Smyrna Beach's original Walmart store. While this building was been chopped up into 5-6 different storefronts in the post-Walmart era, the building is still easily recognizable as a Walmart to this day. That distinctive entrance vestibule isn't going to fool anyone! 

     Originally opening with the rest of the New Smyrna Beach Regional Shopping Center in 1987, Walmart lasted in this tiny old building until November 15, 2011. On November 16, 2011, Walmart officially opened their new Supercenter at the northwestern corner of Route 44 and I-95 about three miles to the west of here. Locals weren't happy about the move when it was first announced, as the new Supercenter was going to be located quite a distance from the center of town, unlike the original store. Other than being right next to I-95, there still isn't much out by the current Supercenter in terms of well, anything. However, there are plans in the works for more retail and residential neighborhoods closer to the Interstate, so I'm guessing Walmart's move out that way was done looking to the future rather than the present.

     Shortly after Walmart made their move to the edge of town, the building's landlord decided to subdivide the space. In doing so, the landlord was able to get Bealls Outlet to relocate from the former Walgreens space by the plaza's Publix into the old Walmart building, as well as attracting Big Lots as a new addition to town. The remainder of the Walmart building was divided into smaller spaces, including Firehouse Subs, T-Mobile, a tobacco shop, and a small gym. There is still a chunk of space between Big Lots and the small stores that remains vacant to this day. Also to note, while Publix owns the rest of the NSB Regional Shopping center, they do not own the old Walmart building. The Walmart building has always been owned independently from the rest of the plaza.

     On the far right side of the building are the smaller storefronts. Pictured here are the gym and Firehouse Subs, with the two spaces between them later going to the tobacco store and T-Mobile. The doors on the far left side of the image go into the remaining vacant portion of this building.

     The Big Lots portion of the building will be the feature of this post. Out of all the stores in this building, I figured Big Lots would be the most likely to find any traces of Walmart in. Outside of the entryway, which is almost entirely original to Walmart, not much else remains from this building's past inside unfortunately. It's not the greatest photo in the world, but here's a glimpse at what the entryway portion of this building looked like as Walmart.

     Interestingly enough, the New Smyrna Beach Big Lots opened on November 16, 2012, exactly one year after Walmart opened their new supercenter. Bealls Outlet would follow on November 30, 2012, with the smaller stores slowly trickling in after that. Stepping inside, here's a look across Big Lot's front end. The wall you see in the distance is the store's left side wall, behind which is Bealls Outlet.

     Here's a look toward the entryway from the front left side of the building. I'm standing in the area where Walmart's cash registers would have originally been located.

     When Big Lots moved in, the ceiling, lighting, floors, and just about everything else were redone, leaving very little from Walmart to pick out anymore.

     In the front left corner of the store I found this emergency exit door, which looked rather old to me. I'd say it's a safe guess to assume this fire door was original to Walmart, even if it does lack the classic Walmart fire exit decal.

     Here's the main aisle that runs down the left side of this Big Lots store. The housewares were located in the aisles to my left, with food in the center of the store to my right.

     Looking down this building's left side wall.

     In the distance I see the furniture department...

     This store uses Big Lots' early 2010's sign design, which would later go on to be replaced by plain orange signs like these. Those signs at that link have since been replaced again by the "Store of the Future" design. Right now Big Lots is remodeling all of their Orlando area stores to the "Store of the Future" look, so we'll get to see what one of those is all about before too long. The "Store of the Future" remodels bring some radical changes to Big Lots, changes that are slowly creeping into the rest of the chain, but I'll discuss that more another time.

     Anyway, back to the furniture department. This store had a rather large furniture selection, located in the back left corner of the store. Due to the way the old Walmart was carved up, Big Lots' space is actually L-shaped. Since Bealls Outlet's rear wall doesn't go all the way to the back of the building, Big Lots' furniture department extends further to the left than the rest of the store. In the next few photos you should be able to see what I'm trying to explain.

     Stepping into the furniture department, here's a look back into the main sales floor. The sofas and such were located closest to the main sales floor, with the beds, recliners, and dining tables extending behind the Bealls Outlet space.

     Turning around, here's our first peek into the extra space Big Lots takes up behind Bealls Outlet. This extra alcove gave Big Lots plenty of space for their growing furniture selection. Interestingly, Big Lots is actually the 8th largest furniture retailer in the United States in terms of sales, selling more furniture than some big names in the industry like Raymour & Flanagan, American Signature, and La-Z-Boy. With Big Lots' furniture sales growing quite rapidly (growing to $1.4 billion in 2017 in just furniture), it's no wonder the furniture department is becoming the centerpiece of their stores. In the Stores of the Future, the furniture department gets the most dedicated floor space of any other department, and placement in the center of the store. In addition to that, Big Lots also announced recently they have purchased the Broyhill furniture brand and all trademarks associated with Broyhill. Sometime in 2020 Broyhill furniture will launch as Big Lots' new exclusive furniture brand.

     In the very back of the furniture alcove are the restrooms, located down that small hallway in the distance.

     The back wall of the furniture department is the actual back wall of the store. On the wall are some scars in the block where walls were removed and holes were patched up during the subdivision of this space in 2012.

     Here's a look from the furniture alcove back toward the main sales floor. This photo probably does the best job at showing how the layout gets a bit odd in this part of the building.

     Straight ahead of us is Big Lots' backroom space, and beyond that the seasonal department.

     Here's a parting shot of the furniture department before we move on to seasonal.

     The back right corner of the store is home to the seasonal merchandise, which was patio furniture and outdoor stuff at the time of my visit.

     Here's a look back toward seasonal from the right side of the store. This side of the store contained the cleaning supplies, toy department, and electronics departments in addition to seasonal merchandise overflow.

     Here are a few final looks at the front end before we head back outside...

     While the inside wasn't much to write home about, the exterior of this store couldn't get anymore Walmart. Even those "Enter" and "Exit" decals above the doors date back to Walmart, as those were present in that photo I linked to of this store back in the Walmart days.

     So there you have it, the New Smyrna Beach Big Lots in the town's old Walmart. With this store tour out of the way, we've also completed out rather thorough look at the New Smyrna Beach Regional Shopping Center. Next time we'll hop across the street for a taste of Winn-Dixie, where we'll get a nice glimpse at what happens when you blend 1996 with 2019!

So until the next post,