Sunday, May 5, 2019

How Did the Old Kash n' Karry Fare?

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,


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Happy Easter from My Florida Retail!

     Happy Easter from all of us here at My Florida Retail! Target spared no expense with their giant "Easter basket", getting in the spirit by filling it with a bunch of Kinder Joy eggs. Anyway, I hope everyone has a great Easter! As an Easter gift to the readers of MFR, keep scrolling down for Part 3 of the continuing series on the closing of the Melbourne Sears store...

Sears #2245 - Melbourne, FL - The Closing Continues

     Everything must go as the closing sale continues at the Melbourne Sears store! Jumping now into part 3 of my four part series on the closing of this store, things are going to start looking much more like a closing now than we saw last time...

Sears #2245
1050 S. Babcock St., Melbourne, FL

     This Sears store opened in 1968, coinciding with the opening of the neighboring (now dead) Brevard Mall, which featured Montgomery Ward and JCPenney as its anchors (more on that here, though). In 2015, this store was sold to Seritage Properties as part of SHC's controversial REIT deal, which is typically not a good sign for the long-term future of a Sears or Kmart store. Even with that being the case, this Sears location was supposedly a "Top 200" store from what a few employees told me, citing this Sears location had particularly strong sales in clothing. As usual, Eddie doesn't care about any of that, and this Sears store was marked for closure during SHC's initial bankruptcy filing in October 2018. Liquidation sales had begun here in late October 2018, with the store closing for good on January 6, 2019 at 1:45pm.

     Saturday, December 29, 2018 - Approximately 5:00pm: Returning to the Melbourne Sears store once again, we're jumping ahead six weeks from where my photos last left off. That may seem like a lot of time I had left to pass, but I wanted to begin the next portion of this series from where this closing really felt like a closing. In that span of six weeks I'd popped into this store a few times to walk around and check out the fixtures, but I was waiting for the right opportunity to take my next round of photos. The Christmas season now behind us, I figured this late December evening would be a nice chance pick up where I had left off, as the closing of the Melbourne Sears store continues...

     Getting ready to head inside once again, here we can see the countdown to the end is on...only 9 days left here according to the sign.

     Heading through the main entrance and turning to the right, here we find some large swaths of emptiness in what was formerly the women's clothing department. Yep, this sure looks much more like a closing now, the merchandise selection rapidly dwindling...

     One of the store's side entrances is clearly visible from this perspective now, helped by the fact that the women's clothing has been consolidated to a small area immediately surrounding the front doors.

     Next to that side entrance, we have our first decent look at the little space that was once home to the Optical department. In the last few posts from here we saw the signage for this space, but this is our first look at the Optical box itself. At this point well into the closing, the Optical department had been cleared out and chained off.

     Returning to the main aisle, we find more emptiness as the side of the jewelry counter tries to peek out from the left side of this photo. That too was rather empty when I walked by it.

     And not only was the jewelry counter mostly empty, most of the counter itself had been sold off too.

     Continuing our theme of emptiness, here's a look into the empty portion of the men's clothing department. What was left of the men's clothing had been consolidated into the section just out of frame to my left.

     As usual, plenty of store closing signage was taped to the windows, just like we see here at the men's clothing side entrance.

     The empty cubbies made for an interesting sight in the men's department. The jeans used to be placed in these cubbies.

     Moving back to the main aisle, we can see what was left of the men's clothing selection from this perspective.

     The children's clothing selection was fairly thin too, but seemed to be one of the fuller departments left in this store with 9 days to go. Some of the fixtures sale area had begun to creep into this part of the store too, those empty racks to my left being part of the fixture sale.

     Leaving the children's clothing department, here's a look back toward the main entrance, around which most of the remaining merchandise was consolidated.

     There were a few pairs of shoes left in the aisles to my left, but the aisles by the door were completely empty.

     It was slim pickings in the housewares department as well, with all the remaining housewares condensed to the endcaps on the main aisle. The fixture sale also began to encroach on this area as well, with that visible to my left.

     Turning around, here's a better look at how the small appliance, furniture, and mattress department had been turned into a home for fixture sales. The fixture sale also continued back into the hardware department. They really had a lot of fixtures to sell off here. Most of that stuff was large fixtures and other things I didn't need, but I was able to dig myself out a few small souvenirs over the course of this closing. However, I'll talk more about the stuff I found in my next and final post about this store.

     Even with the fixtures sale taking up most of the former mattress department, a few display mattresses were still available for sale. Those mattresses were all shoved into this part of the department, near the aisle that cuts across to children's and men's clothing.

     Here's a better look at the fixture sale that was going on. At this point in the closing, I think there were more fixtures for sale than actual merchandise! Anyway, that old desk to my left looks interesting. You never know what gets left behind in these old desks, so why not open the drawers and poke around inside of it?

     To be honest, I don't remember exactly what desks I found these two papers in. They came from two different desks, and there were at least 10 desks for sale scattered throughout the fixture department. The first relic I found inside the desks I poked through was this telephone directory, listing the extensions for all the different departments, as well as the phone numbers for some other Sears services. This directory was relatively modern though, probably made within the last decade to reflect the phone system in this store in its final years. However, this next item I found in a desk lives up to the name of "relic" much better:

     Moving along to a different desk, it's yet another telephone directory - this one being much, much older than the last one we saw though. I really hope that no one was using this directory in recent times, as the extension numbers, while similar, don't quite match up with the extensions mentioned on the modern directory. For example, if you wanted the assistant manager, this directory says to dial 203. On the modern directory, dialing extension 203 would have gotten you the Merritt Island store! For an idea of how old this directory is, it references the Cocoa Sears as one of the nearby stores. The Cocoa Sears relocated to Merritt Island in 1989, although I feel this sheet is probably much older than that.

     Clearly, winning an award for increased sales and profits won't save a store from closure - these awards just became one more thing to drag out for the fixture sale.

     Behind the old mattress department was this little room. I don't know if this room served any particular purpose, but it did contain an emergency exit complete with a Sears logo.

     Heading into the hardware department, here's one last overview looking back into the fixture sales area.

     Entering the hardware department, the old H&R Block and hearing aid center become visible once again. To my left and inside the old H&R Block/hearing aid spaces were yet more fixtures - certainly no shortage of those here.

     The hardware department was quite empty by this time in the closure process. There were some random large items and a few thin aisles of hand tools left, but the selection was certainly picked over.

     The seasonal and sporting goods department had been reduced to nothing more than three ladders for sale.

     Leaving the seasonal and sporting goods department behind us, we'll take this time to stroll through the little corridor into appliances and back around to the fixture sale. However unlike the song in the background of the video says, I don't think there is a remedy for Sears...

     Turning around from where that video ended, here we have a view looking back into the appliance department. I like the way the perspective of this photo turned out.

     Moving along into the appliance department, what was left of the merchandise was consolidated into the part of the department where I was standing for this photo. The merchandise remaining consisted mainly of display appliances, with what little backstock that remained being dragged out into empty portions of the sales floor. Going further toward the wall and the old exterior entrance, the appliance department turned into a holding area for fixtures that had already been purchased.

     The fixtures holding area was roped off, but I was able to get a few photos of this portion of the store from the other side of the rope.

     Heading back toward the men's clothing department, here's another look toward the fixture holding area.

     I think this photo is a pretty good summary of what a closing sale is all about...

     Before leaving this store, here's one last look at the merchandise that remained in the front portion of the building. As we've seen from this tour, the merchandise visible here made up about 85% of the merchandise that was left in the building.

     With the merchandise thinning out, that did provide me with an opportunity to get a better photo of the raised squiggly ceiling over the front doors.

     And to finish out this post, here's a look at the now-closed Sears Auto Center. The Auto Center lasted about a month or so into the closing process of the main store, closing about a month and a half before the main store.

     With part 3 of my Melbourne Sears closing series out of the way, that means I have one more part to go in my continuing coverage of this store: the final day. That's going to be a fun (but sad) post - probably the most exciting part of this entire series. Look for that to come to the blog soon!

So until the next post,