Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Winn-Dixie #307 - Stuart, FL

Kmart #9106 / Winn-Dixie #307
2160 SE Federal Highway Stuart, FL – Stuart Square

     This building was originally constructed in 1972 to house a Kmart store, the first of two Kmart stores to open within a few miles of each other in Stuart. In 1993, a new Kmart opened as part of the redevelopment of the Martin Square Mall a mile to the south of here, with the new Kmart replacing the Stuart Square store as well as the Cove Center Kmart with one large, modern Kmart. In 1994, Winn-Dixie relocated to the Kmart space from an older store at the other end of Stuart Square, a space now occupied by Big Lots. In March 2018, it was announced that this Winn-Dixie location would be one of 94 Southeastern Grocer owned stores to close as part of SEG’s bankruptcy, with this store closing permanently in April 2018.

     While news of Southeastern Grocer’s bankruptcy has been out for a while now, I figured I should try to get to this photoset out while the news is still semi-current. The Stuart Square Winn-Dixie was one of 94 stores affected by the closure wave to come out of SEG’s March 2018 bankruptcy announcement (a list of affected stores can also be found at that link). Out of those 94 effected locations, the Stuart Winn-Dixie was the only one of those affected stores I had photographed prior to its closing, and much of the reason I’ve chosen to post them now. These photos were taken way back in 2016, so everything was running as normal in these photos. This store received a façade upgrade in the early 2010s when the landlord redid the plaza’s exterior. With that remodel came a modernized exterior for the Winn-Dixie as well as the updated logo, but don’t let the exterior fool you into what the inside looked like…

     As I mentioned in the description above, this Winn-Dixie location began its life as a Kmart. Winn-Dixie was attracted to some former Kmart buildings in the mid 90’s as these former Kmarts provided a spacious home for Winn-Dixie’s Marketplace era stores, which were much larger than the tiny 70’s and 80’s built Winn-Dixies they replaced. However, other than this being an unusually large Winn-Dixie, there really weren’t any other clues as to this building’s past as a Kmart. When Winn-Dixie took over this space in 1994, they did a thorough remodel to bring this place up to Marketplace standards, wiping away anything left behind from Kmart. As Retail Retell commented, "I had no clue about their propensity for taking over former Kmarts. Pretty neat history!" Off the top of my head, in addition to this store, the Winn-Dixies in Clermont and Perry were also former Kmart stores. The Ormond Beach Winn-Dixie, interestingly enough, opened in a former Wal-Mart!

     Now it’s time to step inside for our first look at the interior. Like I said, the exterior of this building was deceiving. While the exterior was updated in the early 2010’s and appears semi-modern, the interior still contained this store’s original Marketplace décor from when it opened in 1994. And yes, Marketplace was the interior this store closed with in April 2018. In this particular photo we’re looking from the front of the checkouts toward the special deal section and produce. Behind the produce coolers you can see the banner that covers the partition between the main store and the liquor store.

     This small alcove in the front of the store (decorated with some tropical wallpaper for a beachy effect – this is coastal Florida after all!) contained some more promotional items, but at one time housed the Winn-Dixie photo center. As YonWooRetail2 commented about the wallpaper: "I like the palms!"

     Looking toward the rear of the produce department, we can see some of the first few grocery aisles appearing in the distance. Aisles 1-4 are rather short and were located in a small alcove in the back right corner of the store. The alcove was created due to the way the Winn-Dixie liquor store was carved out of part of Kmart’s former sales floor space.

     This is another look into the back right corner of the store, showcasing the aisles in the alcove once again.

     This was the only photo I took showing this store’s produce and floral departments somewhat up close, and unfortunately it didn’t come out so great.

     The bottles of wine you see immediately to my left are located against the back wall of the liquor store. From this vantage point we’re looking width-wise across the entire store down the center aisle. Like I said previously, this was a really big Winn-Dixie!

     Aisle 1 was home to beer and wine. With the way this store was laid out, this aisle was somewhat hidden and isolated in the store’s far back right corner. As vintagefans commented, "This store seems pretty nice, the decor is kind of mellow and calming. I bet this was a really nice store in its time. Also, I saw photos somewhere of a store with this decor, where they replaced those old W/D logos on the signage with the newer checkmark logo."

     Here is a look across the back of the store, as seen from the “luncheon meat” department at the edge of the alcove. The deli was located just ahead where the back wall juts out a bit further into the sales floor.

     The deli counter was located along the store’s back wall behind aisle 8, closer to the back middle part of the sales floor. In most Marketplace stores the deli is located in the far right corner behind produce and the “grand aisle”, however this store’s odd size and layout pushed the deli counter closer to the center back of the store. As vintagefans commented, "It looks like the deli cases got updated at some point. Also is that a sandwich station second from left? It reminds me of the sandwich counter at Publix." Yes, that is a sandwich station. At lot of the older Winn-Dixie stores have been adding those (at least in my area) over the last year or so, and I've seen a good number of people ordering sandwiches at the stores with these counters. I haven't tried a Winn-Dixie sub yet myself though.

     The grocery aisles double in length at aisle 7, as we begin to move away from the produce department and the alcove created by the liquor store.

     Looking back toward produce and aisle 7, with part of the produce department visible to the right side of the photo.

     Here is a look across the rather spacious front end, with the pharmacy and service desk visible in the background. As usual in these Marketplace era stores, the ceiling over the front registers drops down lower than the ceiling in the rest of the store.

comment from vintagefans

     Frozen foods were located in the center of the store, clad in an abundance of the classic Marketplace salmon and teal color scheme. The matching coolers are also original to this store’s opening in 1994. As YonWooRetail2 commented, "Very cool photo! I like those Marketplace floor tiles!" vintagefans went on further to say, "Me too, this store seems like it was really well taken care of, the floors look to be clean and in good condition too."

     As usual in most Marketplace era Winn-Dixie stores, the pharmacy was located between the service desk and the bakery near the front of the store. From what I’ve seen in online records, this store’s pharmacy appears to have closed in the Winn-Dixie pharmacy closure wave of late 2016. That closure wave occurred about 6 months after this photo was taken.

     Immediately to the left of the pharmacy counter was the service desk, which is somewhat obstructed by the vending machines in this photo. I have a better photo of the service desk coming up later in this post, as I believe I took this one primarily to capture the “Pharmacy” signage on this wall.

     Health and beauty products were located in aisle 14, which was one of the aisles that resided in front of the pharmacy box.

     Aisle 17 contained more health and beauty products, with the second half of the aisle changing to laundry detergent and other cleaners.

     This store’s rather large bakery was located in the front left corner of the building. Of course, one of those pesky Down Down signs had to get in the way of the bakery sign! Even partially blocked, you still have to love that neon!

     Panning further to the left, we can see more of the bakery counter as it makes its way in the direction of the pharmacy. Behind the bakery counter are some signs and decorations that also date back to the Marketplace era (with the exception the Celebrate Grads of 2016 [such as Retail Retell] sign, obviously – that one is just there to cover an older sign!).

     Here we have a close-up of the sign for aisle 20, with the dairy department signage visible in the background.

     Now for a close-up of the dairy department sign itself. Dairy was located in the back left corner of the store, part of which wrapped around the store’s left side wall.

     The remainder of the dairy department can be seen here in this store’s last aisle, aisle 21. Like I said before, this was a rather large Winn-Dixie considering its past as a former Kmart. Most average Winn-Dixies will top out at 17-18 aisles, although I have seen some others hit aisle 20. However, that must have still been a pretty rare occurrence, as the original style Marketplace aisle markers had a bit of a drawback once the aisle count got to 20!

     Moving back up front, here we have a closer look at the front end and the store’s eight registers (well, seven out of the eight anyway).

     The service desk is located behind the pharmacy, immediately next to the entrance. In this picture, to the left of the “Service” sign on the wall, there is a box with the numbers 1-8 listed on it (and it looks like the numbers can light up too). I remember seeing that box in other Marketplace stores many years ago, and could never figure out its use. Does anybody happen to know exactly what that box was used for? This store has eight registers, so my theory is that box was correlated with the registers somehow, but I could be wrong. If anybody knows more, please leave a comment below! l_dawg2000 presented this humorous theory about the sign: "One number lights up for every customer waiting at the desk to rent a Rug Doctor!?? (The 8th person waiting in line would then get to rent their Rug Doctor for free)! Crazy theory for sure, especially since there wouldn't be enough Rug Doctors to go around, so it probably does have something to do with the registers..."

     One final interior photo, which looks toward the store’s exit. We’ll head through those doors for the last time as we get ready for a few final shots of the exterior of this now-former Winn-Dixie…

     The liquor store, which was technically considered Winn-Dixie #327, was tucked into the front right corner of the building near the location of Kmart’s former Garden Center. I didn’t get a close-up photo if it during my visit (as I just discovered this when I was preparing these photos to upload a few weeks ago), but there’s a small grassy area to the right side of the Winn-Dixie building where Kmart’s garden center once stood.

     This exterior overview will be our parting shot from the now-former Stuart Winn-Dixie store. while the building is still empty as of January 2019, the landlord’s website already lists that they have half of the Winn-Dixie space leased out to a new tenant, described at that link as a “New Specialty Grocer”. According to the URL of that link, that diagram showing the “New Specialty Grocer” in half of the Winn-Dixie space was published back in February 2018, even prior to the announcement of SEG’s bankruptcy. So it looks like this store’s fate was sealed whether a bankruptcy happened or not, probably due to Winn-Dixie’s lease expiring sometime later in 2018 and the landlord wanting Winn-Dixie out. That situation seems likely, because if Winn-Dixie signed their lease for this space shortly after Kmart closed in 1993, 2018 would be 25 years later, a good time for a lease to run out. The bankruptcy probably pushed this store’s the closing date further up so it could close at the same time as all the other stores, rather than it being a one-off later this year. I have a guess at who that “Specialty Grocer” may be, as a situation similar to this happened back in West Melbourne in 2015, but certainly Sprout’s or Earth Fare aren't off the table as options either. However, I haven’t found an official announcement of the specialty grocery’s identity, so it’s all just speculation at this point. So the good news is this space won’t be sitting empty for long, however it appears the new tenant came at Winn-Dixie’s expense.

So until the next post,


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