Sunday, May 26, 2019

Uh Okay Man, Whatever - Former Kmart #3666- Rockledge, FL

Oh Kmart, everyone's favorite ailing discount department store that most people thought already died. Brevard County itself is actually entirely Kmart-less. Not a single one still operates anywhere up or down the county, with the closest store being Indian River County's singular remaining store in Vero Beach. The last Brevard Kmart closed in Palm Bay in 2014, and was rather swiftly replaced by a U-Haul that happily occupies the space. Many of Brevard's other Kmarts however, died much earlier and have suffered far less kind fates. Many went in early closing rounds in 2002, 2003, and 2004.

In Titusville, it has sat largely vacant. A parking lot for the occasional tractor trailer, if anything. Last I heard, it was undergoing internal gutting for an as of yet unknown project. Palm Bay's other Kmart has been split in twain, between an Ace Hardware that closed up shop and a Roses, which if anything can be described as a sickly comedic parody of Kmart itself, being a dingy discount department store that has somehow managed to find success in the model.

Rockledge's store follows a similar story to Titusville's, sitting completely vacant to this day. However, not just this store is dead: it's entire plaza is pretty dreadful. The closest thing to an anchor it possesses is a Bealls Outlet in what was long ago an Eckerd Drugs, which opened to compliment a Florida Choice that never opened (Kroger nixed Florida Choice before it's opening day), which quickly became a Goodings, before closing with the rest of the chain. Since then, it's never had a tenant, save for a small part of it being taken up by Brevard Health Alliance. The rest of the plaza is fairly empty, only a few scattered, quiet, largely non-chain tenants.
Desolate parking lots are always eerie
Looking to our right, we can see the very edge of the plaza, hiding behind trees. This shot also showcases the empty state of the parking lot- the entire area around Kmart was actually sort of marked off with cones, indicating that this plaza apparently has no use for surplus parking.

Welcome to Kmart- rusty, faded, and with a suspicious smell that makes you reach for the respirator. I'm not sure who painted the facade this color- it's certainly not a Kmart color, or at least any I know of, and I don't believe this space had any tenants after Kmart, except for maybe a few raccoons. Either way, this paint has been here long enough to patchily fade back to a sufficiently weathered state, so even if it's not original, it looks the part. The entrance here, despite being shaded by the facade, has still begun to fade, and the pylons out front have aged significantly worse- flaking paint and having turned a chalky shade of their original colors.

Before we get our (best attempt) at a look inside, lets swing house left and look down the other end of the store. Not much but a long, rather monolithic wall and the garden center at the very end- but we'll revisit that later.

 As we inch closer to the interior, we'll take a quick look at the (sadly) locked doors, which have by a stroke of luck not gone totally opaque from over a decade of mold and dust. Not that the interior is short on either of those, as you'll see, but it seems to have avoided the glass. I'm not sure what the blue striping is; between this and the exterior paint job, this store really has the market cornered on
m y s t e r i o u s  c o l o r s.

Someone drop a horror movie set?
 ......yeah. The interior here is rough. The abandoned Sears and Publix/Food World that share a plaza elsewhere in Rockledge have been abandoned for what is likely far longer, and even they didn't come close to the dreadful state that this place is in. Even peering through the glass I felt like I should have been wearing a particulate mask. Just like Kmart itself, this former location is moldy, forgotten, and falling apart more and more by the day. I imagine even if the surrounding plaza was booming, this space would likely have to be extensively remodeled or flat out demolished due to it's current condition.

The larger interior space seems to have taken up the slack for the vestibule, however, as it's in pretty good condition. Relatively, it may as well be shined to a polish.

The edge of the entrance facade creates an eerie shadow as we look down towards the garden center. In happier days, there likely would have been "GARDEN CENTER" lettering somewhere along here, but it's long been removed and I can't even find mounting brackets that seem to match that lettering.

If the interior looks the most like a horror movie set, then the garden center feels the most like it. A rusty skeleton of metal support poles and rusty brown chainlink, sprinkled with windswept debris and weeds.

Now this looks like an abandoned wreck- plywood over the entrances, miscellaneous, vaguely industrial looking metal debris, and my favorite- unidentified large, dark stains on the concrete ground. I'm assuming the debris was either blown in, or left over from some form of interior/exterior gutting, as I couldn't find see an open entrance anywhere, though I didn't check around back. The roof is actually in pretty good condition, all things considered. All the photographs I've seen of former Target garden centers, abandoned many years later and usually still attached to active stores, have looked far rustier and crumbling than this.

No more flowers and ferns, nothing but brown, (presumably) dead grass is available at this garden center today. I'm curious how it ended up this shade, when I see dead grass it's mostly a hay-like tan, not an almost weak chocolate brown. Matches the rusty chainlink rather well, actually.

Bealls Outlet 467, nee-Eckerd Drugs ####?
To round off this post, we'll take a quick look at the only remaining "major" tenant in Barton Commons- a Bealls Outlet, swallowing up a former Eckerd Drugs space. This is also where the name for this post comes from- when I was just about done photographing the plaza, a dude came out of this store and asked a few different people, including myself, for a few dollars, which he assured he needed for non-sketchy reasons. I mean, very likely that he was a few bucks short on his purchase- but still, it's the weirdly specific denial trope in action. I didn't actually have my money on me at the time, and wasn't intending to go back and get it for this, so I mumbled some kind of excuse to his question, and went on my way.

This has been Cape Kennedy Retail; signing off in 3..... 2..... 1.....

Sears #2245 - Melbourne, FL - The End

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.

     Sunday, January 6, 2019 - Approximately 1:00pm: So the day has come. After a little over two months of liquidating, January 6, 2019 marked the last day in business for the Melbourne Sears store. With that being the case, I had to make my way over to this store for one last visit before this place closed for good. In today's post we'll wrap up my extensive coverage of the Melbourne Sears store as it went through the liquidation process, with some very sad photos of this once mighty Sears store...

     The signs in the window reinforce what I just said - this was the Melbourne Sears store's final day in operation after 50 years at this site.

     Heading inside, what do we find but, well, not much of anything. I didn't realize this at first, but I had arrived at this store about 45 minutes before the doors would close for the final time. With that being said, the merchandise picking weren't very extensive...

     In this photo, you can see all of the merchandise that remained - a small selection of ladies' bathing suits for 95% off located between the front doors and the register. That was it. There was no other merchandise for sale except for those bathing suits. Going to a store on its last day in business is a rather odd experience, seeing all the emptiness and the random merchandise that remains. 

     While some devoted bargain hunters dug through those remaining racks of bathing suits, I chose a different option - taking one last lap around the store before it was sealed off for good. Unlike many other closing sales, the empty parts of the sales floor here were not roped off on this final day. The entire sales floor was free to roam about, just like any other day of business here over the last 50 years. Here we're on the other side of the main front registers from the previous photo, looking toward the side entrance by the old optical department. Part of the jewelry counter can be seen poking out at the left side of this image too.

     Speaking of the jewelry counter, here it is. There wasn't any jewelry left to buy here, although two employees were sitting behind the jewelry counter chatting. At this point, there really wasn't much left for the employees to do but sit back and reminisce.

     Here's more of the empty women's clothing department, as seen from the transition into men's clothing.

     Turning around from where I took that previous image, here's a look into the former men's clothing department. Like every other department in this store, the men's section was completely empty.

      Nothing but tumbleweeds here now...

     Here's a look from children's clothing back toward the men's department. Some items from the fixture sale were spilling out into this area. Besides those bathing suits near the front entrance, fixtures were the only other items available for purchase here so close to the end.

     The empty children's clothing department, looking back toward housewares.

     A grand aisle of emptiness now...

      Here's a look back toward the main entrance, where a few people were lining up at the register with their 95% off bargains.

     This would have been the ladies' lingerie section I was standing in, looking toward shoes in the front left corner of the building.

     All sales final...if you could find anything left to buy, that is...

     Leaving some of these empty sections of the store behind us, let's head into the area where the fixture sales were being held. That's where the action begins to pick up once again.

     As you would expect at a retail liquidation, there were plenty of racks, shelves, stands, and tables for sale in the fixtures department.

     On the right side of this image was a floor sample mattress that someone had purchased in the days prior. Going into the final hour of the sale, the person who had bought the mattress had yet to come pick it up. There was an employee over here on the phone trying to get through to the person who had bought this, trying to inform the customer they had very little time left to get their mattress home!

     In between the racks and shelves and such, there were some more interesting items to be found amongst the fixture sale. For example, if you really wanted one of Sears' cash registers, this one could have been all yours for only $50! This was the first time I've ever seen the registers themselves as part of a Sears/Kmart liquidation, so they were really selling out to the bare walls here...

     I found this sign digging through a pile of junk on a cart that someone had dragged out for the fixture sale. Unfortunately I didn't buy this sign, which advertised reserved parking for purchase pickup customers. When I was here I was in the mindset of finding some classic Sears souvenirs to take home with me, so this sign didn't make the cut. However, the people running this fixture sale could have cared less if items had logos or trademarks on them, so I probably could have gotten this sign for 25 cents (the fixture manager's favorite price for everything I showed interest in buying). Honestly, the fixture sale here was one of the most laid back ones I've attended, with some of the friendliest staff too. I wish that was a more common occurrence to find, as I've heard some horror stories about buying fixtures from closing stores (including some negative experiences of my own too).

     Moving along into the hardware department, the fixture sale continued up this way with more random shelves, desks, tables and whatnot.

     The merchandise pickup entrance can be seen in the background of this photo, with the hardware department register just out of frame to my right.

     An example of some of the emptiness in one of this store's hardware aisles.

     This area would have been home to the large hardware items and lawnmowers during normal operations here.

     The empty seasonal department in the back right corner of this store is pictured here.

     Moving along to the appliance department, you can see that all of those were gone too, not even a stray floor model left for sale.

     The far right portion of the appliance department was still being used as a sold fixture pickup area.

     Leaving appliances, here's a look back into the men's clothing department, or better put, where the men's clothing used to be kept.

     We're almost out of time here at the Melbourne Sears store. 1:45pm is swiftly approaching...

     But before we exit, first, an announcement:

     "For your shopping convenience, Sears will not reopen tomorrow morning. And as always, thank you for shopping at Sears." This message was announced over the PA system quite a few times while I was here, which is what tipped me off to the fact that I was here so close to the end. And it was to the end I stayed, leaving this store with the last few shoppers a little after 1:45pm on January 6, 2019. I even watched as one of the employees ripped down the sign with the store's hours on the front door, replacing that sign with a note stating the store was now permanently closed 😢.

     So through those dark doors we must now go, as the Melbourne Sears store is now gone for good...

     ...empty, lifeless, and sealed up tight as you can see here. The above photo was taken about a week after this store closed for good. The Sears sign was removed shortly after the doors were locked for the last time, the labelscars painted over in fresh white paint. I'm actually surprised the Sears logo was taken down here, as many Sears and Kmart stores closed during the bankruptcy never had their signs taken down. Since I took this photo, the hurricane shutters over all the doors and windows on this building have been rolled down, sealing this place off from any vandals. As of May 2019, this building still sits vacant, a for lease sign now in front of the building facing the intersection of NASA Boulevard and Babcock Street. I think I've said this before, but my gut feeling is this building will either become home to offices of some kind, or be town down for offices of some kind. Most of the retail along this stretch of Babcock Street has succumbed to reuse as office space in recent years, and I feel this building will meet that same fate. I'd really like to be proven wrong though and see retail of some kind come back to this site, but at this point, who knows what will happen here.

     While my coverage of the closing of the Melbourne Sears store is now complete, I'll be keeping my eye on this property to see what exactly the future may hold for this old Sears building. Until that day comes, that's a wrap (at least from me) from the Melbourne Sears store. Hopefully it will be a long time before I have to do another store closing chronicle like this one again!

Anyway, until the next post,


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,