3318 Canoe Creek Road, St. Cloud, FL - Canoe Creek Shopping Center
We started off 2020 with the downfall of Lucky's Market and Earth Fare, which wasn't the greatest way to begin the new decade for Floridian retail. With those sudden failures behind us, I was hoping things would finally begin to reverse course and something good would happen. However, no sooner had the dust settled from the collapse of those chains, the coronavirus pandemonium crept up on us. The virus pandemonium is bringing an entirely new set of issues to the world of retail and restaurants in a way we've never seen before. While the impacts of the virus and how well retail will bounce back when all that is behind us are still unknown, all I can say is to hope for the best, and hopefully we'll begin to see recovery sooner rather than later. Anyway, AFB and MFR are places where you come for some positive energy and to escape the uncertainties of reality (even if I do post a store closing series here and there, which might not be the most positive subject in the world), so I don't want to dwell on all the negatives plaguing the airwaves right now. That aside, today's post is one that ended up getting pushed back a while due to my coverage of the closings of Lucky's Market and Earth Fare in the early months of 2020. With all that now behind us, we can press on and travel to the Central Florida city of St. Cloud, home to the Winn-Dixie store we'll be touring today.
St. Cloud is home to the last two operational Winn-Dixie stores in all of Osceola County. While Osceola County is a rather large county in terms of both population and land area, the vast majority of Osceola's 350,000 residents are confined to the county's northwestern-most corner (a geographic distribution you can get an idea of from this map if you're not familiar with the area). Kissimmee, the largest city in Osceola County (and a major tourist area due to its proximity to Disney World), lost its last Winn-Dixie store in 2019 during Southeastern Grocer's bankruptcy filing. That closure left Osceola County with only these two stores on the far eastern edge and far southern edge of St. Cloud (the store we'll be looking at today being the one on the far southern edge of town).
While Winn-Dixie has a long history in St. Cloud (including a number of former locations along the US 192 corridor in the heart of town), the history of the South St. Cloud store is rather simple. This Winn-Dixie opened brand new in 2003, one of the handful of new locations Winn-Dixie opened between the end of the Marketplace era in 2000 and the chain's massive bankruptcy in 2005. Southern St. Cloud is compromised of numerous subdivisions built during the early 2000's, with the intersection of Canoe Creek Road and Old Canoe Creek Road (where this store is located) acting as the heart of these modern developments. Along with Winn-Dixie, there's a Publix across the street, along with a Walgreens, dollar store, and a few fast food places to round out the retail selection on this corner. The Orlando area is where Winn-Dixie opened the majority of its new stores between 2000 and 2005, as the company felt Central Florida was their best area for growth in the years leading up to the 2005 bankruptcy. In addition to the new build stores, Winn-Dixie also acquired most of Gooding's stores during that same time period, giving the Orlando area 12 new Winn-Dixie stores during the early 2000's (the 9 Gooding's plus 3 new build locations). Sadly, due to Winn-Dixie's woes throughout the late 2000's and 2010's, only 3 of those 12 Central Florida stores opened in the 2000's still operate as Winn-Dixies in 2020 - one ex-Gooding's (Lake Mary/Heathrow) and two of the new builds (South St. Cloud and the Apopka-Vineland store in Orlando near Disney World).
While these early 2000's Winn-Dixie stores are rather simplistic compared to some of the showier 2010's prototypes Winn-Dixie experimented with (like the Transformational stores), this was still a nice store for Winn-Dixie (and I'm sure the fact it's a newer store helps, even though by "newer", I'm actually referring to a 17 year old building! The 2000's were that long ago now?!). This photo is our first glimpse at the interior of the store, looking back toward the main entrance. Some promotional displays take up the space when one first entered the store, with floral located next to the entrance doors (visible in the background here).
Stepping back a bit further, here's another look toward the main entrance. More of the promotional displays can be seen here.
These early 2000's Winn-Dixie stores have the deli and bakery located along this angled wall in the front right corner of the building. The angled wall creates the illusion of a large "grand aisle" on this side of the building, leading into the wine department and frozen foods. Some of the photos coming up will give off a better depiction of the grand aisle part of this store.
Also, if you look closely at this photo, you can spot a clue as to how long I've been holding onto this photoset for 😁.
Immediately following the bakery is the deli counter, pictured here with the usual post-bankruptcy decor. This seems like a good time for me to address the decor in this store, or at least the lineage of decor in here. Upon its opening in 2003, this store would have had the super rare Deluxe Purple/Maroon decor, a decor package almost exclusively reserved for new-build Winn-Dixie stores opened from 2001-2005. The fact that Winn-Dixie opened so few new-build stores during that era made the Deluxe Purple/Maroon decor package quite rare compared to is more common stripped-down counterpart (the stripped down counterpart being common in older 70's and 80's Winn-Dixie stores that never got remodeled to the Marketplace format). Most of the converted Gooding's stores also got the stripped-down Purple/Maroon variant instead of the deluxe version. Even though this store was still rather new at the time, Winn-Dixie chose to remodel this one in the late 2000's to the post-bankruptcy decor we see today, a fate a good number of these early 2000's stores incurred. While the post-bankruptcy decor isn't quite as fun as the rare decor it replaced, at least I was able to document the rare Deluxe Purple/Maroon decor for you guys before it completely slipped into obscurity (which you can view at the first link above).
While the original decor has long been removed, the maroon diamond pattern on the floor in front of the deli cases is a remnant of the original Deluxe Purple/Maroon decor.
In this photo you can get a better idea of how the bakery/deli wall angles out to form the grand aisle, with the front entrance visible in the background.
In the middle of the grand aisle is the natural food department, which consists of a few short aisles (one of which is pictured here).
Beyond the natural foods are the aisles of wine, with beer coolers lining the wall. Wine and beer also gets the prominent wall signage back here, even though wine and beer shares this space with produce (I guess we know where Winn-Dixie puts their priorities!). Also to note, the faux-wood floors back here were added during the post-bankruptcy remodel.
Tucked to the side of the beer and wine we find the produce, seen here as we look back toward the deli and bakery.
Since wine and beer got the prominent wall space for that department's sign, all the produce department was able to get was this tiny hanging sign over the produce coolers. I guess it's something, even if I had to settle for the fermented grapes because it took me a while to find the regular kind!
The "grand aisle" ends at the seafood counter, pictured here behind produce and wine.
Here's a look down one of the aisles of wine before we round the corner into the back of the store...
Leaving the grand aisle, here's a peek across the back of the store. The back wall is home to meat coolers, with a few coffin coolers occupying the center of the back aisle.
Turning down aisle 1, we find the interesting combination of greeting cards, office supplies, and juices.
Leaving aisle 1, here's a look across the front of the store.
These photos were taken shortly after the "Down Down" ad campaign first debuted, which is why you'll be seeing Down Down signs plastered everywhere in the store. If there was one thing Winn-Dixie didn't cut corners with in that ad campaign, it was signs. Winn-Dixie wanted to make sure you saw the term "Down Down" everywhere you looked when that campaign was brand new! However, Down Down has since been replaced with a new punny double-talk ad campaign: Winn Win. While Winn Win isn't as in-your-face with signage like Down Down was, Winn Win certainly doesn't have as catchy of a jingle as Down Down did!
If you were brave enough to click on the Down Down jingle link to relive those memories, you're probably picturing this empty grocery aisle as the perfect dance floor to recreate scenes from that video. While we won't be singing and dancing in the aisles today, I can provide you with this view toward the front of the store, complete with a neatly presented canned food and pasta aisle.
Returning to the back of the store, here's a look at the meat department signage on the back wall.
Turning out of the aisle, here's a look back toward the seafood counter in the corner.
After meats, the back wall transitions into dairy (as signified by the change in the color of the walls). Before we get to the dairy department, we'll make a left turn into frozen foods...
This store had an aisle and a half of frozen foods, the aisle seen here being the half.
More frozen foods.
I'll feel so much better when I can walk down a paper goods aisle and see it looking like this again.
Leaving frozen foods, here's another look toward dairy. The dairy coolers along the back wall act as an overflow, with the majority of the dairy products being housed along the left wall. However, we'll see the main portion of the dairy department in just a moment...
Half of the baby aisle had that trim piece along the top, with category markers made to look like miniature versions of the wall signs. It looks like there should be lights under that trim, but I can't say for sure if there ever was.
As I mentioned before, the last aisle in this store is home to dairy products. Like the Winn-Dixie Marketplace stores from the 90's, these 2000's built stores also had a double-wide aisle for the last aisle, with loaves of white bread opposite the dairy coolers.
Here's a close-up of the dairy signage, this sign being the one located on the back wall of the store.
Still within the dairy aisle, here's a look toward the front of the store. The blue bulge you see straight ahead is home to the pharmacy box. Speaking of the pharmacy box, let's get a closer look at that:
Located in the front left corner of the building is the pharmacy counter, with a few short aisles of medicines and other pharmaceuticals in front of the counter. Even though these are old pictures, and Winn-Dixie has closed a good number of pharmacies since these photos were taken, this store's pharmacy is still open as of early 2020.
Here's a look down one of the short aisles of pharmaceuticals, complete with post-bankruptcy era category markers. If you're looking for something more original, the blue and white tile pattern on the floor is another relic from this store's original Deluxe Purple/Maroon decor.
Between the pharmacy and the checklanes was the service desk, hidden a bit in this photo by all the merchandise. When this store first opened, there would have been a photo center located to the left of the service desk. Winn-Dixie's photo counters were all removed around the same time as the 2005 bankruptcy, and the old photo center space was used to expand the service desk when this store was remodeled to the post-bankruptcy decor.
Here's one last look across the front of the store before we head back outside.
Looking through the self check lanes, the exit lies straight ahead...
Winn-Dixie's early 2000's stores were quite nice, although it's a shame so few of them were ever built due to the company's mounting financial problems at the time. While Winn-Dixie has opened a handful of new stores on their own in the 2010's, in addition to buying the remains of Sweetbay in 2013, 2020 marks the first time in a long time Winn-Dixie has tried to open a decent number of new stores on their own. Between the new Winn-Dixie in Jacksonville earlier this year, in addition to the four former Lucky's stores acquired during that company's bankruptcy auction, Winn-Dixie has been busy scouting new sites. While I think those five new stores will probably be it for Winn-Dixie for a while, who knows what other surprises might come out of this company going forward...
Turning our attention away from Winn-Dixie for a moment, here's a look at the strip of stores that stretches out from the building's right side. As you can see, the plaza was designed to match Winn-Dixie's facade.
And that is the South St. Cloud Winn-Dixie! While this isn't one of Winn-Dixie fancier prototypes, this was a nicer Winn-Dixie location in terms of upkeep. I'm sure being one of Winn-Dixie's newer stores helps make this place seem more presentable, even if this store is closing in on 20 years in business.
At some point in the future we'll take a look at St. Cloud's other Winn-Dixie store on East Bronson, as well as the former Winn-Dixie stores in town. Next time though we'll shift away from Winn-Dixie and take a look at something else - although I'm still debating what that something else should be! I'll figure out what to post next eventually, and keep an eye out for that when it arrives.
Anyway, until the next post,