The Shoppes of Victoria Square
1450 N. Courtenay Parkway, Merritt Island, FL
While most of Merritt Island's retail centers are doing rather well in some form, The Shoppes of Victoria Square is one of the island's harder hit centers. Although the plaza is anchored by a busy Aldi store presently, much of the center is dead, plagued by an empty junior anchor and mostly empty major anchor. Today's post will explore The Shoppes of Victoria Square through the years, specifically profiling the center's two former anchors (Winn-Dixie and Walgreens) and the one major outparcel, originally home to McDuff's SuperCenter. There are lots of fun surprises to be had here, so let's get this post started!
1450 N. Courtenay Parkway #36, Merritt Island, FL - The Shoppes of Victoria Square
Beginning our tour of The Shoppes of Victoria Square, we'll start with the plaza's former Winn-Dixie anchor. Winn-Dixie opened this store in March 1989 as one of the original Marketplace era stores, bringing the new concept to Merritt Island for the first time. I believe this store was built to serve as a replacement for a tiny old 1960's store located east of here on North Banana River Drive, as that store closed around the time this one opened. This must have been a decently successful store back in the day, as it was remodeled and expanded in the later part of the 90's to the newer Marketplace design. That expansion took over some smaller storefronts to the right of the Winn-Dixie, allowing for the expansion of the service departments, which were a key point of the later Marketplace stores. Winn-Dixie's late 90's expansion, however, came at the cost of Merritt Island's other Winn-Dixie store. Located 2 miles south of here at the corner of Courtenay Parkway and SR 520, that store, which was smaller and older, was closed in favor of the expanded Marketplace store here at Victoria Square.
However, as we move further into the 2000's, Winn-Dixie's financial woes were catching up to them, and the company declared bankruptcy in 2005. While not a part of the initial wave of closures during the 2005 bankruptcy, the Merritt Island Winn-Dixie was marked for closure in a future wave. Because of that, the Merritt Island Winn-Dixie was included for sale at a 2006 bankruptcy auction, and ended up becoming one of 4 stores purchased by a man named Esmail Mobarak. Mobarak was the owner of a few Foodtown Supermarkets in the New York City area, and planned to used these newly purchased Winn-Dixie stores as a way to expand the brand into Florida. Of the four stores Mobarak purchased, the Merritt Island location was the only one not located in South Florida, and must have been a purchase of opportunity, as he only paid $5,000 for the store's lease (he paid much, much more than that for each of the other three stores). We looked at one of those Foodtown stores on AFB earlier this year, and while I can't speak for what those stores were like when they first opened, Foodtown Florida is an...interesting place these days. The new Foodtown Florida stores were designed to be a world marketplace, catering to various cultures from around the world. It's a good concept for ethnically diverse South Florida, but not for Merritt Island. Needless to say, the Merritt Island Foodtown store closed within a year of opening. For only $5,000, I guess it wasn't too bad of a financial risk to open a store like that in Merritt Island to see how it fared. In the late 2000's Aldi opened up in the leftmost third of the old Winn-Dixie, and the remainder of the building has been empty ever since.
Aldi remodeled their side of the building to their liking, while the remainder of the building is still as it was when Winn-Dixie and Foodtown closed.
Winn-Dixie old entryway was chopped in half to make room for Aldi's. What remains of Winn-Dixie's old entryway is on the other side of that block wall (which we'll see shortly), with Aldi's doors just out of frame to my left. Before we get to the empty half of this building, we'll pop into Aldi really quick...
The Courtenay Parkway Aldi is one of the last holdouts in the area with Aldi's late 2000's/early 2010's décor and layout. Aldi has been on a remodeling spree recently, where the company has been trying to bring all of their stores to the latest prototype, which looks like this. I believe the reason this store has held onto the old décor for so long was because plans came to light for a second Merritt Island Aldi, that second location opening on October 1, 2020 across the street from Merritt Square Mall on SR 520. My guess is with the new store now open, Aldi will be able to close this store temporarily for remodeling.
Aldi's newer stores are much fancier looking than this, but even when this decor package was current, I still felt that Aldi was the nicest of the discount grocery chains out there.
In this photo we're looking from produce (which is located in the back of the store) toward the front end.
Frozen foods are along the left side wall, where Winn-Dixie's dairy department would have been.
Here's one last look across Aldi's front end, looking toward the exit.
Anyway, I'm sure you guys are much more interested about what lies in the other half of this building than what's inside Aldi. Now that we're done poking around Aldi, let's head over to the abandoned side now for a peek inside...
Like I mentioned before, Winn-Dixie's old entryway got chopped in half when Aldi moved in. Pictured here is the half that survived. At least one original door managed to make the cut (located under the window panel with the '26' on it), so you can still get into this half of the building. I've seen a few subdivisions in the past that have left some portions of the building without any interior access (from the front anyway), which I always thought was strange.
Here's that lone surviving door up close. What lies behind it, you ask?...
Winn-Dixie Marketplace, of course! As we saw in my Foodtown post earlier this year, Foodtown didn't have a huge remodeling budget, so they left all of Winn-Dixie's existing decor in place after they moved in. Foodtown did remove the word "America's" from the America's Supermarket tagline at the entryway, to make room for their own sign, and replaced the Winn-Dixie logo above that with an emblem of their own.
There weren't any lights on in this half of the building, so I only had the sunlight to brighten up the interior. Since the only light was coming in through a few windows by the entryway, the entire back of the store was dark. However, in this picture we can make out the old Marketplace decor and flooring a little bit, so I had some success here. Looking straight to the back wall was the meat counter, and I believe the bakery and deli were located along the right wall, that is if this store followed the usual late 90's Marketplace layout after the remodel (it's too dark in here to tell what's located along that wall).
The exterior of the unused portion of the Winn-Dixie space still has a labelscar if you look closely above the vestibule wall - it looks like it reads "Pharmacy". The side of the building you see here is where the expansion occurred in the late 1990's. It's hard to tell from the front an expansion happened here, although you can still see the remains of the 1980's era vestibule that were modified during the expansion.
At the southernmost end of the plaza is this small restaurant building that sits by itself, only connected to the rest of the plaza by the decorative roofline. While this space has been home to Beef 'O' Brady's for a while now, it was home to CiCi's Pizza from 1997 to 2002, one of three CiCi's to open in Brevard County when the chain entered the area in the late 1990's (those locations being this one, one in Melbourne, and one in Palm Bay). While the Merritt Island and Palm Bay CiCi's barely made it into the 2000's, the Melbourne CiCi's made it until 2016, when the owner at the time lost the franchise agreement with CiCi's and decided to go independent. However, the stint as an independent didn't last long before that closed for good too, but that's a story for another day.
Now that I'm in a mood for pizza after all that talk about CiCi's, here's one final look at the former Merritt Island Winn-Dixie. Next, we move on to the other major former tenant of this plaza: Walgreens.
1450 N. Courtenay Parkway #22, Merritt Island, FL - The Shoppes of Victoria Square
Like the Winn-Dixie next door, Walgreens opened with the shopping center in March 1989. Walgreens remained a tenant at The Shoppes of Victoria Square until 2006, when a freestanding Walgreens was built across the street to replace this one. Walgreens' original space has remained empty ever since. I find it strange this space has sat empty for so long, as usually these former drug store junior anchors are popular with dollar stores, thrift stores, auto part stores, and gyms, especially in a decently located plaza like this.
Walgreens' façade isn't looking so great either, with a giant rubber patch covering a hole where the stucco took on some damage. The damage isn't a recent occurrence either - that patch has been there for a few years now. It looks like some other cracks have formed in the stucco on the front of building too, and it seems the landlord isn't interested in fixing any of it.
Even though the damage erased part of it, we can still see some of the 'Walgreens' labelscar on the building, specifically the "reens" part.
While the stucco work isn't looking so great, the remainder of the Walgreens space isn't in disrepair, with the interior having held up well over the last 14 years of abandonment. Seen here is the front walkway, looking toward Walgreens' entrance (located in that little alcove up ahead), with Aldi visible in the distance. Also, look carefully at the above photo - do any of you sharp-eyed readers notice something odd about it, specifically in relation to the Walgreens space?...
If you looked carefully at the previous photo, you should have noticed that one of Walgreens' doors was propped open! Actually, there were two doors propped open when I was here - one going into the main store, and the other going into the attached liquor store. I was certainly taken by surprise seeing this - it's like I was being invited in!
However, the only reason these doors were propped open was because someone was in here doing something. What exactly was going on I don't know, but the back doors were propped open too, as I could see sunlight coming in through the back of the building. I'm sure it would have been extremely awkward trying to explain to whoever was in here why I was wandering around taking photos, so as tempting as it was, I stayed out on the sidewalk. However, since the doors were open, I had to use that to my advantage somehow. I did stick my arm through the open doors and take photos that way, giving me some nice, non-glared, clear overviews of the interior.
Getting some nice clear pictures in here was great, as the interior of this building still has Walgreens' late 1990's/early 2000's décor on the walls! This décor is essentially extinct in operating Walgreens stores, as Walgreens typically remodels all of their stores in waves to the latest design. We had one Walgreens locally that held onto this décor until 2015 or so (even after most stores removed it in the early 2010's), but of course, that Walgreens had to remodel to the current décor before I thought to get some pictures of it! Oh well, I make up for that here.
Anyway, seen here is the interior of the old Walgreens liquor store. Of all the major drug store chains in Florida (aka CVS and Walgreens), Walgreens was the only one to operate liquor stores. Just about every strip center Walgreens had a liquor store attached, and select freestanding ones still do. However, when many of these strip center Walgreens relocated to freestanding locations, most of them lost the liquor stores completely at the new location.
Jumping over the liquor wall, here's our first glimpse into the main store. Looking straight ahead after entering, we find the space that would have originally been home to the cosmetics department.
Using the open door to my advantage, here's a better look at the cosmetics wall, with the remains of the pharmacy counter visible in the background.
Unlike the liquor store, all the tile in the main store was ripped up for some reason, but the old carpet by the entryway remains. Anyway, here's a look at the left side of the former Walgreens space, where wee see the remainder of the pharmacy counter and the Health Care department. Even empty, this place still had a really strong classic Walgreens vibe to it (but a new musty odor, which I could sense thanks to the open door). Today's Walgreens stores have a very sleek, white, sterile feel to them, which to me is a much different feel than the company had when stores like this were modern. To me, this was a neat little glimpse into Walgreens' history, getting to see this design I haven't experienced in years.
Returning to the parking lot, here's one last look at the Walgreens space. It would be nice to see both the Walgreens and the rest of the Winn-Dixie find some kind of new life after 15 years of nothing. The area is really busy and Aldi is a huge draw to the center, so I don't know what's kept these anchor spaces dark for so long. The potential is here, but there's something holding back this plaza from being the draw it once was again.
Before leaving the main part of the shopping center, here's a look at the plaza's northernmost tip. At this end of the plaza, the building swings back to accommodate room for more smaller tenants, as well as another small junior anchor (which occupies the storefront furthest to the right in the picture above). While it looks empty, that junior anchor space was in preparation to become a second location for Fitness Club Merritt Island, a locally owned gym. Fitness Club Merritt Island took over this space from Sunbay Fitness, which was a local chain of gyms that began to close its locations slowly until this one, its last, closed in April 2019. Fitness Cub Merritt Island opened in this location in September 2020. Prior to Sunbay Fitness, Dollar General occupied this space until they moved across the street to a new Dollar General Market around 2006. Sunbay expanded the Dollar General space into a row of storefronts spanning to the right, doubling the space Dollar General once had. I couldn't determine what was in here prior to Dollar General, although documents from the plaza's original construction designate this unit as one set aside for a "hardware store".
McDuff SuperCenter / Goodwill Industries of Central Florida
1550 N. Courtenay Parkway, Merritt Island, FL - The Shoppes of Victoria Square
For the last part of today's post, we'll jump over to the outparcels. The most interesting of the outparcels at The Shoppes of Victoria Square is this place - while now a Goodwill, this building was built in 1992 as a McDuff SuperCenter. For those of you unfamiliar with the company, McDuff was a chain of electronics stores in the Southeastern United States. Founded in Jacksonville, FL in 1944, McDuff was acquired by RadioShack's parent company Tandy Corp. in 1985, under whose ownership McDuff peaked at 235 stores in the early 1990's. While McDuff sold similar products to RadioShack, McDuff was different from its sister chain in that McDuff also sold appliances, as well as operated larger stores than RadioShack. While those larger stores, called "SuperCenters" were the bulk of McDuff's operations, McDuff also operated smaller, electronics-focused stores in malls, sometimes in malls that also had sister store RadioShack nearby. The Merritt Island McDuff replaced a much older store further down Courtenay Parkway, a building that still stands in nearly original form (but operating as a pharmacy now). Unfortunately, the McDuff SuperCenter of Merritt Island was a short lived store, closing in 1995 as part of a restructuring plan by Tandy Corp. as a glut of competition in the consumer electronics industry plagued the company's finances. Unfortunately, only a year later Tandy Corp. would pull the plug on McDuff entirely, bringing McDuff's 52 year run as a company to a close.
For fun, I had fellow MFR contributor Cape Kennedy Retail pull this McDuff ad from newspapers.com. This ad dates back to November 1992, and was valid at the Merritt Island McDuff SuperCenter, as well as the other Brevard and Volusia County McDuff stores listed at the bottom of the ad. If you click on the ad you can see it in full size, and take in all the details of some great deals on some wonderfully 90's electronics. A free tape rewinder with any VCR purchase - I'll be there!
As far as I'm aware, the Merritt Island McDuff SuperCenter sat empty from 1995 until Goodwill took over this space in 2011, relocating from a former Eckerd across the street (if there was anything in this building between McDuff and Goodwill, it didn't last long). Unlike the chronic vacancies in the plaza behind here, at least after 16 years, something found some use for the old McDuff building! While Goodwill's exterior still uses the design from McDuff, the interior was stripped of pretty much anything McDuff could have left behind. Interestingly, Brevard County's other McDuff SuperCenter, located in West Melbourne, would eventually become home to a thrift store too - but one that preserved a little more of McDuff's interior than Goodwill did here in Merritt Island (not much more, but a little more, as can be seen scrolling though those photos). I believe Cape Kennedy Retail may have a post of his own to do about the former West Melbourne McDuff SuperCenter in the future (not 100% sure on that, but I thought he may have mentioned something about that before), so hopefully we'll see some coverage of that store appear on MFR one day as well.
Anyway, all that aside, the photo above is our view looking into Goodwill from just inside the front doors. Goodwill's registers are located in an island just out of frame to my left, with clothes taking up the front half of the building.
Like we saw at the Mill Creek Mall Goodwill, this store uses Goodwill of Central Florida's very common 2010's decor, which uses a variety of colors throughout the store. Goodwill ripped out the tile floor in favor of bare concrete, the bare concrete in here not looking too bad for a floor that wasn't designed to be exposed like this.
As usual with a thrift store, there was no shortage of stuff here!
The windows you see on the front and side of the building aren't original - those were actually added in by Goodwill. Google Streetview actually has a nice capture of this building from early 2011, before Goodwill moved in, showing the place in its original form.
The extent of the electronics sold in this building these days is seen here, delegated to a few shelves of randomly strewn whatnot in the back right corner of the building. Some of these items looked to be old enough to have come from McDuff, some newer, and some (like the speakers at the bottom left of the image) probably pre-date this building by quite a while!
Goodwill's new windows do a really nice job of brightening up the building, however it doesn't help to reduce glare when out taking photos!
While I didn't buy it, today's retail-related thrift store find of the day is this Sears fog light attachment, which by the look of the car on the box, probably dates back to the 1970's. While a fog light attachment designed for a 1970's vehicle is probably a tough sell these days, the box alone is actually a neat little piece on its own with the retro graphics. However, for the $8 or whatever they were charging for this, that's much more than I'm willing to pay for a box! But if you happened to hang onto a classic car like the one in the picture, $8 probably isn't a bad deal for an accessory like this you can get some use out of.
Here's one final photo of the interior, looking back toward the entryway and the check out counter.
Since there wasn't much from McDuff left inside the Goodwill, I figured I'd conclude our post with one final McDuff's ad - this one from the 1970's. The Merritt Island location listed at the bottom of the ad is the older location I linked to earlier, those other stores listed in Titusville and New Smyrna Beach long gone by the time the other ad we saw was printed in 1992. So remember, if you're in the market for a snazzy new 8-track deck or a portable color television - don't fret - head to your local
Goodwill McDuff today!
So I hope everyone enjoyed today's post, this interesting little glimpse into some long abandoned Merritt Island retail and one of the many electronics store chains of the past. Most likely my next MFR contribution will be the blog's 2nd anniversary post coming in mid-November, but who knows. I'm always finding new places to visit and write about!
Anyway, that's all I have for now. So until the next post,