Thursday, February 18, 2021

Index Level Red - Former Waffle House - Melbourne, FL

In 2020, the unthinkable happened. A Waffle House closed. For good! It shut it's doors, never to serve another waffle to weary motorists ever again!

This Waffle House closed sometime in 2020, though thankfully it wasn't a victim of the pandemic, but a relocation (though an odd one).

The new location, listed here, is at 4005 W Eau Gallie Boulevard, an odd location to me, as while it is off I-95, there's not much there except some church organizations, a flea market on the other side of I-95, and a bunch of houses. This location was located on W New Haven (192) and in a much more active area for hotels and commerce. Maybe they're betting on future expansion.

This location was built in 1986, making it decently but not insanely old for a Waffle House. While it looks very drab here, that's only because they painted all the Waffle House Yellow panels brown when they moved out (yet didn't remove the big sign that says "WAFFLE HOUSE"?)

While the blinds are pulled down, they don't go all the way down, so we can still get a look at the stripped out interior. The tiles remind me a lot of the ones you used to see in mansard McDonalds.

I'm honestly surprised they were able to rip off this much of it. Most of these stickers are probably pretty much fused to the glass by now.

We'll round off our post with a photo of the entrance, which the Waffle House shares with a hotel that's behind it. I don't think they were ever affiliated in the past, though it's possible.

Also, to anyone wondering what the title of this is referencing- it's a level on FEMA's Waffle House Index, an actual danger level index that's based on whether or not Waffle House is open, on a limited menu, or closed! Luckily, the closure of this Waffle House was a simple relocation, and not the result of a terrible disaster that wiped Melbourne off the map.

Until next time, this was Cape Kennedy Retail.

Monday, February 15, 2021

I Love My Eckerd! - I Love My Island Thrift Store (Former Goodwill, nee-Eckerd #62) - Merritt Island, FL

 I Love My Island is an organization in Merritt Island that does all sorts of great things- it provides for seniors, it organizes youth activities, and helps with crisis relief. And finally, and most interesting to us, is they run a thrift store!

Florida Today, November 9, 1983

This particular thrift store is located at 245 Crockett Blvd, inside a shopping center called Merritt Crossings. Eckerd would open here on November 9th, 1983, likely alongside the Publix that then anchored the center. It would follow the standard trajectory for Eckerd stores of it's age- that is, to last until the late 90s when it was replaced by a freestanding store nearby.

The closest freestanding store in this case would be a pretty early build in 1996, across Crockett Blvd in the parking lot of a Target. The location disappears from newspaper ads by 1993, so it makes sense that the store closed in 1996 if not earlier.

Goodwill would move in come early 1999, after renovating the space the previous year. I don't have a definite date for when they closed, but they're last mentioned at that spot in 2010, and honestly, for Goodwill in this area, that's a long time to stick to one space. I Love My Island shows up by 2015, and so it's likely they opened not long after the organization was founded in 2014.

I don't have a photo of the exterior- but it's not awful much to miss. The facade is simple and themed to fit the plaza, and the sign is just "THRIFT STORE", in block letters. (Not even reused from Goodwill, which I thought at first)

The entryway appears pretty unchanged from the Eckerd days, and as such is pleasingly vintage.

The baskets are unfortunately generic, but are fairly weather beaten to compensate. I'm not sure what the "NOW OPEN" sign is for- the store's been open for several years now.

The bulk of the sales floor is taken up by clothes and a smaller section of furniture, and the whole store, despite a past life as Goodwill, still feels a lot like an old drug store.

What makes it *really* feel like an Eckerd however, is this! The upper wall for what was the pharmacy counter survives, a feature sadly destroyed in so many remodels.

To round off our post, I'd like to showcase some of the retail relics I discovered on this thrift outing.

First up is this pack of Ritz Camera-branded photo paper. 

More modern here, with a Kenmore "intelligent shopper". With how few Sears are left, you probably do need an AI to find a Sears with your product available.

The biggest and most impressive find is this- a boxed JCPenney film-to-tape converter.

There's two cool things about it- first, it appears to be almost brand new and virtually unused.

And second of all, while it's damaged, still has a JCPenney catalog order tag attached to the outside!

With that, it's been Cape Kennedy Retail. Until next time.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Space of Many Hats - Jo-Ann Fabrics (former Ashley Furniture HomeStore, former Books-A-Million, former Phar-Mor, former Florida Choice, nee-SupeRx Food & Drug) - West Melbourne, FL

Boy am I glad Blogger doesn't have a title character limit.

This Jo-Ann's has a very interesting history, tracing back to January 1985, when it opened as the then-largest SupeRx Food & Drug store.

Florida Today, January 26, 1985

The store's exact opening date was January 27th, 1985, however like many later SupeRx stores, it didn't carry the banner long. 1986 would see it converted to the also short-lived Florida Choice banner, before 1988 brought that chain's collapse.

It wouldn't sit vacant for long however, as it would reopen as Phar-Mor on (or by, the ad's a little confusingly worded) December 7th, 1988.

Phar-Mor and it's power-buying would only buy it about 7 years however, as the West Melbourne location would close it's doors in 1995 as Phar-Mor went down in flames in bankruptcy court.

Florida Today, November 8, 1995

Books-A-Million rolled in quickly, on the heels of the chain's first Brevard location in Merritt Island, opening in early December 1995 with a grand opening on December 7th.

The book was closed on Books-A-Million around the turn of the millennium, as it disappears from newspapers in 2000 and is next mentioned as a former location in 2002. There's no clear indicator as to what directly killed this BAM, though I suspect the opening of a new 30,000 sq ft Barnes & Noble farther along New Haven in 1996 didn't help, a store more than double the size of BAM's previous area competition, a 12,000 sq ft Bookstop.

Regardless, 1537 W New Haven would move onto the next chapter of it's life (Okay, I've gotten the book puns out of my system) in 2002, when Stevens Furniture would open an Ashley Furniture Homestore in the spot, opening first as a temporary liquidation center on March 23rd, 2002 and later as a full line store on June 29, 2002.

Florida Today, March 22, 2002

As an aside, I have a feeling that this plaza was in a bit of a slump at the turn of the millennium. It suffered a 1-2 punch, losing both Books-A-Million and Service Merchandise, with the sign from the latter still being up by mid 2002. Thankfully, the plaza was able to pull itself back out of the slump.

Ashley Furniture wouldn't last long though, and I believe they were gone by late 2004 when Ashley opened up a bigger and better showroom at 4360 W New Haven on October 15, 2004. It would take a few years for Jo-Anns to show up, opening by Summer 2007. Certainly not a great time for new stores to open, but this one managed to hold on! Speaking of holding on, thank you for bearing with the history of this location. Onto my recent photos!

Jo-Ann's entrance is offset to the right, and the rest of the facade is pretty bland.

One of the biggest SupeRx remants is visible here- the facade! Despite a revolving door of tenants and a new upper facade, SupeRx's old school rounded, wide pylons are still plainly visible here. If I had to guess, this cart corral is also a holdover from a previous tenant, as Jo-Ann's doesn't make much use of it. It looks like it's designed for bigger carts than what Jo-Ann's has, and Jo-Ann also has a smaller indoor corral that seems to take care of their needs.

With the exterior covered- Welcome to Jo-Anns! Here's that indoor corral I was talking about, split between the store's 3 varieties of carts, oldest, new, and newest from left to right. The plastic carts likely date from the store's opening, whereas the lime green metal carts look almost brand new. It's interesting to see them all in use at once.

Jo-Ann's tile is a bit dated, and while it does have supermarket vibes, I highly doubt it's a survivor from any previous tenant. It is nice however.

Fake green tiles for fake green plants.

The mis-alignment of tile and aisle here is a plain sign that while the tiles haven't been swapped out in a while, the floorplan has, leaving awkward sections like this.

Another awkwardly placed floor feature is this large circle, which was probably once a centerpiece before the shelves got shuffled.

These photos date to October 14th, 2020, and I guess they hadn't fully set out the seasonal aisle by this point. I'd imagine Covid-induced shipping issues and stock shortages also had a role to play in this, so I don't take it as any sign of a uncared for store.

Why do I feel like those chairs are about to start walking away?

Here's a photo of one of those original, plastic-bodied carts. It's a little weather-beaten, but in better shape than most carts of this style these days.

To round off our post, let's take a look at something hiding underneath the current facade... another SupeRx relic! While Jo-Ann (or one of the previous tenants) would wall over the original curved facade, it's profile can still be seen from below. While I didn't grab a picture of it, much of the plaza's facade still retains these curved corners, an interesting relic from days past for those looking for it.

With that, it's been Cape Kennedy Retail. Until next time.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Stein Mart Liquidation - Viera (Melbourne), FL


Stein Mart always seemed like a chain out of time. Not in the sense of *running out of* time, though that did happen in the end, but in the sense they seemed outside of time. A department store, largely regional, in an age extremely unkind to both.

Of course, this also means the writing was on the wall for Stein Mart for many years. They suffered some of the same issues that New York & Company (aka Lerner) suffered: they had a stereotype as an old lady brand. Young people didn't go to Stein Mart, and unfortunately the younger demographic is the one that tends to keep retailers afloat.

Reflective of it's location, Viera's Stein Mart is a relatively new build; opening shortly after the rest of the Post Commons Shopping Center in early 2001.

I visited fairly early in the liquidation, so stock was high and discounts low. Though with some stores, discounts don't end up straying much farther from this...

Some general shots of the merchandise, still very well stocked at this time. It's easy to see how this store got it's reputation- I'm no fashion guru, but not much of this looks like current fashions. And the mugs and other stuff next to it screams Bath & Body Works and Pier 1 rejects.

This "HOME" sign caught my eye, since it's weirdly out of the way, tucked in an alcove over a non-customer use door.

With paltry 10% discounts on most merchandise, it's unsurprising that not much has moved. I'm not sure how deep the discounts got towards the end though, as I was never able to make it back for a second photo set.

10% off typical prices is a steal... for the seller, anyways. I'd imagine most of this was more than 10% off when the store was fully open, knowing the sales that they're known for.

I'll end this post with a photo I took of this store's odd "cart" setup. Much like similar shopping center department stores like Kohl's, this Stein Mart didn't really have traditional shopping carts, opting instead for these sort of "frames" you can drop baskets into. It's a bit of an odd set up for a clothing store, and I think it's more fitting for low-volume space-cramped places like a convenience store, small grocery store, etc. Not a big box like this.

Anyways, with that, until next time, this has been Cape Kennedy Retail.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Introducing the MFR Info Database (and Other Updates)

     A quick note I'd like to share with everyone - the AFB Florida Retail Database is no more, as I've decided to merge the tables from that site into My Florida Retail as a new posting series. All of the tables on the old AFB Retail Database page have been imported to My Florida Retail (with the original comments), and are accessible from here. You can also access any tables posted to MFR from the new "Store Location Database" tab at the top of the blog, which will direct you to the same page I linked before. Considering how rarely I get around to posting new tables, I figured it was best to do away with the standalone site for tables and merge that feature into MFR.

     While I was transferring the tables over, I also decided to add a My Florida Retail special features directory (also accessible from the page links at the top of the blog), highlighting and explaining the different special posting series we have on the blog (in addition to the regular content). Those special features include Beyond My Florida Retail, Dining with AFB & Friends, The Lost Histories of Floridian Retail, and two new ones - The My Florida Retail Info Database and Along the Florida Road. Be sure to look over that page to see all the different features MFR has to offer!

I just wanted to take this moment to pass along these updates with everyone. More posts coming soon!


Sunday, January 31, 2021

No One Out-Buffets The Hut

Pizza Hut
179 E. Cocoa Beach Causeway, Cocoa Beach, FL

     Once an icon of the American roadside, it's becoming a sad reality that the famed red-roof Pizza Hut is becoming harder and harder to find. While sitting down for a family pizza night under one of the famous stained glass lamps was a Friday night tradition for many, unfortunately, the pizza business has changed. With delivery and carry-out options taking over the vast majority of pizza sales across the United States in recent years, dine-in pizza began a slow decline. While finding a freestanding, red-roofed hut isn't super uncommon yet, these are getting much rarer by the day. As the years have worn on, there's become such an increase in discarded huts out there, that's it's become a thing to pick out UTBAPHs (Used to be a Pizza Huts) in towns across the nation, seeing how these iconic buildings have been repurposed in countless ways. While Pizza Hut and its franchisees have been slowly adapting to changes in the pizza industry and converting/relocating many older locations into carry-out only ones, a red hut-shaped roof will sometimes peek out in the distance behind a bank and a gas station, taking us back to a day when it was fun to go out for a pizza - much like we can still do here in Cocoa Beach. 

     Pizza Hut and its red roof found its way to Cocoa Beach in 1986, building on a small piece of land at the end of the Route 520 Causeway, just two blocks from the beach. Pizza Hut's placement makes it a very convenient place to stop for lunch or dinner after a long beach day, and that's probably a contributing factor to the longstanding success of this location. Being at the end of the main causeway into Cocoa Beach, the stretch of beach just steps from this building is one of the busiest in town, and Pizza Hut is the first thing you see pulling out of the parking lot. Between the visitors and the locals, this place has been able to keep itself going for 35 years now. The building itself has seen some minor upgrades since it first opened, but it still has the classic Pizza Hut feel to it.

     While the red-roof hut buildings are getting harder to find, what got me up here to visit this particular location was to experience another dying Pizza Hut feature: the lunch buffet. While fairly common back in the day, the Pizza Hut lunch buffets have begun to slip into obscurity. From what I understand, the lunch buffet isn't even an official Pizza Hut concept anymore, but franchisees that still have buffet equipment in their older locations can still offer one if they wish. Since the buffets are semi-unofficial these days, Pizza Hut's website doesn't mention if a location still offers one, so you have to do a little digging to figure out where the operational Pizza Hut buffets are. Interestingly, I never knew the Cocoa Beach Pizza Hut had a buffet until a year or so ago. I was originally planning to drive to St. Cloud to their Pizza Hut buffet for this post, until I found pictures on Google showing there was still one in Cocoa Beach (as of January 2020, anyway, when I made this visit - the last Pizza Hut buffet in Brevard County). That discovery cut my drive in half mileage-wise, which I was happy about! When I made my Pizza Hut buffet visit in January 2020, the remaining buffets in Central Florida (that I knew of) were this one, St. Cloud, New Smyrna Beach, S. OBT in Orlando (across from the Florida Mall), and Haines City (although there may have been a few more floating around in the greater Orlando area, but those listed were the ones I found online in my buffet search). However, with all the pandemic stuff going on, I have no idea what the fate of any of the Pizza Hut buffets locally have been since, not even here in Cocoa Beach, so I can't say with certainty if any of them are still open at all. Buffets in Florida are open again at full capacity, so there's a chance some may have been revived, but I don't know (and the fact Pizza Hut wasn't officially on-board with the concept any more doesn't help the fate of these any). At least I got to visit this one in January 2020, back before the world fell apart, and the fate of the buffets went up in the air.

     Anyway, my babbling aside, I'm sure we're all feeling a little hungry right about now, so let's head inside and eat:

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

      Stepping inside, I wouldn't call the dining room the best example of modern decor, but it has seen upgrades from the days of Pizza Hut's trapezoid windows, wood paneling, and stained glass lamps (as fun as all those things were). Still though, this place has that cozy, warm feeling a Pizza Hut dining room has always had.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

     Anyway, stepping through the front doors, the dining area expands out to your left, with the buffet bars straight ahead. To the right is a short hallway to the bathrooms, with the kitchen just beyond that. The photo above looks from the dining room back toward the entry area, where the hostess stands to bring you to a table.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

     Here we have a better view of the front of the dining room, looking toward the buffet. The photo above, as well as the two before it, I took from Google Maps, as I didn't get any spectacular overview shots of the dining room myself. Even if I did manage to pull off a shot like this, my phone camera would have taken in all the glare from the sun shining through the windows and done something funky with the lighting, so the photo wouldn't have turned out as crisp as the one above. While we've had these nice overview shots to start off our look at the interior, we now return to my funky photos for the remainder of this post:

     Speaking of my phone doing strange things with the lighting, here's a perfect example of that! Looking toward the main entrance, my phone washed out a lot of this picture from the glare, leading to a rather dark looking scene near the buffet. Immediately to my left from this vantage point was the kitchen, as well as the counter with the cash register.

     Before we get to the food, we'll take a quick walk around the dining room. Pictured here is the back of the dining room, looking away from the buffet. Rows of booths line the front and back of the dining room, as well as the partition in the middle.

     Behind the partition was a space with some larger tables, reserved for bigger groups.

     While I was here, a large group of construction workers from a nearby project came in on their lunch break, filling up one of the big tables back here, which was certainly a nice little rush for the place. Besides the construction workers, there were a few other people dining in as well, the entire dine in crowd arriving for the buffet. Without the buffet, I really don't know how much of a dine-in business this place would have in the early afternoon hours, although the pictures on Google seem to suggest the dine-in business does pick up going into the dinnertime/evening hours, probably when the beaches begin to clear out for the night. I believe the time between the noon lunch rush and the evening dinner hours are some of the slowest during the day for restaurants, with Pizza Hut coming up with the buffet concept to not only take advantage of the lunch rush, but also boost business during the slower afternoon hours. A lunch buffet certainly seems more attractive to an individual on lunch break than having to order a whole pizza (and in turn, having to do something with the leftovers).

     Now that we've had our taste of the dining room, it's time we get to taste the food itself! The lunch buffet consisted to these two food bars near the restaurant's front entrance - one bar for the hot food, and the other for the cold salad bar.

     While it looks rather small and is only offered for two hours a day, the staff here was doing a really good job of keeping the buffet full and replenishing food that ran out. In scouring Google reviews of other Pizza Hut buffets online, I know one if the biggest complaints is that Pizza Hut has a terrible time of keeping the buffet well-stocked. I'm pleased to say that wasn't the case the entire time I was here, and I was quite impressed at how well run the buffet at this location was.

     The hot food bar consisted of six different pizzas, baked noodles, and garlic bread sticks from what I remember. Of the six pizzas, one was a dessert pizza, one was plain cheese, and the other four had various toppings that would continuously change out as the pizzas were replaced.

     Turning our attention to the salad bar, well, it's a pretty standard salad bar. Some salad mix, additional toppings, and dressing made up the spread here, with a really good pre-mixed Cesar salad in the bowl at the top left corner of the image.

     Now that we've piled our plates high, let's head over to our table. I was seated at a booth not too far from the front door, I believe the booth behind the one pictured here. I actually took this photo to showcase some of the local flare decor on the walls, which there was no shortage of in this place! The wall space between the windows was covered in various pictures and knickknacks relating to the beach, Florida, local sports teams and colleges, and surfing (which Cocoa Beach is famous for).

     Settled in at our table, here's one last look at the buffet before we dig in:

     I visited this place with the intent to share my experiences with you guys, so of course I had to sample a little bit of everything (yes, that was how I justified all that pizza!). A food photographer I am not, but the way I put everything on the plate makes it seem like I was trying to do something fancy, which I wasn't going for - that was just a coincidence!

     If you couldn't tell by now, pizza and pasta is a huge weakness of mine, so I have no problems going out and sampling some for the sake of the blog! Like I said before, for what looked like such a small buffet, the variety and quality was very good, and I liked how the pizza toppings kept changing out to keep the variety interesting. For my second plate I went a bit more adventurous with my topping choices, getting a slice of Hawaiian pizza and one with sausage and banana peppers on it. I know a lot of people think putting pineapple on pizza is weird, but I like it.

     While I really enjoyed my lunch, I can't forget about dessert! On the buffet was a dessert pizza, which was half apple topping, half strawberry. The slice I took was from the apple side, and is essentially of the same style as the dessert pizza Cici's usually puts out on their buffet (if you're familiar with that). Speaking of Cici's (and while we're on the topic of pizza buffets), 2020 wasn't very kind to them either. It was just announced earlier this week that they declared bankruptcy, however, their bankruptcy plan was initiated as part of a pre-packaged, expedited bankruptcy deal with a new owner already in mind. While it sounds bad, Cici's will continue to operate as part of their turnaround plan, with no mass closures or anything like that as a result of the bankruptcy (although 77 of Cici's nearly 400 locations prior to the pandemic did succumb to the pressures of 2020). While pizza buffets were facing issues prior to 2020, the pandemic restrictions really didn't help that business model much.

     I enjoyed my Pizza Hut buffet experience, and I was happy to discover there was one still operating relatively close to where I live. However, as I mentioned before, with all the madness of 2020, I don't know if the Cocoa Beach Pizza Hut ever reopened the buffet, and recent reviews don't shed any light on an answer to that question either. Next time I'm up in Cocoa Beach I should swing by here to find out, but at least I was able to slip in this one visit before the world spiraled into madness.

     Before we leave, here's one last look at the Pizza Hut building, this photo looking at the back of the restaurant. While it didn't appear to be open at the time of my visit (as it looks like someone was using it as a parking spot), this place did have a drive thru window. Even if this window wasn't used much prior, maybe having this window came in handy the last few months as restaurants began to push drive-thru and carryout options even more.

     After eating all that pizza, a nice long walk along the beach sounds like a good way to finish off this post. I included the map above to show everyone just how close Pizza Hut is to the beach, the red pin marking the location of the restaurant.

     A nice lunch followed by a pleasant day for a walk on the beach, a win-win if you ask me!

     This picture looking out into the Atlantic will finish out our post on the Cocoa Beach Pizza Hut. While the fate of the buffet itself may be a bit uncertain these days, the restaurant overall seems to do good business due to its location, which is nice to see. So even if 2020 did happen to out-buffet the hut, the hut still stands here in Cocoa Beach to serve out pizza regardless, and hopefully that will continue to for many years more.

     So that's all I have for today's post (and I apologize for any pizza craving you may be having right now). Until next time,