Friday, April 5, 2019

Publix Takes Flight - Former Store #26, Cleveland Plaza, Clearwater, FL.

Publix #26 Grand Opening, November 16, 1954.
(courtesy: Publix archives via Huffington Post)

Former Publix Market #26 (the first) (1954-1992)
Cleveland Plaza
1209 Cleveland St. (former SR 60 alignment)
Clearwater, FL 33759

     #26 was the first Publix to feature the Wing facade and the slogan, "Where Shopping Is A Pleasure", prominently on the facade.  With some variations, Publix utilized the Wing exterior for every new store built from late 1955 until 1970.

     Cleveland Plaza, Clearwater's first shopping center and Pinellas County's third, opened on November 16, 1954, with Publix, B&B Supermarket (later A&P for a few years, vacant as of June 2018), Woolworth's (now Nature's Food Patch), and Eckerd Drugs (later CVS, now Family Dollar).

     On January 17, 1964, a fire from a defective display light heavily damaged #26. Within six days, the store was back up and running.
     From the January 22, 1964 edition of the Clearwater Sun newspaper:
   This is no fable. Here's how 300 determined men - working around the clock - rebuilt a fire-gutted supermarket in six days flat.
   In terms of hours, that adds up to a mere 144.
   It all began at Clearwater's Cleveland Plaza Publix Market where, on January 17, a flash fire originating in a defective display light, touched off a $100,000 blaze which left one of the city's most modern food stores a shambles of soot-covered devastation.
   Asked about his company's six-day miracle, Ted R. Cross, Publix district superintendent, says the rebuilding marathon "just happened." "Publix has never had a fire like this before. We just decided to see how quickly and efficiently we could put the store back in business." And that's the way it started.
   As a note to the amount of all the work involved, 12,000 square feet of suspended ceiling and accessory supporting materials had to be replaced...and was; shipped by the Ohio manufacturer the Tuesday night before the Friday reopening. The aluminum faced steel network which makes up the store's new suspended overhead grid system was turned out by an Illinois manufacturer only 24 hours earlier. Cash registers had to be completely stripped, inspected and reassembled by special crews from National Cash Registers. Painters and decorators worked around the clock to finish the colorful new decor. Insofar as the stocks of merchandise, everything in the selling area of the store was replaced by fresh new goods from the warehouse and from local distributors. In effect, a new store was stocked and opened (after practically being rebuilt and rewired) in just six days time. As Mr. Joe Blanton said, so many folks pitched in and helped with this amazing would be impossible to thank them all! Nevertheless...through our newspaper ad and through the Publix News...we thank you all!
(courtesy: Tim Fillmon)

     #26 celebrated a Grand Remodeling sale in November 1983, and lost its Wing during an overhaul of Cleveland Plaza that was completed in May 1984.

     On June 15, 1992, Publix closed the store outright, but not for a lack of business. At 18,000 sq. ft., #26 was too small and obsolete in an era of 40,000 + sq. ft. combination food and drug stores. Publix was unable to expand the store, nor was any suitable property nearby available to build a new store.

     The immediate area was left without a traditional supermarket until Albertsons #4431 (now Publix #1329) opened at the site of the former Searstown Sears (1962-1992) at Missouri Ave. & Lakeview Rd. in January 1996.

     Downtown Clearwater proper was left without a Publix until #867, Harbor Oaks Shopping Center, opened on S. Fort Harrison Ave. in August 2002.

     #26 then became host to a number of scratch & dent supermarkets from 1995 through 2005.

     Save-A-Lot overhauled the building in 2012 and opened in January 2013, leaving only small traces of Publix behind.

    And now, "roll that beautiful supermarket footage."

Publix #26 in 1958.
(courtesy: Dave Aldrich, Pleasant Family Shopping blog)

Cleveland Plaza during Publix's "Hawaiian Days" sales promotion in September 1983. 
(courtesy: Tim Fillmon and Pleasant Family Shopping blog)

#26 shortly after Publix announced they would be closing the store. 
(courtesy: Tampa Bay Times, January 15, 1992)

     Hopping into the Internet Archive's WayBack Machine, here's the interior of #26 while it was "Cleveland Market", a short-lived scratch & dent supermarket from 2004-2005. The floor, lighting, vents, and the orange trapezoids on the back wall (aisle directory) were all vintage Publix.

     Same aisle at Clearwater Market, panning left a little bit.

     Google Street View of the Publix #26 as "MARKET" (formerly Clearwater Market), April 2011.  The windows, entry setup, and exterior green marble walls were untouched for over 56 years at this point.

     The two photos below show the old store in April 2012, before converting over to Save-A-Lot. The produce department signage and checkstand railing were remnants from the store's days as Publix.

Transformation to Save-A-Lot underway in September 2012. 

     All shops to the right (west) of old Publix #26 were demolished to make room for additional parking.

     In June 2018, I stopped by the Save A Lot store to see what was left behind from the building's Publix days.

     Unfortunately, there wasn't much - basically the left-hand window (emergency exit) and its sills are the only Publix remains left.

Thanks for stopping by. Until next time,


  1. Pretty cool to see the evolution of this store over the years, as well as to know it was the first wing store! I know I said this over on flickr too, but it's so cool that those old interior remnants managed to stay intact all those years.

    Seems like I can't access the blog post on the 1964 fire, though - Blogger says I'm not "invited."

    1. Retail Retell I forgot the blog owner on the 1964 fire set their Blogger to private. I'll add a blurb about the fire shortly. Sorry about that :-/

    2. Retail Retell - it took me a bit, but I updated the post regarding the 1964 fire.

    3. No problem, thanks for letting me know! Wow - that's amazing how much they were able to accomplish in less than one week's time!

  2. Poltergeist Publix

    1. 60 Minutes brought me here too. The cemetery in question was actually on the opposite side of Missouri from where Cleveland Plaza was built (despite the construction photos they used in the piece). Guess the show's producers couldn't find any pics of Montgomery Ward being built.