Saturday, September 12, 2009

Some 20th Century Publix Relics

No sooner had I hit the “publish” button on the last post than I received an email with these excellent Publix photos. Taken in 2002 and 2006, these photos show some of the classic 60’s and 70’s Publix style that was still kicking in the 21st century. Ironically, the storefront pictured, the Tallahassee, Florida Apalachee Parkway store, is a near match for the prototype pictured in the 1972 photo in the previous post.

These photos come to us courtesy of Rich Kummerlowe, webmaster of the superb America’s Landmark: Under the Orange Roof website, a tribute to the near-extinct Howard Johnson’s restaurants. A fondly remembered part of youth for so many of us, the classic “HoJo’s” have been an enduring interest of mine, and Rich’s site is the finest chronicle of them that one could ever want. I well remember the excitement of the “HoJo Birthday Club”, where you would get a free ice cream cone with one of their famous 28 flavors on your birthday. I applied for my club membership card in 1971 or so, and am still waiting for it to arrive. I'm thinking about writing them to see what’s up. (Maybe my dad forgot to mail the thing in!)

Rich brought up an interesting connection between Howard Johnson’s and Publix – that Publix was at one point the largest seller (outside of Howard Johnson’s themselves) of HoJo’s ice cream, and was among the last to offer HoJo frozen food items prior to their discontinuance a few years back.

The first two photos, as mentioned, are of a Tallahassee Publix that was closed in 2006 when a modern unit opened down the street. The third and fourth photos show the distinctive arrow signs for two 1960’s Publix-developed shopping centers - the Southgate Shopping Center in New Port Richey (not to be confused with the older Lakeland, Florida center of the same name), and the Punta Gorda Mall, which was actually a strip shopping center just like Southgate. Unfortunately these two great signs, photographed in 2002, are now gone as well, Rich informs us. The Southgate sign was replaced when the shopping center was completely refaced in 2005, and the Punta Gorda sign and store were destroyed by Hurricane Charley in 2004.

Below are two 1960’s views for comparison’s sake – the Southgate Shopping Center from the History of Pasco County, Florida website, and a postcard view of the Punta Gorda Mall.


  1. I miss that sign for Southgate when I use to drive by on US 19! The store itself has been remolded a couple of times at least. Before the last redo it sported a late 70's early 80's look. It is now huge. It expanded into where that eckerds once was and I think into another store as well. I stoped in one day to get some things and it looks like a store built last week. Nothing inside or out is retro.

  2. Forgot to mention Dave, that in Temple Terrace, a suburb of Tampa, a store like the 1st pictured still stands. It has been empty for at least 15 years. Publix built a new store across the street and nothing ever moved in. Also in Brooksville FL another such store still stands empty as of about 3 yrs ago.. I have not been in that area in 3 yrs so I do not know if its still there.

  3. Thanks for the links, the Tallahassee store still had much of its 1970's design intact until closing May 2007. The terrazzo floors, wall directories, the lighting, and even the old school checkstands. The decor package was from the early 90's, and some of the cases looked like replacements, but its gives the overall feel of the stores, minus the 1970's patterns and colors.

    Southgate unfortunately went through several remodels, taking on the late 70's-early 80's Publix look, a variation of the 1970's facades with darker colors and diagonal wooden trim but no expansion, as Dwayne stated has been expanded and remodeled until it no longer has any resemblance to its original "tower" design.

    Also both the Open Nites until 9 looks quaint, and a reminder that even today Publix has eschewed 24 hour stores, with almost all locations closing at either 10, 11 or midnight varying from store to store. But the stylized "Publix" logo adopted in 1972 looked out of place on Southgate and Punta Gorda Mall in their Googie neon glory.

  4. I lived in New Port Richey briefly in 1997, and I shopped that Publix regularly. The Southgate sign was large, proud, and a neon masterpiece. The Publix store had been remodeled by then, but you could tell it was an old store. I later moved to St. Petersburg, and lived down the street from the Southside Shopping Center (renamed Coquina Key Plaza) where I shopped at THAT Publix that was under construction in those early pictures. It had a adopted a new facade in the 70s and interior, but in 1998, it was still very much a relic of a store. I believe that location is now occupied by a Save-A-Lot as South St. Pete wasn't much of a Publix neighborhood then, nor now. The Tallahassee store seems to be similar in style interior wise to the one I speak of in South St. Pete... older, run-down, lower income neighborhood, not a lot of reason to remodel or rejuvenate it... however even as run-down as I recall the South St. Pete store at Coquina Key to be, it still was light years beyond any other Kash n Karry or Albertson's in the same neighborhood. Publix is the service and quality leader. They truly set the standard, and hats off to you Dave for such an in-depth look at one of my favorite supermarket chains... as well as many others'.

  5. Love the past and present views of those monstrous signs! Too bad they are long gone, but I am glad someone was able to document them before it was too late.

    No sooner than your last post, I saw my friend in Lakeland, Florida update her Facebook page with "Thank you Publix for making pumpkin pie ice cream." I told her I wanted a Publix and she said "You like the history of retail. You should look them up." I started to give her some details of George Jenkins and what I remembered from reading this great series and she remarked that it was sad I knew all this and did not live anywhere near a Publix. LOL!

  6. The classic googie style signs I really miss. Gaudy, yes, but they had charm and looked amazing at night. It's nice to see a pic with the classic logo Eckerd in it.

  7. Dwayne – Thanks for those details on Southgate. Those stores were so small by today’s standards that they almost always have to take over the existing space of next door stores to expand.

    Ken – I agree, the “Open Nites” sign is cool looking and definitely a throwback to an earlier era. And the modern Publix logo does clash with the rest of the sign. The diagonal wooden trim was an inside feature, right?

    Jack – I’d love to have seen the Southgate sign at night. Obviously this picture will have to do, though. Interesting that the Southside SC was renamed “Coquina Key Plaza”. In the shopping center/mall world, there’s definitely a trend in many places toward replacing basic, simplistic sounding names with names that convey an upscale feel. And thanks again!

    Didi – It’s amazing how good the signs looked after so many years. The only changes they made was to replace the marquee boards with Publix signage. You’ll have to visit your friend!

    J.T. – Gaudy is good! And I like the Eckerd logo as well. Even though the later Eckerd logo was largely based on it, there’s nothing like neon for effect.

  8. The Publix at the Northwood Mall in Tallahassee started out with one of them big ol' honkin' arrow-lookin' neon flashin' signs on its facade. Don't recall when it was taken down but dang, why they had to do that?!!

  9. Miz T. - Don't know why they took 'em down, but wish they didn't! ;)

  10. Winter Haven had the same sign design for their SOUTHEAST PLAZA on Cypress Gardens Blvd. I so thought the SOUTHGATE sign was the same I shared it via a "You know you grew up in..." facebook page until the error was noticed. (WH also had a NORTHGATE so it was easy mistake.) Without any sign now, SE PLAZA looks so naked!

  11. Winter Haven had the same sign design for their SOUTHEAST PLAZA on Cypress Gardens Blvd. I so thought the SOUTHGATE sign was the same I shared it via a "You know you grew up in..." facebook page until the error was noticed. (WH also had a NORTHGATE so it was easy mistake.) Without any sign now, SE PLAZA looks so naked!