Business

More and more grocery stores are opening in Florida. But many are gone. Remember these?

A boarded-up Pantry Pride in Fort Lauderdale in 1997.
A boarded-up Pantry Pride in Fort Lauderdale in 1997. Miami Herald File/1997

Fresh Market. Aldi. Trader Joe’s.

South Florida is a hot spot for grocery openings, with new market locations joining Publix, WInn-Dixie, Fresco y Mas, Sedano’s, Presidente, Whole Foods, Milam’s, Super Target, and a plethora of ethnic and specialty stores.

But what about Food Fair? Pantry Pride? Grand Union? Woolley’s? Hyde Park? Epicure? Xtra? Piggy Wiggly?

Let’s take a step back in the Miami Herald archives to remember grocery stores that have vanished from the shopping landscape.

PANTRY PRIDE

Published Sept. 4, 1983

The contents of the wire carts senior citizens pushed at the 163rd Street Pantry Pride — single bags of groceries, many half empty — told a sad but simple story: plenty of business, not enough revenue. Translation: store closing.

Outside, two dozen retirees were lamenting the imminent end of their neighborhood market, along with its kosher shop next door.

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“It’s not fair,” they said, one after another. But William Fureisen stood among them and took the hard view: “The people are squawking, but they’re not shopping.”

That’s why Store No. 222 — along with No. 229, at 8000 NE Fifth Ave. and 14 others in Dade County — will soon close its doors, said Pantry Pride spokeswoman Judy Napier. “

‘There are always people in the store.’ I hear it all the time,” she said. “Well, that may be true, but they’re not buying enough. The store is unprofitable.”

And so it will close, taking away the only kosher goods within walking distance of the carless Jewish retirees who live in the condominiums surrounding the 163rd Street Mall.

“I don’t know what I’ll do. It’s a little far for me to walk to any of the other three kosher shops along NE 163rd Street,” said Ida Rosemarin while shopping at the kosher shop Wednesday.

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That was the most common complaint. Barbara Coplowitz had a milder one.

“I don’t know where I’m going to buy wine,” said the Hollywood resident. “I come all the way down here just because they have the best selection in the area.” Ruth Kram looked at the short-term future: “The Jewish holidays are coming — we’ll triple their business.” But the long view is what interests company officials.

“Demographics,” said Napier. “When we opened that store, the neighborhood could support it. Now it can’t.”

Harvey Meyers, who has managed the store’s kosher butcher shop the last 13 years, has seen the changes. “This was started by Sam Friedlander, the founder. He was Food Fair Pantry Pride’s former name,” Meyers said. “This was his pet. He always wanted a few kosher markets in the chain.”

Napier said no kosher section will be added to any of the area Pantry Prides remaining open. For Myers, hope remains. With his seniority, he expects to go another store. Other employes were bitter, though.

“The top two guys in this company make over a million dollars, combined. The company just put out an eight-page color flyer. They’re still hiring and training,” said one $6.50-an- hour clerk. “And they’re telling me, with 2 1/2 years as a full-time clerk, that I’m gonna be busted to part time at $5 an hour. How am I supposed to support my family on that?”

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The clerk asked for anonymity. Pantry Pride employes are under orders not to speak to reporters, but one stockboy who said he faces layoff when the store closes figured he had little to lose.

“They just hired me two months ago. I went through a lot of trouble. I work hard, but they’re still hiring new people,” said Todd Kreiger. “It stinks.”

Napier said no new hiring is going on. Training sessions are for employes changing roles, she said. In this case, the disgruntled employes concurred with the maxim: The customer is always right. Said both parties, bitterly: “The company doesn’t care.”

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HYDE PARK

Published Feb. 8, 1998

Hyde Park Market is giving up the fight in South Florida’s grocery wars. Fleming Co., which owns the 11-store supermarket chain, said Monday it is closing or selling off the markets in a reorganization of its wholesale and retail grocery business.

The move will put up for grabs some prime real estate in Dade and Broward counties, where eight of the markets are located. South Florida retail analysts say the closing isn’t surprising, because the Oklahoma-based grocery wholesaler has struggled to develop a name and an image for the chain in a market dominated by Publix and Winn-Dixie.

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It didn’t help that the Hyde Park locations went through multiple owners and name changes over the years. Before Fleming converted 21 stores to the Hyde Park name in July 1994, they had been Woolley’s and Pantry Pride.

“They had so many different names, you didn’t know who they were,” said Beth Azor, president of Terranova, a Miami real estate consulting and management firm.

“Our world exists around Publix and Winn-Dixie. Hyde Park never had any weight to carry. They just could never make an impact.”

Hyde Park was a distant fifth in the South Florida grocery market last year, behind Publix, Winn-Dixie, Albertson’s and Sedano’s.

In the tri-county area last year, Hyde Park rang up $86.7 million in sales and took 1.41 percent of the market share, according to the Shelby Report, a grocery trade publication. Fleming acquired the Hyde Park chain, then known as Woolley’s, in 1993 as part of a legal settlement. Food distributor Malone & Hyde, a Fleming subsidiary, had won a $25 million judgment against Woolley’s parent, Florida Supermarkets, for back merchandise payments.

After the takeover, Fleming invested several million dollars to give the stores a major face lift and launch a new image campaign. The stores implemented a new competitive pricing structure and tried to position themselves as a niche market, with a focus on healthy foods, prepared meals and high-quality produce and meats.

But that vision never became a reality, and now Fleming is trying to streamline its business and boost profit margins. The closings of the Hyde Park stores and seven distribution centers will result in a $627 million charge against earnings for Fleming, the second largest U.S. grocery wholesaler.

“We’re going to concentrate on our top performers, not just in terms of profitability, but the ones that have the prospect of being market leaders,” said Shane Boyd, a spokesman for Fleming, which operates 13 other grocery chains. No time has been set for the Hyde Park closings, which will vary by store.

There may not be anything for Fleming to sell because the company leases its stores. The landlords will be left with some key pieces of South Florida real estate, particularly in Miami Beach and on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Those sites are part of the 12 current and former Hyde Park locations that Coolidge-South Markets Equities Ltd., a New York real-estate investment firm, purchased this summer for more than $31 million.

The Miami office of Cushman & Wakefield is in the process of finding new tenants, which in most cases will not be other grocery stores. The existing stores could be demolished to make way for a wide range of other projects, including retail, multi-family homes, hotel or offices.

“We never expected Hyde Park to remain long-term,” said Mark Gilbert, director of financial services at Cushman & Wakefield. “We’ve always looked at these as redevelopment sites.”

Although Albertson’s has been looking to expand its presence in Dade County, the Hyde Park sites may be too small to meet the company’s requirements, said Paco Diaz, first vice president with CB Richard Ellis of Miami, which represents Albertson’s in site selection. Industry analysts say Publix has expressed interest in a few of the sites, possibly those in Key Biscayne and Coconut Grove.

WOOLLEY’S

Published Oct. 7, 1993

Betty Heller must have walked a million times across Miami Gardens Drive and into Woolley’s the past nine years. But when she tried to enter the grocery store last week, all she found was a locked door. Woolley’s had shut down, and now Heller, 86, wants to know where she is supposed to buy her food without walking a mile. “No one warned us that the store was closing, and now I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” said Heller, who lives in a North Miami Beach condominium across the street from the shuttered market at 1800 NE Miami Gardens Dr. “I don’t have transportation, and I don’t have the strength to walk to the next grocery store.” Woolley’s supermarket, which settled a legal dispute with Malone & Hyde, a food distributor, lost 16 of its 20 South Florida stores to Fleming Co., which owns Malone & Hyde. The North Miami Beach grocery store, along with a North Miami store and another in Sunny Isles, are three food stores in North Dade taken in the settlement. The stores are owned by a New York-based holding company, the Red Apple Group. Its chairman, John Catsimatidis, said the company will decide in 10 days if it will reopen grocery stores at those locations under the Pantry Pride or Red Apple name. But until then, said Marge Shores, 60, she does not know where she will shop. “We moved into this area because we would have shopping nearby and wouldn’t have to drive much,” she said. The McDonald Senior Center, 17051 NE 19th Ave., provides transportation to North Miami Beach’s elderly if they live in the city limits. Residents of such condominiums as the Moorings, across from the mall, are not provided bus service.

A&P

Published Aug. 22, 1984

The A&P store on Sunrise Boulevard is one of the last of its kind in the state. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. recently closed two stores, one in Orlando and one in Cocoa Beach, leaving only three A&P stores in Florida — in Bartow, another in Orlando and in Fort Pierce.

“Evidently I’ve been doing something right for the last 30 years,” said Fort Pierce store manager G.E. Smoky Fisher.

He started managing the A&P store on Orange Avenue store in 1954, then became manager of the 15,000-square-foot store on Sunrise when it opened in 1959. There are no plans to close the remaining three stores, but it is “entirely possible,” said Michael Rourke, vice president of marketing for A&P.

The giant food chain, once the largest retail grocery in the nation, is closing its smaller, less profitable stores in favor of its new Family Mart combination stores. These megastores, 55,000 square feet in size, dwarf the A&P originals.

Florida has 17 Family Mart stores, primarily in the St. Petersburg-Tampa area. After suffering sagging sales in the mid-1970s, A&P embarked on a major consolidation and reorganization plan, closing 400 stores in 1981. In 1982, the company posted its biggest profit since 1970, and its first profitable year since 1978.

“It was the start of a major turnaround,” Rourke said. “The consolidation’s over — we’re into a growth stage.”

Celebrating its 125th anniversary, A&P now has 1,020 stores in the nation under several different chain names. James Hood, editor of Shelby Reports, a retail grocery magazine, says A&P chose to close its smaller stores in light of Florida’s increasingly competitive grocery industry.

“The type of customer A&P appealed to in Florida, Publix now has a strong hold on, and what Publix doesn’t have, Winn- Dixie does,” Hood said. “A&P just wasn’t doing the volume.”

EPICURE MARKET

Published Sept. 17, 2017

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Dominick Raneri, finance director at Prestige Imports, parks an LP 560 Lamborghini at Epicure Sunny Isles Beach as Epicure and Prestige Imports host their monthly Lamborghini-tini event bringing Lamborghinis, cocktails and food all to one place at Epicure on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011. The event takes place the first Saturday of every month at Epicure in Sunny Isles Beach. ALLISON DIAZ Miami Herald File/2011

Epicure Gourmet Market & Cafe, a South Beach institution dating to 1945, has closed for good. The market posted the news on Twitter, and owner Jason Starkman confirmed he would close it amid a confluence of events, from losing all their perishables after the hurricane to years of down sales and a rash of interest from real estate developers who want to sublease.

“It’s prime real estate,” Starkman said of the Alton Road site. “The business itself doesn’t make sense to run. It’s just not making money.”

Starkman said sales have been slumping in the last five to seven years after his family bought the market in 1998. He pointed to the yearlong closure of Alton Road and the downturn of the economy in 2008. Plus, the market now has competition from two nearby Publix stores, a Fresh Market and a Whole Foods Market.

The Whole Foods will expand, and a Trader Joe’s is planned nearby.

“It ran its course,” Starkman said.

he late Eddie Thal founded the market at 1656 Alton Road with brother Leonard in 1945 after taking over a butcher shop the Army Air Corps had commandeered during World War II. Epicure became a hit with locals and the famous, simply by making family-friendly prepared food and flying in specialty items from every state.

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Favorites at Epicure. Miami Herald File

At its height, the restaurant was cooking 10,000 gallons of chicken soup a week, preparing 100,000 pieces of gefilte fish, butchering 40,000 pounds of meat and making more than 60 kinds of prepared foods for those too lazy or too unwilling to cook — or simply for those who knew their fettuccine with ham salad, tuna salad or potato latkes would never measure up.

They had a deft touch for all manners of cuisine, from arroz con pollo to Irish stew, and they were renowned for their Black-Out Cake (dark chocolate cake, filled with dark chocolate pudding, frosted with dark chocolate and dusted with cocoa).

When South Beach was still a sleepy town, before the ‘90s boom, Epicure was the one place welcoming the cosmopolitan. There, you could buy imported Champagne and Beluga caviar, fresh turkeys from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, maple syrup from Vermont, fresh chanterelles from North Dakota and a black walnut cake from South Carolina.

The products came at a premium customers were happy to pay.

“I figured let the big guys corner the prices and I’ll corner the quality,” Eddie Thal told the Miami Herald in 1983.

Celebrities who came to town genuflected at its door, particularly because Thal would send a gift basket to their hotel rooms with a gift card they could use only there. Mobster Meyer Lansky ate his stuffed veal in the back room in secret from his wife, who had him on a strict diet. President Harry Truman had them send barbecued ribs to him in Key West. Jimmy Hoffa came for the potato kugel. Winston Churchill kept coming back for the roast beef when he visited shortly after World War II — he had gone without beef for so long.

They closed the store for Michael Jackson, Pavarotti and Joe DiMaggio to shop. But Oprah Winfrey just shopped among others, recalls Eddie’s grandson, Mitchell, who worked at the store for 30 years and is now retired in Wellington.

“You’ve got a real nice place here,” Paul Newman told Eddie Thal once, after crossing the street while filming “Absence of Malice” for a corned beef on rye.

“I could tell you a million names of folks who came,” Mitchell Thal, who once managed the store, said.

What defined the store was the home cooking. Homemakers outsourced their Thanksgiving dinners to Epicure, from the never-frozen turkeys flown in from Maryland to pumpkin pies made with fresh-grated nutmeg. Jewish families relied on Epicure for High Holy Days. It wasn’t rare for the store to sell 15,000 pounds of kugel in a given week.

The menu was rich in family recipes, from Mama Jennie’s cabbage soup, a recipe Eddie Thal’s mother brought with her from Russia, to the noodle pudding and beet borscht.

he brothers started their own wholesale meat company to ensure they got prime cuts and aged steaks for two to three weeks. At one point, at least 11 Thal family members were involved in the business, including Eddie’s brothers: Lenny, who oversaw the kitchen; Sydney, who ran the books; and Mervyn, who ran the meat department.

The Thals sold the business to the Starkman family, which founded California’s Jerry’s Famous Deli and brought that concept to South Beach before it, too, closed. The Starkmans tried to expand Epicure’s brand. They had bought Sunny Isles Beach’s Rascal House, the last Jewish deli of its kind in the area, and turned it into an Epicure outpost in 2008. They opened another Epicure in Coral Gables in 2013.

But the Coral Gables location lasted less than two years, and the Sunny Isles location closed in March.

With the South Beach location closed, it marks the end of one of the longest-running epicurean standbys in Miami, along with Joe’s Stone Crab and The Forge.

EARLY GROCERY STORES

Published March 28, 1995

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An early Food Fair on a history site.

Twice within the past few weeks, while interviewing two longtime Miamians about their remembrances, both wistfully mentioned Tanner’s grocery store. One worked there as a youngster, the father of the other was a meat cutter at Tanner’s.

Interestingly when I think of Miami’s grocery stores 50 years ago, I, too, fondly recall Tanner’s at 1263 W. Flagler St., right next to Tyler’s family-style restaurant. There was another Tanner’s on Ponce de Leon Boulevard in Coral Gables.

There also was Food Fair, which evolved into Pantry Pride, then Woolley’s, now Hyde Park — as well as Grand Union, Frederich’s, Stevens, Shell City, A&P — and the grocery store in Lemon City, which, through the enterprise of the Davis family beginning in 1925 and through purchases and mergers, grew to become Winn-Dixie. Others whose memories go back further than mine will recall Quigg’s Grocery, Shell and Rodgers, Acme Grocery, Piggly Wiggly, Tip Top, Carl’s, and a host of others.

As the decades rolled past, Publix, and Albertson’s in Broward, along with Winn-Dixie emerged to dominate the market. And, as the region evolved ethnically, markets such as Sedano’s and Xtra entered the local scene.

Who Miami’s first grocer was is difficult to determine. Long before there was a city of Miami, in the mid-19th Century groceries were sold at Fort Dallas, site of today’s downtown Miami.

The Fergusons, who operated a coontie starch mill over the Miami River near today’s Northwest 27th Avenue, also sold groceries to the few who lived in the area, and William Brickell had a trading post on the south side of the mouth of the Miami River beginning in the 1870s. When the city was incorporated in 1896, there were at least three groceries operating: Brickell’s and, on the north side of the river, E.L. Brady & Co. and T.N. Gautier’s Grocery. It was at Brady’s store on Christmas night 1896 that a fire broke out. It destroyed most of infant Miami’s business district.

Perhaps the longest-lasting name on the South Florida grocery scene is that of Gardner. R.C. Gardner, originally from Grifton, N.C., but working in St. Louis for a milling company, pulled up stakes and arrived in Miami in 1912. He immediately set up a curb-side market on what now is North Miami Avenue near the WTVJ studios. Gardner sold food out of crates and made a good living at it. In 1925, he opened his first indoor store as Tip Top Market at 27 NW Fifth St. It was a block long with several entrances, a soda fountain, and lunch counter. R.C.’s brothers, Harvey Sr. and Levi, joined the enterprise, and soon the Gardners’ Tip Top expanded to other locations.

The stores prospered through World War II. In 1952, competition from larger chains caused the Gardner brothers to divide their properties. While R.C. retained the Tip Top name for his store, brother Harvey changed the name of the store at Northwest 36th Street and Seventh Avenue to Gardner’s. The building of I-95 forced that store to close down. In 1960, Gardner’s reopened in South Miami. That store and three others remain in operation, thus the Gardner name spans 83 years of selling groceries in Miami.

In the same year that R.C. Gardner opened his first store, William Davis came to Miami from a failing business in Burley, Idaho. In November 1925, he borrowed money and purchased the Rockmoor Grocery Store at 5903 NE Second Ave. in the Lemon City section of Miami for $10,000. With all four sons, James E., Austin, A.D., and Tine, working in the store and delivering groceries, the Davis family prospered. In 1931 they added two more stores named Table Supply.

In 1939, they bought out Winn and Lovett. Kwik Chek and Margaret Ann stores later became part of the Davis grocery empire, which was united in 1955 under the name Winn-Dixie. The chain had its roots in Lemon City but now is headquartered in Jacksonville. It grew to 1,186 stores in 14 states and the Bahamas this month, when it acquired 25 Thriftway Stores in Cincinnati.

— HOWARD KLEINBERG

GRAND UNION

Published Jan. 23, 1984

Hounded by aggressive competitors, Grand Union supermarkets sounded the bugle of retreat from Florida last week. It was the victim of limited growth opportunities and shrinking profit margins.

The move instantly threw the economic lives of 3,000 employes into uncertainty. Unless Grand Union could find new owners for its 43 supermarkets and six Basics Food Warehouses, many of those people would be out of a job. Fierce competition Although the status of jobs was uncertain, the fierce level of competition that characterizes the state’s grocery store business was not.

And that, food executives said last week, is why a chain with modern facilities and good locations chose to vacate the area.

“The highly competitive nature of this market has made it very difficult to operate at a profit,” said Bill Quesenberry, president of the Miami-based food brokerage of Quesenberry and Catlin. Worse, he said, most of Grand Union’s markets are in Dade County, where the population is falling.

“We have actually been a shrinking market,” said Quesenberry, who said his own firm’s sales have been flat.

Small market-share Grand Union also was at a disadvantage because its share of the Miami-area market was far smaller than four other food chains, including Winn-Dixie Stores of Jacksonville and Publix of Lakeland.

A survey conducted for Supermarket News, a trade publication, placed Grand Union fifth in sales in the Miami market, which includes Dade County and most of Broward County. The publication said Publix held first place with a 26-percent share, Winn-Dixie held 24 pe cent, Pantry Pride had 15 per cent and Associated Grocers had 11 percent. Grand Union held 9 percent.

A Grand Union spokesman conceded last week that the chain, which lost $46 million in the past six months, could not tolerate being in an area where it had little chance of leapfrogging over such perennial powers as Winn-Dixie and Publix.

“We had a good position in Florida, but it was not strong enough,” Grand Union spokesman Gary Perino said. “For the most part the stores> were profitable, but the competition was too intense.”

Moved quickly Some of Grand Union’s competitors were quick to move in on the stores that are up for sale. Shortly after Grand Union announced it was abandoning the state last week, three food chains quickly concluded the purchases of 15 stores.

By the time the week was over, Pantry Pride, Kash ‘n Karry of Tampa, and Super X Drugs, a subsidiary of Kroger of Cincinnati, had snapped up stores in Miami, Boca Raton and Naples and in other cities in western Florida.

“The Grand Union stores are in a better location, they’re more modern and larger in size,” said Judith Napier, a spokesman for the embattled Pantry Pride chain. Publix and Winn-Dixies were said to have received invitations to bid on the stores.

Officials at both chains declined to say if they had submitted bids. Both chains, however, said they were interested enough to examine the possibilities.

As a rule, both companies usually expand through their own building programs. But with the marketplace so crowded, it might be difficult for the remaining combatants to let any of the prime Grand Union locations go begging for an owner. Shrinking market

“The market has shrunk for the companies operating here because they are putting in so many stores,” acknowledged Publix President Joe Blanton.

Most of the top 10 companies in the nation have established a presence in Florida, he said.

“It looks like everybody wants to get in on the act,” Blanton added.

But large chains are not the only ones with a sizable stake here. Independents “can buy as good as a chain can,” Blanton said.

In the Miami area, some of those independents are smaller Latin companies that are taking Hispanic and non-Hispanic business formerly held by the larger chains.

“What I think is that they have found a formula to respond to the consumer regardless of ethnic background,” said George Lezcano, a marketing consultant for Tropical Supermarkets of Miami. Latin groceries Lezcano contended the Latin markets provide more personal service than the larger opposition.

Some managers, he said, “try to know people on a first-name basis.” Tropical, he said, recently opened a Miami store abandoned by Pantry Pride and plans to open another in two weeks. The personal service formula will be applied at those stores, as well, Lezcano said. Quesenberry, the food broker, agreed Latins have been successful at the expense of larger chains such as Grand Union.

“When an independent becomes a grocery store owner it’s a different thing,” he said. “The Latin merchants down here are excellent.”

XTRA FOOD CENTERS

Published April 9, 1996

When Xtra Food Centers announced in January it would close its eight South Florida stores, the announcement sent employees scrambling for new jobs. But they weren’t the only victims of the grocery chain’s shutdown. Merchants who shared shopping centers with Xtra, and counted on the grocery warehouse’s power to pull in potential customers, are scrambling to survive.

Their stores have lost as much as 70 percent of their business since the supermarket closed its doors. Ask Kerryana Reza, who owns two stores at the County Square shopping center, a modern, Mediterranean-style center on Northwest Second Avenue just south of the Dade-Broward county line, where Xtra had one of its stores.

Desperate to find another powerful magnet for the center, Reza has gone on a petition campaign, hoping that it will persuade another supermarket to fill Xtra’s space. She has collected more than 2,000 signatures from merchants, customers and residents. Reza herself called Albertson’s and Publix to tell them they’re wanted.

“When Xtra left, we lost 70 percent of our business,” said Reza, who owns $9.99 Shoe Express and Dollar Heaven. “If we don’t get somebody here, we’re going to die.”

Since Xtra closed in February, the parking lot has remained almost empty except for employees’ cars and a handful of customers. Employees inside the stores, which include Hit or Miss and Blockbuster Video, idly talk on the phone or pour over the occasional customer who does come in. It wasn’t like that when Xtra was there.

Open 24 hours, cars came and went throughout the day, the center was full, and cash registers at the center’s other stores kept ringing.

“We had a constant customer flow, because the supermarket was open 24 hours,” said Sandra Horrobin, manager of the Hit or Miss store. “Right now, we’re playing the waiting game.” “I don’t know how much I can wait,” said Santiago River, manager of Mashiko Sportswear, a men’s clothing store. “I don’t think I can stay here if nobody is coming.” The merchants’ ailments show the importance of a shopping center’s anchor, observers said.

Anchors take the largest space of a shopping center — Xtra’s store was 78,000 square feet — and generate the mass of traffic that overflows into the smaller stores and makes the center vibrant.

“The loss of an anchor has an extremely negative impact on a center,” said Paula Black of Paula Black and Associates, a Coconut Grove firm that specializes in marketing shopping centers.

“It’s truly devastating. They have that big large space there, and it’s very hard to be in that position where you see your business go down, down and down. “If there’s a moral to the story, it’s that merchants have to work at building their own customer loyalty from day one,” Black said.

Indeed, some merchants said they are staying afloat because of those loyal customers. “We keep functioning because we have our clientele,” said Alberto Cruz, owner of ABC Jewelry in Hialeah, where Xtra also closed its store. “But we’re opening another one at the Westland Promenade, so that customers don’t think we’re going to disappear when they see this center so empty.”

Albertson’s, the Boise, Idaho, grocery chain that entered Dade County last year with a store on Bird Road near the Palmetto Expressway, is considering the County Plaza site as well as other empty Xtra stores, industry sources said. And some of the Xtra stores already are under sales contracts, sources said.

The new operator could be something other than a supermarket, such as a large discount store. Jeffrey Freimark, chief financial officer at Xtra’s Pompano Beach headquarters, didn’t return two phone calls from the Miami Herald.

“We’re actively working the market to find a suitable replacement tenant,” said Stephen Bittel, president of Terranova, a Miami firm handling the sub-leasing or sale of five of the Xtra stores. Bittel wouldn’t disclose the names of potential buyers or sub-leasees.

PIGGLY WIGGLY

Published Sept. 14, 1997

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The Piggly Wiggly market at 80 Curtiss Parkway, Miami Springs, will be taken over by another grocery store. Randy Bazemore Miami Herald File / 1997

The wall behind Ken Holden’s desk on the second floor of the Piggly Wiggly grocery store off the circle in Miami Springs is full of plaques and pictures and thank yous from the city. Soon though, the wall will be bare and Holden will no longer be around -- he’s retiring from the grocery business next week.

“I got a lot of terrific people working for me and good customers, but you’ve got to enjoy the business,” observed Holden, 45. “I guess I just don’t have the enthusiasm.”

The familiar face of the pig that has smiled down on many car washes and Girl Scout cookie sales and hundreds of shoppers will continue for a few more weeks, but on Sept. 22, Piggly Wiggly will become Milam’s Market. Surprised by Holden’s announcement in August that he was selling the store, employees of Piggly Wiggly — past and present — threw him a going-away bash last week.

They presented him with an engraved photo album filled with 14 years of memories.

“He’s a great boss,” said cashier Fedwa Amaya, a 10-year employee of the store, at 80 Curtiss Parkway. “I hope everything goes well for him.”

Holden’s not sure what he’s going to do once he leaves his lifelong profession, but customers needn’t worry about Milam’s Market, he says. Except for a few changes, the store will be the same as it’s always been.

A former Piggly Wiggly itself, the original Milam’s store at 5767 Bird Rd., owned by Allen and Michael Milam, is quite similar to the one in Miami Springs, said Annie Moreno, who has shopped at both stores.

“It’s very private, the food’s fresh and the people are very nice,” she said. T

he difference: a more upscale atmosphere and more specialty items, said Allen Milam. Although Holden’s last official day on the job will be next Sunday, he plans to hang around to finish a few things.

“It’s not going to be like one day I’m here and the next day I’m gone,” he said. “It’ll be a slow phase-out.”

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