3 Florida Albertsons being remodeled into Safeway grocery stores

Justine Griffin/Tampa Bay Times - Safeway grocery stores are coming to Florida.

The three remaining Albertsons grocery stores in Florida — in Largo, Altamonte Springs and Fort Lauderdale — will be remodeled this year and converted into Safeway stores, Albertsons Companies announced Monday.

The parent company of both brands, Albertsons Companies, is investing nearly $10 million in the renovation of the three stores this year. Once the stores reopen under the Safeway name, they'll have expanded food sections and a Starbucks inside.

"When complete, our new Safeway locations will have contemporary décor packages, new digital signs and menu boards, a natural/organic zone and living well products," said Sidney Hopper, Albertsons Companies Houston division president.

Stores will stay open during the remodel, which is expected to be completed by the spring.

The Albertsons store in the Largo Mall, 10500 Ulmerton Road, is the lone store left standing in the Tampa Bay area. There are only three left in the state after the grocery chain closed most of its stores — at one time there were more than 100 in Florida — over the years. One of the last to close was the Albertsons store at 2170 Gulf to Bay Blvd. in Clearwater, which shuttered in May.

The Florida stores are managed by a distribution center in Houston.

The California-based Safeway chain was acquired by a private equity firm last year, which merged the chain with Albertsons stores. They company operates stores across the U.S. and Canada, with most of its stateside stores in western states like California and Colorado.

Albertsons is the fourth largest grocery chain in the U.S. with $58.3 billion in reported sales last year and 2,205 stores, according to industry publication Supermarket News. Prior to the merger, Safeway reported $37.1 billion in sales for 2014 with 1,326 stores.

Safeway grocery stores are similar to a Kroger, but don't always offer prices as low, said Jeff Green, a retail analyst in Phoenix. They're tidy stores and are known for their customer service. They offer a wide range of products, but attract everyday shoppers, like a Winn-Dixie or a Publix.

"Clearly they'll be operating in suburban locations, which will have good demographics to get started," Green said.

The company could be testing the waters in Florida to see how they could compete with Publix, he added.

"But I just don't know how they'll be successful, or even make an impact, with just three stores in the state," Green said.