Gone are the days of strolling the aisles after putting off grocery shopping for longer than you want to admit, nursing a buzz from that $3 you spent at the beer and wine bar at the front of the store. “Sip and stroll,” they called it, a Lucky’s Market staple.
On February 12, Lucky’s Market, with 21 stores statewide, including three in South Florida — in Coral Springs, Oakland Park, and Plantation — will cease to exist in the Sunshine State.
Before the closures were announced January 21, the natural and organic grocery chain had stores under construction in Kendall and Dania Beach and a lease was signed for a location in West Boca Raton, according to documents included in the organization’s January 27 bankruptcy filing.
A Lucky’s spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment concerning the fate of the stores that never were.
Initially, Lucky's said one of the 21 stores in Florida — the West Melbourne outpost — would remain open. Bo and Trish Sharon, the Colorado couple who founded Lucky’s in 2003, were initially set to buy the Space Coast-area store, along with six other locations nationwide.
The Melbourne shop's reprieve was short-lived, however: Lucky's spokeswoman Krista Torvik announced Tuesday the parent company for Winn-Dixie is in the process of taking it over. Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers is acquiring the West Melbourne shop, as well as the Lucky’s Markets in Naples, Fort Myers, Gainesville, and Lake Mary.
Grocery behemoth Kroger, which the bankruptcy filing indicates owns a 55 percent stake in Lucky's, announced in December it would end its financial support, though it wasn’t clear then what that change would mean for the smaller Colorado-based franchise. The relationship between the two companies was only about three and a half years old.
All the while, grieving shoppers online had plenty to say:
Just found out luckys is closing their Florida stores and I just want to cry now— Lindsay Comora (@lcomora91) January 21, 2020
@kroger Why are you closing all the luckys in Florida I’m gonna throw up on you— ???????????????????????????????????? (@iamabeansprout) January 21, 2020
Amid its move toward bankruptcy, Lucky's began selling off the majority of its locations.
Two of the largest grocery chains in Florida — Aldi and Publix — quickly scooped up 11 of the 21 Florida Lucky's — Aldi bought six and Publix five, a Lucky’s spokeswoman confirmed. The Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale-adjacent Oakland Park locations are slated to become Aldi stores, Torvik said in a statement. The fate of the Lucky’s in Plantation remains unclear.
Seabra Foods and Hitchcock’s Markets claimed the Lucky’s Markets in Hunters Creek and St. Petersburg, respectively.
So what exactly went awry with Kroger’s investment?
Kroger announced in the spring of 2016 it would invest in the small but ambitious organic grocery chain. The Cincinnati-based corporation proclaimed its new majority stake — at the time only vaguely referred to as a “meaningful” announcement — would help to bolster Lucky’s growth.
With five stores in Florida pre-Kroger, Lucky’s began opening locations in the state at a dizzying rate. By the fall of 2017, there were ten stores.
From an onlooker’s perspective, the matchup appeared promising: Kroger’s robust financials and scale coupled with Lucky’s farmers-market charm and niche appeal. The Lucky’s shopping experience has long been characterized by its round-the-corner neighborhood market aesthetic.
“That social aspect of our stores is really the heart of it,” cofounder Bo Sharon said at a store launch in 2016, according to the industry observer Supermarket News. “We want to be a meeting place in the community.”
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Kroger was drawn to Lucky’s value-priced natural and organic foods and a “hip and playful atmosphere,” the publication noted — ostensibly referencing the chain’s allure to younger and shoppers, particularly amid the rise of online competitors and grocery delivery services.
With only two brick-and-mortar locations in the Sunshine State — one at the Florida Mall in Orlando and the other in Fernandina Beach — Kroger saw Lucky’s as an opportunity to gain a foothold and venture further into the state and perhaps eventually emerge as a formidable competitor to Publix, widely regarded as the Goliath of Florida grocery stores. That plan didn’t quite pan out.
A spokesperson for Kroger did not respond to multiple requests for comment related to the company’s divestment and the subsequent closures.
Godspeed to Floridians who now have to shop without those sweet, sweet sips of $3 oaky chard.