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Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. in Jacksonville, FL, has not had much good news to report in recent years. But now the company has embarked on an ambitious new re-branding plan that the company calls a “transformational remodel.”

The store at 2220 County Road 210 near Jacksonville in northern St. Johns County is the first in Florida to

Winn-Dixie Chairman, President and CEO Peter Lynch celebrated a momentous occasion in company history when he rang the bell to open the NASDAQ exchange one day in 2007 following the company’s emergence from a 2005 Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing. (Photo courtesy of NASDAQ)
 
undergo the radical remodeling that soon will be the gold standard for one of the Southeast’s older grocery chains. Scheduled for completion in June, the renovation carries a price tag of $5.5 million — almost triple what Winn-Dixie spends on a typical remodeling project. Ceilings have been lifted, new flooring materials utilized, and the store has been redesigned to better feature perishable items and put more focus on organic and locally grown products with an outdoor farmers market area.

 

Winn-Dixie was founded in Miami in 1925 and had more than 1,000 stores as recently as 2003. In 2005, facing stiff competition from Lakeland, FL-based competitor Publix Supermarkets, Winn-Dixie filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and closed hundreds of stores in a wave that continued through last July, when 30 underperforming locations were shuttered rather than be tagged for renovation.

There are now 484 Winn-Dixie locations operating in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi.

About half the remaining stores have undergone renovations at an average cost of $2.2 million per store since the chain emerged from bankruptcy protection in 2007, while the other half are scheduled for renovation.

But some stores will undergo what Peter Lynch, the company’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, has called a “transformational remodel.”

So far three stores have undergone the makeover: Covington, LA, Margate, FL, and Mobile, AL. The facelift for the Jacksonville store is the first super-upgrade of a Winn-Dixie property in its hometown, and there will not be another in Florida until 2012.

A total of 16 stores will undergo the more-costly remodeling process this year, with locations determined by existing store size and surrounding population density and demographic information.

Winn-Dixie did not return calls or e-mails seeking comment on the new business model for this article, but Mr. Lynch recently said that sales in the “transformed” stores are averaging $475 per square foot vs. $300 for other stores in the chain. The upper-end stores employ about 150 workers, vs. 75-100 for a typical Winn-Dixie location.