Life has not been good for a supermarket chain with roots in Tampa, as it prepares for its third name in the past 10 years.
Sweetbay Supermarket will soon become Winn-Dixie, a brand that has also struggled in the region under the dominance of both Publix Super Markets, and later Walmart. The name change will mark the end of the Sweetbay brand, which was introduced in 2004 as a way to refresh stores that had been known as Kash n’ Karry since 1962.
The move was not unexpected after Sweetbay’s parent, Delhaize Group, sold the regional chain to Bi-Lo Holdings LLC in May for $265 million.
Bi-Lo had already purchased Winn-Dixie in 2011 for $530 million, and with more than 600 stores already — including three in this area — it easily trumped the 72 remaining Sweetbay stores in Florida.
Signs aren’t coming down just yet. Bi-Lo says it’s waiting for its deal to acquire Sweetbay and two other regional supermarket chains to close before starting rebranding efforts. Sweetbay has four locations locally, including on State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel, on County Line Road in Tampa, on Gunn Highway in Odessa, and on North Dale Mabry Highway. Once the rebranding takes place, Winn-Dixie will have seven locations, including the ones already owned on Collier Parkway in Land O’ Lakes, U.S. 41 in Lutz, and on State Road 54 in Zephyrhills.
At this point, Bi-Lo says it has no plans to close any of the stores, or lay off any workers. Local stores should be fully rebranded by the end of spring next year.
Even with a familiar rebrand, the new Winn-Dixie will have a ways to go to catch its local competitors. Publix is the nation’s largest employee-owned company, and had sales of $27.5 billion last year, according to Forbes magazine.
The chain’s primary competition is Walmart, not Winn-Dixie or any other grocery chain in the state. Both Publix and Walmart have been focused on an advertising battle against each other in recent years, with Publix still holding on to the state lead.
Sweetbay started as a fruits and vegetable stand on the streets of Tampa in 1914 by Salvatore Greco. With his wife Giuseppina, the Grecos would open their first store in Plant City in 1947 under the name Big Barn, and would grow to nine stores by 1960.