The Urban Coroner
Photography By Sugarbomb
Abandoned grocery store surrounded by sugarcane fields
Kennedy's Grocery, sitting on the hill at the edge of a sugarcane field | Photo © 2017 Sugarbomb
“On the way back, let’s pull over so I can photograph that,” I told Flowerbomb as we sped down Muck City Road and caught a passing glimpse of a single, run down block building perched at the edge of a freshly tilled field of dark black soil. Between the steady rain falling and trying to avoid shallow puddles along the roadside that were just an invitation to hydroplane into a mucky canal, it was difficult to get a good look at the place at first, but it was clearly abandoned.
On the drive back, we passed a large, dead coyote on the side of the road and were so distracted by the fact that apparently there were coyotes in the Everglades that we almost missed the building we had been planning to stop at. As we approached it, I saw ‘KENNEDY’S GROCERY’ printed on the side of the building in large, dark letters. I had accidentally found another building that I had low key been searching for.
Freshly tilled soil in the fields surrounding Kennedy's Grocery | Photo © 2017 Sugarbomb
Accidentally is about the only way you’ll find Kennedy’s since it’s surrounded by miles and miles of sugarcane fields and not much else. Without any cars passing on the nearby road, the silence of the Everglades comes upon you suddenly. It almost feels like when you drive on a really high flyover and the change in pressure causes your ears to pop and your hearing to get fuzzy; the silence is deafening.
Kennedy’s Grocery is near the roadside, perched on the edge of a hill that descends down into the dark soil that would soon become another field of sugarcane. The farm buildings loomed at the opposite end of the field and I passed two large pieces of farming equipment that looked new compared to the bare, water-stained grey building that I was approaching through the tall grass.
The grocery store was originally built in 1942 on the outskirts of Pahokee, but these were the only facts that I could readily find about it. An address for the old store was impossible to find but would have been pretty unnecessary since there’s little danger of winding up at the wrong building when there’s only one building around. The only way to mark the location in order to find the grocery building again is a set of GPS coordinates. When even Google can’t find information on a place then you know it’s pretty remote.
The front of Kennedy's Grocery | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
Approaching the store, it’s clear that there isn’t much left of the building aside from the outer shell. At the top of the hill facing the road there’s an opening that was once a double door with at least three concrete steps leading up to it. When you climb these stairs and look through the doorway, you find yourself staring into what was once a two-story grocery store. The roof is missing but it didn’t go far, caving in to cover a part of the inside of the building.
The inside is overgrown with vegetation, small trees in some places reaching a height greater than what was once the floor of the second story. That second story is nothing more than a memory now, the floor probably being made of wood and collapsing long ago. From the threshold of what was once the front doors I can see wood planks, some whole and many others splintered into pieces, poking out from the foliage on the floor here and there. I suspect this is all that remains of the second story.
Inside of Kennedy's Grocery | Photo © 2017 Sugarbomb
There is a single concrete wall that’s still standing in the store, looking like it once separated the bottom floor of the building into two sides. The windows that run along the tops of the walls, near where the roof once was, lead me to believe that the top floor was the actual store that customers visited since that’s also where the front doors lead into. The bottom floor was likely a storage and/or delivery area.
Directly opposite from the front doors is one of the only remaining features of the second story; a single urinal attached to the wall and a large pipe sticking out of the wall. Obviously there was once a small bathroom there.
On both sides of the outside of the building are smaller sets of stone stairs that lead down the steep hill toward the field instead of directly to an actual doorway. On the opposite side of the building facing the field, there’s another smaller once-doorway, situated at ground level and leading into the bottom story. The original floor isn’t even visible, buried beneath plants, dirt, and collapsed wood.
Looking down at the inside of Kennedy's Grocery | Photo © 2018 Joe Juice
In that wall I had seen from above that separated the lower floor into two halves, there’s another doorway that leads from one side to the other. The side I was on was mostly all fallen wood, overgrown plants, and a healthy serving of graffiti decorating the walls. The other side through the doorway contained the collapsed roof and a much more overgrown selection of plantlife.
Not much about the history of this place can be gleaned from the bare bones that remain. Perhaps in the past this road that we’d only just found by a chance wrong turn was a much more traveled route from Pahokee to 441, much the same way that Pahokee was once a city that people actually had a reason to travel to. Now it just stands as a testament of the harsh passage of time, occupied by overgrowth and possibly coyotes.