Sunday, August 21, 2016

Former Albertsons #4021 - Victoria, TX

1309 East Red River Street • Victoria, TX

We've done so many old Albertsons stores in Houston, how about something different for a change?

About a month or so ago I went to Victoria (for a job interview, which I didn't get to much disappointment) and while I was there, I sought out their only dead Albertsons. Victoria is an hour or so southwest of Houston (directly off of 59) and it was part of the San Antonio division (not the Houston division), which had stores from Austin to the Mexican border.

The Victoria store closed as part of a 2002 bloodbath that ended the Houston division, the San Antonio division, and generally Albertsons' shot at becoming a coast-to-coast retailer with the Albertsons flag flying from SoCal to Florida, from Seattle to Philadelphia, although if you wanted to be pedantic, it closed later that year. This article notes that Kerrville, Victoria, and New Braunfels were the lone (non-Austin) San Antonio remnants that weren't closed with the 20 in San Antonio and the stores in South Texas, and that did hold true—the New Braunfels and Kerrville stores were sold to H-E-B in 2011 with a College Station store.

I am not sure if Albertsons in Victoria opened as a Skaggs Albertsons or not when it opened in 1977, the same year as the partnership dissolved, but if it did it was a very short time and if it didn't, it sure maintains the exact same model. Stopping in around noon it was not the best part of town but the old Albertsons looked well-maintained for a building shuttered over a decade ago, but upon further examination, the building had been gutted for offices, which was strange because there was no signage on the building at all (not even a number) regarding that. I'm glad no one was there, otherwise it would've raised some questions why I was on the property taking pictures. Note the side entrance (reduced for office use) that was common to Skaggs Albertsons model stores. I have no idea what they were used for specifically. The Florida ones used it for liquor if I recall correctly, and like Texas, distilled spirits are not sold in stores. Unlike Florida, I have determined that publicly traded companies couldn't have liquor stores (explaining why Albertsons had no liquor stores at its peak). Maybe it was for the HBC side.

One more thing for you: Victoria also has a relatively untouched (exterior-wise) Kroger Family Center! This closed in 1986 but spent the next 7 years as three different brands (see my post on Groceteria).

Monday, August 8, 2016

Former Albertsons #2766 - Houston, TX

9125 West Sam Houston Parkway North • Houston, TX

Apologies for not getting this out on Sunday, but I'd like to share with you another former Houston Albertsons. One of the more popular posts on Albertsons Florida Blog (which is this blog's main inspiration) is their look at #4466, the Port St. Lucie Albertsons, which closed in 2012 despite a recently renewed lease and supposed profitability (it's possible that it did well right before the recession, where the PSL area was hit heavily with foreclosures). Well, PSL did have a twin store (more like a multiple birth), 2766. Unlike 4466, which was mauled for a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, 2766 closed a decade prior and is now a Kroger, which kept the store intact.

Despite being updated with the same Kroger décor I've seen everywhere else (don't know the name), it still holds remarkably true to the 4466 layout. It has the same ceiling style and bore enough of a resemblance that I was able to look at the map with my phone and more or less follow it through. I could probably look at the pictures in AFB and visualize the "Theme Park" décor being in this store. The Starbucks was in the same place, the deli and meats were in the same place, and while the center store probably saw a rearrangement at some point, there were a few notable changes in the front. The old camera center had been converted to offices with the pet supply area converted to HBA, with the pharmacy next to it (it also added a walk-up pharmacy), and a bank space as well (this may have been part of the original layout), as well as a few other changes. The area around the florist was downsized (didn't see evidence of the former laundromat), as the customer service desk was moved either next to the restrooms or in front of the "Albertsons Reading Center" area. Assuming this store opened in 2000, it spent just about two years as an Albertsons before being sold to Kroger.

This part of town is very Kroger-concentrated due to their Albertsons purchases. Just two miles west on West Road is another Kroger (a Kroger Signature built around the turn of the millennium), and at that point, it's where you can find four Kroger stores within a three mile radius, two of which were former Albertsons (the other, of course, is 2790). This store replaced another Kroger store (at least functionally, I'm pretty sure there were a few years when both were open) 2 miles south (a former AppleTree) which had managed to co-exist with another Kroger store (closed around 2009) located a mile and a half southeast from that (also 290). Incredible!

I didn't get a lot of pictures of the store, unfortunately, but the former Albertsons Express is still in business as Kroger's "Kwik Shop", which is run by their convenience store division (a full Kroger-run and Kroger-branded convenience store was opened in College Station in 2016, and that made industry headlines).

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Former Albertsons #2773 - Houston, TX

Once again, we're forced to use Bing. I tried to get a good picture of this store except a combination of dangerous traffic patterns and the whole thing being fenced in have forced me to do differently.

1770 East T.C. Jester Pkwy.• Houston, TX

While Acme Style and Albertsons Florida Blog are off for vacation, I have returned. Why did we go offline in the first place? Well, only a few know the real answer.

In any case, we're back and back with stuff I had been working on prior to the hiatus. As part of a site "renovation", a few posts were culled until I can revive them somehow (a few other posts still remain to be reworked), and once again, we're working off of the dead Houston division, though rest assured—a new post on a San Antonio division store (South Texas) is coming soon, as well as another Bonus Store coming soon. The Houston division was one of the very first markets Albertsons pulled out of post-ASC and for good reason. There were, of course, a number of problems.

• Competition, for starters. From the time Albertsons entered to when they left, the Houston market was highly fragmented. In addition to Whole Foods (which had a few locations), supercenters (Wal-Mart Supercenter, Auchan, Super Kmart, although the latter two disappeared shortly after the departure of Albertsons), and independents hanging around (even AppleTree, the Safeway Houston division spin-off, still hung around with a few stores until 1997), there were the big guys. Randalls, of course, was #1 until 1999, and by 2002 they were losing a lot of ground under Safeway but still very much a threat. Kroger was building new "Signature" stores and unseated Randalls for #1, and they would keep that seat solidly (thanks to the acquisition of many Albertsons stores) until around 2013 when H-E-B caught up (today they bounce between #1 and #2), Rice Epicurean (a long-standing traditional Houston grocer that reinvented itself as a more upmarket store, though today it's down to a single location), and of course, the ever-growing threat of H-E-B, which by the time Albertsons left was beginning to upgrade its small "H-E-B Pantry" fleet into full-line full-featured stores.
• The expansion was part of a major store-build push in the 1990s that included the Southern United States as their main target. Albertsons was reaching a point where they almost (or perhaps did) have stores stretching across the I-10 corridor from California to Florida. To cap off their expansion, they bought American Stores, though that came at a heavy cost, namely rebranding Lucky to Albertsons (the Lucky stores would compose a third of the Albertsons store base in early 2000), which didn't go over so well.
• An inherently flawed plan that involved forcing their way into a crowded market where they would spend enormous resources for a market share.
• The weak economy (September 11th, Enron scandal, soft 2001 economy in general), though Albertsons denied this when they pulled out.

Above all, another major problem was building full-size stores in unproven locations. H-E-B Pantry did that to some extent but it was okay since their stores had little to no service departments and could shutter stores at little cost to the company. The closest analogue to H-E-B Pantry stores today would be Aldi, which had not entered the market at the time, and even that's not a great comparison, since Aldi doesn't sell a lot of name brands nor has a "real" supermarket elsewhere.

Make no bones about it, the Westheimer and Voss location as previously covered really was a good location...high traffic count, high population, and great access but failed due to the whole market situation and never became another supermarket again because everyone else had their own stores.

The East T.C. Jester store, not so much. This specimen and a few other stores in the area are especially perplexing, as things like this just seemed to suggest a "just throw them anywhere" attitude involving the Houston division, and that's not just speculative thinking...I've been told by someone who worked as a merchandiser for Frito-Lay that traffic count was not one of the things Albertsons looked at (some managers also had this particularly bizarre-like obsession with paperwork at the exact same time and signed by the right people, hearing him describe it brought to mind the film Brazil). This isn't a good thing if you're building large stores with full-service bakery, seafood, and deli departments.

The most immediate problem of this store (which originally had a larger parking lot, removed for a water retention pond) is that its access is very limited. Today, it only has one customer entrance in and out, but while the original design did include a few more entrances, it still had substantial access problems. There were a few other access portals on the side streets for trucks, but the surrounding roads are narrow and those don't do any favors for loading docks. I once spent several minutes stopped at one of the nearby roads for a truck to wriggle itself into a company that delivered flowers to florists.

I've spent a bit of time around this intersection and trying to navigate the area, and even getting into the former Albertsons driveway from the north was a pretty difficult experience. The building is certainly visible, but when you're trying to navigate the four way stops and then trying to make another left turn, it's easy to miss.

Compounding this access difficulty is the absence of traffic counts. I've been told that the road was extended circa 1999 as part of the deal of Albertsons coming. So you've got a dubious location to begin with, which is never good. The other things that tend to screw over individual locations are competition and demographics.

First, let's look at the immediate competition when this store was still alive.

Like the Bryan Albertsons, being the big dog in terms of being nice and big doesn't guarantee you success. Neither Foodarama (formerly an AppleTree/Safeway) or H-E-B (former Pantry, which we had covered here) are big stores but both draw a reasonable crowd for what they had. Generally, they were less expensive than Albertsons at this point, as well. To the southeast was (and is) a large Kroger, benefiting from the heavy crowds of Shepherd Drive, a four-lane, one-way road (the southbound traffic, Durham, goes behind Kroger). To the east was another Kroger, nestled in the Greater Heights area.

You'll also notice a large building with a dark roof at the northeast corner of the picture. This was a Kmart that opened in the 1970s and probably did okay (at least initially) because it was a Kmart. It closed in 2002 because it wasn't making a profit, and I believe it...I passed it by in 2011 for the first time and was astounded that a Kmart even existed in such a desolate location. Like the Albertsons, it didn't reopen as major retail, ending up becoming a dance studio and a wholesale store for the restaurant industry.

Both the H-E-B and Foodarama had better access and although they tend to draw a rather scruffy crowd (even in 2015), they at least seem moderately popular and have far better access. The Foodarama had been originally built as a Safeway and had been a Foodarama since 1994 when it took over the AppleTree that was there. The H-E-B had been built a few years prior but it replaced a legacy of grocery stores that dated back to the 1980s.

Furthermore, while it was true that the main Heights area was starting to gentrify at this time, the Heights had previously been a really bad area in the 1980s and building a giant supermarket in a neighborhood just starting to get on its feet isn't the best plan. The smarter move would've been to buy the land then build once demographics are favorable, but that wouldn't have worked if traffic counts are unknown and the city wants you to build. Even if the traffic counts weren't an issue, it was separated from the stores and neighborhoods west of the bayou and too far from the stores and neighborhoods east of it. In other words, this store was in the middle of nowhere.

Reality is this store wasn't open for much longer than two years. It quietly closed in February 2002 along with the Tidwell/Antoine store (another terrible, terrible location) and was never picked up by another supermarket. H-E-B could've picked it up like they did a few other Albertsons stores to upgrade Pantry locations, but they didn't.

Not all of the Houston stores were bad, far from it. There were some very nice locations that probably fetched the struggling Albertsons chain some cash as they were sold to other operators like Kroger or H-E-B. But combined with the problems that Albertsons was facing with some bad locations like this one doomed the entire division, one they wouldn't return to until 2015 when they bought Safeway, bringing the Randalls stores back, which is longer than the gap between Safeway spinning off their old Houston division and purchasing Randalls...and Randalls has problems of its own.

After it closed, a large part of the parking lot was removed for a retention pond (likely to prevent flooding) and it became a self storage facility called Heights Self Storage. In spring 2016, this changed to LifeStorage.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Former Albertsons #2701 - College Station, TX

January 2011. The Albertsons had been closed for about 13 years by this point.
301 S. College Avenue • College Station, TX
I originally covered this subject back in 2011 on my other blog, Brazos Buildings & Businesses. This store is a little bit weird. It was #2701, the "first" in the Houston division...though it actually opened in 1992 as an Albertsons after #2702 opened in 1991. It was also #2797. And yet, it was not. Read on.

For those that don't know, this began as a store called "Skaggs Albertsons". One of the more interesting partnerships in supermarket history, Skaggs Drug Centers ran a highly successful group of drug stores. It was only natural that they would team up with a respected (but regional) name to create a chain of large food and drug combos when such a thing was more of a novelty than something expected, and Skaggs Albertsons was born.

Courtesy John Ellisor

The store opened in July 1971 and remained through the years with minimal exterior changes except in the front facade (the side entrance would remain the same, though it was eventually sealed). In the late 1970s, Skaggs and Albertsons split ways, and while Albertsons would rebrand their stores in other markets (San Antonio, Florida, and a few others), Skaggs would keep theirs. A few stores briefly got rebranded to Skaggs SuperCenters, but this store was spared and in November 1979, a full page advertisement in the paper announced that the store would be changing to Skaggs-Alpha Beta, facilitated by buying the Alpha Beta name with purchasing the American Stores grocery chain that same year (it would also change the corporate name to American Stores).

The new "American Stores" company continued to manage this store until it rebranded it as Jewel-Osco in 1991 (giving it a minor renovation in the process). Shortly after, American Stores sold the remaining Jewel-Osco stores in Florida (these were new-builds), Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma to Albertsons, as well as a dry goods distribution center in Oklahoma.

It was soon closed and reopened as an Albertsons, giving it another remodel, the "Blue & Gray Market" as Albertsons Florida Blog calls it. I don't know what the original store number under Albertsons was, as it was opened after 2702 and renumbered as part of the Houston division later in the 1990s.

And so from about 1992 to 1997, Albertsons managed a store on the corner of College and University. However, Randalls, an upscale supermarket further down University, sold its store to Albertsons, causing the small supermarket to quickly be abandoned (it closed in November 1997, according to sources I've heard), and it continued stand for nearly another 15 years, longer than it had been any name. Amazingly, something almost happened that would've prevented that fate.

Albertsons must have had second thoughts about closing down the store, as the store had been popular (24 hours!) despite its obvious age, so in May 2000, they filed plans with the city to re-open the store as Albertsons #2797. This time, the Albertsons would gain a fancy "Albertsons University Market" branding and come complete with a Starbucks and "J.A.'s Kitchen", a deli concept (JA stood for Joe Albertson) that Albertsons played around with for a short while in smaller stores (from what I can tell, it was just the regular deli usually placed in smaller stores or drug sores).

This never got off the ground, obviously, and it remained vacant for over the next decade, despite some plans tossed around for redevelopment. Of course, a vacant building won't last forever, and in 2012, it finally began to come down, with demolition halting for months but continuing about a year later. The north wall stood for a long time, revealing that there was a second floor holding offices. While the demolition was intended for redevelopment, it and about half of the remaining shopping center just ended up becoming a field for a nearby apartment complex located behind the strip center.

An ad from the brief Jewel-Osco days. Note the "Special Supplement to The Eagle" to the left.

There's even a shot of a Sunny Delight bottle as I remember it, before they changed it to "Sunny D" (and later "SunnyD"). Tangy Original was called "Florida Style" and "Smooth" was "California Style".

Other shots, taken January 2011...

Regrettably, I couldn't get any of the interior on that shot, or any other time: the windows were painted over, and my one shot of the interiors was kind of messed up by the flash, and while it did capture some of the interior in a blurry configuration that revealed rows of fluorescents and columns, it mostly created a reflection of me, which, of course, I'm not posting.

Whoa, Albertsons was open 24 hours! Must have been super-convenient, relatively rare (I don't think even H-E-B did when it first opened), and must have been fun to see at night when the bars had closed for the night.

What was left of Albertsons after the first major demo.

The first Christmas at the store.

Albertsons interior. This looks like the "Blue & Gray Interior" (Official Stalworth Picture)

From The Eagle, shortly after the demo began.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Whole Cloves, Safeway Quality

Just a picture to tide you over until I get more posts out. The current plan I have is to unveil another a dead Albertsons, a living Randalls, a dead Albertsons (though said supermarket lives as another), and an old Safeway post I had lying around.

The bottom of the canister mentioned it retailed for $1.89.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Former Randalls #69 - Houston, TX

What luck! We even get a glimpse of the liquor center! (Bing Maps, appears to be c. 2007)
2224 FM 1960 West • Houston, TX
I started looking into this store after I had heard that this store was closed by Safeway due to its large size (100,000 square feet, supposedly a former Woolco). Well, in reality, it's 80,000 square feet, which is big for a supermarket but not monstrous—Wegmans stores routinely pass the 100k square foot mark, and non-expanded selection Kroger brand/H-E-B stores have gotten to it as well, or very close to it. Even A&P got into that game when it inherited Schwegmann's former "Real Superstore" sites in 1999, which were over 100,000 square feet.

Anyway, I did some more research on this site, even if I can't (yet?) get real pictures (so until then, Bing has to do). Fiesta opened in the Kuykendahl/FM 1960 store in late 1989, and while I couldn't find an exact address or square footage, they made note of it that it was around 80k square feet (not 100k). That Fiesta was bought out in early 1997 by Randalls, when they made an offer for it after their location at North Freeway and FM 1960 wasn't working due to highway widening. What Fiesta took wasn't disclosed, but from articles, it was an offer they couldn't refuse.

The reason why this store closed is also quite murky. It seemed to have opened well into 1998 (possibly due to remodeling to the "Remarkable Store" layout) but it was closed well before Safeway closed "underperforming" stores in 2005 and appears to be (based on Google) locked up tight by 2002. Even if it did survive the 2005 bloodbath, the widening of Kuykendahl (for those new, it's kirk-en-dahl, don't pronounce it as koi-ken-dahl) would've done it in for certain. The widening did take out a smaller building to the left, which I assume was the Fiesta liquor store. It isn't known if it became another liquor store later, but it's vacant in the Bing shot.

Since the original post was made in January 2016, I've done further research on this store, like the fact that it was definitely a Woolco as well as the store number. The only other source I could find on the matter was this City-Data source (was it one of you guys? It sure wasn't me) which discuss the Woolco. It talks about how Randalls didn't open until around 1998, which was partially remodeling but also might speak because of the financial trouble Randalls was in...they sold to KKR first, which then sold them off to Safeway, which of course, caused the chain to go from "Respected market leader" to "On the brink of failure".

That said, there are a number of interesting things about the store. First off, probably a handicap to further development is the extremely narrow alleyway in which goods are delivered, so that a truck would have to either enter from Kuykendahl (northbound only now), wedge itself into the alleyway (and hope no cars or anything were coming from the opposite direction and then go onto the truck ramp. Option two is going all the way from the other side of the shopping center. Most every other big box store in the area (even the former Kmart) either have ample space to turn around, bypass a truck loading, or have a back exit. (Google Maps link)

Another curiosity is that the store appears to have an auto center, with garage bay doors on the Kuykendahl side that aren't for loading purposes. It would make sense in context with a former Woolco but less with a Fiesta, and that carried over to Randalls. If neither of them ended up bricking over the doors and patching that with a bit of stucco, that would lend to reason that that part of the store was sub-leased and operated independently of the stores (I guess that without it, it could've been 100k square feet as originally rumored).

Was it the largest Safeway-owned store to grace the chain? Sources say no...even if it was 100k square feet, there was a 130k square feet Dominick's (former Auchan-turned-Omni) in Bridgewater, Illinois, that closed in the late 1990s, after the one-two punch of being converted to the fancier Dominick's and being sold to a new national company caused many former Omni stores to close for good.

Now, could Randalls take this one back if they wanted? Well, it's certainly not locked up like many of its old locations, but the immediate area seems rather desolate and the loading docks would probably have to be rebuilt at best (reducing the amount of store space). Besides, there's a number other potential better sites in Houston that Randalls could use to re-populate if it wanted, one that's not complicated by dead retail or a dubious access road. A far, far better option would be to build fantastic new-build stores on the fringes of town, though it appears they haven't quite gotten that down either.

Woolco by itself, 1978. The store does not appear to have a garden center.

By 1989, Fiesta anchors a thriving center. It's added what appears to be a liquor store.

Fiesta still draws in the crowds in 1995.

By 2002, Randalls had come and gone.

The liquor store is torn down for widening by the time 2008 rolls around.

Randalls still sits vacant.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Albertsons #2775 / #775 - Lafayette, LA

2863 Ambassador Caffery Parkway • Lafayette, LA

For the first time in this blog's history, we have a living Albertsons that's not being closed down. Unfortunately, it's not in Texas, but that's okay, since this Albertsons was part of the original Houston division, and, thanks to the Safeway acquisition, has returned to that status.

So, where is this one? Lafayette, Louisiana, a city I visited on October 30th, 2015, by coincidence, exactly a year since I saw an Albertsons in person last, though last time I didn't go in because I was on a school-related trip. Sadly, this store trip had to be truncated slightly because I was also on someone else's clock (and a low phone battery), so I didn't get to explore it and see all the perishables department. Heck, I don't even remember seeing the seafood, meats, or bakery departments all that well, because I mostly breezed over them (or they could've been small, who knows).

If you can make it out, note the "Albertsons Market" aisle markers. The "Albertsons Market" name was in the ads and even on the wall, but never outside. Since purchasing back New Albertsons and re-assigning the Albertsons Market name to United-operated Albertsons stores, the use of this name has decreased considerably.

The décor was updated to the current décor standards engineered under Cerberus ownership, called "Quality Built" by Acme Style Blog because of the fact that the décor (in the ACME division) pays homage to the historic brand, which previous décor packages have not. In reality, this décor packages achieves the goal of being modern yet colorful, something the Lifestyle stores never did (it was kind of trend-setting for 2005, admittedly, but definitely not a long term décor choice, especially at the pace they remodeled at).

I'm guessing that due to the relatively late build date (sometime between 1999 and 2003) and the high ceilings, that this décor started out as "Theme Park" (also, another Acme Style name) and was redone when a remodeling binge was done on the Louisiana stores. It also had a similar floorplan to the Port St. Lucie store, except flipped left-to-right, so you walked in on the RIGHT side of the store, the deli was right there, and then the produce going toward the back of the store, and so on. However, the arrangement of other things (the stores in the front, like the "sports shop") was different, and it didn't have a large area in the middle of the store for a pharmacy and dry cleaning (which may have been original features later taken out).

This is the first thing that I noticed that confirmed that yes, Safeway brands are here!

The store didn't seem particularly huge, but it felt very open. The produce section had plenty of room to go around, but I wasn't sure if it just felt spacious because of the open space (and lack of crowds) or lack of merchandise. Other notes included the fact that there's signage with the Albertsons logo inside an outline of Louisiana advertising Louisiana made products.

I blurred out the milk price here because Louisiana milk is expensive due to local state laws (even Walmart's is shockingly high), but the focus is on Good Day milk. It's distributed by SuperValu and on its way out in favor of the Pantry Essentials brand, but it used to be the cheaper milk brand for Albertsons (and on the big gallon tubs of ice cream), with the logo largely as I had remembered it which, based on the last time I really remember going into a non-closing Albertsons, was about a decade ago.

Louisiana has one of the loosest liquor laws in the country, so the liquor store (detached in many Albertsons) essentially acts as its own department, not a separate store. Shoppers went in and out freely (I had to wait a few seconds before taking the picture), and I could've (if I wanted to) had the relatively rare pleasure of getting a bottle of Jack Daniels and toilet paper on the same shopping trip.

Another thing that I sadly didn't get a picture of was the hot foods and salad bars. Both were basically stuck in the middle of the deli area (titled Fresh Deli instead of ACME's Corner Deli, even though it was in the corner), which also had a self-serve soda fountain and a small area with containers of Community Coffee (the soda had prices, I considered the coffee, but didn't see the price...or cups). The salad bar looked okay at first glance, though I tend to stay away from that sort of thing, and the wings bar looked okay (but I'm used to it being behind the counter), but included boudin balls (basically boudin blanc sausage, but instead battered and deep fried instead of being in a casing). There was also fried chicken.

There was a garden department at one time, but I didn't investigate it too closely because it was closed and if it had an entrance, it would've been through the liquor department. There was a labelscar on the old garden department but I couldn't make it out. Either the liquor store was added later in a former indoor garden center department (unlikely), the garden center was accessed through the liquor store, or the garden center was never intended to be accessed from the inside. [2016 UPDATE: The liquor store was originally a Lawn & Garden center, and there was a door between the inside portion (liquor store) and outside (abandoned garden area).]

Although I didn't get a full view of the store, I did get the ad for that store. As the photos near the milk show, I came right at the time when Essential Everyday is being pushed out, and Safeway brands rolling in. This means that the store is getting a totally different distributor, going from the SuperValu warehouse in Indianola, Mississippi, to the Randalls warehouse in Houston, Texas. This also means that the distance is substantially closer (by about two hours).

In-store made tortilla chips? Wow! I don't think I saw this store have a tortilleria, though (but again, I barely checked out the perishables departments) and I don't think even H-E-B makes their own tortilla chips in-house.

This was confusing. I had read earlier that it was the Albertsons fried chicken recipe being rolled out to Safeway in the West Coast, but now it's the Signature brand. I guess that unless they flip-flopped on the name, Signature is being used on the old Albertsons brand. [2016 UPDATE: I can confirm it is indeed the Albertsons recipe.]

Check it out, guys, a real Albertsons brand!

I guess this store does okay (and by extension, Louisiana stores) because there's not a lot of competition. Down the road I saw a Winn-Dixie Marketplace with original 1980s signage intact (unknown on the inside, since again, I didn't have time) and a billboard for Super 1 Foods, a warehouse style store owned by Brookshire's. And speaking of competition, there's a reminder of a certain ACME competitor...