Sunday, February 1, 2015

Randalls #1857 - Houston, TX

An unremarkable store? (Photo by me. I'm not sure what thing is in the NW corner)

Randalls #1857
Address: 12312 Barker Cypress Road
Cypress, TX
Opened: September 2001

So it's here. Randalls, Tom Thumb, and the entire Safeway family are now married into the Albertsons family, which recently got back together from a painful divorce and the former American Stores rescued from their abusive stepfather SuperValu (okay, I'll stop with the analogies now), but that wasn't yet the case when I stopped at this Randalls after a job interview in the Houston area.

Sadly, I didn't pull out the camera inside for reasons unknown, but I did sample something from the bakery (a chocolate chip cookie baked onto a brownie!) and bought a coffee with the last of my Starbucks card. A bit about this store is that it was built in an era where Safeway had purchased Randalls and was still opening stores before changing gears around the start of the "Lifestyle" era and closing a bunch of Randalls stores in 2005 as market share deteriorated and a market pull-out seemed imminent. I visited this store hoping it hadn't yet been remodeled to "Lifestyle" yet (unfortunately, all of the remaining Randalls did get the do-over), but it was, and altogether wasn't a bad look. Because I didn't actually take any pictures inside, this post is going to be pretty brief.

When the Randalls opened in 2001, there wasn't a lot in the way of grocery shopping in the area. It was the last grocery store along the 290 corridor before a rinky-dink store in the Hockley/Waller area, but even in those halcyon days, Randalls wasn't bursting at the seams. The only other thing close was a 1999 H-E-B Pantry, a small-format store that lacked a pharmacy, deli, and fresh bakery (at least that was the prototype).

Randalls by itself in 2002

Even though the trade area continued to grow with subdivisions continuing to sprawl outward, the greatest threat to Randalls' well being happened in 2007 when H-E-B decided to replace a Pantry store a few miles away (despite the fact that said H-E-B Pantry was renovated at least once in its less-than-a-decade lifespan). Immediately, the new H-E-B zoomed to be the more popular in the area, packing out routinely. It was also larger than Randalls.

H-E-B steals the show in 2010

It's possible that the renovation came in the late 2000s to try to combat the influence of H-E-B.

H-E-B still maintains popularity

Since that time, Randalls has still held on. The H-E-B is cheaper than Randalls as well as not requiring a card, and has continued to march west with new stores while Randalls has stagnated.

If Randalls wishes to take its closest competition on, it's got to lower prices to be competitive (an impediment to the original Safeway Inc.), follow the Albertsons lead and remove the card, and perhaps cannibalize its own shopping center to expand floor space (perhaps making the store deeper by going through the back!) It won't unseat the king anytime soon...Randalls will probably never take #1 in grocery market share (behind Walmart, of course) without an expensive and aggressive building strategy, but knocking Kroger and H-E-B down a few notches will at least secure its place in the market.

As always, comments are appreciated.


  1. Cypress also had a Randalls built by Safeway that closed in 2005, and a closed Albertsons (now offices) and a closed Safeway/AppleTree (now Food Town). Also, if you are a fan of Kroger history, check out the Big Lots at Jones and 1960 near Cypress. It started as a Kroger in 1977, but moved in 1985 to the NE corner of Jones and Cypress North Houston, which moved again in 2002 to the current Kroger Signature. Since 1985, the first Kroger in this trio has been three different closeout stores: Pic N Save, MacFrugal's, and Big Lots. Sometime around 2006 the Kroger built in 1985 was demolished for offices.

    Also, on 249 between Jones and Louetta is a former Safeway that was built new in 1984, the same year Safeway bought a ton of former Weingarten's in Houston. Of course it became AppleTree no more than five years later, then was a small Randalls that closed around 1997, perhaps due to both the popularity of the larger Randalls at Jones and Grant (remodeled around 1997 and closed in 2005, now a Habitat for Humanity thrift store) and the Albertsons at 249 and Cypresswood, now Kroger. Later the site once a Safeway was an H-E-B Pantry Foods, but one that closed in 2002, perhaps due to Kroger arriving down the street. But sometime since 2007, H-E-B has opened a much larger store at 249 and Louetta, with the old one now a Stein Mart.

    And the currently empty (?) space at 1960 and Kuykendahl started as a Woolco, then was a Fiesta, then became a Randalls in 1998, but closed in 2000... perhaps Safeway was unhappy having this store relatively close to a Randalls Flagship, Kroger Signature, and Food Fair? There was a Safeway/AppleTree across from the Woolco/Fiesta but I forget what it is now.

    Sawdust Road in The Woodlands is a stunning graveyard of old retail. Three generations of Walmart, a former Kmart, a former Kroger, a former Eckerd, a former Safeway, a former Randalls, a former Albertsons (now a Randalls opened by Safeway to replace the old Randalls, which was next to a Safeway now demolished for H-E-B...)

    I now live in Greater Philadelphia and am loving the retail history up here, but love to reminisce about my years in Houston in the 90's. Sincerely T

  2. Cool, thanks! A Sawdust Road post is coming soon. Are you from Acme Style Blog?

    1. You sure are welcome! I read Acme Style blog all the time, but have nothing to do with its creation. The author is named Jim but has kept his last name private.

      I get the feeling you really would enjoy traveling the Northeastern states of the USA (especially Pennsylvania and New Jersey) to study store histories. Texas and Louisiana both have a lot to offer in this field, but you really would be amazed by just how many retail chains have come and gone in PA and NJ. We up here have come to know a HUGE variety of supermarket chains, drugstore chains, department store chains, big-box chains, etc.

      Also, even though drinkers hate it, I love the Pennsylvania system of state-owned wine/spirits stores. No two stores in the system are architecturally identical, and each one seems to have a slightly different logo. There are several different store formats in this chain, and each store seems to reflect the unique needs of the neighborhood it sits in.

  3. Not actually the Acme Style Blogger himself, no, but one of the main visitors, since Acme Style is much more established than my site.

    I actually have been up in the NJ/PA area about 7 and a half years ago, and got to see a variety of interesting strip malls and regular malls. Truth is, I was once much more heavily involved in the retail/dead malls scene but it got too depressing and was finally ended by some fallout with others in the community. That being said, I have a rather large backlog of material that I am going to showcase soon in "", which I am currently building a new main page for.

    In the meantime, this blog will certainly continue. There's another post coming very soon that will deal with H-E-B and Safeway alike, and that has a photo (from me) with it too!

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I'd rather not talk about it here in case some of the guilty parties are still hanging around. If you want to shoot me an email (listed not here but at some of my other sites, like here) I can tell you more about it.

  5. Both of the remaining Randalls stores on West Bellfort road, are not "Lifestyle" format stores. The 4800 W. Bellfort store seems to have a design that slightly pre-dated "Lifestyle", while the Stafford store at 11711 W. Bellfort was only just recently given a "light" remodel/refresh. I have some pictures somewhere of the interior of the Stafford store, pre-refresh.