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.


  1. There used to be an Albertsons in Tallahassee (4428) that took over an old late 70's Kmart. It too had the old auto center doors on the side after Albertsons moved in, and they left most of the original Kmart exterior elements, other than making the entrance more Albertsons-like (but was still in the same spot at Kmart's). I believe that store took up most if not all of the Kmart space, but I think that store was on the smaller end of the size spectrum for Kmart. I would have really like to have seen that place and how it looked inside, but Publix got their hands on that Albertsons in 2008 and tore the entire building down for a standard Publix prototype.

    I also have a few mystery Albertsons down here that I'm not sure ever opened, or if they did they barely lasted a year. I really can't give any insight on this store in particular, but it's an interesting back story. They only way to salvage the building would be to somehow tear down a small portion of the left side of the building, and try to build a side loading dock. It will shrink the overall square footage, but it would make it more attractive for someone to move in.

    1. I think that this center is beyond saving. Of all the places for Randalls to try to regain market share, this would be one of the worst places.

  2. This store was given a facelift sometime in the past few years. In my opinion the old facade was nicer. I found out recently that there used to be a Safeway across the street (anchoring the center at the southeast corner of the intersection) but am not sure what the building is now. Something makes me think this one was never AppleTree but I could be wrong.

    This Randalls did indeed open but was not open for long. Randalls bought the Fiesta lease in 1997. I'm pretty sure they were only open at the site from 1998 to 2000 or maybe 2001. So the store was definitely gone before Albertsons pulled out of the area and H-E-B Pantry Foods was dissolved. The Albertsons at Kuykendahl and Spring Cypress was empty for 9-10 years but finally became a DMV building (the Albertsons Express gas station became a Valero much earlier), even though the Randalls closed earlier and has now been empty for at least 15 years!

    Kind of ironically, the nearest supermarket to this ex-Randalls is a really small Food Fair. I'm not sure what it used to be (Eagle, Weingarten's, maybe Food Lion?) but it is tiny. It has a YMCA behind it though which has probably been a big help to the store, stopping it from relocating. I would have liked to see Food Fair move to the old Walmart building at 1960 and TC Jester (Walmart opened at that site in the 80's, remodeled in the 90's, then moved across the street to a Supercenter in 2002 which was updated around 2010).

    Food Fair did buy at least one former Albertsons. I'm thinking of the one in New Caney which is a pretty small town north of Humble. It cracks me up that Houston has a chain called Food Fair because there used to be a Philly chain called Food Fair. They were a huge success in the 50's but changed their name to Pantry Pride (not sure why this was necessary, and both the new and old names made use of alliteration) in the 60's, going out of business anyway in the late 70's.

    As for the Kmart across from the Woolco/Fiesta, it opened around 1974 and moved to the ex-Venture at 1960 and I-45 in 1997. But of course the Venture-turned-Kmart stores were killed off in the Kmart bankruptcy of 2002 anyway. Hobby Lobby was at the old Kmart site until they moved to what used to be the Target (opened in 1976) at 1960 and Veterans Memorial, part of which is also now a Staples. In the 1970s and 1980s, Kmart was not just competing with Woolco and Target but also TG&Y (next to the Target) to an extent. That store was later MacFrugal's and is today Big Lots.

    Target moved to be at 1960 and Cutten Road close to Willowbrook Mall. The new store wasn't a SuperTarget, but the Walmart Supercenter across the street is amazingly closing this month. And that store started as a non-Supercenter but was expanded/remodeled within five years of opening. I guess the store was really popular in the 90's but has been hurt by both Walmart and Target (maybe Sam's Club and Costco too) really saturating Houston in the 2000s.

  3. I grew up in the area and can fill in a few gaps. Winco is way before my time, but before Fiesta moved in this building was occupied by a clothing store called Front Row. They ran ads all the time with a 'No more ... department store ... you've gotta get to know Front Row' jingle. Front Row eventually moved across the parking lot to another storefront, clearing the way for Fiesta. I do, vaguely, remember an auto repair shop -- I want to say affiliated with Goodyear -- where those garage doors are.

    While I don't know why exactly Randall's left, the rework of the 1960/Kuykendahl intersection was long after the doors had been closed for good. The area had been going downhill for awhile (and still is) so it probably wasn't a fit for the Randall's demo anymore.

    Even if Fiesta hadn't lost its lease, it's unlikely they'd still be operating there. Several years ago, they retrenched and closed several Houston stores to specifically focus on heavily Hispanic communities.

    1. Fiesta still operates near 249 and US 290. They closed down their store at Interstate 10 and Blalock around 2008 due to the widening of the Katy Freeway, and the ill-fated Sugar Land store but I'm not sure of any others.