Rice Epicurean is the result of many adaptions and “mutations” of a family owned grocery store named “Rice Boulevard Food Market”. You can read more about the history of the chain on the Rice Epicurean store page. This post documents the chain as it is today, one store, and six former properties.
Rice Boulevard Food Market took on the name based on the street the store was originally built on, Rice Boulevard. It was at the heart of a shopping center now known as Rice Village, but when built it was there was only one other store in all of Rice Village. The location was expanded, and eventually moved in 1957 to the a building which still stands.
This store is survived until 2003, it closure was related to the small size of the building, along with the lack of parking. The store had essentially hit its useful limit, and has been subdivided as time has moved on. The building does not resemble a Rice Epicurean store any longer, but does fit the shopping center quite well.
The next store to open was near what was at the time to far side of town. Located in the Tanglewood Shopping Center, this was the location that necessitated the name change. For the building’s entire life from 1957-2012 it housed only Rice, upon closing the location was immediately flipped to The Fresh Market and has more recently begun transformation to Total Wine
This store has had the entrances moved around a few times, but maintains the original Rice foot print. The other tenants in the shopping center are to the right, and behind what was Rice. This was the first location to be converted to Epicurean by Rice.
The next location was acquired as part of a deal with Lucky Stores of California, who operated a chain in Houston known as Eagle. Rice bought four locations, and this one was the only store that managed to stick around to the Epicurean days.
This store was the second location to be converted to Epicurean. It was over-sized as far as Rice Epicurean stores are concerned. The location was sold in 2001, due to being in close proximity with the Westhimer and Weslayan location, and not preforming as well. It has housed a Bed, Bath, and Beyond ever since.
The store numbers don’t directly correlate with anything, as seen in our next example. This store is part of the Lantern Lane shopping center, and was originally a Lewis and Croeker.
This location was the most recent acquisition in 1997. The store is largely unchanged from when Rice owned it, and as of early 2017 was still sporting the Fresh Market lablescar, with the original Rice Epicurean paint underneath. This local will also become a Total Wine Superstore, a banner advertising the transformation was hanging above the door, but blew up unto the eve as I snapped my picture.
We’ll come back to location #205 and move on to #206 for now. This location was another acquisition, this time it was from Apple Tree Market, the locally owned spin-off of Safeway in the Houston area. When Rice took over they operated the location similarly to how Safeway had operated, electing not to remodel much. Eventually with Rice Epicurean, the store was remodeled a bit, but still had some Safeway features, especially on the outside of the building.
This location was extensively remodeled by The Fresh Market, who subdivided the building on the right side of the entrance, and removed what had been the center service desk, and replaced it with a straight through entrance. Once Walgreens moved in, the building was subdivided once again, with the farthest left side of the store, being vacant at the moment but available for leasing.
Rice #207 was another Apple Tree/Safeway acquisition. This store was much larger than #206 from the start. It was also hugely remodeled by The Fresh Market, who did not need as much space, and subdivided. They also did some exterior remodels including repainting, and adding plaster decor.
While retaining the distinctive Safeway columns of the time, many other distinctive pieces of Safeway architecture such as the texture rock surface have been covered or removed. The building also now has a large number of full length windows, as opposed to the half height walls Safeway was known to use. Most of these changes were done when the building was divided for new tenants.
Finally, we tackle Rice Epicurean #205 this is the only location still in operation today. It is also the base of Rice’s grocery delivery service, and catering. The store has many features typical to other Rice Epicurean locations.
I did manage to go inside this location and take a look around, but that’s a blog post for another day!