Rice Epicurean, taking the term chain to the extremes
The chain, Rice Epicurean, is the result of many adaptions and “mutations” of a family owned grocery store originally named “Rice Boulevard Food Market”. You can read more about the history of the chain overall on my
Rice Epicurean Store Page. This post takes a brief look at the chain as it stands today, one store, and six former properties.
Rice Epicurean #201 | 2500 Rice Boulevard
The original Rice Boulevard Food Market opened in 1937. It took on its name from the street the store was originally located on, Rice Boulevard. It was at the heart of the shopping center now known as Rice Village. However, when the grocery store was built there was only one other store in all of Rice Village. Truly a different experience to the Rice Village of today. The location was expanded, and eventually moved in 1957 to the a building which still stands.
This location managed to survived until 2003, its closure was mainly due to the small size of the building, along with the lack of parking. While it did have some dedicated, mainly older customers, the store had essentially hit its useful limit for the growing area. As it was was difficult leasing a grocery sized spot in Rice Village the building subdivided on multiple occasions as time has moved on. The building no longer resembles a Rice Epicurean location, but does fit in with the shopping center quite well.
Rice #202 | 5016 San Felipe
The next location to open is near what was at the time know as the far side of town. Located in the Tanglewood Shopping Center, this was the location that necessitated the chain’s first name change, dropping “Boulevard”. For the building’s entire life from 1957-2012 it housed Rice or other variations of the chain, upon closing this location was immediately flipped to The Fresh Market and has more recently begun transformation to Total Wine
In its life this store has had the entrances moved around a few times, but for the most par maintains the original Rice foot print. The other tenants in the shopping center are located to the right of the store, and behind the area which Rice occupied. This was the first location to be converted to the Epicurean banner by Rice. It also served a large clientele. Prior to 2014, it was the only grocery chain in the Galleria area. With the next nearest store being a Randall’s down San Felipe.
Rice #203 | 3102 Kirby Drive
The next location on the list was acquired as part of a deal with “Lucky Stores of California”, who operated a chain in Houston known as Eagle Supermarkets. Rice purchased four locations from Lucky, and this location 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. Rice stated that this was due to the location 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.
Rice #204 | 12516 Memorial Drive
The store numbers used by the Epicurean chain don’t seem to 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.
Rice #206 | 3745 Westheimer
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 | 2617 West Holcombe
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.
Rice #205 | 2020 Fountainview
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!