When Fiesta failed to “Re-brand” Bravo Ranch

Fiesta Mart is one of the larger grocers in Houston with over 30 stores throughout the metropolitan area. They have been able to capture a niche market generally undeserved by more traditional retailers, specifically customers with foreign roots. This is far from accidental as the idea for Fiesta came from a Houston man who had experience managing grocery stores in South America. As the company grew and expanded the product mix shifted to cover multiple international communities who had a large presence in Houston. Some of Fiesta’s larger stores offer a shopping experience somewhat on par with a Kroger Marketplace (combining full line grocery with clothing and small appliances). Most stores also feature vendor and merchant space which can make the store a one stop shop. For many years Fiesta was a family owned concern and they seemed to give little thought to expanding their empire. After multiple changes in ownership it seems that in 2016 the new owners, a chain based out of Mexico, put expansion high on the priority list. One of the first expansions was the acquisition of multiple former Minyard’s locations in the Dallas area, which would take on the Fiesta Market name and a brand new design scheme, a first for Fiesta in many years.

The design for these new stores would be officially rolled out at the 808 S. Wayside location later in 2016. The Wayside store was supposed to set the model for not just the new Fiesta stores but also begin a remodeling program for existing stores. On the day the remodeled Wayside location opened Fiesta announced they had purchased three former grocery stores in the Houston area. These three stores had spent the majority of their lives as Kroger locations but had most recently been under the ownership of “Bravo Ranch” a small chain which was based out of Irving. The owner of Bravo Ranch had previously operated a small chain named “Mi Rancho” in Houston which he sold to La Michoacana. As per the sale there was a non-compete clause that prevented the owner from re-entering the Houston market. Upon doing such with Bravo Ranch, he was sued by La Michoacana. Despite the lawsuit Bravo Ranch would continue to expand and at their extent were operating one location in Houston, one in Irving, one in Oklahoma City, one in Pasadena and were preparing to open locations in Rosenberg and Channelview. It seems that at some point during the lawsuit the Pasadena and Rosenberg locations were either sold or spun off to another company simply named “El Mercado”. The new company would quickly reopen the Pasadena Bravo Ranch under their name, and continued renovating the Rosenberg store. However, the Channelview location continued to sit vacant as the lawsuit drained financial resources. It was at this point that Fiesta would step in to buy the two unfinished locations and the operating Bravo Ranch. As of 2021 only one of the three acquired stores is still operating.

S. Richey Store

Let’s start off with a look at the one location that did manage to stay in business. The Pasadena store located at 2877 S. Richey originally started out as a Kroger opening around 1981. The store was closed in 2011. It would reopen the next year as the first Houston location of Bravo Ranch Supermercado. The building was highly renovated from the outdated Kroger interior to a very modern Hispanic style store. When Fiesta took over the Bravo Ranch stores the plan was to apply the new Fiesta Market branding. As this store was already an operating supermarket very little was done in terms of renovation. Outside of some signage updates and brighter interior colors painted onto accent walls, most of the interior details remained the same. It seems that the store was only closed for a few days to complete the changeover.

Channelview Store

The Channelview store also started out as a Kroger which opened in approximately 1980. Kroger would operate this location until 2014. Along with the Pasadena store it seems that these buildings just aged out for Kroger. Oddly neither the Channelview nor Pasadena stores were replaced by Kroger. So, it’s likely that shifting demographics in the areas influenced the decision to close these stores. Fiesta began renovations of the building in 2017 with a coming soon sign and new Fiesta Market logo being installed in early 2017. This location was intended to replace 12201 East Freeway which closed in late 2017 after Hurricane Harvey. It’s very likely that Harvey is what stopped renovation of this store. It seems that Fiesta may have had some requirement to renovate the center as after the Hurricane they filled in the plaster and repainted all buildings. As of 2021 the building remains vacant, sign removed and once again for lease.

Rosenberg Store

This building started life as a Randall’s in 1987 opening as part of a state-of-the-art shopping center. This Randall’s shopping center would become the one of the bigger hubs of activity in town. Part of the allure must have been that it was the closest shopping plaza to Richmond. Despite the popularity of this new shopping center Randall’s was a bit above the price range of those in the area. Many customers drove into Richmond from New Territory and Pecan Grove to shop here, and as such Randall’s would close their Richmond location in the late 90s replacing it with a brand-new store in New Territory, and an Albertson’s replacement in Pecan Grove. The property was quickly purchased by Kroger who had operated for many years out of Lamar Plaza. Moving into the used Randall’s was quite the step up compared to the old store. Kroger would remain here until 2010 when the new Kroger Marketplace store opened in Brazos Town Center. From 2010-2015 the building sat vacant. With the movie theater, Luby’s, and many smaller businesses all shutting down. In 2016 a new chain named “El Mercado” began renovations on the Rosenberg store and one other former Kroger. Occasional work continued the site until around 2018, and the property has remained untouched for the past 2 years.

3 comments

  1. I’m sorry I had not discovered this blog sooner, but I’m glad I did.
    This stuff is fascinating to me, this post in particular. My father worked for Fiesta for decades and he gave me a fair amount of inside baseball on the chain and the Houston grocery market in general, but this all occurred after he retired.

    I grew up outside of Richmond-Rosenberg and remember visiting the Randall’s shopping center often as a kid. We didn’t buy many groceries at Randall’s (given my father’s employer) but we did often rent videotapes there. The Cinemark Cinema 8 at the end of the center remained our go-to even after the new 12-24 screen stadium seating theaters opened in Stafford (Loews) and Sugar Land (AMC), largely because it was CHEAP. Up until it closed in the mid-00s you could still see new releases there for $4 in the evening or $2 before 5:00 PM. The center’s Famous Footwear and “Starship” Hallmark were also regular destinations for my family.

    As I recall being told, Fiesta did take a look at moving from their long time Rosenberg location at 3707 Ave. H to the old Randall’s after Kroger left in 2010, but at that time felt that the expense of moving to and operating the larger store (which was further away from many of their core customers) would not generate enough additional sales volume to justify the move. The Rosenberg Fiesta is one of the few survivors of the great retail exodus that left a lot of empty space on the Ave. H/Hwy 90 corridor. Over about a 15 year period that road went from five grocery stores (Fiesta, Randall’s, Kroger, Bill’s Price-Lo, and a Brookshire Brothers’ subsidiary called Budget Chopper) to one, in addition to losing Kmart, Academy, Hobby Lobby, Sutherland’s, the movie theater (twice), Dub Miller Ford, and Palais Royal.

    1. Thank you, I’ve actually been working on this since Christmas! It’s was very difficult to piece the story together, so I’m glad it came off as coherent. As for the cube signs, I think the Fiesta logo fits perfectly. Too bad the other location was never converted.

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