A look into Houston's retail past

Walgreens and Village Medical a match made in Houston

Did you know over the past year Walgreens has been using Houston as a test market for a new store type? The announcements for the new stores were quiet, but the concept has made a huge impact. Growing up in and around Houston most folks were very familiar with their neighborhood drug stores. In some neighborhoods it’s one of the closest options to a grocery store, and sometimes the only option. Even out in the suburbs where my family lived Walgreens was the closest thing we had to a store within walking distance. It proved to be a great asset for picking up snacks, and basic everyday items. However, as soon as I had access to a car I much preferred to drive into town and stretch my teenage dollar further at places like Wal-Mart. Any other time though, I was likely headed to Walgreens to pick up whatever I needed. After Eckerds left town Walgreen’s store count was eventually deemed excessive for a 2 chain market, and many locations were closed to be leased to other tenants. At least three of these stores were along Highway 6, and deserve their own post.

Houston is spoiled for choice when it comes to pharmacies, we have not only multiple grocery chains with full service and often drive-thru pharmacies, but a number of independent pharmacies including some inside independent grocery stores. As for chain drug stores though we’re limited, really there’s only Walgreens and CVS which as of lately has been looking more and more like a healthcare company than a drug store chain. Whether it be CVS’s decision to completely drop tobacco products, or the addition of the subsidiary MinuteClinic locations to their stores, they continue to make moves towards a “healthy” future with their locations. In a desire to compensate Walgreens tried developing their own in-store clinics in the 2010s around the same time Minute Clinic popped up. Comparatively though Walgreen’s seemed to always have trouble with their clinics first selling off operating rights city by city to local health services. The remaining clinics were much smaller and more limited compared to their CVS counterparts. On November 20, 2019, the first combo Walgreens/Village Medical locations opened. This location was the first of a brand-new prototype, which aimed to combine a primary-care doctor’s office into a Walgreens. With about 160 company-run locations left Walgreens closed all remaining store operated clinics two days later. With Walgreens making a pledge to open up to 500 Village Medical locations within their stores this to really proving to be a match made in Houston!

Pasadena “Gen-1” Location

And that’s where this post ended… originally. I was just going to drop a photo album of one of the locations I visited with some commentary on the photos and that was that. Until, serial commenter Anonymous in Houston let me in on a tip about Village Medical. Oddly nothing in the post mentioned Walgreens or Village Medical, am I being stalked… or do I just post everything I do online? Anyways, our nameless commenter dropped some new info that there were in fact two prototypes being tested in Houston. The first type, which I had visited was in Pasadena featured a larger store space and less room for Village Medical. The newer stores were the opposite way around slashing floor space and increasing leased area. I took it upon myself to find one of these “Gen-2” locations to make some comparisons. One of the first things I noticed was that each store reduced different departments. Checkout space at both locations was about the same, including services offered which did not seem to include things like passport photos, although I didn’t ask. The scope of product selection between stores was wildly different, except for pharmacy which was untouched in both. According to Anonymous in Houston the Gen-2 stores (larger doctors office) have won out, and with

Missouri City “Gen-2” Location

Reader Comments

  1. I wouldn’t be too spooked about me bringing up Village Medical when I did. It seems that retail enthusiasts, Houston retail enthusiasts especially, often have the same things on our minds, lol. In the case of Walgreens specifically, there has been a lot of interesting activity which has gone on at the Walgreens stores in my area in the last year. Not all of it is even related to Village Medical, but I’ll get to that later on in this reply.

    As for the Pasadena store, wow, that’s some tile scar there. That’s just about the worst tile scar I’ve ever seen, but at least the concrete under the tiles wasn’t a patchy mess (I’m looking at you, Jones Rd. & West Rd. HEB especially, but there are other more mild offenders as well). Perhaps the worst tile scar I had seen previously was at the Willowbrook Mall JCPenney second floor.

    As for the Missouri City location, I quite like how that looks. The fake brick decor actually looks pretty nice, IMO. Given that the Walgreens logo on the fake bricks and on the vestibule window has the new Walgreens logo, I’m guessing the Missouri City store was converted very recently. You might be wondering how that logo is new, but Walgreens subtly revised their logo a few months back. The most obvious difference is that the ‘g’ and ‘r’ connect in the new logo and didn’t in the old logo.

    I really can’t explain why the vestibule is so large at the Missouri City location. It almost looks like an older Randall’s with such a large vestibule, lol. Perhaps the design of that slanted entrance made the vestibule necessary, I don’t know. It’s also odd that Walgreens didn’t do anything to the exterior of the Missouri City location. I’ve seen ‘Gen 2’ stores with exteriors looking like the Pasadena store, but Walgreens was lazy on this downsizing. Maybe the exterior work will come later.

    Ok, back to the interesting Walgreens happenings in my area. I’m not sure if you’ve seen this, but the Walgreens in the Walmart parking lot on the FM 1960 W & N. intersection closed a few months back and relocated across the intersection to the abandoned ex-Eckerd/CVS that never really was an Eckerd or a CVS (the original John Eagle Honda dealership was originally on that land). It wasn’t a complete relocation though. Walgreens is only using about 1/3rd of the old Eckerd building (though they do have a drive-thru) even though the rest of that building was available. Walgreens was clearly downsizing with that move. The current store only has very little in the store aside what’s behind the pharmacy counter. I’ve heard of similar downsizings happening elsewhere in the country at non-Village Medical locations including in Cleveland, OH where Walgreens moved into an old Dairy Queen of all things!

    I don’t know if there have been any other similar non-Village Medical Walgreens downsizings in Houston, but don’t be surprised if there are more. A lot of reasons have been given for why this might have happened including Walgreens wanting to reduce their retail departments and also perhaps putting landlords on notice that Walgreens will be a tough negotiator as many of their locations might be up for lease renewals. This is just speculation though.

    In other interesting local Walgreens news, the Walgreens that closed on Louetta Rd. & Grant Rd. a few years ago during the large purge of local Walgreens locations was turned into a gas station C-store with room for other retailers. That’s one of the oddest retail recycle jobs I’ve seen! Link: https://goo.gl/maps/sV4vedbF5mUCDkia7

    Walgreens has a long history in Houston and that includes some interesting stores like the Globe Discount City stores that Walgreens owned. They were basically Walgreens’ answer to Kmart, Woolco, and other similar stores. So, yeah, Village Medical is not the first time Walgreens has tried altering their retail path a bit with some early examples of those experiments ending up in Houston. And, of course, there are some shopping center Walgreens left in Houston. Some of those have been around for decades and still have some level of vintageness on the inside while still having modern Walgreens decor.

    1. Kidding about the stalking comment of course! You’re spot on about similar thinking though. As for Walgreen’s, you’re right about that tile scar. Honestly though I’m a fan of tile scar, I know it’s not “neat” or professional, but it provides some great entertainment. The worst I’ve seen was also at JCPenney, specifically their 70’s locations. Meyerland has an awful tile scar upstairs around the new entrance which was obviously constructed on the cheap. The jewelry cases also had tile accents around the edges which were removed and never polished. This is also a problem at the former Northwest Mall location where the Antique Center reused some of their jewelry casing.

      Spot on with that Randall’s comment about the vestibule lol! I also wouldn’t be hugely surprised if an exterior remodel does not end up coming to the Missouri City store. I know the zoning laws there more closely resemble Sugar Land who is notoriously stingy with remodels. Also, I think you’re right about Walgreen’s wanting to reduce merchandise sales. Check out the Walgreen’s in Jacksonville, TX. Completely supports your theory. They reused a building with a drive-thru, but it’s tiny and only a pharmacy nothing else. I’ll leave the surprise of what building for you to find out!

      Speaking of reuses I love the reuse of the old Eckerds, although I’m sad they modified the building. It seems to me they would be able to easily set it up with the purchase of all those Rite-Aids. Did they at least reuse the drive-thru or was that not the portion they remodeled? Also, I had not seen that Louetta one, I’m sure it won’t happen any time soon, but Walgreens could theoretically move back in! They actually did “reopen” their Highway 6 and Westheimer location as a drive-thru Walgreens COVID testing site, although it eventually closed.

      I’m somewhat familiar with Globe Discount City. My grandparents happened to live next to a former location that Walgreens converted into a giant sized location. It was seriously huge, and only about half the store was used. It carried things that other Walgreens locations would seasonally rotate, like sweaters. They had some older circle hanging racks I’m guessing from their Globe days, and would have bathrobes, or whatever was not being sold at other stores on display there. He moved his prescriptions there from the location at Weslayan and Bissonnet which while being a decent sized store when it opened is now cramped, and also where I pulled the wooden panel freezer line from!

      1. Wow, that Jack in the Walgreens in Jacksonville, TX is really something! That’s amazing, lol. I reckon we could see more fast food-to-Walgreens conversions in the near future. If Walgreens does some more of those, hopefully they’re as lazy with them as they were in Jacksonville because I’d love to see some recycle jobs like that!

        As for the downsized Walgreens in the old Eckerd/CVS building at FM 1960 W & N. Eldridge, they are actually located on the side of the building which had the old drive-thru that was built for Eckerd. So, yes, I do believe they are using the old Eckerd drive-thru. It’s really hard to explain just how small that new store is. Fortunately, the property management company for that building has a flyer on their website showing just how small Walgreens’ space is there. It’s really not even a third of the old Eckerd building. Link: https://resolutre.com/download-flyer/0681U00000H6wXZQAZ/FM_1960_Eldridge_Center.pdf

        Regarding the Weslayan and Bissonnet Walgreens that is next to the Randall’s, I have a box of old family photos. Of course, the photos themselves are neat, but one really neat thing about those old photos is that they’re all in the envelopes that was used when the film was sent off for developing. Thus, I have a lot of old photo developing envelopes for Eckerd, Walgreens, Eagle, Safeway, Randall’s, Kmart, Target, Fox Photo, FedMart, Fotomat, and many other retailers from as late as the late 1960s. Even if the chains are still around, most of those old ~1970s locations have long since closed, but I do have a couple of envelopes that I suppose my parents had developed at the Weslayan and Bissonnet Walgreens. It’s neat that it’s still there.

        Another blogger whose blog I visit frequently suggested that I scan those envelopes and put them online. That’s certainly something I’d like to do and will probably do that at some point.

        There are some other vintage shopping center Walgreens locations left in the Houston area. The one across from Deerbrook Mall is one that comes to mind.

        Back in the 1980s, I seem to remember the Jones Rd. & FM 1960 W. Walgreens (not the current location at that intersection which is using part of the land where Kmart used to be, but rather their original location more or less where 99 Cents Only is) having a little room next to the store where they sold some clearance items. It’s the complete opposite of what you mention about the Globe though, this was a tiny little department. It didn’t last long either.

        That would be crazy if Walgreens moved back in with a downsized location at the gas station. Given some other recent Walgreens developments, I’ll put it on the list of ‘unlikely, but still possible,’ lol.

        On the topic of Rite Aid, this might have flown under the radar a bit, but Rite Aid did have some locations in Houston until just recently. No, they weren’t full pharmacy stores, but rather the RediClinics that were mostly (or perhaps completely) in leased spaces at larger HEB locations in Houston and elsewhere in Texas. It looks like Rite Aid shut these down sometime in 2020 and they are shifting the RediClinic idea into some kind of online health thing.

What do you think?