A former Safeway with a split personality

When a grocery store closes, it’s not unusual for the space to be subdivided. Over the course of the 20th century, supermarkets became larger and larger, aiming for a broader range. Today’s example is a former Safeway located at 2028 N Main St in Pearland. Holding their grand opening November 11, 1979, the new Safeway was one of Houston’s earliest purpose built superstore locations. The breadth of items available was everything you’d find in a grocery store, a 5 & Dime, and still a little bit more! For example, you could buy small appliances, TVs, socks, shoes, plumbing, and electrical hardware all under one roof. While not exactly a Wal-Mart, these Safeway Superstores were behemoths in their own right, and for the most part very successful, with many locations operating 24/7/365. Store #980 was not the first location in South Houston, but it was the first and only in Pearland. As the small town grew into a burgeoning suburb during the 1970s a superstore made perfect sense. With Safeway, and later AppleTree serving as one of the premier and newest shopping destinations in Pearland for many years.

In late 1993 with AppleTree finishing up their final bankruptcy and dissolution from a chain to some associated independents. The Pearland location was quickly scooped up by Randall’s, along with three other locations. It would reopen January 25, 1994, for the final time as a grocery store. Randall’s had seen a good amount of success in the past with former Safeway locations, mostly in expanding throughout the Austin area, where the stores were equally prevalent. At on average 50,000 Square Feet, what had once been an enormous grocery store had become and adequate supermarket in the 1990s. Things were looking up for the future of this store, that is until Safeway decided to come back to town. In July 1999 Safeway purchased Randall’s from the Onstead family, and other shareholders (including KKR who family saved Safeway only about 15 years prior). While Safeway’s purchase of Randall’s is often associated with the downfall of the chain, and rightly so, their initial investments into the chain were astounding. This included the purchase of multiple shuttered Albertson’s units upon the chain’s departure from Houston. Unfortunately, the very short-sighted decision often made to close any stores in the proximity of these new locations, while Randall’s may have been a bit overlapping at that point, they were far from monopoly territory, who would sometimes lease their successful but replaced stores.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case in Pearland, and it could be due to something like a lease agreement. While many of the Safeway features remain, it’s unfortunate that grocery options in the area have become somewhat limited. Big Lots opened in the former grocery store in 2001. I believe they may have been using some of the space Office Depot would eventually take over, as such Office Depot did not open until 2007, and while the Big Lots has not, the Office Depot side has been remodeled a few times.

One comment

  1. We had a Randall’s in an old Safeway in this area, but it was a newer Safeway and it didn’t last long as a Randall’s. It would have been interesting to see this Safeway as a Randall’s. Fortunately, a lot of old Safeways of this style are still being used for retail and most have kept the design pretty well intact. A lot of these reuses are still supermarkets and some, like the remaining Rice Epicurean, are even higher-end supermarkets.

    The Big Lots does retain a lot of the Safeway look. The Office Depot is quite nice. It must have been renovated recently. I know the FM 1960 W & Steubner-Airline Office Depot was renovated with the new carpeted interior in early 2020 and it looks pretty good. I think this Pearland Office Depot might look even better.

    The Dollar General next to the Big Lots/Office Depot was almost certainly an old Eckerd. Also, check out this old Wal-Mart down the street from this shopping center: https://goo.gl/maps/Gu95WisDti3asEF66

What do you think?