Over the past ten years, with emphasis on new lighting technologies like LED, neon advertising signage has found itself oft being replaced by cheaper imitators. While this “fake neon” lighting has become commonplace in most stores, there is one chain where neon still reigns king, Fiesta! Neon exists at most (but not all) Fiesta locations, with some stores incorporating it as part of their signage, and other using it simply as a decor accent. While the familiar giant Pepe the Parrot neon exterior signs have mostly been replaced (as required via sign permitting) with LEDs, the interiors of most Fiestas still maintain their original neon installations. Today we’re taking a look at one of the best implementations of neon grocery signage in Houston, the late 80s suburban stores. Let’s take a moment to learn about the “neon age” of Fiesta stores. As a taxonomy has yet to be made up, I think we can safely assign the name “Neon Stores”. While other Fiestas prior and post feature neon signage, these use them much more prominently than most other locations. These were the ~9 stores built between 1986-1989, while I don’t have an exact listing of which stores had what decor, it seems that only 3 of the neon stores survive. 8320 FM 1960, which has a slightly newer variant with multicolored neon, 8130 Kirby Drive, which is one of Fiesta’s best known locations. Finally, we have the store we’re taking a look at today, 14315 Bellaire, where the neon theming actually debuted.
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I just visited this location early this month, and I’ve noticed that this store is undergoing a remodel, so goodbye neon. I’m assuming all of the Fiesta stores that still have it will get rid of it. Although it was sad to see it go, I’m glad they are updating their stores as they were getting a bit long in the tooth.
Dennis, I wouldn’t necessarily say that the neon is going away even if the Fiesta Mart is being renovated. Most of the local Fiesta Marts have been renovated here lately. In many cases, this means the neon has been removed, but this hasn’t universally been the case. For example, the Willowchase Fiesta Mart near Willowbrook Mall was renovated earlier this summer and the neon was kept untouched. The renovation consisted of replacing some of the store lighting, reconfiguring the aisles, and putting in new aisle markers. The front end leased areas were also renovated. Aside from that, the store is the same was it was when it opened in the late 1980s.
With the Mission Bend Fiesta having a design which would be hard to do a full renovation cheaply, like the Willowchase Fiesta, perhaps the renovation will just be a partial one that keeps the neon. I don’t know for sure what will happen so hopefully those in the area will keep us posted about the current state of the store.
When my parents wanted to buy something from one of the service departments the little Rosenberg Fiesta did not have (which was pretty often), we would load up and head out from Richmond-Rosenberg to this store, known in our house as “14” (as it is store #14… the Rosenberg store was known as “6”). The Mrs. Baird’s cinnamon rolls never made it all the way home… and I never got to keep any of the live crabs I tormented with the tongs in the store’s fantastic seafood cave, but what fun it was to visit as a kid (outside of the tiny restrooms with the Mr. Yuck green-colored tile walls).
I don’t get to it as often as I’d like these days, but it is a great store, one of the most enjoyable larger grocery stores to shop of any chain in my admittedly biased opinion.
I like shopping at the Kirby Fiesta store at least a several times a year. I actually went this past Tuesday to get my fill of Mexican soft drinks, juices, vegetables and chips. My Montrose HEB or W.Gray Kroger don’t carry some of the Mexican groceries I like to buy every once a while. I met up with several Ida refugees there asking me about the alcohol laws in Texas. They weren’t used to to the restrictive laws we have in Texas and were asking me about when they could buy alcohol. I worked in Louisiana about 14 yrs ago and I was surprised how easy it was to buy liquor just about anywhere and anytime. I’m sure it was a shock to our visitors about how restrictive Texas and the GQP are about these laws. I know that the liquor store owners in Texas have a lot of money to give our politicians and they are the main reason our liquor laws haven’t changed in a century. Texas seems to be falling behind almost every single state in the USA with these draconian laws. But I realize it’s hard for our politicians to change when their pockets get filled with cash to keep these laws as they are by the liquor distributors. Specs being the the big cash distributor.
Politics is always a sticky subject but as far as alcohol sales go, Texas is moderate. Only 19 states allow distilled liquor sales in grocery stores (Louisiana being one of the least restrictive in the country, but an exception, rather than the rule). If you want to talk draconian, go to the dozen or so states (particularly in the northwest or the northeast) that have state-run liquor stores.
This is my Fiesta. Being a Mission Bend resident since 1998, I’ve been coming to this store ever since and not one thing has changed about it, especially the neon! Long live the Mission Bend Fiesta store!!
About the only major change has been the loss of General Joe’s Chopsticks!
Though the octagonal sign lives on at Fajitas Express! As does much of their original neon.
This Fiesta, along with the Astrodome area Fiesta, are real gems. Fiesta did a great job designing these stores and they still look great even here 30+ years later. I shopped at this Fiesta a few times many years ago, but I probably have not been there since around 1994 or so. The FM 1960 W & Kuykendahl Fiesta had a similar interior decor to this one and so I do remember that one, but honestly I did not shop at that Fiesta all that often because the Willowchase Fiesta opened up not long afterward and that was closer.
The Willowchase Fiesta has some similarities to these Fiestas, especially in terms to of it being flashy and full of neon, but otherwise the design is a bit different and the layout is certainly different. It’s hard to say which design is better. They’re both great and I’m glad both are still around.
I’ve heard that Fiesta Mart co-founder Donald Bonham was a fan of art and maybe that explains some of the designs of these early Fiesta stores.