In late 1982 the Houston Division of Safeway opened a brand-new store to serve the growing Alief, and Mission Bend areas of far West Houston. At the intersection of Bellaire and Synott the modern round edged store opened as the anchor tenant of the shopping center along with an Eckerd. While far from being the last Houston Safeway to open, this would be one of the last built, as most “new” stores going forward would be former Weingarten locations. In 1984 Safeway acquired ~40 remaining Weingarten locations from Grand Union, who had been slowly breaking the chain up. For the most part, this was a strategic move, picking stores which were in areas that Safeway was weak. There were, however, a few locations where Safeway opted to close their store in favor of transferring operations to a newly purchased Weingarten. Today we’re taking a look at one. Located at 13201 Bellaire Blvd, this Safeway was mostly meant to serve the West Alief community, which at the time had been recently developed with communities like Pheasant Run, and Beechnut Crossing. However, as these communities failed to expand during a particularly weak oil economy, the store had to depend on attracting customers from the much larger Mission Bend across Highway 6. During the early 80s Safeway would see competition being to build stores between them and Mission Bend including a Fiesta, a Randall’s, and the aforementioned Weingarten. In 1984 with the purchase of the remaining Weingarten locations, Safeway shut 13201 Bellaire down, opting to leave it vacant until the site was sold along with 11 other former Safeways in 1988.
The building would continue to sit unused for the next few years. Unlike many other vacant Safeways in town, it was not converted to a Drugs For Less, and was likely scavenged for parts and equipment before it was sold. However, in 1992, 10 years after originally opening as a Safeway, the new owners of the building were able to find a tenant, H-E-B Pantry Foods. H-E-B was eager to begin their launch into Houston after buying the Safeway’s former Houston distribution center, and milk and bread plants. While Safeway did leave a few fixtures behind in the old store, the building was decked out with new tile, and aisle markers. The new H-E-B would open in late 1992, and prove to be somewhat popular, however by this point the area around the store had become disconnected from main line grocery stores, as “Chinatown” continued to creep west down Bellaire. H-E-B leasing the store would opt to close it within a year of opening. Although, all was not lost, as unlike Safeway, H-E-B had chosen to build a new store in Mission Bend as well as reopen this location. The store at 15707 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77083 would open just as AppleTree The old Safeway would next be inhabited by Vietnamese grocery store My Hoa, who still operates it 25 years later!
I spotted this building on Google Maps a few months back and thought that it looked like a Safeway, but I didn’t realize it had quite the story that this building has! I’m glad to get the full scoop on this place. The story of the building seeing a couple of quick failures reminds me a bit of a somewhat similar ex-Safeway building on 249 & Louetta. That was built as a Safeway in the late 1980s and then became an AppleTree. Neither lasted very long. It later became a Randall’s in the late 1990s that was very short-lived and then later an HEB Pantry Foods that didn’t last all that long either. Unlike the Safeway that is the subject of this post, the 249 & Louetta Safeway was and is in a pretty wealthy area right across the street from the former Compaq Computers world headquarters. HEB obviously has a very successful modern store on the other side of 249 at The Vintage in more modern times.
The 249 & Louetta HEB Pantry Foods isn’t too visible in this photo, but it’s there in the far right corner of this photo from around 2000: https://s.hdnux.com/photos/50/17/23/10548453/3/1200×0.jpg
Nice shots! Gotta love those old soda cases with the 90s logos, especially.