Houston has a preponderance of former drug stores. Many have found new uses, and seemingly just as many continue to sit vacant. The vast majority of these failed pharmacies come from overbuilding over the past 20 or so years. The issue wasn’t specific to Houston, as evident by the recently announced CVS closures, but it sure had an early start here. Most of it began around 2003 when CVS entered the Houston market, their desire to expand was met by with a swift response from Walgreens who planned an expansion in Houston of their own. With CVS, and Walgreens both building new stores throughout town, Eckerd doubled down on their existing expansion program to replace their remaining strip center locations with freestanding stores. Less than a year later, CVS would acquire Eckerd’s operations throughout the Southern United States, including those in Texas. While CVS did announce their intent to close some locations immediately, many stores would simply be converted to the CVS brand, giving them an almost instantaneous presence throughout Texas, along with distribution operations. While some of these Eckerd locations, still serve as CVS to this day. Many more were simply temporary “stop gaps” until CVS could build a store to fit their specifications. While the interior layouts could mostly be adapted to fit with CVS, the exteriors proved difficult to update into CVS branding. With many locations still resembling Eckerd nearly 20 years after their exiting the Houston market.
Today we’re taking a look at 4820 Hwy 6 N, Houston, TX 77084 a former Eckerd location that closed early on in 2004. The store was originally at 6150 Hwy 6 N, Houston, TX 77084 sitting next door to a Kroger from 1980-1997. Eventually, as part of the expansion program, this Eckerd moved to a freestanding store with a drive-thru. While this was a welcomed feature in the area, it wasn’t enough to prevent CVS from closing the store. Their own location at, 6079 Hwy 6 N, Houston, TX 77084 had been one of the first to open in Houston. CVS would operate the store briefly while a going out of business sale took place, and prescriptions were transferred. Only a few months after closing, the store was leased to Spec’s who has continually operated out of this building since 2005. It seems that without Eckerd staying behind to defend their “identity” Spec’s wasn’t required to, and has not changed much throughout the store. The same general layout has been kept, and while signage has been updated, no other decor has been changed out. With a vibrant blue, that does not match the typical “pale blue” Spec’s utilizes. Let’s not waste any more time and take a look.
While not in danger of going extinct anytime soon, I suggest stopping by a Speckerd if one exists around you! They’re quite the walk down memory lane, and while Spec’s has likely removed most impactful items like signage, the managers pen, and checkout counter were all original, and fully staffed preventing photos. I’ve got to admit pacing around the stores staring at mostly walls, probably did make the staff somewhat suspicious of me, so maybe go with a friend? Check around you, the nearest Speckerd is closer than you think! Overall, approximately 50 Eckerd locations throughout Houston were permanently closed because of the buyout. Maybe we could find another location to take a look at in the future, what do you think?
I visited a SpEckerd just recently, the one on Hwy 6 and Bissonnet to be exact. I believe this location was replaced with a freestanding store just up the street at Hwy 6 and Beechnut, which is currently home to Advance Auto Parts. This freestanding Eckerd was built identical to the one Westheimer and Eldridge, which made the transition to CVS and remained for many years until they closed and eventually became a La Michoacana. Seeing these photos certainly takes me back to 2003. I’m actually surprised Jean Coutu Group didn’t force this location to renovate, as they were a lease guarantor for these former Eckerd stores (CVS was not the guarantor for some reason) even though they didn’t own them or even have a presence in Texas.
It’s right at SpEckerd!
I never quite warmed up to these freestanding Eckerd locations even though we did have some in my area that were around for quite a while before Eckerd left town. Although they did have a layout quite different from freestanding Walgreens of the same era, they just felt kind of generic to me compared to the shopping center locations I was used to. Eckerd’s expansion into these freestanding stores came at around the same time JCPenney bought Eckerd and maybe Eckerd lost a little bit of their identity during that time. That said, this Spec’s shows that these Eckerd stores weren’t completely devoid of character especially with the blue ceiling grid!