Howdy folks, and welcome back to HHR. Today we’re again tackling our overcrowding of drug stores, a topic we’ve covered once before, and will come up again in a second part. However, today we’re not checking out an Eckerd but rather a Walgreens! As mentioned previously, Walgreen’s building campaign really began as a response to the entry of CVS into the Houston market. Both Walgreens and Eckerd had steady growth in Houston during 90s and early 2000s, expanding to match new neighborhoods. As well, older strip center locations were replaced with freestanding stores capable of providing drive-thru pharmacy services. One major difference between the chains growth strategies included sizes of stores. Walgreens built decidedly larger stores, especially those in prominent areas, many of which offered 24-hour pharmacies. Walgreens seemed intent during this time on filling in a middle ground role, and would do a decent job canvasing most of the Houston area with their stores. Unfortunately, the chain far overbuilt what they needed, requiring them to close multiple locations starting around 2010.
Today we’re taking a look at a former Walgreens. Located at 6107 Hwy 6 N, Houston, TX 77084 this former pharmacy was opened in 2005. It was built in response to a new CVS across the street. The CVS was one of the first in the Houston area, opening in 2002 as a 24-Hour location. Walgreens had previously operated in the area in the location now occupied by Family Dollar in the former Bear Creek Safeway Shopping Center. While the departure of a grocery store from the center with the closing of AppleTree was obviously a part of Walgreens shutting down, it’s likely that the new stand alone Eckerd, now Spec’s, had a much larger influence. With increased pressure to build from CVS, Walgreens hoped to recapture the area, with a large 24-hour store of their own. Aiming to be even more of a middleman in shopping than the nearby Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. The new store would be located at a major intersection, and would hopefully serve as a flagship for the area. However, these great expectations were never realized. In 2017 this location was quietly closed, and as of 2021 it looks like CVS may be next on the chopping block, with low customer ratings, and a reduction from 24 hour status. It seems that the poison pill in this scenario was misunderstanding the demand in the area.
While Walgreens does have a steady customer base, the bargain hungry Houston shoppers that put Wal-Mart and HEB at the top of their list, don’t often shop for anything at Walgreens they don’t desperately need. To deal with overbuilding, Walgreens closed at least 4 store throughout the Houston area, all along Highway 6. While they were able to lease this store out relatively quickly, some former Walgreens have sat vacant for so long they were able to reused as COVID vaccination centers by Walgreens before being repurposed! In some markets, Walgreens has attempted to expand their middleman grocer status by partnering with Kroger. This so far has resulted in a few test stores in Tennessee. Specifically Walgreens with expanded grocery stocked by Kroger, and featuring their products. Along with Kroger locations which feature Health and Beauty items stocked by Walgreens. Both of their logos are prominently featured in both settings. While I think this would have been a good program to bring to Houston, I’m doubtful anything will come of it. Especially with Walgreens recent endorsements of the ever expanding Village Medical program.