Howdy folks, and Happy New Year’s Eve! In celebration of what you’ll likely be doing tonight, let’s take a look at a place where you can pop-corks. Houston’s, most prominent liquor store chain, Spec’s. We will again be taking a look at a Spec’s that is housed in a former Eckerd, making this part two of Speckerd’s! In our last episode, we discussed how overbuilding in Houston hurt area drug stores, leading to some stores that sit vacant for years if they’re ever reused. While the overbuilding wasn’t as bad for Eckerd who was the redheaded stepchild of JCPenney at the time. Limited cash flow, and even lesser influence amongst company priorities led to Eckerd just being able to pull off strip center to freestanding conversions, that had made up much of the early 90s growth for competitors like Walgreens. Locally, Eckerd was done in, by merging with CVS. Had the merger occurred even just a few months prior, it’s likely that many more Eckerd stores would still be operating today, albeit under the CVS banner. The issue wasn’t the age, layout, or size of the Eckerd buildings. Most were new stores, built up to modern drive-thru pharmacy standards. The problem rather came from overlapping territory, as CVS had just begun their full scale expansion into the Houston market in early 2003, less than a year before purchasing about half of Eckerd’s operations.
This store at 17996 FM 529, Houston, TX 77095 originally opened in 1996 under Eckerd. It was a new location, not replacing any existing store, and was built using a modified building type. Unlike the standard Eckerd locations of the time, which featured a central column facade above the entrance. This store instead featured a cornered facade with a slightly offset entrance. Despite the unusual design choice, this is a standard sized location, and not one of the smaller stores that used this design, like we saw earlier this year. After the CVS purchase of Eckerd this store would operate only for a liquidation and closing sale. While it wasn’t clear exactly what CVS’s motivation for closing this store was. It was possible that the new HEB “Drug Store” across the street was giving them trouble, or they possibly wanted to cannibalize the prescriptions for their new Highway 6 location. The building would only sit vacant for a few months before Spec’s moved in, and they’ve been chugging happily along ever since.
Out of the two Speckerds I visited, I’d recommend giving this one a go. Especially if you have a need to snag some last minute New Years gifts. Folks don’t generally turn down a bottle of hooch! To add a bit of interesting flair to this story, it actually doesn’t truly end here. In 2016, long after any activity in the HEB Center across the street, CVS built a brand-new store in the parking lot, approximately where HEB tried adding a gas station to their store. It seems that the store was not a performer, closing quietly in early 2020. However, the tale still doesn’t end here. Even with the building vacant, and looking for a tenant, it was reused not unlike some empty Walgreens as a vaccination center for the pharmacy that had previously occupied it.