Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. Today, we’re taking another look at what has become the agonizingly slow transformation of Houston’s Raceway stations in 7-Eleven stores. In early 2021 the Raceway/Racetrac affiliation in Houston came to an abrupt end after over 25 years. Initially, the first stores opened were company-owned Racetrac locations. These gas stations specialized in discount private label gasoline, supplemented by streamlined C-Store operations. With locations featuring a small Made to Order grill, in addition to what would be classified as the bare essentials to be considered a C-Store. Prices of C-Store items were not generally as competitive as their gasoline, and the market for discount gas in Houston was quickly overrun by other companies in the mid-2000s. This led Racetrac to begin the process of franchising many of their location around 2005 and renaming their remaining company-owned stores around the same time. The franchised locations seem to have been somewhat left to fend for themselves in terms of merchandising being part of the GHRA clique, despite being a national chain. The properties were all sold earlier this year to a real estate holding company, which seems to be leasing the stores back to 7-Eleven for the time being. The plan is likely to lease these stores out to franchisees once established. While some former Raceway stores have completed their conversion. Seemingly just as many are stuck in a limbo state.
All of these former Raceways seem to be stuck in a “Mart” limbo. The name comes from the generic term used by Exxon/Mobil for independent stores. Most vestiges of the Raceway identity have been covered up, grills blocked off and shut down, and the stores re-merchandised with 7-Eleven products. In some cases, such as this Missouri City location, the store has even received new exterior signage for a few months without any other changes. It seems that deference may have possibly been given to Racetrac owned locations vs independent franchisees in terms of remodeling priority. Although, going on a year with half-finished stores isn’t a great look for 7-Eleven to adopt while entering Houston. Especially with the half-done Stripe’s conversions looming overhead. We’ll see what the future of 7-Eleven is in Houston, but keep in mind, they’ve left before. Oddly one exclusion from these new stores is Lardeo Taco Co. It presumably would have been very simple to convert the grills into a Laredo Taco Express location and add in a small salsa bar near the soda fountains. Although, I guess I’m being too ambitious, as, for the most part, I’ve seen this space used to expand the sales floor. I wouldn’t be dying to check out a Mart, but buying 7-Eleven products from an unbranded store is a bit of a novelty. It seems we’re going to end up with some very different types of 7-Eleven stores in Houston.