Randallsarama still the nicest grocery store in Inwood

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. If you’re one of our more recent fans and have yet to check out a Randallsarama, consider giving my 2021 visit to one a look. I’ll be making some references to it in this post, and it’s also the birth of the HHR Dictionary, with other entries like Krogerstons popping up more recently. Foodarama is no stranger to former Randall’s locations, they seem to flock to them, compared to some other grocers who rarely operate out of them. Many of the former Randall’s that Foodarama has taken over are not bad stores per se. Most were closed early on by Randall’s as they were underperforming in a division that was hemorrhaging money. It wasn’t that these stores were losing money in sales, more so in operating costs, and would likely still be Randall’s locations if they weren’t losing the battle against HEB in Houston. Today’s store at 7320 Antoine Dr, Houston, TX 77088 started out as a Randalls, holding their grand opening in mid-1985. The store was built in a previously undeveloped section of land. It operated up until the 2005 round of closures when it and many other underperforming stores were shuttered. This location, which was built in the heart of Inwood, had drifted from its key demographic over the years. Inwood, has generally always been a working-class neighborhood, and as such when Randall’s became all “uppity” in their Flagship days, they began to lose business to other stores in the neighborhood. Namely, a Gerland’s Food Fair, operating out of an old Weingarten nearby.

In late 2005, Randall’s announced their plans to close 16 underperforming stores. 7320 Antoine was included in this list of stores, with Foodarama recognizing that this store was closed due to a demographic shift rather than true underperformance, their plans to turn it around were quickly set into motion. The Wells Fargo bank inside of Randall’s would close prior to the store, with Foodarama renting out the space on a continual basis since then, to many different small businesses such as phone repair shops, and insurance bureaus. During this 2005 round of closures, one other store would later be picked up by Foodarama, 11021 Fuqua St Houston, TX 77089, which has since unceremoniously closed during the pandemic. Which, unfortunately, seems to have really taken its toll on Foodarama, with them closing two stores since 2020 after 15 years of not closing any locations. The conversion of this location involved the removal of some key service components. The deli and pharmacy were obvious gonners, however, the bakery was able to stick around thanks to a third party renting out the space and stocking a relatively normal assortment of bakery goods. The pharmacy was replaced by a soda section as is common in both Foodarama and Food Town when taking over old Randall’s stores. It’s bulky and vendor-supplied so they don’t have to pay for the backstock. The decor would receive the standard Foodarama update: a skin-deep coat of paint and wooden accouterments.

Thankfully, Foodarama didn’t have much need to go crazy on the new decor. Lots of Randall’s was able to be kept, including most of the flooring, some of the wall coverings, and doors. There’s no doubt Randall’s built good stores, and they took care of them too. One of the odder decor updates, is the printing of food all over vertical surfaces, including walls, coolers, shelving, etc… I’ve seen photos of it in other locations and it always seemed a little hokey. In real life though, it comes off pretty well done, there are some obviously outdated graphics, but nothing egregious. Another change from Randall’s to Foodarama was the reduction of the Meat and Seafood department. While there is still a butcher’s counter, they do not sell fresh seafood to order, only meat. The selection of the butcher is also a bit more limited than what you’d find at Randall’s. While the bakery is near equivalent, the butcher is not, limited to mostly staple meats, and none of the fancy pre-prepared meats you can often find at chain stores. However, none of these issues seemed to directly affect the store’s popularity. It was relatively busy when I visited, while not as much of a traffic draw as the original Randallsarama seems to be, this store is the only one in Inwood with a butcher counter and bakery.

This Randallsarama was a neat little store. It shows that Foodarama is still interested in serving the community. This store obviously isn’t the busiest in this part of town, a prize that would go to the aforementioned Food Town. However, this one is easily the nicest grocery store in this part of Houston. There are plenty of throwbacks to the Randall’s days, but admittedly the decor isn’t as spectacular as the Missouri City Randallasarama. If you’re in the area, then I’d recommend stopping by to check it out, also grab something out of the bakery case, it was all really tasty!

4 comments

  1. I shopped at this location regularly when it was a Randalls. I remember a fair amount about the glory days.

    First, the clientele was quite hoity-toity early on. My mom went there shortly after it opened in her usual grocery shopping attire (jeans and a T-shirt) and got ugly looks from everyone. She wore her church clothes for years afterwards during her visits.

    It was never a Flagship location, but by 1985 Randalls had abandoned its “discount supermarkets” era and was proud of it. The store was much nicer than its competition, which was numerous back then. There was a Safeway at North Houston Rosslyn at West Gulf Bank (my family’s usual stop) as well as Antoine at Pinemont in the Forest West shopping center, which was a dump and died before the Appletree era. Kroger at Antoine and Pinemont was a “superstore” that opened in 1975. It was pretty big because it absorbed the SupeRx drug store that left circa 1981. There were 2 Rice Food Markets nearby-Antoine at West Gulf Bank (recently acquired from Eagle) and Antoine at West Little York, recently acquired from Gerlands, who moved down West Little York to North Houston Rosslyn and took over the old Weingarten. The original Rice in the area was on the southwest corner of Antoine at West Little York. Its spot was taken by Winns, a South Texas discount store that entered Houston in the 80s. I have lots of memories of Winns. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure it was one of the dozens of discount stores crushed by Wal-Mart.

    Back to Randalls. Their video rental was great. It was to the left of the entrance and had 88 cent everyday rentals. The magazine area was in front of it, separated by a wall. It was the biggest one I ever saw in a grocery store. I loved it.

    This may sound strange, but another thing I appreciated about that Randalls was its easily accessible public restrooms. You didn’t see those in grocery stores back then. They either didn’t have any or they were in employee areas, which made you feel like you were invading some private sanctum.

    Randalls catered to the kids with small shopping carts in front of the frozen area, designated as such. These days, stores like HEB have those funky racecar carts but you didn’t see flourishes like that back then.

    I remember trying to sell Gold C coupon books during my cub scout days at the entrance. Remember those? I didn’t have many takers. My sister had much better luck when she sold Girl Scout cookies at the Blockbuster across the street. My mom was an adult leader and she talked about the scramble to lock up the coveted Friday night Blockbuster spot. Not only was it the start of the weekend, it was new release day.

    Randalls did well for years but the shifting demographics ultimately did them in as mentioned. Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 hit Inwood Forest badly and likely contributed to that. I remember visiting Blockbuster shortly afterwards and was dismayed to see trash bags filled with videos, empty lower shelves and floor fans everywhere. The Hollywood Video nearby wasn’t so lucky. I watched news coverage of the store being looted. The waist-deep water didn’t deter criminals from smashing the windows and taking what they could. It had only been open a few months and never reopened. A pity.

    Anyways, if there is ever a Winns post I will happily talk about my memories of that place, as well as my ill-fated visit to the nearby liquor store.

    1. I like the comment Michael, thanks for that. Prime Randall’s was really something. Houston isn’t often associated with ‘nice things,’ but 1980s Randall’s was certainly a nice thing. In addition to the great movie rental departments, Randall’s was one of the few places to also have Sega Master System video games to rent along side the much more common Nintendo games. Because of that, we did rent more from Randall’s than anywhere else (though Phar-Mor and the public library were frequent stops for VHS rentals as well). We even purchased a few used games from when Randall’s would retire them from the rental catalog and would sell them off at a low price.

      I do remember those little carts Randall’s had and also the bakery would give kids a free cookie each visit. Maybe other grocers do/did that as well, but it was a nice touch. It seemed like everything Randall’s did had a level of polish to it that modern grocers in Houston, maybe aside from the sole remaining Rice Epicurean, do not come close to matching. It was a classy operation and they had, as their marketing put it, ‘comfortable’ stores. Just as the kids in the ‘Brady Bunch Movie’ dressed up to go to Sears, it was worth it to dress up to go to Randall’s!

      The Inwood Forest Safeway seemed to have a pretty terrible location. I suppose that’s why it isn’t a grocery store now unlike this Randallsarama and the nearby Gerland’s which had much better locations. As for the Kroger you mention, I don’t know if you saw this, but someone on Reddit posted extensive videos from inside that Kroger that they filmed in the late 1980s. Perhaps Mike from HHR can dig up those links because they are well worth seeing.

      Feel free to share more memories, Michael, I’d love to hear them. Although I’m from another part of NW Houston, I wasn’t from too far away so reading more about the area is interesting to me.

  2. Oh wow, that looks a lot like the Rosenberg store on the outside and a good bit like what I remember of it on the inside. Did this store have an area that would have been used for a small video rental store like the Rosenberg store did?

    Love the food wallpaper, I may or may not be familiar with the print shop who made it and hung it up…

    1. Although I never shopped at this store when it was a Randall’s, I can say with a great deal of confidence that, yes, this store would have had a movie rental department. It would have been roughly where the soft drink department is for Foodarama with some of that space also being using for health & beauty.

      This Randallsarama offers many great looks back into the prime era of Randall’s. I like how that grand opening ad emphasized how clean and ‘comfortable’ Randall’s stores are. That was a good way of describing them. Fortunately, it seems like Foodarama is doing a pretty reasonable job keeping this store clean and comfortable. I don’t know about cleanliness, but the industrial nature of HEB stores and many Kroger stores these days are not so comfortable for me. These types of stores felt like more pleasing places to spend several minutes each week.

      It seems to me that the aisle markers at this store are actually recycled Albertsons Blue & Green Awnings aisle markers! That’s really strange. Not only does this store have a lot of old Randall’s and a little Fiesta Mart in it, but it also has Albertsons as well!

      That soft drink mural is really an eye-catcher at this Randallsarama! It’s neat knowing who may or may not be familiar with the print shop that made it, lol.

      Anyway, I suppose this is the closest Foodarama to me. I really ought to visit it. It looks like a great place to shop. The only Randallsarama I’ve been to is the Fuqua and Sabo one that is now unfortunately closed.

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