Howdy folks, and welcome back to HHR! Today, we’re heading back to a familiar topic: drugstores in Houston. Recently we took a look at a couple of “Speckerd’s” locations, and a Walgreens now selling Skechers. However, today’s former pharmacy falls into a slightly different category. This is a Walgreens that didn’t just close without a replacement, but rather this store relocated nearby. While I don’t have anything to explicitly back this up, the proximity to White Oak Bayou is likely part of what inspired Walgreens to move further away from the waterway. Despite this obvious risk, another retailer has decided to call this building home a relatively unexpected new tenant, Dollar Tree. Located at 6926 Antoine Dr, Houston, TX 77091 this store first opened in 1994 as relocation of a long-existing Walgreens in the strip center behind its present location. Beyond the risk of flooding another major draw for Walgreens to leave this area was the lack of a companion store. Initially, Walgreens had been an early tenant of the White Oak Bayou Village, along with Bealls and Gerland’s, who would later be replaced by Palais Royal and Rice respectively. Eventually, the Rice location would be converted into a Price Buster store to better fit the needs of the community. However, along with all other non-Epicurean portions of the business, this location would find itself sold off by 1998. Palais Royal would make it a bit longer to 2001, but Walgreens was the largest store in the strip center for many years. Their new location is at the end of a strip center, anchored by a Food Town in a former Weingarten. Dollar Tree has done very little to modify this store, which while not out of the ordinary for them, has led to some issues. So let’s take a look!
As a Dollar Tree, this store is unappealing. I have no issues with Dollar Tree for the most part and consistently buy certain items from them. The store’s layout made sense as a Walgreens, but Dollar Tree’s additions don’t help the cause. Rather it creates a bit of a limiting effect, meaning that the aisles are 3/4 the length of a full-size Walgreens store. They’re long enough that they need a break in the middle, but putting the break in the aisle would lose so much shelf space, that it’s not done. This means you have aisles that are too long, poor positioning of the freezers, and a lack of utilization of a large amount of the store. You’re cramped in what seems like it would be a huge space. As far as I can tell it may be some requirement of tenants leasing former Walgreens to not modify their pharmacies and drive-thrus. While we don’t need an excess of Walgreens at the moment, in a few years the elderly population will start to rise again, and maybe there’s a company planning on short-term leasing these spaces in the meantime. Granted this is all just a guess, it does seem to be a pretty consistent theme, to not modify too much in these former Walgreens stores. This isn’t a place I’d recommend stopping by, unless you’re just driving by, then it provides a nice view.
Thank you for sharing that Rice ad. I was surprised to learn that they moved from the shopping center across the street in 1981. I always assumed that it was in 1984, when Gerlands took over the Inwood Village Weingarten. Two questions popped up. First, what happened to Gerlands in 1981 that caused them to dump at least 4 stores? And what (if anything) occupied the old Rice until 1984, when the Winn’s discount store moved in? Since Rice owned that shopping center, they may have just sat on it to avoid a competitor. It’s certainly a tactic we have seen numerous times over the years.
I vividly remember that White Oak Bayou Village shopping center. It was sprawling and fully occupied in its heyday. The best memories came from Showbiz Pizza Place. We didn’t have much money so my mom took my sister and I only once a year, at the end of school. I still remember being creeped out by the Rockafire Explosion, the ball pit (do those even exist anymore for safety reasons?) and skeeball! Oh, and the arcade games. My last visit was in 1990, when I played the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game that was ubiquitous in the early 90s.
The Rice was a cool place to shop. It was old but in a neat way, which I know sounds strange. I liked its ambiance. Unfortunately when it was converted to a Price Buster that ambiance vanished. I just couldn’t get past how cheap the place looked.
The Radio Shack that faced Antoine was a favorite Saturday afternoon visit for my dad, who was a tech geek. Those were the days when Radio Shack catered to the hobbyist and was happy to do so. Speaking of Radio Shack locations on Antoine, there was one at Pinemont in the Forest West shopping center. It was the only location I saw with a generic sign, not that classic logo. That always struck me as odd. Its neighbor, Western Auto, also had a funky, unique sign. The font was one I have only seen in one other place-a book about science fiction movies that was published in the 70s.
Finally, I got my hair cut at the barber shop in the White Oak Bayou center from basically when I had hair to its sudden closure in the late 90s. It originated in Northwest Mall in 1974 and opened its second location later on. My dad used them from when he moved to Houston that year to his passing in 1997. I went to the Northwest location after the nearby one closed and stuck with them through 2 relocations until last year, when the end finally came. Hard to give up a barber shop you used for most of your life.
I have the former Rice as Walker-Kruth Lumber Co prior to Winn’s moving in. As for what exactly caused Gerland’s to dump 4 stores in 1981, I’m not 100% sure but I would assume it was related to the failure of a franchisee, or the subsequent attempts to split up the company. You’ve got some great memories of these shopping centers, you can tell these were great at some point, but as of late, the condition is less than glorious. I’m willing to bet though eventually this will all be torn out, and replaced with raised structures.
If the mold gets thick enough on the front of the store, it could start looking like an actual tree!
Awkward implementation for sure, but good to see the location get a second life as a retailer. It’s not as common for former freestanding drug stores to get reused as it ought to be. The recently-opened Now & Forever convenience store at 6 and Westheimer is another nice example of a reused Walgreens.
Seriously, it looked like there was enough slime to fill an entire ice machine! You’re totally right though, it is rare to see these former stand alone drug stores to get a reuse, but as you mentioned we’re finally getting back up there. Also is Now and Forever finally open?!