Howdy, and welcome back to HHR! Today we’re taking a look at one of the most scandalous grocery store conversions to take place. This former Randall’s has been divided into thirds, with Aldi, Planet Fitness, and Spec’s splitting up the building. The store at 3126 FM 528 Rd, Friendswood, TX 77546, opened as part of Randall’s 80s push. Which brought stores from the Westside back down to South Houston, where Robert Onstead had been introduced to both the grocery business and the Randall’s name nearly 40 years prior. However, that’s a story for another day. This new location was one of many built around this time by Randall’s. Their 1980s expansion is what took them from a higher-end chain only on the Westside to more simply a “nice stores all around town.” Many of these 1980s stores were located in the suburbs across Houston. The Friendswood location (Webster when it originally opened) was no exception, opening as one of the first supermarkets in the area. Interestingly the first competitor for Randalls in Webster/Friendswood was a former Safeway. One of the largest supermarkets in the area, it reopened under the AppleTree name just shortly before Randall’s grand opening.
While the AppleTree had a vetted presence in the area, the draw of the new Randall’s began to win customers over. In mid-1992, during AppleTree’s bankruptcy, this location and 14 others were quietly closed without tenants as the buildings were still owned by Safeway. While AppleTree needed to shed a debt load, other grocers did not; Kroger was quick to jump on the occasion. This location would reopen under the Kroger banner less than 2 months after closing. The two chains would duke it out for only a few years before Albertson’s picked the intersection for a brand new location. The store would feature all the high-end amenities usually seen in other Grocery Palace stores, including a fuel center. This would even prompt Randall’s to construct their own gas station. The Albertsons was opened towards the end of Albertson’s tenure in Houston, and the store would be sold to Kroger by 2002. By 2005, Safeway entered the Houston market through its buyout of Randalls and started its first large-scale cuts to bring the division down to its current numbers. Unfortunately, this store would find itself on the list, with the shiny new Kroger quickly eating up their remaining sales. The former grocery store had been sectioned off by the following year, with Spec’s opening by 2005.
For those not in the know, Randall’s original family ownership was very anti-alcohol; this sentiment is rooted in the family’s strong Baptist traditions. Randall’s wouldn’t even try selling beer or alcohol until 1994, one year after their merger with Tom Thumb. Despite the logical conundrum, Spec’s seems to have done very well in this space. They have only remodeled a small amount to fit their needs. It’s truly incredible how much of Randall’s has survived throughout the years and the great shape the store is in. The other two-thirds of the building has not been so lucky. The middle portion, which retained the least amount of “Randall’s identifiability,” was redeveloped in 2007, a year after Specs. It would initially be a Bounce House Park, which closed in 2014, and later a Planet Fitness. The bounce house park gutted the few remaining walls and rebuilt the space. The right side of the building sat vacant until 2013, when Aldi opened up shop. In traditional Aldi fashion, the area was completely remodeled, stripping the remaining facade, which likely was still intact after years of unused. A new entrance had to be constructed, as Aldi’s property begins just to the right of the center facade. This gave Aldi cause to build a combination tower/sign above their new entrance. I can’t recommend stopping in here highly enough if you’re in the area. This is a unique piece of retail history, and who knows how much longer it’ll be around!
Great article. This store has a very special place in my heart for the fact that I met my wife here while we both worked there. Many moons ago, but still together after all these years. Great people worked at this store and some not so great. I remember when I got transferred there, and the Assistant Grocery Director showing me the bullet holes in the magazine rack that was in front of the bank/Cust Service booth area. Reading thru the article made all those adventures come back. And YES, Rick, I did take that big inflatable chair from that beer display! It’s a shame how this once good company has fallen so hard in the last 20 yrs. Keep up the good work HHR with these articles down memory lane!
Although there are a couple of big box liquor stores in old Randall’s locations here on the NW side, it’s still really crazy seeing a Spec’s in an old Randall’s given Bob Onstead’s thoughts on alcohol sales! This Spec’s has some old Randall’s features as well so it is really strange. This is a good find!