Could Houston’s oldest Safeway locations date back to the 1950s?

Howdy folks, welcome back to HHR. Today we’re dipping out of Houston proper for the quick drive over to central Pasadena, no not to make fun of the Sears Hometown in the old mainline store there, (that update will be coming soon). Rather, we’re checking out a building I have passed up many times when it was masquerading as a Value Village. However, after a new business popped up inside I took the chance to stop by and visit what is one of the Houston area’s oldest unmodified Safeway stores. Located at 2127 Southmore Ave, Pasadena, TX 77502 Store Number #901 (this first in the Houston Division) was the third Safeway to open in the Houston area. For those not in the know, Safeway originally had intentions to open in Houston as far back as 1955. While this would never come to fruition due to multiple factors but the company did go so far as to acquire some land. Much of the research I’ve done points to the idea that when Safeway came back they used some of the lots they already owned, and this Pasadena store seems like one of them.

Now, this is purely conjecture but my thoughts are based on the fact that this location would have made much more sense in the 1950s than in the 70s when the building was actually constructed. In the 1950s this area was one of the last large chunks of undeveloped central Pasadena, which meant it would likely become home to a much-rumored mall. While the mall would eventually be constructed, by the 1960s the large fields bordering the future Safeway had largely been developed. Instead, the local Government would approve the leveling of a central neighborhood in exchange for new digs for the city. By the time Safeway had returned the neighborhood had been leveled, and the mall hadn’t been started yet, leaving plenty of room for a grocery store but still they ended up here. The new store would also put them directly next to a Kroger which opened about a year prior. While it may seem that Safeway was simply latching onto a good location Kroger had found, this likely isn’t the case. Safeway wasn’t shy about locating next to other grocers later on in life, but most of the first-generation stores were off on their own, usually at least a couple of blocks away from the next nearest grocer. The Kroger next door would eventually shut down in 1984, relocating further up on the main drag as the mall was built out by this point.

In 1987, Safeway leaders secretly began making plans behind closed doors with the impending announcement of the Division sell-offs. The decisions they made would seal the fate of all the Safeway stores in Texas within the next two years. Dallas and the surrounding area would quickly be axed, El Paso and the Pan Handle would be largely sold off to different independents including Furr’s, leaving only Houston and Austin behind. The Safeway name would only stick around long enough to formulate a plan under the new name AppleTree, but that’s a story I’ve already told. Instead, this location would fall to a different fate. It would be identified for closure far before many other stores. This store along with 4 others was closed in early 1987 at the same time, 10 stores were transferred from DFW to the Houston division. At the time, this was likely one of the lowest-performing stores in the area. After closing the store only sat vacant briefly before being leased to a company named “Mercantile Thrift” an Ohio-based company that operates the Value Village Chain here, and Value World in Ohio. The store would operate as a Value Village from 1987 until early 2022. It closed with plans to relocate from the 53 year old building to a yet announced location in Pasadena. In the meantime this “discount bin” store has opened up, while the deals aren’t Crazy Hot to me, it is fun to finally be able to take photos of this store. If you’re wondering why I avoided doing so while it was Value Village, it’s mostly because the store was jam-packed and unorganized making it difficult to take photos. If you’re around Pasadena you might have a good time stopping by this former Safeway. The deals aren’t Crazy Hot (they pick everything good to resell on eBay folks!) it’s an interesting concept selling Amazon and Target returns mostly. Sometimes they do miss the good stuff, but I didn’t find anything during my visit.

2 comments

  1. It’s pretty remarkable how intact this Safeway is after all these years. It still looks pretty good all things considered. That style of Safeway is pretty iconic. It’s probably not the most iconic design of Houston Safeways. That title would probably go to the 1970s Super Stores with the tall columns, the high-up Spanish tile facade, and river rock walls, but this design still has Safeway written all over it.

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