Fishing Tackle Unlimited, the Fishing Superstore, located just outside the entrance to the Sugar Creek Neighborhood has recently closed. While I’m not sure exactly when the store shut down it seems to have been sometime in early April of this year. Fishing Tackle Unlimited is hardly the first tenant here, but it has done a great job of preserving the history of an important building in the area. For many years, this was one of the only grocery stores in this part of Fort Bend County. Located at 13831 Southwest Fwy, Sugar Land, TX 77478 plans for a grocery store in this part of Sugar Creek actually predate the completion of the Southwest Freeway in this area. The earliest plans involved opening a Handy Andy in the center, with an official announcement coming in 1974. Based on the size of the lot and planned store size, this Handy Andy was planned to resemble the other “Ranch Style locations” in Houston, hitting all the boxes of the upscale grocer image Handy Andy was vying for in Houston. Unfortunately though, around this time, Handy Andy began to experience internal struggles which resulted in the once family-controlled public company replacing executives who began to make cuts. One of the first cuts made was to reduce the size and scope of future Handy Andy stores built in Houston. Their “flagship” locations were losing money due to high operating costs, so new stores would be built as traditional strip center stores with a reduced product line, carrying mostly basic groceries with few flairs. At some point during this process, the Sugar Land Handy Andy location was canceled, it had gone so far as to receive a store number but would not receive any press being quietly killed off after a single mention in the paper. A theory I have is that the Sugar Creek neighborhood association that had sold the property to Trammel Crow (Handy Andy’s Houston development partner) was the one who killed off this Handy Andy location. Balking at the idea of not getting the gigantic grocery store they were once promised, the residents of Sugar Creek still desired a luxurious outlet and would eventually find one.
Rather than the initially planned Handy Andy, Sugar Creek would instead end up with a Gerland’s Food Fair. The new store would open in 1979 along with the rest of the shopping center after Trammel Crow had completely dropped out of the project. While not exactly the level of Handy Andy’s early stores, this new Gerland’s was built to a standard above their normal locations. It was also on the larger side, at 33,00 Square Feet. Only 2k square feet smaller than the planned Handy Andy. This location would also feature a few extra amenities, such as a pharmacy, and video rental department thanks to its extra space. The store was in a nice location, and with Gerland’s taking on the role of a flexible neighborhood grocer, they could make this work for them. That is however until the break up of the company during the 1980s. At this time the stores were split amongst the sons of the Gerland family, each taking a different set of locations, and semi-independently running them, with varying levels of care. Unfortunately, I have not been able to determine which owner this store went to, but based on a territory theory, it was likely owned by whoever had the other Southwest Houston stores. It seems that whoever ended up with this location lost their interest in running a store, which was bound by deed restrictions for upkeep, and decided to flip it to Belden’s along with another location in late 1997. Thanks to the store’s exceptional upkeep, little restoration was required and Sugar Creek finally found themselves with a true high-end grocer they desired. However, this change would be short-lived, with Gerland’s returning about a year later in January 1999. However, this time around they would distinguish this store as a Gerland’s Grand Market, keeping pretty much everything Belden’s short-lived upgrade had added. For the next 14 years, Gerland’s would again reign king in this space with arguably their fanciest location. However with the dissolution of Gerland’s this store was not picked up by Food Town, and was instead sold to Grocers Supply Corp who immediately began liquidating the store. Big plans were made for this location, it was to be converted into a Fiesta Market Place! A new generation Fiesta store that would feature friendly neighborhood grocery themes, at low prices, with only some international products still here and there, and no General Merchandise. The City of Sugar Land would also require Fiesta to update the shopping center, building on a more traditional grocery store foyer. Unfortunately though after less than a year, this conversion flopped as Grocers Supply themselves were planning to drop Fiesta and eventually their grocery business altogether. The closed store sat vacant for a few months but was eventually picked up by Fishing Tackle Unlimited, who kept much of the original Gerland’s interior intact. Unfortunately, though, a Planet Fitness is now headed in, so expect the building ripped apart.