Howdy and welcome to Houston Historic Retail. Today, we’re driving to Texas City to visit a former Weingarten, largely still wearing its Grand Union era decor! This store is located at 915 6th St, Texas City, TX 77590, and originally opened in 1952. While the store has seen some expansions over the years, much of the original store is still in use. The Weingarten locations of the 1950s used what some consider to be a knock-off of a “Marina Style” Safeway. However, photographic evidence of these arched-roof stores being built by Weingarten can be seen as far back as 1951. This Texas City location is one of the few former arch-roofed Weingarten locations still selling groceries. Surprisingly little has changed since the final remodel this Weingarten received, which was done during the Grand Union era. During the sell-off of Weingarten in 1979, it was the first time a real “inventory” had been taken of their stores. While money-losing, and other problematic J. Weingarten locations were closed, usually being leased to another grocer, Weingarten had been known for keeping some less than successful stores open. Many of these locations were older, smaller stores, which were at the center of Weingarten-owned shopping centers. Many of the first locations to close were these less profitable stores, including many stores in smaller towns. What kept this Texas City store open was the lack of any major competition in Texas City. Designated a “higher priority” location, likely as a result of high sales this location was given a full interior remodel. Updating the store into the latest Grand Union design scheme adding features more commonly found in modern chains. Examples of this include faux skylights, a “stained glass” effect checkout mural, new signage, and a complete coating of wood paneling. As this store was quite old, and small compared to modern Supermarkets of this era, lots had to be left out. Weingarten would also adopt a new “Big Dot W” logo, making them a simple name change away from Grand Union.
However, after a fierce battle between grocers like Safeway, and Eagle, among many others in 1983 Grand Union announced its intent to exit the Houston market. The chain would seek but not find a direct buyer, instead opting to break up its holdings. This would leave Safeway with the largest number of locations, in many cases, Safeway would end up purchasing stores that it had no intention to keep. They would opt to close either the Weingarten or their location and usually sublet the property. As with many other “small-town operations”, this Texas City Weingarten would be picked up by Safeway. While Safeway had built a store nearby in the 1970s, they would opt to keep the much older, but more recently renovated Weingarten store. It also had the “prestige” of being one of the mainstays of downtown Texas City. The old Safeway would sit vacant for 4 years before being leased to HEB, who would remain in the store until around 2014. As for the old Weingarten, Safeway would continue to operate in this location through the AppleTree breakaway, only closing as a part of their 1992 bankruptcy. The close proximity to the HEB Pantry Foods in the former Safeway likely contributed to AppleTree’s decision to shut down. After AppleTree’s shutdown, the store would quickly be leased to a local chain operator Allen’s Food King which already had a smaller store in Texas City. Food King slowly broke up paring off locations to other independent operators, one of which continues to operate this single location. As of 2022, the Grand Union era Weingarten decor is still intact, and Food King is still doing great. I visited in the middle of the day during the week and the store was plenty busy. The prices were also quite good for a local chain. If you’re even driving by Texas City, I’d recommend you make the quick detour over here, and maybe on the way, check out that Speedway location!