Howdy folks, and welcome back to HHR. Over these past few weeks, we’ve discussed the slow dissolution of Randalls throughout the Houston area. As of this post, we’re down to 15 Houston area stores and only a couple more over in Austin. As sad as this is, there was a point where Randalls was king of Houston, and as could pretty much do whatever they wanted. By the early 80s, Randalls was becoming a dominant third behind Kroger and Safeway who had dominated the Houston market for the past 10 years, smothering out independents and local chains. One of those casualties had been Weingarten, who after selling out to Grand Union in 1979, and would shortly after enter a slow death spiral that ended up with Safeway picking up most of the locations. While chains ended up with the lionshare of locations during the fall of Weingarten, some locations ended up having to stay open. Today’s store at 5586 Weslayan St, Houston, TX 77005 was one of three Weingarten locations that was not allowed to close due to lease issues. While the exact issues of the lease dispute were never made public, it was made known that it the dispute came from the Montclair Corporation who originally developed the plaza. The shopping center was proposed in 1950 by Victor Gruen (considered to be “father” of the mall), initially envisioned the shopping center as the world’s first indoor air conditioned shopping center. Weingarten was a day one contender as an anchor tenant, and during construction the store’s layout and entrance were positioned towards what would become the mall walkway. While the mall would never fully come to fruition, Weingarten would open their store according to original plans, going so far as to build their office, and staff areas in a basement. It was likely that Weingarten was still considered an anchor even in the 80s, and for whatever reason when Safeway attempted to purchase this property the Montclair Corp felt they would not be a suitable replacement.
Enter Randalls, who experienced an explosive growth which could be contributed to many things, like their acquisition of the Houston Handy Andy locations or their ability to serve neighborhoods where other grocers floundered. In a description that I mostly coopted from contributor Anonymous in Houston, Randalls was a place where you could see Joe Six Pack buying groceries next to Yuppie Suburbanites, a store for everyone. Despite their expansion during Weingarten’s fall, Randalls chose early on to build new locations rather than repurpose other stores. This did however make it difficult for Randalls to enter certain markets, especially those which were older and more established. The purchase of this former Weingarten by Randalls would finally be approved in June of 1984. The terms of the agreement included an upgrade in space for the grocery store. While not specifically stated as being a shopping center request, it likely was. The expansion of the store would involve building a new backroom, then expanding the building into the parking lot. The new space would help to bring the well shopped store up to more modern standards, including moving the office and staff areas upstairs. Randalls would thrive in this space being embraced by inner-loopers. While the proto-Randalls had had a presence in this part of town, higher end grocers were not especially prevalent. Randalls response would be to redisgnate this store as a Flagship location, a banner which it still wears as of 2022. For many in the area this grocery store has been reliable, no matter the name on the front. When HEB entered the loop, this was one of the first stores they attempted to take on with the Buffalo Speedway HEB. Despite the competition, this store is still busy, viable, and a good example of what Randalls was closer to its peak.