Why did Safeway close the Fuqua and Sabo Randall’s?

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today we’re checking out a 1980s Randall’s that has had quite an interesting second life. This former Randall’s at 11021 Fuqua St, Houston, TX 77089, opened store opened in 1984. Taking part in a triple grand opening stunt, which is just as it sounds. Two newly built Randall’s stores and one old Weingarten that had been acquired about a month before all held a grand opening special on the same day! The new store was a first for Randall’s, it wasn’t a revolutionary new design or anything along those lines. Rather, its location was a new area for the chain. Despite the first version of Randall’s operating out of the Southeast side of town, the second version of the store focused more directly on the Northwest. By the 1980s, the Piggly Wiggly stores which had purchased the old Randall’s had now been shut for about ten years, and the management felt it was a wise choice to renter territory they had once served. This location was a good choice on Randall’s part. During the late 70s and early 80s, the South Belt area was on what seemed like a non-stop path for growth. The store was in the center of the community at the intersection of two major roads. It sat catty-corner from a 1970s Kroger Superstore, and the difference between the two stores must have been night and day. Kroger’s stores of the time were very value-driven, with stores lacking most of the “flair” and excess that Randall’s offered. The idea was that Randall’s was going to attempt to win over Kroger customers by offering comparably cheap prices with tons of extra services. It was a balanced approach that had worked elsewhere in Houston, with the Chronicle taking notice of Randall’s Southeasterly invasion in late 1983. Randall’s would be well received on the Southeastern side of town and continue to increase their presence. Over the years, the South Belt area would change drastically, most notably the construction of Beltway 8, which would bring a new competitor Albertson’s, to the area. However, new competition would not be the source of Randall’s issues, rather, it would be keeping up with existing competitors. The store would close in 2005, along with 15 other unlucky locations, put on the chopping block by Safeway. While many associate the 2005 closings with H-E-B, this is not the case here; rather, it seems that Kroger was attempting to smother this Randall’s. After acquiring the former Albertson’s which was only blocks away from their old location, Kroger elected to keep the two stores.

So why was Kroger able to survive and not this Randall’s? It falls down to adaptation, which is something Randall’s had never been great at. Their stores had always skewed upward. Even when using “Discount Supermarket” in their name, Randall’s stores tended to be a bit higher-end. During the KKR and later Safeway eras of ownership, Randall’s had largely focused on this higher class of shoppers. While they did try to keep prices somewhat competitive with Kroger, little was done beyond this to attract new shoppers. Kroger’s use of store-by-store pricing allowed them to “go after” Randall’s without hurting their overall bottom line. In statements later made by former CEO Randall Onstead, Safeway only was interested in Tom Thumb. They had been secretly looking for a buyer for Randall’s portion of the chain but were struggling to find one, so in 2005 stores that were either low performers or nearby a new HEB were shuttered. While closing the H-E-B stores was understandable, the decision method for the lower-performing stores seems to have left behind some locations ripe for other chains to move in and utilize. This store was no exception, with Foodarama taking over here in 2008, just about a year after Kroger had finally closed their old store. As this location had sat closed for two years, it did need and received some updates from Foodarama, which mostly included closing off old portions of the store. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to visit this store while it was still open, as it was one of three Foodarama locations to close around 2020. However, Anonymous in Houston, who visited the store somewhat regularly, said that the location much resembled other Randallasarama locations and was quite busy. Earlier this year, it reopened as a mix between a “Black Friday” (Amazon Returns) store and a Furniture Outlet. If you’re in the area, it’s worth a quick peek for curiosity, but not much more.

4 comments

  1. Great article! This Randalls is/was special to me, as it was my first job, started in High School, in the late 90’s and led me to a nice 15 yr career with them until i saw the writing on the wall and left in the early 2010’s. The fun things that happened in that store, good times, but bittersweet in what ended up happening to the company in general. Keep up the great work!

  2. I don’t associate the 2005 closings with H-E-B, as during that time they were still a pretty small part of the grocery market. Some stores in the northwest suburbs got hit where there still isn’t a big H-E-B presence (Kroger on the other hand…), some stores were in demographics that Safeway didn’t care to support anymore (Spring Branch/Blalock, now an H Mart), and so on. Conroe’s was whacked too, and they had Kroger stores to the north, south, and west.

    Safeway was going through some growing pains in 2005, their acquisition spree in the 1990s had caused major problems, Dominick’s was in full revolt by that time, and rather than try to sort out their divisions, they tried a new store model to remarket the chain with a distinct remodel package that would sweep the chain…to try to link with health, to make it different than what other supermarkets looked like…a name that would be associated with Safeway and its pre-Albertsons sister chains to this day…

    Lifestyle.

  3. I was surprised to see that the Foodarama had closed in 2020 because, as it was stated in the article, the store was usually sufficiently busy when I visited it. Of course, that was around the time that Foodarama was closing some of their locations so maybe the store closure had more to do with Foodarama in general than this specific store. I suppose a lot of Foodarama’s customers switched to the Food Town in the old Safeway on Scarsdale and Beamer if they aren’t shopping at the Kroger or HEBs in the area.

    The Foodarama did look like the other Randallsaramas we’ve seen on the blog (the Missouri City and Inwood Forest ones). Fortunately, those two stores are still around for those who want a Randallsarama experience. The nearby Boris Yeltsin Randall’s Food Town in Clear Lake isn’t a bad option either.

    1. Oh, on the topic of the Scarsdale & Beamer Safeway, I believe that store, which was a replacement store for another Safeway in the area that became a Safeway drug store briefly, closed not too long after Safeway opened it and then the AppleTree group reopened it maybe a year later when they were still using the Safeway name. I can’t remember off the top of my head why that happened. I think the closure happened before Safeway closed some locations before their departure from town. It could have been related to the problems going on in the area at the time related to the Brio Superfund site and the neighborhood there very close to the store being demolished. Perhaps business was not what Safeway was expecting once everyone moved out of that neighborhood.

      So, yeah, long story short, Safeway has a history of closures in that South Belt area.

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