Checking on a former Minimax nearly 70 years after it opened

Howdy, folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today we’re checking on a blast from my past, this is a store that I have visited many times since I was a small child. Today’s store started off around 1953 as Love’s Minimax. At the time of its opening, Love’s was the largest supermarket in Richmond. Located at 512 Morton St, Richmond, TX 77469, they would quickly drop their Minimax name, running the store simply as Love’s Fine Foods for many years. The store would be sold by the Love switch to the Richmond Foods banner around about 1980. It seems that around this time, the store would switch to competing cooperative, Lucky 7. While by the 1980s, the store was quite outdated compared to more modern options that existed in nearby Rosenberg. Like Weingarten’s who hit the scene in the 60s, Safeway in the 70s or even Randall’s which arrived on the edge of town by the 80s. It was still the only supermarket in Richmond city limits. Featuring a small deli, including some hot foods, a butcher counter, and a varied selection of groceries, this was Richmond’s only one-stop shop for many years. By the time I was visiting the store regularly, they prominently featured their Lucky 7 affiliation and stocked largely Parade branded products to help keep costs down and the store competitive. In the 1990s, the store was facing new competition as Wal-Mart constructed a Super Center located just outside of city limits to replace an older store in Rosenberg. The land would eventually be annexed, although Richmond Foods is still one of the only “grocery stores” in this part of Richmond. Chains like HEB are slowly making their way into the area. However, the grocery market in this part of town has truly not changed much since the 1960s. This creates some obvious problems for anyone with limited mobility, and despite the bits of downtown Richmond you can see from Jackson Street (90-A) being quite nice looking, the residential sections are some of the poorest in Richmond. After the 1980s sell-off, the store would change hands multiple times over the next few years, eventually ending up in the hands of a Vietnamese family who maintained a visible and sweet presence serving their store. While the owners changed, the store didn’t, still utilizing all the old Minimax fittings from the 50s and 60s. In the early 2000s, the store was given its most recent major remodel. This involved replacing cooler and freezer cases with a walk-in cooler and removing the old checkout belts and registers, replacing them with a C-Store style counter setup.

The last time I regularly visited the store was more than 15 years ago, so my recent visit shocked me. I had vaguely remembered the remodel, although I don’t think I realized at the time what a drastic change it was. What really caught me off guard was the poor condition of the store’s merchandise. While I came in, knowing not to expect any Parade brand items with the Lucky 7 co-op long dissolved. However, I never thought I’d see a random assortment of what almost looks like salvage groceries. The items of ‘GM’ had taken over much of the former food space, which was now quite limited. The store seemed to carry almost no produce, which was not the case even immediately after their remodel when the cases were shifted to the other side of the store. The first thing my mind jumped to was the possibility of supply chain shortages causing such a drastic change. However, this isn’t the case here. What is occurring here is a slow devolution from grocery store to C-Store. Despite this, though, the butcher/deli shop is still open and does seem properly stocked and supplied, possibly by the “Pyburns/Watkins Co-op” as they seem to feature some of the same prepared sausage options. As for the other food in the store, it is mostly convenience store “trash food.” supplemented with odds and ends. The produce coolers being ditched for video poker machines really hit home how much this store has sadly changed. While hanging onto bits and pieces of the Minimax and Lucky 7 past, the glory days of Richmond Foods are long gone. While grocery will one day make its way back to this part of Richmond, it won’t be anytime soon, and it won’t look anything like Richmond Foods.

2 comments

  1. As someone who still burns music CDs, at least I can count on Richmond Foods to have blank CD-Rs if I ever need them! I probably would have bought that Parade product just to buy Parade one last time as it’s become rare in Houston after being so popular for many years.

  2. Not a frequent stop for me and my family growing up, but certainly one that I was well aware of and visited more than a few times. It was probably one of the last places in the Houston area to have a Lucky 7 sign still standing.

    It is too bad that so much of store has changed, it was a true time capsule of a 1950s/1960s supermarket not too long ago. Of course, it still has quite a few elements of the old store and is probably one of the few stores of its era and type still operating in some capacity in the region. Which, that’s kind of impressive, especially given that it is located in downtown Richmond which has no shortage of visitors these days… but a pretty clear shortage of grocery shoppers.

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