Weingarten’s was a grocer I never knew, and if I had to take a guess, it’s a store most of my readers never knew either. Even though Weingarten’s was long gone by the time I was around, the name was still eponymous for a grocery store in Houston. As well, despite a less than stellar exit, the opinion most Houstonians held of Weingarten’s was still overwhelmingly positive, with most chalking up those final years to poor out-of-state leadership. This was in large part thanks to Weingarten ‘keeping up’ with their stores during their tenure. With property development at heart, the Weingarten family almost seemed to be begging to build new and upgrade existing supermarket locations whenever they had the chance! Today’s store at 239 W 20th St, Houston, TX 77008, is no exception. The first Weingarten store at this intersection opened in 1930 at the Northwest Corner of Yale and W 20th. The location was designed by Joseph Finger and was probably the first store he designed for the firm, it likely resembled this still-standing N Main location. Competing with only smaller locals throughout the Heights, Weingarten’s quickly won over the at the time suburban community. Plans to replace the store would develop in 1950 with ambitious expectations that would set the new store up to not only be the largest grocery store in Texas but all of the Southern U.S.! The 1950 store would come in at over 40k Sqft and feature leased spaces to fill in the gaps between the new and old buildings. The new store would also feature a ‘truss roof’ similar to Safeway’s Marina Style stores which would actually debut one year later and, as a result, never be implemented in Houston! The original 1930 Weingarten store would not be demolished but rather converted into one of the many Weingarten Home Center locations. This store would continue to do exceptionally well, once again necessitating a rebuild, this time around 1976, to the current store.
Old Krogers are somewhat of an anomaly, old Weingartens even more, with only one other known operating example of a Truss Roof store. However, it’s somewhat obvious why Kroger chooses to stick around in the Heights. Weingarten picked an excellent location; with the Grand Union fallout, this location would be picked up by Safeway in a time when the Heights was not exactly at its prime. However, as the only option, the store proved to be a top performer and was one of the final AppleTree locations to go. In 1994 Kroger would pick up nine AppleTree locations, mostly former Weingarten stores, with desirable locations. Of these nine, five continue to operate as of 2022, with the Heights store by far representing the oldest location. While I think this store still has a few good years left in it, Kroger may force their hand in a remodel to increase their options at this store. That being said, Kroger’s Height’s store seems to do tremendous business, still serving as the favorite chain option of the area, nearly 100 years after the original Weingarten’s opened on this corner.