Former Venture/Kmart preserved as Viet Hoa for over 20 years!

Howdy, or Xin Chao, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today we’re visiting a Vietnamese Grocer in a nearly perfectly preserved former Venture/Kmart. In July 1995, the building at 8300 W Sam Houston Pkwy S, Houston, TX 77072 would open as Venture Store #141. Making it one of the last Texas locations and the final planned Houston area store. Although Sugar Land would open a few months later, plans for that store came first. Just days prior to the grand opening, Venture had announced a repositioning of the company to be more value-oriented and drop their higher-end merchandise. For those who don’t remember Venture, they are best described as a slightly nicer version of Target. A description that the company grew to resent but was quite apt as much of the core staff had been poached from Target, including co-founder John Geisse. Early on, the allure of the stores was their high-quality merchandise, which was only marginally more expensive than Target. This concept worked well enough when the chain was merely a regional competitor against Target. However, when Venture had expanded into states like Texas, they began taking on more competition, specifically from Wal-Mart and Kmart, which was more price motivated. The repositioning was meant to help the company restructure itself, but it was too little, too late. Venture would exit Texas in two stages, with the final stores closing in 1998. This location, along with nine other stores, would be purchased by Kmart. While Kmart would soon suffer a similar fate in the Houston area, they were unarguably the better option in terms of reach and customer base. Kmart would reopen this location as a Big Kmart in 1997, lasting out until 2002, when Kmart would exit Houston in a similar two-stage process. In 2003, Viet Hoa would relocate here from their existing store at 10828 Beechnut St, Houston, TX 77072, to the vacant space. As the building was not theirs, Kmart left most of Venture intact click here to see a similar Venture built right around the same time as the Texas locations.

Viet Hoa first opened in 1984 at 8200 Wilcrest and was one of the first Vietnamese Grocery stores in Alief. This was, of course, at a time when the prominent Asian presence was in Eado, which was known at the time as Chinatown. When Viet Hoa opened in Wilcrest Plaza, they were the only Asian tenant, with other spaces being leased to a pet store, a country buffet, and an office supply store, with the major grocery sales of the area being handled by the Randall’s across Wilcrest. However, Viet Hoa’s location and timing were impeccable, quickly becoming the go-to Vietnamese Grocery store in an increasingly Asian area. In 1995, Randall’s would decide to call it quits in this portion of Alief, and Viet Hoa would seize the opportunity. The company would quickly jump on the vacant space, moving into the old Randall’s in 1996. Aiming to serve the diverse clientele of Alief, Viet Hoa would implement some of Randall’s service departments, like the hot deli and butcher, into their new store. They would also carry a large selection of American groceries, in addition to an expanded international selection. The store was a hit amongst many in the area and was the only full grocery nearby, as other chains had left the area long before Randall’s. Viet Hoa’s popularity made it an easy decision to hop on the Kmart property as soon as it was available. Viet Hoa would turn the property into the current shopping center-style setup prior to opening. As of present Viet Hoa, and the associated Sun’s Club (which had previously operated out of the old Viet Hoa/Randall’s and an old Safeway prior to that) continue to be one of the busiest Asian grocers in Alief. The preservation of the building is simply the cherry on top. I would recommend making time to visit this store if you’re a Venture/Kmart fan, or even just enjoy International Grocery stores!

One comment

  1. I certainly recognize some Venture features in this store. Most of them are up at the front of the store and involve the red tiles and such. Perhaps the biggest Venture feature which is visible is not up front though, but rather up in the ceiling. That hybrid open/drop ceiling is not super uncommon these days, but in the early 1990s when these Venture stores opened, they were quite a strange thing. It’s perhaps the one indoor architectural aspect of old Venture stores that I most remember.