Howdy, folks, and welcome back to HHR. This week, we’re digging back into some unposted photos from summer vacation. Today we’re in Austin, checking out a former Safeway that ended up part of the reacquisition cycle via Safeway and is still going strong even under Albertson’s ownership. This store at 2025 W Ben White Blvd, Austin, TX 78704, originally started out in the parking lot of today’s location as a simple Marina-style Safeway, opening in 1966. The store was updated similarly to the San Marcos Safeway, where the new store was constructed on an adjacent plot of land while the old store continued to operate. This store is one of the only mainline grocers in the area, with the exception of an even older HEB up the street, which has temporarily taken refuge in an old Eckerd (while I attempted to get photos, I mostly took short blurry video snippets). Despite the popularity of HEB in Austin, this Safeway, then AppleTree, and now Randall’s based store has fared well over the years.
Even though the store is facing new competition in the form of the soon-to-be rebuilt HEB just a couple of miles up the street. Outside of that, the increased popularity of more health and wholeness-centered grocers like Central Market and Sprouts has grown, with both chains and many others operating less than a mile away from this Randall’s. Despite the competition, this store remains popular with the locals. It seems that largely the customer base is made up of regulars, and with transplants in Austin not seeming to buy into Randalls as much as HEB, the future of Randall’s in Austin is a bit murky. While they do seem to fare better there than in Houston, Albertson’s doesn’t seem to be making any huge moves to expand the chain either. In the immediate future, however, this Randall’s seems to be steady.
The “blood testing center” was for Theranos before it turns out the entire company was a fraud. Steve Burd ended up testifying at Elizabeth Holmes’ trial about how much money Safeway had poured into remodels for a product that didn’t work.
It’s really interesting to see this Safeway boomerang store! I’d like to visit this store if I’m ever in Austin again. It’s interesting to see more or less what a Texas Safeway would have looked like if Safeway never left Texas in the first place. This store seems to carry the Safeway Colorful Lifestyle v2 decor quite well and the store looks quite modern given the age of the store and the relatively small size compared to modern supermarkets.
I suspect Randall’s is more prominent in Austin than in Houston simply because there are fewer grocers in Austin. Mainly, Kroger is not in Austin, not with physical stores at least, and so Randall’s is the chief competitor to HEB there. That said, Randall’s history in Austin has not always been as good as it has been in Houston. When Randall’s entered Austin with those old AppleTree stores, Randall’s didn’t put much money into those stores and they didn’t conform to the standards that Randall’s had here in Houston. I think since the Safeway merger and the subsequent Lifestyle renovations, the Austin Randall’s are now up to the standards of, or maybe better than, Houston Randall’s stores.
It’s interesting that Randall’s is using Tom Thumb’s history/date at the entrance of this store. They just as easily could have used Randall’s own history or Safeway’s history. Safeway’s history in Austin goes back to the 1930s I do believe.