Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest submission from HHR’s good friend Anonymous in Houston with the photos being taken by Mike.
Also, Mike will be the featured speaker tonight at 7 pm (10/5) for the Houston Preservation Society. Click Here to live stream the broadcast!
The subject of today’s post here at Houston Historic Retail is something of an oddity here in the 2020s, a suburban Houston-area Randall’s store that appears to be doing quite well. The South Shore Harbour Randall’s is located at 2951 Marina Bay Dr. in League City, TX. For those not familiar with the South Shore Harbour area, it is located just south of Clear Lake and is located in League City near where the NASA Johnson Space Center area meets with Seabrook and Kemah. South Shore Harbour is also located near where the Harris-Galveston county line is located. The South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center is located right near the Randall’s store.
The South Shore Harbour area, and the neighboring Clear Lake area, is one of Houston’s more affluent suburbs in the metro area. Although the presence of a Randall’s in an affluent area might not be too surprising, the reality is that Randall’s has generally struggled since the Safeway merger in similar suburban areas as competitors such as HEB have moved in as one can read about in this comprehensive HHR page about the history of Randall’s. Indeed, other Clear Lake Randall’s, such as the famed Boris Yeltsin Randall’s on El Dorado and State Highway 3, have closed over the years. The South Shore Harbour Randall’s, along with the Galveston Randall’s, are the only remaining Randall’s stores on the far southeast side of the Houston metro area.
While the Galveston Randall’s has close competition from Kroger, it does not have competition in modern times from HEB. The South Shore Harbour Randall’s, on the other hand, does have competition from both HEB and Kroger in the Clear Lake and League City areas. That makes the ability of the South Shore Harbour Randall’s to stay alive all the more remarkable.
The South Shore Harbour Randall’s, Randall’s Food Markets #51, opened in Fall 1991 during a time when the South Shore Harbour master-planned community was being developed. Randall’s designed the store to use their ‘New Generation’ design that was supposed to be their blueprint for success in Houston’s suburbs and in new communities Randall’s was moving into in the 1990s such as College Station and Lufkin. These stores were designed to be less fancy than Randall’s Flagship stores, but they were still designed to be relatively high-end compared to most competitors. While Randall’s Flagship stores might have moved the image of the Randall’s chain upwards, Randall’s still wanted working-class shoppers to feel welcomed at their stores along with the wealthier shoppers like was common at Randall’s stores built in the early-to-mid 1980s. This 1992 grand opening video from the Lufkin Randall’s mentions the ‘New Generation’ concept and also shows what Randall’s was like in the early 1990s.
It was a big deal for South Shore Harbour to land a Randall’s in 1991 because Randall’s was a really big deal in the Houston area at the time. The chain was still glowing from their success in the 1980s and competitors such as Kroger were still in the process of developing concepts such as the Kroger Signature stores that would ultimately successfully compete against Randall’s later in the 1990s and into the 2000s. Other competitors, such as HEB, Albertsons, and Wal-Mart’s Supercenters, had not entered the Houston area yet. One major competitor of note that Randall’s would have had in the NASA area at the time was the Fiesta Mart in the Webster/Friendswood area at 20740 Gulf Freeway that opened in 1989, but that store, no matter how fancy it was, ultimately had a short life as it had closed by 1994.
Loyal Houston Historic Retail readers might already know that HEB made a splash in the Clear Lake area recently when they closed their HEBertsons location at El Camino Real & Bay Area Blvd. late in 2021 and opened a new store across Interstate 45 from Baybrook Mall. Just from observing the parking lot of this new HEB, the new HEB seems to be very successful. Randall’s surely must have sensed that their South Shore Harbour might lose some business to the new HEB and so the Randall’s recently received an update. The fairly common Safeway Lifestyle v2 décor that the South Shore Harbour Randall’s had was updated to the Safeway Colorful Lifestyle v2 décor package. Not only has the new décor given the Randall’s a more colorful look, the store also now integrates local flair. This is common with the Safeway Colorful Lifestyle v2 décor. As one can see in the photos of this store, historical images from League City and elsewhere in the area are featured around the store.
While the new décor is sure to make the Randall’s more competitive against the new HEB and other competitors in the area, it’s hardly a given that Randall’s will be able to compete against other stores. In fact, the League City area is slated to get one of the first new Gordon Food Service Stores in the Houston area in the next few weeks. That said, this Randall’s seems to be well-managed given that it has a 4.3 user review rating on Google Maps as of the writing of this blog post. This ties it with the highest-rated Randall’s stores in the Houston area. If this store continues to offer a higher-end shopping experience, it might be able to carve a successful niche for itself in a relatively affluent area.
Do you have any thoughts or memories about the South Shore Harbour Randall’s? Do you have any thoughts about the Safeway Colorful Lifestyle v2 décor package that this Randall’s store features? If so, or if you have any other thoughts about this Randall’s, feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below! We love hearing from our readers!
I have an old college friend who moved within walking distance of this Randalls and, as a result, I’ve visited this store more in the last year than I have in the prior 20 years’ combined. Until reading this well-done article, I had no idea this store was spruced up or that it was better than the few other local Randalls. It is a nice store in a very nice part of town.
Strangely enough, by visiting this store more often, I’ve been tempted to visit the other local Inner Loop stores and they aren’t too bad. The West U/Bellaire store is the best, followed by Bissonnet/Wesleyan, and the South Post Oak one is still decent but definitely the third best.
Thanks for the comment, I’m glad you liked the post! I will agree with your ranking of inside the Loop Randall’s locations, the Vanderbilt Square Randall’s on W. Holcombe is probably the nicest of the three. Like Vanderbilt Square, Weslayan is also a Flagship Randall’s (which used to mean a lot more than it does now) so that does give it an edge over the W. Bellfort Kosher Randall’s which was built as a traditional 1980s Randall’s store. Even that W. Bellfort store is a pretty nice place to shop though. All of these Randall’s stores are pretty nice.
W. Bellfort is the only store on this list, including the South Shore Harbour Randall’s, which has Safeway’s Lifestyle v3 decor package as compared to Safeway’s Colorful Lifestyle v2 decor package which all the other stores have. Colorful Lifestyle v2 is actually newer than Lifestyle v3, but I suppose it depends on how you want to look at it. Colorful Lifestyle v2 is a variation on the mid-2000s Lifestyle v2 decor, but with more colorful and variable colors and with local flair photos. I like both Lifestyle v3 and Colorful Lifestyle v2. I probably give Colorful Lifestyle v2 a small edge, but it is close.
This remodel is pretty colorful for a modern era Randalls store. This decor package makes the store look much more inviting which is needed. I am glad that a lot of grocers are ditching the drab 2010’s look in favor of something more appealing to the eyes. With LED lighting getting more vibrant, the beige and vanilla designs are just not suited for those colors.
Hi Je, the funny thing about Colorful Lifestyle v2 decor package that Randall’s/Tom Thumb seems to favor in current times is that it is really only a slight modification of the Lifestyle v2 decor package that came out in the mid-to-late 2000s. The main differences is that the monotone beige and brown colors are replaced with varied vivid colors, the use of local flair, and the use of brighter flooring tiles. Even though these differences are small, the actual effect it has on stores is dramatic.
The old beige Lifestyle v2 decor, IMO, looked good in some stores, but it looked quite bad in others. It all depended on the amount of lighting the store had. Unfortunately, Safeway also started using dim lighting in a lot of their stores in the 2000s when they rolled out Lifestyle v1/Lifestyle v2. The dark lighting and beige/brown colors made stores look very dark and dingy. Stores that kept brighter lighting, like the Champions Randall’s, look much better with the beige Lifestyle v2. Nonetheless, Colorful Lifestyle v2 is a much nicer, brighter look without giving up the comforting and classy look compared to many other supermarkets’ modern decor.
I completely agree that LEDs make these more bland stores just look awful. They tend to blow out colors, and when there’s not much to reflect, you end up with a dull looking store. I do wish grocers would look into that faux-neon LED style lighting which is growing in popularity. They’re cheap, don’t break as easily a neon tubes, and energy efficient.