Howdy folks, and welcome back to HHR. Today we’re taking a look at a town South of Houston that retail history has mostly forgotten, Santa Fe. The grocery history of Santa Fe, Texas, is quite an interesting one. No major chains managed to take hold of the market until HEB showed up in 1993. Prior to that, the locals made do with independents. The area itself has an interesting history; Santa Fe is a relatively recent town, only popping up in 1978. Prior to that, the area was known as Alta Loma. The location was settled in the 1800s to support the artesian wells being drilled in the area, which were the only reliable source of fresh water to most of the county, including Galveston Island. For many years Alta Loma was simply a small town, where no big chains would choose to operate. To solve this, a local family, the Tombrellas, would open a Minimax store. While maybe not the first area grocery store, Minimax is the first I can find information on. Opening in December 1953, this location would be in the heart of Alta Loma, across from the railroad depot. The first store was a tiny 7,000 Square Foot outpost on Highway 6, and while small even by 1950s standards, it was likely the most modern market in the area. The Tombrella’s gamble on their Minimax was proving to be a success, and with the continuing development of the area, by the 1960s, the family found themselves planning a new store. This second location would be modern in style and provide the residents of the area with a small attached shopping plaza and a tasteful courtyard. The new store would come in at over 12,000 Square Feet upping the ante and bringing in more customers. By the late 70s, the town had materialized, and the residents made it clear that they wanted a full-size grocery store. The Tombrellas knew they had to respond in a big way and would respond with a 31,000 Square Foot store adjacent to the old location. The old grocery store would be leased out to Variety Store, Winn’s, turning this into a full-blown modern shopping plaza.
The store would receive a warm reception, and soon after some competition in the form of Big Chief, which came in at a whopping 35,000 Square Feet, it was the first and continues to be the only true supermarket in Santa Fe. By the mid-80s, Minimax as a brand was on its final legs. Many members of the once proud co-op hadn’t updated their stores in years, and product selection could be wildly inconsistent across the board. Trying to save some of their business, the eight biggest members of the failing Minimax co-op banded together to form “Holiday Foods.” They would still be supplied by Fleming Cos, owners of Minimax, and maintain separate store ownership, but this new 8-store co-op would be able to set their own prices and maintain their own identity. Holiday Foods was a novel concept, and it managed to squeeze a few good extra years out of these Minimax locations. Over the years, though, the store count would start to dwindle, with more and more independents losing out to nearby chains like Randall’s. In the early 90s, the store would use briefly use the “Harvest Foods” banner, likely after changing ownership, before the building was sold to HEB, who still uses the store nearly 30 years later. The location was part of the Pantry Foods concept and does not contain any service departments. No butcher, no deli, bakery, florist, or even a pharmacy. This store is tiny and is not a true supermarket. For non-pre-pack deli meat or fresh cakes, you’d need to go over to Arlan’s. If you’re ever in the Santa Fe area, I’d recommend taking a look at this HEB, it likely won’t be around too much longer.