A Warm Greenhouse Welcome to the Year of Kroger here at HHR!

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest submission from HHR’s good friend Anonymous in Houston with the photos taken by Mike

Happy New Year and welcome to 2023, Houston Historic Retail readers! We have many interesting things planned for this year. One of our goals for the year is to cover some of the most interesting Kroger stores in the Houston area. With that in mind, we plan on posting one Kroger post a month in 2023 in order show Kroger’s significant influence in Houston’s retail history.

Today’s Year of Kroger post takes us to a surviving Houston Greenhouse Kroger store located at 13133 Veterans Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77014. Believe it or not, this is the first operational Greenhouse Kroger covered here at HHR! While all remaining Greenhouse stores are pretty special, this particular location has some rather unique aspects to it which truly makes it worthy of inspection. Like many current Houston Kroger stores, this Kroger replaced an older Kroger location, Kroger HP-106, which opened in 1972 at 4510 FM 1960 W., Houston, TX 77090 and closed in 1981 when the subject of this post opened. The original location was located in the building where Office Depot is currently located. This Office Depot, Office Depot #17, opened in 1988 and is one earliest stores in the Office Depot chain. This is located across the street from the North Oaks Mall.

The subject of today’s post opened in March 1981 as Kroger HP-275. It should be noted that when Kroger HP-275 originally opened in 1981, Veterans Memorial was still referred to as Stuebner Airline as the part of Stuebner Airline south of FM 1960 W had not yet been renamed to Veterans Memorial.  Yes, the HP in those store numbers refers to Henke & Pillot, the origin of Kroger’s Houston Division, but Kroger does not use the HP prefix in modern times for the Houston Division.  Like the Kroger that this store replaced on FM 1960 W, it was joined by a SupeRx, a drug store chain owned by Kroger that was similar to a Walgreens, CVS, or Eckerd drug store. It is the presence of the SupeRx which is one reason why this Kroger is so interesting. Kroger closed their Houston-area SupeRx locations by August 1981 so this SupeRx only lasted a handful of months!

Eventually, Kroger elected to make use of the SupeRx space by expanding their supermarket into the old drug store space while adding a traditional Kroger pharmacy to the supermarket. Due to differences between the Kroger and the SupeRx building next door, however, Kroger was not able to make a seamless conversion. Even to this day, a large wall exists somewhat separating the left third of the store from the rest of the store. This is not unlike what was seen at the former Ella Blvd. Foodarama which also had a large wall running through the center part of the store when a former drug store space was joined with an existing grocery space.

The Foodarama aside, it is certainly a bit unusual to shop at a supermarket which has a wall running through the middle of it! That said, the extra space this Kroger has makes it unusually spacious for a Greenhouse Kroger. The produce department and the first few aisles of the store are in the old SupeRx part of the store and this is made obvious by the lower ceiling height in that part of the store.

 

This store would have had Kroger’s famous Bauhaus décor package when it opened in 1981.  Retail Retell, friend of the blog, has an excellent guide to the Bauhaus décor package on his Mid-South Retail Blog.  Also, one can see some videos of Bauhaus décor Greenhouse Krogers from the 1980s here. In current times, the store has décor much more unusual by Kroger’s standards, the Colorful Value décor package which is also informally referred to as the Food 4 Less décor package. The Food 4 Less décor package is typically used by Kroger in their Food 4 Less discount supermarkets in the western part of the United States, but it has been used in other select markets at more mainstream Kroger stores. This décor package is typically used at stores with diverse customer demographics. Indeed, the area around Veterans Memorial can indeed be described as being ethnically diverse. In fact, there is a Hong Kong Food Market at the same intersection as this Kroger in an old Food Lion. In addition to the Hong Kong Food Market, this Kroger most closely competes with a Food Town and a Joe V’s Smart Shop, a deep discount format from HEB. Gordon Food Service will be opening a GFS Store at the North Oaks Mall here soon and this store also competes with the Champions Randall’s Flagship store on FM 1960 W.

From the outside, the Veterans Memorial Kroger does look like a 40+ year old supermarket. The Greenhouse is still clearly visible and the parking lot has seen better days, but on the inside, it is still very much a viable supermarket. As mentioned earlier, the extra space this store has allows it to feel spacious. In fact, the staffed floral department at the entrance of the store is one of the largest modern Kroger floral departments that I have seen! The store even has an alcove next to the customer service desk where the store’s crane game and other vending machines are located. The majority of the store has a high drop ceiling which also adds to the spacious feeling. The colorful décor here gives this store a more festive feeling than most current Kroger stores without it having that cheap feeling that some stores have with bright colors. This store still has proper vinyl flooring cover. While it is in slightly rough shape in a few areas, it still looks nicer than Krogers with tile scarred concrete floors such as the Highway 6 & West Rd. Kroger which is also a Greenhouse Kroger, but Kroger removed the Greenhouse exterior from that location some years back.

For those like myself who have shopped at Kroger Greenhouse stores since they were new, the Veterans Memorial Kroger will feel like a familiar place. That said, there are enough unique aspects about this store to make it feel different than the usual Greenhouse Kroger. Houston Kroger shoppers wanting to experience something unique and historic would be wise to make a stop at the Veterans Memorial Kroger!

Do you have any memories of the Veterans Memorial Kroger? Do you have any other thoughts about Greenhouse Krogers or SupeRx locations? If so, or if you have any other thoughts about this Kroger, please feel free to write a comment below.  We love to hear from our readers!  Also, be sure to continue checking back at Houston Historic Retail for more Year of Kroger posts!

6 comments

  1. It’s interesting to see how Kroger varies between its divisions. It may just be because I’ve never seen a “Colorful Value” store for myself, but all of the décor looks wacky compared to what I’m used to! I also don’t think I’ve been to a Greenhouse store with an entrance on the side of the vestibule. Either the stores were configured differently from the start, or Kroger Atlanta liked to rework the entrances to the stores. I’m inclined to say the former as I’m looking a the street view for a Georgia Greenhouse which closed back in 1986. It also seems like most of the Greenhouses I’ve been to have their entrances set further back since most of my pictures up under the glass structure end up being taken outdoors.

    I’m also a bit thrown off by the layout of this store in general, but that’s likely due to it taking over the old (short-lived) SupeRx next door. Anyway, neat post and thanks for the callout! Here’s a tip: any of my posts, like the one you linked to with the Harveys, actually have a direct hyperlink to the “More Than Convenience” section of the post. If you take the link above and add “#MTC” to the end, it will scroll you down to the Harveys portion. If I have multiple MTC sections, the subsequent ones will be incremented as so (ex. “#MTC2”).

    1. Colorful Value is a bit of a wacky decor package. It really does not look like a ‘value’ package at all…at least not when used in an otherwise decent looking store like this one. Kroger really should have used this decor package more often. It was a bit of a hidden gem, but it did get some use here in Houston.

      There isn’t a universal answer about how the entrances were set up at Greenhouse Krogers. The earliest Greenhouse stores, the ones Kroger referred to as Superstore IIs, had the curved side walls for the greenhouse and I’, pretty sure the entrances were always on the front of the store with those stores. On the later, more common Greenhouse stores that were built in the 1980s, the entrances were usually on the side. Later renovations often relocated the doors, but here is a good example from Retail Retell’s Flickr collection which shows the original setup for a Greenhouse side entrance which has automatic swinging doors and a small vestibule: https://flic.kr/p/2kYqXhH

      It may not be super obvious here, but here is a video showing the side entrance: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1584819/m1/

      I think what happened with the Veterans Memorial Kroger in this blog post is that Kroger extended the entrance out to the end of the greenhouse during a renovation which expanded the interior and vestibule area. The store likely would have looked like this Seabrook Kroger when it was built: http://www.carbon-izer.com/retail/kroger/seabrook.html

      What you see there is that the Greenhouse has an exterior patio area and the interior area. The renovation put everything indoors.

      Some Greenhouse stores were actually converted Superstores or stores of other designs and so they might have a slightly different design.

      I’ll remember that the next time I link to a MTC section on your blog. Hopefully anyone who went to your blog was able to find that Harveys section. It’s hard to miss all that yellow if people scrolled down far enough!

  2. Thanks for the shout-out and links! This was a fun store to explore, with enough classic greenhouse elements interspersed with some more modern renovations, a rarer décor package, and the expanded space and new floor covering. Looking forward to more Year of Kroger posts in the months to come!

    1. Thank you for the great Kroger resources on the blog! I’m sure most of the future The Year of Kroger posts will contain links to your blog since your Kroger decor guides are such a great reference.

      The Veterans Memorial Kroger is a great combination of classic Kroger elements combined with modern rarities. I’m glad you liked the post! I think you’ll like next month’s The Year of Kroger entry. Not only will it have some bizarre modern Kroger decor elements, but the text of the post will take a look at a turning point in Kroger’s history.

  3. I was quite impressed by this Kroger. The decor is the best I’ve seen since the Bauhaus era. It’s homey and relaxing.

    I also forgot how nice natural lighting looks in a store. Grocery stores aren’t casinos-you don’t want to forget what time of day it is. It has its drawbacks but it’s arguably more pleasant than your typical checkout area.

    1. I think my favorite Kroger decor package since Bauhaus, and perhaps my favorite Kroger decor package overall, was the Neon decor package used right after Bauhaus. The neon was neat, I liked the patterned ceiling tiles Kroger used back then, and the combination of neon and phrases such as naming the produce department as ‘The Kroger Garden’ was quite neat. I should say that I’m referring to the real Neon decor package and not the related Fake Neon decor package Kroger also had which looked absolutely terrible. That might actually be my least favorite Kroger decor package, though some of Kroger’s new decor packages such as Artisan are similarly disliked.

      Anyway, of Kroger’s more modern decor packages, I agree with you that Colorful Value/Food 4 Less is the best looking package. It’s colorful without being distasteful. That’s exactly the combination grocers should be looking for. Of course, it naturally fits that Kroger has a winner of a decor package like what we see here and then they make it their least used decor package, lol.

      If natural light is what you want, a Greenhouse store like this is just the answer! This is about as good as it gets in Houston these days. The only two trips I’ve made to the Veterans Memorial Kroger were during the day, but presumably this store, like other Greenhouse Krogers I’ve been to, have good enough lighting that they are also bright at night as well. The combination of industrial ceilings, dark concrete floors, and dark, dull decor make many modern Krogers feel like a warehouse, but that’s not the case here at the Veterans Memorial Kroger.

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