Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. Today we’re setting the time machine to 1968 to take a look at the brand-new Rummel Creek Weingarten’s. A store we’ve seen before on HHR, but never in its original form. Before we go any further, I need to shout out Pleasant Family Shopping, who was able to hook me up with these photos and a few others already on HHR. If you haven’t already followed him on Facebook, be sure to! All of the following text and images are from the 1968 J. Weingarten Inc. Annual Report:
Climbing on the bandwagon of the 1960’s, J. Weingarten, Incorporated, has entered the “Space Age”. Or, more accurately, the “Spacious Age”. As an astronaut might not know what we’re talking about, but just ask any woman who has ever visited one of the new Weingarten stores. She’ll tell you of a vase, colorful supermarket world, orderly, organized and uncluttered, where almost anything she wants is at her fingertips, where space is used to best advantage spaciousness delights the eye, where shopping becomes an exciting adventure instead of a tedious chore.
One such Weingarten supermarket opened this past March at 13300 Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas. It is typical of our new concept in supermarket engineering and planning. It sets a standard of excellence for the Weingarten stores of the future, and it will be duplicated with interesting variations over and over again as Weingarten’s expands throughout the Southwest.
The Memorial Drive store is one of the eight new stores added to the Weingarten chain this past year. The total now stands at 88, including 70 stores in Texas, 10 in Louisiana and 8 in Arkansas. Houston, the focal point for Space Age operations, is also the center of the Weingarten enterprises. Our Houston headquarters, 27 acres of office, warehouse and processing facilities, is the computerized heart of Weingarten’s interstate activities and the source of supply from which our stores can draw on an almost unbelievable variety of food and non-food items.
National brand merchandise, of course, takes precedence on Weingarten’s shelves, But supplementing big names are Weingarten’s own… Farmer Brown chickens and eggs, Lucy Linda bacon, J.W. Special Coffee, Sweet Cream and Family Delight ice cream, Champion and Dutch Maid bread, and many others… all of which are recognized and top-quality products by Southwestern homemakers. And through our participation in a national buying cooperative, we offer a complete quality line of package food and non-food products exclusive to Weingarten’s under such labels as Food Club, Topco, Top Frost and others that have won wide acceptance among customers.
The modern Weingarten’s store is created with the customer in mind. The free-flowing design of its floor plan enables her to move with ease from one department to another, through wide aisles free from bottlenecks where bold signs or bright pictures flag the location of all merchandise. It takes approximately 20,000 square feet of floor space to comfortably accommodate the some 11,000 customers that move through the average Weingarten’s store each week, plus almost two acres of land outside the store to handle off-the-street parking for several hundred cars.
The basic departments to be found in every Weingarten supermarket are Grocery, Meat, Produce, Tobacco and Candy, Bakery, Delicatessen and a Drug-Home Center Department which caters to the homemaker’s everyday needs for housewares, hardware, sundries and beauty and health aids. More and more Weingarten stores are also featuring a glamorous Wine Garden which incorporates a section devoted to exotic imported snacks; as well as an exciting assortment of cold and hot treats for take-home or on-the-spot enjoyment.
Classy town-square decor. Seeing “The Smoke House” unlocked my memory of that kiosk. That must have been 50 years ago.
Naturally, Weingarten’s glamor shots of themselves are going to show them favorably, but still, I think one can tell that Weingarten’s was a classy grocer and that this store was in a nice area. It’s still a nice area even if Weingarten’s is long gone and is a TJ Maxx now. At least it’s a nice TJ Maxx as we saw in the earlier HHR post about it.
It’s pretty hard to believe all this nice stuff was in a store that was only 20,000 sq. ft. in size! Some aspects of the store, like the hot foods island and the open produce area, actually look more modern than a typical 1970s supermarket. Other things, such as the chairs in front of the meat counter, are certainly archaic.
The funny thing is that within about 3 years from 1969, this wasn’t even the nicest supermarket in the area when the Handy Andy opened at Memorial and Dairy Ashford! Of course, that is now Randall’s and there is another Randall’s not far from Rummel Creek at Town & Country. Randall’s might not be quite what they used to be in the 1980s, but at least by contemporary supermarket standards, they are a classy operator much like Weingarten’s was back in the day. Heck, Randall’s even sold Topco/Food Club items at least through the early 1990s. The presence of two Randall’s close to one another in this area probably shows that it is still a Weingarten’s type of area even if it is Randall’s filling that role today.
The opposite experience is something like the Bunker Hill HEB…a store with all the appeal of a giant industrial warehouse. With all the shoppers, the poor appearance of the store, the bad layout, and the ‘personal shoppers’ fulfilling online orders with warehouse-like carts, the Bunker Hill HEB does not come even remotely close to matching the class of a fine Weingarten’s like what we see here!