Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today we’ve got a quick post based on a user request (yes, you can make those!) We first checked out this Speedway station just about a year ago, and it was a surprising discovery for anyone familiar with the Speedway Chain. Since I’ve gained an increased following in the last year, let me quickly recap why this gas station is so unusual. Speedway is a gas station chain based out of the Midwest. Unlike the C-Stores, we’re used to in Texas, Ohio, and other Midwestern Convenience Stores tend to be a bit more elaborate than we’re used to. Including things like a quick-service restaurant and generally expanded selections compared to other chains. They’re almost a step up to something below a travel center; think a medium-sized Buc-ee’s. For years, Speedway and other midwestern chains kept to their own territory. However, in the early 2000s, the company began building large Travel Center locations, choosing Baytown as the first expansion West of the Mississippi. This development would, however, not last terribly long, being sold off to Love’s which continues to operate it as of 2023. While Speedway retreated, the same market they were looking to break into was developing in Texas. New competitors like Buc-ee’s smaller regional stores, Stripe’s adding Lardeo Taco Co., and other chains like Speedy Stop Corner Store and Tetco all tried to out-compete each other. However, anyone even somewhat aware of the Texas C-Store market knows how this story began to change in the 2010s. Acquisition after acquisition ended up with 7-Eleven and Circle K becoming the dominant chains in our area, even though they had both left in defeat nearly 20 years earlier. So how did Houston, or more accurately, Texas City end up with a Speedway? Well, it all boils down to the original owner, Marathon Petroleum, who chose to build a single Speedway nearby their Texas City Refinery. So why am I visiting this again? Well, in 2021, only a few weeks before my first visit Marathon completed the sale of their Speedway Chain to 7-Eleven, which created a very uncertain future.
So how has the Texas City Speedway fared since its sale? Pretty well, if you ask me. Unlike Stripes, and other 7-Eleven buyouts, Speedway has been allowed to stay intact as a chain. The stores now sell Big Gulps, and Slurpees, but otherwise remain relatively unchanged. The Cafe still operates, and the unique selection of a Midwestern c-store remains. That being said, chain-wide, there have been some changes. Shortly after building the Texas City store but before the 7-Eleven buyout, Speedway purchased the Howdy chain out of El Paso. While the store base in West Texas mainly consists of store conversions, it does appear that Speedway was able to get at least one new store off the ground in 2021. While researching for the previous post, it looked like, at the time, Speedway may have been making moves to construct a new travel center in Weimar, but it does look like this has been shut down, with no progress in the last two years. Overall, Speedway looks like it will stick around in its current format for at least a couple of years. If you’re down Texas City way, I can’t recommend stopping in there at least once enough. It may sound odd, but go for the food! It’s good stuff, better than any gas station chow you’ve ever had before (I’m looking at you, freezer-burned Buc-ee’s tater tots!) Speedways continued existence is not necessarily guaranteed, but I would wager that Marathon may have had a bit of leverage in keeping this location open.
The Mrs. and I had Valentine’s Day dinner at a newly opened Speedway Café a few years back. We thought it would be a fun ironic meal. My Italian sun was nice enough, but she got food poisoning from her chicken sandwich. I’ve sworn off eating at any non-Sheetz gas station ever since.
Ah, shucks, well, that’s no good! Unfortunately, without Sheetz, Buc-cees and 7-Eleven (former Stripes) are the only real gas station cuisine representatives.
I don’t know if Marathon’s refinery employees got an employee’s discount at Speedway back when Marathon owned Speedway or if Marathon employees get a discount at 7-Speedway, but if so, I think this Speedway will get a lot of business from the refinery employees. Even without the discount, the pure convenience of this location, and the fact that it seems to be a pretty nice C-store, will probably help to keep this location around even though it lives in isolation compared to the next closest Speedway stores.
Maybe this isn’t unusual for C-stores, but it is a bit strange to see this store storing water bottles outside like that.