Analyzing Houston’s Three Closing Sprouts

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. A sprout is defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary as “to grow, spring up, or come forth.” Unfortunately for some Houstonians, three of our Sprouts locations are withering away. The cuts in Houston are part of a larger restructuring by Sprout’s Farmers Market, which recently announced plans to close 11 stores in the coming months. Some folks have heard this news and taken it to mean that the company might be in dire straights, with a few critics going so far as to point fingers directly at Sprout’s Investment Firm ownership, Apollo Global. However, based on my limited insight, it appears that Sprout’s intentions may be more company-focused. The recent acquisition of two licensed locations (which exist as a part of the company’s complicated history of buyouts) shows that there is still value in the brand. So let’s start by looking at the Houston area stores the company is dumping.

Westheimer at Kirkwood

The Sprouts at Westheimer and Kirkwood is in an area most would consider to be a grocery hotspot. Despite Sprouts only taking up residence here in 2013, the building Sprouts is currently using holds the distinction of being one of the first grocers in the area. Originally built as a Continental Finer Foods, the store would also use Minimax, Jumbo, and a few other independent banners before finally being acquired by HEB in the 90s for a Pantry Foods store. Competition would crop up and down Westheimer, over the years, with HEB eventually moving diagonally across the intersection to a larger facility. Outside of traditional grocers, Sprouts also faces competition in this area from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

A very not to scale map of competition within a 1.5-mile radius of Sprouts.

In addition to a host of other organic and natural grocers, Sprout’s business is also being undercut by traditional supermarkets such as Kroger and Food Town, along with international grocers like Fiesta and Phonecia. Some Houstonians refer to this area as being “over-grocered,” While I don’t believe that’s precisely the case here, it is easy to call this one of Houston’s most diverse areas in grocery retailing. Two other important considerations to keep in mind are the state of transport in this area, along with the diversity of neighborhoods. Most grocery shoppers will either arrive by car or bus at these stores. However, walking along Westheimer is not nearly as commonplace. As for the neighborhood, this area is largely made up of apartments, with pockets of neighborhoods off of the main roads. The socioeconomic status of these neighborhoods tends to be largely middle class, with some exceptions like Royal Oaks.

OST & Kirby

The Sprouts at OST and Kirby is the newest location in Houston, opening during the COVID pandemic. Compared to our previous store, the housing around this location is much more volatile. There are a disproportionate number of apartments compared to single-family homes here. Many of these apartments are host to individuals working at the nearby Texas Medical Center, and it seems that Sprouts had planned on this. However, for whatever reason, the business has not reflected Sprout’s expectations. Nearby options are quite limited compared to the above store. With only Kroger, Super Target, and Fiesta operating within a 1.5-mile radius of the Sprouts. As a new location, this store is built to Sprouts latest design specifications which means it only takes up about 25k Sqft. of space, leaving a portion of the former Toys ‘R Us it operates in, available for leasing. In other stores, it seems that Sprouts has partnered with liquor stores to fill the space and bring in customers.

University Blvd & Southwest Freeway (Sugar Land)

Finally, let’s talk about the Sugar Land Sprouts. This was the location that most surprised me to end up on the list. Starting off with the competition, there’s not really much to speak of. Within a 1.5-mile radius, there’s a Kroger, a Costco, and nothing else. Given that in Sugar Land, master-planned communities are not uncommon, and this Sprouts can be considered the grocer for the Telfair neighborhood. However, again it seems that Sprouts is a bit off-target here. While I don’t have exact details on operations, formerly living in this area, I can say that pretty much everyone drives a good distance to purchase groceries, so heading to HEB isn’t that much of a stretch. Some complaints noted online include prices, and inaccurate information. While I can’t say I’ve ever seen this store packed, it did seem to do brisk business on the weekends.

Overall, it looks like Sprouts is trying to reposition itself in our market. While Houston is already known as a tough grocery market, it seems that the increasing scope of supermarkets might be hurting smaller players like Sprouts across the nation. According to the company, they do plan to build new stores, and as mentioned in the first paragraph worked to bring two licensed stores under their wing. I don’t have the ability to predict what will become of Sprouts going forward, but right now, they look to be in a relatively stable space in the Houston market. That being said, Houston has never been terribly hospitable to natural grocery stores, but Sprouts seems to have come close to making it work. Coming in only behind Texas-founded Whole Foods in terms of store counts.


  1. Umm so yeah, there is essentially a HUGE SUPER H-E-B less than a mile away from the Sugar Land Sprouts it’s sits in the corner of University and HWY 6 that was there well before Sprouts I went there when I lived in Telfair when the Sprouts was being built.

    1. HEB is mentioned in the article. It’s actually 1.9 miles away from Sprouts, but as mentioned living in that area, it was normal for folks to drive to buy groceries. I did not specify which HEB because living on the Telfair side of the Brazos yes we would go to the Sugar Land Market store. However, shoppers from Greatwood, River Park etc… have their own HEB.

  2. I live close to the OST (former Toys R Us) Sprouts store. The store is frankly sleepy inside and the parking lot is always filled with more employee cars than patrons (not a good sign of store traffic). Kroger, Target, and Fiesta are all easily within sight if your stand at the corner of OST and Kirby (Sprouts’ location). I’ll admit to wandering in a few times out of curiosity and it is is clean, calm, and appealing for the higher prices. But, I’ll go to Kroger, HEB, Walmart, and Aldi for my actual purchases.

    During Rodeo and football season, they cordon off at least half for subcontracted temporary event parking, which tells you that Sprouts isn’t pulling in grocery customers. After 6 months of them open, I could tell that it would curtains for them. It is a shame they could find enough niche customers but I hope the next tenant will be more successful.

  3. Sugar Land Sprouts is less than two miles away from a huge HEB on HW6. Hard to compete

    1. Exactly. The person who wrote this didn’t do their research I lived in Telfair and only went to what is essentially SUPER H-E-B, that one is HUGE…it was there long before that Sprouts, watched them build the sprouts, it opened right as I moved out the neighborhood

      1. The person who wrote this comment didn’t do a thorough reading of the article.

        “While I don’t have exact details on operations, formerly living in this area, I can say that pretty much everyone drives a good distance to purchase groceries, so heading to HEB isn’t that much of a stretch.”

        If you have more research, feel free to provide it. This a blog and a personal project, it’s not meant to be analytical research simply observations.

  4. Back when Half Price Books was still in the Westheimer & Kirkwood Sprouts shopping center, I would go there semi-frequently and the shopping center was usually quite full on the weekends at least. Thus, it was a surprise to hear that the Sprouts was closing, but I wonder if some changes at the shopping center might have encouraged Sprouts to leave or maybe the shopping center wanted Sprouts to leave. I’m guessing the former is more likely than the latter. While HPB and Specs are probably good fellow anchor tenants for a Sprouts shopping center, the HPB is being replaced with an Advance Auto Parts. Perhaps Sprouts is worried that people working on their cars in the parking lot, which does happen at car parts stores, might give the shopping center an unsavory feel to Sprouts’ shoppers. I’m not sure.

    Although Dallas has had Sprouts longer than we have had them here in Houston, Sprouts has been here for quite a while. Even with that, and even with Sprouts being the dominant ‘natural’ grocer in Houston, Dallas has quite a few more Sprouts than Houston does. Not that this should be a huge surprise, but perhaps Houston just isn’t a great market for ‘natural’ grocers.