Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest submission from HHR’s good friend Anonymous in Houston with the photos taken by Mike
This month’s installment of The Year of Kroger will be an anniversary celebration. 2023 is the 140th anniversary of the formation of Kroger, but that isn’t the Kroger anniversary we will be celebrating in this post. Instead, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Texas City Kroger located at 3541 Palmer Hwy, Texas City, TX 77590.
Those who have been following HHR recently will know that Texas City retail, and Galveston County retail as a whole, has been no stranger to the blog in recent months. For those unfamiliar with Texas City, it is an industrial suburb in Galveston County in southeastern part of the Houston metropolitan area. Mike has recently chronicled the history of the Food King, now Foodarama as of December 2022, supermarket in Texas City which started life as a Marina-like Weingarten’s here, here, and here. The Texas City Foodarama is one of the most stunning supermarkets in all of the Houston area, at least from a historic perspective, and Mike’s posts are certainly worth a look. We’ve recently taken a look at modern developments at the Mall of the Mainland, the current state of Ziegler’s Foods in Dickinson, recent renovations at the South Shore Harbour Randall’s, and Santa Fe’s surviving HEB Pantry Foods.
As was mentioned in the first installment of The Year of Kroger posts here at HHR, the Veterans Memorial Kroger in Houston, most of the current Krogers in Houston are replacement stores for older Kroger locations given Kroger’s long history in Houston under their name and also via Henke & Pillot. The subject of today’s post is another example of a replacement store. The current Texas City Kroger replaced a Kroger and Kroger-owned SupeRx drug store located at the now-demolished Harbor Village Shopping Center at 915 10th St. N. (the SupeRx was at 1009 10th St. N.) which dates back to the days when the Henke & Pillot name was still in use. This location would have competed with the nearby Weingarten’s, now Foodarama, and the SupeRx at the original location is just barely visible in this early 1970s photo available at the City of Texas City website.
Kroger and SupeRx made the move to Kroger’s current location on Palmer Highway, Kroger HP-108, in 1973 when Woolco also opened a new location at the same shopping center. While the Kroger has been a constant, the Woolco anchor has changed hands many times over the years. In fact, that Woolco building has one of the most colorful histories in US discount store history. After closing when the Woolco chain folded in 1983, the location became a Wal-Mart until Wal-Mart moved to a new location next to the Mall of the Mainland. Wal-Mart turned the old Woolco location into a Bud’s Discount City. That didn’t last long as the store moved to Dickinson’s ex-Wal-Mart, later Sussan Fine Furniture, after Dickinson’s mayor pleaded for Wal-Mart to fill that space. The Woolco was then turned into a Venture discount store until Kmart took over that spot when Kmart took over several Houston Venture locations in 1997. Kmart had an older location right across Palmer Highway where HEB is now. Kmart lasted at the Woolco building until 2003 when Kmart left the Houston area.
After the infamous explosion in 2005 of the Amoco-BP Texas City refinery, recommendations were made that BP move their non-essential office workers away from the refinery and so they turned the old Woolco building into a BP office complex. When BP sold their Texas City refinery to Marathon, Marathon took over the Woolco office complex until Marathon closed it in the mid-2010s. Due in part to a retail revitalization in that part of Texas City after HEB built their new store on the original Kmart property, which led to an Aldi being built next to the HEB, retail developers subdivided the old Woolco/Wal-Mart/Bud’s/Venture/Kmart building into several large and small retail spaces where Conn’s HomePlus, Harbor Freight Tools, and Planet Fitness now operate as anchors.
One neighbor Kroger no longer has is SupeRx. Kroger discontinued SupeRx stores in the Houston area in 1981 when the majority of Houston’s SupeRx stores were sold to Walgreens. Eventually, like with the Veterans Memorial Kroger, Kroger expanded into the SupeRx space to create a large 48,000 sq. ft. store. Unlike at Veterans Memorial, the Texas City SupeRx did not spend a period of time as a Walgreens. The renovations and expansions didn’t stop there though. In 1994, when Kroger was just starting to roll out the Kroger Signature format by opening newly built 60,000 sq. ft. stores such as the Cypress Station and Jones & West Kroger Signature stores mentioned in previous The Year of Kroger posts, Kroger decided to make the Texas City Kroger one of the first Kroger stores converted into the Signature format. In fact, it is quite well possible that this was the first conversion store.
Kroger did not cheapen out on the conversion either like they did with later Signature store conversions, such as the Copperfield Kroger at Highway 6 & West Rd., where Kroger slapped the Signature name on an existing older, smaller Greenhouse store without expanding it. In order to expand the store to 67,000 sq. ft., Kroger extended the back of the SupeRx space back to where the back wall is for the original Kroger space. Kroger also took over some space from the shopping center on the other side of the store and expanded the store into that space. This gave the Texas City Kroger all the features of the newly built Kroger Signature stores, as discussed in the earlier Kroger Signature The Year of Kroger entries mentioned earlier, such as a department store-like cosmetics counter, in-store banking, an expanded floral department, and a food court with a salad bar. Like with other Kroger Signature stores, some of these features, such as the food court, were short-lived and removed.
Nearly a decade later in 2003, Kroger gave the Texas City store another major renovation. This coincided with the nearby Dickinson Kroger also getting a major renovation into a Signature store when Kroger joined their smaller space there with a neighboring Walgreens store that had moved. As far as the integration of the SupeRx and shopping center spaces at the Texas City store goes, it is a cleaner integration than what is seen at the Veterans Memorial Kroger HHR profiled in January. The Texas City location does not have a significant dividing wall running through the center part of the store.
The current Texas City Kroger has seen many exterior and interior designs over the years. The store started out as a Superstore when it opened. I would guess the store was remodeled to have the Greenhouse exterior design and Bauhaus interior décor package around the 1980s. The Texas City Kroger then would have received Kroger’s Neon décor package, as described by Retail Retell of the Mid-South Retail Blog, in 1994 when the store was upgraded to be a Signature store. The store the was remodeled again to get Kroger’s Millennium décor package with the renovation of 2003. As far as the exterior goes, the various expansions over the years naturally led to various remodels. The current fake wood exterior touches are relatively new as this is how the store looked on the outside until just recently.
Although the store is still carrying Kroger’s common Bountiful décor package (sometimes referred to as the 2012 décor package) these days, the store recently received flooring updates. Unlike what happens with most Kroger flooring updates, this one is, in my opinion at least, actually an improvement! Instead of pulling up floor cover and leaving exposed concrete behind, often with ugly tile scar, blotches, and cracks, Kroger decided to install a fake wood vinyl flooring throughout the whole store. This is a major improvement over what Kroger usually does. The only other Houston area Kroger I’ve seen which has received a new fake wood floor is the somewhat similar looking Kroger at Telephone Road. I can only assume that the age of these two locations led Kroger to believe that the concrete foundation at these locations would not be visibly appealing at all and, thus, should not be exposed to public view. We can only hope that other Kroger locations make the same decision.
While this Kroger fought off short-lived competition from the likes of Randall’s and Albertsons, both of whom had locations directly across Palmer Highway in the 1990s located where Aldi is now, the HEB and Aldi across Palmer Highway give this Kroger a strong fight in modern times. Kroger no longer uses the Signature designation at any of their stores, but this store is very much still a Signature-type store and that does give it an advantage against more dowdy, discount-type operations from HEB and Aldi. Although the Texas City Kroger is fifty years old now, it has all the benefits and the same general look of a 1990s-early 2000s built Kroger Signature store. Longevity certainly benefits the Kroger as well as generations of Texas City shoppers have made this Kroger location their supermarket. In fact, to the best of HHR’s knowledge, this Kroger is the second oldest active Kroger location operating out of the same building in the Houston area. The oldest location will be the subject of a future The Year of Kroger post. Anyway, with some of the recent refreshes, it looks like this Kroger is ready to serve Texas City shoppers for at least another few decades.
Have you gone Krogering at the Texas City Kroger and have thoughts to share with us? Do you have any other thoughts about Kroger or Texas City retail? If so, share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. We love to hear from our readers!