Editor’s Note: The photos in this post were submitted by a reader who found them during a liquidation sale of the closing Arlan’s. The original listing has since been deleted. If anyone knows who took these photos, credit will be provided.
Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. Today we’re taking a look at a now-closed grocery store with an interesting history. The building at 26824 I-45, Oak Ridge North, TX 77386, which most recently held an Arlan’s location, was originally built as a Clayton’s Supermarket. As some readers may remember, Clayton’s was a mostly Northside independent grocer. Over the years, Claytons operated many different stores under different banners, starting off with Supervalu and moving on to Minimax. By the time this location opened, Clayton’s had dropped any affiliation, simply going by Clayton’s Supermarket. This far North of Houston was still considered relatively rural when this location was built. An out-of-state developer purchased about 1.5 square miles of land to develop a neighborhood. The developers betting on the newly built North Freeway’s success dedicated almost all the retail space to the frontage along the already constructed I-45 in the newly named Oak Ridge North, which would incorporate into a city in 1979. Clayton’s operated from day one as Okay Ridge North’s only full-line grocer and essentially the only grocer in the area for many years. This specific Clayton’s had a fascinating history. A burglary attempt in 1972 saw a hole torn in the side of the store and a wrecker used to pull the huge floor-mounted safe out of the building. The burglars then drove onto the railroad tracks planning to avoid the police while moving North. However, the safe fell off the back of the truck, and during an attempt to get it loaded back on, a train appeared down the tracks. Luckily, the would-be robbers abandoned the tow truck, as the train could not stop in time, destroying the wrecker and flinging the safe still sealed to the side of the tracks.
Clayton’s #8 1970-1993
Food Basket: 1993-1995
Hodge’s Food Basket: 1995-2017
While Clayton’s was able to recover the safe, it would not be the only time the store was damaged. A large fire broke out a few doors down in 1983. The fire, which burned much of the center down, was stopped just before hitting the grocery store. The fire had been burning for some time but had only been noticed after smoke began to enter the store, which had closed for the night, and was being restocked. Recovering from the fire damage, Clayton’s would continue to serve as one of only a few grocery stores in the area. Competition would begin to pop up throughout the Spring and Woodlands area, prompting owner Elvin Clayton to sell his stores are retire. David Hodge purchased the Oak Ridge North location with the help of Grocers Supply Co., Reopening the store in 1993 as an independent named Food Basket. Under Hodge’s ownership, he would maintain much of the same customer base built by Clayton’s. He also updated the store and improved offerings, no doubt helping to increase traffic further. Hodge’s Food Basket would also have an interesting life, being one of the first stores to reopen on the battered Northside of town after Hurricane Ike. Hodge would man a cash register outside the store, sending in his family members to retrieve items for customers using flashlights and a good memory of the store layout. In 2014, Hodge would finally put his name on the sign, changing the store’s name to Hodge’s Hometown Grocery and also repainting the store. This would again provide a boost in traffic, possibly spurring regional grocer Arlans Markets into purchasing the store in 2017. Arlan’s would operate this store only for a few years before shutting it down in 2021. While Arlan’s has not commented on this store’s closing, it was closed along with a few other locations presumed to be underperforming during COVID.