Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today we’re taking a look at 5219 FM 1960 W, Houston, TX 77069, a Randalls we last checked in on just over a year ago. Last year’s check-in was a full store tour written by Anonymous in Houston. He goes into great detail about the store and how it has changed over the years. Today though, we’ll examine a more specific aspect of this store’s history, a 2023 remodel into the “Colorful Lifestyle” decor. Before we talk about the remodel and what it means for the future of Randalls in Houston, let’s start off with some history. This store was one of the original Houston locations of Handy Andy, a San Antonio grocer looking to break into the Houston market with lavish huge new stores. Many aspects of the store, such as the flagstone exterior, central cathedral ceiling, and even the general layout of the store, are all linked back to the Handy Andy days. When Handy Andy left Houston, Randalls took over their fancier locations, quickly forming the basis for their Flagship operations. Years of intense competition in Houston had left the stores lacking, and Randalls worked on improving that image. The program was so successful that the Flagship concept would be expanded beyond these former Handy Andy locations, and many aspects of their construction would be worked into stores the chain was building. It’s fair to say that these “Handy Randy” stores were a huge piece of the 80s image of Randalls. The remodeling of this location is a bright spot in what’s been an otherwise uninspiring time in the company. With the Kroger-Albertsons merger still on track, according to both companies, Randalls has become even more of a “red-headed stepchild” than in years prior. Speculation has been that Randalls may join other unwanted divisions in a new spin-off company named “Spinco.” This remodel puts that somewhat into question.
The last few years in Houston have been hard on Randalls. After significant missteps when HEB invaded the city in the early 2000s, Randalls was left to fend for themselves with a reduced store count, focusing mainly on areas where they didn’t have much competition. Throughout the 2010s, we watched the store count continue to decline, with Albertsons putting new restrictions on the chain leading to El Rancho taking over many formerly prime Randalls locations. During this time, it seemed like a Randalls would only stay open if it received a remodel, that is until the world paused in 2020. At that time, Randalls closings like Sugar Land were put on hold, along with remodels. During this time, the owner of the shopping center decided to put the property up for sale, encouraging prospective buyers by noting Randalls had been paying far before market value. It seemed that if the wrong hands ended up in control of Champions Village. Thankfully though new owners, First National Realty Partners seems serious about grocery anchors, granting a sigh of relief to Champions shoppers. So now the question is, what does this last-minute save mean for the merger? Well, in all honesty, it’s unclear, but it does give some reasonable indications as to what might be going on. First, there is some value in Randalls. This is somewhat a “no-duh,” the properties, inventory, etc.. are all worth money, but Albertsons must also see enough value to renew the lease and update a store that may not wear the Randalls banner five years from now. Second, some stores are more likely to become Krogers than any other, and this is one. Part of the merger will be converting “survivor” stores and spinning off the losers. It seems like the “Handy Randy” locations are probably the best suited to become Kroger locations. Finally, the rest of Randalls may be sold as a unit. While it’s likely that some stores will be converted, there are some locations where this surely won’t be the case. If these stores are not converted or spun off, the third option would be to find a buyer for them. While it’s not impossible, we’ve seen crazier things happen. At this point, we’ll just have to wait and see what new comes, but as soon as it does, you’ll be sure HHR will report on it!