Howdy, folks, and welcome back to HHR. Today we’re taking a quick look at a Randalls, which I never had a chance to explore! This store, located at 2323 Clear Lake City Blvd, Houston, TX 77062, was a quiet closure at the start of 2020. An HHR reader, and former Randalls employee, believed that these cuts were performance-based, possibly in anticipation of the then not know Kroger-Albertsons merger. Randalls closures over the past few years are nothing new to Houstonians. I won’t waste time regaling all of Randalls downfall; there’s a history page for that! However, I will explain that since 2002 Randalls has not built a new store in Houston. This lack of expansion has been one of the biggest hits for them in terms of competition. This is what really dragged them behind the competition. During the mid-2000s, Randalls also dropped lots of stores, retrenching into a very basic operation, looking to avoid direct competition. That being said, Randalls has maintained a better assortment of services than, say HEB. While Texans love our home-state store, the chain has changed the way they operate quite a bit since entering Houston. They have removed hot delis in favor of Meal Simple selections, increased the amount of GM in most stores, and seem to be more in competition with Walmart than anyone else for grocery dollars. All these changes have left us with an odd selection of grocery chains in town. HEB is cheap and good quality but is missing lots of the frills of their competition. Kroger is somewhat middle of the road, with their selection varying from store to store and concept to concept. However, their level of service does not keep up with HEB. Finally, we have Randalls, good service, lots of options, and features you’d expect in a Supermarket, but their footprint is so small there are entire portions of the city where Randalls no longer exists.
These changes have made the Houston grocery landscape a bit of an oddity compared to other metropolitan areas of our size. To put things in perspective, Food Town has almost double the market share, Randalls has. So how do we fix this? Well, we really can’t. Unless some sort of hail-mary miracle occurs during or as a result of the Kroger-Albertsons merger, the future of Randalls in Houston is somewhat bleak. Now onto the main topic, at least according to the title, what’s going on with this building? Well, not a whole lot at the moment. Randalls still has an active lease until 2024, but work is underway to subdivide the building and create a shell for a potential future grocer. It’s certainly possible that groceries could return to this portion of Clear Lake in terms of an Aldi or similar discounter. However, it’s not a given at this point. It really is a shame that all these fantastic New Generation Randalls stores are being abandoned. While a similar example exists in nearby South Shore Harbor, which HHR visited just over a year ago, these stores are becoming harder to find. The stores are great examples of the “Wedding Cake” design theory applied by the Onstead family to their stores. Tall ceilings, and windows letting in plenty of natural light, are still inviting even in Safeway’s layout. I can say without a doubt this Randalls will be missed. With the certainty of the merger looking more and more unsure every day, the future of Randalls becomes less steady as time passes. While no one can predict what will happen to the stores, my advice would be to go shop a Randalls at least once more before they close. You might come out a couple of bucks higher, but I want to know your thoughts about the experience.
P.S. Anonymous in Houston advises if you use digital coupons, you’ll come out much better. Although, personally, I’m a bit of an old fogie when it comes to that.