Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today, we’re checking out Houston’s “hottest Kroger.” The store at Sabo and the South Belt which was recently renovated as a Hispanic Concept Kroger. Houstonians are no strangers to Hispanic grocery stores, and in fact, some of us may even remember Kroger’s previous attempt at a Hispanic store in Gulfton. Starting off with a bit of history on this store, it was initially a Grocery Palace-era Albertsons, which Kroger picked up along with another 20 stores in 2002. Kroger had been a dominant player in the area for years, battling Randalls up on Fuqua a bit. By 2002, when Kroger took over this old Albertsons, they were easily the strongest grocer in the area. Even Randalls would eventually peter out, leaving Kroger to duke it out with a far-away HEB and Wal-Mart. Over the 2000s, however, growth in the area would largely stagnate, and Kroger would somewhat forget this store. That is, until last week, when it became front-page news for multiple outlets, Kroger had updated this store and used it to pilot this new concept. An announcement that I wish I had known about (want to share some news?) So what are my thoughts on visiting this store well, you’ll see them after the break!
Let me start off with the biggest, most obvious change to the store: a new Fresh Cut Fruit & Vegetable Bar, which also makes guacamole, salsa, ceviche, and fresh juices. It’s a pretty neat addition to the store and something I think would make a good addition to a good number of Kroger stores. The fruits included some covered with chamoy and Tajin but also some interesting mixed bowls that looked like they’d be tasty on their own. The decor was not bad; I felt the placing of Spanish text was done very well, and it didn’t look out of place. Overall though, it felt closer to what Chedraui is putting into Fiesta than a Kroger. The weakest link overall was the product, which was not terribly Hispanic. While some departments did receive updates, like a dedicated tortilla warmer, expanded Hispanic Candies and snacks, and a few extras like Spanish greeting cards and votive candles, most of the store was unchanged. Largely, this falls down to this area of town, which is very diverse. Based on my brief time there, it’s easy to see why changing this location to a completely Hispanic-oriented store, like Mi Tienda, could be a mistake. Overall, I think is not a bad concept, and I could see it being adapted to other stores. However, I’m unsure if it received proper press in the media. I was expecting more of a second go at the Gulfton store and found myself in what felt like an HEB in South Texas. What do you think of Kroger’s newest format?