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 The Year of Kroger post will be a bit unique for a couple of reasons. For one, this post will be about two different, but similar Houston-area Krogers. Also, a unique aspect of this post is that we will be looking at stores which both started out as Safeway stores, then became AppleTree stores, and then ended up as Kroger stores. Here at Houston Historic Retail, we refer to such stores as Krogways. Long-time readers of Houston Historic Retail will know that Mike has covered a Krogway before, the one located on W. 20th Street. In that case, the Krogway is actually a Krogweinway, or Krogwaygarten, as that store started out as a Weingarten before Safeway and later AppleTree took it over.
The two Krogways we will be looking at this month are the Kroger of the Villages, Kroger HO-600, located at 9325 Katy Fwy, Houston, TX 77024, and the Hammerly Plaza Kroger HO-607 located at 2300 Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 77080. The Kroger of the Villages is so named because it resides in the incorporated city of Hedwig Village which is part of the Memorial Villages area with a handful of other small incorporated areas. The neighborhoods around the Memorial Villages are mostly somewhat older and upper middle-class/upper class. This community sits just south of Interstate 10 and is located near the very successful Memorial City Mall. Carbon-izer.com, a friend of the blog, has a profile of Memorial City Mall.
The Hammerly Plaza Kroger is only 3.2 miles away from the Kroger of the Villages. It sits just north of Interstate 10 in the Spring Branch District. While Spring Branch is about the same age as Hedwig Village, Spring Branch has traditionally been more lower/middle middle-class than their neighbors to the south. Nonetheless, like the Kroger of the Villages, Spring Branch is very much located near Memorial City Mall.
The Story of the Hammerly Plaza Kroger, HO-607 (Formerly Safeway #905 & AppleTree Markets #1057)
We will begin our tour of the two Westside Houston Krogways by starting with the store that is currently Kroger HO-607, the Hammerly & Gessner store located within Hammerly Plaza in Spring Branch. We will start with this store because this is the older of the two locations at least in terms of when Safeway originally opened this location. Safeway #905, which originally had an address of 10140 Hammerly Blvd Houston, TX 77080, opened in 1970 as one of the first Safeway stores to open after Safeway officially entered the Houston market in 1969-70. This Safeway was located where Planet Fitness is today. Safeway ultimately elected to replace their 1970 location with a brand new store located in a different part of the same Hammerly Plaza shopping center in the mid-1980s. The new Safeway #905 opened on February 19, 1987 and was one of the last Safeways to open in the Houston area before Safeway sold their Houston operations to what would later go on to become AppleTree Markets just a handful of months later. For an extensive history of Safeway’s years in Houston, I recommend Mike’s Safeway in Houston history guide and also Mike’s AppleTree Markets history guide.
Although the original Safeway #905 was only around 15 years old at the time it was replaced, Safeway had transitioned from smaller supermarkets to food and drug Super Stores during that era and so it made sense for Safeway to replace the store. The new Safeway #905 featured a very unique layout which Safeway was experimenting with at the time. The store has a diamond shape of sorts with a center service department island. This layout, which the store still has as a Kroger, is a very strange store to navigate as you can surely tell from the photos!
This store retained the Safeway name for a couple of years after Safeway exited the Houston market. Once the AppleTree Markets name was selected by the new owners, the store received that name. As stated by Mike in the aforementioned AppleTree history guide, things were not going well for the chain in the early 1990s and most of their stores were sold off to other operators. Kroger purchased a number of locations, including the Spring Branch location, and that is how Kroger HO-607 came to be in 1994. Kroger HO-607 was designated as a Signature store before Kroger phased out the Signature designation. Kroger Signature stores were discussed in February and March’s The Year of Kroger posts. Unlike the bespoke Kroger Signature stores and extensively remodeled and expanded older Kroger Signature stores like the Texas City Kroger, however, the Spring Branch store was a bit on the small side as the store is only around 52,000 sq. ft. in size. Nonetheless, the store still has some of the features one would expect from a Signature store such as an in-store bank. In current times, the store has a First Convenience Bank branch.
The Hammerly Plaza Kroger was remodeled in around 2019 from Kroger’s Bountiful/2012 décor package to Kroger’s Fresh & Local/Neighborhood décor package. The Fresh & Local/Neighborhood décor package was previously seen in August’s The Year of Kroger post about the Memorial & Dairy Ashford Krogertsons. Retail Retell of the Mid-South Retail Blog, a friend of HHR, has an excellent guide profiling both the Fresh & Local/Neighborhood and Bountiful/2012 décor packages. Unfortunately, Kroger also removed the vinyl flooring from this location during last remodel. The concrete floor does not look presentable, in my opinion, but that is what Kroger is using nonetheless. This store could benefit from the fake wood vinyl flooring used at locations such as the Texas City Kroger we saw in April’s The Year of Kroger post.
Aside from the bizarre layout of this store, the most striking feature of this store is the entryway. It features two security catwalks, the traditional Safeway one facing the registers and also one facing the customer service/bank counters. The hanging red light fixtures are original Safeway fixtures from 1987. The arch window provides natural light into the front end of the store. It’s quite a strange layout and it most certainly has a late 1980s feel to it.
The Story of the Kroger of the Villages, HO-600 (Formerly Safeway #934 & AppleTree Markets #934)
The Hedwig Village Safeway opened in 1974 in a new shopping center co-anchored by Sav-On Drugs and the new Kids’ Kounty toy store chain. The history of Kids’ Kounty was documented on Houston Historic Retail back in 2021. As mentioned in the Kids’ Kounty post, the Safeway was originally 27,700 sq. ft. in size. Like with the Hammerly Safeway mentioned earlier, this Safeway did not meet the Super Store standard and, given that Hedwig Village is a higher-income area, Safeway was eager to renovate and the store and make it larger. Safeway had anticipated giving this store a Food Emporium-like design. Food Emporium was a concept Safeway was experimenting with in the 1980s which sold more gourmet foods in higher-end areas. This video from Dallas includes some scenes from inside a Food Emporium store.
Unfortunately, Safeway left the Houston market before they could renovate the Hedwig Village store. AppleTree, however, realized the potential of this location and made it the first, and only, Houston Safeway store that they significantly expanded and remodeled. They added nearly 20,000 sq. ft. of sales space by expanding the front of the store and by taking over some space that was previously part of the shopping center. The exterior of the store resembles the arch window-centered design used by Safeway at the Hammerly Plaza location, but the Kroger of the Villages retained a fairly standard interior layout used by the existing Safeway store. The store received AppleTree’s signature Broadway typeface décor package (photos of this décor package exist in the aforementioned HHR AppleTree history guide) and was, in a way, the flagship AppleTree location in Houston.
However, as previously mentioned, AppleTree ultimately failed in Houston and this location was sold to Kroger just like the Hammerly Plaza location. In a rather rare move, Kroger christened this store as the ‘Kroger of the Villages’ and even gave them a sign with that name. Although this store is in a more upscale location, Kroger never gave this ~48,000 sq. ft. store Signature status. In fact, it does not even have a pharmacy! The aforementioned W 20th Krogweinway and the Kroger at 4000 Polk, which was profiled in May’s The Year of Kroger post, are the only other Houston Kroger stores in current times which do not have a pharmacy. While the Kroger of the Villages does not have a pharmacy, it does have an extensive wine and beer selection. In fact, it even has a dedicated wine room at the front of the store!
On the décor front, the Kroger of the Villages is both a bit more dated and a bit more upscale looking than the Hammerly Plaza Kroger. The Kroger of the Villages is still wearing Kroger’s Bountiful décor package from the early 2010s, but in my opinion, the Bountiful décor looks good at this location. Unlike many Houston Krogers we’ve seen in earlier editions of The Year of Kroger, the Kroger of the Villages uses the full-sized implementation of the décor and they also have more photo squares on the soffits. In some ways, this makes Bountiful look a bit like Safeway’s Lifestyle v2 and v3 décor packages. At least in my opinion, that is not a bad thing! Also, unlike the Hammerly Kroger, the Kroger of the Villages has a vinyl floor, probably from the Script décor era, which gives the store a bright, clean look. Unfortunately, as the photos show, there are some areas where the floor is showing considerable wear. Like with Hammerly Plaza, I suggest that Kroger updates this floor with the fake wood vinyl flooring used at the Texas City Kroger. Given that the bulk of this store dates back to 1974, and that there are expansion areas, converting this store to have a concrete floor would be an even worse decision than it normally is to switch to a concrete floor since the concrete will be extremely patchy looking!
Like the Hammerly Plaza Kroger, The Kroger of the Villages does not have a fuel station or an in-store Starbucks. The Kroger of the Villages once had a café called The Villages Café, which is still advertised on the outside of the store on the green AppleTree-era departmental banner, but that no longer exists. At least as of the writing of this post, neither store has pickup for online orders. This omission is not uncommon at older and/or smaller Kroger stores in the Houston area.
While The Kroger of the Villages does not have a pharmacy, it does have a Walgreens in the shopping center. While the Walgreens is not as big as the Sav-On which proceeded it, there are not an abundance of Walgreens locations in shopping centers left in the Houston area. Most of the remaining ones are, like the Hedwig Village store, in older, wealthier areas.
Kroger’s history in the Spring Branch/Hedwig Village area
Given how close the Hammerly Plaza Kroger and the Kroger of the Villages are to one another, it is worth looking at Kroger’s history in the area. After all, as we’ve seen throughout The Year of Kroger series, today’s Kroger stores are often replacements for older Kroger locations. When the Hammerly Plaza Kroger and the Kroger of the Villages opened in 1994, the store Kroger probably intended to replace with these two locations was likely Kroger HP-257, a Superstore II Greenhouse style store located at 1099 Gessner Rd., Houston, TX 77055. In modern times, Kroger HP-257 and the entire shopping center it was located in have been demolished and replaced with newer and mostly non-retail developments. For a while after Kroger left, an international supermarket named Komart, which had a logo very similar to the modern Kmart logo, operated out of the old Kroger. Kroger HP-257 opened in 1979 and closed in 1997. Kroger HP-257 was close enough to Interstate 10 that it served shoppers in both Hedwig Village and in Spring Branch.
Another Kroger store which served shoppers in Spring Branch was Kroger HP-155 located at 9427 Kempwood Dr., Houston, TX 77080. This store operated between 1974 and 1984. While this store closed long before the Hammerly Plaza Kroger and the Kroger of the Villages opened in 1994, it is fair to say that Kroger HP-257 helped replace the Kempwood Kroger. Another Spring Branch Kroger which helped replace the Kempwood Kroger was Kroger HP-239 located at 8120 Long Point Rd., Houston, TX 77055 in the eastern part of Spring Branch. This store was a replacement for an older Kroger that operated on Long Point Road. Kroger HP-239 opened in 1980 and closed around the turn of the millennium when it was replaced by Kroger HO-346, a currently-operating Kroger located at 1505 Wirt Rd., Houston, TX 77055. The Wirt Kroger, which is across the street from an old Safeway which is now the Trini Mendenhall Community Center, recently received a renovation with the Kroger Remix décor package. The combination of the removal of the vinyl floor which left behind a lot of tile scar, the cheaply done Remix renovation which applied Remix décor over old Bountiful elements in some places, and the cheapness of the Remix décor itself has, in my opinion, made the Wirt Kroger one the worst looking semi-modern Krogers in the Houston area. This is unfortunate since, in my opinion, the store looked perfectly fine with Bountiful.
In terms of competition, the Hammerly Plaza Kroger most closely competes with an Aldi just north of the Kroger on Gessner and, just north of that, a HEBertsons which has been profiled on Houston Historic Retail. Given that the HEBertsons is not HEB’s best effort, many in the area head to the infamous Bunker Hill HEB which is located close to the Kroger of the Villages, but on the northside of Interstate 10. I say the Bunker Hill HEB is infamous because there is perhaps no other HEB location in Houston which seems to draw as many people as the Bunker Hill HEB. People in other parts of Houston talk about the Bunker Hill HEB as if it is The Galleria when, in fact, it really is not any different than any other larger late 2000s HEB location. That said, the packed crowds at the Bunker Hill HEB seems to attract even bigger crowds.
Those wanting a more peaceful alternative, especially those who wish to shop at a modern-day Safeway, might head to the Town & Country area and shop at the Randall’s located at 12850 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77024. While this might be a more peaceful alternative to the Bunker Hill HEB, the ‘Rock Music Randall’s’, as some of the locals call it due to the Randall’s playing rock music over the sound system, is one of the busier Randall’s locations in town. South of Hedwig Village, shoppers can also head to the Kroger and Randall’s locations located on Westheimer near S. Gessner and the Kroger located at San Felipe and S. Voss. There are also a number of ethnic supermarkets in the area such as the 99 Ranch Market in the old Fiesta Mart on Interstate 10 and the H Mart on Blalock & Westview.
I hope you have enjoyed this look inside two Westside Krogways! If you have any thoughts or memories about these two Safeway/AppleTree/Kroger stores, please feel free to share them in the comments section below. We love to hear from our readers!