The Randalls that helped rewrite two corporate histories

Howdy, folks, and welcome back to HHR. Today, we’re looking at an ex-Randalls that had an interesting impact on two different chains. The location we’re checking out today is at 1804 W 43rd St, Houston, TX 77018, and has roots all the way back in 1964, when the building first opened as a Randalls. However, it’s not the chain you’re thinking of, but the first iteration of Randalls. This would be their seventh store and would represent a push to the Northwest side that would better reflect the Randalls we know to this day. However, as we’ve all heard before, in 1966, Robert Onstead and two partners from the original Randalls broke away to form their own chain. The original stores had been sold off and were in the process of converting to the Piggly Wiggly name. In 1969, Piggly Wiggly shuttered this store. While they didn’t comment on this location, it was likely due to poor reception of the brand change, mixed with the opening of a new Randalls nearby. The building would be sold to Food Land (another chain worth covering), which would operate here for many years, even surviving the breakup of Food Land to operate as Al’s Food Land for a few years. The final grocery tenant would be Food Country, which would only operate a few years before shutting down for good. The building would then be sold to Family Dollar, subdivided, and take on a second life.

So, how exactly did this store change corporate histories? Well, in the 2000s, when the memory of the two separate Randalls chains was essentially lost to all except the most dedicated grocery nerd, someone started doing “research.” My best guess is this research was spearheaded by The Chronicle or Safeway and wasn’t thoroughly checked. Everyone seemed convinced that the two chains were directly connected, rather than being two separate but similar entities, and photos of the W43rd Randalls were published, providing a continuous timeline of the store from the 1940s to the present, a reality that never existed. The earliest version of Randall’s “Lifestyle” theming even included some incorrect signage stating that the chain had been operating since the 40s, and new stores even feature photos of the original unrelated chain hung on their walls. So what was the other corporate history changed by this store? Well, it’s an even more obscure story than Randalls. In 2015 as a part of the Family Dollar/Dollar Tree merger, the combined companies were required to spin off stores. Family Dollar chose to spin off about 300 locations to a private equity firm, which would license the name for a bit and then shift to “Dollar Express” within about a year. It was meant to be a low-key deal but created a logistical nightmare for the PE firm, which would need to establish the backend of these stores. Unable to do so, Dollar Express (who never changed their signage) looked for buyers but was unable to find one. The strongest contender, Dollar General, did end up buying multiple locations but didn’t purchase the company outright. It gave the odd sight that I and many other Houstonians saw of Family Dollar locations becoming Dollar Generals when, in fact, they had gone through a silent intermediary.