A look into Houston's retail past

Retail News: Raceway speeds out and 7-11 Zooms In, Luby’s puts locations up for sale, & Randalls leaves Bellaire

Happy chilly Friday to you loyal readers! I hope you are all doing well and managing to stay warm, as power comes back on around the state. This post is coming a bit late due to technical difficulties between myself and the power grid, but I don’t need to tell you about that. So far in February we’ve had a decent amount of retail proceedings develop. First off what seems to have been a quiet deal between RaceTrac and Realty Income Corp. has left us with no more Raceway gas stations but has netted us some new 7-Eleven locations. Which is great new if you’ve been following the ever developing drama of their return to Houston! Next, the dissolution of Luby’s starts to get real as multiple locations are put on the real estate market. Finally, Randall’s leaves a Bellaire grocery store with more than 60 years of history with Weingartens planning on going vertical.

Raceway Speeds Out, 7-Eleven Zooms In

RaceTrac opened their first stores in Houston in the mid 90s. At the time the chain was known for low priced non-branded gasoline, which was not widely available in the Houston market outside of independent stations. They also brought along streamed line stores that all had similar offerings no matter what part of the city you were in. With selection in local stores varying based on how big or tiny they were. The locations they chose were mostly along highways in the suburbs, areas of proven growth, and were initially popular. RaceTrac even had a plan to deal with less popular locations by selling them off to independent operators who would franchise them under the “Raceway” brand. Many locations turned to Raceways over the years and some were sold to other brands. RaceTrac continued to build out stores in Houston into the 2010s however, within the last 10 years they have lost some prominence in a now overly saturated market. The streamlined stores, and unbranded gas that made the chain so desirable is now quite common in the Houston area. Throughout 2020 RaceTrac sold their existing properties to Realty Income Corporation, who lease thousands of different parcels to different chains all across the U.S.

Luby’s puts locations up for sale

This location at 2730 Fondren closed sometime in 2018 and sat vacant with signs still up until a liquidation sale took place in June of 2020. More photos inbound from that eventually.

Earlier this month Houston based Luby’s revealed their planned timeline to dissolve their company by the end of August. This came as little surprise as Luby’s and Fuddruckers had barely been limping along before the pandemic started. U As of February 13th multiple former and operating Luby’s and Fuddruckers locations were put up for sale. As reported by Houston Business Journal there are 13 locations for sale around the Houston area, along with one in Lake Jackson and Port Arthur each. Some of the locations are still operating but will be closed by the time they’re sold. The Houston area locations are as follows.

1201 W Baker Rd, Baytown, TX 77521 – Luby’s
4709 Center St Deer Park, TX 77536 – Luby’s
1600 NASA Road 1 Houston, TX 77058 – Luby’s
4525 North Freeway , Houston, TX 77022 Undeveloped Lot
2730 Fondren Rd Houston, TX 77063 – Luby’s
6704 Hwy 6 S Houston, TX 77083 – Luby’s
11950 Kurland Dr Houston, TX 77034 – Fuddruckers
7511 FM 1960 W Houston, TX 77070 – Fuddruckers
24033 Cinco Ranch Blvd Katy, TX 77494 – Luby’s and Fuddruckers
25407 Bell Patna Dr Katy, TX 77492 – Fuddruckers
125 West Way Lake Jackson, TX 77566 – Luby’s
8680 Memorial Blvd Port Arthur, TX 77642 – Luby’s
2290 Buckthorne Place The Woodlands, TX 77380 – Fuddruckers

Randall’s leaves a Bellaire location with 62 years of history

5130 Bellaire opened their doors as a Weingartens grocery location in 1959 in an odd location within the Bellaire Triangle. From 1959-1984 the store became a hub of activity and by far one of the nicest grocery stores in the area. In 1984 Weingratens left the grocery business and sold their remaining stores to Safeway. As part of the AppleTree fiasco the store served under that banner from 1989-1994 when it was acquired by Randall’s. Of course, when Safeway acquired Randall’s in 1999 they were once again leasing the building from Weingartens! This little store also has a special place in my heart as it is one of the Randall’s locations that I worked at during high school. It was only a few times filling in for shifts from my home store, but this location played great music on the radio, and had a fun little shared kitchen between the deli and bakery, plus lots of other interesting Weingarten and Safeway decor remnants. The location was given an Albertsons remodel when HEB opened their new location across the street but has not been able to keep up. While development plans have not been announced, Weingarten did mention they intended to transform this space into a multi-story mixed used development. HAIF Thread

Retail News: Closures and Openings

Welcome back loyal reader to another edition of Random Retail. This one comprises some photos from the past month as today we take a look at openings and closures in the Houston area.

Let’s start with the new Meyerland H-E-B. It had its grand opening January 29th, and I was there about three days prior. When Meyerland Plaza opened in 1957, it included a Henke & Pillot grocery store as one of the major tenants. Located in the Southeast corner of the shopping center, near where Cafe Express sits today. This store would eventually be converted to a Kroger, and would shut down in 1980. It was used by a number of short term liquidation businesses before being demolished during the 1990s renovation of Meyerland Plaza.

The store was built to the West of JCPenney which meant that they lost some parking space, and the former Meyerland State Bank was required to be demolished. The garage does have signage directing banking customers to the new location across Endicott Lane.
The elevated parking structure helps on two fronts. One it does add some parking back to JCPenney, with some spaces on the first level being reserved for the store. Second it helps prevent excessive flooding damage. The issue is bad enough that it required HEB to permanently close their old Meyerland store prior to building a replacement. Some infrastructure doe exist on the first floor, but it’s mostly off the ground by a bit.
This new parking structure has given JCPenney a new entrance. If you so desire you can either swap between stores, or even purposely try to fight HEB traffic to visit Penney’s!

Next, Xfinity is coming to Highland Village. Replacing long time tenant VisionWorks, previously known as EyeMasters, who replaced Workbench, a furniture store in 1989. This new store represents a growth in retail presence by Xfinity. The goal of the stores is to boost technology sales, including mobile phones.

VisionWorks closed prior to (or right at?) Christmas, with Xfinity immediately starting demolition and renovation. At this point it looks like the new store should be poised to open by the end of February.

Other previous tenants included Chez Orleans Creole Restaurant, however the building has been substantially rebuilt from those days. Older readers may even remember when Suffolk street went all the way through Highland Village into Oak Estates.

The next story takes us Southwest of Houston. The former New Territory Randalls has a new tenant, Al-Rabba an international food store with a decidedly Arabian name. This Randalls was one of the last non-Safeway locations to be built. It was the 70th location (likely including the Austin stores) and rightly opened to quite a bit of fanfare. It was a concept store, ditching a drop ceiling for exposed roofing. It also included new features like in store dry cleaning, photo and video processing, along with a full in store restaurant. It was painted in a hunter green color scheme that was also used in the Woodlands store. New Territory was also rumoured to have sold beer and wine prior to any other location.

This very Randalls was actually my first job during high school. While the store had recently been converted to the standard Safeway lifestyle format it still had hunter green shelves in the back.

The store did quite well serving not just New Territory but the quickly developing Greatwood and Riverpark subdivisions as well. They were initially open 24 hours and would remain so for many years. The scaling back in hours would actually happened slightly before I started working there, but it did not affect me as I worked in the deli. The stores decline began in the mid 2000s when the Riverpark Shopping Center was developed. A pad side which had been purchased by Albertsons was sold to HEB when the prior company exited Houston. This new HEB was the first in what would become the Richmond (later to become Sugar Land) area. Both stores were able to maintain steady traffic for many years. With HEB handling the majority and Randall’s getting the overflow.  However conveniences like Curbside pickup, and lower prices led to HEB winning out.

I visited a day or two after the store’s lease had finally expired. Everything left in the store was for the new owner to deal with. There was actually a meeting going on inside of the store. Even ripped apart this store still looks so much nicer than a standard location.

Finally it seems that Carl’s Jr. has exited the Houston market for good. Right after Christmas I stopped by the North Shepherd location to snap a couple of pictures. Via Google Reviews it has been confirmed that all except the N. Highway 6 locations have closed. The company website has not been updated and lists all locations as open, except for the missing N. Highway 6 location. Carl’s Jr. entered the West Houston market in full force in the early 2010s with aggressive growth. The plan was to get a steady foothold on the well developed West, and then build to the newly developing East.

Although all signage had been removed everything else was pretty much business as usual in terms of a store closure. It does raise the question, could these stores come back?
All product in the store had been removed so it was obvious that this store had a proper shutdown. However it was filthy, which leads me to believe they have little intent to return.
While most of the lights were off, enough were on that you could get a sense of everything left in the building. Electronics were mostly still in place. With the only thing missing being food and packaging.

Open 24 hours Carl’s Jr. attempted to compete with the likes of Whataburger and Jack in the Box. Their food initially was good for the price, but the quality dropped quickly and prices rose. The restaurants also generally had a reputation of poor customer service, and long wait times. Ultimately poor management/franchising was likely a key, as the Houston locations had a history of randomly opening and closing with little to no notice to employees.

The single location may be where the product from these stores ended up. We will see if this round of closures is permanent or if the stores reopen. Although with Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s trying to seperate themselves at the moment I doubt they’re focusing on a slow market like Houston.