A look into Houston's retail past

AppleTree Markets

AppleTree Markets starts with a story of failure. Not so much the failure of AppleTree themselves but, with the failure of the Texas Division of Safeway. Originally entering the Texas market by acquiring stores in the 1920s, the base of operations would be split between Dallas and El Paso. Throughout the 1960s Safeway undertook an expansion campaign on a massive scale. Opening international branches in places like the UK and Australia, and expanding their domestic divisions. In Texas this meant expanding into new cities, starting with the Austin area. These stores would actually make up the oldest stores in the Houston Division of Safeway. The expansion would continue with stores opening in small towns around the Houston area, finally reaching the city limits in 1970. After dealing with unprofitable divisions and a hostile takeover attempt management made the decision to start shedding entire divisions. In 1987 a decision was made to end operations in Texas with Dallas and El Paso divisions being sold that year. As they had experienced more success Houston was allowed to stay open another and would organize a management-led buyout of their division.

With knowledge of the impending closure financing was sought from outside sources. With the nature of the deal, financing terms were mostly working against AppleTree. Big plans were being made for the company, such as switching over branding on in-house items. However, company officials had another problem what would they call their new company? Ideas floated included Texway, and Gnatt Stores named after the Division’s president. The first brand changes would occur with products manufactured at Safeway’s massive Houston facilities. Throughout 1988 advertisements and stores would continue to sport the Safeway banner through a licensing agreement, although ads were modified to note the stores as locally owned.

Last from 1979-2003 as a grocery store, this former AppleTree has found a new use as an industrial building. Most exterior features are still intact. W. Little York at N. Houston Rosslyn

While funding was secured, and the spin off did occur, AppleTree faced multiple problems from the start. The biggest would be that they were basically a chunk of national grocery store, with the money, resources, and man power of a regional chain. Items like the Safeway’s Distribution Center, were slated to remain open and operational under the new ownership. A quick exchange of corporate leaders would also point to a salary reduction.

This location at Westheimer and Weslayan lasted as an AppleTree until 1994, prior to being sold to Rice.

As memories of Safeway faded, AppleTree took a backseat in Houston’s retail game. As part of their acquisition AppleTree was only required to purchase 8 locations. The rest were to be leased from Safeway, and during the acquisition could continue to operate as such. This lease agreement presented an issue in disallowing underperforming stores to be closed immediately. Many leases were sold to competitors and most locations were closed by 1994. Some facilities were sold directly by Safeway to the new guy in town, HEB Pantry Foods. This would include the massive distribution warehouse and plants which HEB still uses as their main base of operations for Houston.

9325 Katy Fwy Houston, TX Sold to Kroger, still operating
13642 TX-249 Houston, TX Sold to Kroger, now Family Thrift. Originaly W. Montgomery
1990 Old Spanish Trail Houston, TX Sold to Kroger, closed in 2017 later demoed
2300 S Gessner Rd Houston, TX First store to convert to AppleTree. Sold to Kroger, still operating
239 W 20th St Houston, TX Sold to Kroger, Still operating
2409 Bay Area Blvd, Houston, TX Sold to Kroger, now subdivided between Goodwill and a Gym
1100 W Dallas St Conroe, TX Sold to Kroger, now Palais Royal
14900 Northwest Fwy Houston, TX Sold to Kroger, now K1 Speed Indoor Go-Karts
7068 FM 1960 Humble, TX Sold to Kroger, now 24 Hour Fitness
1938 W Gray St, Houston, TX Sold to Kroger, still operating
1352 W 43rd St Houston, TX Sold to Kroger, still operating rebuilt at some point
13811 Cypress North Houston Rd, Cypress, TX Sold to Gerland’s, now Food Town
10902 Scarsdale Blvd Houston, TX Sold to Gerland’s, now Food Town
9701 Spencer Hwy La Porte, TX Sold to Gerland’s, now Food Town
1049 Eldridge Rd, Sugar Land, TX Sold to Gerland’s, now Church Originally 1109
7601 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX Sold to Gerland’s, now Ross
8710 Bellaire Blvd Houston, TX Sold to Fiesta, still operating
3803 Dunlavy St Houston, TX Sold to Fiesta, now demolished
7510 W Bellfort Blvd Houston, TX Sold to Fiesta, still operating
7061 Lawndale St Houston, TX Sold to Fiesta, now subdivided 99 Cent Only Store and La Michocana
3745 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX Sold to Rice, now a Walgreens
2617 W Holcombe Blvd Houston, TX Sold to Rice, now Total Wine & More
2020 Fountain View Dr Houston, TX Sold to Rice, still operating
21155 Tomball Pkwy Houston, TX Sold to Randall’s, now a Stein Mart
1805 Ella Blvd Houston, TX Sold to Cox’s Foodarama, still operating
4614 NASA Road 1 Seabrook, TX Sold to Big Chief Supermarkets, now Arlan's Market
165 Oyster Creek Dr Lake Jackson, TX Sold to Stanley Stores, now Arlan's Market
4100 Fairmont Pkwy, Pasadena, TX Sold to Super Warehouse Foods, now 99 Cents Only Store
9371 Richmond Ave Houston, TX Closed after 1996, Became World Food, now Ayva Event Center
2601 11th St, Huntsville, TX Huntsville now a Brookshire Bros.
2028 N Main St Pearland, TX Pearland No subdivided between Office Depot, and Big Lots
8620 Stella Link Rd Houston, TX The final location in Houston
9510 N Houston Rosslyn Rd Houston, TX Sold to Gerland's 1992 Now an industrial building
5 Uvalde Rd Houston, TX Sold to Gerland's 1992 Now a Food Town
11006 Airline Dr Houston, TX Sold to Fiesta 1992 Still Operating

Reader Comments

  1. was the safeway on scarsdale been food lion, from what i can tell from the inside, of the food town on scarsdale, it has the isles that were used in food lion.

    1. There definitely was a Safeway there! I don’t have my list to confirm but it may have been converted to AppleTree.

      1. HCAD records indicate that the Bellaire and Hillcroft Safeway’s ownership was transferred to Apple Tree in August of 1989. Fiesta Mart bought the store in 1993 after Apple Tree closed it, leasing the space to non-grocery tenants in order to keep competitors away from its store across Hillcroft, which was the top-performing Fiesta at the time. The property was sold again in late 2014, as the Levit family began the process of selling their core business, Grocer’s Supply, as well as their acquisitions like Fiesta.

  2. The Thrift store at 4705 Hwy 6 was a safeway in the early 80’s then became an Appletree. Not sure when it became the thrift store. The Go Kart place was a Kmart back in the 80’s early 90s too.

    1. After Apple Tree shut down it became Hobby Lobby for a number of years (1990’s-early 2000’s). Once Hobby Lobby opened the location at HWY 6 and 529 (near the current Wal-Mart) they closed the former Apple Tree location. Sometime in the late 2000’s it then became a thrift store.

What do you think?