Cox’s Foodarama

Foodarama, sometimes referred to as Cox’s Foodarama, is Houston’s oldest operating family-owned grocery chain. Carrol Cox, a native of Dimmitt, Texas, and the son of a rancher, established it in 1973. Carrol left Texas when he was a boy after the untimely passing of his father. The family would relocate to Floyd, New Mexico, where he and his siblings would finish school. During high school, Carrol found his first job in the grocery industry at a small supermarket in a nearby town. In 1956, after leaving the Navy, Cox moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and sought employment with California-based Arden-Mayfair, one of the larger grocers in the Western U.S. at the time. They were a large conglomerate that operated multiple banners and concepts all the way from Washington to Arizona. Cox worked mostly in Arizona under their El Rancho brand, where he was for nearly 15 years. During this time, he learned a lot about operating a grocery store. Cox was seen as a promising employee and rose to management before relocating in 1970 to Utah. Once in the Beehive State, Cox would take on another management position, this time at Smith’s Food & Drug. After about two years at Smith’s, Cox’s desire to continue moving up pushed him to take the next step and start his own chain.

Coincidentally, in 1973, the original incarnation of Randall’s, by then rebranded as Piggly Wiggly, was up for sale in Houston. The locations were being sold off piecemeal after being purchased by out-of-state operations. Through a series of mergers, New Mexico-based Shop Rite had come in control of the chain. While the stores were not money losers, they were far away from core operations. Thanks to Cox’s connections in the Southwest, he learned about the Houston stores and decided to pick one up. The locations were mostly older neighborhood stores, and the new owners had no interest in upgrading them. The quality of a location largely depended on how the former owners had treated it. The Meyerland Piggly Wiggly, which Carrol chose, was a dominant neighborhood grocery store originally opening as Belden’s Super Valu along a planned freeway frontage road. After consulting with the Levit family, owners of Grocers Supply Co., Carrol Cox purchased the old Piggly Wiggly, which he wanted to quickly reopen. The last piece of the puzzle would be a name; Cox immediately landed on Foodarama because he felt it sounded family-friendly and represented his plans for the store.

Meyerland residents were grateful for Cox reopening their neighborhood grocery store. While he had competition, namely A&P, Cox’s commitment to running the best store he could would win the hearts of shoppers. In 1974, Foodarama added a second location, this one a former Weingarten’s, which a newer location had replaced. Initially, Weingarten had reopened the store with limited services and selections under a different name to hide the connection. However, once Cox got his hands on the store, he would have it done under the Foodarama name and reopened it to original Weingarten standards. It was already apparent that Cox understood the Houston market quite well, managing to grab a foothold at the start of some severe grocery wars. By 1975, the chain was now at three locations with the purchase of a former A&P after their exit from Houston that year. For years, Foodarama would sit at this point, an idle participant in some severe price battles. With only three locations, Foodarama had less influence but still had to keep up with the goings-on of major companies. Cox would credit much of his success to Grocers Supply Co., who was very responsive to their clients and were a significant reason why independents survived and sometimes even thrived during the 70s. By the 1980s, Cox was formulating a plan to expand. While the Houston grocery wars were still going on, things in neighboring San Antonio had settled down.

The story of the San Antonio grocery wars deserves its own article, but it can largely be summed up in the following thought. It was where HEB learned how to take down other operators. HEB had always been tough on competition, but by the 1980s in San Antonio, Eagle, and Kroger had become the first nationals to enter the city, and Safeway was making inroads to be next. Wanting to put the hammer down, HEB doubled down on the competition. In doing so, they would successfully snuff out Kroger and Eagle but also take out a few local competitors, including DeLuxe Supermarkets. A relatively new chain made up of only about nine locations, it would be unable to keep up with the price wars and entered bankruptcy in late 1980. While not always as severe, pretty much every grocer in San Antonio felt some amount of fallout from these years. Most famously, Handy Andy would exit Houston, a market that was doing well but costly to run compared to their home base. This would present an opportunity to Cox, who wanted to expand but was limited by store turnover in Houston. It would be a risky move to enter San Antonio. Still, with knowledge from his El Rancho days and a partnership with the president of Handy Andy, Dan Reagles, Carroll Cox would purchase four of the former DeLuxe stores to reopen as a Hispanic-focused chain named La Fiesta.

Back home in Houston, Foodarama would essentially act as a “grocery of opportunity.” When other chains closed or exited Houston, Foodarama found a single location to take over successfully. This would net Foodarama a couple of relatively new stores, one from Weingarten’s, another from Eagle, and a third from Safeway via Rice. While growth in the 80s wasn’t particularly swift for Foodarama, it would set a trend. By this point, the chain had established itself as a reliable neighborhood grocer. The 1990s would set a similar precedent by picking up a few AppleTree locations. While Foodarama was still expanding, other independent grocers were not as lucky. Larger chains, like Gerland’s, began to cut back with increased pressure from chains like Food Lion and HEB Pantry Foods. Again, these weren’t stores that were specifically failures but simply victims of broader circumstances. By the new Melinium, Foodarama’s acquisitions would slow down quite a bit, but they wouldn’t stop. Picking up two Randalls locations. The chain has also cut back locations recently to keep up with a changing market. However, it doesn’t look like Foodarama is going anywhere soon, especially with its recent purchase of Food King, a long-running independent in Texas City. While the company is not publicly planning any new stores, further acquisitions are not out of the question.


Location List

Store No
110810 S Post Oak Rd, Houston, TX 770351973-Present Originally Belden's, later Randall's (Original Chain), Finally Piggly Wiggly
25665 Beechnut St, Houston, TX 770961974-Present, Former Weingarten's
38213 Long Point Road, Houston, TX 770551975-1976, Former A&P
411700 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 770721983-1992 Former Weingarten's
41805 Ella Blvd, Houston, TX 770081994-2022, Former Safeway/AppleTree
59543 S Main St, Houston, TX 770251985-1993, Former Eagle Discount Supermarket, Was renamed Low Cost Foods in Final Year
5915 6th St N, Texas City, TX 775902022-Present, Former Weingarten's, Later Safeway and AppleTree, Finally Food King
64025 W Fuqua St, Houston, TX 770451986-1990, Former Kroger
64040 W Fuqua St, Houston, TX 770451990-1999, Former Belden's Food Giant
64425 W Fuqua St, Houston, TX 770451999-Present, Former Weingarten's
711502 Wilcrest Dr, Houston, TX 770991987-Present, Former Safeway, Then Rice/Price Buster
82601 Cartwright Rd, Missouri City, TX 774891991-2001, Former Gerland's Food Fair, Briefly Quail Valley Minimax
81603 Cartwright Rd, Missouri City, TX 774892001-Present, Former Randall's
94805 Galveston Rd, Houston, TX 770171992-2021, Former AppleTree/Safeway
2011021 Fuqua St, Houston, TX 770892008-2020, Former Randall's
2115915 S Post Oak Rd, Houston, TX 770531998-Present, Originally Gerland's, Then Rice
228077 Antoine Dr, Houston, TX 770881998-2006 Originaly Eagle Discount Supermarket, Sold to Rice, Converted to Grocery World, Dd's Discounts as of 2023
227320 Antoine Dr, Houston, TX 770882006-Present, Former Randall's
105103 S Flores St, San Antonio, TX 782141981-2021, La Fiesta, Former Deluxe Supermarket, Still open under new ownership
114107 Blanco Rd, San Antonio, TX 782121981-2021, La Fiesta, Former Deluxe Supermarket, Still open under new ownership
124350 Callaghan Rd, San Antonio, TX 782281981-2004, La Fiesta, Former Deluxe Supermarket, 99 Cent Only Store as of 2023
126050 Ingram Rd, San Antonio, TX 782382004-2021, La Fiesta, Former Handy Andy, Still open under new ownership name change to Poco Loco
14448 Castroville Rd, San Antonio, TX 782071981-2018, La Fiesta, Former Deluxe Supermarket, Sold to Clinic
153414 Nogalitos St, San Antonio, TX 782251990-2021, La Fiesta, Former Deluxe, Originally Piggly Wiggly, Still open under new ownership name change to Poco Loco
16919 Bandera Rd, San Antonio, TX 782281996-2018, La Fiesta, Former Handy Andy, Subdivided
177002 Marbach Rd, San Antonio, TX 782272005-2021, La Fiesta, Still open under new ownership
234010 W Commerce St, San Antonio, TX 782072004, La Fiesta, Quickly sold back to Handy Andy
246103 Pecan Valley Dr, San Antonio, TX 782232004-2021, La Fiesta, Former Handy Andy, Still open under new ownership
??2323 E Main St, Eagle Pass, TX 788521993-1998, La Fiesta, Closed when HEB expanded, May have used the name 'El Rancho Mercado'