Davis Food City

The tale of A. L. Davis started all the way back in 1918 when Albert Leo Davis was born in South Carolina. Davis, who would join the Army Air Force during World War II, would meet and marry a native of Forth Worth, where he would reside after the war. Davis would establish his first store in 1947, near the “temporary community” of Liberator Village, which had been built to support the nearby Air Force Manufacturing Plant. Davis’s prominence in the military community and his push towards hometown service helped him grow the chain quickly. By 1953, there were already six A. L. Davis Food Stores throughout the Fort Worth area, and by 1962, there would be 50. The chain’s quick expansion was largely fueled by picking up leases on locations dropped by other chains. However, Davis had also worked to develop a small format neighborhood store named Handymarkets to fill in smaller communities. In all this expansion, the chain had grown far outside the confines of Fort Worth. Going far West to Odessa, North to Amarillo, and East to Mesquite. This growth had made Davis Food Stores one of the largest independent operators in Texas at the time. However, the expansion kick resulted from debt, and the company ended up owing over $2 million more than it had in value. In a moment of desperation, Davis’ wife, Neva, sold her stock in the publically traded company and gave the resulting $138,000 to her husband, who took it to Vegas and lost it all. Davis would have to admit this fact in front of his creditors, the largest of which was Kimbell Grocery Co. In late 1963, A. L. Davis stores would file for bankruptcy. Despite Davis undertaking equipment liquidations and months of reorganization, Davis ended up selling his chain to Kimbell Grocery Co. in early 1964. Kay Kimbell, owner of the company, would pass away only weeks after the sale. By 1965, the Davis Food Store brand had been retired in favor of Buddie’s, a company Kimbell had purchased some years prior.

The remaining A. L. Davis-era Food City is still operating at Aldine Mail Route and the Eastex Freeway as of 2023.

In 1965, the Davis family relocated to Houston, and using a bit of his savings, Albert purchased the lease on a Minimax in the enclave of South Houston. His selection was impeccable, as the store was and still is the main grocery store for the area as of 2023. The next location would open only months later, in 1966, this one in South Park. It was a former Super Valu, which had merged with Minimax at this point. While Davis’ relationship with his supplier had soured in DFW, Fleming seemed to be a fan of Food City. The stores that Davis was taking over had been previously franchised but had to be dumped back onto the supplier when their operators failed. The third he received was in Brenham, Texas, where thousands of dollars were spent to renovate the building, easily competing with the new HEB. By 1970, Food City was up to five locations in Houston and six overall. All of these locations had been taken on through Minimax, and, while profitable, were, on average, smaller and older than competitors. In the 70s, Food City would begin building new stores. They would also purchase a former Henke-Kroger to expand to nine locations by 1977. In 1978, Davis infamously won a court case against the IRS. The agency had sued Albert for writing off losses that he had incurred before his bankruptcy; however, the courts ruled in his favor. In 1981, Davis would hit a high of 8 locations, purchasing a former Gerland’s in West U. The store, which was technically the 10th (counting Brenham), would actually be numbered #20, as if to set a goal. The reality, though, would be that at this point, growth would slow for Food City dramatically. As mentioned many times before, the early 80s were unsure times in Texas. Davis had managed to weather the ’70s oil crisis, but by this point, he was unable or unwilling to deal with deteriorating economic conditions.

Most former Food City locations have since become either El Ahorro or La Michoacana stores.

During this time, the existing Food City stores began to show their age. As previously mentioned, many were older and smaller than most competitors, and during his ownership, Davis’ approach to maintenance had been lax in favor of lower prices. While stores weren’t left untouched, they weren’t particularly pretty. Food City developed an austere reputation. They were known for having hand-written advertisements, painted windows, and low prices. After closing a few underperforming locations, Food City opened two new stores in 1988. However, this would be their only movement for years. In the 90s, the chain would pivot to become a bit more Hispanic-focused. While not a traditional Hispanic grocery by any means, Food City’s selection was tailored to appeal to as many Houstonians as possible. In 1998, Food City would open two new stores and relocate one, making its final moves. By this point, Davis was in his 80s, and while other family members were helping, his expertise was needed. Albert would pass away in 2003, and the break up of Food City would begin. Down to eight locations at that point, two would be sold to upstart Hispanic grocer Mi Rancho that year. Other stores would begin closing in 2005 and 2006, looking for alternate tenants. In 2006, Rafael Ortega, owner of La Michoacana and El Ahorro, would make a bid on the remainder of Davis Food City. While most locations would end up converted to El Ahorro or La Michoacana, the Aldine Mail Route store was converted to an updated “Food City” banner. This banner has been tested on two new stores, both of which have since closed.

Location List

Store No
11508 Houston Blvd, South Houston, TX 775871965-2000, Originally a Minimax, Mexico Lindo as of 2023
28106 South Park Blvd, Houston, TX 770481966-1975. Originally a Super Valu, Highly remodeled by Walgreens which is still open as of 2023
3314 E Alamo St, Brenham, TX 778331967-1986, Originally a Super Valu, Cannery Kitchen as of 2023
41535 Elton St, Houston, TX 770341968-2003, Originally a Minimax, Briefly Mi Rancho, La Michoacana as of 2023
51303 Ella Blvd, Houston, TX 770081969-1982, Originally a Minimax, Demolished after 2011
6148 E Little York Rd, Houston, TX 770761970-1982, Originally a Minimax, Later a Lucky 7, Converted to a Banquet Hall in the 90s
72141 Little York Rd, Houston, TX 770931972-2003 Built for Food City, Vacant since then?
59900 Gulf Fwy, Houston, TX 770341974-1999 Built for Food City, Original building possibly demolished, Unsure
812814 Hempstead Rd, Houston, TX 770921975-2003, Originally Henke & Pillot, Briefly Mi Rancho, El Ahorro as of 2023
91513 W 18th St, Houston, TX 770081977-1996, Built for Food City, Later HEB Pantry, 24 Hr Fitness as of 2023
208425 Stella Link Rd, Houston, TX 770251981-1998, Originally A&P, Then Gerland's/Consumer Warehouse, Subdivided
109223 Stella Link Rd, Houston, TX 770251998-2007, Originally Rice, Later McDuff Electronics, Now La Michoacana
115319 FM 1960 E, Humble, TX 773461988-2005, Unsure, Vacant in 2008, La Michoacana as of 2023
125859 Bissonnet St, Bellaire, TX 774011988-2007, Originally an Eagle, Briefly a Piggly Wiggly, El Ahorro as of 2023
145230 Aldine Mail Rte Rd, Houston, TX 770391998-Present, Originally Safeway, Then Price Buster Still open!
154711 W 34th St, Houston, TX 770921998-2006, Originally an Eagle, La Michoacana
2001 E State Hwy 21, Bryan, TX 778032010, Originally Safeway/AppleTree Briefly Super Canasta (Related to Bravo Ranch), Food City for months, Then El Ahorro until 2013, La Michoacana as of 2023
11214 Beechnut St, Houston, TX 77072Planned to open 2017, Opened as an El Ahorro in 2018, Former Safeway/Drugs For Less
2502 N Laurent St, Victoria, TX 779012017-2022, Originally a Save-a-Lot, Then El Ahorro, Then La Michoacana, Finally Food City, Vacant as of 2023