Rice Epicurean

Chain History
Rice Epicurean has a storied history. While technically not being completely gone, the single store that exists today is a far cry from the 55 store chain that once existed. The original location, which opened on May 5, 1937, was on Rice Boulevard hence the name “Rice Boulevard Food Market”. The store was one of only two establishments in the now popular Rice Village Shopping Center.

The final operating location, Fountain View.

In April 1957 a second location was opened in the Tanglewood area at 5016 San Felipe. The fact that this new location was so far from the Rice area necessitated a change in name to “Rice Food Markets”. By 1960 Rice had added another location bringing their total up to 3. The same year a merger took place with another grocery chain owned by a local family known as “Jack’s”. This brought the total store count up to 6. The chain had a brief stint on the public market from 1968 through the late 70s. Which ended when the original founding family reclaimed control of the store.

In the 1980s Rice hit its peak number of stores at 55. To help fit the turbulent local grocery market of the time, the chain converted some of their stores into discount grocery retailers “Grocery World” and “PriceBuster”. In 1984 Rice took control of 5 Weingarten’s Grocery stores, after the Weingarten family decided to exit the grocery market and deal in real estate instead. In 1985 Rice purchased multiple Eagle Supermarket locations in Houston. The parent company of Eagle, Lucky Stores had closed their Houston stores approximately one month before Rice’s acquisition.

Rice Epicurean Emerges
In 1988 the first “Rice Epicurean Market” opened. It was converted from the regular “Rice Food Market” location at 5016 San Felipe. To fit the upscale Galleria area the Epicurean chain carried a more extensive and higher scale line of products. It was a bit of an oddity in the Houston market, while other gourmet stores existed they were generally much smaller and carried only specialty products. In addition, Rice contracted directly with specialty companies, such as Honey Baked Ham, and See’s Candies, providing the products directly in their stores through specialty departments. This delve into new territory helped to strengthen the Epicurean side of the business, while the stores carried new products they maintained their grocery store essentials. If so desired you could stop into Rice Epicurean for a 12 pack of Coke, some truffles, and light bulbs. This flexibility helped make the chain popular with not only the upper crust of River Oaks and similar areas, but also the upper middle class “yuppies” moving into condos and apartments in the area. Throughout  the 1990s Rice divested themselves of all but five locations, also dumping the discount grocery chains. The final locations were eventually all converted into Rice Epicurean stores. This would also be joined by the final Lewis and Coker in Memorial which Rice purchased upon their closure.

Rice Epicurean would hang on as a six store chain for over 20 years, and the stores were known for providing excellent service. They also experimented with new ideas such as ordering groceries online and having them delivered. They even helped to pilot what would eventually become to Automate Postal Machines used by the USPS. However, their reduced size and demographics meant they needed to raise prices to stay competitive. These factors helped to push the decision to shutter all but one location. In a fate similar to what the Weingarten family had decided to do with their stores nearly 30 years earlier, Rice would exit the grocery market and delve into real estate. They made this decision through leasing their stores and other locations in shopping centers which they owned. The decision to leave the grocery market was met with the almost immediate announcement that Rice would be leasing all the former Epicurean stores to a chain known as “The Fresh Market”, an organic and health food style grocery store based out of North Carolina. The Fresh Market ditched the higher end items that Rice Epicurean carried, but did keep a few of the essentials in addition to their otherwise organic and healthy fare. The Fresh Market would vacate one store in 2012, leaving it vacant until the chain pulled out of Texas in 2016, and the other stores were closed. One location was converted into a Walgreens, while the remaining locations are being leased out to Total Wine Superstores which opened in 2017.

Photo Gallery


Location List

Store Numbers
Former Locations
2012500 Rice Boulevard Houston, TX 77005Rice Food Market 1937-19??, Rice Epicurean 19??-2003, Bombay Kids 2004-2010, Elite Care 2011-Present
2025016 San Felipe St Houston, TX 77056Rice Food Market 1957-1987, Rice Epicurean 1987-2012, The Fresh Market 2013-2016, Total Wine Superstore 2017-Present
2033102 Kirby Dr Houston, TX 77098Eagle Supermarket ????-1984, Rice Food Market 1984-1990, Rice Epicurean 1990-2001, Bed Bath and Beyond 2001-Present
20412516 Memorial Dr Houston, TX 77024Lewis & Coker 1963-1997, Rice Epicurean 1997-2012, The Fresh Market 2012-2016, Total Wine Superstore 2017-Present
2052020 Fountain View Dr Houston, TX 77057Safeway May 19, 1974-1989, AppleTree 1989-1993 Rice Epicurean 1994-Present
2063745 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77027Safeway 1970-1989, AppleTree 1989-1993, Rice Epicurean 1994-2012, The Fresh Market 2012-2012, Walgreens 2016-Present
2072617 W Holcombe Blvd Houston, TX 77025Safeway 19??-1989, AppleTree 1989-1993, Rice Epicurean 1994-2012, The Fresh Market 2012-2016, Total Wine Superstore 2017-Present


  1. There was a Rice market in the 2300 block of Westheimer in the early 70’s, which then moved into the former Eagle market at Kirby/West Alabama.
    Prices at Rice were much higher than at Eagle.
    I rarely drive through that area anymore. I think the sole surviving business from the 70″s is the upscale Coronet dry cleaners, which was a block or two east of the Westheimer Rice store.
    Just south on Kirby past the Eagle/Rice/BBB property was Jamails grocery, very high end. I don;t remeber when this closed, and moved into smaller quarters maybe on South Rice or Sage. Jamails was replaced by a car wash I think.

  2. I worked at Price Buster on Wirt road in 1992. I left Texas in 1992. What happened to that location?

    1. Price Buster chugged on for a few more years until the family who owns Rice decided to close all stores that weren’t Epicurean locations. The 1414 Wirt location shutdown in 1997, but reopened within about a year as an HEB Pantry Foods. The HEB moved out in 2003, and a 99 Cent Only Store moved in, they had the store until 2009 when 99 Cent Only threatened to pull out of Texas and shutdown about half their locations. From that point on, the county has been using the building.

  3. 2020 Fountain View was AppleTree until 1994, then Rice Epicurean bought the store. It was in a package deal with several other stores.