Rice Food Markets

Chain History

Rice Food Markets’ story begins in May 1938. The first store to open replaced a grocer who failed after only a few months. Located at 2501 Rice Boulevard the new store was in the heart of Rice Village, taking on the name Rice Boulevard Food Market. This new store was the brainchild of William H. Levy, who had been working in his father’s stores, which had opened in 1901. In addition to his knowledge of the rapidly evolving grocery business, the store’s success was no doubt in thanks to the fact that Levy’s father-in-law happened to be the developer behind Rice Village. The store was tiny, and at the time in an area that would be considered rural by modern standards. Rice even served as the Post Office in the area for a few years. However, with the suburban boom starting the 40s, Rice would quickly find a customer base. The store started out as a 500 Square Foot self-service store, and by the 1950s had doubled in size By the late 50s, expansion was on the brain for Rice. Following the pattern of suburban development, this new store would be in Tanglewood.

The final Rice Epicurean location, Fountain View.

In April 1958 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”. The new store would be a modern Supermarket. At 17,000 Square Feet, it was massive compared to the first location. The store would even feature a counter for local candy maker Kegg’s. In a tradition that would continue over the next few years, the new shopping center would be built as a joint-venture between Levy and his son-in-law Alfred Friedland. Similar to the agreement with the original store, Levy would own the center, leasing the remaining space to other tenants. In 1958 the third and fourth locations would be confirmed. The third store would be slightly larger, modeled after California Supermarkets. The same year a fourth store was also planned as an anchor tenant for West Point Shopping Center a proposed mall in Spring Branch, although the plans would at some point fall through.  By 1960 Rice had 3 operating locations, and plans for at least two more. At this point, Rice would also start to open Grocery Departments, 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.

2012-Present
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 No
Address
Notes
12500 Rice Boulevard Houston, TX 770051938-2000, Original Store, Later Epicurean, Now Urgent Care
25016 San Felipe St, Houston, TX 770561958-2012 Later Epicurean, then Fresh Market, Now Total Wine
39223 Stella Link Rd, Houston, TX 770251959-1986, Later Al Davis Food City, Now La Michoacana
4Long Point @ Witte Rd. Houston, TX 77055Contracted 1959 but never built, intended to be part of West Point Shopping Center
44420 W Orem Dr, Houston, TX 770451963-1991 Still standing, Originally J.M.H. Food
53030 Woodridge Dr, Houston, TX 770871960-1973 Globe Discount City Grocery Dept
65320 N Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 770911960-1973 Globe Discount City Grocery Dept
76200 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 770811961-1973 Globe Discount City Grocery Dept
84330 Fulton St, Houston, TX 770091963-1986 Still standing, Originally Central Food Market, Family Thrift Since 1989
97200 Lyons Ave, Houston, TX 770201963-1998, Originally Jack's No 1, Then Bi-Rite Supermarket, Sol Supermarket since 2008
101401 Holland Ave, Galena Park, TX 775471963-1986 Still standing, Originally Jack's No 2
113700 Navigation Blvd, Houston, TX 770031963-1985 Demolished, Originally Jack's No 4
122640 Fondren Rd, Houston, TX 770631964-1987 Still standing, most recently Stein Mart
135417 S Braeswood Blvd, Houston, TX 770961964-1983 Still standing, Miller's Outpost, Then HEB Pantry until 2015
148610 Martin Luther King Blvd, Houston, TX 770331964-1991 Still standing, Medical Clinic
151811 Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 770801966-1973 Rice Food Market, Value Village
152001 N Frazier St, Conroe, TX 773011975-1977 Still standing, Previously an A&P (Number Reuse)
168424 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 770361966-1977 Still standing, Later Sears Surplus Store, and 50-Off
171004 Southmore Ave, Pasadena, TX 775021966-1973 Globe Discount City Grocery Dept
18975 Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 770241968-1976 Globe Discount City Grocery Dept
1911520 Gulf Fwy, Houston, TX 770341968-1975 Next to Woolco, Later Sears Surplus, Demolished
193902 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 770271977-1987 Previously Henke & Pillot, Number reused
2014054 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 770791969-1982 Still standing
213500 Little York Rd, Houston, TX 770931969-1983 Next to Woolco, Mi Tienda
221700 Decker Dr, Baytown, TX 775201969-1973 Globe Discount City Grocery Dept, Now Food Town
238031 S Kirkwood Rd, Houston, TX 770721970-1981 Vacant
247243 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX 770741970-1984 Converted to Cashsaver Warehouse around 1982
255710 W Little York Rd, Houston, TX 770911970-1981 Giant Dollar
26440 W Parker Rd, Houston, TX 770911971-1983 Possibly Adjacent to former Woolco
272616 Blodgett St, Houston, TX 770041971-1995 Formerly Sacco's, Blodgett Food Hall
286804 Spencer Hwy, Pasadena, TX 775051971-1981 Big Lots
298753 Katy Fwy, Hedwig Village, TX 770241971-1985 Formerly Ledbetter's
30300 Dell Dale St, Channelview, TX 775301972-1984 The Table Thrift Store
311356 Federal Rd, Houston, TX 770151971-1984, Formerly Epp's Supermarket
328427 E Houston Rd, Houston, TX 770281971-1991 Formerly Epp's Supermarket
332017 Strawberry Rd, Pasadena, TX 775021971-1984 Formerly Epp's Supermarket
342425 Campbell Rd, Houston, TX 770801971-1977 Still standing, Formerly Epp's Supermarket
35565 Uvalde Rd, Houston, TX 770151971-1978 Still standing, Subdivided, Formerly Epp's Supermarket
362405 Ave I, Huntsville, TX 773401972-1984 Still standing
3710553 Homestead Rd, Houston, TX 770161972-1990 Still standing Subdivided, Later Price Buster #108
386912 Telephone Rd, Houston, TX 770611973-1982 Demolished? Previously Garden Villas Lucky 7
395330 Chimney Rock Rd, Houston, TX 770811973-1996 Converted 1990 to Price Buster #109
40105 Rayford Rd, Spring, TX 773861973-1984 Later became Academy
4111225 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX 770991973-1982 Converted to Cashsaver Warehouse
422311 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 770981973-1982 Originally Randall's/Piggly Wiggly
43610 W Cavalcade St, Houston, TX 770091973-1996 Originally Piggly Wiggly
449419 N Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 770881973-1984 Originally Piggly Wiggly
4511801 Chimney Rock Rd, Houston, TX 770351975-1980 Originally a Henke/Kroger, Later a Bingo Hall, Demolished
4612024 Homestead Rd, Houston, TX 770501975-1978 Demolished Previously an A&P
476102 Scott St, Houston, TX 770211975-1996 Originally a Henke & Pillot Most Recently HEB Pantry
488504 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 770361975-1976 Beverage Mart opened next to existing Bellaire store
496019 Bellfort Ave, Houston, TX 770331976-1980 Original Randall's Supermarket, Demolished
5022618 Aldine Westfield Rd, Spring, TX 773731979-1992 Later HEB Pantry Foods Now, Dollar Tree
519700 Hillcroft St, Houston, TX 770961979-1998 Originally a Handy Andy, Was the first Epicurean Conversion, downgraded in 1993, and converted into Grocery World in 1997
528700 S Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 770741979-1980 Originally a Handy Andy,
535810 Bellfort Ave, Houston, TX 770331980-1998 Originally a Weingarten, Still standing
546150 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX 770811980-1981 Former Sacco's, now Salvation Army
556620 Antoine Dr, Houston, TX 770911981-1998 Previously Gerland's Food Fair, Still standing
5617164 Blackhawk Blvd, Friendswood, TX 775461981-1984 Previously Gerland's Food Fair, Still standing?
5710505 Telephone Rd, Houston, TX 770751981-1993 Previously Gerland's Food Fair, Still standing
5815915 S Post Oak Rd, Houston, TX 770531981-1998 Previously Gerland's Food Fair, Now Foodarama
599419 N Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 770881982-1984 Cashaver Warehouse Originally Piggly Wiggly, 9419 N Shepherd Dr, Previously a Rice
6011225 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX 770991982-1984 Cash Saver Warehouse, Previously a Rice
617243 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX 770741982-1984 Cash Saver Warehouse, Previously a Rice
634519 Griggs Rd, Houston, TX 770211984-1994 Former Weingarten, Still standing
64151 Northline Mall Houston, TX 770221984-1988 Former Weingarten, Later Price Buster
659420 Cullen Blvd, Houston, TX 770511984-1998 Former Weingarten, Currently Fiesta
6611737 Eastex Fwy, Houston, TX 770391984-1985 Former Weingarten
676063 S Loop E Fwy, Houston, TX 770331984-1985 Former Weingarten, Closed before Reopening as Price Buster, Previously Target Foods, Later Auchan
683102 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 770981985-2001 Former Eagle, Rice Epicurean, Now Bed Bath & Beyond
696425 San Felipe St, Houston, TX 770571985-1998 Former Eagle, Rice Epicurean
708201 Broadway St, Houston, TX 770611985-1996 Former Eagle, Grocery World
715708 S Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 770361985-1987 Former Eagle, Hong Kong Food Market, Now Sun Wing Supermarket
7210321 Club Creek Dr, Houston, TX 770361985-1991 Former Eagle
738541 W Bellfort St, Houston, TX 770711985-1988 Former Eagle, Later Price Buster
748077 Antoine Dr, Houston, TX 770881985-1996 Former Eagle, Later Grocery World
754114 Fulton St, Houston, TX 770091985-1996 Former Kroger, Later Grocery World
762501 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 770561986-1991 Final Weingarten location (Closed 2 years after others due to lease disputes)
101400 W Little York Rd, Houston, TX 770761988-1998 Price Buster
102151 Northline Mall Houston, TX 770221988-1998 Price Buster
1038541 W Bellfort St, Houston, TX 770711988-1988 Price Buster
1046063 S Loop E Fwy, Houston, TX 770331988-1996 Price Buster
1055815 Lockwood Dr, Houston, TX 770261988-1998 Price Buster, Former Weingarten
1065232 Aldine Mail Rte Rd, Houston, TX 770391989-1998 Price Buster, Former Safeway Budget Store
1071414 Wirt Rd, Houston, TX 770551990-1997 Price Buster, Former Safeway
10810553 Homestead Rd, Houston, TX 770161990-1996 Price Buster
1095330 Chimney Rock Rd, Houston, TX 770811991-1996 Price Buster
1102600 Farm to Market 1960 Rd E, Houston, TX 770731991-1993 Price Buster #110
1116620 Antoine Dr, Houston, TX 770911991-1998 Price Buster #111
1124711 W 34th St, Houston, TX 770921992-1998 Price Buster #112
1131818 Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 770801991-1995 Price Buster, Originally an Eagle, later Sak-n-Sav
1149419 N Shepherd, Houston, TX 77037?-1996 Price Buster #114
1154425 W Fuqua St, Houston, TX 77045?-1997 Price Buster #115 Foodarama
1308201 Broadway St, Houston, TX 770611996-1998 Grocery World
1318077 Antoine Dr, Houston, TX 770881996-1998 Grocery World #131
1324114 Fulton St, Houston, TX 77009?-1998 Grocery World #132
2012500 Rice Boulevard Houston, TX 77005Rice Epicurean 1999-2003, Now Elite Care
2025016 San Felipe St Houston, TX 77056Rice Epicurean 1987-2012, Now Total Wine Superstore
2035470 Farm to Market 1960 Rd W, Houston, TX 77069Eagle 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
2683102 Kirby Dr, Houston, TX 77098Rice Epicurean 1985-2001
2696425 San Felipe St, Houston, TX 77057Rice Epicurean: 1985-1998

12 comments

  1. Mike, thanks for getting around to updating the list of the Rice locations!!! It definitely looks like you have been doing your research. We shopped at Rayford and Interstate 45 back when it was a four way stop signed intersection. That store predated the Safeway, Kroger, and finally the Randall’s. All of them our gone from that intersection now. Anyway, great job and keep up the awesome work!!! P.S., they are closing the final location now. It was just recently announced.

    1. Hi Stewart! Thanks for reaching out, I did hear about the final Rice closing! What a sad situation.

  2. Also, along with Price Buster there was the other moniker that Rice used called Grocery World. There were quite a few of those Rice stores converted to those locations too.

  3. You are missing so, so many locations. Do a blog about the actual Rice Super Market locations and list their store locations. They were everywhere with either the green and orange oval sign or the square shaped green and orange signs. It is a storied grocery store. Also, do a story about the Clayton’s chain of supermarkets that were mainly on the north side of Houston.

    1. Yeah, this was originally just based around the Epicurean chain and has been expanded a bit other than the location list. I’ll get around to it eventually!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. Thanks! I’m working on detailing the earlier history of Rice and hope to publish it one of these days!

  6. 2020 Fountain View was AppleTree until 1994, then Rice Epicurean bought the store. It was in a package deal with several other stores.

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