A look into Houston's retail past

My attempt at a classic, February’s Retail Demolition Report

As with many of my current readers, I still have a huge, Swamplot shaped hole in my heart. The rise in my frequency of posting is largely due in part to a few readers contacting me and mentioning that this site helped somewhat to fill the void. In my research I sometimes check demolition reports. I have been wanting to share the demolition reports I’ve seen. However, I wanted to make some distinctions from Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report. I’m only featuring commercial properties which have: some connection to retail, are interesting, or are historic.

1134 Hamblen according to some old Chronicle Ads this was originally a Phillips 66. Source: Google Street View
02/03/20 – 1134 Hamblen Rd Humble, TX 77339 Late 70s Coastal Station looks like it hasn’t sold gas in a few years
02/04/20 – 812 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77006 Theo’s Greek Restaurant which closed in January due to planned demolition of the strip center it leases space in.
02/13/20 – 747 Dairy Ashford Rd Houston, TX 77079 Originally a Bill Blankenship Firestone most recently an independent auto shop.
02/24/20 – 2600 S Richey St Houston, TX 77017 UTBAPH (Used to be a Pizza Hut) property now owned by 7-Eleven
02/25/20 – 1508 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77006 Demolition of a storage shed by new occupant “Cutthroat” possibly a third location of the Barbershop?
02/28/20 – 4111 Fannin St Houston, TX 77004 Demolition of the former Sears Midtown Auto Center, great Street View from when it was still open. Seem like it will become a parking garage.

7-Eleven’s less than triumphant Houston return

As with many of the subjects of my website, Houstonians of a certain age will remember when one of the largest convenience stores in the area was 7-Eleven. Originally founded in urgh… Dallas, the chain operated under the name “Tote’m” initially. It would not be until after World War II that the store would famously change their name to represent store hours of “7-11”. This name change would also allow for expansion into territory, like Houston, which was already held by the similarly named “U-Tote’m” convenience store chain.

These “six-sided” stores were some of the last that 7-Eleven built in Houston. They were so new, that when Stop n’ Go acquired them they made it a point to note that the stores would not be remodeled.

Houston’s first 7-Eleven would open in 1953 at 5115 Allendale in Southeast Houston near Sims Bayou. With the company announcing plans to build up to 100 Houston area stores within the next few years. A number which they would not only quickly reach, but exceed. Finally after years of fighting a highly diversified market compared to many other parts of the country, 7-Eleven decided to Exit Houston in 1987 (Thanks to Aaron J. from Carbon-izer for helping me confirm). They sold their 270 location chain to Stop-N-Go who converted most, but not all locations over closing a few in the process.

In 2014 the first hint of the Slurpee Giant’s return to the Houston area was teased when 7-Eleven acquired the majority of Victoria Based C-Store Speedy Stop’s retail operations. Included in the purchase were four locations in the Houston Metro area. These stores had all previously been operated as Speedy Stops, but after the acquisition the branding was covered up and the Tetco name (another brand which was acquired) was used instead. This was kept until 2018 when some Tetco signs were replaced with 7-Eleven. During this time 7-Eleven would also acquire Stripes. The plan seemed to be to convert all stores into 7-Elevens, using Stripes as a distribution channel.

5700 New Territory Blvd Sugar Land, TX 77479
2480 S Hwy 35 Byp, Alvin, TX 77511
18555 Tomball Pkwy Houston, TX 77070 (Converted to Tetco, had some type of conversion but was not completed)
6102 Hwy 6, Houston, TX 77084 (Was a Speedy Stop, then was quickly sold to an independent likely never Tetco)

This is the New Territory location, I had a chance to check it soon after it was converted. As of the publishing of this article this is the closest 7-Eleven to the Houston City Limits. Originally the white sign was completely green for Speedy Stop, then the middle was swapped for a white Tetco sign. Finally, it was all turned white.
The logo stripe is a new addition. It stretches across all the windows. Another update worth noticing are the shopping baskets. I know these were somewhat more common in convenience stores of the past. However, I’m unsure if these baskets are a remnant of a heyday or an import from their Japanese parent company.
Slurpees and Big Gulps are among some of the most iconic 7-Eleven products. They were actually available as soon as the Tetco name switch was complete.
Although the brand availability has changed somewhat, the GM section of the store remains mostly the same. The coffee bar is on a reused island, but has been modified somewhat.
Most updates, including those related to the Deli section was done under the Tetco banner. This includes the section seen here, and an open face cooler to the left.
And here’s the aforementioned cooler, Now this does somewhat resemble a Japanese convenience store, where “grab and go” selections are very prevalent.
I believe the wood paneling and tiles all received updates, but have no easy way to confirm this. The store had very little backroom space compared to how much product a 7-Eleven tends to keep. Meaning there was a bit of “organized chaos” mostly made up of the drink back stock.

As mentioned earlier in the article, I took these photos around 2018. The reason I have been sitting on them for so long is I, along with many other Houstonians had been expecting the return of 7-Eleven. The acquisitions were made with quite a bit of fanfare, and with press coverage. The reality is that outside of being able to buy Slurpee’s and other 7-Eleven exclusives at Stripe’s we’re not much closer to having actual locations inside Houston city limits. At least this was what I thought until I took Eldridge Parkway home a few nights ago.

This gas station was originally an independent selling Chevron branded gasoline. At some point it was slated to be converted to a Stripes. Exterior vinyl signage said to apply at the Stripe’s up Westpark a few blocks.This would have been the last time I saw it. The store sat vacant for quite some time.
This sign replaced the old Chevron sign and was clearly one of the newest pieces added to the gas station.
However it looks like within the past few months new signage has been added. Combining 7-Eleven with Laredo Taco Co. ( I went back to get better photos but with the cloud cover most of my night shots ended up better)
The gas pumps and canopy are essentially untouched from the independent days. Although a large inter-modal storage container now sits between pumps 2 & 3.
The car wash system looks like it completely replaced, including new draining dug.

At this point it looks like the remodel is fully underway. Hopefully I can try driving by on a weekday and see if the shutters are open. If this is the case, we will likely have a new 7-Eleven within Houston city limits by summer.

Laredo Taco Company Greensburg, PA

Laredo Taco Company, is a fast food concept owned by Stripes Convenience Stores. In 2015, Stripes was acquired by Sunoco. Some experimentation was undertaken by Sunoco to help improve their convenience store operations. Outside of Stripes switching to Sunoco brand gasoline there was little change for the  Texas based Stripes customer to notice. However, outside of Texas Sunoco chose to build a new store concept, including co-located Laredo Taco Company locations. Three stores were built throughout the Nashville, TN area. Another was also built in Greensburg, PA which is outside of Pittsburgh. This is the location I was able to get photos of.

This location operates under the A-Plus banner of stores. It is owned by Sunoco, and was completely torn down and rebuilt when the Laredo Taco Company was added. There is exterior signage both permanent featured here, and temporary glass cling advertisements for LTC. There’s also outdoor seating.

The menu has some differences from the Texas version, such as the addition of both bowls, salad bowls…

… including would you believe it “Nachos Grande”!

Taking a look around the inside, the store does not resemble a conventional Stripes location. It borrows more from A-Plus styling and themes. Overall I think it looks nice. A-Plus uses a very basic interpretation of the LTC branding and styling, which looks very modern.

The order kiosk system, while not new to the chain is still in a slow roll out mode. If a store was built more than 6 or 7 years ago, chances are they don’t have kiosks.

 

Now, you may be wondering how this relates to Houston? Well during the end of 2017 Sunoco sold all their convenience store businesses to 7-Eleven who will eventually convert all stores to their own brand. This likely means either a stoppage of new LTC locations or the overall removal of the brand. That’s unfortunate for the brand because it’s solid, and it has something that most other Taquerias lack which is consistency between locations. Everything is the same, and the quality is consistent. However, it’s not necessarily the final sign of death for the stores. As some Stripes locations approximately 200 were sold to a third party who has not indicated any plans to change to 7-Eleven as of yet. So for outside of the Southwest Laredo Taco Company locations, this is probably it for now.