This last summer I took some time to visit friends and extended family in Cleveland, Ohio. The whole Northeastern Ohio region is like a time capsule for retail. Chains you thought went bust like Rax still reign king in small towns. While visiting I stopped into Discount Drug Mart and was surprised to learn that they still develop film. I bought a roll, and a camera from Goodwill. Here are some of the photos I took.
A funny little vignette to end with. While driving out of the former Kroger parking lot, I ran over a nail. I was able to make it onto a nearby highway before noticing and pulling off. This last summer hit a high temperature record for Cleveland of 97 degrees. Predictably (according to Murphy’s law) I had my flat tire on this day. Once I stopped and began to change my tire, I had multiple people stop and offer me water or help. They were concerned that I wouldn’t be able to deal with the heat. Thankfully my Texan background and Cleveland’s much lower humidity made this a relatively painless tire changing experience. By the way, turns out sweating works, it just has to be able to evaporate!
I hope you enjoyed watching me muddle through a film shoot. This was a practice run for a Houston attempt. Though I will definitely have to buy a better camera before that.
Excuse the brief update. I have had quite the busy week! More content should be coming soon, including a small retrospective of pictures that don’t really fit anywhere else. For now though enjoy A&P.
A&P is not a well known grocer in the Houston area. They never had their own division, and were based out of Dallas. The number of stores I have seen varies somewhat. My estimation has it around 5, no more than 10. So far I have only been able to learn of one former A&P. It was at S. Post Oak, and W. Belfort. Across from the current Kroger store.
This location was recently the victim of some light demolition. The store originally opened in the early 1960s. I can’t find an exact date but know it was prior to or during 1962. The left and right sides were scaled back quite a bit.
The “wings” on the building were actually an addition. The original building plus a little bit of the left wing, which features Cue’s Burgers is all that’s left.
I’m not sure why the left side was demolished. The right side was to help accommodate a new gas station. However, both sides as this point feature open grass, as opposed to filled in parking lot.
With the front and sides remodeled, the building looks pretty nice. The back is mostly untouched, although things like loading docks were all filled in when A&P closed. I can’t find an exact date but I do know it was prior to the 1980s.
The chain, Rice Epicurean, is the result of many adaptions and “mutations” of a family owned grocery store originally named “Rice Boulevard Food Market”. You can read more about the history of the chain overall on my Rice Epicurean Store Page. This post takes a brief look at the chain as it stands today, one store, and six former properties.
Rice Epicurean #201 | 2500 Rice Boulevard
The original Rice Boulevard Food Market opened in 1937. It took on its name from the street the store was originally located on, Rice Boulevard. It was at the heart of the shopping center now known as Rice Village. However, when the grocery store was built there was only one other store in all of Rice Village. Truly a different experience to the Rice Village of today. The location was expanded, and eventually moved in 1957 to the a building which still stands.
This location managed to survived until 2003, its closure was mainly due to the small size of the building, along with the lack of parking. While it did have some dedicated, mainly older customers, the store had essentially hit its useful limit for the growing area. As it was was difficult leasing a grocery sized spot in Rice Village the building subdivided on multiple occasions as time has moved on. The building no longer resembles a Rice Epicurean location, but does fit in with the shopping center quite well.
Rice #202 | 5016 San Felipe
The next location to open is near what was at the time know as the far side of town. Located in the Tanglewood Shopping Center, this was the location that necessitated the chain’s first name change, dropping “Boulevard”. For the building’s entire life from 1957-2012 it housed Rice or other variations of the chain, upon closing this location was immediately flipped to The Fresh Market and has more recently begun transformation to Total Wine
In its life this store has had the entrances moved around a few times, but for the most par maintains the original Rice foot print. The other tenants in the shopping center are located to the right of the store, and behind the area which Rice occupied. This was the first location to be converted to the Epicurean banner by Rice. It also served a large clientele. Prior to 2014, it was the only grocery chain in the Galleria area. With the next nearest store being a Randall’s down San Felipe.
Rice #203 | 3102 Kirby Drive
The next location on the list was acquired as part of a deal with “Lucky Stores of California”, who operated a chain in Houston known as Eagle Supermarkets. Rice purchased four locations from Lucky, and this location was the only store that managed to stick around to the Epicurean days.
This store was the second location to be converted to Epicurean. It was over-sized as far as Rice Epicurean stores are concerned. The location was sold in 2001. Rice stated that this was due to the location being in close proximity with the Westhimer and Weslayan location, and not preforming as well. It has housed a Bed, Bath, and Beyond ever since.
Rice #204 | 12516 Memorial Drive
The store numbers used by the Epicurean chain don’t seem to directly correlate with anything, as seen in our next example. This store is part of the Lantern Lane shopping center, and was originally a Lewis and Croeker.
This location was the most recent acquisition in 1997. The store is largely unchanged from when Rice owned it, and as of early 2017 was still sporting the Fresh Market lablescar, with the original Rice Epicurean paint underneath. This local will also become a Total Wine Superstore, a banner advertising the transformation was hanging above the door, but blew up unto the eve as I snapped my picture.
Rice #206 | 3745 Westheimer
We’ll come back to location #205 and move on to #206 for now. This location was another acquisition, this time it was from Apple Tree Market, the locally owned spin-off of Safeway in the Houston area. When Rice took over they operated the location similarly to how Safeway had operated, electing not to remodel much. Eventually with Rice Epicurean, the store was remodeled a bit, but still had some Safeway features, especially on the outside of the building.
This location was extensively remodeled by The Fresh Market, who subdivided the building on the right side of the entrance, and removed what had been the center service desk, and replaced it with a straight through entrance. Once Walgreens moved in, the building was subdivided once again, with the farthest left side of the store, being vacant at the moment but available for leasing.
Rice #207 | 2617 West Holcombe
Rice #207 was another Apple Tree/Safeway acquisition. This store was much larger than #206 from the start. It was also hugely remodeled by The Fresh Market, who did not need as much space, and subdivided. They also did some exterior remodels including repainting, and adding plaster decor.
While retaining the distinctive Safeway columns of the time, many other distinctive pieces of Safeway architecture such as the texture rock surface have been covered or removed. The building also now has a large number of full length windows, as opposed to the half height walls Safeway was known to use. Most of these changes were done when the building was divided for new tenants.
Rice #205 | 2020 Fountainview
Finally, we tackle Rice Epicurean #205 this is the only location still in operation today. It is also the base of Rice’s grocery delivery service, and catering. The store has many features typical to other Rice Epicurean locations.
I did manage to go inside this location and take a look around, but that’s a blog post for another day!
First, I’d like to welcome you to a new feature of Houston Historic Retail, blog posts. I’m still experimenting with content styles, and want to explore this avenue. I may or may not stick with it, but for sure the content will remain. So with the possibility of this not sticking around for long, lets start by talking about a store that did not stick around for long, Food Lion.
Food Lion as mentioned elsewhere on the website Food Lion was a grocery retailer out of North Carolina, founded in 1957 they made their entry into the Houston market in 1992, with a plan to eventually open 40 stores. However due to the infamous Primetime Live Scandal Food Lion took a major hit in business. They managed to make it up to 13 stores in the Houston area, but decided to close the branch to help preserve the chain with the stores closing in 1994.
The location we’re looking at today is at the corner of Jones and West Roads in North West Houston. This location has a bit of a strange history, the plot that Food Town built on was originally owned by Safeway but was never developed. It was sold to Food Lion who finally built on it. It’s unclear if it was sold directly by Safeway or through Apple Tree, however as Safeway continued to own properties in the Houston area such as the Dairy Plant before selling it to HEB it’s possible that they held onto the property. The outside of the building still resembles a Food Lion for the most part. It has the basic rectangular shape, with little to no building adornments. The Mission Style Arch and new paint was added by Food Town.
Food Lion uses a very specific and easily identifiable entrance style. They have a single centered door which leads into the store, and a enclosed breezeway with doors on either side making a T shaped pathway from the doors. Food Lion for the most part kept the exact same entrance. The only difference I could find, was that the interior door was removed. The hardware was still bolted onto the door frame, but the doors themselves had been taken off. Based on the age of the radar motion detectors I would wager a guess that the doors broke, and were removed rather than replaced.
Inside of the store, not much has seemingly changed. I don’t ever remember going into Food Lion when they operated in Houston so my knowledge of what has changed is based on pictures of the other Houston locations, and pictures of older Food Lion locations. I’m not sure how the store layout has changed, if at all, but there is a dedicated entrance and exit, one of the stranger things I did notice is the lack of a meat department. They do some butchering at the store, and the meat is solder out of a cooler in the front near the produce. I believe that Food Lion had an “exposed” meat department based on video I’ve seen from the Prime Time Live special. I’m not sure if Food Town closed up the meat department, or if Food Lion did it in response to the controversy.
This was likely the former bakery in the Food Lion. The tiles had non-slip grips, and there were wash down drains in the center. The area is now being used to sell soda and beer, as Food Town doesn’t use on-site bakeries. This area still had an exposed cloest, and electrical panels left over from the bakery. To the left of this was the manager’s “cage” it was slightly lifted up to provide a better vantage point. I’m not sure if that was added by Food Town, but it seems likely it was as all of their stores utilize the raised manager’s office.
All in all this grocery store provides a good service to the community. It’s cheap on produce and meat and allows for a no frills shopping experience, much like Food Lion. Hopefully it will stick around and the amount of traffic they received on a Sunday afternoon when I took these pictures supports that. However all other corners of this intersection have major stores, HEB, Kroger, and Aldi. So it’s a bit of a waiting game to see if Food Town can stick around.