A look into Houston's retail past

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.

Grocery Options may have left the Target on Eldridge

During my recent blog post about the Super Target downgrade in Missouri City, I realized that another Super Target may have fared a similar fate. Looking back through my photos, I found some of the Super Target at Eldridge and Westheimer during construction. I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention at the time, but looking back at them now, I believe the grocery section may have been shrunk.

My reasoning behind this lies partly in the full renovation that kicked fresh grocery out of its home, and behind the cash registers. Secondly, the website now resembles the Missouri City one in terms of departments, deleting Expanded Grocery, Bakery, and Deli. I’ll have to make a trip back to confirm but my suspicions are relatively strong.

What actually got my attention was the fact that the stores sign had been removed. From facebook commenters outside of Houston it seems like this may be the plan for all Super Targets.
The produce and refrigerated section of the store had been moved into the entrance/walkway area behind the dollar section. Grocery was completely walled off. At this point produce was being sold by the piece instead of by weight. Most P-Fresh Targets use this method too.
Glass Case Fridges lined a wall built to seperate the temporary grocery section from produce. You can see one of the self-checkouts to the right showing how little space was actually given to grocery.
Each Fridge had a blank top. Some had writing on them, some did not. You can tell that these were likely brought along from other stores as the writing had been erased and rewritten many times.
The reasoning for these temporary coolers would be the need to store perishable items while the in store coolers are likely being moved to the front.
I’m relatively sure that the product selection will/has decreased if a downgrade did take place. Even still, a tremendous amount of perishables were kept compared to produce.

This Super Target was one of the few Hypermarket style stores left in the area. This brings the count down to the Walmart on Kirkwood and the one on Highway 6. Hopefully limited product selection will not cause too many issues, but it is a bit sad. As when I lived in the area this Target was always a good place to get just about anything you needed.

So long Super Target in Missouri City

Target recently finished a large number of renovations on their Houston area stores. This was done to help bring their image up in line with their more up to date locations. It’s actually part of a nationwide effort to cutback and aid underselling locations.

Edit: I have received word from a reader that this same conversion took place at the Baybrook Target.

The general Southwest area received an expansion of Super Targets in the late 90s. With locations in Houston, Pear Land, Sugar Land, and Missouri City to name a few of the numerous upgrades. However a recent trip to the Missouri City store revealed a surprise, the store has been downgraded! It seems that grocery was not preforming well and the store was downsized to help remedy this.

One of the first clues was the new central sign which nearby Sugar Land did not receive during their upgrade
Despite the blurry image you might be able to make out that the separate Grocery entrance was kept.
The grocery section has been reduced to the size of a typical P-Fresh Target. With an expanded beer and wine selection taking the place of the bakery and deli.
At first glance you can tell something is off. This wall is not as deep as the the bakery and deli were. That is because about half of the grocery floor space has been closed off and is being used as storage.

Looking back towards the entrance, you can see that Starbucks has been left pretty much untouched. It still occupies the from alcove and keeps separate from grocery.

You might notice that for a Target this is a better than average P-Fresh department, that’s because most of the P-Fresh locations in Houston are actually undersized compared to normal. The fixtures were replaced for this conversion and scales along with weighted produce sales were discontinued. The conversion also meant reducing dairy cases down to one shared one, and freezers were consolidated and moved forward.

As mentioned earlier the selection is larger than a normal P-Fresh but compares closer to average sized selection when looking at newly built stores.
A new freezer bank was installed as the original freezers were demolished in the back. Notice the use of drop-in conduits for their new freezers. The original layout did not have these, as conduits were run underground.

 

This back portion of the grocery section was the original frozen section. The Dairy cases
This is looking straight to where the dairy case once stood. The curved wall is a first generation left over.

The next few photos are from various stages during the conversions completion. I was actually in a situation where I had to visit this specific Target a few weeks in a row and watched this all happen. There was no news or publication about the downgrade, and outside of the grocery section you really wouldn’t be able to tell this was no longer a Super Target.

I took this photo prior to the conversion being completed. When I saw this I mistakenly thought they had temporarily modified this area to be storage during the renovation.
Another photo from the renovation in progress. The floors were cut concrete, covered by laminate tile. Sugar Land did this as well, but did not first grind their flooring. Which means the lines show through.
One advantage of the downsized grocery was the fact that the Food Avenue or Cafe a it is now called was allowed to stay. Many other stores have had their Cafes removed during this last round of renovations.

Outside of the grocery downgrade this is still a very nice store. Honestly it’s much quieter than the Sugar Land store and easier to shop. The downgrade is a bit of a shame and means I can’t reliably grocery shop there anymore. I do think that with the way Missouri City and the Western area is expanding there is a small chance grocery could one day make a comeback, but it’s a slim chance. Till next time!

Target Galleria Remodel

Take yourself back to the early 2000s, now try to remember, were there any Walmart locations inside the Loop? There was a location just where the canceled Bay City Freeway stub jabs in to 610, but that was on the outside of the loop. In fact, until the 2012 opening of the Heights Super Center, there was no Walmart presence inside of Loop 610. That meant if you needed clothing, a TV, and snacks all in the same trip, you were stuck with going to Target. While over the past few years Walmart has increased their inner loop presence, they still don’t match the number of Targets within 610. With the large number of Targets, and lack of any real competition. Target’s Inner-Loop stores aren’t exactly the nicest.

The exception to this rule has always been The Galleria Target. While not actually located in the mall, the reputation of the Galleria as Houston’s premier shopping district this location means this location gets spill over traffic. While some of the customers do live in the surrounding “River Oaks” areas, a large portion of traffic comes from international shoppers hitting up The Galleria.

The exterior of this location received its first major exterior update since P-Fresh added a dedicated grocery section in the early 2010s. Target seems to be going very minimalist with their new design.

Almost all text has been removed from the building, however you’d have no issues identifying this as a Target. Some small text based signs do still exist for “Order Pickup” and “CVS/Pharmacy” but those are hidden off to the sides and under other design elements.

The plastic carts are on the way out! Target was one of the first retailers to introduce a completely plastic cart. While they preformed well initially, the bodies were subject to cracking which rendered them useless.

The new carts look somewhat similar to the carts Target had prior to the plastic ones. They use a Metal frame with a plastic body.

Entering the store you can immediately tell that something has changed in this store. It look me a bit to figure it out, what exactly was different here. Many of the full size floor to ceiling displays in the girls section have been removed allowing a view all the way to the back wall.

Across from the Dollar Spot, we find the former Food Avenue. During the P-Fresh Remodel a separate Starbucks counter was added. After the most recent remodel, the Food Avenue was removed. The Soda and ICEE machines are still there and operating. The Starbucks counter might sell the cups for those, but it was too busy to get a picture.

Right outside of the former Food Avenue, and in what was Women’s Clothing, is the new location of Target’s Seasonal Merchandise. For many years the Galleria has had their Seasonal selections all the way in the furthest corner of the store.

 

Notice the new flooring replacing the carpet. This flooring is just used the Seasonal Section, to help with the fact that the displays are all static and can be moved.

Stepping out of Seasonal and looking to the back of the store, notice that what used to be Women’s Clothing all the way back and to the right, is now Kitchen Supplies. Women’s Clothing does continue to take up the space on the left side of the aisle.

This back corner of the store was once the Fitting Rooms. However, with clothing no longer occupying any space on the exterior edges the Fitting Rooms had to go too.

This back wall display is REALLY big. Especially for something you’d see in a Department Store. You wouldn’t expect anyone to be able to reach up and grab the plants on the top shelf, but I guess Target wants to build a tall clientele.

The “Bat Phones” have survived another remodel at Target. The last time I needed to use one, the associate informed me that they are timed as soon as someone picks up the phone. Presumably trying to guilt me in to never using it again.

The Toy Section received something I haven’t seen in a while, Toys mounted for play! Not just the obvious buttons and spinners on the shelf, but the yellow and pink voice transmitting pipes. These used to commonplace in Toy Stores, good to see places like Target picking up the slack.

Pet Care has been moved next to the Hardware department, both of which were given new signage. This signage was first rolled out to the Super Target locations, and is now being implemented on all remodels.

This was taken with my back towards the groceries facing down the center aisle. The lights and displays are all new, it looks a bit cluttered from far away. Although close up it’s not that bad.

The central displays help me to make the case that Target is stepping up their display game. They’ve always been ahead of the curve, being one of the first stores to introduce “body positive” mannequins, back in the late 2000s. Now they’ve upgraded their displays to something you’d see at a mid-level department store. At this point, it honestly looks better kept than the last couple of Palais Royals I’ve been to.

Heading around to the front of the store, the path breaks into two forks near the Pharmacy. The makeup selection at this Target has always been upscale, but it looks like they’re going for a store-in-a-store feel.

The reason the path breaks into the aforementioned forks is to make room for another central display. However the one in the photo above is actually from back in the center aisle.

Heading out to the checkouts, notice everything has been replaced. From the belts to the lighting. The only original elements appeared to be things like the battery holder, and drink coolers.

 

Going to this Target was an experience. It felt more high-class then I had felt at a Target in the past 15 or so years. It felt more like Target did when I was a kid, with the glaring lack of a Snack Bar. It makes me greatly sad that I can’t get popcorn at Target anymore, but the future does look nice.