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IronTiger

Is Randall's going to go away?

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I recently read that Safeway was pulling out of the Chicago market, effectively ending the Dominick's name (though I believe that the name will survive). However, I'm concerned about Randalls, which was acquired at about the same time, and hasn't been doing too great in Houston as of late. Is it possible that Safeway will get rid of Randall's and leave the Houston market?

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Randall's tends to be the most expensive out of grocery stores, besides Rice Epicurean and specialty markets like Whole Foods and Central Market.

Edited by Slick Vik

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I recently read that Safeway was pulling out of the Chicago market, effectively ending the Dominick's name (though I believe that the name will survive). However, I'm concerned about Randalls, which was acquired at about the same time, and hasn't been doing too great in Houston as of late. Is it possible that Safeway will get rid of Randall's and leave the Houston market?

 

Yeah, I would not be at all surprised to see Safeway do the same with Randall's.  They seemingly have not been paying much attention to the chain.  I wonder how Safeway stays in business...  It seems they repeatedly go into markets, fail, pull out, wait a few years, buy their way back in, fail, pull out...  Doesn't strike me as a prize-winning business model. 

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I'd like to see Randall's become an independent supermarket again, which is entirely possible, but so much damage has been done it will take years to undo.

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I wouldn't be surprised if they left the Houston market.  There was another chain they bought on the east coast (Genardi?) where they made the same mistake and ended up pulling out.  I think at one point Randalls was the first or second largest chain in Houston, but Safeway managed to drive away most of their market share at the same time that competitors like HEB were entering the market.

 

 

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Kroger's continued dominance (it picked up old Safeway/AppleTree stores, and later some Albertsons) and the rise of the Supercenter didn't help either.

 

It also didn't help that Safeway tends to do a "one size fits all" approach, which screwed the chain as a whole over, while H-E-B, Kroger, and Fiesta wisely pick their merchandise mix accordingly.

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A nice HEB is higher quality, more fresh store-made foods, and way way cheaper than Randall's. Randall's is rightly going the way of the Dodo.

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The best part about my college days in Upstate NY? Wegman's. That was an awesome grocery store chain. Houston needs a Wegman's!

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Could happen...depends on how far it stretches. About five years ago, when I was with my cousins following the passing of our grandfather, my Florida-turned-Northeastern based cousin who spent some time at Rice regretted that there were no Trader Joe's in Texas. Of course, that's different now, since her sister-in-law takes somewhat regular trips up to the former Alabama Theatre with her husband (who stayed in Houston after Rice), and with at least two TJ's in town now surely must put an additional (but major) strain on Randall's.

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At least for the one at Shepherd and Westheimer, I've never seen more than one register open and I've never seen more than a handful of people in the store. Not sure how it has stayed in business.

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At least for the one at Shepherd and Westheimer, I've never seen more than one register open and I've never seen more than a handful of people in the store. Not sure how it has stayed in business.

And that's the one that's a block down from the Trader Joe's.

Edited by IronTiger

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Could happen...depends on how far it stretches. About five years ago, when I was with my cousins following the passing of our grandfather, my Florida-turned-Northeastern based cousin who spent some time at Rice regretted that there were no Trader Joe's in Texas. Of course, that's different now, since her sister-in-law takes somewhat regular trips up to the former Alabama Theatre with her husband (who stayed in Houston after Rice), and with at least two TJ's in town now surely must put an additional (but major) strain on Randall's.

 

I would think a closer competitor to Trader Joe's is Whole Foods.  TJ's almost feels like a Whole Foods light.

 

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At least for the one at Shepherd and Westheimer, I've never seen more than one register open and I've never seen more than a handful of people in the store. Not sure how it has stayed in business.

 

Which is sad, because when that location first opened it was very much the inner-loop grocery destination.  I had friends on Stella Link near South Loop and from the Heights that made the trip especially to shop there.  Last time I was there you could have rolled bowling balls down the aisles and not hit a soul.

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Whole Foods has been in Houston since the AppleTree days, but I'm more concerned on the future of Randalls. The most plausible scenario is having the brand hacked to pieces, with the remaining Houston grocery stores (Fiesta, Kroger, H-E-B, Whole Foods, and the no-name GSC supplied groceries) feasting on the remains. That's not to say there won't be one or maybe two Randalls leftover, but they'll be GSC supplied as well. However, at the way things are going, that's not guaranteed.

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Why do you keep using the word 'concern'? What's worth keeping about Randall's? Randall's has been surpassed in quality by various stores, and has always been expensive.

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Well, maybe "concern" is not the right word, and for all intents and purposes Randalls has been dead for years, but to me, it still represents "Houston" to me (after all, it still has a visible presence off of 290) and still a piece (albeit a shrinking one) of Houston's competitive but interesting grocery market.

 

Maybe I'm just nostalgic.

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Randall's has always been way more expensive. Good riddance.

 

 

Prove it. I am so tired of seeing this garbage that Randalls is always and without exception more expensive than any other store on earth.

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Am on the cusp of purchasing the SL Baskin Robbins in which Randalls dominates that part of the strip mall. Already the Krogers across the street closed, and I dont really see more customers flocking to the existing Randalls. What is more likely to take it's place, Sprouts or Trader Joes or other? We are at the corner of Hwy 6 and Williams Trace Blvd. Already a Whole Foods and HEB within a mile radius. I was sooo hoping for an HEB, but alas, not the case. It's a very profitable store, but I am concerned if Randalls decides to pull up stakes and leave.

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Due to the lack of decent grocery stores in my area (Broadmoor), I'll sometimes shop at Randall's on Louisiana just because it's fairly close to home.Trying to load all the Just-4-U deals, weekly specials and coupons with varying expiration dates to a Randall's card is ridiculously complicated, but it's the only way to avoid paying inflated prices for food. I may be wrong, but Randall's is the only grocery chain in town that sells bunches of broccoli and heads of cauliflower by weight instead of by the piece!

 

Of course, if one doesn't have to budget for groceries, where one shops doesn't matter.

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I never liked shopping at Randall's in the past because it consciously did not sell beer or wine for years. It was almost like the owners were trying to force their morality on the shopping public. I even remember one of the companies that I worked for back then made sure to hand out "Randalls" gift cards at christmas time to it's employees, thinking that they were doing us some kind of favor by not allowing us to spend the card on beer! I would always give my gift card away anyway, usually to one of the apprentices'.

So for that reason alone I never made Randalls one of my grocery shopping choices.  

 

However, I did go to the one in Galveston yesterday to get soft drinks, and their prices were competive. The store was clean, fully stocked with all of the choices that Kroger or HEB have. Not sure why they are having trouble these days because this store looked fine to me.

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I never liked shopping at Randall's in the past because it consciously did not sell beer or wine for years. It was almost like the owners were trying to force their morality on the shopping public.

 

Huh. Three things I do have to say on that:

1) It's their loss; beer and wine far more profitable than other consumables

2) It makes room for other types of food.

3) It's not like Randall's was the only choice of food, even when they commanded a much higher market share than today: if my local Walmart no longer stocks guns (which it doesn't), is it because Walmart is trying to force gun control on the general public? It would be another thing if someone pressured Randall's to not carry beer and wine, but they didn't.

 

 


However, I did go to the one in Galveston yesterday to get soft drinks, and their prices were competive. The store was clean, fully stocked with all of the choices that Kroger or HEB have. Not sure why they are having trouble these days because this store looked fine to me.

 

Yeah, but there's no H-E-B in Galveston anymore.  :(

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Huh. Three things I do have to say on that:

1) It's their loss; beer and wine far more profitable than other consumables

2) It makes room for other types of food.

3) It's not like Randall's was the only choice of food, even when they commanded a much higher market share than today: if my local Walmart no longer stocks guns (which it doesn't), is it because Walmart is trying to force gun control on the general public? It would be another thing if someone pressured Randall's to not carry beer and wine, but they didn't.

 

 

 

 

Yeah, but there's no H-E-B in Galveston anymore.  :(

 

In the case of Randall's, pre-Safeway, I think it was the religious beliefs of the owners that dictated the no-alcohol policy.

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In the case of Randall's, pre-Safeway, I think it was the religious beliefs of the owners that dictated the no-alcohol policy.

I know. If I recall correctly, they finally dropped it in the mid-1990s after they absorbed Tom Thumb. Their greatest sin was still selling it to Safeway.

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I know. If I recall correctly, they finally dropped it in the mid-1990s after they absorbed Tom Thumb. Their greatest sin was still selling it to Safeway.

 

 

Both of these. The sale to Safeway, in retrospect, was a travesty.

 

In regards to alcohol sales. Some of my earliest memories as a child were taking a trip to Randalls. I remember back then, 1993 or so, it was possible for anyone to retrieve cigarettes from any of the displays at each checkout line, you know, where they have the magazines now. I still remember what brand my mom smoked because I could walk right up there and pick out the package. But she was a single parent, worked 40+ hours a week, didn't touch alcohol at all, and Randalls didn't sell it. Yet they had the cigarettes right there.

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I never liked shopping at Randall's in the past because it consciously did not sell beer or wine for years. It was almost like the owners were trying to force their morality on the shopping public. I even remember one of the companies that I worked for back then made sure to hand out "Randalls" gift cards at christmas time to it's employees, thinking that they were doing us some kind of favor by not allowing us to spend the card on beer! I would always give my gift card away anyway, usually to one of the apprentices'.

 

 

As a small business owner a couple of weeks ago I got a mass mailer from Safeway/Randalls/Tom Thumb/Vons/Whatever. They were advertising their gift cards as a kind of holiday bonus to employees. They offered two different kinds of gift cards. One kind could purchase anything, but the alternate card could not be used to purchase any kind of vice items (cigarettes/alcohol/gambling/etc).

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I know. If I recall correctly, they finally dropped it in the mid-1990s after they absorbed Tom Thumb. Their greatest sin was still selling it to Safeway.

 

That happens to family businesses a lot. The family wants to get out of the business, so they sell. Customers end up suffering the most in that situation, but I don't think it's reasonable to tell someone they can't monetize their business.

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The Onstead family sold out long before Randall's started to go downhill.  The chain was owned for a while by KKR, who also bought Tom Thumb in Dallas.  That's about the time that beer and wine sales started.  Eventually KKR sold out to Safeway, who tried to use their same business model yet once again...with predictable results.

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As a small business owner a couple of weeks ago I got a mass mailer from Safeway/Randalls/Tom Thumb/Vons/Whatever. They were advertising their gift cards as a kind of holiday bonus to employees. They offered two different kinds of gift cards. One kind could purchase anything, but the alternate card could not be used to purchase any kind of vice items (cigarettes/alcohol/gambling/etc).

That case has nothing to do with religious or moral beliefs, as unlike food items, cigarettes and alcohol are heavily taxed but also much more profitable. I remember working in a supermarket that had a very nicely stocked beer and wine department (even a few types of sake), so clearly they had no moral qualms about it, but they wouldn't let the rewards card be used for alcohol purchases.

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That case has nothing to do with religious or moral beliefs, as unlike food items, cigarettes and alcohol are heavily taxed but also much more profitable. I remember working in a supermarket that had a very nicely stocked beer and wine department (even a few types of sake), so clearly they had no moral qualms about it, but they wouldn't let the rewards card be used for alcohol purchases.

 

The point was that Randalls (Safeway) is offering both types of cards for sale, one which permits the "vice" items, and one which does not. I don't know if this is Safeway policy or just some old holdover, or if Kroger offers a similar thing, etc. I only got the one mailer rather arbitrarily.

Edited by MikeRichardson

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The point was that Randalls (Safeway) is offering both types of cards for sale, one which permits the "vice" items, and one which does not. I don't know if this is Safeway policy or just some old holdover, or if Kroger offers a similar thing, etc. I only got the one mailer rather arbitrarily.

 

Some employers that give gift cards as a gift, or bonus, shudder at the thought that the employee might use the card to buy evil stuff like alcohol and tobacco (much like employers that won't pay for a movie in the hotel when employees travel because they might watch one with naked people in it). Safeway is just offering a variety of cards to widen the appeal of their product.

 

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That case has nothing to do with religious or moral beliefs, as unlike food items, cigarettes and alcohol are heavily taxed but also much more profitable. I remember working in a supermarket that had a very nicely stocked beer and wine department (even a few types of sake), so clearly they had no moral qualms about it, but they wouldn't let the rewards card be used for alcohol purchases.

 

It's also worth noting that sometimes there are legal reasons for these sorts of restrictions.  Some jurisdictions may not permit associating discounts with certain items.   For example, where I live CVS pharmacy coupons can't be used for prescription items, alcohol, tobacco, or anything with pseudoephedrine.  

 

When I lived in New Jersey, it was illegal to give away premiums at gas stations.  So on TV commercials on the New York TV stations you'd always see "Get your free Christmas bear for free with an eight gallon purchase at Exxon!  (No purchase required in New Jersey)."

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I recently read that Safeway was pulling out of the Chicago market, effectively ending the Dominick's name (though I believe that the name will survive). However, I'm concerned about Randalls, which was acquired at about the same time, and hasn't been doing too great in Houston as of late. Is it possible that Safeway will get rid of Randall's and leave the Houston market?

 

The Dominick's name will not live on.  It ends tomorrow.  

 

Dominick's in Chicago is very different from Randall's in Houston.  In Houston, Randall's is at the upper-middle part of the scale.  In Chicago, Dominick's was one peg above the food discounters.

 

Dominick's is going away for a few reasons:

- Chicago never warmed up to Safeway, and Safeway didn't care.  It felt that it could brute-force its brand into the market, but it didn't stick.  The Dominick's chariman at the time very publicly warned Safeway that the strategy wouldn't work, and he was ignored.  Eventually he left Dominick's and started his own supermarket chain, which is fantastic, growing incredibly, and even buying a bunch of the closing Dominick's locations.

 

- Dominick's competed at the low end of the market, which has tons of competition from local, regional, and national low-end chains, plus for the first time Wal-Mart has been allowed to open in Chicago (the unions kept it out until two years ago), and people are going there instead of Dominick's.

- Because its workforce was older, and had mostly been with the company for a very long time, it was much better paid than many of the new supermarkets coming into the market.

 

One additional point that might affect Randall's is taxes.  There was a lot of talk on the local PBS news shows about how Safeway dumping Dominick's would balance out its tax obligations because of a huge transaction it made in Canada.  If that was really an important consideration, then any Safeway-owned chain could be in peril.

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The point was that Randalls (Safeway) is offering both types of cards for sale, one which permits the "vice" items, and one which does not. I don't know if this is Safeway policy or just some old holdover, or if Kroger offers a similar thing, etc. I only got the one mailer rather arbitrarily.

 

It could also be that an employer doesn't want to give out a gift card that is subsequently used to purchase alcohol which is then subsequently found to be the cause of an accident and then a lawsuit.

 

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The Dominick's name will not live on. It ends tomorrow.

At the time, I still held out hopes that Dominick's would continue as at least one store (they still kept one Genuardi's). Alas, it was not the case. Safeway might as well have liquidated and closed the stores and reopened them as Safeway. One thing that I think that Safeway doesn't get...at least not anymore, is that stores are different and carry different things for the neighborhood. Even H-E-B has clued in on that: even within a metro area (Houston, San Antonio, Austin, or even College Station), there are some rather obvious shifts in merchandise depending on demographics. Safeway never really got that, with (from what I've read) barely anything for the Chicago market, and certainly not neighborhood by neighborhood.

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I shop the Randalls on Louisiana and Kroger on Montrose when I am in town,  I really don't see a lot of price difference but I do think that the "Safeway Select" brands are higher quality than the comparable Kroger or HEB house products.  I would hate to see the  Louisiana store close for that reason.

 

Another thought on the same subject.  If Safeway pulls the plug I think that Walmart's Neighborhood Markets would be a natural fill in for a lot those boxes.  

 

Htx 

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One thing that I think that Safeway doesn't get...at least not anymore, is that stores are different and carry different things for the neighborhood. Even H-E-B has clued in on that: even within a metro area (Houston, San Antonio, Austin, or even College Station), there are some rather obvious shifts in merchandise depending on demographics. Safeway never really got that, with (from what I've read) barely anything for the Chicago market, and certainly not neighborhood by neighborhood.

 

I can point to one example where Randalls/Safeway, as well as Kroger, do seem to get this right. I used to live in Meyerland a few years ago and both the Randalls and the Kroger had tons of kosher stuff all year round. I remember the Randalls specifically had a good selection of kosher meat. There's not really a Meyerland HEB to compare to, although the Sellers Bros store had no visible kosher products the few times I went there.

 

 

Some employers that give gift cards as a gift, or bonus, shudder at the thought that the employee might use the card to buy evil stuff like alcohol and tobacco (much like employers that won't pay for a movie in the hotel when employees travel because they might watch one with naked people in it). Safeway is just offering a variety of cards to widen the appeal of their product.

 

I thought about that, but then, think about all of the evil stuff that employees could buy with just their salaries? Porn, drugs, hookers, gambling, whatever.

 

Edit: Ross' quotes also applies, but there is no way to edit this post to add another quote. So you could still say, well, the employee of a trucking company could use their salary to purchase alcohol which then causes the employee to have an accident with the truck.

Edited by MikeRichardson

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I shop the Randalls on Louisiana and Kroger on Montrose when I am in town,  I really don't see a lot of price difference but I do think that the "Safeway Select" brands are higher quality than the comparable Kroger or HEB house products.  I would hate to see the  Louisiana store close for that reason.

 

Another thought on the same subject.  If Safeway pulls the plug I think that Walmart's Neighborhood Markets would be a natural fill in for a lot those boxes.  

 

Htx 

 

The WM Neighborhood Mkts I've been in are much smaller than a typical Randalls.  I wonder if there'd be a big NIMBY uproar if WM tried to move in on Louisiana?

 

That location might be a good fit for a Sprouts or Fresh Market or, if it weren't so close to the older Fiesta on San Jac, the new Fiesta Market Place concept.

 

It's interesting that all the new chains that have come to town, Sprouts, Aldi's, TJ's and Fresh Market, are putting in smaller stores rather than the large Signature or Flagship type stores.  They're all going after niche markets instead of the one-stop shopping approach.

 

The Chron reported recently that the Randalls in Westchase, Westheimer at Gessner, is closing.  That location would be a good one for a Fiesta Market Place.  The new Fiesta Market Place in Sugar Land has become a regular stop for me even though there are two older, traditional Fiesta's much closer.   I'm pulling for the hometown team and I hope they're planning on expanding the concept to additional locations.

 

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The Chron reported recently that the Randalls in Westchase, Westheimer at Gessner, is closing.  That location would be a good one for a Fiesta Market Place.  The new Fiesta Market Place in Sugar Land has become a regular stop for me even though there are two older, traditional Fiesta's much closer.   I'm pulling for the hometown team and I hope they're planning on expanding the concept to additional locations.

 

 

That might be an interesting addition to the area, but Fiesta just put in a new store 2 miles down the road.  There's also HEB, Sprouts, Kroger, another Randalls, Walmart, and Whole Foods.  Not sure what other grocer would move into that spot.  I'd bet it gets redeveloped as something else.

 

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For now, this just seems like Randalls is evaluating each location in an attempt to trim underperforming locations in order to focus on the more profitable ones. The Westheimer/Wilcrest and Voss stores are in prime locations, but both are/were older buildings and evidently they didn't see enough value in upgrading or renovating the stores in light of all the new competition. It just seems like the natural lifecycle of retail where the newest stores get the buzz, and the old ones start to look outdated and either get demolished or replaced by a different tenant. 

 

I also find it interesting that all the Houston Randalls locations are generally in wealthier parts of town west of I-45 (there are also locations in Galveston, Pearland and Clear Lake). Kroger on the other hand has locations sprinkled throughout the eastern half of the beltway. 

 

From my experience, Randalls is more or less on par with Kroger in terms of price, and probably a little cheaper when using their reward system. I used to avoid Randalls 5 or 10 years ago because their prices were so high, but they seem to have gotten more price competitive over the last few years. But if something isn't on sale they can be expensive. Their larger stores are actually nicer and easier to navigate than Kroger in my opinion, but the larger Kroger locations tend to have more variety and quicker checkout. 

 

 

 

It's interesting that all the new chains that have come to town, Sprouts, Aldi's, TJ's and Fresh Market, are putting in smaller stores rather than the large Signature or Flagship type stores.  They're all going after niche markets instead of the one-stop shopping approach.

 

This is where I really see a chance for a market pullout in the future. Most of these specialty food stores have opened just within the last year or so, and of course Whole Foods has also been adding locations lately. Then there are the local specialty gourmet markets that compete in this space, like Phoenicia Deli, Georgia's Market, Spec's, and smaller niche stores like Revival Market and various ethnic markets around town (Chinatown, etc.). I think the local players have customer loyalty on their side, but it's hard to believe there is demand for so many niche food retailers. 

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its odd the randalls off Kirkwood/Wilcrest is still there and that area has seen its best days years ago

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I was in the Wilcrest Randalls the other day. The pharmacy is already closed. No store closing sale yet. There were very few customers at 9:30 PM. I have definitely seen more customers in the San Felipe and Westheimer/Gessner stores at 9:30. Even the store in Stafford, which is probably the last remaining Randalls store in a "poorer" part of town, still does good business, tons of people there buying gas all the time.

 

They even had the fake doctor's office put in at the Wilcrest store, but it looked like they went in there and stripped it out. I don't know if anyone else has noticed the little clinics they put in all the Randalls - some of them have been in for 3 years now, but they have never been used or staffed. Even the tiny Bellaire store has one, with pamphlets and everything.

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The WM Neighborhood Mkts I've been in are much smaller than a typical Randalls.  I wonder if there'd be a big NIMBY uproar if WM tried to move in on Louisiana?

 

That location might be a good fit for a Sprouts or Fresh Market or, if it weren't so close to the older Fiesta on San Jac, the new Fiesta Market Place concept.

 

It's interesting that all the new chains that have come to town, Sprouts, Aldi's, TJ's and Fresh Market, are putting in smaller stores rather than the large Signature or Flagship type stores.  They're all going after niche markets instead of the one-stop shopping approach.

 

 

Correct.  What is happening over time is that the grocery market seems to be gradually bifurcating into higher-priced niche marketers (Sprouts, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's) and discounters (Walmart, Aldi, dollar stores).  Consequently it is getting increasingly tough for the traditional mid-market stores (Kroger, HEB, Randalls) to compete.  Those that can't stay on top of their game won't last in the long run.  Think of it as the food equivalent of what happened to old mid-line retailers like Sears and JCPenney.  

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I've heard rumors that Fiesta will be taking over the Randall's space at Shepherd and Westheimer. Anyone know if there is anything to that?

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I was in the Wilcrest Randalls the other day. The pharmacy is already closed. No store closing sale yet. There were very few customers at 9:30 PM. I have definitely seen more customers in the San Felipe and Westheimer/Gessner stores at 9:30. Even the store in Stafford, which is probably the last remaining Randalls store in a "poorer" part of town, still does good business, tons of people there buying gas all the time.

 

They even had the fake doctor's office put in at the Wilcrest store, but it looked like they went in there and stripped it out. I don't know if anyone else has noticed the little clinics they put in all the Randalls - some of them have been in for 3 years now, but they have never been used or staffed. Even the tiny Bellaire store has one, with pamphlets and everything.

 

Those are primarily used for the shots the pharmacists give.

 

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