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Lewis & Coker

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I understand that Lewis & Coker ran grocery stores next to Kmart and they disappeared a long time ago, but how were they? Were they any good, did they go out of business or bought up, and when did this all happen? It seems that L&C were all gone by the late 1980s.

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There were Lewis and Coker stores all over, I think. I dont recall seeing one next to a Kmart. There was one on Holcombe at Greenbriar.

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There was somewhere on the HAIF that mentioned the Kmart Foods stores were operated (and later became) Lewis & Coker stores. There was even one in College Station for a while next to the Kmart. This I've definitely confirmed. It became a Piggly Wiggly later on (Six Star Foods operated), but that doesn't help as to their fate in Houston.

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Lewis & Coker stores were around long before Kmart. As a teenager I worked at the Holcombe at Greenbrier and Palm Center stores, and later at the store adjoiining the Kmart on Van Fleet off South Park.

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Turned up online:  Lewis and Coker was founded ca. 1903; that not only predates KMart but goes back almost as far as  SS Kresge.  It went into bankruptcy in the 1990s and never emerged.  It was a family owned chain; that surprised me as I always thought it was a grocer's association sort of deal, like Super-Valu stores.

 

I've only been in 3 KMarts in my life, a delapidated one on Beechnut at 59, a new one a few years later on BW8  around Beechnut,and ,I think, one in Meyerland Plaza later.  There were no L&C's near any, rather obviously in the latter two instances.

 

I can remember the L&C name going back decades, from newspaper ads if not radio, but the only store I remember was the one on Holcombe @ Greenbriar mentioned upthread and I never went into one.

Edited by brucesw

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Kmart never owned L&C, it was an agreement that they would build and operate "Kmart Foods" stores next to Kmarts (before Super Kmart).

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This thread has given me a terrible earworm - the "who put the hop in shopping" jingle from ages ago.

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I found an article about Lewis & Coker.

Grocery store firm files for bankruptcy shield

Houston Chronicle - Saturday, September 23, 1995

Readability: 5-6 grade level (Lexile: 910L)

Author: GREG HASSELL, Staff

Lewis & Coker Super Markets, one of the city's oldest grocery companies, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The company is continuing to operate its only store, located at 12516 Memorial Drive, while it negotiates with its creditors.

"We intend to fight this thing," said Eugene Lewis , the sole shareholder of Lewis & Coker 's stock. "We are going to continue to operate our store. Our shelves are full. We'll do everything in our power to give our customers and our employees the same good treatment they are used to getting from us."

[snip]

Lewis & Coker started out 53 years ago with one store in the Heights. In the years that followed, the company operated as many as 35 stores in Houston and in surrounding communities. The company has gradually retrenched to one location, the Memorial Drive store that first opened in 1963.

[snip]

The Lantern Lane Shopping Center did have the last Lewis & Coker. Another 1997 article states that Rice bought the last store (the grocery store, not the university), closed it on May 20th, 1997 and reopened it a day later. It would last, of course, until 2013. Such a conversion suggests that Lewis & Coker was at least a mid-line grocery store.

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As mentioned earlier here, there was a Lewis & Coker in Palm Center in the early 60s.  It may have dated to the time that shopping center was built in the 50s, I don't know, but I do remember going there with my aunt in at least 1963.  I'd describe it as comparable to a Henke & Pillot of the same time period.  Those stores might be considered small by today's standards, but they were large back then.  They were nothing like the HEBs or Krogers we have today though.

 

There used to be a K-Mart in the 3300 block of Telephone, near Wayside.  If I remember correctly, I believe that the grocery store next to it was a Lewis & Coker when the center was built.  The grocery store is now a Sellers Brothers however the former K-Mart is many different businesses.  Weingarten Realty now owns that center.

 

 

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I don't know how many of you are old enough to remember them, but Lewis & Coker's stores were comparable to Henke & Pillot stores in building size. For the younger crowd, it was it a little smaller than a regular sized Kroger's, such as the one on W. 20th in the Heights, or Airline in the northside.

It was one of those hometown stores that, if they knew you well enough, would slide an accidental hot check. There were employees at the Memorial store that had literally made a career at Lewis & Coker. I grew up with the produce manager's daughter. He and his daughter, who was a boothie and cashier, worked there clear through the end when Rice bought it and flipped it to an Epicurean Market, even then staying another couple of years in the store under the Rice banner.

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I suppose that with The Fresh Market taking over all but one of the Rice stores, any trace of the old L&C has been obliterated, presumably with extensive renovations.

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Definitely a sign for a pharmacy, and a Jack and Jill Liquor.  There's a 56 Olds and maybe three 57 Fords so that dates the picture.  Anybody got a phone directory from that era?  Was Westheimer @ Chimney Rock that developed by 57?

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My 1957 phone books lists 5600 Westheimer as Lewis & Coker Store #3

Tanglewood Pharmacy is at 5654 Westheimer

Jack & Jill Liquor at 5614 Westheimer

 

Looks like the right spot with the curve in the photo.

 

other Lewis and Coker locations:

1: 1329 Arlington

2: 2266 W. Holcombe

4: 250 W. 19th

5: 5238 Palm Center

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The fifth and sixth cars on that row nearest the street are a 1959 Ford and a 1959 Buick so that pushes the date to at least late 1958 (assuming those cars were very new at the time the picture was taken).

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Interesting comparison with the current view on Streetview.  There is still a telephone pole at the same location as on the far right in the picture.  I'm guessing the current strip center is the same structure as in the picture, with heavy re-facading.  

 

 

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I remember the Lewis & Coker located at Holcombe & Greenbriar in the 60s my mom worked for a dress shop in that center I think the name was Scheps. My family left Houston in 68, I moved back in 75 to open my own watch repair service and did work for a jewelry  store in that same center named Klor's and witnessed the Lewis and Coker there change into a Rice store that catered to upscale and Kosher foods.

Edited by blue92

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From that era, my most prominent memory of entering a supermarket -- being a kid -- was the aroma of barbecued rotisserie chicken and also sometimes of hot popcorn too.  Seems like they were always placed near the entryways.  They smelled great and really put people (well, me at least) in an enthusiastic consumer frame of mind!  

 

One time, the popcorn machine had caught fire and the smokey smell was pretty bad ... I think that was at the Lewis & Coker you mentioned at Holcombe & Greenbriar.

 

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If memory serves me ( who knows if it will) before the Lewis and Coker was in the strip center on Westheimer there may have been one on the sw corner of Alabama and S. Rice Ave ( near what is now the Galleria and in the past, the kiddie amusement park Wee Wild West.)

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There was a Lewis & Coker at 1329 Arlington?? That'd be right across from Reagan, wouldn't it?

 

Yes, it would. On Google Earth, there are houses there in 1944, a building that looks like a store in 1953 and 1978, then houses after that.

 

 

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If memory serves me ( who knows if it will) before the Lewis and Coker was in the strip center on Westheimer there may have been one on the sw corner of Alabama and S. Rice Ave ( near what is now the Galleria and in the past, the kiddie amusement park Wee Wild West.)

 

That was a Minimax grocery store and it anchored the Lamar Terrace Shopping Center. W. Alabama was originally Westheimer Rd at that location however the large S curve was removed in the late 50's. The curve in the Tanglewood Center photo shows that the new alignment. 

 

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We used to go to the one on Chimney rock and Westheimer. It was small not like the grocery stores we have now. The last one I saw was on Memorial, I think it was there until the 90s.

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Yes, it would. On Google Earth, there are houses there in 1944, a building that looks like a store in 1953 and 1978, then houses after that.

 

Yes, the L and C grocery was located at Arlington and 14th across the street from Reagan. My parents shopped there from time to time.

 

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My mom infrequently shopped at the Lewis & Coker on Southmore & Richey, Pasadena location. NW corner, in a shopping strip. 1950's, built sometime after 1953, per GoogleEarth. It was big, but not as colossal as Weingartens. A Washateria is there now. I vaguely remember those poles that kids like to swing around, out front, supporting the canopy. 

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There was a Lewis & Coker at the southeast corner of Hillcroft and S. Braeswood when I lived in that area from the mid-'60s until the '80s. My mother shopped there, claiming it was cleaner than other stores. In the same shopping center were an auto parts store (formerly a drug store), The Taxco Inn mexican restaurant, and a Schwinn bicycle shop owned by a rather stern man. It certainly was a nice area to live in back then.

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^

Interesting.  That was before I moved to this part of town.  Must've been the space on the corner.  That was a Blockbuster for a long time, then vacant for a few years and just recently became Flooring for Life.  I think I've been around long enough that there was something there before the Blockbuster and after Lewis and Coker but I can't think of what it was right now other than I'm sure it wasn't a grocery.

 

Not to hijack the thread but do you recall what was in the strip center on the SW corner of S. Braeswood and Chimney Rock where there is a small, dumpy HEB now?  Must've been a grocery, 5 & 10 or hardware in that space.

 

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^

Not to hijack the thread but do you recall what was in the strip center on the SW corner of S. Braeswood and Chimney Rock where there is a small, dumpy HEB now?  Must've been a grocery, 5 & 10 or hardware in that space.

 

My old '66 directory says it was a Rice

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That makes sense.  I don't remember that at all and it has bugged me for a long time.

 

Rice built a much bigger store on Hillcroft, just south of S. Braeswood (address on Hillcroft although it's back behind a strip center) that was a Rice Epicurean and is now a nice Walmart Neighborhood Market.

 

For aggieengineer, it's still a very nice neighborhood.  Meyerland, after all.  Houses immaculately maintained on the outside, anyway.  Interesting boutique businesses - The Russian General Store in the center where the L&C was, probably the biggest selection of salamis in Houston and lots of import goodies, My Pita, a Kosher bakery that makes fantastic pitas, and the New York Coffee and Bagel Shop with probably the best bagels in town.

Edited by brucesw
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There was one on Dixie Drive at 332 in Clute, next to (you guessed it) K-Mart.   It was gone by the mid-80s, though.

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There was a Lewis & Coker at the southeast corner of Hillcroft and S. Braeswood when I lived in that area from the mid-'60s until the '80s. My mother shopped there, claiming it was cleaner than other stores. In the same shopping center were an auto parts store (formerly a drug store), The Taxco Inn mexican restaurant, and a Schwinn bicycle shop owned by a rather stern man. It certainly was a nice area to live in back then.

Say, you didn't work at the College Avenue Albertsons did you?

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are there any family owned grocery stores still around in the Houston area or are they all apart of big chains or owned by grocery supply, Ive always liked to see the old grocery stores bc it reminds me of an era gone by.

 

The last Rice Epicurean is still family owned. In addition to that Food Town, and Food Fair are still owned by Gerland's. Sellers Bros. is still independent as far as I know.

 

Also a bunch of the Asian grocery stores are independent.

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I think a some of the Indian grocery stores are chains but many are independently owned.  Likewise Pakistani grocery stores.

 

Belden's in Meyerland.

 

Phoenicia - 2 locations.

 

I wonder about Hong Kong Market in Hong Kong City Mall.

 

Pyburn's - the original in Almeda has been around for probably 50 years but four years ago they opened a second location in Fondren Southwest and they're set to open another in a food desert.  I don't know what all the stores are this Vuong owns but one is Jim's Supermarket on Yellowstone.

 

Pyburn's is known for their meat department.  Sometimes I think there are more butchers milling around behind the counter waiting on someone to serve than there are customers in the whole store.

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Say, you didn't work at the College Avenue Albertsons did you?

 

No, but I did work at Belden's Food Giant at Post Oak and West Bellfort while I was in high school, and during Christmas vacations while I was in college - 1974 until about 1980 probably.

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That makes sense.  I don't remember that at all and it has bugged me for a long time.

 

Rice built a much bigger store on Hillcroft, just south of S. Braeswood (address on Hillcroft although it's back behind a strip center) that was a Rice Epicurean and is now a nice Walmart Neighborhood Market.

 

For aggieengineer, it's still a very nice neighborhood.  Meyerland, after all.  Houses immaculately maintained on the outside, anyway.  Interesting boutique businesses - The Russian General Store in the center where the L&C was, probably the biggest selection of salamis in Houston and lots of import goodies, My Pita, a Kosher bakery that makes fantastic pitas, and the New York Coffee and Bagel Shop with probably the best bagels in town.

 

I remember when the New York Bagel Shop opened. I'm pretty sure I was in high school at the time. None of us had ever had a bagel, so my dad took us there one morning to try it out. We were hooked! Anyone remember Zinnante's Delicatessen in the same area?

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I went to Zinnante's just once; Robb Walsh wrote it up in the Press, praising the meatball sub as I recall.  I had never been aware of it and went to try it out.  It was closed in less than a year.  The power of the Press?  That is now My Pita which seems to have frequent ownership changes.

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I used to go to the Ranchester and Bellaire L&C with my mom in the 70's. I think it closed in the early to mid 80's. I went inside a few years ago. It's totally different except towards the back, it still sort of has the old interior deco. I think I saw a couple of the old chilled display racks.

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I was going to mention the Lewis & Coker on the southeast corner of Hillcroft and S. Braeswood, but aggieengineer beat me to it.  To address brucesw though, the grocery store wasn't on the corner of the two sides (i.e. the old Blockbuster location). It was at the far south end on the side facing Hillcroft. In other words, if you faced the Hillcroft side of the center, Blockbuster would have been at the far left (the corner), and Lewis & Coker was at the far right. The large space of the grocery store was later divided up into smaller sections for the later tenants.

 

I remember going to that strip center for different purposes over time: in the early years (Lewis & Coker with my mother), teen years (game room - Gold Dust Saloon??, Blockbuster), and later for haircuts on the Braeswood side.

 

Rice Food Market was a completely different and unrelated venture on the opposite (west) side of Hillcroft. I used to work there.

 

I also remember Zinnante's Delicatessen. Was that in that small strip center at Hillcroft and Queensloch?

Edited by Gurgis
clarification
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On 10/12/2014 at 4:34 AM, vstroud said:

We used to go to the one on Chimney rock and Westheimer. It was small not like the grocery stores we have now. The last one I saw was on Memorial, I think it was there until the 90s.

Yeah, it looks like they lasted until 1997. The Chron mentions that L&C went bankrupt in 1995 so Grocers Supply Co. took it over, and in 1996, the Randalls at Town & Country Village opened, causing the older Lewis & Coker to lose money hand over fist (about $3500 every week) until it was sold to Rice Epicurean in May 1997, which quickly reopened it as its own name. With the closure of The Fresh Market, it ends a legacy of the 50+ year grocery legacy at that location.

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Hillcroft at South Braeswood hasn’t been mentioned yet. Primary source of S&H Green Stamps. We’d be warmly greeted by C.W. wielding a big broom, Mom’d chat with him but I only cared about scoring a penny to obtain a gum ball from the machine in the lobby.

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Yes I remember going to Lewis and Coker to shop with my mom. Mom shopped at the Hill croft Store. Many fond memories as my mom and Mrs Coker were good friends. Therefore mom shopped there often and also at Weingartens in or near Bellaire. 
Now I shop a lot at Rice Epicurian on Fountain View. Guess my favorite store now. Great meats and friendly staff. 

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Lewis and Koker had a store at Westheimer and Chimney Rock.  I remember because my mom was crossing Westheimer to pick up a picnic lunch before we went to a swim meet at Briarcroft (??) swim club.  She was wearing high heels and fell down in the middle of the street.  That store burned down, maybe in 1979.  I was little.  My memory is faded.

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