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Historic Houston Grocery Stores


IronTiger

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I have a few things to ask about some of the past grocery stores in the Houston area (didn't want to start a million new threads).

1) Did the "Hydroponic Garden" Fiesta have any fast foods or any other alcove shops inside? They had space for it, and did include a bank.

2) 2900 Shepherd was the home to Houston's first Whole Foods, but it doesn't seem to exist anymore address-wise. Did PetSmart absorb it, or was it where PetSmart is now? When did it move out?

3) What was Jamail's? I heard it was a fancy grocery store, and they even opened the first grocery stores in The Woodlands (they sold out in the late 1980s or early 1990s). Any more stories on that?

4) What exactly did Safeway change when they took over Randalls and caused it fall out of favor with Houstonians?

5) I heard that the Albertsons in the Houston division had garden centers. What was with that? Were they real garden centers, or just offer lawn furniture, a few flowers, and some misc. bags of mulch, like some H-E-B?

Thanks!

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3.  As I recall Jamail's was a moderately fancy grocery store by today's standards.  Their main location was on Kirby where the car wash next to Cafe Express is.  I rarely went in there compared to the Rice on Kirby at Alabama or the Kroger on Kirby at Richmond.  They went out of business in the late 1980s.  I think there was another, smaller location on Bissonnet, which may have been run by a different member of the same family.  

 

 

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Before Rice, there was a store called Eagle.  It was where Bed Bath & Beyond is at W. Alabama and Kirby.  I believe there was a Jamail' on S. Shepherd too (where a pet store is now).  Pasternak's was on W. Alabama @ Audubon.

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Before Rice, there was a store called Eagle.  It was where Bed Bath & Beyond is at W. Alabama and Kirby.  I believe there was a Jamail' on S. Shepherd too (where a pet store is now).  Pasternak's was on W. Alabama @ Audubon.

 

Was the Jamail on S Shepherd further north from the eventual Whole Foods location?  Across from Kenneally's there is a pet store that looks for all the world like it was once a grocery.  At one point that would have been right next to the old Battlesteins River Oaks.

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It just seems so odd to me that at the Shepherd block, there were no less than THREE grocery stores (IIRC) in the center at one point in time or the other. Trader Joe's, the original Whole Foods (in Houston, not Austin), and (I've heard) even an A&P toward the south end.

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Randall's VS Safeway

 

Randalls was a non-union store that didn't sell beer or wine. The easiest way to get rich in Houston in the 70's and 80's wasn't by owning an oil well, it was by opening a liquor store next to a Randall's.

 

 

Safeway is a unionized store, so when they bought out randall's, Randall's went union.

 

Not so great service combined with higher prices combined with HEB opening up kicked Randall's ass.

 

Randalls used to be locally owned, but not anymore.

 

HEB is San Antonio owned, that's close enough for us  :)

 

 

My first job was as a bag stuffer at Randall's Number 7 at Wilcrest and 59 when I turned 16. We had at least 10 sackers on Saturdays and Sundays, sometimes more.

 

nowdays, you're lucky to find two.

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Was the Jamail on S Shepherd further north from the eventual Whole Foods location?  Across from Kenneally's there is a pet store that looks for all the world like it was once a grocery.  At one point that would have been right next to the old Battlesteins River Oaks.

 

   It was where the pet store (Pet Smart?  Pet Something?  No Pets Here.) is now, I think; not far south of San Felipe, on the west side of Shepherd.

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Was the Jamail on S Shepherd further north from the eventual Whole Foods location?  Across from Kenneally's there is a pet store that looks for all the world like it was once a grocery.  At one point that would have been right next to the old Battlesteins River Oaks.

 

I could have sworn that Jamail's was on S Shepherd too but the article I read says the original was on Montrose and when the Southwest Fwy went in right through their store, they moved it to Kirby.

 

And yes, I believe it was very near Battlesteins.

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Jamail's was all about service and higher quality produce and meats. Employees in the produce department would select apples, oranges, etc. and present them to you for your approval before placing them in the bag. Of course the sackers took your groceries to your car for you and placed them in the automobile at your direction. Ah, the good old days.

 

Of course the River Oaks clientele loved the service. What's the point of being wealthy if you aren't treated like royalty? :)

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Jamail's was all about service and higher quality produce and meats. Employees in the produce department would select apples, oranges, etc. and present them to you for your approval before placing them in the bag. Of course the sackers took your groceries to your car for you and placed them in the automobile at your direction. Ah, the good old days.

That's strange. I worked at Village Foods about a year ago, and it was an AppleTree in all but name (AppleTree IN name until about five years ago), including much of the decor still intact (neon, wood trim), we still asked paper and plastic, I worked as a sacker and took groceries out to people's cars.

Guess it was an anachronism, huh?

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The Hydroponic Garden Fiesta was located at the corner of FM 528 and the Gulf Freeway in Webster.  Per a discussion I once had with one of the managers, the city of Webster would not allow Fiesta to have the sidewalk vendors like their other stores.  So they made room for the vendors inside, at the front of the store.   

 

It was Fiesta's attempt at a Hypermart at over 200,000 sq. ft., however it focused heavily on groceries. 

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 I worked as a sacker and took groceries out to people's cars.

Guess it was an anachronism, huh?

 

It would seem so. I'm sure there are still grocery stores where that is still the norm or, at least not unheard of.

 

There is an Arlan's Market on NASA Road One. It is a real "neighborhood store." Most of the sackers there are local young people - probably students at one of the high schools. I'm pretty sure I've seen them assist more senior customers or those with young children in tow in getting their purchases to their automobiles.

 

That particular Arlan's (the "flagship store" I believe) is a very service oriented grocery store but it in no way approaches what Jamail's offered its customers at the time.

 

Iron, I get the impression you spent time on the north side of Houston. Do you remember the excellent service one used to get at the Randall's (first on I-45 at Tidwell then further up the freeway at I-45 and Dyna)? This would have been from the late 1960's through at least the '70s. 

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Iron, I get the impression you spent time on the north side of Houston. Do you remember the excellent service one used to get at the Randall's (first on I-45 at Tidwell then further up the freeway at I-45 and Dyna)? This would have been from the late 1960's through at least the '70s.

No, just an obsessive Houston fan from the "far northwest exurbs" (College Station), though I've been to Houston and surorunding areas many times in the last past 15 years or so. The Northwest Freeway corridor certainly has been altered in the last decade.

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Don't know what the Randall's stores are like now that Safeway bought them out but I can tell you what Safeway did to Tom Thumb. In the mid 1990s Randall's bought Tom Thumb a big grocery chain based out of Dallas. Tom Thumb from the mid 1970s to the Safeway buy out was the premier grocery store in north Texas. Every Tom Thumb was nicer than Central Market stores. My local Tom Thumb used to have a Sushi chef on staff in the deli, plus the deli served fresh store made breads, and daily store made sandwiches plus locally shipped in Antone subs from their Dallas store. The bakery made custom cakes now the cakes are shipped frozen in from the local warehouse. The breads are also shipped in from the warehouse. The deli food is shipped in as well like the Sushi (which is shipped in from Costco) which tastes like convenience store Sushi. The whole store just looks like discount & cheep. I'm guessing Safeway has done the same thing to Randall's as they did to Tom Thumb even Kroger's now looks gourmet compared to Tom Thumbs.
 

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Don't know what the Randall's stores are like now that Safeway bought them out but I can tell you what Safeway did to Tom Thumb. I

...

 

The whole store just looks like discount & cheep. I'm guessing Safeway has done the same thing to Randall's as they did to Tom Thumb even Kroger's now looks gourmet compared to Tom Thumbs.

 

 

Yep, pretty much the same thing.

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Randall's VS Safeway

 

Randalls was a non-union store that didn't sell beer or wine. The easiest way to get rich in Houston in the 70's and 80's wasn't by owning an oil well, it was by opening a liquor store next to a Randall's.

 

 

Safeway is a unionized store, so when they bought out randall's, Randall's went union.

 

Not so great service combined with higher prices combined with HEB opening up kicked Randall's ass.

 

Randalls used to be locally owned, but not anymore.

 

HEB is San Antonio owned, that's close enough for us   :)

 

 

My first job was as a bag stuffer at Randall's Number 7 at Wilcrest and 59 when I turned 16. We had at least 10 sackers on Saturdays and Sundays, sometimes more.

 

nowdays, you're lucky to find two.

 

So are saying that if a business has union employees that it automatically has lousy service? I've shopped at Krogers (a union store) and they have excellent service, better than their nearest HEB competitor. I'm all for locally owened, but having union or non union employees should not be a deciding factor. So long as the employees are local, that's good enough for me! :)

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Yeah, I think unions are not as big a deal as people make them out to be. Particularly, Walmart gets a lot of flack for being a non-union store, but so is H-E-B, and most people will agree that H-E-B is a better store than Walmart overall, and treats employees better. I kind of find it strange that Safeway raised prices (or at least kept them high). At least in the 1980s, Safeway seemed to be more middle-market competing head to head with Kroger. In 1990, Kroger and AppleTree tied for second in the market share (at 14.5%, Randalls was first at around 27%, which now seems unthinkable now).

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Was the Jamail on S Shepherd further north from the eventual Whole Foods location?  Across from Kenneally's there is a pet store that looks for all the world like it was once a grocery.  At one point that would have been right next to the old Battlesteins River Oaks.

 

   I still think that was a Jamail's, as does someone else I know, but I haven't found any proof.

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Yes there was more than one Jamails Grocery. They were run by different family members as stated by an earlier poster. There was also a family liquor store chain called "Richards".

But they all lived in a west side enclave on Fairdale in Glenhaven Estates. Basically the whole block on both sides of street between Fountain View (Ulrich Rd) and Greenridge. There were even a couple of family members that had homes facing Beverly Hill, but those got taken when Richmond Avenue was extended.

I like photo above. It is a perfect representation of grocery stores from that era. Good post Sub.

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   I still think that was a Jamail's, as does someone else I know, but I haven't found any proof.

The Petco building did have a Jamails in it. I can't remember if it was the entire building, or just the South part.

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  • 3 months later...

Does anyone remember the name of the mom-and-pop grocery store on the south side of West Alabama near Garrott?  It was near the Pickwick diner and possibly where the Blue Bird Circle shop is now or at least near there.  It's been annoying me for years that I can't recall the name of it!  It was there in the 70s and probably went missing around the time Blue Bird Circle was built, which I think might have been the 80s.  

Edited by E Vix
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^^ I don't remember a Jamail's on this section of Alabama, but my familiarity with the neighborhood only extends back to the early 1980s. The location mentioned by E Vix sounds like Pasternak's, which was mentioned earlier in this thread. Pasternak's was on the south side of Alabama at Audubon, less than a block west of Garrott and just east of the Blue Bird Circle shop. 

 

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My brother worked at Jamail's as a sacker when he was a student at Lamar High School back in the late 80s. He would carry groceries out to people's cars and would even drive the van to deliver groceries to River Oaks residents. He would receive nice tips, some would tip $20 if I recall.

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3.  As I recall Jamail's was a moderately fancy grocery store by today's standards.  Their main location was on Kirby where the car wash next to Cafe Express is.  I rarely went in there compared to the Rice on Kirby at Alabama or the Kroger on Kirby at Richmond.  They went out of business in the late 1980s.  I think there was another, smaller location on Bissonnet, which may have been run by a different member of the same family.  

 

Once, at the smaller Jamail's, I saw an elderly lady introduce her chauffeur to the manager, or owner, and tell him that the chauffeur would often be coming in and shopping for her.  This would have been in the '80s.

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I know that there was an A&P and Whole Foods in that same Alabama Theater commercial center (not at the same time, obviously) but not Jamail's. Of course, I don't know if that's fully true either...

 

In my childhood, the Alabama center had (south to north, or left to right, as you faced it) a Walgreen's with a soda fountain, an A&P Supermarket, the Alabama Theater, Suzanne's Cafeteria, Wacker's Variety Store, and Western Auto.  In the mid 80s a high end Mexican restaurant--Fonda San Miguel--went up where the cafeteria had been, but didn't last long. Whole Foods was where Petsmart is now--where the dimestore Wacker's used to be.

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  • 1 year later...

By the way, in regards to mysteries about "other locations", I found a 1984 article that states that "Jim Jamail & Sons Food Market" was the original Kirby market, and there was a "Jamail Bros. Food Market" on South Shepherd that was owned by cousins. This was probably the operation that probably operated stores in The Woodlands (later sold to Randalls).

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For what it's worth, there was a Jamail's on Northpark Dr. in Kingwood from the late 1970s until the mid-1990s. It became a Holiday Foods/IGA after that and is now a Gold's Gym. Was never a "fancy" grocery store, but definitely catered to the local market. My mom knew the sackers by name and the bakery would give kids 10 and under a free cookie.

Edited by KDubRedRaider
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For what it's worth, there was a Jamail's on Northpark Dr. in Kingwood from the late 1970s until the mid-1990s. It became a Holiday Foods/IGA after that and is now a Gold's Gym. Was never a "fancy" grocery store, but definitely catered to the local market. My mom knew the sackers by name and the bakery would give kids 10 and under a free cookie.

The 1984 article that discusses this mentions the original store never expanded beyond Kirby, so it must have been Jamail Bros.

What happened to that store in Kingwood?

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  • 1 year later...

Alright, now that I've got more resources I can start piecing together everything. There were three "Jamail" stores, the first was Jamail & Sons on Kirby (the legendary grocery store that closed in the mid-1990s), Jamail Family Market on South Rice Avenue (described as "7-Eleven sized"), and the Jamail's supermarkets in Woodlands and Kingwood. Randalls bought the Woodlands stores in the late 1980s but not the Kingwood store, which had operated as Holiday Foods and is now Gold's Gym at 2213 Northpark. One of the Woodlands stores was at 4775 W. Panther Creek Drive, which is NOT the Randalls store there today. The Jamail's there became Randalls but Randalls moved to a larger store WITHIN the same shopping center in 1992, with the old store becoming Sears Hardware and now The Woodland's Children's Museum. The other store I'm not sure on, as I've heard it was in the Wharf/Grogan's Mill shopping center area opened in 1978 with the Panther Creek store opening in 1983. The Grogan's Mill store probably didn't last long under the Randalls name before it was consolidated with their nearby store at Sawdust and Budde, which opened prior to the purchase. Ironically, they moved back close to that old location later when an Albertsons that had displaced part of the Grogan's Mill shopping center closed and Randalls bought that store. Do I have this all right?

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  • 3 months later...

I am a part of the Jamail family that owned Jim Jamail and Sons on Kirby and worked there growing up. Jim was my grandfather and the sons, my uncles. Jamail Bros on Shepherd were another Jamail family related to the attorney and first cousins of my grandfather. I miss it so much and it’s so hard to explain to anyone how amazing the store was and so before it’s time. If anyone has pictures of the store please post them. I appreciate the 4 posted before. I could write an article on how amazing this place was and wish so many people I know now that weren’t around there could understand the true institution this store was.

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37 minutes ago, Cyndi Averyt Levit said:

 I could write an article on how amazing this place was and wish so many people I know now that weren’t around there could understand the true institution this store was.

 

Ms. Levit, thank you for posting. I do understand and I appreciate deeply how amazing it was. Jamail's wasn't just about a great grocery store with excellent merchandise. It was the experience one had when shopping there that came from the care and consideration the employees had for the customer. That attitude came from the leadership down to everyone who worked there.

 

Isn't it interesting that phase "customer experience" has become popular lately. At one time that then un-named concept existed in many places and was simply the way things were done. No label for it was needed. Kaplan's Ben-Hur was another such place.

Edited by Specwriter
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On 4/2/2014 at 8:21 AM, Specwriter said:

Jamail's was all about service and higher quality produce and meats. Employees in the produce department would select apples, oranges, etc. and present them to you for your approval before placing them in the bag. Of course the sackers took your groceries to your car for you and placed them in the automobile at your direction. Ah, the good old days.

 

Of course the River Oaks clientele loved the service. What's the point of being wealthy if you aren't treated like royalty? :)

They really frowned upon touching their produce.  I received the "stink-eye" once when I did.  They knew I was an outlyer at that point.

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  • The title was changed to Historic Houston Grocery Stores

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