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Downtown major grocer

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Whoa now. That's a bit taking a LOT of things out of context. First, there seems to be confusion on what people want in downtown. "A full-line store, oh, but it can't be TOO large and even the parking lot for the Midtown Randalls is too large".

 

Phoenicia is there, and what's wrong with it, really? Now, I've never been to Phoenicia, but if it's too small, there's not really a "huge" example for a downtown store anyway. If it's too expensive, Whole Foods (which could work, maybe GreenStreet) wouldn't answer that, and it lacks a pet department, a pet supply store located in the tunnels or adjacent (like the Shops at Houston Center) could solve that.

 

I even tossed around the idea of a supermarket in the tunnels before that was shot down as being too poorly-accessible.

 

One more idea: Aldi could work just about anywhere.

I think you're selling the day time crowd short...  Anything that eventually goes into Downtown will play heavily towards the work crowd (like Phoenicia) with deli's/instore cafe's and pre-made meals for sale.

 

Aldi would probably be a pretty good addition, though it is far from being a "sexy" addition.

 

I think a one-off HEB or Kroger would work great if it was attached to the right project and close enough to some of the new residential.  Maybe not a 95,000 sq ft one, but something around 45 or 50,000?  I'm thinking it would need to be two levels (maybe three?) with one of those cart escalators - similar to Targets Downtown Minneapolis store.

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A while back, I thought of the idea of converting not only the old Holiday Inn into condos but turning a good part of the lower levels into a large, multi-level Target. It's not only groceries but also common household goods that downtowners would need, and a Target would fill in those gaps nicely. The fact that it's on the rail line, would be close enough to service Midtown as well, and far enough away from the Heights Target that it wouldn't cannibalize sales would be pluses as well. 

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Look to downtown LA for the best example.

 

There's a Ralph's, Urban Radish, Smart & Final, and now even a Target with food options. 

 

LA is about 10 years ahead of us on the downtown renewal bit though.

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Look to downtown LA for the best example.

 

There's a Ralph's, Urban Radish, Smart & Final, and now even a Target with food options. 

 

LA is about 10 years ahead of us on the downtown renewal bit though.

 

Really?

 

I am not challanging you, but I never thought that LA had a thriving downtown (could be totally wrong).

 

I looked at Chicago / New York / Boston as examples of strong downtown situations. Houston is definitely headed that way.

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Whole Foods might work in theory, but it's just not population density, it's median income as well, and that would require a lot of rich downtown folks.

Good news there... the vast majority of people living Downtown are rich, even taking into account the people that live in Downtown shelters.

 

Yeah, I think Whole Foods is a good fit. They've shown they can make smaller footprint stores work. 

Edited by kylejack

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Good news there... the vast majority of people living Downtown are rich, even taking into account the people that live in Downtown shelters.

 

Yeah, I think Whole Foods is a good fit. They've shown they can make smaller footprint stores work. 

 

Agreed, I mentioned this earlier.  If you can afford to live downtown, you can afford to shop solely at Whole Foods.  Also, Whole Foods has a pretty nice hot food / soup / deli selection so it will definitely attract the work crowds for lunch.

 

As an employee who works in the Chase tower, I am now dreaming of a world in which a downtown Whole Foods opens up in the ground floor retail of the building going up at 700 Preston, next to the Market Square Garage.  

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Separately, I continually am surprised when folks say Pheonica is not a "full" grocer. Two floors of stuff. Fresh, frozen, refrigerated, liquid, solid, ground or whole, packaged or loose for just about everything that is turf, and surf. The selections are certainly less (and tend to have a lot of ethnic stuff-- great if you are looking for something from "home") but, one could feed oneself at Pheonicia for essentially ever without a problem and without depravation.

 

I guess it all depends on how one defines 'full' grocer. Myself, I take that to include not just all different foodstuffs I would want (meat, produce, dairy, etc.), but odds/ends I need. Toothpaste, paper towels, deodorant, tooth brush, etc.

 

I don't like to have to go shopping for just one single $2 item, and if I were to use Phoenicia, that's exactly what I'd have to do.

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I guess it all depends on how one defines 'full' grocer. Myself, I take that to include not just all different foodstuffs I would want (meat, produce, dairy, etc.), but odds/ends I need. Toothpaste, paper towels, deodorant, tooth brush, etc.

 

I don't like to have to go shopping for just one single $2 item, and if I were to use Phoenicia, that's exactly what I'd have to do.

 

I don't know, because Whole Foods has a pretty tight rein on what it sells, I know I'd be disappointed if I can't find a supermarket that sells a 2-liter Coke and a big bag of Lay's potato chips. (For those that say, "that's what convenience stores are for", that's what we're largely trying to avoid)

 

That's why I think that a Target might be a pretty good fit for the downtown area, to be honest.

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Perhaps there's enough room for both WF and another major grocer downtown.  Realistically, it just seems like WF fits the downtown lifestyle, minus stuff like Coca Cola and Cheetos and Tombstone Pizzas.  I like your idea about Aldi, as well.. I really like that little store.

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Good news there... the vast majority of people living Downtown are rich, even taking into account the people that live in Downtown shelters.

 

Yeah, I think Whole Foods is a good fit. They've shown they can make smaller footprint stores work.

 

What about in the old Books-A-Million location at GreenStreet? Didn't it encompass both floors? The whole foods could have certain stuff on each floor/ have the ground floor cater more to street level activity. Too bad greenstreet doesn't have a tunnel connection for access to the daytime mole people. I wonder if they ever considered that.

I don't know, because Whole Foods has a pretty tight rein on what it sells, I know I'd be disappointed if I can't find a supermarket that sells a 2-liter Coke and a big bag of Lay's potato chips. (For those that say, "that's what convenience stores are for", that's what we're largely trying to avoid)

 

That's why I think that a Target might be a pretty good fit for the downtown area, to be honest.

 

There is more than enough room downtown for a target and a legit grocery store.

Perhaps there's enough room for both WF and another major grocer downtown.  Realistically, it just seems like WF fits the downtown lifestyle, minus stuff like Coca Cola and Cheetos and Tombstone Pizzas.  I like your idea about Aldi, as well.. I really like that little store.

This.. Aldi, Target, i don't care. So long as we get something that carries all the typical goods at a moderate price as an alternative to the "organic" and more expensive Whole Foods. But as has been noted.. Downtown income isn't really an issue...

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I agree a Target would probably be a great addition, but I think the proximity to the Sawyer Heights Target would exclude them from extending into Downtown.  If anything I'd assume that eventually we'll find a Target one direction or the other down one of the new-ish rail lines probably down in the Navigation area in the next 4-5 years.

 

Whole Foods probably makes the most sense in that its an urban sort of market in its own right.  Though I think a smaller place like Sprouts or Fresh Market would jump at the chance to get into that market first.  For what its worth Fresh Market is like a smaller Whole Foods, they also specialize in pre-made just need to cook, and pre-made take home foods that would be a hit with both workers and residents.  While they do sell paper towels and some TP and other household items of need, they do not have near the scale of these items as Target.

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I guess it all depends on how one defines 'full' grocer. Myself, I take that to include not just all different foodstuffs I would want (meat, produce, dairy, etc.), but odds/ends I need. Toothpaste, paper towels, deodorant, tooth brush, etc.

 

I don't like to have to go shopping for just one single $2 item, and if I were to use Phoenicia, that's exactly what I'd have to do.

 

I would agree.  Whole Foods is fine (albeit pricey) for what they do, but a huge part of grocery shopping is for those odds and ends.  To me Whole Foods is more for special occasions when one might care less about the price.  

 

Another consideration is that running an urban grocery store requires a different skill-set than for a big box.  They keep a decent variety of items in stock, but fewer of them, so that inventory management and deliveries have to be designed around more rapid turnover and stocking cycles.  

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LA's downtown is quite vibrant compared to Houston. Far less dead space. Thousands of loft conversions. More hotel rooms. Ralph's (similar to Kroger), Target, and two specialty upscale grocery market is living proof.

 

The thing I am most jealous of is downtown LA still has a shopping district. It isn't upscale, but it is packed.

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I don't know, because Whole Foods has a pretty tight rein on what it sells, I know I'd be disappointed if I can't find a supermarket that sells a 2-liter Coke and a big bag of Lay's potato chips. (For those that say, "that's what convenience stores are for", that's what we're largely trying to avoid)

 

That's why I think that a Target might be a pretty good fit for the downtown area, to be honest.

 

But they do have various different soda pop and potato chips, true no CocaCola, or Pepsico (Frito Lay is owned by Pepsi) products. But hey at least at Whole Foods you can branch out and try some hand bottled strawberry/kiwi soda thing paired with some artisan baked cucumber chips. At Phoenicia I'd have buy some random spices to rub in my armpits when I'm out of deodorant.

 

I'd like to see a Central Market, rather than WF, Target, or Aldi (which they'd never do, Aldi is owned by Trader Joes, and they only put Aldi in 'cheaper' areas and TJ in the more 'high rent' areas).

 

CM makes more sense (to me at least) than WF, cause just like there's the Target on Sawyer, there's the WF down Allen pkwy, which is very close.

Edited by samagon
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I had been under the impression HEB is done building new Central Market concepts?  HEB could do a smaller scale market for Urban areas but I'll bet they're not going to.

 

Any one want to wager how many years it is until Midtown Randalls is bought by another grocery company and re-opened as a Kroger, HEB, Trader Joes etc?

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I had been under the impression HEB is done building new Central Market concepts?  HEB could do a smaller scale market for Urban areas but I'll bet they're not going to.

 

Any one want to wager how many years it is until Midtown Randalls is bought by another grocery company and re-opened as a Kroger, HEB, Trader Joes etc?

After the Dominick's shuttering, I was convinced that Randalls would be on the chopping block by the end of 2014, but now I'm not so sure anymore. It's possible that the new Albertsons/Safeway will end up changing it somehow. After all, Randalls distribution center now essentially belongs to Albertsons. Things keep changing, don't they?

Also, they are building a two-level H-E-B in San Antonio (south of downtown, actually), and while it's not in a super-dense area, it could prove a blueprint for future multi-level stores.

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If a potential grocer Downtown wanted more than one block, would the city close a street for them much like they did for the Finger development by MMP? How about closing one block of Crawford next to the Toyota Center parking garage. Great potential location along La Branch, Leeland, Pease, and a great line of sight along Crawford coming up from Midtown. The SE side of Downtown is the least likely for office development after all, retail grocery would make the most sense where residential will grow the most. A location here would serve Downtown, Midtown, EaDo, as well as the Third Ward very nicely with the major street access.

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I believe the closest any "big box" store (in grocer terms) that we'll see around/in Downtown would be the neighborhoods just outside the Downtown Loop.  Probably on a rail line, probably as a part of an overall larger mixed-use center incorporating apartments+retail+specialty retail+some office or maybe healthcare space.

 

Downtown would be able to support it, but I think the costs of land would be prohibitive to someone like Krogers or HEB going in and building a downtown store.  Personally I think Greenstreet missed a chance to use a bunch of their space for something (perhaps they tried?) by getting a Trader Joes or similar into place.  For one it alone would draw people all the time, for another it'd be a boon to the oncoming spat of soon to be downtown residents.

 

I drew up plans (rough sketches) of the re-use of the old Sakowitz building with some ground floor dry goods and about half that space being used for grocer cafe and food to-go space.  The upper 2 levels would be shoping otherwise, while the top floor (assumed it was 4 not 5 back then) would of been all storage (perhaps I've got it skewed?) but that was my take on it years ago.  This was a big grocer mind you.  Big.

 

I think that building could be re-used for a smaller Whole Foods (bear in mind storage space required) with room to spare for an auto ramp to parking above.

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LA's downtown is quite vibrant compared to Houston. Far less dead space. Thousands of loft conversions. More hotel rooms. Ralph's (similar to Kroger), Target, and two specialty upscale grocery market is living proof.

 

The thing I am most jealous of is downtown LA still has a shopping district. It isn't upscale, but it is packed.

 

I found them to be quite comparable, with LA having a larger (and sketchier) sketchy zone. The part where I was (near the Bonaventure) went dead after business hours and there was not much nearby. I must have been on the wrong side of things.

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L.A. also has a bustling farmers market that I keep reading about in Bon Appetit, of which there are several ethnic and very good eateries.

It always kind of bothered me that Houston didn't seem to have a real permanent farmer's market near the central city at all. Should that be the case, that could put affordable produce and other staples at downtown's reach.

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Canino's is beyond awesome.

 

I go there weekly.....love it....its fun to walk out back to the "back of truck" stands....you never know what you will find !!

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The downtown Wednesday farmer's market started back up last week.  Lunchtime, at the library (moved from in front of City Hall due to reconstruction of the reflecting pond area).  There are also a bunch of food trucks that show up, as well as other ready-to-eat food vendors under the canopies.  

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The downtown Wednesday farmer's market started back up last week.  Lunchtime, at the library (moved from in front of City Hall due to reconstruction of the reflecting pond area).  There are also a bunch of food trucks that show up, as well as other ready-to-eat food vendors under the canopies.  

I have always wanted to go to that - but unfortunately, Im always at work on Wednesdays....and not downtown.....

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Aldi is owned by Trader Joes, and they only put Aldi in 'cheaper' areas and TJ in the more 'high rent' areas).

 

Actually, it's the other way around - TJ's is owned by Aldi. 

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So we've come up with two more cities not on the east coast that have grocery stores Seattle and LA. There are two others I can think of off the top of my head Portland and Miami. Denver, San Diego, Salt Lake City are also possibilities.

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L.A. also has a bustling farmers market that I keep reading about in Bon Appetit, of which there are several ethnic and very good eateries.

It always kind of bothered me that Houston didn't seem to have a real permanent farmer's market near the central city at all. Should that be the case, that could put affordable produce and other staples at downtown's reach.

 

Ah, but there actually was a real farmer's market near downtown Houston for many years. I don't know the street it was on, but it was demolished during the post-World War II building boom, probably in the early 1950's. When I was a child, my mother shopped there frequently.

 

As I recall, the place consisted of a couple of long concrete sheds with open stalls underneath where produce was displayed. Some stalls were wholesale only and catered to restaurants and small neighborhood grocers. Behind the sheds was an open area where trucks would park and unload produce from farms fairly close to Houston. Back then, food produced farther away was shipped across the country by rail in either regular or refrigerated freight cars.

 

Live poultry in wire cages was available, too. During Thanksgiving week and again during Christmas week, my mother would carefully select and buy a large tom turkey. It would then be taken home where it was quickly beheaded, dressed and refrigerated until time to prepare the holiday feast. As a small child, I was fascinated and learned much by observing. Years later, I was able to recall what to do when faced with live poultry and an empty cooking pot.

 

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Actually, it's neither.

Sort of. Aldi split in the 1960s, and the Aldi Nord company operates Trader Joe's as well as Aldi stores in most of Europe (France, Spain, Netherlands), while Aldi Süd operates in southern Europe, the English-speaking countries (USA, Britain, Australia).

It's complicated, I just really found out about it recently. Either way, both operate in Houston.

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Sort of. Aldi split in the 1960s, and the Aldi Nord company operates Trader Joe's as well as Aldi stores in most of Europe (France, Spain, Netherlands), while Aldi Süd operates in southern Europe, the English-speaking countries (USA, Britain, Australia).

It's complicated, I just really found out about it recently. Either way, both operate in Houston.

To clarify, Trader Joe's and US Aldis are parts of two separate and distinct companies, not merely 2 different divisions. They do not have common ownership, operations, or management.

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Yeah, they have entirely different distribution centers and everything else. The fact that they came to the Houston market at about the same time is just a coincidence.

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But they do have various different soda pop and potato chips, true no CocaCola, or Pepsico (Frito Lay is owned by Pepsi) products. But hey at least at Whole Foods you can branch out and try some hand bottled strawberry/kiwi soda thing paired with some artisan baked cucumber chips. At Phoenicia I'd have buy some random spices to rub in my armpits when I'm out of deodorant.

Well, part of the problem about Trader Joe's and Whole Foods is that (like I guess I would consider Phoenicia though I actually don't know what their product line-up is like) they're what you call "specialty grocery stores", in which that they could theoretically provide you with groceries, the brands are too unique and line-up too specialized. That's why, for instance, both my cousin (Houston area) and my brother (non-Houston area) go to Trader Joe's on a less-regular basis then they would a "real" grocery store, because of those specialized products and lack of "normal" products.

Know what I mean?

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Well, part of the problem about Trader Joe's and Whole Foods is that (like I guess I would consider Phoenicia though I actually don't know what their product line-up is like) they're what you call "specialty grocery stores", in which that they could theoretically provide you with groceries, the brands are too unique and line-up too specialized. That's why, for instance, both my cousin (Houston area) and my brother (non-Houston area) go to Trader Joe's on a less-regular basis then they would a "real" grocery store, because of those specialized products and lack of "normal" products.

Know what I mean?

Sort of.

 

Whole Foods and Phoenicia both have a good selection of actual food (meat, fish, cheese, produce, bread etc) and prepared food, but they don't have much in the way of traditional American junk food.

 

Trader Joe's actually has plenty of junk food. 

 

I actually stopped by Phoenicia the other day and noticed that they even carry cat and dog food now.

Their prices seemed totally reasonable too. $1.29 for broccoli, $9.99/ lb for cod etc.

 

I think it largely comes down to how you purchase food. If you buy ingredients and go home and cook them Whole Foods and Phoenicia are great. If you want stuff you can throw in your freezer they're not as good.

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Well, part of the problem about Trader Joe's and Whole Foods is that (like I guess I would consider Phoenicia though I actually don't know what their product line-up is like) they're what you call "specialty grocery stores", in which that they could theoretically provide you with groceries, the brands are too unique and line-up too specialized. That's why, for instance, both my cousin (Houston area) and my brother (non-Houston area) go to Trader Joe's on a less-regular basis then they would a "real" grocery store, because of those specialized products and lack of "normal" products.

Know what I mean?

 

This is a good observation.  I like the idea of a Target.  Perhaps Target could focus on something new "UrbanTarget" or something like that where the store carries all their usual wares minus clothes?  Eliminate clothes and Target greatly reduces its footprint.

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Phoenicia was a game-changer for Downtown in my opinion.  But part of the reason that it works so well is because it is a specialty grocer with a large amount of prepared food.  They're a wine bar (MKT), grocer, and have lots of healthier fast food options for conventioneers, general visitors and DT workers alike.  They have a huge and very diverse base of people to draw from. 

 

it's time for a more general grocer in DT as well.  Midtown has Randall's, but the area has grown so rapidly that they could definitely support another major store.  If put in close proximity to Midtown and the rail line (with the addition of a nice parking garage so people don't have to fight with street traffic), another store would work quite well in DT.  HEB or Kroger Signature would be amazing. 

 

Would Trader Joe's work downtown?  Of course.  but I think it may be a better fit for the burgeoning EaDo area.  They definitely need more options over there.

 

 

Edited by totheskies

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It wasn't a major grocery by any means, but Georgia's Market on Main Street has closed.  "Please stay tuned to further development at the Downtown location."  Its tiny "health food" selection had been dwindling. The last time I dropped by, I was looking for coffee beans.  Unflavored, full caffeine beans.  Nope--they had some decaf flavored options.....

 

Since I commute through downtown, I'm familiar with the options available.  Phoenicia is invaluable as a place to grab a bite and/or a drink. Then shop.  Lots of specialized items, but there's produce, dairy & fresh meat.  The "sundries" section on the second floor is expanding, although it's not geared for the 2.3 kids, 2 pure bred doggie lifestyle.  Please, we don't need to lose this one to a Kroger....

 

Fiesta is on the rail line--and quite safe in the early evening.  Lots of produce & a good selection of non-grocery essentials, even though it is not "elite.".  Don't forget Spec's Warehouse--some produce, a great selection of specialty foods & some non-grocery stuff.  (No pet food, though!)  

 

The Tunnel system wouldn't work since it's mostly closed, evenings & weekends.  My dream: A biggish place on one of the new rail lines--still close in.  The selection at HEB Buffalo Mart is ideal--some of the Central Market fancy stuff along with "regular" grocery items--get a loaf of fresh multi-whole grain bread and Little Debbie Snack Cakes!  

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by MaggieMay

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Phoenicia is getting better. I walked there the other night from Rice Lofts. Good selection. But they are not a game changer nor are they a major grocer. Just another specialty store. That's not a bad thing, just is what it is. I would go there more often if they had more organic meat/produce. All of their meat is al halal blessed which is good if you're Muslim, but I care less about the Islamic blessing and more about the organic label. I would bet most downtown residents like myself would agree that's why we get in our cars and drive past Phoenicia and shop at HEB on Dunlavy or whole foods on Dallas...

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A company that might be worth following is WinCo., which is aiming for the Aldi segment of the market and is employee-owned. They're already in the Metroplex. Just the sort of business that would be attracted to a food desert.

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