Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Albertsons Gets Altitude

Picture taken in 2019 by author

Built in 1991 adjacent to the Wal-Mart in its pre-Supercenter days was an Albertsons supermarket (2205 Longmire), the first store of its kind in town (#2702 post-renumbering when it became part of the Houston division, as the Skaggs Alpha Beta also converted). Despite coming in with relatively low prices, thanks to the expansion of H-E-B Pantry and the pre-existing Kroger market, Albertsons would never really thrive in this town, despite beating or tying Kroger for store count of full line stores until 2006.

Wal-Mart 1995
Albertsons is on the left, Wal-Mart is on the right completing its first expansion.

Despite the fact that it was much closer to my family's house than Kroger or H-E-B Pantry, my family actually never really shopped at Albertsons due to it being more expensive than those two other stores. As my family bought lots of groceries due to a growing family, it was more cost-effective to make the extra miles to H-E-B Pantry (later the full-line H-E-B) or Kroger (the location at Southwest Parkway and Texas Avenue), so it was fairly rare that I even went to it at all.

Around 2002, it remodeled, as the grocery market was heating up around it, probably to compete with the Kroger a mile north of it (an updated, albeit badly, Greenhouse model, and also one that outlasted a Winn-Dixie Marketplace catty-corner to it), and a large (Signature store) Kroger that opened in 2000 a mile south of it (also holding a Longmire address, natch). The décor of Albertsons in its early days wasn't all that memorable (I believe it was the "Blue & Gray" model), but I remember that a large mirror that you ran the length near the checkouts. Apparently it was where the break room and offices were. The remodel also added a Starbucks Coffee kiosk, and if I recall correctly, changed it to the "Marketplace" décor package (see above link) from the "Blue & Gray" model. It should've been surprising that the store remodeled at all (along with adding a third store in Bryan) as all around the same time, Albertsons was selling or closing stores across Texas, pulling the plug on the San Antonio, South Texas, and Houston markets, leaving a just few scattered stores that remained (along with North Texas, Austin, and Dallas-Fort Worth).

A few years after this remodel, it also added a little Sav-on logo to the front, as the chain tried to make an ill-fated attempt to capitalize on the Sav-on name like Jewel-Osco in the mideast (never mind that by that time stand-alone Sav-on drug stores had long vanished from the Texas market).

Seeing as how I don't have interior pictures (a visit less than a year ago had the store gutted entirely down to a shell), I'm going to try to walk through what I remember. Albertsons had two doors on either side, you walked in the alcove, grabbed your cart, and in the right, that was where the bakery and deli sections were, in the back was a fairly long fish counter that always smelled like fish because they couldn't move the product fast enough, on the back left was the dairy and ice cream, and in the front you had the customer service section. I think the produce was on the left side, and the Starbucks was definitely on the right. There was also a video rental place, we went there around 2003-2004. The discs were scratched up and it even had some old N64 (maybe even SNES!) games for rental, but the disc rental was cheap. Later on, this was totally gutted for Texas A&M sports apparel (I think it was in 2005), which would remain until the store's closure in 2008.

The summer 2008 closure seemed to confirm a long-standing rumor that Wal-Mart would buy the store for a Supercenter expansion, and in 2009, part of the store was demolished to make room for a physical expansion. After the Walmart was finished, the exterior walls of the old Albertsons were repainted a different shade of brown to match Walmart's color palette.

Ripping into the old Albertsons, 2009.

Walmart actually uses the back of the former Albertsons for storage and occasional other uses (sometimes the front of the gutted store was used for hiring fairs), and there's even a physical connection to the store's back to the current Walmart.

Post-Walmart expansion

Sometime in late 2016 or early 2017, I noticed that the front of the former Albertsons was being renovated into a new storefront...Altitude Trampoline Park, which would open August 2017. I ended visited the trampoline park with some family members, and created some new memories in a place that had long been vacant. Next to the Albertsons included some smaller stores with blue awnings, also with the 2205 address but suite numbers. These included Western Beverages (changed in 2016 to "WB Liquors & Wine" as part of a chain upgrade) and a few others. According to archives I found, Austin-based ThunderCloud Subs even had a store here at some point in the mid-1990s.

Previously posted on Safeway and Albertsons in Texas with some mild changes and additions.

UPDATE 12-12-2020: Reports are that likely owing to the difficulties of closure from COVID-19, Altitude Trampoline Park has permanently closed. There were also some minor edits made to differentiate the "front" of the former Albertsons (which Altitude used) and the "back" (which Walmart still uses).