Does anyone remember the jingle: “Let’s go to Henke’s now, Henke’s now, Henke’s now … thrifty place to shop.”
Well, the song is a lot like the one you hear or may have had heard in the past that goes: “Let’s go Krogering, Krogering, Krogering … “
It’s all the same and with a reason. The giant grocer Kroger bought Houston-based Henke & Pilot chain the same year I was born, in 1955. The Henke name was no longer used beginning in 1966, or there about. Although the jingle seemed to hang on.
I suppose if you are under 30 and grew up in the U.S., most grocery stores have always been a constant. I know the grocery chains in East and Southeast Texas haven’t seemed to change much over those years. Where I live, in Beaumont, there aren’t a lot of grocery choices. There is Kroger, of course. Two larger regional chains seemed to have elbowed out any potential large competitors with the exception of Kroger. H-E-B, which was once pretty much a Central Texas chain has grown like crazy and even some of the smaller towns around here have mid-sized or small versions of its stores.
H-E-B has mega-stores in different locations in the state. Two were built when I lived in Waco. There is one humongous H-E-B in Beaumont on Dowlen Road that anchors a small strip mall. When it first opened it featured a small “Central Market,” which is the company’s gourmet grocery chain. One may find all the hipsters at the Central Market in Austin (that should be ‘Markets,’ and they are littered with ‘foodies’ in major suburbs like Plano and Southlake in the DFW area.) I will give the tres chic H-E-B that it does have many great items one would be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
Unfortunately, Beaumont isn’t a hipster town — at least not in reality — so its H-E-B Central Market was gone and installed was a doc-in-a-box. A new, and presumably likewise large, H-E-B is now solid ground but will be coming up at the site of the old Baptist Hospital at South 11th Street and College. This is next door to the booming Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital and its surrounding medical village. This is kind of a crossroads of where Beaumont’s mostly Black, goodly-sized Hispanic and minority White population all have to go at one time or the other. If they don’t go to Baptist they usually go up 11th to Christus St. Elizabeth or to Texas Medical Center in Houston.
Of course, the “Golden Triangle” also has an abundance of Market Basket stores. It is a chain in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana some half-century old, based in Nederland, Texas, that has seemed to do just fine.
Various other stores either went out of business or got bought out. The Brookshire Brothers chain, based in Lufkin, can be found pretty much in the Big Thicket and Deep East Texas areas. The company has also moved into areas of east Central Texas and parts of Central Texas as well.
One need not mention Wally World.
I think about some of the stores that were once here in Beaumont: Albertson’s, Gerland’s, gosh knows who else. In Nacogdoches, where I spent a great deal of my life, Safeway was once a huge, unionized store. Kroger was also unionized there. One of the first girls I dated upon first moving to Nac, I met at Safeway. Those are the kind of memories one likes to have of a grocery store instead of getting stuck in line to no end. The Safeway girl and I parted quicker than some of those lines, I would suppose. But we left amicably as she wanted to move back to Houston and I said, well, if someone wants to move to Houston then I guess I have no great opposition to it. I was fine just where I was at that time, and several other times.
Also I remember the little East Texas town from where I came. We didn’t have any of those big-named stores. Maybe a couple of years after I left a Brookshire Brothers came. It was a familiar brand because my uncle Sox retired from the company. Uncle Sox then worked part-time after retirement in a little town outside of Lufkin called Huntington. Uncle Sox worked for Boots store, named after a man called Boots. Sox and Boots. Seemed kind of proper, yet still gets a big family chuckle.
Some of the small-town stores I remember delivered. Dick’s Grocery, whom I am named for (Dick, not Grocery), used to set their fruits and vegetables out on the curb. I remember one store, owned by Ira Bean, sold a little of everything. Then there was Joe Harrell’s who we saw for smoked meats and his homemade sausage. And like family was J & J’s, the corner store, but not like in a convenience store. I remember they had a big old wheel of cheddar sitting on top of the butcher case. John & Juanita were as good of people you could find.
Man, those were the days. Well, excuse me because I have to go to Kroger’s. Have a great weekend.