Gourmet by Warehouse Live
A second new downtown grocery store: EaDo makes shopping indie with EpicureanExpress
Yuppies are rejoicing over next month's planned opening of Epicurean Express, a gourmet concept store located across the street from Warehouse Live.
The 3,500-square-foot space is attached to Cork Soakers wine bar, and will provide East Downtown's growing population with fresh produce, meats, specialty import foods, spices and cleaning supplies. Green offerings will pervade the store, which will incorporate a design scheme of stained concrete floors, earth tones and salvaged ceiling beams and rustic wood accents, creating a "modern but warm feeling." A coffee bar will be this summer's draw, with prepared gourmet foods coming in the fall.
The store's mastermind is Anthony Wegmann, who opened the neighboring wine bar earlier this year and also parented Lucky's Pub across the street. His holdings now make for an entertainment trifecta in the heart of EaDo, at the intersection of Rusk and St. Emanuel. (Those in-the-know dubbed the drag, "St. E Street.") The entrepreneur is still scouring the city for a third tenant for the 1960s strip center's other 3,500-square-foot vacancy.
The idea for a grocer that's "more appealing than an access road gas station corner mart" was sparked by actual conversations between Wegmann and his bars' clientele, nearly half of whom live in downtown, EaDo and the East End. Says Wegman, "When I opened Lucky's next to Warehouse Live, we were somewhat of an island with guests coming for a specific reason."
He adds, "Our goal with Lucky's Pub, Cork Soakers and Epicurean Express is to create a unique experience that does not currently exist in Houston. A guest can watch a game on the 21-foot mega screen, order from one of the largest selections of beers in Houston, enjoy a flight of wine in our gorgeous wine bar and pick up groceries or a gourmet-prepared meal all within walking distance of downtown and Houston's top sporting venues." (Wegmann is also talking about the planned new soccer stadium for the Houston Dynamo.)
Altogether, the system will at least create the façade of a sustainable urban neighborhood (as Vietnamese grocers continue to shutter their doors, EaDo's boosters generally choose to ignore the area's past as a vibrant Asian enclave.) Until now, recent arrivals have had to rely on the overpriced and out of reach Randall's in Midtown and Byrd's on Main St. Combined with the opening of a Phoenicia store at One Park Place, Epicurean Express is sure to amp up the area's appeal.
At last, culinary-conscious consumers will have access to Central Market and Whole Foods-style shopping without having to navigate three highway interchanges.
But the idea doesn't come with its share of dissidents. The rapid gentrification of a historically working-class neighborhood rarely goes smoothly, and some locals are protesting enthusiasm for a speciality store over a normal, full-scale grocer. Agitators have found a home on Facebook with the group "Eastwood For A Better Store (eFABS)," all looking for options beyond the Polk St. "Krappy Kroger."
Will the impending conflict beat the grocery store drama going down on the other side of town?