Goodbye and hello

End of an era? Most Rice Epicurean grocery stores to be replaced with Fresh Market

End of an era? Most Rice Epicurean grocery stores to be replaced with Fresh Market

Rice Epicurean Markets, West University, sign
Four of five Rice Epicureans will be replaced with Fresh Markets. Rice Epicurean Markets/Facebook
The Fresh Market, grocery store, November 2012
The four new branches mark Fresh Markets' first expansion into Texas. The Fresh Market/Facebook
News_Marci_Rice Epicurean_Founder William Levy
Rice Epicurean founder William Levy, left, stands before the Houston chain's first location in Rice Village. Courtesy of Rice Epicurean Archives
The Fresh Market, grocery store, produce section, November 2012
In addition to a vast selection of gourmet items, Fresh Markets offers an extensive line of prepared foods. The Fresh Market/Facebook
Rice Epicurean Markets, West University, sign
The Fresh Market, grocery store, November 2012
News_Marci_Rice Epicurean_Founder William Levy
The Fresh Market, grocery store, produce section, November 2012

Rice Epicurean — Houston's oldest family-owned grocery store chain — announced Wednesday that it will be paring down its presence in the Bayou City, as specialty food retailer Fresh Market takes over four of its five area locations. Rice Epicurean’s branch at 2020 Fountain View is not part of the agreement and will maintain its classic name.

The affected stores will remain open through the holiday season, before Fresh Market begins an extensive renovation project that will create its first forays into the Lone Star grocery market by fall 2013.

Fresh Market promotes it stores as conveying "the atmosphere of an old world European market," offering what it calls "old-style" butcher shops, fish  markets, delicatessens, bakeries and produce stands.

"We are excited to expand into Texas, and into Houston in particular," said Fresh Market president Craig Carlock in a statement. “We look forward to introducing The Fresh Market’s concept of quality perishable food, excellent customer service and unique shopping atmosphere to a new set of customers, and we look forward to offering our new neighbors a distinctive food shopping experience, one that we think cannot be beaten.”

Fresh Market promotes it stores as conveying "the atmosphere of an old world European market," offering what it calls "old-style" butcher shops, fish markets, delicatessens, bakeries and produce stands. The national chain also enjoys a solid reputation for extensive prepared food options.

“We are excited to welcome The Fresh Market to the Houston metropolitan area and to introduce their concept to our customers and neighbors," said Rice Epicurean spokesperson Bruce Levy. "We believe their stores will be an excellent fit in this market.”

Rice Epicurean began in 1937 as a small shop known as the the Rice Boulevard Food Market. After briefly going public in the late 1960s and expanding to four other locations, the grocery store gained national attention in 1988 after the launch of its "epicurean" concept — balancing a stock of special food with grocery staples.

In other grocery store news, Katy will be getting a new Whole Foods in late January as the organic grocer continues its Houston-area expansion along with Trader Joe's and Kroger. Since the summer, two other Whole Foods have been announced for northwest Houston and the Galleria area.