Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Name that Kroger! Redux

A few weeks ago, John Nova Lomax produced his "definitive list" of the local Kroger grocery stores that have nicknames. This practice is something I've tried to document a couple of times as well.

Of course, the most famous of Houston's nicknamed Krogers - Montrose's Disco Kroger - is no more, and Lomax is probably right with his prediction that H-E-B "will run Kroger out of Houston inside of ten years:"

I’ve never had as bad an experience with Kroger but I have a years-long beef with them over their sheer incompetence. I just don’t understand how such a behemoth of a grocery chain can allow its clock to be cleaned so easily and thoroughly by a regional rival, even one as sharp and savvy as HEB is. Why doesn’t Kroger poach some of HEB’s talent? Why don’t they stock their shelves with things Texans like? Why don’t they make the slightest effort to adapt aside from bells and whistles and inflating floor space? The stubborn incompetence offends me , as does their belief that all Americans eat alike.

Anyway….at one point, they had enough of a hold on the Houstonian psyche to spawn folk nicknames.

Here are a few stores from Lomax's list, with my comments:

Cougar Kroger - West Gray, and not because of proximity to UH. With the aging of its clientele, this Kroger’s name has followed along, going from variations on “Hot Babe Kroger” to “MILF Kroger” to its current status. Less sexist or horny observers call it Deco Kroger for its black-tiled facade. I am hereby predicting this is the next Kroger to go bye-bye.

I personally favor "Deco Kroger" for this store, although "Hot Mom Kroger," "Posh Kroger" and "River Oaks Kroger" are other names I've heard used to describe it. About a dozen years ago they tried to name themselves as "Hollywood Kroger," apparently not understanding that Krogers don't get to choose their own names. It's an organic process!

Combat Kroger - Cullen & Polk. Gentrifying but still scruffy environs give it the name. This is a minimal effort Kroger that does little to cater to its Hispanic and/or hipster customers.

I used to regularly shop at Combat Kroger when I lived near the University of Houston; now I can't tell you the last time I've been in there. I always remember it as being poorly stocked and poorly managed, although they did try to spruce it up a few years back.

Geriatric Kroger - 20th & Yale. Could also be Rendezvous Kroger. Nobody you or your downlow honey knows is ever in here (unless it’s Tim Freeman) even though it’s right there in the Heights proper. It was dry until a couple of years ago but it now sports a paltry beer and wine section. *themoreyouknow*

I've never heard this one referred to as anything other than "Zombie Kroger." That being said, I don't think I've ever shopped at this particular store. 

Try Hard Kroger - Buffalo Speedway. This is the one Kroger where they make an effort and almost rivals an HEB. The name fits the ‘hood — West U is an American Mecca of Try Hardism — as well as the ethos of the store. It’s like Kroger and West U have a mutual admiration society — Kroger really wants to impress West U, and the hell with the rest of us. Not even River Oaks gets such a spectacular Kroger.

Gonna disagree with Lomax on this one. This is the Kroger I shop at (when I'm not shopping at the H-E-B on the other side of Buffalo Speedway), and they do not "try hard." The store might have have a nice deli and an impressive beer and wine selection, but it is almost always understaffed (especially at the checkouts; in fact, at certain times of the day or night you're almost required to use the self checkout kiosks), and its produce section always seems poorly-stocked. I can't count the number of times I've gone there to find them out of basic vegetables like green onions, celery or broccoli. 

Anyway, I've always called this one "Buffalo Kroger." Other names I've heard for this particular store are "West U Kroger, " and "Spanish Kroger," referencing the architecture of the shopping center in which it is located.

Quiet Storm Kroger - Old Spanish Trail. East side of the Med Center on OST at Cambridge…Though it had a very mellow, distinct ‘80s feel, it was built in 1994, and now I see it was demolished in 2017. (EDIT: I have since read it was built in the ‘80s and passed through phases as a Safeway and an Apple Tree before Kroger got the property in ‘94.)

I called this one "Medical Kroger" when it was still open. It was clearly on its way out the last time I shopped there, which I think was 2015. 

Further to the west, where Kirby crosses OST and South Main, is "Stadium Kroger" or "Tailgate Kroger" due to its proximity to NRG Stadium. Lomax doesn't have a name for this one, and I used to call it "Does-Anybody-Really-Shop-Here Kroger" because it always seemed deserted.

Yet it remains in business. 

For now.

2022 Houston Cougar football schedule released

The 2022 schedule - likely Houston's last as a member of the American Athletic Conference - came out surprisingly early this year. Here's what it looks like:

Sat Sep 03     at UT-San Antonio
Sat Sep 10     at Texas Tech
Sat Sep 17     Kansas
Sat Sep 24     Rice
Sep 29 or 30  Tulane
Fri Oct 07      at Memphis
Sat Oct 15     (off)
Sat Oct 22     at Navy
Sat Oct 29     USF
Sat Nov 05    at SMU
Sat Nov 12    Temple
Sat Nov 19    at East Carolina
Nov 25 or 26 Tulsa

It's definitely tougher than last year's schedule. The Cougars start the season with back-to-back road trips against the defending Conference USA champion UTSA Roadrunners and a Texas Tech team that gave them their only regular-season loss last year. They then return to Houston to play their home opener against Kansas before taking on Rice.

Navy, SMU and East Carolina all gave the Cougars tough games at home last season; this fall, the Cougars have to play all three on the road, along with perennial nemesis Memphis. 

There are no "gimme" games against the likes of Grambling or UConn on this year's schedule (having been replaced by UTSA and Kansas, respectively). Every game is going to be tough; every game is a potential L.

All that said, there are a few things about this schedule that work in UH's favor. The Cougars get all of their out-of-conference games out of the way early and get three consecutive home games in late September. Houston's off week comes at the midpoint of the season and, conveniently, in the middle of their second set of back-to-back road trips. The Cougars leave the state of Texas only three times this fall (although that trip to Lubbock is going to be about as long as the trip to Memphis). Perhaps most importantly, the Cougars avoid Central Florida and Cincinnati for the second straight season. 

The Cougars' strong performance last fall will hopefully drive an increase in season ticket sales this fall, because the home schedule certainly won't. Kansas is a Big 12 school and Rice is the crosstown rival, but otherwise there's nothing on this schedule that's going to interest the casual Houston fan. This is why getting an invitation to join the Big 12 was so important to the future of the UH football program.

The home games against Tulane and Tulsa will either be Thursday or Friday night games; ESPN will determine that later. I can also only hope that ESPN does not schedule the Kansas or Rice games for daytime kickoffs; I'm honestly done going to games where I have to sit in that kind of heat.

Ryan shares his thoughts on the 2022 schedule.