Rice Epicurean Markets, the oldest family-owned supermarket in Houston, opened its first store in 1988. At that time Rice Epicurean was a division of Rice Food Markets, Inc. Founded on May 5, 1937, by William and Edna Levy, grandparents of the current owners, the first Rice Food Market store, a 2400 square foot building located at 2501 Rice Boulevard, was aptly named Rice Boulevard Food Market.
In 1937, The Village shopping center west of Rice Institute was an undeveloped, wooded area. Rice Boulevard was an unpaved dirt road and West University Place was in its developmental stages. In those early days, there were only two buildings in the shopping center, an ice house at the corner of Rice Boulevard and Kirby, and Rice Boulevard Food Market at 250l Rice Boulevard.
The first store was only 40 feet by 60 feet, and included William Levy’s wife Edna among the personnel, which numbered only five. That successful first store was eventually enlarged on five occasions until there was no longer space on the site for expansion.
In 1955, William Levy’s son-in-law, Alfred L. Friedlander, joined the business. Two years later, his son, Joel M. Levy, came into the family business.
In April 1957, the family opened its second location at the corner of San Felipe and Post Oak in Tanglewood. The Tanglewood store, as it was referred to in conversation, necessitated a change in the firm’s name from Rice Boulevard Food Market to Rice Food Markets.
When the Tanglewood store opened, it was surrounded by farmland and many customers were nearby rice farmers who were delighted not to have to go into the city for groceries. The store virtually stood alone and was the only major structure in what was to become the prestigious Galleria area.
William H. Levy passed away in 1968, but Rice Epicurean Markets continues to maintain his concepts from the first neighborhood location: quality products and personal service.
Before the advent of the supermarket of today, customers shopped in their own neighborhood and were known by name by the grocer, who usually offered charging privileges by simply signing their names on the grocery bills.
Rice, to now compete with the larger chains, was re-created in a successful effort to be the best grocery store in town. In 1988, Rice Epicurean Markets was born.
Today, Rice Epicurean Markets is still merchandised to be in tune with its neighborhood. The charge card system with monthly billing, introduced in 1964, remains in effect. Rice Epicurean Markets prides itself on the number of employees who have been with the chain for 20 years or more and can tell you by name, the customers and their families who have shopped with them for many, many years.
The Rice Epicurean concept pays close attention to the regular stock of grocery store items, but special requests, gourmet products and customer service figure prominently in the overall operation. The perishable departments receive special attention, featuring the finest meat, produce, chef prepared salads and entrees, upscale floral, European bakery, Angus Beef and See’s Candies.
In 2002, Rice Epicurean became the only Houston grocer to offer online shopping at RiceDelivers.com.
In 1996, Rice Epicurean Markets was awarded the prestigious, Nationally Acclaimed Award of Excellence honor by Supermarket Business Magazine.
Over the years, Rice Epicurean has also been recognized by the Houston Business Journal as a Top 50 Family Owned Business in Houston.
Rice Epicurean Markets, Inc. is wholly owned by founding family members. Current family members involved in the daily operations of the business are: Gary Friedlander, President and Chief Operating Officer; Bruce Levy, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Scott Silverman, Vice President and Director of Specialty Foods & Wine; and Phil Cohen, Vice President Home Delivery, Community Relations and Grocery.