Austin's Royal Blue Grocery wants to open multiple stores in downtown San Antonio

by Ben OlivoMarch 12, 2019
Royal Blue Grocery is expected to open in early April at 122 E. Houston St. Harry | SAHeron

Royal Blue Grocery of Austin is about a month away from opening its first San Antonio store at 122 E. Houston St. in the Weston Urban-owned Savoy Hotel building block.

The 3,000-square-foot store will offer "a little bit of everything," co-owner and founder Craig Staley said.

"If you're cooking dinner at home, we try to have something that covers all of those bases," Staley said. "We do a lot of business at lunch—sandwiches, tacos—and coffee in the morning."

Staley expects the store to open the first week in April. Seating, about 5-6 tables, will primarily be outside on the sidewalk. Hours of operation will be 7 a.m. to midnight daily.

Staley said Royal Blue Grocery wasn't looking to open in San Antonio, but Weston Urban, the development firm backed by philanthropist Graham Weston, convinced them.

"They're not looking to go in and build things and flip them," Staley said of Weston Urban. "That neighborhood is a long-term play for Weston and we really like that. And we know downtown San Antonio needs something like this."

Staley doesn't see Royal Blue stopping with the one East Houston location, which will be the Texas company's ninth store.

"That's definitely the plan as we see more things happening between downtown and the Pearl," Staley said, who added he could see two or three more locations in downtown proper.

He said the company is looking forward to a development by Austin-based AMS Real Estate Services that will encircle the row of empty retail spots Royal Blue is entering. The development—a kind of restaurant and retail complex with hotels on the upper floors—includes the circa-1906 Book building (just east of Royal Blue), and the Clegg, Kennedy, Veramendi and Solo Serve structures that face Soledad Street.

Staley also said he isn't worried about some of the dead times Houston Street experiences on week nights. He thinks there's enough foot traffic from downtown's hotels, and from the growing number of tech workers, to keep the store afloat until more development enters the area.

It's pretty much Weston Urban's territory at this point. Weston Urban is co-developing the new Frost Tower and is remaking the adjacent greensward into more of a park. It's also agreed to build 265 housing units in the area on property it has acquired—or will acquire—in a land deal with Frost Bank and the city of San Antonio—the same one that's resulting in the new tower. In the park remake, Weston Urban has recruited Houston-based Pinkerton's Barbecue as the lone restaurant operator.

Last year, the University of Texas at San Antonio announced it was expanding its downtown campus into the area, with three schools being built in the next three or so years.

"We're hoping that us being down there, it helps to kind of spur the residential construction," Staley said. "It is that component that is not there now."

The store's interior is pretty much ready to go. Most of the attention, Staley said, is on the reconstruction of the sidewalk. For the sidewalk patio, the company received permission from the city to remove two small trees, which Staley said has been planted in five-by-five foot concrete boxes, and needed to replaced anyway. They've replaced one of the two trees.

Pinkerton’s Barbecue of Houston to open in Weston Urban park

Contact Ben Olivo: 210-421-3932 | | @rbolivo on Twitter

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