Swamplot Award Winners Converge as Phoenicia Moves in Next to Discovery Green

The owners of the international foods emporium voted best grocery store in the city by Swamplot readers last year have announced they’ll be opening a second location Downtown, across the street from Discovery Green — whose opening day was voted the Best Moment in Houston Real Estate in the Swamplot Awards the previous year. What Swamplot Award-winner mashup will they think of next?

The new 28,000-sq.-ft Phoenicia Specialty Foods — smaller than the 55,000-sq.-ft. store on Westheimer near Kirkwood — is expected to open at the end of this year across McKinney St. from the Downtown park, in the ground floor of the One Park Place apartment tower. But park visitors will likely have to walk around the building to get their freekeh on: The store’s entrance will face Austin St.

We know what you’re wondering — will the pita be floating down from the ceiling on a conveyor belt Downtown too?


In this little promo video, the owners say yes. Wine, housewares, pita, and other baked goods will be available on a 10,000-sq.-ft. mezzanine. The remainder of the space, on the ground floor, will contain a deli, a bakery, and plenty of prepared foods — along with large areas for shoppers and Downtown lunchers to sit down and eat them.

Photos: Flickr user D.L. (Discovery Green [license]); Swamplot inbox (Phoenicia and pita conveyor belt)

30 Comment

  • Best. News. Ever.

  • It’s a gamble. The residential base in Downtown isn’t strong enough yet to support such a large grocer. Good luck though, I love Phoenicia!

  • I’ll go there from the Heights.

  • YES!!!Eleventy!!! Fistpumps!

  • So they are planning on everyone parking where?
    I know that area. Parking is going to be a giant P.I.A. But best of luck to them.

  • This is an exciting prospect but GB makes a great point. Parking at the Green on a nice day is already a pain in the ass unless you want to relinquish $10 for the privilege of leaving your car on a 8×15 rectangle of asphalt for a couple of hours. Love the idea of Phoenicia (!!1!) but someone better have a parking solution up their sleeve.

  • Another marketing idea of Marvy Finger’s and it should be pointed out originally he wanted Whole Foods. Which passed. Probably because of the parking issue. Which is an issue. Maybe Phoenicia will validate parking tickets. Assuming Marvy Finger managed to put in sufficient parking spaces for “transient shoppers.” Which he probably didn’t. Assuming all the tenants in the building would make it profitable for a grocer. It might help if he had tenants. Suffice it to say it is not 100% occupied. Maybe he can toss in “Phoenicia Gift Cards” as incentives along with $1,000 off the first month’s rent. The upscale version of the “move-in special.”

    As for the “transient diners” I suspect it will do a booming business at lunch. So much so that the owners may not care about much else as they watch the cash registers ring and ring with not only lunch but a sack of this or that everyone takes back to the office.

    It will probably work well for the owners of Phoenicia. Not sure how well it work for Marvy Finger.

  • So excited about this! Yes, parking will be an issue, especially on weekends, but some of us will just have to get used to what a lot of other people do in big cities: parking a few or more blocks away and walking! Or take the rail, a bike, a scooter,etc. People will figure it out and come from all over. The other location is way too far for me to make it out there on a regular basis, so I would much rather use any of the above options to shop downtown.

  • I don’t mind taking the rail but what transfer bus do I need to get to Phoenicia?

  • We will ride our bikes from Brooke Smith on the weekends. Beats a 20+ mile drive to East San Antonio to get our favorite provisions!

  • I’ve never found parking at Discovery Green to be all that bad – generally, within a couple of blocks of the park, I’ve found lots of street parking. (Yes, that means you park your car and then *walk* for five minutes. It is survivable, really.)

  • There is plenty of parking downtown, especially on the weekends.

    Yes it is on the street, and yes you have to walk a couple of blocks, and yes…you might even have to parallel park but it’s not going to kill you.

  • I asked Nancy Sarnoff and she told me there are 80 spaces in the building dedicated to retail. Apparently there is also a restaurant going in the building so those are not all for the grocery store.

  • Phoenicia Deli across the street from the grocery store serves (IMO) the best Lebanese food in the city. I hope the deli they speak of here will have the same menu/food prep. If so, I plan on eating chicken shawarmas for lunch about twice a week. Om nom nom…

  • In addition to the 80 retail spaces in the building there will be 12 (or so) temporary spaces for customers along Austin in front of the entrance of the market.

  • Please put a large, secure bike parking area close by and I’ll be there every weekend…

  • Parking is NOT an issue unless you are either incredibly lazy or an absolute moron. There will be spaces dedicated in the building. There’s an underground garage at the park. There are plenty of street spaces in the general vicinity. There are also numerous parking garages and surface lots in that area. Heck, park ten blocks away and take a stroll. Who knows, you might find out that you like it…

  • !!!!!!!! WHAT. THIS IS AMAZING. No amount of caps lock can CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT.

  • “…Yes, parking will be an issue, especially on weekends, but some of us will just have to get used to what a lot of other people do in big cities: parking a few or more blocks away and walking!”
    “Parking is NOT an issue unless you are either incredibly lazy or an absolute moron. … Heck, park ten blocks away and take a stroll.
    It almost sounds like some people haven’t been grocery shopping before, at least for groceries and not just a bottle of wine and condoms or whatever it is the young hipsters are buying these days. Carrying 40 lbs. of groceries, let’s say, 4 blocks in the heat or while dodging a sudden downpour or downtown traffic is something I can do but really prefer not to if at all possible.
    When the hell did we get in the business of telling customers that they had better get used to anything?

    That being said, I have never been unable to park in the Midtown Randall’s, and I would estimate they have about 80 spots. So it might be work out.

  • eiioi: regarding the Midtown Randalls parking. There is garage parking underneath the building. I have never had a problem finding a parking spot 20 to 30 feet from the elevators.

    Good luck to Phonecia with that location.

  • It’s not just for downtown. I live off West End, I will go. Several thousand East End yuppies (including several I know) have no quality grocery shopping option except to go to Midtown or Montrose. It’s a huge market. Best part, this will take a small slice out of the new Dunlavy HEB of the East End shoppers. Did you consider that in your plans, HEB?

  • They’ll make a killing at lunch. I’m thinking you better be there by 11:00 if you don’t want to stand in line for half an hour. That’s how the one on Westheimer is.

  • People in Houston make more excuses than any people I have ever encountered in my life. To the people complaining about not being able to park right in front – get a folding grocery push cart and start bringing your own cloth bags! Not only is it better for the environment, you might just get a little exercise which, given the relative girth of people in this city, can’t be a bad thing!

    Just be happy you don’t have to lug your groceries through snow and then haul them up a couple of flights of stairs!

  • @Martin: A few loud mouth complainers usually get most of the press :)

  • I’m thinking of offering classes in parallel parking for people who want to go downtown, but have not parallel parked in so many years that they can’t remember how. Should I quite my day job?

  • John, that’s a good idea. Place two “six-pack” bags of fresh Phoenicia pita bread as markers on the street. The perfect parallel parker gets to take home both bags. With that tasty incentive folks will brush up their skills in a hurry.

  • It is one of those skills that tends to go away if you don’t use it. Back in the day I could zip right into a spot with six inches on either end of my car on one try; all these years of Houston living have made that a LOT harder!

  • Just be happy you don’t have to lug your groceries through snow and then haul them up a couple of flights of stairs!


    Or just be happy you can afford to go grocery shopping at Phoenicia. A growing number of people can’t. Unless of course Phoenicia puts in a “marked down” section.

  • @Martin: People in Houston generally have more options than other places. They have more expendable income and more mobility to choose where they want to go.

    I’m not saying that I wouldn’t go necessarily, but that many people would make a decision not to got to this one because of parking/carrying/weather issues. I fail to understand the adversarial attitude towards hypothetical Houstonians who might not want to go here.
    “get a folding grocery push cart and start bringing your own cloth bags
    Who ARE YOU to start telling people where they have to shop, how they must go about it, and that they shouldn’t complain about it because they don’t know how good they have it?

    Some other posters are trying to gauge the parking sitaution and compare it to demand – we might be totally inaccurate in our predictions and totally full of $|-|!t, but if customers want to stream in to the store or not go at all, I don’t care. I’m not telling them what to do, I’m just making a prediction of what they might do. We were just wondering if it was a good business decision. Best of luck to Phoenicia.

  • @Irfan: I think you’re right about the untapped market on the east side of downtown. There’s basically midtown Randall’s and the old Kroger on Polk. There’s also an HEB at Gulfgate which is farther but with convenient freeway access though.
    None of these is a favorite. Randall’s is expensive and parking is okay. That Kroger has poor selection. And that HEB is by far the most consistently nasty and dirty NEW grocery store I have been in in the United States.

    If there is adequate or even decent parking, I will probably go to this one. But if they don’t have this, I don’t think they should expect a solid customer base aside from the lunchtime crowd.