McCain Bows Out

No, not that McCain. Our own McCain's, right here in Houston.

It seems the economic crisis we're currently experiencing has claimed yet another victim: McCain's Market on Heights Boulevard abruptly closed up shop on Saturday, January 10th. The owners placed a note on the front door explaining that "due to general market conditions we are unable to continue operating the market as usual."

People who'd stopped in to grab a sandwich only the day before were confused to find McCain's closed, but no one could say they were entirely shocked.

In fact, a fair question to ask about this recent closing is this: Is the economy truly the only thing to blame?

McCain's Notice

McCain's was the kind of market that should have succeeded: a built-in audience in the Houston Heights who crave the newest trends -- locally grown and produced food, specialty meats and cheeses, gourmet coffees and treats -- and who've got the money to spend on it. But McCain's never quite captured that audience.

The store couldn't quite decide if it wanted to be a grocery store, a specialty store, a deli, a coffee shop or a sandwich place. Product selection was schizophrenic at best and prices were high even for the high-end yuppies in the Heights. Meat and fish was fresh, but too expensive. Local products were few and far between and the shelves often looked barren. You never knew what you were going to find in stock at McCain's, and not in the good way.

Their coffee and sandwiches were good, but most people would never have known that McCain's offered either; they never promoted this aspect of the store and didn't provide an inviting eating area in which people could linger and develop an appreciation for the store.

With recent high-profile restaurant closures like the On The Border chains and the struggling Daily Grind on Washington Avenue, it's certainly fair to say the economy is one factor at play here. But it isn't fair to say that it's the only one.

Stores and restaurants are going to have to be more careful than ever about how they market themselves, where they spend their money and how to retain their clientele (The Daily Grind in particular failed expertly at this one) despite everyones' pocketbooks being a bit lighter. It's a shame that McCain's is now serving as a cautionary tale to others, instead of a positive example.

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Katharine Shilcutt