Following the discovery of oil and the subsequent boom in the early 1930s, the city of Tomball found itself growing and in need of a grocery store. Looking to capitalize on the growth, Alec “A.B.” Klein moved Klein’s General Merchandise—later renamed Klein’s Supermarket—from Spring to Tomball in 1933.

Originally opened in Spring in 1922, Klein’s Supermarket’s first Tomball location was at 300 W. Main St.—the current location of the Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries Resale Shop. After its start in Spring, the Klein family business portfolio grew to include a bulk gasoline distributor business, a feed store, a dairy and a funeral home.

“If [A.B.] saw a need in the community, he helped either start it or in some way [to get] it going, or [he] did it himself,” said Jeffrey Klein, A.B.’s grandson and owner of Klein’s Fine Foods, which Jeffrey started in 2008.

After A.B.’s death in 1957, his sons Robert and Teddy Klein took over the business. In 1969, the two relocated the supermarket to a bigger building in Tomball where it remained until it closed in April 2010, said Joe Klein, A.B.’s grandson and former general manager of the supermarket. The location is now home to the Tomball VA Outpatient Clinic.

“As things did well, they decided they needed a bigger building, so they moved way down Main Street. You’ve got to realize that was way out of town,” Joe said. “[Robert and Teddy] went out there, took a big gamble and built a new building.”

Joe and Jeffrey were just children when they began sacking groceries, returning bottles and stocking shelves in the family supermarket. Jeffrey said his favorite part about working at Klein’s Supermarket was getting to know people in the community.

Jeffrey (left) and Joe (right) Klein worked with their father, Robert (center), at Klein’s. Jeffrey (left) and Joe (right) Klein worked with their father, Robert (center), at Klein’s.[/caption]

“It was more than a job—it was an opportunity to get to know your friends and neighbors,” Jeffrey said. “You felt like you were doing a service to the community.”

Jeffrey said for the nearly 80 years that Klein’s Supermarket was a part of the Tomball area, grocery shopping was something that local residents looked forward to.

“Now it’s a chore,” he said. “We went to different schools, we went to different churches, but we all shopped at the same store.”

Jeffrey said Tomball was the commercial hub of northwest Harris County. In the 1960s, he said people from Magnolia, Pinehurst, Waller and Spring met up weekly at Klein’s Supermarket.

Bruce Hillegeist, Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce president and a lifelong Tomball resident, said Klein’s Supermarket was like a community center.

“It was more than just shopping for groceries,” he said. “It was a social time.”

Klein’s Supermarket gave many young residents their first job. Others came to get the news of the day or visit with the Klein family.

“There were a few other [shopping] choices, but Klein’s [Supermarket] was where you went because they made you feel like family,” Hillegeist said.

Klein’s Supermarket employees carried the packed bags out to a customer’s car and added a personal touch to grocery shopping, Joe said.

The supermarket was located at 1200 W. Main St. in Tomball from 1969-2010. The supermarket was located at 1200 W. Main St. in Tomball from 1969-2010.[/caption]

“We knew most of our customers by name or sight,” Joe said. “I hesitate to say that we were the heart of [the community], but we were certainly part of that.”

However, Klein’s excellent service and quality were not fully recognized until competition caused the supermarket to close its doors, Hillegeist said.

“[Klein’s Supermarket] set the standard high,” he said. “Klein’s can never be replaced.”