Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sears Woodlands Closing Sale Part 3

The first set of images were taken on the final day of business Feb 03,2013. The store was nearly empty except for a few items on both floors. Now the store is gone, the store has been torn down to make way for the new Nordstrom.


  1. Why would they tear down the building just to build another one? Was it an old sears or is Nordstrom that uppity yuppy?

  2. Sears was built in 1993 I believe, I agree that it is a waste of a perfectly good building. I think Nordstrom is going to have a larger store on the site or possibly a 3 story building. I have not seen any plans yet for what the new store will look like so those are my guesses.

  3. The Nordstrom will be a 2-story, 138,000 square foot store according to a GGP press release from Sept. 4, 2012. The Sears was 167,480 square feet according to Wikipedia. Who knows why they tore the old building down. Perhaps they did not want all the dead space? Perhaps it was cheaper to build new instead of renovate? Perhaps Nordstrom/The Woodlands shoppers are too pretentious to shop at an old Sears? Who knows.

    Did the Sears Auto Center close too? I believe the Auto Center was a freestanding building out near the former Circuit City.

    I do wonder if Sears regrets closing their Greenspoint Mall location a few years back now that The Woodlands location is gone. The only suburban full-line Sears stores left in north Houston are the two FM 1960 malls (Deerbrook and Willowbrook in NE and NW Houston respectively) and the old freestanding store on N. Shepherd. I'm not even sure how many people in the far northern suburbs are aware of that store. Of course, I'm not sure if the Greenspoint store would help Sears much in retaining their far northern Houston customers as many of the people who live there refuse to visit Greenspoint even if HPD had a substation literally right next to the Sears!

    Anyway, the closing of The Woodlands Mall Sears does make me reflect on the smashing success that Sears (through their former Homart mall building and ownership division) had developing malls in the Houston area. The Woodlands Mall, Baybrook, Willowbrook, and Deerbrook are all very successful malls at the moment and should be for the next decade at least. I'm not sure what to attribute that to, but it is certainly interesting to see how much more successful Sears was at building malls in Houston than Federated, another department store chain, was at doing the same. Of course, I think just about anyone could have made successful malls in The Woodlands, NW Houston, Clear Lake, and perhaps Kingwood/Humble to a lesser extent. Surely it wasn't just luck that led Sears/Homart to get the plum locations and it's not like all those locations were guaranteed to be surefire winners at the time of construction (though The Woodlands Mall kind of was). To that extent, Sears was a bit of a victim of their own success in The Woodlands. The mall was so good that their anchor space was worth too much I guess!

    Finally (sorry for the longwindedness!), I work very close to this mall, but I'm glad that it isn't my local mall. Nordstrom has a lot more glamor value than Sears, but it is pretty sad that such a big suburban mall is almost purely a fashion mall with few hard lines retailers. Is such a narrow focus healthy for the mall's future? Yeah, there are some hard lines big box stores out in the parking lot, but it isn't quite the same I don't think. Oh well, I guess we should be used to that by now with the hard lines era JC Penney, Montgomery Ward, and electronics departments at department stores like Dillard's long in the rearview mirror!

  4. Great comment, department stores with the exception of Sears just does not have the selection of goods for the house like they used to. In the 1980's I remember when Foley's had electronics toys, and even sporting goods, but that has all changed. Department stores are mostly clothes and a few housewares and that is it. Best Buy and Circuit City expanded along with other big box chains taking away the variety from the department stores.

  5. I'm still surprised that they haven't shut the Mall of the Mainland location yet.

  6. Yeah, I'm not quite sure what the justification is for keeping the Mall of the Mainland location open given that they have stores at Baybrook Mall and Pasadena Town Square. Then again, Sears was/is the sole holdout at the former Westwood Mall, but that location is basically their Sugar Land store along with West Oaks I guess. It is odd that Sears is so deficient in major suburbs like Sugar Land and Spring/The Woodlands while maintaining a presence in Texas City of all places. Good ole' Eddie Lampert I guess.

    Maybe there is a method to their madness though. I do believe that the Mall of the Mainland Sears is quite small compared to other Houston area Sears (aside from the Brazos Mall perhaps, but it is questionable whether that should even count). Maybe it does not need as many customers to justify it's existence? It's not like they'll get anything for that anchor spot if they up and leave.

    On an unrelated side note, it just seems strange to me that the Pasadena Town Square and Mall of the Mainland Sears are the youngest Sears in the Houston area that are currently in operation. Pasadena still would have been the youngest even before The Woodlands Mall store closed. At least I think this is true. Granted, Sears was basically a Pasadena institution even before the mall was conceived, but still. It almost defies logic. I guess Sears wasn't the only one snookered by the Mall of the Mainland. They all should have known though. What do you expect from a DeBartolo mall?!

  7. It really is a shame Mall of the Mainland was never able to take off like Baybrook. With all of the nearby population growth the mall should have been successful. If the site was closer to where the Target, Walmart, and shopping district was built a few miles north on I-45, the mall may have fared better. The mall should have been built smaller because many of the inline spaces were never filled throughout the history of the mall. Sears may eventually move from the mall, but the store must do well enough to justify staying open as other stores in the chain have closed. I am hoping to see a turnaround at the mall with mixed uses combined with the current retail.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. My apologies anonymous, I accidentally deleted the most recent comment. If you would like resubmit the comment I will repost with a response.

    2. Well, basically what I said was that it seemed to me that The Woodlands Mall Sears had clothing departments that were noticeably more upscale looking than what I've seen at other Sears locations. It's hard to show that since there aren't any pre-liquidation photos of the clothing departments and the store was too messy to show it in the liquidation photos, but you can kind of see it with photo IMAG0100.jpg. That is the men's department I think. It has a semi-enclosed area for the department and it has more upscale paneling than you'd normally find in a Sears. It looks more along the lines of what you would see at department stores like Foley's or JC Penney. Most Houston area Sears clothing departments have their clothing racks out on an open floor type area with little decoration and differentiation between departments. I guess you could say that it is more like a discount store.

      Did anyone else notice that too? If so, I wonder why things were like that. The hard lines departments at The Woodlands Mall Sears looked the same as any other Sears for the most part. Perhaps it is because The Woodlands is a more upscale area so they had to try harder to impress, but I'm thinking the reason might have been because The Woodlands Mall Sears was built during the famed "Come See The Softer Side of Sears" marketing campaign that Sears had running for a while in the mid 1990's. Perhaps Sears put more effort into making their soft line departments fancier during that era. Is the Pasadena Town Square Sears clothing departments designed in a similar way to The Woodlands Mall Sears? That might support the theory if it is because they were both built at around the same time (IIRC, 1994 for The Woodlands and 1995 for Pasadena). I've been to one Sears that is from the post "Come See The Softer Side of Sears" era, the built in 2001 The Mall at Robinson Sears in the Pittsburgh area, and the clothing departments there (IIRC, I did not spend much time there) seemed to look more like the older Sears where all the stuff was out on an open floor. Perhaps Sears reverted to their older designs after "Come See The Softer Side of Sears" campaign ended if if theory is correct, but my theory is a pure guess. Does anyone have any thoughts or observations on the matter?

    3. The Sears in Pasadena has a more open floor plan in the clothing departments than the Woodlands did. The Pasadena and Lake Charles Sears stores have a very similar layout. The Sears at the former Westwood Mall that is still open has a more upscale feel (in the clothing departments) and may have been updated around the same time the Woodlands opened. Most of the Houston area Sears seem to have the early 2000's remodel with a few departments here and there with an even more recent remodel like at Memorial City. I am sure Sears made sure the Woodlands Mall location was top of the line because of the income of the area. How times have changed for Sears.

    4. My sincerest apologies in advance again for my severe long-windedness. This will have to be a two part series of posts.

      Very interesting stuff. It's interesting that you think that the Westwood Sears has a more upscale to it as well. I'll take your word for it as I have not been there in eons it seems. That's basically the Sugar Land Sears and Sugar Land, like The Woodlands, is a more affluent area. Perhaps Sears does (or did) try harder in more affluent areas. That kind of makes sense, but one must wonder why Sears did not spend a few more bucks with the rest of their stores to spruce up their clothing departments. We can't really blame Eddie Lampert for that as it seems that the strategy predates him.

      The West Oaks Sears also has a bit of a more upscale look. The Katy/Sugar Land affluence factor may help explain that, but perhaps the store's genesis as a Saks explains something. The thing with the West Oaks Sears is that the store is pretty small and the center escalator area takes up a lot of room. That pushes the clothing departments out to the sides. That kind of creates a more department store type look than the typical Sears even without the effort that they put into The Woodlands store. Of course, they do have some clothing between the escalators too which is a pretty unusual design for a Sears AFAIK. The darker lighting and interior colors at the West Oaks Sears look more "department storeish" than the average Sears as well IMO.

      Has the Memorial City Mall Sears been renovated lately? I was last there in 2009 or 2010 and it seemed more or less the same as other Sears aside from it being a lot bigger and less cramped feeling. The old Greenspoint Mall Sears also seemed a tad bit more upscale (though not to the extent of The Woodlands Mall Sears) and bigger than the average Sears, but maybe I am misremembering that as the numbers on Sears' realty website does not support the notion that the Greenspoint Sears was significantly larger than other Sears like the Willowbrook, Deerbrook, and Baybrook Sears.

      Speaking of the Willowbrook Sears, it really has an odd styled electronics department compared to other Sears I've seen. It's in a walled-off area (well, semi-walled off as the partition does not go to the ceiling I don't think, but it's tall enough to keep people out) somewhat reminiscent to pre-Supercenter Wal-Mart electronics departments. Granted, the Sears electronics department is quite a bit larger than those very cramped Wal-Mart electronics departments of yore. I don't know why the Willowbrook store has that and not any of the other stores that I know of. Perhaps it is because the electronics department at the Willowbrook store is near a parking lot exit door so they want to make sure that a shoplifter can't make a quick escape. I don't know. It's a relatively new thing too. That wall was erected in the last few years. Are any other Sears electronics departments designed this way?

    5. Part 2 of my blubbering:

      As far as Sears fall of grace goes, they were in pretty big trouble a couple years before The Woodlands Mall Sears was constructed. Sears was distracted in the 1980s with their "everything from socks to stocks" strategy. Does anyone remember the Caldwell Banker Real Estate, Dean Witter Investments, Allstate Insurance, and Discover Card departments at Sears stores in the 1980s?

      Also, Sears had a pretty disastrous foray in 1989 into eliminating sales and having "everyday low prices" instead. Boy, that sounds familiar, yes? On the topic of the former knucklehead JC Penney CEO who apparently has no concept of retail history, didn't anyone tell Johnson that Penney's disastrously tried to go upmarket with designers and stuff in the 1980s only to see better results by going back to the basics?

      Back to Sears, does anyone remember when Sears shut down for a few days in 1989 when the switched over to the "everyday low prices?" I believe they also started to carry more name brands during that time. Perhaps Sears got the idea to do these things from Montgomery Ward as Wards was trying these ideas too and the CEOs for both companies at the time were brothers. Anyway, I remember the closure/re-opening being a really, really big deal at the time. Could you imagine the current #1 retailer closing for a few days like Sears did when they were #1? Heck, could you imagine Wal-Mart and Target having brothers as CEOs?

      But, yeah, Sears got their groove back for a while in the 1990s, but they returned to their freefall shortly after. I remember a Sears executive pretty much admitting that people loved the "Come See The Softer Side of Sears" ad campaign, but it ultimately didn't work because Sears didn't sell the kind of fashionable clothes that they were advertising. Ha. Who would have thought that actually having what you advertise is important! But, yeah, Sears softlines (particularly for women) have been a disaster for decades. I hope they get their act together because Sears is pretty much the last refuge at the mall for people like me who would rather check out the latest trends in tire treads instead of designer clothing threads!

    6. Great points and history with your comments. Memorial City has newly renovated electronics, appliance, and the clothing department near the entrance. The rest of the store is just like it has been for years. Sears at Greenspoint Mall was two stories, but in the last years the store was only open for business on the first floor. Dillard's and Macy's the last two department store anchors at Greenspoint have both closed off the second level also. I cannot think of any other Sears that has the electronics blocked off like at Willowbrook. The Shepherd and San Jacinto Mall stores both have an entrance right at the electronics department and do not have that setup. I guess it may have been a test to see if the wall reduces shrinkage in that department. I agree with you that current CEO's can learn big lessons from past retail mistakes. Sears should focus their stores on what makes them different from their competitors and focus more on their tools, appliances, electronics, sporting goods, and automotive. If they pull back on clothing and expand these sections they will differentiate themselves from the rest of the fashion oriented department stores. A low price guarantee for these items will help to get customers coming back to try out Sears again.

    7. I didn't realize that the Greenspoint Mall Sears was down to one story before they closed it. I guess I did not notice that the last time I was there in August 2009. I checked the Sears Holdings Realty website again and noticed that it says the Greenspoint location is one story with 148,949 gross sq. ft. Hmm. Odd. I would assume that Sears would own both levels of their store so I wonder if they mistakenly list it as 1 floor because that is what the store operated with before it closed. Also, I wonder if the 148,949 sq. ft. figure is with both floors or just one. Just to put that into context, the Willowbrook Mall Sears is 159,580 sq. ft. I felt that the Greenspoint Sears was bigger than the Willowbrook store, but I don't feel that it was massively bigger which it would have been if the 148,949 sq. ft. figure is for just one floor unless the second level was much smaller than the first.

      The Sears Realty site also lists the San Jacinto Mall Sears as being one story with 128,698 sq. ft. of space. Is the San Jacinto Mall Sears also one floor? If so, did it operate with two in the past?

      Back to Greenspoint, yeah, the Macy's and Dillard's there are one story. Of course, the Macy's there is huge so it being one story does not mean it is a small store. I think the store was over 300,000 sq. ft. with the second floor. I guess it was Federated/Foley's marquee store since Federated built the mall, but the Almeda and Northwest Mall Foley's were pretty huge too. I guess the Almeda Mall Macy's is in the same boat as the Greenspoint Macy's as far as making do with one floor only. The Greenspoint Dillard's is a clearance store. It was in pretty pathetic shape the last time I was there. The West Oaks Dillard's, which is also a clearance center now, is also in pathetic shape inside. At least the West Oaks Dillard's did not smell like urine like the Greenspoint Dillard's did the last time I was there (August 2009).

      It does seem that Sears is focusing on their best departments. I know that appliances is eating up a lot more floor space at the Willowbrook Mall Sears than it used to. The former vacuum & sewing department now has appliances on it I think (vacuums were moved into the enclosed electronics department, not sure if they still have sewing machines) and I think the former lawn & garden department has appliances on it too. I think L&G stuff is now spread around the tool department, the outside storage area, and the seasonal section which used to be the paint department. Did Sears get rid of paint around the nation? Maybe the standalone Sears Hardware stores still have paint, but even the floorspace at those stores have been eaten up by appliance sections.

      Mattresses seem to be eating up a lot of floor space now too. I guess Sears decided to bring those back into the full-line stores after they got rid of the standalone Homelife furniture stores. It seemed like the larger Sears had a lot of mattresses around the early 2000s, but now even the more mid-sized stores have a pretty big section of mattresses.

      I suppose the advantage of having the clothing sections out on an open floor is that the clothing departments can be repurposed easily. Having said that, I've never seen those departments shrink (at least the adult clothing sections). I guess Sears will keep trying to sell their soft lines. I can kind of understand why they would do that. They may do great at mattresses, appliances, automotive, sporting goods, electronics, and tools, but those departments probably don't keep people coming through the doors frequently. Maybe tools and auto do, but that's it. Maybe Sears can steal JC Penney's shoppers if Penney's does not get their act together, but they have to make sure that they have the product and prices/promotions that the lost shoppers want. The "Come See The Softer Side of Sears" failure proved that just getting shoppers into the store isn't enough.

  9. Those figures really are off on the Sears locations. Greenspoint definately had two levels and the elevator was right at the mall entrance. San Jacinto is two levels with an elevator in the middle of the electronics department. Both stores have smaller second floors like many Sears locations have (Lake Charles also). I have not been to Willowbrook in a couple of years so I am unfamiliar with the current layout of the store. One interesting fact about Greenspoint is that the mall entrance and the auto center still had the red tiled walls that were common in the 1970's designs. Speaking of red Sears designs the Shepherd and Fannin Sears still have red neon signage that is maintained well.

  10. That's an interesting observation about the signage at various Houston area Sears. The N. Shepherd Sears vintage street sign is quite famous. The Main St. Sears signage and facade is perhaps more infamous than famous as many Houston urbanists desperately want Sears to remove the aluminum siding they put up many decades ago so that the art deco style facade that the store was originally built with can show.

    As for the red signage at the Greenspoint Mall Sears, I wish I could remember that! It did seem that Sears used red less often after their switch to their 1984 logo, but I do remember some Sears commercials from the early 1990s that showed the 1984 logo in red. Here is an example of one and here is another one. Were there any Sears signs like that in the Houston area? (On a side note, you never know what you'll see in old Sears ads. Here is a Sears Canada ad from 1987 with the current day Sears logo. Odd! Maybe it's a coincidence, but maybe Sears had that logo sitting in storage for decades before they used it on a large scale.)

    What is interesting about Sears exterior signs, and this may go unnoticed by many, is that some of the current ones change colors depending on if they are lit or not. I know the Willowbrook Mall ones do this and I think the Deerbrook Mall ones do the same. Perhaps the Memorial City Mall one does as well. Anyway, those signs have the 1994-2004 blue Sears sign. During the day when the sign is unlit, the sign is blue. At night, when the lights come on, the signs turn white. It's a bit unusual. I can't think of any other store that has signs that change colors when they are lit. I know I didn't notice this until a few months back when I was at the Deerbrook Mall Sears (I think, it may have been Willowbrook) and I walked in when it was still daylight and saw that the Sears signs were blue. When I walked out, it was dark outside and the signs were white. Who knew?!

    Of course, a good number of Sears stores in Houston still have the 1984-1994 era logos. The Woodlands Mall Sears had the 1984 logo. I guess it opened just before Sears revised their logo so the store lived it's whole life pretty much with an outdated logo. The Willowbrook Mall Montgomery Ward had that issue as well. Having said that, unlike the Willowbrook Wards, Sears did have the newer 1994 logo on The Woodlands Mall Sears mall entryway. I don't know if The Woodlands Mall Sears opened with the mismatched logos or if Sears changed the entryway sign at a later date. I know that the West Oaks Mall Sears has the 1984 logo on the outside and the 1994 logo on the inside as well. There may be other malls with the mismatch as well.

    As far as mall entrance logos, I really wish I could remember what the Greenspoint Mall Sears entry way looked like. I have trouble remembering mall entryways. I think that the Willowbrook Mall Sears used to have a blackish brick entryway with an unlit Sears sign out towards the side of the entryway instead of hanging on the top-middle part of the entryway. Of course, the Willowbrook Sears has had a very typical looking entryway for many years now with white tiles and a very normal sign position. I may be totally wrong about the old Willowbrook Sears entryway. I wish I could remember it clearly.

    1. http://southernretail.blogspot.com/2010/02/greenspoint-sears-going-dark.html?m=0#comment-form

      Check out the above link to my Greenspoint Sears going out of business article. The sides of the mall entrance is where you will see the old tiles. That part of the mall is walled off, so you can't see it anymore. As for the red logo in the videos I can't recall any stores with that logo. The closest to that is the downtown red neon that I know of in Houston. I remember a few stores with the red cursive logo though and the Oakwood Mall store in Louisiana still has labelscars from those signs. You can see my Oakwood Mall article for photos of the labelscars. As for Willowbrook, I have not visited there very much but I remember the Wards where the Men's Macy's is now located. I frequented Greenspoint more often over the years and still do.

    2. Thanks for the link. I didn't realize that you had a picture of the Greenspoint Mall Sears mall entrance. I was doing some thinking and I might be able to recall one Sears (well, kind of) that did have a red 1984 logo on it. Do you remember the Sears Hardware store on FM 1960 W. near Walters Rd.? It was an early Sears Hardware store that closed probably in the mid 1990s. It is now a Salvation Army thrift store. That store may have had a red logo. It's a bit hard to tell. I'm pretty sure that it had some red trim (like the Salvation Army) on the facade if nothing else.

      Another question that came to mind is what kind of signage did the Deerbrook Mall Sears have when it opened? I believe it opened in 1984 so it might have been stuck with the same situation as The Woodlands Mall Sears where it opened right before a logo change. Sears really hasn't changed many of their stores with 1984 logos to newer ones so perhaps it opened with the ~1966 era signage. The beginning of this video shows that logo as it pertained to store signage in case you aren't familiar with the logo I am talking about. Sears had signage slightly different from their general logo during that era.

      I guess FM 1960 East is your area of expertise, but my area of expertise is the FM 1960 West retail corridor. There are many stories to be told about that stretch, but I could go on for days if I started so I better not start now!

  11. I may have a video of the outside of Deerbrook in the 1990's that might solve the sign question. I remember that Deerbrook was not very busy and had lots of empty space inside the mall until the mid 90's when the AMC opened. Greenspoint was the mall to go to because they had 6 department stores and the mall was always packed until the early 90's. How the retail landscape has changed. I do remember the Foley's at Deerbrook opening with the 1960's era logo. The mirrors outside of the store still has the symbol that was used instead of an apostrophy. Check out the following thread for an example of the red logo which Deerbrook had. http://www.houstonarchitecture.com/haif/topic/20187-lets-talk-about-foleys/

  12. Sears has been closing a lot of stores. Other than Woodlands, have there been any other closings in Texas or Louisiana. I am scared when JC Penney and Best Buy really start ramping up their closings.

    1. My apologies in advance yet again for another long-winded two part post! Here's Part One:

      The only other full-line Sears store to close in Houston in the last few years was the Greenspoint Mall Sears. There have been other Sears concept stores, like The Great Indoors, that have also closed (the Memorial area The Great Indoors closed a few months back along with the rest of that chain). I'm not sure about other Texas and LA locations.

      As far as JC Penney goes, I found it interesting when I read the other day that it is rumored that Penney's will try to raise money by using their real estate assets. Of course, that has been Sears' strategy with Sears and Kmart locations over the last few years. The Woodlands Mall Sears was an example of this. The real estate that the store was standing on was worth so much that they could sell it to GGP (who owns the mall) for a nice sum of cash. Granted, many/most of the other Sears and especially Kmart closings around the country are locations that weren't so desirable or successful.

      I'm not sure if JC Penney is at the stage where they would be willing to close and sell successful locations in malls where there is a significant market for real estate. It has been speculated that Penney's could sell their locations and then lease them back, but that could lead to a situation down the road where Penney's could lose a lease in favor of a more posh retailer. Of course, these scenarios could only happen at very successful malls where there aren't available anchor pads. The only Houston area malls where I could see this happening is maybe The Woodlands Mall and Memorial City Mall. Even then I'm not sure how much interest there is in opening new anchors at those malls.

      The interesting thing about JC Penney is that they, at least in the Houston area, are usually very quick to dump locations at dying malls or at malls with changing demographics. We've seen that be the case at Sharpstown Mall, West Oaks Mall, Greenspoint Mall, Northwest Mall, Almeda Mall, and Mall of the Mainland. I may be forgetting some others. With that in mind, I would think that the remaining stores either are doing decently or have done decently in the recent past. I'm not sure which locations would most likely be chopped in the Houston area if Penney's did decide to close underperforming stores in the area. San Jacinto Mall maybe?

      JC Penney does have some pretty new off-mall locations in the Houston area as well. I wonder how those locations are doing. I'm not sure if Penney's is still building new off-mall locations since the Ron Johnson disaster.

    2. Part two:

      I'm not sure what to say about Best Buy locations, but I did come across an interesting article on the Forbes website today discussing the success of the Conn's chain of stores here in Texas and LA. Apparently, they are opening some stores in other states as well now. It's interesting to see them do well when some other electronic/appliance stores (granted, Conn's sells stuff like furniture and power lawn equipment as well now) are struggling. I generally don't think of Conn's as being price competitive with Best Buy and others, but I think I've read in the past that Conn's is successful because of their ability to offer financing to customers. That might be the difference in the current economy especially compared to online stores that may not offer financing at all. Perhaps they offer better service than the mostly self-service big box stores. I used to shop at Conn's back in the 1990s because they sold a lot of higher end A/V equipment (like Mitsubishi TVs and VCRs), but their recent offerings seem more in line with other stores based on their newspaper ads. Either way, it is interesting to see a local company succeed when the big national stores aren't doing so well.

      je: It would be great if you could post some still images (or video) of the vintage footage you have on videotape from Deerbrook Mall. It looked like your vintage pictures of Northline Mall that you posted some time ago may have been captured from a videotape so I guess you have the hardware to do that.

    3. JCPenney also closed at Town and Country Mall in a wave of store closings in 2001 or 2002 that closed underperforming stores. Belle Promenade JCPenney in Marrero LA closed in early 1999 and moved to the more successful Oakwood Mall. Those stores were nearly identical in size and the interior design of the store. I have a bunch of pictures of this store on my Belle Promenade article and a link to a site that has pictures of the inside of the store years after closing. Southpark Mall in Shreveport closed also when that mall started failing and is now a church, but one side of the building still has JCPenney labelscar. JCPenney is located in most small town malls I have been to, so hopefully the company can turn things around. I really enjoyed Best Buy when they first came to Houston, but once Fry's opened I started shopping there much more often. Best Buy's new store remodels are nice, but their pricing is usually more expensive. I have only shopped at Conn's a few times and I thought the service was really good. The stores remind me of Campo electronics and Circuit City, both chains that have gone away unfortunately. Also if you have not checked out Comp USA by Bunker Hill and I-10, I recommend a visit. My last two large electronics purchases were from there and they have great prices and frequent sales. I will see if I can find the video and possibly make another visit to Deerbrook for the blog. I did make a recent visit to the Midtown Sears for a future post and I still have not completed my downtown Macy's article so stay tuned.

    4. I have not been to the Bunker Hill CompUSA/TigerDirect store, but I have been wanting to go there for some time now. Microcenter is generally my preferred local spot for computer stuff. They are quite good. Fry's Electronics is quite good too. Unfortunately, neither are particularly close to me so sometimes I get other stores to match their advertised prices so I don't have to go that far. I guess that is Best Buy's only real advantage in Houston over the competition, but there are things that Microcenter and Fry's sell that nobody else carries. I don't spend nearly as much on electronic and computer stuff as I used to though so I guess it's not that big of a deal.

      Yeah, I can see a comparison between Conn's and the early Circuit City stores before Circuit City got rid of appliances and salesmen who worked for commission. It's been a few years since I've been to a Conn's, but my memories of them remind me a lot of old 1970-1980s style electronics stores like Federated, Highland, Pacific Stereo, and stores like that. I'm not sure if anyone else remembers those stores.

      In addition to those aforementioned electronic stores, there are several other electronics stores that have come and gone from the Houston area. There are all those failed Tandy concepts: Radio Shack Computer Centers, Computer City, McDuff, and Incredible Universe. I'm not sure if Houston had a VideoConcepts store. I suppose McDuff was kind of like the early Circuit City stores as well, but I don't think they were as price competitive. I know the two McDuff stores closest to me were converted to Computer City stores. I know that was nice because we used to have to go to the Greenspoint Commons Computer City before that.

      For those who don't know, Computer City was quite similar to CompUSA. In fact, I think CompUSA brought out Computer City. CompUSA used to be called Soft Warehouse. I remember going to the Westheimer store back when it was still called that.

      Service Merchandise and Best Products used to have pretty good electronics departments. I know that we used to spend quite a bit of money on electronics at Service Merchandise! It's probably worth mentioning Wilson's too since I brought up Service Merchandise.

      Montgomery Ward's Electronic Ave. was pretty awesome too. I thought their electronics department was superior to the one at Sears at least during the Electronic Ave. vs. Sears Brand Central days. Auchan always had a large selection of discount priced TVs and VCRs from GoldStar (LG), Funai, and other companies like that.

      Just to tie this in with Sears (kind of), isn't the Greenspoint/West Rd. Fry's Electronics in a shopping center that was quite the failure for Kmart? I know what is now Ross Dress for Less used to be a Big Kmart, but I'm thinking that there was also a Pace club and Builders Square II in that center as well. Am I remembering that correctly or am I way off on that? Pace and Builders Square were both failed Kmart concepts. There was a Compaq Works outlet there before The Dump moved in. Compaq Works had some good deals. Anyway, I'm guessing that the old West Rd. Kmart replaced the older Little York & I-45 Kmart that has since turned into this, uh, very interesting abandoned building!

      I'm definitely looking forward to your posts about the Main St. Sears and the former downtown Foley's. Keep up the good work!

    5. Wow I went to that flea market several times in the final years it was in business. The ceiling was already falling down while the market was still in business. All of the trading fair flea markets shut down at around the same time, I think there was 4. The Builders Square was where Fry's is in the West Rd. location. I don't remember the Pace, but I did not start going to that center to shop until Fry's came in. The whole West Rd. area has blossomed as the areas just to the north and south of West Rd. off of I-45 have suffered. I am surprised that Kmart left the Houston market when they started having troubles. I remember when the Super K Marts started opening that those stores were very popular. The closest Kmart to Houston is now in Lufkin TX with a Sears across the street at the Lufkin Mall. Surprisingly Kmart still has several stores in Louisiana, but more and more they look like Sears stores on the inside. I remember McDuff and Federated from the late 1980's but I am not familiar with the other companies. I also remember the large Incredible Universe store and the crazy long lines at the checkouts when that store was open. I bought my home stereo system there in 1995 and never bought anything else besides a cassette. Do you remember when the Montgomery Wards at Greenspoint had a music store at the mall entrance for a few years with cassettes and CD's? I was always going there to try out the video games at Electric Avenue back in the day. Now Montgomery Wards (name only) is just alive as an internet catalog company.

    6. Part two:

      Kmart had an interesting history in Houston. Some of Kmart's very first stores opened in Houston (Spring Branch, Baytown, and one other location opened in Kmart's first year of 1962). Interestingly, the other two big 1962 discount chains, Target and Wal-Mart, were also early to arrive in Houston. Granted, it did take them longer to get here than Kmart though. Anyway, the Little York store probably opened a couple years after the first Houston Kmarts. You can see a little bit of the trademark orange/reddish orange stripes that were in old Kmart stores in one of those photos.

      But, yeah, the other interesting thing about Houston Kmarts is that they brought out a lot of the Venture locations after Venture pulled out from the Houston market. Venture wasn't here for long so those buildings were almost brand new. Also, Kmart was just introducing the Big Kmart concept at around the time that they were moving to the ex-Venture stores. The local Kmart here was actually one of those that moved to a former Venture (the 249 and FM 1960 spot that now is occupied by REI and some other stores). Even though those stores should have felt at least some what modern, I felt that those stores felt dated from the time they opened. Kmart was stuck in their deep period of malaise that they still have never recovered from during that time. The store would run out of sale items, they would only have one checkout line open, the stores were slightly unkempt, and so forth.

      Surely Kmart's sales were down during that period, but it's not like Texas Kmarts were the only ones with that deep malaise so I don't know why Texas Kmarts got chopped. Perhaps Kmart had some bad leases in Texas (perhaps the Venture stores themselves) that they got out of during the 2002 bankruptcy.

      There still are a few Texas Kmarts like the Lufkin one you mentioned. I think the current number of Texas Kmarts is 16. Most of those stores are really spread out around the state too. It seems like it is more trouble than it is worth logistically to keep those stores open, but I guess it makes sense to Eddie Lampert and company.

      Kmart was early to the "super center" game in Houston, but I think they only built a few stores. I went to the Westheimer Super Kmart Center a few times. Of course, that store made national news back when HPD had a raid and arrested a bunch of illegal drag racers and spectators who were loitering in the Kmart parking lot. Kmart left Houston pretty shortly after that incident. It should also be mentioned that Kmart did close a few Houston stores during their mid-90s round of closures too. The Kuykendahl and FM 1960 store comes to mind as well as the 249 and Bammel-N-Houston location that was abandoned for quite a while I believe (I think there is a meat market there now). I'm pretty sure that those stores closed in the mid 1990s round of closures, but I could be slightly off on those. The Spring Branch/Long Point Rd. store may have closed around then too. The Spring Branch store became a flea market type store too I think, but I don't think it followed the Taco Cabana theme of the Little York Kmart. That store may be abandoned now too though. I think the newer Kmart store on Hwy. 6 between Bellaire and Beechnut is/was a flea market too. I'm sure there are other examples of Kmart-turned-flea market. The old Palm Center Montgomery Ward is a flea market now too I think. Of course, Wards closed that store in the 1980s I think.

  13. Here's another one of my darned long-winded two parters! Part One:

    I can't say that I vividly remember the record shop at the Greenspoint Mall Montgomery Ward, but it does kind of sound familiar. I don't know why, but I have trouble recalling much about Greenspoint Mall back in it's prime even though I did spend some time there. My best memories of Greenspoint Mall was Brother's Pizza in the food court. That was some darn good pizza! I ate there the last time I was at Greenspoint Mall back in 2009, but I have heard that Brother's is no longer in the mall. That's a real shame.

    As far as Wards and video games go, I do remember that they were one of the last major stores to still sell Sega Master System games. Perhaps this Electric Ave. video about video games will bring back some memories. Don't ask me who "Super Sonic the Hedgehog" is! The narrator must have been confused. I might as well post a link to this classic 1967 TV commercial from Channel 39 celebrating the grand opening of the Pasadena Montgomery Ward (which is still standing, albeit I think it may be abandoned). Oh, and don't forget about this 1967 ad for the Northline Mall Dodge dealership (which, unlike Greenspoint Dodge, was actually within the mall).

    Federated and Highland in particular were perhaps best known for their comedic (and probably low budget) TV commercials. Perhaps you'll remember these. Here's one for Federated (there are several others posted on YouTube) and here's one for Highland.

    I don't think Incredible Universe lasted long enough for anyone to shop there more than a couple of times! I went there for the grand opening too (I think I brought NBA Live 95 for MS-DOS from there) and it was busy, but that store did not last for very long. It was converted into a Houston Community College campus I do believe (that's not the only retail-to-college conversion HCC has done). For those who don't know, Incredible Universe was Tandy's idea of combining an electronics store with a "Disneyland" like experience in a super jumbo store. It was a very odd idea to say the least!

  14. Venture was such a disappointment here in Houston. I visited the two stores off of 1960 and both were nothing worth going back to. I know they had a good reputation up north, but Kmart, Target, and even Wal-mart were better here in Houston. The former Venture on 1960 near I-45 is a Fallas Parades/ Furniture store and still has the modified Venture entrance that was changed to red when Kmart took over that store. The former Kmart on HWY 6 near Clay Rd. is an indoor go-cart racetrack. The other former HWY 6 Kmart near Sugarland is still being used as a flea market. I think that Kmart also had a location at HWY 6 and Westheimer across from the West Oaks Mall that was a former Venture, but I am not 100% on that one. Until reading your last comment, I had no idea what Palms Center was. I read on a chron blog about the center and nearby Montgomery Wards and took a visit there today. The center was a huge part of the beginnings of suburban retail centers in Houston. I will also do a write-up with photos. The former Montgomery Ward is used as a flea market just like the former Shaver and Spencer Montgomery Ward in Pasadena. The Wards labelscar is still visible on the Palms Center location after all these years. Thanks for sending over the youtube links from those stores, I wish my children could have seen some of these stores in their prime. I went to Northline Mall a few times during the final years before they tore the mall down. The mall was about 50% full in the final year of business and the TG&Y at that mall lasted into the 2000's. The large red neon Montgomery Ward sign stayed lit at night for over a year after the store closed at Northline.

  15. Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head about Venture. They never really offered any advantages over the "Big 3" discount stores. Venture had a similar philosophy has Target (both were formed by traditional department stores and I believe an early Target employee developed the first Venture stores). I believe their slogan, at least while they were in Houston, was "Save with Style." They never got the same traction as Target did here though. Venture's failure was hardly unprecedented though as various types of discounters (FedMart, Woolco, GEMCO, Globe, Phar-Mor, and probably others that I am forgetting) have come and gone from Houston's retail scene. Supposedly the money that was spent by adding the Texas market ended up killing Venture as a whole.

    One thing I remember about the local Venture (FM1960 and 249) is that it, unlike most other Ventures (like the I-45 and FM1960 one), did not have a snack bar. The local Kmart (FM1960 and Jones Rd., now a Hobby Lobby and Walgreens) had the cafe in the back of the store, but it was closed and walled off in the very early 1990s. Most other local Kmarts retained their cafes and most were converted to Little Caesar's Pizza Stations later on. I don't know why my area was such a black hole for discount store cafes! Having said all of this, I do remember that the local Venture did have a cotton candy like odor to it. Does anyone remember that? I also remember that the old pre-renovation Memorial City Mall smelled like Froot Loops cereal. Maybe it still does smell like that!

    Yeah, the Bear Creek Kmart is now a go-kart track. There is an auto repair place that operates out of the old Kmart auto center at that location. It used to be a Meineke or Midas until recently, but I think it is some local place now. That location, like the 249 and Bammel-N-Houston Kmart, still looks like a Kmart. A lot of the other old Kmarts have had new facades put up so they don't really look like Kmarts. Some of the early 1990 build Kmarts still look like Kmarts though. The aforementioned Hwy. 6 Sugar Land area Kmart is an example of this as well as the Spring/The Woodlands Sawdust Rd. Kmart.

    I do remember the Northline Montgomery Ward. It was a very large store. My records indicate that it was 211,375 sq. feet. I last went there in around 1998 or so to buy some New Balance shoes that all the other Wards that I frequented were out of in my size. Maybe I'm remembering this incorrectly, but wasn't that Wards subdivided for at least a while when Wards was still there? I don't remember what was in there. Academy or something?

    Anyway, FWIW, the Pleasant Family Shopping blog has some vintage pictures of the old Northline and Palm Center Montgomery Ward stores. That blog also has a picture of a Kmart Chef fast food restaurant. Supposedly they had a location (or locations) of those in Houston. Does anyone know where in Houston they were?

    As for Palm Center itself, it never did get the long lasting fame of something like Gulfgate. Perhaps it would have been as famous if it was converted to an indoor mall like Gulfgate, but I don't know. Having such a large anchor like Montgomery Ward off the premise wouldn't have helped the malling effort I'm guessing. I look forward to seeing your photos of the current day Palm Center though.

    1. I don't recall the Ward's at Northline being subdivided unless it was on the East side of the store. The second floor in the final years had a clearance center for furniture much like the Pasadena and West Oaks Mall Macy's has now. The back of the mall on east side had a college campus but I think that was a former junior anchor. Thanks for the heads up on the Palms Center Wards photos, one of the images I took is of the same corner pictured in that blog post. After comparing some photos of the Palms Center in the 1960's and now it is obvious a portion of the center was torn down. I am not sure if it was the old JCPenney or the Lewis and Coker grocery. When I post my photos maybe one of my readers can help me identify what the building was.

    2. I'm pretty sure that the JC Penney was torn down at Palms Center, but don't quote me on that.

      I did some searching around about the Northline Mall Montgomery Ward and did find one article at the Mall Hall of Fame blog that referenced the subdivision: "Houston-based Academy Corporation Sporting Goods opened, in a lower level section of a downsized Montgomery Ward, in June 1990."

      I don't remember that Academy being there when I last visited the Northline Montgomery Ward in ~1998, but maybe I'm forgetting about it or I wasn't paying attention at the time. Maybe the Academy was closed by then. It's hard to say!

      Of course, I don't think that any discussion of the Northside Montgomery Ward locations could be complete without bringing up the never-built proposed mall at FM1960 and I-45. It seemed that Montgomery Ward wanted to put a store at Greenspoint Mall (then known as GreensGate Mall, maybe that explains the "gg" logo?), but Federated wasn't too interested in adding another mass merchandiser at Greenspoint unless it could be balanced out with another department store (Joske's was what Federated had in mind it seems). It then seemed that Montgomery Ward considered building a store at a mall that was proposed to be built by Deauville (with the help of Melvin Simon) at FM1960 and I-45. I guess Federated decided that the did not want to compete with Deauville's mall and offered an anchor spot to Montgomery Ward (Joske's ended up at Greenspoint anyway so I guess Federated got what they wanted). Deauville wasn't happy about the situation and tried to take legal action. Deauville did end up building one of their off-price fashion malls at Cypresswood and I-45 near the former Goodyear blimp base. At least I assume that it is the same Deauville. Those Deauville malls (as well as other off-price/blue law breaker malls like the one that I-45 and Airtex) did not last very long, but the building is still there. Here are a couple ( one, two) of legal documents that describe the Deauville/Wards dilemma. It's interesting to think what would have happened if that mall was built. My guess is that both the FM1960 and Greenspoint malls would both be dead/dying malls today, but perhaps Willowbrook and Deerbrook malls wouldn't have been built (or would have had differing levels of success) if Deauville/Simon got the mall that they wanted.

      As much as I hate to give the Metroplex credit for anything, the most interesting Montgomery Ward in Texas that I know of was the 7th St. Ft. Worth Wards retail and catalog fulfillment center. It was a mammoth building. It was over 1,500,00 sq. ft according to my records (of course, only a fraction of that was the showroom). The building was repurposed after Montgomery Ward went out of business and is now called Montgomery Plaza. It now houses a variety of retail, dining, and luxury condos. It would be pretty neat to live in an old Montgomery Ward!

      Just to go back to a previous topic for a moment, but I remember that Venture (at least the FM1960 and 249 one) had a strange combo open and drop ceiling. The entryway and "race track" around the store had an open ceiling, but the departments themselves had a drop ceiling with tiles. It was something that I always found to be odd and I can't recall any other buildings with such a design. Of course, Houston Ventures were built at a time when open ceiling non-warehouse/hardware stores were quite rare.

    3. Great find on those law articles for the proposed FM 1960 & I-45 mall. I figured that at one time there was a plan for a mall there, but that was just a hunch. I also know of the plans for a Conroe Mall at the south loop 336 and I-45 that never materialized. According to an article from 1992, the Woodlands Mall secured three department stores and the Conroe Mall was never able to secure any for their project. The Deauville malls would have worked in a small town, but Houston has many larger retail options that killed off those small malls quickly. Ross was usually a tenant in the Deauville Malls but when those malls failed so did Ross in the Houston area for a few years. Ross of course came back in the 1990's, but not the Deaville Malls. I remember the I-45 and Airtex Deauville building when it was the Garden Ridge but I have not been back since it became a flea market. The Spring Deauville Mall is still there and there is a post out there on HAIF that says most of the mall has not been touched since the development mostly shut down in the 80's. The Kingwood Deauville mall lasted less than two years and sat vacant for a while before becoming a medical center. The inside of the old mall building is still configured like a mall, but you cannot recognize that the property was once a mall from the outside anymore. The hospital added a high rise to the former mall and a parking garage is under construction. This mall never had a chance and hardly had any tenants during the short run of the mall. The nearby Deerbrook Mall surprisingly was not a successful mall for the first ten years in business and had many areas of vacancy. When the movie theater was added in 1995 and new owners took over the mall was changed and now is nearly full. The chron.com archives used to work as far back as 1985 and I was able to learn a ton of history about Houston malls from those articles. Sadly the last time I tried to use the archives, the site only went back a few years.

  16. Looks like I was wrong about the old I-45 and Airtex Garden Ridge. It was not a Deauville Mall but a Buyer's Market Mall.
    By the way here is a google maps image of the former Stafford Deauville Mall.

  17. Yeah, I was going to say that I don't think Deauville had anything to do with the Airtex mall. It was similar in concept though. I'm sure many people don't even remember those malls as they came and went quite quickly. Changes in the state blue laws and the willingness for regular retailers to open on Sundays pretty much killed off those malls. Plus, the notion of "If you build a mall, people will come" had pretty much died off by the 1980s. A mall had to have certain qualities by then to get business.

    Although not a mall, the large shopping center (Willowchase something or the other) at the NW corner of 249 and FM1960 used to be a discount "power center" back in the 1980s. It came and went just as quickly as the off-price malls, but at least it could be repurposed as a regular old shopping center. I believe that Kmart had their version of Ross/TJ Maxx in that shopping center. It was called Designer Depot. Kmart was clearly no match for TJ Maxx and company! But, yeah, that shopping center was recently sold and there is word that they are going to do some serious remodeling.

    Yeah, there were a lot of proposed malls that never got built. What is now the mega power center at the NW corner of FM529 and Hwy. 6 was once proposed to be a mall (it's pretty hard to believe that that site once looked like this not all that long ago! I got that picture from this site, it's definitely worth a look if you have not been there). I don't know how serious those rumors were though. Nevertheless, that center may be much more successful as a power center now than it would have been if it was a mall. I know Sears/Homart had some land near the current day Katy Mills Mall that they planned on building a mall on back in the 1980s, but that never happened. I think the oil bust/S&L scandal that hit Texas hard in the 1980s gave mall developers, especially successful ones like Homart, cold feet. It could also help explain why some malls like Deerbrook Mall had a bit of false start back in the 1980s.

    As far as Ross goes, I believe that they came to Houston, left, and then came back in the mid-90s in the old Solo Serve stores. I don't know if they brought out Solo Serve or what. I know that one of the Solo Serve-turned-Ross stores was at the North Oaks Mall (now North Oaks Shopping Center). It looked like a big shopping center, but back in the day, it actually had an interior mall corridor that stretched from the cinema in the middle of the center (which is still there) to the Target (now Hobby Lobby/Staples) at the far right side of the center. It certainly wasn't a very big "mall," but it was pretty popular back in the day. I suppose it is still pretty popular and would be considered a "power center." Target closed off their mall entrance in the ~early 1990s and eventually most of the mall corridor was closed off and the space was combined to give stores more room. You can kind of see what I am talking about with this site map. There appears to still be some interior access only store spaces in the cinema area, but it looks like those spots aren't leased at the moment. I think there was at least one other mini mall like this in the Westchase area (which still has it's Target). I know that the North Oaks Mall cinema and the arcade that was next to it was quite a popular spot back in the day.

    Yeah, it's a shame that the Chronicle has taken down their archives. I still have access to old Chronicle articles through a subscription database at work, but it does not go back as far as 1985. I guess there is always microfiche at the library though.

  18. Thanks for the info on the North Oaks Mall. I shopped there many times over the years and I just thought that hallway went to the cinema and that is it. I remember that center had one of the few Houston Drug Emporium stores (where the 99 cent store is now) that lasted just a few short years. Drug Emporium which was once a large company but only has one store left in Lafayette LA. (by name only though). There are several shopping centers that tried to have an indoor section but failed. Most of these centers were built in the 1970's and 1980's and most have been sealed off or gobbled up by a big box store. I have plans to visit some of the Deauville Mall properties and Buyer's Market properties soon and see how those properties look now. I am not too familiar with the HWY 6 area in Northwest Houston, but I have passed through there a few times.

    1. Yeah, I remember Drug Emporium quite well. They were quite similar in concept to Phar-Mor if I remember correctly. I guess you could call them "Super Walgreens" or something like that. The rise and fall of Phar-Mor is quite an interesting story actually. It was one of the better known cases of accounting fraud in the US. Frontline made a pretty good documentary about it many years ago. One of the things that I remember about Phar-Mor was that they were a pretty popular video rental spot. They were quite cheap compared to Blockbuster and even the grocery stores. I don't think that Drug Emporium had a video rental place.

      That Drug Emporium store is now Anna's Linens and 99 Cents Only. It used to be a Handy Dan hardware store before it was Drug Emporium. Handy Dans were quite popular in the area once upon a time. Their claim to fame (at least at the time that they were open) was that they tried to operate around the blue laws. Their more long-lasting legacy was that they fired two executives that went on to found The Home Depot. Perhaps they would have liked a mulligan on that decision!

      But, yeah, Weingarten Realty lists the former Drug Emporium shopping center as being the same as the North Oaks Mall, but I always viewed them as being separate. I guess Weingarten lumps them together as they own both. The Drug Emporium shopping center used to have a Marshall's (now Mardel) and a Godfather's Pizza. The actual North Oaks Mall center had a lot of stuff that has come and gone. It used to have a Wyatt's Cafeteria over at the end (I think CiCi's Pizza is there now). It used to have an Egghead Software store before it moved across the street. The TJ Maxx may very well have been a Weingarten grocery store back in the day. I'm not totally sure about that.

    2. I did not know that the North Oaks Center had a mall section with stores, I thought it was just for the cinema. Do you know if it is still open to check out? I remember Phar mor quite well, even though it was there for only a few short years. I remember the store being a third drugstore, a third retail store, and a third grocery store with the movie section. When Phar mor was around there were video stores everywhere especially in grocery stores. Now all that is left is Hastings, Blockbuster, and a few local stores across town that rent videos. Redbox Piracy, and Netflix have killed the video stores of the past. I did not know Handy Dans, but I did not live in the Houston area until the late 80's so I probably missed it.

    3. I'm not sure how much of the mall at North Oaks is still visible. The site plan that I linked a few replies up does indicate that there are some mall type storefronts available for lease near the theater, but I don't know if those storefronts look like storefronts or if they have been boarded off so they just look like a regular wall. I have not been at that theater since I saw Blues Brothers 2000 there many years back. I don't know what year that was, probably 1999 or 2000.

      The Ross and Half Price Books stores have been expanded back to stretch past the mall concourse so that part will not be visible I don't think. It's possible that the backrooms of those stores have telltale evidence of the mall, but I have no idea about that. The Target mall entrance was located in a somewhat odd location. If I remember correctly, the mall entrance was basically the customer service desk and the cafeteria to a slightly lesser extent. Target obviously gave priority to their exterior entrance/exit. If I remember correctly, the mall entrance was patched over in a somewhat cheap fashion so it was possible to tell for a while that there was once a hole in the wall!

    4. Whoops, I hit reply too soon. Sorry. I was going to say that I think that there was a Phar-Mor back behind the Montgomery Ward at Memorial City Mall. That part is now a Target. I don't think the Memorial City Mall Phar-Mor had a mall entrance, but I may be off on that. I think that Memorial City Mall held onto it's Walgreens for quite some time too. That old Phar-Mor may have been a Guitar Center before Target came calling with the wrecking ball. I'm a bit foggy on that. There was a Phar-Mor in The Commons across from Greenspoint and Willowbrook Malls. The Willowbrook one became a Room Store and was just remodeled (along with the long-abandoned AMC 8 theater with the odd covered driveway) into an Academy. That in itself was a bit odd as Academy had a not-so-old purpose-built freestanding store right next door.

      Yeah, most of the bigger grocery stores had video rental departments back in the day. I remember Circle K having a video rental aisle. Heck, even FotoMats had video rentals. Maybe I'm not remembering clearly, but I think video stores like Sound Warehouse used to rent videos. I think they may have rented LaserDiscs there. Blockbuster and company killed off most of those efforts, but Netflix and Redboxes (which, ironically, are sometimes located in grocery stores, drug stores, and C-stores) have all but killed off Blockbuster, It's a bit ironic how that worked out.

    5. Yes the Phar-Mor was in the space later occupied by Mars music before the building was taken down to become the Target. That part of the mall still has not taken off like the rest of the mall has. I also remember the Walgreens there lasting until around 2000 like the San Jacinto Mall Walgreens. The former Phar-Mor near Deerbrook is a Hobby Lobby and still has the orange tiles on the outside of the building from the Phar-Mor days. That store was a Media Play after Phar-Mor and before it became a Hobby Lobby. I might have been to the Greenspoint location, if I remember correctly it was near the Children's Palace and the Sporting Goods Megastore (forgot the name). That center on the Northwest corner of BW8 and I-45 is now mostly empty again after being used for offices. I know the center by Willowbrook you are talking about with the Boston Market in the front. The 249 area is really growing, I recently passed down 249 for the first time in years and I was surprised at all of the new developments. Sound Warehouse I also remember but I don't remember if they had video rentals. It is amazing how all of the corporate music stores have left the Houston market like F.Y.E. and many more. Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Hastings and Fry's still sell music, but their selections are disappearing. There are a bunch of small music stores in Houston that do well despite the failure of small corporate music stores that used to be in every mall in Houston. I know the internet has hurt music sales tremendously, but the smaller independent stores changed and added more products besides just music to give customers a reason to come back more often. Blockbuster would be in a much better position today if they had added video games to their stores before Gamestop became the leader in that market. Console video games unfortunately are becoming obsolete as smart phone games and internet downloads are taking over as the games of choice for many people.

    6. Was the sporting goods store at the The Commons at Greenspoint called SportsTown USA (or something like that)? If so, there was one of those too at the Willowbrook The Commons. It is now a Bed, Bath, & Beyond. We shopped there quite a bit while they were open. The one thing that I remember about Sports Town USA was that they always had a lot of Gatorade Gum around the checkouts. They also had a turnstile at the entryway that you had to walk through. I guess those are pretty rare at stores today. Didn't Walgreens have those at there stores back in the day? It popped in my head that they did, but I can't remember that for sure.

      Speaking of The Commons at Willowbrook and sporting good stores, there was briefly a pretty large freestanding sporting goods store that was built on what is now The Methodist Hospital at 249 and Willow Chase Blvd. This is very close to The Commons. It was called Houston Sports and Recreation I think. I don't know if it was part of a chain or not. Anyway, they built a brand new store in the mid 1990s, but the store only lasted for a couple of years and the store was completely torn down so they could build the hospital there. It was quite strange to see a new store built and then torn down in a matter of a few years. If I remember correctly, the layout of the store was somewhat similar to 1980s Discount City Wal-Marts. I do remember that. You might have thought that it was an old repurposed Wal-Mart if you didn't know any better.

      Anyway, as for The Commons at Willowbrook, the Boston Market is actually in the parking lot of the Sam's Club next door to The Commons. I don't think that is technically part of The Commons, but it is close enough. The Sam's Club was built as a Builders Square II back in the early-to-mid 1990s.

      Yeah, 249 has really boomed since Willowbrook Mall was built and Compaq put their headquarters over there. Of course, 249 was still called 149 back when those things happened. The parts near Tomball have really boomed in the last several years. There is a very odd dead/never completed shopping center out on the intersection of Spring Cypress and Champions Forest. I don't know what was supposed to be there, but it looks like they started building a pretty large shopping center and then stopped once they got the walls up. This may have occurred during the 2008 credit bubble, but I'm not totally sure on that. I'm pretty sure that it is still standing untouched from when they stopped work all those years ago. It's a pretty odd sight to say the least especially since that is a pretty wealthy area. It's been sitting for so long that I'm not even sure if anything can be done with that construction without starting over again.

      Online sales (and piracy) have probably led to the troubles record stores are having these days. It's kind of strange that there has been a bit of a rekindling of interest in vinyl records in recent years. It's a bit strange seeing records back at record stores! I've even seen records at stores like Best Buy. It still seems like a relatively small amount of people are interested in vinyl (and cassettes, but that's probably even a smaller group) and it seems like many people would rather have digital files ready to upload to a phone/tablet/digital player without having to rip CDs first. Although digital files can be convenient, it is a bit sad to see physical music media die off. Video media might soon follow, but I guess there is more hope in that area as not everyone has enough bandwidth to download streaming HD movies (or SD movies for that matter).

    7. Sports town USA sounds right, I only went to the Greenspoint store once when it was open. Development in Houston does not surprise me anymore, many perfectly good buildings are torn down all of the time for newer and better digs. Or when stores jump from location to location and leave behind their 10 year old big boxes to rot. I know companies like to keep the stores fresh, but why not reinvest in the original property?

    8. Sorry for another two-parter. Part I:

      Yeah, the problem of zombie retail stores does exist in Houston. It's not just a Houston problem, it seems to happen across the country. I know Wal-Mart abandoned a lot of old stores when they transitioned over to Supercenters. Some stores, like the Willowbrook Mall area Wal-Mart, were enlarged and converted to Supercenters, but many were rebuilt just a few yards away. The Wal-Mart near Walters Rd. and FM1960 W. is an example of this. They built a brand new Supercenter literally across the street from a store that they abandoned once the new store opened. That old store was a zombie for quite some time. I think a NAM thrift store operates out of a small part of that store that has been subdivided, but most of that store still sits vacant.

      The Tomball Wal-Mart was a pretty interesting example. They built a new store (not sure if the new store was built as a SuperCenter, but it is one now) next to the old one and converted the old store into a Bud's Warehouse outlet. Bud's was basically a Wal-Mart outlet type store named after Sam Walton's brother I'm guessing. The Bud's didn't last too long and eventually that store was converted to a Tractor Supply store.

      Target did this to their location close to where I live. They moved their Jones Rd. and FM 1960 W. store to 1960 and N. Eldridge in 2006. The new store isn't much bigger than the old one (it may not even be bigger) and the old store was maintained well so it certainly did not need to be replaced from that perspective. The only justification for the move that I can think of is that they preferred having the store face 1960 instead of Jones Rd. like the old store. One could not really see the store from 1960 given the way that shopping center was oriented, but there was a street sign indicating that a Target was there. But, yeah, that old store was empty for quite a few years until a Planet Fitness moved into a subdivided part of that Target store. There's still a large part of that store that is empty and the shopping center owner hasn't put a new storefront on the vacant part so I don't know if they expect anyone to move in.

      The aforementioned North Oaks Mall Target would be an example of this, but that wasn't so bad as North Oaks got new tenants (Hobby Lobby and Staples) right away and perhaps the move of the store to the Willowbrook Mall area was more justifiable. It is kind of interesting that Target put both the Willowbrook and N. Eldridge stores right next to Wal-Marts. I guess they would rather have their stores in heavy shopping areas rather than have exclusivity of an area.

      I'm not sure if Target was consciously closing older pre-1990s stores during the mid-2000s. A lot of the older Target stores that I know of were relocated during that time. The two FM1960 stores I mentioned would be an example of that, but also the old Target near Memorial City Mall before it moved to the mall and also the old Target near Almeda Mall. Are any <1990 Targets still in operation in Houston? I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but I really can't think of any. The interesting thing is that all the replacements for these Targets were regular Targets. It would have been understandable if they relocated to Super Targets, but that has rarely been the case. Many of these new Targets don't even appear to be capable of being converted to Super Targets. Perhaps that will lead to even more zombie stores in the future.

    9. Part II

      McDonald's and Burger King to a lesser extent have done the demolish and rebuild strategy with many of their stores. Some of their stores needed to be remodeled if not rebuilt, but some of the rebuilds are actually worse than the stores they replaced. Some of the old mansard roof McDonald's were actually quite nice and recently remodeled before they were rebuilt as the so-called "golden eyebrow of doom" style McDonald's. This is a nationwide thing, but I know there is a perception in suburban Houston (or even urban Houston) that a fast food restaurant that is more than 10 of 15 years old is automatically "ghetto" even if the store is in pretty good condition.

      Kroger had a Greenhouse style store near me at Jones Rd. and Cypress-N-Houston that was relocated across the street about 10 years ago. The old store was converted to office space so I guess that could be justified. Kroger has a really eclectic mix of stores in Houston though. There are some stores that have existed for years with only moderate remodels, there are some Krogers that were put into abandoned grocery stores of other chains, some were rebuilt or relocated, and then they have some new build stores (some of which have marketplaces like you mentioned in your other post). The old stores that soldier on are sort of interesting. I don't think any old pre-Kroger Henke & Pillot stores still exist as Krogers, but there are more than a handful of Greenhouse style stores hanging around in Houston. The one at I-45 and Spring-Cypress comes to mind as it is not only a Greenhouse style store, but it is an early Greenhouse style store. I believe it also still has the "cube" street sign out front. That store is also interesting in that it is right next to what used to be a pretty interesting theme park called Hanna-Barbera Land (now SplashTown). There is at least one pre-Greenhouse era Superstore style Kroger that I know of in Houston. At least it appears to be a Superstore era Kroger. It is at the intersection of 59 and Aldine Mail Route in NE Houston. Do you know anything about that store? I wonder what it looks like inside. I doubt it is as ornate and vintage as this Kroger Superstore, but who knows.

    10. I think Target has successfully transitioned from all of their pre-1990's stores in the Houston area. I can't think of a single one that still exists. As for the Kroger on 59 and Aldine Mail Rt. it has received a basic remodel like most stores have gotten in the past 5 years. That store and the Kroger on I-10 East near Mercury Dr. are greenhouse style stores with the cube signs still being used. I also think there is one on Greens Rd. across from the Burlington (former pre-1990's Target) that still has the greenhouse style. Speaking of re-purposed buildings, I visited 2 out of the 3 Deauville Malls that I plan on visiting. The one in Spring still has storefronts intact that you can see through the windows of the former entrance. The one in Stafford is being taken over by Direct Auto and access is now restricted to a good portion of the property so it looks like there is nothing left of the old mall now. I will visit Kingwood soon and from what I understand the property is open to the public as a medical center. I may also visit the Armadillo Flea Market which used to be the Buyers Market Mall to see what those malls looked like if it has not been changed much. One property that looks very much like it was a Deauville Mall is the West Hills Mall in Huntsville Texas. Take a look at my articles from that mall at http://southernretail.blogspot.com/search/label/West%20Hill%20Mall

    11. I wonder if you are thinking about the same Kroger on Aldine Male Route and 59 that I am. I'm pretty sure the one I am thinking about is a Superstore style Kroger that predates the Greenhouse style Krogers. I also don't think that it has a cube sign. Maybe it did in the past, but I think it now has a rather unusual blue oval sign that looks somewhat similar to what is used by Ford dealers these days. If you would like to know more about Superstore style Krogers, check out the link I put towards the end of the earlier post.

      I think there used to be a Superstore style Kroger at the SE corner of the I-45 and FM1960. That store was relocated in ~1993 to the former Venture/Kmart shopping center where it still operates today. I may be off on that though. I think the old Superstores (at least some of them and maybe some Greenhouses) were called Kroger Family Centers.

      As for the Greenhouse style Krogers, yeah, there are still more than a handful of them. I'm not sure about the I-10 and Mercury store, but there is one Greens like you mention, one on the Beltway and Woodforest Blvd., one on Hwy. 6 and West. Rd., the aforementioned Spring Cypress and I-45 one, and one on Cullen and Polk near UH on the other side of I-45. I'm sure there are others, but those are the ones that come to mind. There are a couple of different versions of Greenhouse Krogers. The older ones had a very long walkway from the doors to the checkout and produce areas. The newer ones have a shorter walkway. Also, the bakery and deli sections are located in slightly different areas. The Spring Cypress one is the older style while the Hwy. 6 and West Rd. one is a newer Greenhouse revision. The Hwy. 6 one also had a gas station built in the parking lot. I think that is a bit rare with older Krogers, but maybe not.

      Will you be posting photographs from your visits to the former Deauville Fashion Malls? I'm really looking forward to seeing those if you are. It's an unusual and little known part of Houston's mall history. Perhaps I should visit the Cypresswood Spring one since I drive by it relatively often. The thing that always gets me in that area is how there is a Firestone Auto Care center on what is basically the old Goodyear blimp base. Oh the irony!

      Anyway, I think there was a Deauville Mall in Clear Lake/Friendswood as well, but I think that has been converted to a regular old strip center by now. It would not surprise me if the old Airtex Buyers Market Mall still looks like a mall as the Garden Ridge maintained the mall look. They even had an operational food court, but I don't think they were serving food out of multiple booths (or at least most of the booths) towards the end of Garden Ridge being there. I'm not sure if newer Garden Ridges still have cafes or not.

    12. Ok, after looking at the pictures the front of the Aldine Mail Kroger still looks the same almost as in those old photos. The inside definitely has lost that style. I will be posting the Deauville Mall photos I have in the near future, but I don't plan on visiting the I-45 south location since it is just a shopping center now. I wish I could get my hands on the Chron articles from the Deauville Mall that had lists of the stores that were online before they changed the format of the site. If I knew the dates of the articles I could check out the microfilm archives, but I may be there for weeks if I try to search now without dates. I have found some new information searching through google books that may help me find out some more information on these malls.

    13. Do you have a Houston Public Library card? The HPL website claims that they have access to a database with Chronicle articles going back to 1985 that is accessible from home if you have their card. I don't have a HPL card so I can't verify if this is true or not. I suppose you could also try to access it at a local HPL branch.

      It would be great if the Harris County Public Library had access to that database (assuming that it exists), but it does not look like they do.

      That's a shame that the Aldine Mail Route Kroger has been neutered inside. As far as I know, most of the Greenhouse Krogers have been moderately remodeled inside as well to take away most of the 1970s and 1980s looking things. There is a Greenhouse Kroger in Mississippi that retains the Bauhaus font department titles that were a famous aspect of Greenhouse Krogers. I don't know if any Krogers in Houston still have the Bauhaus titles on the inside, but some/many still have Bauhaus signs on the outside saying Deli/Bakery and stuff like that.

    14. I had an opportunity to get the HPL card today and I now have all of the articles that I need to put together a timeline for the Deauville Malls with a partial store list. The Buyers Market Malls lasted around a year and the other 3 Deauville Malls were foreclosed on in 1986. I should also be able to locate more information on the Palms Center for my upcoming article. The articles do not have any pictures, but they are the full print copies of the original articles. For example the commons at Greenspoint had Children's Palace, Sportstown, Office Depot, Phar-Mor, Marshall's and Highland Appliance as anchors when the center opened in 1990. I also found some information on four never built malls in the Houston area.

  19. It looks like Sears is regaining a presence in The Woodlands Mall area. The Houston Chronicle put something up today stating that a Sears Home Appliance Showroom is opening at I-45 and Robinson Road. That might be the large shopping center across the freeway from The Woodlands Mall or one of those shopping centers near there. The Home Appliance Showroom is one of Sears' dealer store/franchise type deals. I don't really see this announcement as being surprising as I'm sure that Sears wants to continue to profit off the hot The Woodlands housing market and the Sears Outlet store on I-45 and Cypresswood probably wasn't sufficient for The Woodlands market. This store certainly won't be as fun as athe full-line Sears store, but at least it is something.

    1. Maybe Sears can build a full-line Sears store in the former Deauville Mall in Spring. Highly unlikely, but there is still lots of space there just in case. Sears should try and locate an empty big-box location in the area for a stand-alone store like JCPenney has done in a few areas of Houston. The old Borders in the Woodlands would also be a good location, if it is still vacant. Another area for a new Sears location would be in Conroe in the same shopping center where JCPenney opened a store a few years ago. A smaller store close to the Woodlands and near the busiest shopping district of Conroe would be a great location.

    2. It would be great if Sears built a new full-line or Sears Grand store near The Woodlands, but that does not seem to be very likely to occur anytime soon. I don't think Sears Holdings have built new Sears and Kmart stores (not counting dealer and franchised type stores like the Home Appliance Showroom) in recent years. I think I heard that the last totally new Kmart store was built in 2002! I think it's in New Jersey. There have been stores that were converted to Sears from Kmart and vice versa, but I'm not counting those as "openings." I don't know how many full-line Sears stores have been built in the last decade or so. I know there are some retail bloggers with expertise in Kmart and perhaps Sears too. Hopefully one of those bloggers are reading this and can help me out with some answers about how many new openings there are from Sears Holdings.

      There supposedly is/was a Sears Grand store in Austin. That may have been built brand new, but I'm not sure when it opened. I suspect we'd see more Sears Grand type stores than full-line Sears stores if Sears was still opening stores of those kind. There really isn't a huge difference as far as I can tell between the two outside of the obvious differences such as Grand stores generally not being in malls, usually being one story, and having more of an upscale discount store look rather than a bit of a downscaled department store look.

      Is there still a Sears Hometown store in/near Conroe? I remember seeing one there off of I-45 somewhere back in the day when Hometown stores were still called dealer stores, but that was a long time ago. A Hometown store with the hardlines and without the softlines might work well in The Woodlands, but Hometown stores are usually put in small towns so I don't know if it would work being so close to the city. There might be confusion over ads and promotions as I think Hometown stores and full-line Sears stores have different sales.

      Although I would not expect this to happen, it would be funny if Sears did open up some type of store in the old Borders. Borders was once owned by Kmart so it would be a bit of a strange homecoming, but I'm not sure if Kmart still owned Borders when The Woodlands store opened.

    3. The Sears Grand store in Austin closed about 5 years ago, it was off of I-35 North of the city. I saw on one of the Kmart blogs that there is still a Sears grand open that was a converted Kmart, so it is not like the stores that were built new. Kmart had just opened up a store in Houston in 1999 or 2000 off of I-10 near Katy that closed when Kmart left Houston in 2003. I have not seen any information of any Sears or Kmart openings, but the company uses their current stores to test out new ideas for new departments or services. Kmart has tried several different remodel styles in the past ten years, but I don't know which style they are currently using. I have been to some Sears stores that still have the 1990's signage that is very outdated now. Check out my visit to the Lufkin Kmart, most of the products in the pictures of the electronics section are obsolete such as the walkman. http://southernretail.blogspot.com/2011/04/k-mart-lufkin-april-2011.html
      The company has closed nearly all of their test stores such as Sears Grand and the Great Indoors. I think Sears Grand could have succeeded especially if some of the Super Kmart Centers would have been converted. We could use some more competition in the Houston area in the large discount store segment. All we have is Walmart (only visit if I have no other choice) and Target (which I normally go to). Kroger is building large marketplaces in the Houston area, but I have not been to one yet to see if they are competition to the above discount retailers. The Borders store was fairly new at the Woodlands center and was built around the same time as the Barnes and Noble at the Woodlands Mall. It would be ironic if that happened though. As for the Conroe store, it is a Home Appliance Showroom now.

    4. Yet another long-winded two-parter! Part I:

      Wow, I had no idea that the Austin Sears Grand closed that long ago. It could not have been open for very long if it has been closed for about 5 years. I think Sears Grands only started to open in ~2003.

      I think what killed off most of Sears' concept stores (Sears Essentials, Sears Grand, The Great Indoors, etc.) more than anything was their merger with Kmart. Sears desperately needed to open non-mall suburban stores in the early 2000s as there weren't many new malls to put stores in, but the merger with Kmart basically rendered the Sears Essential concept useless (though they did try converting Kmart stores to Essentials stores, but it seems like that did not work and some have been converted back). The Sears Grand concept could have worked as a mall type store in areas where there aren't malls, but it seems that Eddie Lampert and company just don't believe in spending money on facilities whether it be new stores or renovations. Maybe Sears would have been much more aggressive in opening stores if they never merged with Kmart, but I guess we'll never know the answer to that. Hopefully Sears/Kmart will open new full-line stores in the future if they aren't doing so now.

      The Great Indoors was an interesting concept, but it probably would have struggled in the current economy even if the chain was doing well as a whole. I suppose you can't blame Sears as it seems like Home Depot's version of The Great Indoors, Expo, suffered from a similar fate. There was both an Expo and a Great Indoors across 249 from Willowbrook Mall, but both closed long ago. I think The Great Indoors lasted longer than the Expo though. The Memorial City Mall area The Great Indoors closed relatively recently along with the rest of the chain. I think you posted about the closing of that store.

      Yeah, there was one old Kmart that was converted to a Sears Grand store. I'm guessing you're referring to the Solon, OH Sears Grand store that NickE (he used to comment on your blog it seemed, but I'm not sure if he is still reading) photographed a few months back. I posted a comment about it on his blog, Dead and Dying Retail. I won't bother to link to it here as there is a link to there on your page.

      It's a shame that Kmart isn't in the Houston area anymore. Kmart has some serious flaws, but I would still shop there if they were still open here. I've only been to Kmarts twice (both in 2011, Niagara Falls, NY and Moon Township, PA near Pittsburgh) since they left Houston. The Niagara Falls one was your typical vintage Kmart that was disorganized and stuck in a totally different decade. The Moon Township store was a Super Kmart and was actually pretty nice. It was probably built in the late 1990s and it didn't seem like it was renovated since then, but it was clean and pretty well organized. The grocery section was quite nice and not nearly as cluttered as the Wal-Mart Supercenter grocery section. The store was smaller than a Wal-Mart Supercenter, but that could be viewed as a positive rather than a negative. Basically, it wasn't much different from the Westheimer and Deerbrook area Super Kmarts that I visited when Kmart was still in Houston.

    5. Part II

      Anyway, yeah a lot of Kmarts are still wearing their
      "Big Kmart" era remodels from the late 1990s. IMO, the Big Kmart era designs were pretty dated and basic even when they were new. Granted, I suppose even Wal-Mart interiors from that era were quite sterile as well. I suppose Walkmans (Walkmen?) would fit in very well with those stores! Have you been to the Killeen/Ft. Hood Kmart? I'd be interested in visiting that store sometime if I'm ever in the area. That one looks very much on the outside like the old Kmart that used to be where I live. The Lufkin one seems to be pretty well sorted (by Kmart standards at least) based on what I am seeing in the pictures you took aside from the obvious dated signage.

      Have you been to the Alco store in Houston? There is (or was) one on Gessner Rd. near Memorial City Mall. They opened a couple of years ago. I'm not sure if it is still open to be honest. Their website seems to indicate that it is still open. It looks like there might be one in Pasadena also. The Gessner store was pretty nice when I went there a few months back. It is smaller than even the non-Super Kmart and Wal-Marts, but they still have most of the stuff that the non-super Wal-Marts have. They had some good advertised deals, but their regular prices were nothing to write home about. They were probably slightly higher than Wal-Mart/Target. I think Alcos are usually found in rural/small town areas so I'm not really sure why they decided to give Houston a try.

      I don't really have a major preference between Target and Wal-Mart. We don't have Super Targets on this side of town (that I know of at least) so Wal-Mart is more useful for buying groceries. Granted, a supermarket is preferable to either for groceries IMO. Some of the Wal-Marts around here are very busy and almost chaotic especially around the grocery section, but others are a bit more calm. Targets never feel very busy (outside of the register/cafe area perhaps) even when their parking lots are full. I guess that is an advantage for them, but I think Wal-Mart has slightly better selection in most departments. I know people think that Target is far superior for fashion, but I almost never buy clothes from discount stores so I wouldn't really know the difference.

      I'm not really sure how Kmart would play into this. It would be interesting to hear about the advantages/disadvantages of each store from someone who lives where all three currently exist. Maybe there are some Lufkinites or Abileneans (or most of the rest of the country) who read your blog who can comment on that.

  20. Thanks for the tip on Alco, I did not even know they existed much less in Houston. I will have to check them out one day. I never visited Expo or Sears grand so all I know is what I read online about these stores. I have also never been to the Ft Hood/ Killeen area, there are some parts of Texas and Louisiana that I probably will never make it to because of the distance from the Houston area.

  21. I'm glad that the HPL database works. I might have to get an HPL card to check it out.

    I didn't realize that there was a Highland at The Commons at Greenspoint. It must have not lasted very long. I wonder if that was what turned into the Computer City. I thought that that store may have started out as a McDuff as the McDuff at The Commons at Willowbrook turned into a Computer City a little while after McDuff closed (Computer City and McDuff were both Tandy stores). Then again, I remember shopping at the Greenspoint Computer City as early as 1992 or 1993 and McDuff may have still been open by then. That would support the idea that the Computer City wasn't a McDuff and that maybe it was a Highland.

    As for Sportstown and Children's Palace, yeah, the Willowbrook Commons had those too (the Sportstown is now a Bed, Bath, & Beyond as mentioned earlier and the Children's Palace is now a Ross). The Greenspoint Commons Children's Palace may have been a discount bookstore (perhaps one of those that operates out of a dead retail space for two or three months and then moves on) after Children's Palace closed. There was also a Media Play in that shopping center for a while. I don't remember there being an Office Depot in that center, but who knows. The Willowbrook Commons has had an OfficeMax for at least 20 years now. That may go away soon with their merger with Office Depot as Office Depot has a store near Willowbrook Mall as well. I guess we'll have to see how that shakes out.

    As for four unbuilt malls in Houston, I can think of four. I think I've mentioned at least four earlier in this post: the Deauville 1960 mall (though that was proposed well before 1985), the Homart/Sears Katy mall, I think there was another proposed Katy mall, and there was a proposed mall at 529 and Hwy. 6. Are any of those the ones that you came across?

    I went to the Memorial City Mall Sears today and I can saw some of the renovations that you mentioned some time earlier in this post. It looks like they have painted a lot of the walls in the clothing departments. There is a large blue walled section for Lands End stuff. I'm guessing that was done in the last few years as I don't remember seeing those walls being painted that way in the past. I would not say that the Memorial City Mall Sears clothing departments look as upscale as the The Woodlands Mall Sears did, but it does look more modern than most of the other Sears that I have been to. I also walked around Memorial City Mall a bit and I did notice that it does not smell like Froot Loops cereal like the mall did before the renovation. One odd bit that I noticed about the mall was that the Sears sign at the beginning of the Sears wing of the mall has a pre-1994 Sears logo on it. I found that to be a bit odd. Did the mall recycle an old logo that they had before the renovation?

    I also drove by the Gessner Alco and it certainly did look like it was still open. In fact, it had a "Now Open" banner on the front of the store. That was a bit odd as the store has been open for like two years now. I don't know if that sign was there when I shopped there last year. Perhaps they put that sign up as I've never seen a lot of cars in the parking lot there so perhaps the store wants to make sure that people know that the store is operating. I would not necessarily assume that the lack of cars in the parking lot there is a bad sign as there are a lot of apartments and neighborhoods in that area so perhaps people walk to the store. Then again, maybe business is a bit slow. I guess it is hard to say.

    1. The four malls I came across were the Conroe Mall, Williamsburg Mall (corner of I-10 and Grand Parkway in Katy), the Highway 6 and FM 529 Mall, and Southbrook Mall (288 and Almeda-Genoa) which would have been a four anchor mall similar to Baybrook according to the article. I will write more about these in a future article. Even as far back as the 1980's in these articles the Grand Parkway was mentioned. There may have been more since the articles only go back to 1985. At Memorial City they must have recycled an older logo in that section of the mall because I am not sure if they had those logos before the renovation. That mall could really use more parking garages on the West side because parking there is always a struggle unless you go to the far corner near Sears.

    2. I would definitely agree that parking was an issue on the Gessner side of Memorial City Mall when I was there this week. I ended up parking on the Barryknoll Ln. side of Sears (the tool department). According to the Google Maps aerial image of Memorial City Mall, even the Barryknoll side of Sears' parking lot can be filled to capacity. I doubt that there are many Sears around the country these days with parking problems, but the Memorial City Mall Sears is one of them.

    3. One of these days I might make it down there to cover that mall, but so many other sites have covered it so I may not. I try to cover places that nobody else covers or provide a much needed update to places that are covered in other sites or blogs. I am in the process of adding more text to my older articles and providing more information to accompany my photos. I also upgraded my camera phone from an 8 megapixel to a 13 megapixel that has several more features to take better photos.

    4. Is is interesting because the two malls that I am most likely to go to, Willowbrook Mall and Memorial City Mall, are not covered on your site. Just about every other mall in the Houston area is covered! Oh well, maybe you will get to covering those some day.

      Memorial City Mall is quite interesting in that it has seen a lot of changes over the years. Sears aside perhaps, the mall has pretty much completely transformed over the years. It had some interesting anchors over the years that are long gone now. Fame City comes to mind. It also survived stiff competition from Town & Country Mall. It is also the only mall left in the Houston area that has two mass merchandiser anchors, but it also has more upscale department stores as well. The concept of the shopping mall having something for everyone in terms of variety of products and budgets has died off at many malls, but it is still alive at Memorial City Mall.

      It seems that dead/dying malls actually get more coverage in blogs than malls operating at regular levels of business, but maybe I'm reading the wrong blogs. Having said that, I don't think Houston has any really famous dead malls like Dixie Square Mall in the Chicago area, Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, and Randall Park Mall in Cleveland. Mall of the Mainland may be the most famous dead mall in the area, but that is because there is a certain comedic factor there with the mall having fake storefronts painted up and the famed letter from Gloria to Nikki that is posted on a dead storefront. Plus there is the factor that Mall of the Mainland was basically born a dead mall. That is a bit unusual. But, yeah, usually Northeastern/Midwest dead malls get most of the attention so it is nice to have blogs like this that cover other malls as well.

      Have you considered covering grocery stores on your blog? I know you've covered a couple of them before, but the Houston area is a really booming place for grocery stores right now. We've had Aldi, The Fresh Market, Sprouts, Trader Joe's, Joe Vs, and perhaps others enter the market in recent years. We also have a lot of long-time stores. Some of these stores are architecturally interesting, but perhaps not all of them. It'll be interesting how things shake up because surely some stores will make it and others (whether old or new chains) will retreat or go out of business.

    5. It is funny you mention Willowbrook, I started an article a while back but shelved it until I attained more photos and information of that mall. I completely forgot about that post and I need to find my archives. I have an interest in grocery stores, but I decided to focus only on grocery stores that have retail components such as Fiesta and Schwegmanns supermarkets. I am glad we finally got Aldi here in Houston and their prices are better than just about every other grocery store. I think the population growth can absorb these new grocery stores in the Houston area unlike many retailers and grocers that picked the 1980's to expand into Houston around the time of the oil bust. I think there are still several areas of Houston that are under-retailed such as Northeast and East Houston. Since the population of this side of Houston is less dense, many companies have yet to open stores there or open up many years after the West side of Houston gets the store or restaurant. Corporate restaurants in this side of Houston are also not as well represented as they are in West Houston.

    6. I look forward to reading the Willowbrook Mall post whenever you get the time and information to complete it. I doubt that I'll learn anything from it as it has been my local mall since the mall was built pretty much, but it'll be nice to have something written about it. Willowbrook Mall is a bit of a wallflower even with it's success.

      I think Aldi and Joe V's will do well. There's always room for a grocer who lowers the bar on prices. Aldi may put some pressure on local low price stores like Gerland's Food Town and Sellers Brothers, but I think those may have a bit of an edge as they can better focus on neighborhood needs like Hispanic-oriented products.

      I've never been to an Aldi in the United States, but I did go to one in Vienna, Austria (I believe it was called Hofer there). I'll have to go to one to check it out. I have been to Sprouts a few times. It's ok. It'll be interesting to see how the higher end new grocery stores do. I think the success of those stores are more questionable. Just ask Albertsons! Some existing higher end stores, like Randall's, may feel the pinch as well. Randall's/Safeway has been shrinking over the years and one has to wonder if Safeway will jump ship from Houston yet again.

      The half of town east of I-45 is the forgotten side of Houston outside of areas like Clear Lake, League City, and Kingwood. Even then Kingwood is probably forgotten about more than other similar type developments west of I-45. The East side has a lot going for it in terms of having less congestion and things like that, but I think it will always struggle with it's industrial/blue collar image. Perhaps there will come a time where people wanting to live on the edge of the city will get tired of moving westward and will choose the East side, but that does not seem to be imminent. The completion of US90 as a freeway may help a little.

      I had some free time today and so I visited Greenspoint Mall and the Garden Oaks Sears. Greenspoint hasn't changed a ton since I was last there in 2009 aside from the obvious changes with Sears and the cinema. It was pretty busy though. That was a bit surprising. I'm not saying that it was Memorial City Mall busy, but it had a decent flow of customers or at least mall walkers. The Dillard's wing seemed to be un-air conditioned today. Maybe the fact that the Dillard's is closed on Mondays has something to do with that. Still, that corridor seems to have the ceiling that is in the worst condition. Of course, there were a lot of buckets all over the mall that I assume are for catching leaks. The leasing rate may be slightly better now than it was in 2009, but it's hard to say. There may be less available storefronts so that may help. Certainly most of the stores there aren't exactly the biggest names in the business, but something is better than nothing. I guess Anna's Linens is a noticeable departure unless they moved to some part of the mall that I didn't see. It also looks like there is a flea market in the old Finger's as well. That may not be new though.

      The Garden Oaks Sears seemed to have the same paint treatment in the women's department that I saw at the Memorial City Mall Sears. It looked pretty nice. That store is maintained pretty well it seems. I don't know if they have gained customers since the Greenspoint and The Woodlands Malls Sears have closed though. That would be interesting to find out, but I suppose that we can only guess.

    7. I will look at the archives for the Willowbrook Mall post and see if I can dig up anything that will make the post better. I was recently at Greenspoint about a month ago and you are right, the Dillard's wing has deteriorated. The food court is going to take a hit when Exxon leaves the area for their new office campus in the next few months. The mall concourse between the food court and the Cinema is nearly full, but anywhere outside of that is struggling. The flea market you mentioned has been there about two years and was originally located on US59 and Little York. The flea market moved out and a Mi Tienda market opened a few months later after the building was gutted. Greenspoint should have tried to land that flea market in one of the empty anchors. The Clarewood market at PlazAmericas Mall is nearly full which could have worked at Greenspoint. Now with the Armadillo Market at Airtex and the Market in the former Fingers another market would be too much. Perhaps a supermarket taking over the space of one of the dead anchors will help. A college campus or medical facility would also be some good ideas for the empty anchors.

    8. Maybe I can answer any questions about Willowbrook Mall and the surrounding area if you have any.

      Yeah, I think Exxon moving will hurt Greenspoint Mall even further. The food court is still one of the highlights of the mall even without Brother's Pizza. I think I saw that they have a Roman Delight Pizza there now. That is pretty typical mall fare. I'm not sure if putting a grocery store in one of the anchor spots is a good idea because although the area may need another grocery store, I would think that the mall wants to get a broader range of people to the visit mall instead of just locals. Malls may have some fear that setting up a flea market in an anchor may steal potential clients that may want to set up shop in the mall itself. I guess it is hard to say, but PlazAmericas has done this and Northwest Mall has an antique mall in the old JC Penney anchor. Granted, antique stores generally don't set up shop in the mall itself so that may have not been as much of a risk.

      Perhaps the mall should try to make a deal with one of the non-profit thrift store operators to set up a thrift store/donation center in one of the anchor spots. A thrift store may be too big for the old Montgomery Ward and Sears, but there is some left over room in the Fitness Connection that may be sufficient for a thrift store. Perhaps some kind of thrift supercenter in the old Wards or Sears could be a real attraction. It seems to me that thrift stores always generate traffic (there is an addictive lottery type thing with thrift store customers because you never know what they're going to have in stock) and not all thrift store shoppers are lower income.

      There may be some kinds of retailers that Macy's, Dillard's, and anyone else at the mall who has any pull would disapprove of. I'm not sure about that. That could be a hurdle for some concepts.

      College and medical facilities could be a positive move as well. Lone Star College has a campus right across the Beltway from Greenspoint Mall so I don't know if they would be interested in moving to the mall. Perhaps it could be an option if they ever need more room, but Lone Star College does not have the same retail conversion history that HCC has so it may not be something that they would even want to consider. I could see something medical related popping up there though.

      Something I noticed about Greenspoint Mall is that it still has a RadioShack in it. It seems to me that RadioShacks are starting to become a bit rare within more successful malls. Maybe I'm wrong about that though. I know the RadioShack at Willowbrook Mall (which was literally right next to Sears) has been replaced by a local suit store that still looks like a 1990s style RadioShack inside. I know there was a RadioShack at Greenspoint Mall when I was there previously in 2009, but I don't know if it is in the same location that it was before.

  22. I just read a new article that mentions that Sears has formed a new division called Ubiquity Critical Environments that is designed to convert closed Sears and Kmart stores into data centers, disaster recovery space, and wireless towers. The article is a pretty interesting read and it could provide some insight into what could potentially happen to the Greenspoint Mall Sears since I believe that Sears still owns that property. It's interesting that the news of this new division is coming out given that we just discussed this topic a few days ago.

    The COO of the division seems to indicate that shuttered stores in malls perhaps don't make the best datacenters compared to freestanding locations (like old Kmarts), but he does seem to think that mall locations would make for great disaster recovery space. Perhaps Greenspoint Mall would make for a good disaster "shelter," but I don't know. It may be good for the community as a whole, but does it help the mall? Will a mall full of evacuees further alienate the mall from potential shoppers? What does it do when there aren't people needing shelter?

    I think it will be interesting to see how well this division performs. Perhaps Sears would be even more willing to close stores (Sears and Kmarts) if there is a profitable non-retail alternative. That might be good for Sears' business model, but it does not really help those who like to shop at Sears and it may also hurt other retailers at malls and shopping centers where Sears/Kmart are anchors.

    Of course, it has also been released just this week that Sears' Q1 2013 performance was quite bad to say the least. It looks like their online sales are moving in the right direction though. One can't help but wonder if Sears would like to deemphasize their physical stores (at least the full-line stores and Kmarts) and return to a mail-order (with the Internet instead of catalogs) oriented retail operation like they had over a century ago. On the other hand, I think one advantage that Sears has with online sales is that people can pick-up and return stuff at physical stores. You can't really do that with Amazon and Sears is getting a break with the new laws requiring all online sales to have sales tax. Granted, I suppose Sears could still have physical stores like the Hardware and Appliance stores where people can pick-up orders. I guess it would be a bit like the old rural catalog stores that used to exist.

    Of course, the former Westwood Mall is an interesting case where everything at the mall except the operational Sears store became a datacenter (or at least high tech offices). I'm not sure if you've seen these, but the Southwest Corporate Center (formerly Westwood Mall) website has photos of what the center looks like on the inside today. The website says it has a food court as well, but I have no idea what is served in there.

  23. Thanks for the info on Westwood Mall, it looks I may be able to take a trip to document that mall. I did not realize Radio Shack has been pulling out of some good malls, but I am sure they cannot afford to be everywhere anymore. I know that Deerbrook Mall, Memorial City Mall, and San Jacinto Mall all have Radio Shacks inside of the mall and also in a nearby shopping center so it seems to me that they should consolidate locations to save money. I agree with your thoughts on Greenspoint Mall, did you notice the new building going up in the former commons shopping center right in the middle of the south parking lot? If Greenspoint Mall could consolidate stores and close off the sections of the mall that the stores move out of, the mall would be sized better for the market demand. It will be difficult to do that though because the Dillard's wing of the mall has several vacancies and Dillard's closes early which hurts traffic when the store is closed. If Sears could manage to open one of the call centers in the former anchor spot, the food court and some stores would get a much needed boost. Another idea for a Greenspoint vacant anchor spot is to put a large furniture store in at least the first floor. Two stories could also work for a store that carries a large selection or to use for on-site merchandise storage. One thing I also noticed at Greenspoint is that the mall and the former Montgomery Ward has been recently repainted almost to blend in the empty anchor to the mall so it wont be as noticeable. Sears should focus on their online sales and work on the ease of online ordering. There are issues that I have encountered with their online ordering for in-store pickup system. I think that the consolidation of their brands will help them to focus on a clear goal, but online ordering needs to be a huge focus for them right now in my opinion.

  24. Part I

    I did drive by The Commons near Greenspoint Mall, but I did not see any new buildings coming up. I probably wasn't paying attention though! I had not been in the area in a while so I was probably looking to see where the on-ramp was for I-45.

    I agree that a shrunken Greenspoint Mall may very well have a better shot than what exists even today. The Dillard's situation is a bit troublesome. Perhaps they could be convinced to move to the old Montgomery Ward? Probably not, but who knows. I did notice that the Wards looked like it was painted. It had been a while since I was last there so I didn't know if that was new. It's still hard not to notice an empty anchor especially with the empty auto center right next to it as well. A furniture store might be a good idea. There are a number of furniture stores in between 610 and the Beltway on I-45. Perhaps one of those, or someone new, might be interested. It would have to be a big furniture store though as Montgomery Ward had a pretty decent sized furniture department and it still only was a fraction of the total store. Perhaps it could also be used as a warehouse and clearance center for a furniture store.

    I was at West Oaks Mall last week as well and noticed that the furniture store that is in there (American Contemporary Furniture?) is opening a new store across the corridor from their existing store. i'm guessing this is an expansion, but I'm not totally sure about that. It looked like West Oaks might have a better lease rate now than when I was last there in January. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but the mall and the parking lot are in quite good physical condition. Comparing the state of repair of West Oaks versus something like Greenspoint is a real blowout win for West Oaks. West Oaks does look quite contemporary without being totally cookie cutter. It is also a bit interesting to see dark wood accents on the ceiling. I think you had pictures of the Brazos Mall food court that had that as well. Perhaps the wood look has made a bit of a comeback at malls? Granted, West Oaks and Brazos Mall may not be representative and it is not like those changes are brand new.

    I also went to Northwest Mall last week. The new road construction certainly has encroached the mall territory especially around the SE corner of the Macy's. Speaking of the NW Mall Macy's, they still have the President's Day say sign up from the days of Ike. Also, they probably should consider peeling off the Downtown location that they have on the doors of the Macy's telling people to visit other locations. People who don't know what I am talking about should see your old Northwest Mall posts for pictures of what I am talking about. As far as NW Mall itself, well, it's no Almeda Mall even if it kind of is! Maybe you should do some compare & contrast photos of those two malls some day. Anyway, I do wonder if Macy's is waiting for the construction to end before they make a decision on what to do with that store if they have not made a decision already.

  25. Part II

    I was on I-10 recently and noticed that it appears as if there is an operating Garden Ridge near Fry Rd and Greenhouse Rd. in something looking like the Airtex former former Buyer's Market Mall/Garden Ridge. I can't remember for sure, but was that also a Buyer's Market Mall? Maybe the Chronicle archives have some insight on the matter.

    As for RadioShacks, yeah, they still have some locations in prime malls, but some have closed. Willowbrook and Baybrook Malls come to mind. There are other locations near Baybrook, but the nearest one to Willowbrook is a few miles away. It goes without saying that I was a bit surprised and upset when I realized that the Willowbrook RadioShack had closed! It seems like a lot of the RadioShacks in 2nd tier (or worse) malls (at least in the Houston area) remain.

    It would be interesting to see what Westwood Mall (and the Sears there) looks like on the inside today beyond the pictures on the official website.

    I know Sears wants their website to be the next amazon.com. Sears is adopting a lot of Amazon's strategies regarding 3rd party vendors selling on their site and 3rd party vendors having orders fulfilled by Sears. Sears physical presence gives them a big edge over Amazon IMO. I think there are some people who would be more willing to shop online if returns/exchanges and pick-up can be done in person close to home. They do need to polish their website though. The search function does not work well and prices can be different on Sears and Kmart websites. I'm sure that is intentional, but it is frustrating for those of us who don't have Kmarts in our area. I don't think Kmart orders can be picked up or returned at Sears, but maybe I'm wrong about that. Kmart, let us ship our pants to Sears!

  26. West Oaks has really improved over the past year since the new outdoor portion was under construction. I would like to see the JCPenney anchor filled again, but there are not many options for department stores that are not already there. Funny you mention Almeda and Northwest because I have recent photos of both malls that are in storage for upcoming updates. A comparison article would be a good fit for some of the photos, but I will have to look at what I have and possibly revisit for more photos. The Garden Ridge on I-10 West was the second Buyers Market and the longest lasting in the short lived life of those malls. The article I found listed four stores left at the Airtex location from 36 after less than a year in business. The I-10 location had 15 out of 48 left in the same time period. The malls both lasted about a year when they were closed. I wonder if the interior of the I-10 Buyers Market/ Garden Ridge store still has the storefronts intact. The Airtex Buyers Market/ Armadillo Market only has the storefronts intact on part of the north-side of the mall. The food court is intact as well with several food outlets currently operating in the spaces there. Sears should also link their website to as many home retailer sites as possible to help generate traffic to their hardware and appliance stores.

    1. There were plans to build an arts complex in the old West Oaks Mall JC Penney, but I'm guessing that did not go as well as they had hoped. There is a link discussing the project here and that link has a link to a hi-res photoset of pictures inside the old Penney's from 2011 on FLickr. It's worth checking those out too. The photos are quite good.

      I don't know what else they could do with that anchor spot. Perhaps they could turn it into an exhibition hall geared mainly for the energy companies on I-10, but I don't know if the mall is close enough to business hotels for that. I can't really think of many retail options that would be a good fit there. Burlington Coat Factory is already across the street. Perhaps there could be something aimed at the Asian community in the area, but I don't know what that could be.

      Perhaps things are looking up for West Oaks even without solid plans for the JC Penney. The owners have done a good job keeping the mall in good condition and it looks as modern as any successful mall in the area. The Sears there is one of the better looking Sears that I've seen on the inside even if it is on the smaller side. Of course, there have been things that have gone in and out of West Oaks in recent years so perhaps we'll have to wait and see if the current developments will stick for the long run.

      I'm glad to hear that you are considering doing a compare and contrast post about Almeda and Northwest Malls. It would be neat to see how the malls look the same and different when looking at the malls from a similar vantage point. I'd say that NW Mall looks more modern on the inside (unless Almeda has changed significantly since I was last there in 2009), but Almeda Mall is more successful. I don't mind the retro look of Almeda Mall though. Perhaps it still has the vintage Visible Changes sign, but I don't know about that. One area where the two twin malls are more similar now than they were in the past is that NW Mall was a bit of a retail island for the area whereas Almeda had a bunch of retail right behind it. Most of those stores behind Almeda Mall have relocated though. The HPL branch that was in the Almeda parking lot has relocated as well I believe. I've spent a lot of time at those two malls at various times so it would be great to see a comparison post. The Bayou City History blog on the Houston Chronicle had an interesting series of posts about Almeda and Northwest Malls last year. I'm not sure if you have seen those.

      I'm not sure what the I-10 and Fry Garden Ridge looks like on the inside. I think the Airtex Garden Ridge maintained the mall look up until it closed. Perhaps that is something that you could check out one of these days. Hopefully you aren't tiring of my suggestions for posts, but that might fit in well with the post you are planning about the Deauville and Buyer's Market malls.

  27. Thanks for the links to the West Oaks JCPenney photos, it is strange seeing that store in that condition. Many of the fixtures are still there including signage, but some of the damage from leaks will require some investment to fix up. There are not many retail options that would likely have interest in that anchor unless Macy's would like to open a separate Men's store like at Willowbrook. The former Circuit City in front of West Oaks Mall is now a large liquor, beer, and wine store. Many of the older shopping centers in the West Oaks area have empty space that is unlikely to be filled in the near future because of the newer shopping centers in the area also.

    I did see the articles for Northwest and Almeda from the Bayou City blog. He has some great articles and historical photos on the blog of the Houston area. Now that I have a better camera I will probably make a trip back to Almeda to get more images.

    I would like to see the Garden Ridge on I-10 and hope that it still has the mall look that Airtex did before the conversion. I wonder how much money Deauville and the company behind the Buyer's Market Malls Bramalea lost when these malls failed. I think these malls were ahead of their time because outlet malls now are mostly booming. Two mistakes that were made with these malls were the small size of the malls in comparison to the nearby regional malls they were competing against, and the lack of major brand names as tenants. Each one of these malls except I-10 in Katy had a nearby larger regional mall within five miles or less that was a much better option to shop at.

    1. I was doing some thinking earlier about the Fry Rd. Garden Ridge and I think I may have been in there in the early 1990s. It's hard to say, but I certainly don't remember anything about it even if I did go there.

      I'm guessing the Deauville and Buyer's Market malls were huge money losers. They just did not have enough "star power" to draw people into them. Maybe things would have been different with some major anchors, but it wasn't to be I suppose. Lesser known stores that operate as regular mall tenants can struggle as their stores aren't as visible as they would be at a regular shopping center. That's why big name anchors are needed to draw the traffic to the other mall stores. Plus, the changes in the blue laws and regular stores/malls opening on Sundays pretty much took away the one advantage those malls had. Perhaps things would have been different if the Houston economy wasn't so bad at the time, but I don't know if that mattered as one would think that a discount/off-price oriented mall could have had success in a soft economy.

      Did you ever read this article in the Chronicle saying how Deauville intended to open a mall at 59 and Will Clayton Parkway? I wonder how many malls Deauville intended on opening. Perhaps they had more slated if the original ones had more success.

      Also, there was a recent Bayou City History blog post that briefly mentioned a Deauville 2-screen movie theater that operated off of I-45 near Greenspoint Mall in the 1980s. I can't say that I remember that theater. Perhaps it was operated by the same Deauville that operated the Fashion Malls. That post also has some old pictures of the Meyerland area including what appears to be a picture of the Meyerland JC Penney.

    2. The 1980's economy should have helped the malls but many regional malls opened at the same time as the Deauville Malls. The blue law change also did not help. I wonder if the Will Clayton site was where they originally were going to build the mall that was built in Kingwood. It would explain why the other three malls opened at around the same time and Kingwood was slated to open over a year later. A shopping center now called Salon Park on I-45 a little South of Greenspoint Mall was originally called Deauville Center and featured the theater in the 1980's. I am not sure if there was a connection to this or the Deauville Center on 290 near 34th street to the Deauville that built the malls.

    3. I'm not really sure who was behind these Deauville projects. I assume they are related, but perhaps not. The Deauville people were pretty ambitious assuming that all these various projects (the theater/shopping centers, the Fashion Malls, and the planned FM 1960 and I-45 mall with Simon and Montgomery Ward) are from the same group. I would like to know more about their story and what happened to them, but I don't know if that information is out there or not.

      It seems to me that perhaps what did the various off-price malls in (aside from the factors listed earlier) was that they placed their malls too close to other malls. This may not be the case with the Cypresswood and I-45 Deauville Fashion Mall and the Fry Rd. Buyer's Market mall, but some of the other ones (the Airtex Buyer's Market mall and the Baybrook Deauville Fashion Mall in particular) were quite close to existing major malls.

      Maybe I'm off-base on this, but it seems to me that those malls may have had more success if they were in areas where there wasn't so much competition with other malls. Sure, they had different kinds of stores than the traditional malls and the traditional malls may have driven retail traffic to the off-price malls, but I think people wanting the mall experience would have chosen major malls like Greenspoint and Baybrook over the smaller off-price malls.

      Of course, even the non-mall off-price Willowchase shopping center near Willowbrook Mall was a failure during the same time period so perhaps the clustering of off-price stores was the problematic point and not the malling aspect of some of these centers. Granted, Willowchase was easily repurposed as a traditional retail shopping center without any major re-construction. I suppose the Buyer's Market malls did as well with Garden Ridge coming in, but the Deauville Fashion Malls didn't live on as successful retail malls in their second lives.

      I'm not sure about the relationship between the Kingwood and proposed Will Clayton Deauville malls. Perhaps there was a change in plans, but perhaps Deauville had plans on building malls in both places if the concept was more successful. It's hard to say. Hopefully there is more information out there about Deauville and their projects because it is an interesting topic.

    4. One thing I was able to find out is that all of the Deauville Malls were foreclosed on during 1986 by the banks. There is a wikicorporation page that lists Deauville Investment Corporation as an active company but with no further information or links about the company. With this information it is unclear if the company had other businesses besides the malls. Tom Gordon from Gordon's Jewelers headed the Deauville Corporation. http://businessprofiles.com/details/deauville-development-corporation/TX-0029468200

    5. Wow, thanks for the information. That information was a good find. I never realized that there was a link between Gordon's Jewelers and Deauville. Of course, it appears that Zale's owns Gordon's now. I'm not quite sure when that happened, but it might have been a long time ago.

      I did some searching around to see if there were any articles discussing both Tom Gordon and Deauville and I found some stuff. I guess one interesting article is one from a footware store news publication in 1984 discussing the Deauville and Buyer's Market malls in Houston. It's a good article that is worth reading if you have not read it before because it gives you a sense of the rationale behind these malls. I think you have to answer a few questions first before the site will allow you to read the article. It sounded like the mall tenants were a bit more optimistic about these malls than perhaps they should have been. Oh well, I guess it is easy to look at the situation ~30 years later! It is a bit interesting to read about the concerns about not "over-shoeing" the discount malls even back in 1984. Sometimes the presence of too many shoe stores in a mall is seen as being a sign that a mall is struggling today. I suppose the over-reliance of one type of specialty retailer may not be healthy for a mall, but shoes is usually the one that comes up in this regard.

      The other article discusses how Tom Gordon had some plans to build a mall/Sam's Club in Midland, TX, but it sounds like the mall never got past the proposal/planning stage. I suppose then that Deauville/Tom Gordon had their sights beyond just Houston, but I'm not sure if they had any real impact outside of Houston.

    6. I found those articles as well; I will keep digging and see what if anymore information is available about these malls. I would be interested in seeing if I can get a store list because I only have a very small list that I was able to compile. If the malls had lasted until the 1990's I would be able to find the stores through a yellow page directory that is not updated and still lists stores from the 1990's if they had only lasted longer. I should have the Spring Deauville article up in a few weeks once I get the information together with the photos.

  28. If you want to see a FAILED moment of jcpennys , then look at the Katy store. they left west oaks , which was busy and alive at the time, and moved to katy when they heard about the Grande mall , they even built their store before construction began of the mall , and now the store is practically dead in the middle of nowhere . JC penny's is hopeful that the grand parkway will help but , if you look the exit is past the store. I think it will end up like town and country mall.

    1. JCPenney left Almeda Mall at around the same time but they moved to a good spot in Pasadena. They did pick a bad location for that store because it will not be visible from I-10 when the Grand Parkway overpasses are finished. JCPenney also moved to a bad location in Conroe that was supposed to become the next big shopping center of the area. Cabela's was supposed to open up at the Conroe center but they backed out. Now the site is JCPenney and some small stores and restaurants, but not a major shopping destination.

  29. The Houston Chronicle had a story today about the progress of the Nordstrom at The Woodlands Mall. The most interesting bit of news I got from the article is the mall built a new wing with in-line mall spaces between where the Sears mall entrance was and the new Nordstrom. I guess that helps explain why the Sears was torn down. Perhaps GGP will really cash in on that former Sears property if those in-line spaces are leased out to prime stores, but it sounds like that wing has not been leased out yet. Also, it sounds like the former Sears detached auto center was leased out to a shoe store called Tyler's. I've never heard of them.

    I laughed when the mall marketing officer called the mall an "older mall." It is 20 years old so the building might be somewhat aged, but the mall is still young relative to other malls locally and nationally. It's not like mall trends have changed significantly since 1994 either. Oh well. I also laughed when she said that the mall is trying to figure out ways to be "tech-savvy." I realize that Sears may not be the #1 destination for tech gearheads (especially for a mall that has/had an Apple and a Sony store), but it's a lot more tech-savvy than a clothing store. Oh well I guess. The new stores may provide GGP with a lot more prestige and money through the new leases, but I wonder if it is worth it for them in the long run to have even more of an expensive fashion mall while aliening about half of the population who is more interested in tools, electronics, work and affordable but not cheap clothes, sporting goods, auto services, and all the other unique stuff that Sears has to offer.