Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Alco Pasadena closing sale 2014

Alco stores officially filed for bankruptcy in November 2014 just a few months after they exited the Houston market and closed their remaining 198 stores across the United States. The company started off in 1901 and grew to many small towns throughout the United States. The company over the years grew to a few large cities including Houston. Unfortunately Alco only lasted a little more than 2 years in the Houston are, and during that time they converted their Gessner store into a clearance store before closing. 
The Pasadena Alco was located at 4200 Pasadena Blvd and had a full range of departments and grocery section in a 22,000 square foot space. It could have been a viable discount store alternative here in the Houston market, but the company was not strong enough to support and expand the chain.
This is the first trip during the closing sale. Both of the photo sets were taken in January 2014.
This is the back of the store near the auto and hardware sections facing the front. 
An up close of one of the department signs. 
The back of the store facing the front with more of a central view of the store. 
A look from the Marketplace to the other side of the store. 
The second trip during the closing sale.
One of the department box signs, this one was the grocery section of the store.
Housewares facing the center of the store.
Looking at the center of the store from the edge of the marketplace department. 
Near where the pet section was at. 
The same image from a slightly different angle to see more of the photos on the far wall.
Near the back of the store by children's clothing and hardware.
The hardware and auto sections were moved up to the front of the store. 
From the back of the store to the front.
The store closed in late February 2014.
Here is how the store looks now in February 2015 almost a year later.
The empty former Alco looks very small without all of the fixtures. 


  1. Thanks for the closing photos of the Pasadena Alco. It's sad that Alco stores had to close after such a long history. Alco's presence in Houston was hardly historic, but Alco's closing in the smaller markets may leave communities without a discount store. Alco had good sale prices, but their regular prices were slightly higher than Wal-Mart. I'm sure that was a factor in Alco's two Houston stores not working out. Plus, a lot of people simply didn't know about them. They didn't come into Houston with a large marketing push.

    I'm really glad that a former Houston vintage Kmart saw life again as a discount store with some of the vintage Kmart features like the large HVAC vents. Alco packed a lot of items and departments into a small space. The empty store pictures really show how small the store was, but empty store pictures usually make the stores seem smaller than they were when they were full.

    1. Well thanks for letting me know about these stores being around. I would have never noticed if I was not informed of their existence in the area. I wish I would have gotten photos of the other store while it was still open, but oh well.
      Maybe one of the Family Dollar or Dollar General stores will open there so we can have yet another discount retailer in that site. It would be cool to get one of the HVAC vents and create a stencil and paint a retro Kmart logo on the vent and put it on display.
      I had a comment from another reader about Sears bringing Kmart back to Houston. We are not the only ones who would be glad to have them back.

    2. A Dollar General or a Family Dollar would probably be the closest thing we'll get to a discount store opening in that spot so it would be neat to see that too. Although some of the discounts at Dollar General and Family Dollar are more imaginary than they are real, they do have good deals on certain items. It's a lot quicker getting in and out of them too compared to Walmart for example. I think convenience is just as much of a factor in the rise of the non-dollar "dollar" stores as price is.

      Getting one of those Kmart huge HVAC vents would be like getting the ultimate Kmart souvenir. They're too big for me to do anything with them, but perhaps you should try to see if you can get your hands on one if you have the room for it. I know that those big vents are the first thing some people think of when they think of Kmart.

    3. I have not shopped regularly at a Family Dollar or similar chain. I never really noticed any good deals. I guess if you compare the prices to a drugstore chain or Alco these stores are cheaper.
      I wonder how many layers of paint are on Kmart HVAC vents? I bet they are very heavy as well as bulky. Maybe one day I will get an opportunity to get one, I have a few places at home where I could stash one.

    4. I’m not sure about Alco, but I would say that Family Dollar and Dollar General are cheaper than drugstores. It depends though. For example, CVS and Walgreens are probably the cheapest places for audio cassettes. The drug stores do have some good sales at times, but for the most part, I would say that the drugstores are more expensive than discount stores and “dollar” stores. I shopped at Dollar General a few times when they first opened in this area in the late 1990s, but I have not been to one in over 10 years at this point. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been to a Family Dollar. OTOH, I have been to real dollar stores more frequently (99 Cents Only mainly). I noticed that Dollar General sold a lot of “Tozai” level electronics back in the day, but they did sell some cheap stuff that ended up lasting. We brought a cheap garden hose from Dollar General in around 1998 and it’s still being used and is in good condition even now.

      I’ve read articles saying that the “dollar” stores are more expensive than discount/grocery stores for some items, but they are cheaper than others for other things. I guess it depends on what you’re looking for. Some items may have convenience store pricing, but others may have ultra-discount store pricing. I guess it just depends. Sometimes I see the ads for Family Dollar and Dollar General and I see good deals. None of them have been good enough to pull me in I guess, but maybe I’ll shop at one of those stores again one of these days.

      I’m guessing that the Kmart HVAC vents are quite heavy. I’m not sure if they are made of plastic or metal, but I would guess that they are made of metal. I’m not sure if Kmart ever paints those so I don’t think that they would have too many layers of paint. You should definitely make a blog post about the vent if you’re ever able to get a hold of one. It’s probably way too expensive to ship so I don’t think you’ll find one on eBay, but maybe you can talk to the demolition crew about giving you one if there is an ex-Kmart that is being torn down/renovated.

    5. I guess it pays to look at the price per unit of measure. Even though I have to break my calculator out at some places.
      Speaking of Kmart/ Sears stores, I got some excellent photos of the Shepherd Sears store recently that I am planning a good post on that classic store. I need to go by during the day though to get better shots of the outside. I did get the classic sign with all of the neon finally working. I also noticed that the store has mini HVAC vents that remind me of the Kmart vents.

    6. The N. Shepherd Sears is one of the most interesting retail spots in Houston. Photos of the Sears vintage neon street sign are probably amongst the most popular Houston vintage retail photos online. The store does have smaller versions of those round HVAC vents like vintage Kmarts have. I look forward to seeing the photos of the store. A couple of interesting areas of that store are the stairs and the breakroom near the tool department. I guess that every Sears has a breakroom/office, but that one is more obvious than some others aside from the Westwood Mall Sears.

      It is important to check the quantity sizes because I’ve noticed different stores selling items with slightly different quantities. Sometimes the boxes seem the same, but they are different. It would not surprise me if the “dollar” stores sell sizes that are a little different, but I’ve never actually check to see. I subscribe to Consumer Reports magazine and they do have articles about this pretty frequently.

    7. I always enjoy going to that store more than others for some reason. I also got some good photos of the new Parts Direct department.

    8. It's interesting that you say that about the N. Shepherd Sears because I was thinking that the N. Shepherd store is one of my favorites too when I was writing out my prior reply. The store has a lot of retro features, but it also has most of the modern touches inside that other Sears stores in this area have received. It certainly feels more modern inside than the Main St. Sears for example (not that there is anything wrong with the Main. St. store). The store also seems to have the right feel for the location that it is in. If there is one place in Houston to have a store with retro features, the Heights is probably it.

      The N. Shepherd Sears also has a pretty nice electronics department unless things have changed since my last visit a couple of months ago. I don't know if the department is any bigger than any other mid-size Sears in the area, but it is at least as big as the other similar sized Sears. I've picked up some good deals in that electronics department. I saw the PartsDirect department during my last visit to the store. It's pretty nice looking. I look forward to seeing the photos of it since it's hard for me to remember all the details about it from one quick visit. The men's clothing department also seems pretty nice there compared to some other Sears. I don't know if the sales numbers are congruent with my observations, but the store has always been pretty busy during my visits.

    9. I went to the store on a Saturday evening and it was busy despite a rain storm. I think the Shepherd store is a great location for Sears to try new concepts. The electronics section shrunk a little bit, but it is still one of the bigger locations. They also refreshed the appliance and electronics section with new paint and signage. It may have already been that way, but I just noticed it on my visit.
      I also wanted to get a picture of the Main St. Sears at night, but they had turned the sign off early. I will try to make it next time around sun down to get a good photo of that retro sign, but with the time change I may have to wait since the store closes early.

    10. Thanks for the update about the N. Shepherd Sears. I’m looking forward to seeing your post about it. As for the Main St. Sears, we’re in the strange time of the year now where the store closes before sundown. It seems odd for a major store like Sears to do that, but then again, I suppose there are times during the summer where even the Mall of the Mainland Sears closes before total sundown. I always try to get pictures of the vintage Sears signs (mainly the rooftop one) whenever I visit the Main St. Sears. My last couple of visits have been in early February where it is still dark early so I’m able to get the pictures of the sign lit up.

    11. I have not seen the sign lit up at the Main St. Sears since the time has changed. I guess that it will not be lit up until the time changes back again. I wonder why this store does not stay open until at least 8 pm during this time of the year. I went about a week ago in the last hour of business and there were several customers on the first floor and a few on the bottom floor.

    12. My recent visits to the Main St. Sears have been during the 6 PM hour and I've also noticed that the store has a decent number of shoppers in it during that time. I'm not saying that the store was packed, but there were a decent number of shoppers. I went to the Fiesta next door after 7 and it was busy then. Granted, grocery stores probably stay busier later than department stores. It seems to me that it might be justified to stay open later, but I guess Sears has their reasons for closing that store at 7 PM. Perhaps they've done some sales research and found that sales really dropped off past a certain time. Who knows. I know that I for one would shop there more frequently if it stayed open later. It's hard for me to get to that store well enough before 7 to have enough time to do the shopping that I want to do.

      As for keeping an eye on the sign to see if it is ever on during DST, well, I usually try to avoid that part of 59 if I can for obvious reasons, but sometimes I take that route in the latter part of the evening if the Pierce Elevated is backed up. I'll try to keep an eye on it when I go that way, but Sears probably keeps the sign off. Even the mall Sears seem to turn their signage lights off after their stores close whereas some other anchors keep the lights on all night.

    13. I passed by again somewhat early last night and the lights were still off. It is strange because the lights were staying on very late at night a few months ago. I think during the Summer they would have good business until at least 8 pm at that location.

  2. It doesn't make sense why they close so earlier . Most stores stay open till 9 sun- sat in Houston. I found that odd they are opened til 9 on Sunday but I guess they now are doing summer schedule since the time changed.