Monday, January 18, 2016

Mall of the Mainland 2015 update

Things are looking up at the Mall of the Mainland. A new ownership group has taken over the majority of the property and big things are happening. The new ownership has all of the anchors filled, and has greatly improved the future of the once ailing mall. Sears and the Cinemark Movies 12 are still operating as normal on the property. The former Macy's was completely renovated and reopened as well. Both the former JCPenney and the former Dillard's are also being renovated to become a college expansion and church. An indoor trampoline park, large salon, and a new bar occupying the former Stingers bar space are also in the works. Progress has been quick, all of the photographed projects were started in the first half of 2015. These images were taken in the first half of 2015, I will provide a future update in 2016.  

Here is the former Macy's anchor as it now looks. They added windows to the second floor to bring light into the new gym.
Here is the inside of the former Macy's. The escalator goes to the new World Gym.
Some fixtures from Macy's remain, but they blend in with the new surroundings. 
The middle of the store is configured as a mini-mall. 
The center court has been renovated very nicely.

The new road sign.
The former Macy's, now occupied by World Gym, Palais Royal, and Galaxy Nutrition. Palais Royal moved from a junior anchor space in the mall to a prime spot in the largest mall building facing the highway.

One of the spaces facing the former mall entrance to Macy's was being worked on.
A few more shots of the inside of the former Macy's.

Inside of the Palais Royal which still looks like the former Macy's. 

The former Affordable Furniture junior anchor, with a night vision filter so you could see it better. 
The closed off corridor entrance near Sears.
Zoomed in through the glass to see the former mall corridor.
Taken from the glass of the Sears mall entrance
This was taken from the other side of the Sears mall entrance glass. The mall corridor still nearly looks the same as when it closed with the exception of the wall constructed to separate the mall.
The sign at the Affordable Furniture outside entrance
The beginnings of the former JCPenney anchor conversion. College of the Mainland will eventually occupy this space. 
Through the glass doors this is all you can see, but things are looking up for the long-abandoned anchor.
The Dillard's is being converted into the First Baptist Church, the store was in the process of getting a new paint job on my visits. As you can see from my previous mall photos, the landscaping has also been cleaned up revealing more of the building. 

New paint on the Cinemark Movies 12. 

A better look at the Dillard's, with the paint job nearly completed on one side.


  1. Thanks for posting the updated information about the Mall of the Mainland. It's been interesting seeing Karam redevelop the property. I think most of us figured that the property would just sit there and rot or maybe become redeveloped for industrial use, but Karam was able to find some new tenants.

    For the most part, the new tenants aren't really retail, but it's something. The gym, church, and college expansion all have the potential of driving traffic to the mall. That may help push retailers to want to come back in.

    I have not read anything about the mall corridors reopening yet. That would be great if that happens, but we'll see I guess.

    Another new tenant not listed is the wrestling studio that is going into the old Palais Royal. I'm not sure if that is being constructed yet or not. I think the church and college stuff are solid deals, but who knows how solid the trampoline park, bar/restaurant, and wrestling facility are. I guess we'll see when they open. We'll also have to see if Cinemark renews their lease. At this point, I don't think the rumored new cinema near the Tanger Outlet is going to happen so maybe it will be renewed if Cinemark wants to keep a theater in the area.

    The ex-Dillard's was fully painted and looks pretty nice again. They've taken the shutters off the doors. I'm not sure if the church has started work inside or not yet though. Some work was done to gut the old JCPenney before the sale to the college, but I don't think the college has started work inside yet.

    I believe the mall has taken the old planters out of the area near the Sears mall entrance. Aside from that, I'm not sure what else has been done. I do visit the Mall of the Mainland Sears pretty frequently so I'll try to continue to post updates as soon as I get them.

    1. Keep us posted on the progress of the mall. Lots of new deals are in the works to bring the property back to life.

  2. Sorry to go off-topic but I have a question bugging me: did any of the first Houston Walmart stores start out as Kuhn's Big K stores? Kuhn's Big K was a chain from Tennessee started in 1962 (gee, what a big year for retailing: Walmart, Woolco, Target, Kmart, Kohl's, and ShopKo all started that year) that sold out to Walmart in 1981. Apparently Walmart remodeled most if not all of these stores to the standard 80's Walmart format, so a former Kuhn's today would not be recognizable as such.

    Not surprisingly, a lot of the Kuhn's-Walmart converted stores were replaced by Walmart Supercenter stores during the 90's (and Bud's Discount City was used to fill the old store spaces). Of course Bud's didn't last long and not surprisingly, Big Lots ended up in a lot of the old Bud's spaces.

    Surprisingly Walmart did nothing to remodel the old Woolco in Conroe, but sunk a lot of money into remodeling old Kuhn's Big K stores.

    Also, I just found out that the Walmart (still open) in Lakeland, Florida was originally a Zayre. But a document with Walmart opening dates lists Walmart opening in 1985 which doesn't make sense unless Zayre did a round of closings around that time. It wasn't until 1989 that the Zayre chain sold out to Ames. Also the Walmart in Lakeland appears to be from the 90's. It's possible the store got a major remodel in the 90's, but the store has never become a Supercenter so I would be surprised if it got a remodel when it was still fairly new. On top of this I don't know if Walmart demolished the Zayre building or not.

    The document lists the closing Walmart near Willowbrook as having opened in 1984 but I think that date refers to the old store on 249 opening. So I guess it's possible that the Walmart on the old Zayre property was a 90's relocation of a 1985 Walmart down the street, but that wouldn't be obvious from the list of opening dates.

    1. Kuhn's was only really in TN, KY, AL, and a few other eastern states. Houston was largely organic growth for Walmart; Kuhn's didn't exist in TX.

      Kuhn's was the second major acquisition for Walmart after a 16 store chain in MO and IL called Mohr Value. WMT took great care to remold the Big K stores. By the time the Woolco stores came up for occupancy, Walmart wanted them open quickly, as most were filling in areas where they did not operate.

    2. I don’t believe Kuhn’s Big K had any stores in Houston.

  3. There has been some recent Mall of the Mainland news. The Galveston Daily News is reporting that the Ryan’s Steakhouse, which is in an outparcel at the mall, has closed. Early rumors were that it closed due to being shut down by the health department, but Ryan’s is saying that it was closed due to poor business.

    I’m also hearing rumors that the local college is getting cold feet about buying the former JCPenney. It seems that the building may need more work than what was anticipated. The college still has an exit clause in their deal so we’ll have to see if they exercise that. It would be a big blow for Karam if the college backs out though because it’ll be hard to find another tenant especially given the potential needs for costly repairs. Perhaps Karam would be willing to discount the sale price or will repair the building for the college or for another tenant just to get the spot filled.

    I also recently visited the Mall of the Mainland Sears. It was my first visit to the mall in quite some time. There really isn’t much to report since my last visit before Christmas. The seasonal department does not have any Christmas stuff left which is good. In fact, they’ve already started putting out the seasonal items for Spring/Summer. The electronics department is just about the same as it was before. The blank media section was looking pretty thin and disorganized though. They don’t have VHS tapes anymore (maybe they have VHS-C tapes) and the stock of blank DVDs and CDs isn’t what it used to be either, but they still have some left. The stock of SD cards and flash drives was still decent though. Aside from that, it does not look like they had a lot of clearance items so perhaps things are settling down a bit with the electronics purge.

    I did look at the Sears mall entrance and it does not look like much has happened since my last visit. The planters and tree debris have been removed, but that was done a few months ago. I saw a janitorial cart in that area, but that may have been there last time too.

    There really wasn’t much to report at the other buildings at the mall either other than it seems that the wrestling studio at the old Palais Royal location may be open now. They had a banner in front of it, but I could not read it since it was all twisted up because of the high winds in the area at the time. Anyway, I’ll continue to get reports as I can get them.

    1. Thanks for the updates at the Mall of the Mainland. Hopefully a new restaurant takes over the Ryan's space soon. I had eaten there a few times over the years.

      I am sure there is a backup plan if the JCPenney spot is not filled by the college. A flea market or possibly a grocer can be an option. Look at the former JCPenney at PlazAmericas to see what they could do with that building. At least one of the new businesses has opened. Did you get a chance to see if the bar opened?

    2. The Galveston Daily News actually ran a short story about the new Stuttgarden Tavern at the Mall of the Mainland. I don't think it's open yet (I didn't see any evidence of it during my visit, but I didn't go into the theater part of the mall), but the article does indeed confirm that there is a plan to open it. The tavern also has some construction photos on their Facebook page from a few days ago.

      A grocery store would be an excellent tenant, but it would probably cost a lot to renovate that building for that so I don't know how well that would work. I suppose a flea market could be a good option since they may not care as much about the condition of the building. Still, hopefully Karam can find a tenant who will take care of the building and drive traffic to the mall if the college does indeed back out.

      The other outparcel restaurants seem to be doing okay at the Mall of the Mainland so perhaps the Ryan's closure is an isolated thing. The Gringo's and Olive Garden seem to do especially well. The Beyond Burger may not do as well, but I've heard that it's pretty good. Anyway, the Ryan's probably had the worst location out of those outparcals since it isn't totally visible from the FM 1764 freeway. Hopefully though someone else will take over that spot and will have better success with it.

    3. The roof of the mall was notoriously bad for a while. I am willing to bet the JCPenney store had roof damage from neglect and Ike. A building of that size would not be cheap to repair.

      Ryan's closed over 70 locations at the same time. Conroe is listed as being closed in the news article but it is still on their website. Texas City is not on their website anymore but was not in the article for store closings. Maybe they got the store mixed up for the press release. Either way the closing is poor timing for the redevelopment of the mall.

  4. je - do you have a store list for October 2013 and/or October 2012?

    1. Follow the link to my original article near the bottom for the closest store list from that tome. The February 2013 store list is very close to what was there in Oct 2012 and Oct 2013. Surprisingly there was not much store turnover until December 2013. Many of the businesses even held on until the last month.

  5. I was on the Sears website today and I noticed that the hours for the Mall of the Mainland Sears have changed. The store now closes at 7pm instead of 8pm before. It now has the same hours as the Main St. Sears I do believe. I don’t know if this is a permanent change, a trial, or a temporary change due to slow seasonal sales during this period.

    1. I wonder if this is a companywide change for the stores that used to close at 8pm. I guess this store does all of their business early in the day.

    2. I don’t think it’s a company-wide change for stores that closed at 8pm because I looked up the hours for the Brazos Mall Sears and they’re still closing at 8pm. Perhaps their hours will change soon though, it might be worth keeping an eye on that. I can only assume that the Mall of the Mainland Sears must not do great business during the 8-9 timeframe or else I’m sure Sears would have kept the store open longer.

      Anyway, we’ll see if the store goes back to the old store hours later on in the spring/summer when the sale of lawn equipment and patio furniture (amongst other things probably) pick up. It’s odd that many Sears are open significantly less hours than their competition. I can understand why the Main St. Sears would close early given the perceptions of crime in the area (even though I’ve never felt unsafe shopping there even close to closing time), but I don’t think that reason would apply to the Mall of the Mainland store. I can say that business at the Mall of the Mainland Sears was good during my last visit (which was in the early afternoon), but they did have less checkouts open than usual. The men’s department register was not open. I don’t remember it ever being closed during previous shopping visits.

      In other Mall of the Mainland news, the Stuttgarden bar has put up an outdoor sign on the mall. Oddly enough, it’s on the south facing side of the mall instead of being by the Movies 12. It’s by the old Palais Royal. That does not make sense if one has to enter through the theater entrance to get to the bar. Thus, I wonder if the mall has re-opened the old Palais Royal mall entrance to go back to the theater area. I may have to check that out, but I’ll probably wait until after the bar opens to check that out. Anyway, there is a picture of the sign on the bar’s Facebook page along with more construction photos.

    3. I guess it is a business decision for Sears. It seems like all Sears stores in smaller markets close at 8pm or earlier now. I still remember how quiet the mall was when only 2 stores Footaction and Bath and Body Works were open after 8pm in the final days. The movies were also open, but it was very quiet.

      I guess the management of Stuttgarden put the sign up to draw people attention, but hopefully they have some signs leading the way to the back of the mall if the entrance has not reopened at the front of the mall. The interior of the bar looks nice and they are really giving the space a face lift unlike previous owners.

  6. Here’s a quick Mall of the Mainland update. I don’t think the Stuttgarden bar has opened yet, but they do have some updated construction pictures on their Facebook page linked in an above post. I’ll try to check the mall out for updates when the bar opens.

    Also, I’m hearing that the local college has decided not to buy the ex-JCPenney after all. That’s a pretty big blow for Karam, but maybe he’ll be able to recover and find another tenant. We’ll have to see how that develops.

    1. The bar will need to be extra special to draw crowds to the back of the mall.

      Hopefully a big box retailer or two will show interest in the former JCPenney, a flea market is another use that could work for that space.

  7. Here's yet another Mall of the Mainland update. It seems that Dish Network had plans to open a 60,000 sq. ft. call center at the Mall of the Mainland, but those plans appear to have been scraped after Dish decided to downsize their call center labor force in the area.

    I'm not sure where the call center would have gone, but the ex-JCPenney is certainly a guess. It seems like Karam has had some struggles getting deals done recently, but we'll see what happens.

    1. Thanks for the update, at least the new owner is more aggressive with getting spaces filled. It should not be too much longer until he finds a new tenant to take over the former JCPenney.

  8. Well, it has been confirmed that College of the Mainland is walking away from JcPenney.

    1. Thanks for the update. All I could see without a subscription is that the building will become a climate controlled storage facility. I guess something is better than nothing, but the college would have brought more traffic to the mall property.

    2. I read a few weeks back that some sort of organization that offers Head Start type classes for low income families will open at the Mall of the Mainland soon. Of course, as mentioned earlier, it looks like self storage might be coming to the ex-JCPenney. I guess something is better than nothing as you say.

    3. It is strange that retail on that side of 45, has struggled with the loss of Mall of the Mainland. Also most stores at the next door shopping center Mainland Crossing I think is the name, have also closed and been replaced with non-retail tenants. With the exception of the old outlet mall, retail has been more successful over there.

    4. You're right, there's not much retail left in the Mainland Crossing. In fact, as far as I can remember, the Office Depot is the only "traditional" retailer left in that shopping center.

      The southbound side of I-45 seems to be doing better than the northbound side in the La Marque/Texas City area. It's been a while since I've read about this, but I think I read that La Marque offered tax benefits for the Wal-Mart to move from Mainland Crossing in Texas City to across the freeway in La Marque. Perhaps that included the Sam's Club that moved to La Marque as well. Of course, Wal-Mart is a magnet so there are smaller stores built around the Wal-Mart. I'm not really sure if it mattered to Wal-Mart whether they were east or west of I-45 aside from the tax benefits, but I guess being on the other side of the freeway does put them closer to shoppers in areas like Hitchcock and Santa Fe. I'm not sure if those communities are really big enough for it to really matter though.

      Tanger Outlets and Bucees might be doing fine too, but they really have not drawn any other retailers/restaurants to the area. The majority of the restaurants in that area are still by the Mall of the Mainland. As a whole, it seems like Texas City and La Marque are still pretty dead areas for retail development. There is a new large subdivision under development near the Wal-Mart called Lago Mar (which I believe is in Texas City) that could help spur on further retail development near the Wal-Mart or even near the Mall of the Mainland. Having said all of that, I'm still not sure if that will be enough to spur on retail development in that area. It seems like retailers prefer to stick with the League City area where retail seems more proven.

    5. Texas City has had a tough time keeping major retailers over the years. Walmart and Sam's are probably the most successful retailers in that area. The Mall of the Mainland and the older Outlet Mall never lived up to the full potential of the area. It seems like many of the areas close to the chemical plants like Baytown, Texas City, and Pasadena are unable to keep the malls in the area prosperous. All three of those areas have dead or struggling malls.

  9. Here are some Mall of the Mainland updates worth noting. There have been a couple of recent articles in the Galveston Daily News about the mall, but it requires a subscription to view them. I have access to the articles so I'll go ahead and summarize them.

    As expected, there are plans to convert the ex-JCPenney into a self-storage center. The building will also have a business center for printing and copying services. A karate facility will also open up in the World Gym/Palais Royal (ex-Macy's) building that I believe is called Plaza Royale now.

    More interestingly, Karam and partners are trying to set up a "restaurant row" within the Mall of the Mainland. He and the Chamber of Commerce have been entertaining local restaurant owners trying to get them to open up multiple restaurants within the Mall of the Mainland. Karam claims that he can offer below market rent since the Cinemark Movies 12 is paying market rent. I'm not sure if this means that they have renewed their lease or not.

    Anyway, we'll see if the restaurant row idea has any success. Karam is saying that the mall is already 65% leased with it's current tenants. The restaurant idea might be the only way the mall actually opens up again as an indoor mall. I'd assume each restaurant would have a private dining room, ala Stuttgarden, and not be part of the food court with a walk-up ordering system with a central dining area, but who knows. Anyway, the concept of an indoor restaurant mall is not totally unheard of in tourist heavy areas, but it would be pretty strange seeing one in Texas City. Then again, there are some successful outparcel restaurants in front of the Mall so maybe there's hope of making it a "dinner and a show" hot spot with either the Movies 12 or the wresting studio offering the shows. The church in the ex-Dillard's could also be considered a show too I guess. The local college nearby also has a community theater for live shows and music. The dog track nearby also has shows too I guess.

    1. It is a shame that he would not be able to get minor gambling such as slot machines or video poker into the mall. The restaurant row would really be a success if they could get that. The church organization would probably not like that idea though. If some kind of entertainment such as bowling and video games opened with the restaurants it could work. Look up the Viaport Rotterdam Mall in New York to see some great ideas they are using. They opened up a large gaming area, modern night club, and they are building an aquarium inside of the mall.

    2. It should be noted that, at least according to the article, construction has already started on the “restaurant row” even though they do not have any commitments yet. They say that some exterior work will be done as well for the restaurant row so I’m not exactly sure where this will be. I guess Karam is confident, but we’ll see.

      You’re probably right that the Baptist church and the Head Start school would not approve of gambling at the mall, but it would probably bring some visitors to the mall. The Viaport Rotterdam Mall is interesting, thanks for the heads up about it. The Sears there closed recently, but it seems that the Kmart is still there for now.

    3. The restaurant row idea is somewhat bad timing. According to several reports many restaurant operators believe that a restaurant recession has begun. Several restaurant corporations have entered bankruptcy this year and others are seeing declines in comp store sales.

      Having Kmart as the only anchor for a mall is troubling. Thankfully Kmart and Sears have only announced the closing of one more Sears store in the past month. I don't know if the report of bankruptcy kept them from closing more stores or if they are waiting on the results for the next quarter to come in, but it seems likely we will see more closures.

    4. I have not been following restaurant industry news, but that does not look promising for the Mall of the Mainland’s restaurant row. Thanks for the news. In case anyone is wondering, there is a rendering of what the restaurant row will look like on the outside on Jerome Karam’s website. It looks like it will be an extensive renovation and supposedly the renovation is ongoing now from the inside out.

      I did recently visit the Mall of the Mainland Sears for the first time in several months. I didn’t really see any major differences on the outside of the mall aside from some new trees on the backside of the Sears and near the Movies 12. There’s still no activity at the ex-JCPenney that I can see. As for the Sears itself, it looks just about the same as it did last time. The electronics department is still just two aisles plus a clearance area, but they’ve rearranged the aisles a little bit so now it’s more like one long aisle instead of two smaller ones. I was hoping to see a Kenmore TV there, but they don’t have any TVs on display. I’m not even sure if they sell TVs. They still have a lot of the RCA cassette boomboxes though.

      A lot of the items in the electronics clearance area did not have price stickers on them so I wasn’t even sure if they were on clearance. I noticed this at the Willowbrook Mall Sears electronics department recently too though. Sears may need to put more effort into their clearance signage if they actually want to move the products.

      I did look into the mall through the Sears mall entrance. The doors on the wall they put up near the old Affordable Furniture were open/removed. Perhaps this is related to the restaurant row renovation, but I couldn’t really see anything of note. I did see a couple of the fake storefronts for the first time since the mall closed though.

      I’m sure there will be more Sears closures over time. Many Sears locations are owned by Sears and not leased (though things are changing a bit with the Seritage REIT) so there may not be as many closings as there are with Kmarts that close when their leases are up, but stores will close if Sears can cash in on the properties or if a store is just generally underperforming.

    5. Thanks for sending the info over about the restaurant row. The image of the entrance really looks nice. I still think they need more retail at the site to help bring more traffic to the property. If they can get Burlington or a similar store into the former JCPenney it would really help.

      I wonder if the restaurant row will be attached to the Sears entrance or if it will just be in the old food court space. Either way with them removing the wall it seems like they might be getting closer to reopening a portion of the mall.

      It sounds like the Sears will be like the smaller stores I have been to recently with nearly no electronics in stock. The Lufkin Sears also got rid of most of their electronics, but they still have a staffed cash register there.

      The REIT has made it very easy to close Sears stores. I would be very concerned if I worked at one of those locations since they are some of the best locations in the chain.

  10. I don't think there are any options left for a new anchor sized retailer at the Mall of the Mainland with the ex-JCPenney slated to become self-storage units unless the Sears closes. I'm sure Karam tried to get a traditional retailer, but I suppose those efforts failed like they did for all the other previous operators for the mall.

    I'm not sure where the restaurant row will be exactly, but my guess is that it will take up at least some of the room in the Sears wing. That's just a guess though. I'm not sure what's going on with the JCPenney/Dillard's wing since that is presumably still vacant as well.

    Anyway, the wall they put up by the Affordable Furniture is still there, but the doors on it were open or removed. I'm guessing that was done to make it easier for construction workers to get in. Hopefully the Sears mall entrance will reopen though. We'll see what happens soon I'm guessing since renovations are supposedly underway.

    I went to the Sears website and searched for TVs that are in stock at the Mall of the Mainland store and it came up with one Seiki 43" 1080p TV and one Upstar 32" 720p TV. I'm not sure if these are actual items in stock or if they are just clearance TVs that have not sold yet, but certainly they are not on display at the store. You would think that they would have Kenmore TVs, but I guess not.

    1. Oh that's right, I forgot about the self-storage facility at the old JCPenney.

      Maybe we will get more updates as the restaurant project is underway. It seems like the owner has moved quickly with projects once they are announced. The Stuttgarden Tavern is still there and posting frequent Facebook updates.

      I wonder if those are TV's that are waiting to be returned to the manufacturer sitting in the stock room. The San Jacinto Mall Sears is going in the opposite direction and has slightly expanded their electronics selection. They even had a table advertising Pokemon Go items such as flashlights, mobile app gift cards, and others on a small display in front of the department. The mattress department was moved into a former section of Men's clothing I guess to make room for seasonal items.

      Another mall that is getting a new start is the Inglewood Mall in Morgan City. A new owner has taken over the mall and commented on my page. I hope to have a chance to check on the progress in the future to see how they improve the property.

  11. Replies
    1. I have not been back in a while, I need to pass by one of these days. There are several projects going on, but I am not sure how far along they are on any of them.

    2. Here are some Mall of the Mainland updates. The Altitude Trampoline Park recently put up a billboard on I-45 advertising that they are coming soon to the Mall of the Mainland. The old mall entrance between the ex-JCPenney and ex-Dillard’s has been painted purple and a trampoline park sign has been put on it. I’m not sure when the trampoline park will open, but that will be a big thing for the old mall.

      The Affordable Furniture sign on the Sears side of the mall has finally been taken down and it looks like there has been some work done to that area as well, but it’s less clear what exactly is being done there. The Sears is still operating, but they recently put a solid curtain up on the old mall entrance so it’s no longer possible to look into the small part of the mall that was still visible from the Sears.

      A new entrance has been built next to the old Palais Royal (now the wrestling studio). I assume that this is for the “restaurant row” idea that the mall is pushing. I don’t think any restaurants have committed to the idea yet though, but Stuttgarden is still operating out of the old bar near the movie theater.

      As far as I know, the ex-Dillard’s has not been converted into a church yet. I’m not sure when that is expected to happen or if there have been any changes of plans. There has been some construction work on the ex-JCPenney, which was planned to become a self-storage/business center, but I have not seen any recent activity there. It’s possible that the trampoline park may use the ex-JCPenney, but I think that’s going in the old mall wing itself. We’ll see.

      Sears, Movies 12, Palais Royal, and the World Gym all seem to be operating fine. Nothing has closed as far as I can tell.