Sears Willowbrook, Grand Opening Weekend! The latest on Fast Eddie’s Sears schemes

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today we’re going to revisit the Willowbrook Sears location which you might have seen earlier at HHR in this post about the history of Willowbrook Mall or in this post about the Spirit Halloween store that opened in the Willowbrook Sears after it closed in 2020. Je of the Louisiana & Texas Retail Blog also has some photos of this Sears back when it was open in 2017-18. This Sears location was the second Houston-area mainline Sears to partially reopen as a Hometown Store after a similar stunt was pulled in Pasadena earlier this year. I had made a couple of unsuccessful attempts to visit after seeing the location pop-up online. Only to be thwarted, once by the store not being quite yet ready, and then again by the store closing early on the day I stopped by. Well, it seems that the third time was the charm, finding myself ending up at the former Willowbrook Sears during the official grand opening celebrations. 93Q Country had been on site a few hours earlier, and there was still swag being given away. The store was dressed up with banners from the radio station, and even a few from Transformco. However, conditions were far from a true grand opening and much closer to a going out of business sale. Anonymous in Houston, a long-time Willowbrook Mall Sears shopper and a friend of the blog, provides us with commentary about the new Willowbrook Sears Hometown Store via the photo captions below.

Overall, this Sears Hometown in the shell of a mainline store isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s nice that Sears is back in this part of Houston, even if it’s just in name. I had a conversation with some of the employees at this store, and while they assured me they had more merchandise on the way, I’ll believe it when I see it. There was a selection of back stock in their warehouse area, and the non-replacement of sold appliances leads me to believe that they may be purposefully not restocking purchased floor models. For the most part, though, this store is a joke compared with what Sears was. They have no desire, and likely lack the ability to restock soft lines, housewares, or anything else along those lines. While Sears Hometown Plus has debuted in other states, with vacant Kmarts, I don’t see this happening in Texas anytime soon. The real question here is, why is Eddie Lampert (Fast Eddie) perusing this? Possibly Transformco is under a legal obligation to operate stores in certain situations and areas, but who knows exactly what’s going on. If you’re in the Willowbrook area, it’s worth stopping by the mall simply to see the remounted Sears sign.

10 comments

  1. The pictures really make the descriptions I heard about this place come to life. Words just can’t describe how strange this plan is to resurrect these Sears anchor spots. I agree that the Sears Hometown Plus concept needs to be a part of the future plan for this store.

    If the highly inaccurate Sears Layoffs comments can be believed, Sears and Kmart locations had discontinued their softlines ordering last year. If that is true, I wonder what else will fill the void at the few remaining full sized stores. I guess they can use their jean shelves for walls to shrink the size of the store.

    The Eddie Lampert Parkway comment was pretty funny. With the amount of tarps they had for sale at each of their store closing sales, they still had a lot more to make this hallway.

    Well done post, Mike and Anonymous in Houston!

    1. Hi Je, I’m glad you liked the captions! Eddie Lampert was going to use those Kmart tarps one way or another. It seems he found a use for a lot of them with the Eddie Lampert Parkway! At one time, Sears wanted us to see the softer side of Sears, but now Sears tries to cover up what used to be the softer side of Sears with tarps. Oh well.

      I’m not surprised that Sears and Kmart have stopped ordering clothing. With that in mind, if Sears plans on keeping any of their old full-line stores, I’m guessing they will get converted into Sears Hometown Stores not unlike the Pasadena and Willowbrook locations. I suppose they will have even more use for rolling clothing fixtures and tarps!

      I will say that Sears did just put up some brand new signs on the outside of the Willowbrook location with the current Sears Hometown logo. I’m surprised Lampert spent the money to put up those new signs. Although it does not always appear that Sears is putting a serious effort into these Hometown stores, it does appear that they are spending at least some money to try to make these stores a success. Unfortunately, sometimes these efforts look a bit half-hearted at times. I’m sure shoppers won’t mind some of the oddities if the store carries a good inventory of goods though so we’ll see how things progress in that area.

  2. This is so surreal! Who would have ever thought not only would Sears be opening a new store, but in a way resurrecting one they closed to boot? As much as I hate to say it, as long as Sears and Kmart are owned by Lampert, neither one of these two are going to be around much longer. If Transformco eventually does collapse, hopefully Sears Hometown Stores will be sold to a new owner rather than being a casualty of the overall sinking ship. Many employees of Sears were not happy when they heard Lampert was buying them out, because they knew he was the reason the company was on its deathbed to begin with!

    1. Unfortunately, Sears and Kmart are as good as dead. They’re both at single-digit numbers, including their Guam, and PR stores. Lampert has recently stepped away from Seritage (property owner of many former Sears stores). He’s still in control of Transformco which is who owns and operates this location. We’ll see if this lasts though since he now has little reason to try and lease or even divide his former stores.

  3. its good to see a abandoned store reopen once again, even if its just a shell of its former self 🙂

  4. Well, I guess if Sears wasn’t able to make money by selling those fixtures, they’re getting their money’s worth now using them as a barrier wall!

    I’ve seen some Sears Hometown stores that look pretty presentable, but this one looks like some kind of temporary pop-up operation with the partitioned salesfloor and scattered product offerings. Maybe these stores are just that, pop-ups to make the buildings look a little more lively in the interim until Eddie can find someone with deeper pockets to move in? Who knows though. Quite fascinating though to see Sears return to one of their former locations in some form, and I like the architecture of the building too. I don’t know what Eddie’s plans are anymore, so it will be interesting to see what the future for Sears Hometown is and if more old Sears/Kmart buildings will be converted like this.

    1. When it was announced that the Willowbrook Mall Sears full-line store was closing in early 2020, I thought I would make several trips to the liquidation sale to kind of say goodbye to the store I shopped at so many times over the previous ~40 years. I did make one or two liquidation sale visits early on, but then the pandemic hit and things went into lockdown. I never visited the store again and it seemed the closing sale was cut short due to the lockdown. I thought I missed by chance to make one last visit to the store. I never would have guessed that Sears in any form would re-open in the same building two years later! Naturally, when I heard that this Sears Hometown was opening, I visited as early as I could when the store had their soft opening in January.

      It’s hard to explain what Lampert’s plans are with this store. As far as I can tell, the building is up for sale by Transformco, but perhaps they’re hoping to get a special lease for the Hometown space if they do sell the rest of the store. I don’t know. Sometimes spots listed for sale by Sears/Transformco are listed for years so I don’t know how aggressively they are trying to sell this spot.

      What I do think might be the case is that Lampert might be thinking that if he gets some Sears Hometown stores off the ground, perhaps a local owner will come around and will buy the store from Lampert and will run it as a franchised Sears store. I don’t know, that’s just a guess.

      I will say that the new Sears Hometown in a shopping center by Deerbrook Mall here in the Houston area that opened a few months ago appears to have better inventory than the Willowbrook Hometown store even though it’s in a much smaller space. It’s possible that these stores do fill up with inventory, but only after a long period of time. We’ll see. It’ll be interesting to see how many of these Sears Hometown stores Eddie Lampert opens across the country.

  5. Lots of great shots and some remarkable memories of what was in all parts of this Sears. I will say that in my brief visit before the “grand opening” that the freezer cases were being sold closer to the other appliances, so it is odd that they got moved so far away, especially since the store does appear to be better stocked overall than it was a month ago. Not as odd as a Sears selling Chinese-made “WorkPro” tools that look like they could be found at a Dollar General… Still, good to see the Sears brand still kicking and good to see them concentrating on the products they still have something left of a decent reputation for providing.

    Also, has 93Q been “The New 93Q” since Mr. Leonard was on the air? It sure seems like it.

    1. I’m glad you liked the captions, billytheskink! I can’t say that I remember exactly where the freezers were during my pre-grand opening visit to the Sears Hometown store, but I don’t remember anything sitting so far away like those freezers in Mike’s photos so I’m guessing Sears did move them to that lonely section for some reason.

      WorkPro might be an acceptable brand of tools at Kmart. Who knows, maybe they are very good tools, but I’m thinking Sears shoppers are going to expect something that is at least Craftsman quality or better. Seeing how some of the non-Sears brand stuff in this store is from respected brands, hopefully Sears Hometown can get some better known tool brands at some point.

      Wikipedia says “The New 93Q” has been new since the year 2000! I’m not so sure what’s so new about it compared to the 1990s 93Q Country. To me, 93Q is still the Top 40 station who simulcasted the Friday Night Videos TV show in the 1980s! Maybe they keep saying they are new because of people who remember 93Q as being the Top 40 station from 30+ years ago!

      1. “93Q Country” was the old station that no longer exists; that was the name of it when it was owned by AMFM which merged with Clear Channel in 2000. When this merger closed, Clear Channel had to sell of stations per federal mandate so when they sold it to Cox it became “The New 93Q”. How I see it: Clear Channel shut down “93Q Country” and sold the license to KKBQ to Cox, who then formed “The New 93Q” and has been operating under that name ever since. The other stations Clear Channel sold to Cox were 107.5 KLDE (Oldies 94.5 swapped with 107.5 The Buzz so Clear Channel could keep The Buzz, giving Cox the oldies station on 107.5) and 97.1 KKTL (which Cox eventually made Country Legends 97.1).

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