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.
One of the problems Sears has with this location is that the big Sears sign is covered by the trees over on the right. Yes, if you look hard enough, you’ll see the Sears sign! The sign being hidden wasn’t such a big deal when the full-line store was open and everyone knew there was a Sears here, but with most people not really knowing about Sears Hometown, Sears might have to try hard to grab attention so people know that there is actually an operating Sears store at this location.
The most distinctive exterior features of the Willowbrook Sears are certainly these large arched entryways. At one time, Sears gave each of their stores a unique look from other Sears locations and certainly this Sears does not look like the other Houston-area Sears that opened in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Also note that the long-closed outdoor garden center is over on the right.
Get used to seeing these rolling clothing displays in this store because there are a whole lot of them!
While Sears Hometown Stores sell more than just major appliances, there’s no doubt that major appliances are Sears Hometown’s main department. This is certainly emphasized by what shopper see when they enter the store from the outside entrance.
Appliances are taking up the bulk of what used to be the tool department.
A Sears grand opening in 2022! Is this a dream?!
The wooden desk over on the far right here is something that was added by Sears Hometown for their employees to use. The desk did not exist in the old Sears full-line store.
This checkout area was also a checkout area at the old full-line Sears.
Back in the last few years of the Sears full-line store, they used green plastic flooring for heavy lawn & garden items and red plastic flooring for heavy tool items. Sears Hometown just uses a grey plastic floor for these things. The old colors were certainly a bit more colorful.
Here’s a look down the main non-appliance corridor of the Sears Hometown Store.
Believe it or not, these restrooms look a lot more impressive from the inside of them than from the outside!
In the last few years of the Sears full-line store, Sears put up posters of fake grass to dress up these rather dowdy looking pegboards.
One advantage of using this corner of the store is that it allows customers to use the restrooms since they are located in the part of the store used by Sears Hometown.
Sears Hometown really does not want people getting into the old Auto Center!
It’s amazing how many of these carts Sears has around this Hometown Store. I wonder if some of them came from other Sears stores.
This used to be a popular corner when the full-line store was open as the Auto Center was just off to the right and electronics would have been straight ahead.
This spot in front of that red column used to house the computer that one could order things online from Sears’ website back in the last few years of the Sears full-line store. The computer is long-gone now.
Washing machines are certainly given front-and-center treatment at Sears Hometown.
This somewhat scarred grey vinyl floor reminds me of the potholes in many very low quality HEB concrete floors. This might be the only thing Sears has in common with HEB!
Back around 2000, we bought a front-load washing machine from Sears back when they only sold one Maytag and one Kenmore front-load washer. Now, they sell many front-load washing machines.
These laundry centers remind me of The Price is Right episodes from around 40 years ago as they often gave these away as prizes. One can still buy one from Sears Hometown!
These old Sears clothing fixtures block off what used to be the old Sears Auto Center.
I think I bought some Lee slacks from this cart a few years ago from the men’s department! Now, it’s no longer in the men’s department as this cart serves another role as a fake wall for the Sears Hometown Store.
It appears Sears tried to sell this fixture at one time since it still has a price tag, but now it’s part of the structure of the Sears Hometown store. I wonder if Sears Hometown would entertain offers if someone really wanted to buy that fixture.
Here’s a lonely looking water softener hanging out by the old Sears Portrait Studio.
The fake wood in the old Sears Portrait Studio looks quite nice. It’s too bad that area is not open to the public anymore.
The banners hanging from the ceiling imply that Sears Hometown Stores are locally owned. While that is true for some locations, it is my understanding that this location is owned by Transformco, the parent company of Sears and Kmart.
Yes, those red baskets are old Sears Hardware Store baskets! I wonder for how long Sears has been hanging onto those!
Here’s a peek into what’s left of the old Sears cart corral and Sears Portrait Studio.
It’s a bit odd seeing commercial washing machines at Sears Hometown, but here is a set of Maytag Commercial washing appliances!
Country music and dishwashers!
While Sears Hometown has you covered when it comes to cooktops, it seems that built-in ovens might not be their specialty these days.
At one time, the red stripe at Sears stores meant tools, but that’s not the case now.
In around 1994, we bought a GE tabletop microwave from the Willowbrook Sears. I guess we can still do that here in 2022 as well!
Some of these appliance accessories are not exactly common at other stores. It’s nice to have them back in stock for those who need them.
Sears Hometown has a full range of ranges.
Mixers like this would have been upstairs in the old full-line Sears. These Kenmore mixers look like they would be popular with cooks.
This area used to contain things such as open-stock tools in the last few years of the old full-line Sears. Long-time Willowbrook Sears shoppers might remember that this area used to house the ceiling fan and ceiling light fixture display many years ago.
As one would expect, Sears Hometown carries refrigerators in all the popular styles.
Here’s a triple-layer cake of old vinyl tiles! The green tiles are likely the old green tiles Sears used to use in lawn & garden departments. The Westwood Mall Sears had those green tiles for many decades and the store closed with those tiles still being used.
This employee cart certainly got a lot of use back when this store used to be a full-line store!
Sears Hometown sells not only common major appliance such as washing machines and ranges, but they also have more niche appliances such as chest freezers.
It appears Sears Hometown has decided to leave freezers out in the cold wilderness.
From here, one can see the three biggest departments that Sears Hometown carries: appliances, mattresses, and tools.
Mattresses are one thing that moved around several times in the last decade of the old full-line Sears stores. They were in various spots upstairs, but then they moved to the old electronics department. Now, with the Hometown store, they are in what used to be the sporting goods department. The sporting goods have moved across the hallway.
Perhaps Sears Hometown should sell ladders to those who buy this mattress!
From this angle, it’s hard to tell if this is a grand opening sale or a liquidation sale!
While this is hardly the old Craftsman Power Shop from years past, at least Sears Hometown does have some Craftsman tools. I wonder if this is old Sears inventory sent in from closed full-line stores or if this is truly new inventory.
While the lack of inventory makes striking displays quite hard to make, this is an example of a good display which shows how one could outfit their garage with Sears Hometown tools.
One could make their own Sears bar with those bar stools!
The small selection of tools that Sears Hometown sells is quite random. It would probably be advisable for Sears Hometown to expand this selection by Christmas since items like these are often given as gifts.
While large tool chests like this used to be sold in this area of the store back in the 1990s, the old full-line store had them across the hallway in more recent times.
This area mostly contained lawn & garden equipment in the last few years of the Sears full-line store and that’s mostly still the case with the Sears Hometown store today.
Sears Hometown places their BBQ pits pretty close to where the old full-line store put them in their last few years.
A few months before this full-line Sears closed, this wall contained Christmas store items. Now, it’s mostly empty.
Sears Hometown carries a mixture of brands that I’m very familiar with, such as Husqvarna and Poulan Pro, but they also sell some brands I’ve never heard of such as Senix.
Here’s a set of double doors leading to a back stockroom. It seems to me that the majority of the inventory that this Sears Hometown Store sells is actually housed right at the store instead of at a central Sears warehouse since it seems that most of those have closed. That’s good news for shoppers who want to take an appliance home with them right way. This location might also supply some of the smaller shopping center Sears Hometown Stores in the area, such as the Cypress and Humble locations, with inventory as well.
I must admit to not knowing anything about Pulsar garden power tools.
While Sears Hometown has enough merchandise to fill one’s garage, filling an old department store with merchandise is a bit more difficult.
Yes, believe it or not, Sears Hometown is using the mall entrance even though the actual store is on the opposite side of the building from the mall entrance. When the Sears Hometown store first had their soft opening in mid-January, the Sears mall entrance sign had not yet been re-installed. Now it is back up and glowing!
If the actual Sears Hometown store is in the back of the building, how does one use the mall entrance to get to the store? Well, this is something that has to be seen to believe! Yes, Sears used tarps and old fixtures to create a hallway leading shoppers to the Sears Hometown store without allowing them to wander into the closed parts of the building! The blue light clearly turned on in someone’s mind! That’s not just smart, that’s Kmart…err…Sears smart!
I’m of the opinion that this tarp and old fixture-lined tunnel leading into the Sears Hometown store ought to be called the Eddie Lampert Parkway! Oddly enough, with the old full-line Sears having an incomplete liquidation sale caused by the Covid-19 lockdown of 2020, Sears probably held onto some of these fixtures that they otherwise were hoping to sell. They’ve certainly found a use for those fixtures now though!
This peek behind the tarp shows the old women’s clothing department and the escalator area.
This garbage can was likely around for the 1981 grand opening of the full-line Sears store!
Here’s a peek behind the tarp showing the old men’s department. Look carefully at the outside doors on the far side and you’ll notice that the old “Thank You For Shopping at Sears” sign with the pre-1984 logo that is visible more clearly in the link to Je’s Willowbrook Sears photos in the above text.
In the last few years of full-line Sears stores in Houston, the Sears stores started carrying a lot of Kmart-branded blue tarps. I’m guessing these are those Kmart tarps.
Here’s another peek behind the tarp. In addition to women’s clothing, this area also would have had the jewelry counter and women’s shoes.
Things are finally starting to look like a Sears store! The area with the tarp to the left would have been the women’s shoes and the area with the tarp to the right would have been men’s shoes at the old full-line Sears.
Those walking in from the mall entrance will be greeted by a lot of empty space. This Sears Hometown would be a good candidate for an upgrade to a Sears Hometown Plus store since there is an abundance of extra space.
In the last few years of the old Sears full-line store, the area off to the left where mattresses are now would have had sporting goods, toys, and power lawn & garden tools. Many years ago, the area off to the right would have been the paint department.
The selection of tools at the Willowbrook Sears Hometown store is quite small at the time of the grand opening. What you see in this photo is the bulk of what they carry. This is certainly one area where Sears Hometown can expand their selection in order to draw in a more constant stream of repeat shoppers.
While one might get the impression that the majority of the tools Sears Hometown sells are Craftsman tools from this angle, the reality is that many of the tools Sears Hometown sells are not Craftsman tools.
At one time, such as back in the 1990s, this exact part of the store used to contain tools and garage accessories just like it does now. However, in the last several years of the old Sears full-line store, this area was mostly used for lawn & garden, BBQ, and other seasonal items such as the Christmas store.
The area with the blue strip in the corner that is now blocked off is the old Sears Auto Center and Avis/Budget Rent A Car desk.
In the last few years of the old Sears full-line store, the area where the lawn mowers are now was also where the lawn equipment was located.
Snacks and Sears swag are part of the benefits of attending a Sears Hometown grand opening!
Vacuum cleaners are located in the middle of the lawn & garden department.
Believe it or not, one of the nicest and most renovated parts of this Sears building are inside the restrooms! As you can see, the old Sears signage has been stripped from the restroom.
While the inventory might be thin in most parts of this Sears Hometown Store at the current time, the lawn & garden department appears ready for the upcoming Spring season.
While some loyal Sears shoppers would prefer to see Craftsman tractors, these Husqvarna tractors come from a pretty well respected brand.
While this checkout area used to exist at the Sears full-line store, the chair is most certainly a new addition. Since buying appliances is a bit of a longer process than buying most other things, it makes sense for Sears to place some chairs in this area. That said, that chair in the picture looks like something Sears might have been using when they had a computer department in the 1980s and early 1990s!
The area with the red stripe and columns used to house the part of the tool department that had things like hammers and saws.
The area off to the left with the grey stripe used to be the old washing machine department before the old full-line Sears closed. Many years ago, that used to be the seasonal/lawn & garden department. While some parts of the old full-line store didn’t change much at all over the years, other areas did see a lot of shuffling around in the nearly 40 years that the old full-line Sears was around.
The built-in cooktop display is blocking what otherwise would have been the path towards electronics and the majority of the major appliances at the old full-line Sears.
Sears always maintained the Willowbrook location quite well and that’s still the case today. For the most part, the ceiling and floor tiles are in good condition. This building is holding up a lot better than similarly aged Kmart buildings.
The selection of washing machines and dryers that Sears Hometown has now is pretty similar to the selection the old Sears had before it closed.
The little room in the back-center of the photo is the former Sears Portrait Studio.
This might not be too hard to believe, but those door handles have been at this Sears since it opened.
Here’s a 93Q Country banner on one of the windows for what used to be the Sears Portrait Studio. 93Q Country might not seem new to most Houstonians now, but what is 93Q Country on 92.9 FM now was a beautiful music station, KYND-FM, on 92.5 FM when this Sears opened in 1981. The rise of 79Q, a Top 40 station on 790 AM, and the decline of the beautiful music format meant that 79Q became 93Q not long later. In 1991, Top 40 gave way to country music and that’s the 93Q most readers are probably familiar with these days.
Yes, that is a Fuddruckers with the yellow awning there in the distance. The fact that Sears and Fuddruckers are still around in 2022 has to be considered some kind of miracle!
The earthtone brown planters matched the original color scheme of this store as dark brown was certainly one of the main colors that Sears used on this store in the 1980s.
Although typically associated with car dealers and furniture stores, Sears has made use of wind dancers before. The old Mall of the Mainland Sears often had a blue wind dancer out front in that store’s last couple of years.
Just behind the wind dancer is the entrance the old attached Sears Auto Center.
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.