Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston, GIANT, Historic, Retail! Today we’re taking a look at a bold claim, a store that was indeed once the largest Dollar Store in the World! First, let’s start off by trying to quantify this claim. We’re going to limit this challenge to the United States, not because the Dollar Store concept doesn’t exist in other countries, but rather I don’t want to deal with all that exchange rate and metric conversion nonsense… Anyways, the claim made by our friend “Giant $” pronounced “Giant Dollar” is that they are the largest dollar store in the world, and after stepping inside, I can tell you that indeed… no they are not. They’re not even close to being the largest dollar store in Houston, but here’s the thing, there’s some validity to this claim, and its evidence can be found in the history of the building. So let us start out where this structure started out, all the way back in the early 1980s as the Mission Bend neighborhood was being built out, this portion of land was set aside for retail and leisure development. One guaranteed tenant as early as 1982 was Target, however, the store did not actually open in 1985. While the exact cause was unknown, this store would open for a neighborhood that would never really exist. Though Target likely did well initially with all the clamor that came with being the closest location to Fort Bend County at the time, it would only be a couple of years until Sugar Land had its own store, and business at this oversized location would begin to die off. Built with an auto center that would only last a few years, this store came in at 100,00 Square Feet, making it the largest discounter on the West Side for many years. Living in Fort Bend County as a child, I do have some memories of coming to this Target, and they’re not terribly positive, for the most part, I remember the store being outdated and less stocked than other Targets. By 2002, it seems that Target agreed, and during a mass-culling off stores, which included some of the oldest locations in Texas this store was closed. However, unlike most other stores closed during this time, a replacement location was not built.
Enter, our next player Jumbo Dollar of Texas, an independent dollar store with a massive plan. The proprietors, a group of retailers with experience running the Giant Dollar chain would take on this massive former Target. Using connections they had made supplying stores in spaces like Malls and ex-Dollar Trees as those outlets increased in size during the early 2000s. The idea would be to essentially have a “Dollar Version of a Target/Walmart”. Now speaking from experience as someone who was a semi-regular shopper the store was absolutely massive. The only thing that was closed off was the former Food Avenue/Snack Bar, which didn’t make it to the Dollar Store. The rest of the store was given gondola shelving, some even reused from the ex-Target. Lots managed to stick around from this Target which had last been given a cosmetic update in the early 90s into what some folks in the retail circle refer to as the “P90” decor scheme. This was when Target had the bright idea to use 4 primary colors (red, green, yellow, and blue) to denote their departments. Each department would receive white signage with a large stripe in the correct color for that department. Yellow was Softlines, Green was Health and Beauty, Blue was Furniture, and Red was anything else. These colors wouldn’t serve a purpose in the Dollar Version of this store but were still present a prominent via a stripe than runs the course of the building. The store also inherited a round logo due to the Target lineage.
Photos from: Giant1Dollar.com
The store was organized into departmental divisions, unlike other stores in the chain. Obviously, certain departments were lacking like Electronics, which became a cache of light bulbs and shake-up flashlights, or Mensware which was largely single color off-brand t-shirts. Much of the supply came from Bargain Wholesale Inc which is the supply arm of the 99 Cent Only store chain. Some of the other items were obviously old returns and “buybacks” a concept so common some independent stores are now based entirely around that concept. While the goal of creating a Dollar Target may have been lofty on more than one occasion I ended up buying things here that I had no clue would be in the store. For example, a much-needed replacement power brick for my Nintendo 64, which would have otherwise been impossible to locate during this time period. Or a number of $1.09 CDs, the selection was far from modern, but it was still all stuff I liked. The store was so large that space was even rented out to vendors, and for a while, the Snack Bar was even briefly reactivated as a Balloon and Flower Shop! The Jumbo Dollar was a really fun place to shop, but unfortunately, it wouldn’t last long.
Around two or three years after opening, the Jumbo Dollar After a few years of gigantic operations, Giant Dollar would begin to subdivide the former Target. The building was essentially cut in half preparing room for a new Fallas Paredes and Citi Trends locations. Even with half the store remaining, this was more space than needed. With the economic conditions at the time, operating a 100,000 square foot dollar store didn’t make much sense, and even at half the size, this store was still likely a contender for the title of World’s Largest Dollar Store. However, in the late 2000s, the final portion untouched portion of the store was again cut in half. This meant that the dollar store was now mostly cut off from its main entrance, requiring the construction of new center doors. The remaining pieces of Target’s Food Avenue, and managerial offices, and restrooms, were all demolished to create a new Planet fitness location. To compensate for the now reduced size of this location, the store was renamed Giant Dollar and now only takes up about 1/4 of their original space. The current dollar store is still big, much larger than a comparable Dollar Tree, or Family Dollar, but is nothing compared to what it once was. It’s obvious that portions of the space have been updated. The ceiling has been replaced, and lowered, likely installed directly below the existing drop ceiling. However, there are also things that haven’t changed a bit like the red line tiles placed to denote main aisles now simply running into walls instead of making a complete circuit. Thankfully some photos exist to demonstrate how the store looked when it was utilizing its full potential!
While this modern five and dime isn’t much to write home about, it’s interesting what has managed to survive in an area that has choked traditional retailers. The continued existence in the Target spaces also means that displays and shelving have also managed to stick around pretty much untouched for the last 20 years. This former biggest Dollar Store in the world may have never held true to that claim, but it sure makes an interesting story. If you’re in and around the Mission Bend area, I’d recommend stopping in to check out this store. With move-out processes now generally requiring a full deconstruction of their old stores, and new move-ins planning around blank canvases, the remnants of this Target aren’t something you’ll find anywhere else. Even Targets from around the same time have had nothing left in more recent reopenings. So this leaves us in an odd spot, with a question from earlier left to answer. Was this ever the World’s Largest Dollar Store? I think that yes when it reopened as a Target it would have very well fit that bill. However with rising prices, and shrinking spaces this is a claim made boldly on the remaining wall space is simply a fabric of the past, not a fabrication of the present.