Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest submission from HHR’s good friend Anonymous in Houston
Loyal Houston Historic Retail readers may recall that a few weeks ago, we published a blog post showing screenshots from a YouTube video published by Dan Starr and filmed by his wife Amy that showed Tomball’s retail scene in the year 1998. Well, Dan has come through once again as he recently uploaded some video footage taken by Amy and her father in the year 2000. This footage, which was taken right after Y2K, shows some of the retailers from the 1998 video in greater detail and it also shows us some other Tomball retailers which were not in the 1998 video. Once again, many thanks go to Dan and his wife for taking this footage, uploading it to YouTube, and allowing us to make a blog post about it! With that in mind, here is the video:
Just like with the 1998 video, we’ll start our look at Tomball retail with Amy and her father heading eastward on FM 2920 into town. Like in 1998, there is little retail development on FM 2920 in early 2000 prior to getting to the intersection of FM 2920 and SH 249 (Tomball Parkway). At this point in time, the explosion in retail growth on FM 2920 had not started yet, but as Amy mentions in the video, it was already known that Lowe’s Home Centers was coming to town. Indeed, the Lowe’s did open later in 2000 and that was really the first move to develop that part of Tomball with chain retailers as major names such as Target, Kohl’s, and Office Depot would follow Lowe’s path in subsequent years.
As the video continues with Amy’s father driving on the W. Main St. part of FM 2920, we see quick glances of some iconic retailers we saw in greater detail in the 1998 video such as Klein’s Supermarket, The Nook Grill, and Pizza Hut. For more information on those retailers, check out the previous post about the 1998 video. Just past the Pizza Hut was a Mobil gas station that is now a Sunoco gas station. Sunoco does not have an abundance of locations in the Houston area these days that are not a 7-Eleven/Stripes location. Likewise, in 2000, Mobil was a bit of an unusual brand in the Houston area as most of the Houston Mobil stations were rebranded as Shell stations in 1992.
Continuing on W. Main St., we see a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant at the intersection of W. Main St. & Lawrence Street. The Tomball KFC has the features one would expect from a 1980s KFC with the pointed top and the chicken bucket on the sign. From what I can gather, this Kentucky Fried Chicken operated opened in 1983 and closed in 2006. After that, it seems the building was given a not-so-convincing conversion into a Church’s Chicken where it operated until around 2019. From there, the building was given a more serious renovation when it was turned into a Louisiana Fried Chicken location. The Louisiana Fried Chicken didn’t last long as the place is now an HTeaO drink store.
As Amy’s father loops back and heads westward on W. Main St., we see some retailers which, for the most part, are no longer around in Tomball. The first former retailer we see is a familiar sight in small Texas towns, Dairy Queen. Unfortunately, with Tomball not being such a small place anymore, perhaps the town outgrew that particular Dairy Queen location as it closed a little more than a decade ago. It is currently TaD’s Bar & Grill. Next to that is Gloyer’s Pharmacy, which is still around, but the Mrs. Baird’s Thrift Store no longer is around. The sign for the Mrs. Baird’s Thrift Store is just barely visible in the video. For those too young to remember the glory years for bread thrift stores, thrift stores generally sell bread that the bread vendors have pulled from supermarket shelves as they approach their ‘best by’ dates. The bread vendors sell this bread directly to the public in thrift stores at low prices. There are still some thrift stores in the Houston area, such as this Bimbo Bread store that sells Mrs. Baird’s products, but they’re certainly not as abundant in number as they used to be years ago. Finally, Amy’s father makes a stop at the Neidigk Lumber Company (frequently referred to as ‘Neidick since the ‘g’ on their sign looked like a ‘c’), a lumber and hardware store that operated out of Tomball for many decades before closing in 2015. Perhaps the aforementioned Lowe’s eventually drove Neidigk out of business. These days, a very fancy looking Spirit of Texas Bank sits on the land which used to be the lumber store.
As Amy’s father continues to track westward on W. Main St., we see a familiar sight, the old Academy in the former Safeway #950. The history of this shopping center is discussed in-depth in the post discussing the 1998 video, but the 2000 video does give us a closer-up look at the former Safeway building with the iconic design and it also gives us a look at the H-E-B Pantry Foods location that was previously Gibson’s Discount Center. Both the Academy and the H-E-B Pantry Foods are now gone from that location and a full H-E-B is now located in that shopping center.
Next, we get a look at another familiar sight from the 1998 video post, the Eckerd at the Four Corners shopping center. There is an interesting change to the Eckerd in the 2000 video from the 1998 video though. The 2000 video shows the Eckerd with a sign mentioning JCPenney. Although I can’t read the sign well enough to know for sure, I do believe the sign is indicating that the Eckerd had a JCPenney catalog center in it. JCPenney announced they were buying Eckerd in 1996. As a result of this merger, JCPenney put their catalog, which was still in operation at the time, in Eckerd stores along with a telephone so that customers could order items easily from the JCPenney catalog and pick them up from the Eckerd store. This is similar to the old catalog stores that other similar retailers such as Sears and Montgomery Ward had many years ago. I don’t know how many JCPenney customers went to Eckerd to do their JCPenney shopping instead of visiting the JCPenney full-line store and their catalog department at Willowbrook Mall (for more information about the history of Willowbrook Mall, check out the HHR post celebrating the 40th anniversary of the mall here), but Tomball was separated enough from Houston at that time that perhaps that option was appealing to some residents of Tomball.
Amy’s father heads south on SH 249 and we see some parts of Tomball retail that we did not see in the 1998 video. Of note is Goodson’s Café, the famous Tomball eatery known for their chicken-fried steak. It’s still around today, but Parkway Chevrolet, formerly Monty Haskins Chevrolet, is no longer where they were in 2000 as they moved to a much larger location further south on 249 just as their former neighbor, Tomball Ford, also moved further south on 249. The old Tomball Ford is also just barely visible in the video.
As we get closer to Theis Lane, we see the original Tomball Taco Bell. The Taco Bell is now a Hartz Chicken Buffet. Although the Hartz building does not look anything like the old, iconic Taco Bell with the ‘Mission’ architecture as it has been expanded significantly, Hartz is reusing the old Taco Bell street sign. Although it is not in the video, another formerly popular Tomball eatery, Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, used to be in the shopping center behind the Taco Bell. Taco Bell has a new location over by the Wal-Mart.
Speaking of Wal-Mart, that is our last stop on our tour of Tomball retail in the year 2000. Wal-Mart #703 was among the first group of Wal-Mart stores to open in the outskirts of the Houston area in 1984. In 1993, Wal-Mart moved store #703 across the street from the northside of Theis Lane to the southside. Wal-Mart did not completely let go of their older location though as became a Bud’s Discount City. For those unfamiliar with Bud’s, it was a format Wal-Mart experimented with which carried overstock/clearance items from Wal-Mart stores. The Tomball Bud’s, and all Bud’s Discount City stores for that matter, did not last long and the Tomball store eventually became a Tractor Supply Company store and later what it is today, Hobby Lobby.
The new Wal-Mart #703 was expanded into a Supercenter in early 2000 and we see the construction of the grocery part of the Supercenter in the video. We also see the Murphy USA gas station at the Wal-Mart which opened prior to the Supercenter conversion. When one is inside the new Wal-Mart #703, one can see the original part of the store, which as a drop ceiling, and the expansion grocery part which has an open ceiling.
Finally, here is some bonus Tomball retail coverage! The Texas Archive of the Moving Image has some archived KHOU-TV (Channel 11) news footage in their collection which shows W. Main St. in Tomball as it looked in 1965 which is available to view here. While Tomball has changed a lot between 2000 and 2022, Tomball changed even more between 1965 and 2000 as Tomball grew significantly throughout that period. Starting at around 4:06 in the video, we see two of Tomball’s major retailers in 1965 that eventually relocated elsewhere in Tomball, Klein’s Supermarket and the local Chevrolet dealership. As mentioned in the post about the 1998 video from Tomball, the Klein’s Supermarket we see in the 1965 video is actually the second of three different locations Klein’s Supermarket had as they grew over the years. The location in the 1965 video operated between 1933 and 1969 before Klein’s Supermarket relocated to the location visible in the 1998 and 2000 Tomball videos. The old location, at 300 W. Main St., eventually became what it is now, the Tomball Emergency Assistance Ministries (TEAM) Thrift Store.
Across the street from Klein’s Supermarket in 1965 was Tomball’s Chevrolet dealership at the time, Ford’s Chevrolet Service. Yes, the Chevrolet dealership was named Ford! Try to make sense of that! Millard Ford’s family operated the Chevrolet dealership at 301 W. Main St. from 1945 to 1971 when I believe it relocated to what eventually became the aforementioned Monty Haskins and Parkway Chevrolet on Tomball Parkway that is visible in the video from the year 2000.
If one keeps watching the 1965 video to the 5:50 point, they will find a broader view of W. Main Street retail. Some of the interesting sights are the various gas stations in town such as Mobil, Gulf, and Sinclair. Another major retailer of note is Western Auto which is now the D-S Lawn & Automotive store at 703 West Main Street. In the 1960s, the Tomball Western Auto was run by Sonny Wilcox.
We hope you enjoyed these additional tours of historic Tomball retail! Thanks again go to Dan Starr and his wife Amy for uploading these great video clips to YouTube! Please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below if you have any thoughts, memories, or any other comments about Tomball retail.