Boo! And welcome to Houston Historic Retail! Today, we’re celebrating Halloween by checking out four costume conversions in what is HHR’s longest-running theme post dating back to 2018. Man, I was really playing to an empty room back then, but thankfully my fan base has grown substantially there are dozens of you now! Ever since the 2019 debut of Costume Conversions, the series has always been a favorite of mine. It’s always fun to get back into a dead retailer and see what got left behind. This year, we have the privilege of visiting a chain never seen as a Spirit before on HHR, Randall’s! We’ll also take a look at a couple of “mainstays” like Goodwill and Sears, along with a couple of surprises too!
R.I.P. Randall’s is what the outside of this store should read. This former Randall’s location at 4775 W Panther Creek Dr, The Woodlands, TX 77381, has long been a part of the shopping center, with tenancy dating back to 1987. However, Randall’s final building is unmistakably a 90s store, so what’s the story here, you might ask? Well, Randall’s first location in the shopping center was actually not built by them and was a bit too small. In the 1980s, Randall’s was looking to expand North and did just that, building locations across Spring, Kingwood, and Northern Houston but missing The Woodlands. It was unclear if it was the planned community “snubbing their nose” at Randall’s or if it was Randall’s doing the snubbing. Noses aside, the friendly woodsy community, founded by the gentleman who popularized Shale Fracking in Texas, opted for locally owned Jamail’s IGA to open locations in The Woodlands. No, not that Jamail’s, but the name fooled you, didn’t it? These Jamails were operated by a man with the last name Jamail, although according to online sources, there’s no relation between the stores or family. While the stores did well, Randall’s seemingly approached Jamail with an offer he couldn’t refuse, purchasing two of his three stores, thus allowing their entry into The Woodlands. Both locations were beyond tiny for Randall’s at the time, coming in under 30,000 Square Feet. However, the commercial development of the area was still quite limited; with Randall’s being the only grocery store inside The Woodlands, they quickly found success. In 1992 Randall’s would leverage this success to construct today’s store. They would operate largely unabated and were a popular option in The Woodlands all the way until their unexpected 2018 closure. The building has sat vacant until this year when Spirit opted to step in and take over the space.
HEB Pantry Foods/99 Cents Only Store/Goodwill Select
Next, we move further South, to 9215 West Rd, Houston, TX 77064, in fact, only across the street from last week’s Krogerston’s Express post! It’s almost like I have to plan out retail trips in advance to make this doable (consider donating if you can!). This building initially started out in the late 90s as HEB Pantry Foods. The store opened in 1999, right as the edges of Jersey Village were filling out. It was complimented across the street by the higher-priced but full service, Albertsons which opened right around the same time. In 2002 the Albertsons would be sold to Kroger (hence Krogerstons), and oddly HEB would depart quickly after. It’s not exactly clear what prompted HEB to leave, as the building had some obvious room for future expansion. With HEB out of the picture, the 99 Cents Only Store chain, which was starting its entry into texas, quickly picked up this store for themselves. While not the only former HEB the company picked up, it was likely the newest location. Nevertheless, in 2008, the 99 Cents Only Store chain would announce plans to exit Texas completely. While this never came to pass, the company did close about a third of its locations, this one included. Dollar Tree would jump on the opportunity and lease about half of the space, with the other half being sublet by Goodwill. Goodwill would operate out of the space until last year, falling victim to the “mass closings” of Houston Goodwills recently.
Sears Hometown Store
Oh boy, everybody’s least favorite, Sears Hometown Stores on the Gulf Freeway! Now before we start hating this one directly, let’s take a minute to review what exactly a Hometown Store was… well in this case, it’s whatever you wanted it to be! Originally, the brand was meant for old Catalog stores, but towards the end it was being applied to just about everything from small sections of giant repurposed department stores to former Appliance Showrooms like this one. Interestingly the store closed as an Appliance Showroom in 2020, only to be revived in 2022. The conversion to Hometown Store. As far as the Hometown Store remodels go, this location seems to have been relatively complete, including new flooring and wall coverings. According to now former employees at the Pasadena Town Square location, their location and Leauge City were a compromise. The original intent had been to remodel a portion of the Baybrook Sears but was unable to for some reason, but we’ll expand more on that in a moment!
Sears Baybrook Mall
Our final “victim” is indeed the Baybrook Mall Sears itself! While supposedly a good performer, the Baybrook Mall Sears closed in 2018. Opening with the mall, just like the other “Brook” malls, Baybrook, was developed by Sears in partnership with other department stores. The store sat vacant for until late 2021 when a furniture company rented a portion of the building. As mentioned above, prior to the rental agreement, plans had supposedly been made to reopen Baybrook as a Hometown Store in a mall. While not confirmed, this does make sense, as the location was far more prominent. Instead, however, Overstock would lease the majority of the building. In August, a front corner was cleared for Spirit to operate a small footprint location, making this a fellow Spears location! The setup is cramped and less than ideal. To make up for this, another Spirit is located right across Bay Area Blvd.
Happy Halloween folks, this was a fun one!