Vintage Ads: Celebrating the 1971 Grand Opening of Braeswood Square

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is a guest submission from HHR’s good friend Anonymous in Houston

This edition of Vintage Ads will take us back to the grand opening of the Braeswood Square shopping center near Bellaire in Southwest Houston. Braeswood Square’s grand opening was on July 8, 1971 and we’ll be looking at various ads from the July 7, 1971 edition of The Bellaire Texan newspaper which is freely available to read at The Portal to Texas History website. Braeswood Square has been in the news here at Houston Historic Retail in the recent past as the last Belden’s supermarket closed there in 2020 and is scheduled to be replaced by one of Houston’s first Gordon Food Service Stores here in the coming weeks.

Braeswood Square, located at 5300 N Braeswood Blvd, Houston, TX 77096, might seem like a fairly ordinary 1970s shopping center, but there is one historical aspect of the shopping center which makes the center somewhat unique compared to most other shopping centers. Braeswood Square was developed by Weingarten Markets Realty Company. Weingarten developed the shopping center in a partnership with Harold Farb, the developer who built the large apartment complexes surrounding the shopping center. Those familiar with Weingarten’s shopping centers from this era know they often featured a mall-like enclosed ‘air-conditioned sidewalk’ corridor to allow shoppers to walk between the stores at the shopping center in climate-controlled comfort. While this might seem hard to believe by those who have shopped at Braeswood Square in more modern times, Braeswood Square was indeed built with an air-conditioned sidewalk. Thus, like with the nearby Maplewood Mall, Weingarten could claim that Braeswood Square was a mall!

As one would also expect from a Weingarten Markets Realty Company development from this period, Braeswood Square was initially anchored by a J. Weingarten supermarket and a Walgreens drug store. Both of these anchors opened a few weeks before the official July 8th grand opening of the shopping center. Fittingly, both Weingarten’s and Walgreens had very similar logos at the time! The Walgreens still remains in business at Braeswood Square 51 years later as of the writing of this blog post in 2022. The longevity of the Walgreens can surely be attributed to the Walgreens being at the end of the shopping center. This allowed Walgreens to add the convenience of a drive-thru pharmacy like their 1990s-2000s era freestanding stores have here in modern times. The Weingarten’s supermarket briefly became a Safeway in the mid-1980s when Weingarten’s ended grocery operations and then became a Belden’s supermarket from 1987 to 2020 when Belden’s ceased operations. As mentioned earlier, this anchor spot will continue to serve as a supermarket, albeit in a bit of a different format, when Gordon Food Service opens one of their GFS Stores in the anchor spot.

Other businesses at Braeswood Square which celebrated the grand opening in 1971 were Allied Radio Shack (Tandy used the Allied Radio Shack name for Radio Shack stores for a while following their purchase of Allied Electronics in 1970), the Bookland bookstore, Gazebo Gift Shop, Solomon Fabrics, Playmart Discount Toys, a children’s clothing store named Young Years, La Feminique Wig Salon, John’s Party Shop, Easy Rider pants and accessories store, Le Stitcherie needlework shop, Boutique Four fashions, and Elegance Beauty Salon.

By 1972, several other well-known retail names were starting to fill in the Braeswood Square shopping center along with other smaller retailers. The January 19, 1972 issue of The Bellaire Texan contains advertisements for a sidewalk bazaar sale at Braeswood Square and includes ads for Al’s Formal Wear, Charles Ford fashions, Tape City U.S.A. music store, French Bootery, Stop N Go Markets, Pilgrim cleaners, and Zales jewelers. The ad also mentions that Jim’s Coffee Shop, the Green Parrot Restaurant, and Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream were soon to come at Braeswood Square in 1972.

Of course, these 1971 and 1972 editions on The Bellaire Texan did not just contain ads for Braeswood Square. Several other retailers doing business in Southwest Houston at the time placed ads in the newspaper and many of them are rather interesting. Most of the companies in these ads were small, local businesses which are no longer around.

We hope that you enjoyed this look back at the history of the Braeswood Square shopping center. If you have any memories of the early days of Braeswood Square, or any memories or thoughts about the other retailers in the post, feel free to post them in the comments section below. We love to hear from our readers!


    1. Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! As for Walls Fire Sale Center, yes, it is the same retailer run by the Newton Wall Company that runs today’s Walls Bargain Centers. Walls (I think they went by Wall’s back then even if their logo implies otherwise) has not been in Houston since 1976, so they are yet another example of a short-lived retailer here, but I know they are alive and well in Oklahoma and also in your part of the country.

      1. You’re welcome! And that’s awesome! Looking it up, there are three stores left in Mississippi. I’d like to check at least one of them out sometime, and ideally feature it on the blog. Salvage stores present interesting stories — I already plan one day to showcase the Hudson’s/Dirt Cheap story. Hudson’s founded Dirt Cheap, but as I understand it there were bankruptcy and/or court complications along the way, and the two separated — but both still exist today, albeit Hudson’s in a much smaller capacity, much more similar to Walls currently than to Dirt Cheap, it feels like. Anyway, I remember there used to be a Walls in Columbus, and my parents used to shop there when we lived there many years ago — but I think that one has been gone for several years now, and is now a Dirt Cheap (go figure!).

        1. It would be neat to see a tour of a modern Walls store. It seems there is an authentic Walls-Mart in Tupelo! Link:

          It looks like there is also a Dirt Cheap in Tupelo and it is right next to something called ‘Krazzy Deals Tupelo’ that seems like a similar kind of store. I suppose shoppers in Tupelo have their choice of these kinds of stores! We do have Dirt Cheap in Houston, but I think they are down to just one location in Pasadena. It would be interesting to know about the history of Dirt Cheap as their stores have ended up on a few different blogs in recent years.

          1. Yeah, I think the one in New Albany is a Walls-Mart, too!

            Ha, I’ve seen Krazzy Deals elsewhere as well — definitely a dig-thru-bins place. And yep, Dirt Cheap’s history is very interesting — I’ll absolutely have to write a post on that someday.

  1. This was a great post. I happened to go to that Walgreens today as a matter of fact! Do you have anything to share about the restaurant on a pad site immediately south of the Beldens / Gordons? It is now a local Tex Mex dive called El Ranchero, but I vaguely remember it being some kind of diner called Champs at one point in my childhood?

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the post! It is great having a Walgreens around that has been in the same place for over 50 years. It’s pretty remarkable. As for the restaurant, Mike will know more about this than I will, but you are correct that it was a Champ’s Restaurant until around 1993 or so I believe. Before that, it was the aforementioned Jim’s Coffee Shop. Jim’s is still around in San Antonio and Austin as Jim’s Restaurants. As for Champ’s, they had a large presence in Houston through the 1990s especially on the Northwest and Southwest sides of town.

    2. It originally started out as Houston’s first branch of Jim’s Restaurants (a San Antonio Diner still in operation). Jim’s didn’t have much success here, and by 1980 exited the market, supposedly selling to another San Antonio based operator, who dropped the Jim’s name but kept everything else. That’s how Champ’s was born, with the last location closing around 2004. This Braeswood Square one closed in the late 90s.

  2. As far as I know, the North Freeway was never officially referred to as the Dallas Freeway. Houston Freeways by Erik Slotboom mentions that it was proposed but shot down quickly.

    The ad wasn’t the first time I saw that erroneous reference. When my parents moved to Houston in 1974, they bought a book that was basically an inexpensive guide to the city. It survived to my childhood and I remember reading it, confused by the reference to the Dallas Freeway.

    1. Michael Doty, I think the ‘Dallas Freeway’ name was used commonly, if unofficially, in the early 1970s. With that in mind, I can understand why that book from 1974 would have used that name. ‘Dallas Freeway’ might have made sense if the East Freeway was called the Beaumont Freeway, if the Northwest Freeway was called the Austin Freeway, and so forth, but since that is not the case, I think North Freeway is a much more fitting name than Dallas Freeway even putting aside any angst Houstonians might feel towards Dallas.

      That said, with the usual traffic calamities on the North Freeway, one could say that the North Freeway has more drama on it than an episode of ‘Dallas’!

  3. Excellent post! I really enjoyed all the memories this brought back of Braeswood Square. Safeway, Stop n Go, and Jim’s all now gone!

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It was a lot of fun putting this post together while seeing all those ads from 1971-2. It was interesting seeing ads from great retailers of the past and also learning about a few new ones that I didn’t even know existed in Houston.