Sam’s Club on Eldridge Parkway will not be reopening, here’s why not

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail. Today, we’re revisiting an old story from April 2022. Nearly two years ago, I broke the news that Sam’s Club appeared to be in the midst of reopening a club that had been shuttered in 2018. The store, located at 13331 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77077, had only been open for five years when it was closed along with a wave of other stores throughout the country in 2018. Unlike its companion on the S. Loop, which was sold relatively quickly, this site sat vacant for years. The rumor mill on the development side was that Sam’s was interested in converting this facility into an E-Commerce testbed since it was so new. Then, in 2020, the building, which had been listed on Walmart’s realty site since the day it closed, was suddenly pulled. Records showed that it had not been sold. Walmart still held the property, but it was unclear what their plan was. In early 2022, preliminary plans for store redevelopment were filed with the state. Sam’s Club would reopen the store, but with updated features. Specifically, new to this location would be walk-in coolers and a so-called product demonstration room. Quickly after, a permit for the fuel station, which had been demolished when the store closed, popped up, and everything looked correct. Preliminary work even began at the site. A long-standing banner advertising the online fixture auction was removed, plants and grass were trimmed, and a broken glass door was replaced. I continued to check the site for weeks, then months, and now years, with no updates, until last month when I saw the permits for the project were finally closed. Then, last, I learned the property had been sold.

The property’s sale wasn’t a huge surprise to me at this point. It was clear that Sam’s had wanted to do something with the store, bringing security back on-site to watch it. However, with two years of stalling, a closed permit, and what seems like a slump in the area really put the nails in the coffin for this location. However, there was the question of why? Why would Sam’s go through prep work to give up on the site? Well, I have a theory, but it’s just a theory. Right around the time prep work started on this store, a Sam’s in Grapevine was in the path of a tornado and took massive damage. Walmart officials originally announced the store would be temporarily closed and indicated they were working on reopening it. However, after a few months of delays, Sam’s had decided to shut the store down due to the severity of the damage. However, after pushback from the local community, Sam’s decided to start work on renovating this store. It seems quite likely that, at the very least, resources from the Houston store were diverted to assessing the Sam’s in Grapevine. Was the decision to reopen Houston abandoned for Grapevine? We will likely never know, but my gut says the two are likely related. Sam’s has promised a new type of shopping experience for the Grapevine store, and the retailer has not opened a new location in Texas since its Sam’s Club Now experiment in 2018. So why would Houston be chosen for a prototype store? Well, we’re a pretty good market for them; we and DFW were home to some of the first Sam’s in the country. Also, at a time when GFS is trying to stake its claim into what has historically been Sam’s country, the Westheimer location made a lot of sense. So what will happen to the old Sam’s? Well, it will be subdivided into five spaces. An “entertainment center” is said to be negotiating for one of the spots at this point. While I’m sad it’s not Sam’s, I’m happy this center will finally not have a rotting building on one end.