Más Club, Sam’s abandoned concept

Editor’s Note: Today’s photos are graciously supplied by Holcombe of Hidalgo on Flickr

If you’ve lived in Houston for any amount of time, then you’ve probably driven past Más Club or at least the remnants of Más Club. While I never ventured inside during its short existence, I was at least aware of the store, and it was well-known enough that it ended up with its own Wikipedia article. It reads a bit like a press release, listing departments, square footage, and environmentally friendly building materials being used in construction. However, there’s an interesting story not covered on that page: how exactly Más Club came to be. It all started with a different company, Home Depot, which was developing the corner of 45 and W Gulf Bank. Under their control, the company had torn down a former Safeway and purchased the former Allen Samuels Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge/Eagle lot next door around 2005/6. With the land cleared, Home Depot would begin work on two separate structures, with grand plans to open Houston’s first HD Supply Repair & Remodel location. HD Supply was, at the time, the professional distribution side of Home Depot, which mainly dealt with contractors, government bids, etc… Most sales were delivery-based, but the Repair & Remodel locations were an exception. These stores were a holdover from another company, HD Supply, which had been born out of named, Contractors Warehouse. The stores were well-regarded but extremely basic. The items were contractor-grade and reasonably priced, but the stores lacked any sort of amenity you’d find in Home Depot. The stores featured drive-thru lumber yards, an idea taken from Furrow’s where management had come from. All in all, it was a pretty neat concept; you could rent a Bobcat and buy multiple sizes of roof trusses, doors, windows, and everything else you’d need to rebuild or remodel a home or business, all open to the public.

The Houston store was to feature an 87k Sqft main store and a separate 50k Sqft drive-thru lumber yard, and the corner would be sublet as padsite likely to a gas station. The store would be the first location outside of California but was presumably not the only one planned. The buildings would be finished in early 2007, at the start of the Great Financial Crisis. With the trouble largely tied to homes, new construction dropped significantly, and remodeling also fell off. Not only was HD Supply in trouble, but Home Depot was also. While finishing touches were being made at the site, Home Depot quietly planned to sell off HD Supply. While the buildings were completely finished, further development of the Houston store was put on hold. The sale of HD Supply would not be easy, and Home Depot would have to drop nearly $2 Billion in its asking price. HD Supply would eventually be purchased, and the Houston store would be put up for sale. The buildings were finished but not outfitted, and the corner pad spot had been left untouched. Sam’s Club quickly became interested in the site for a test store. Only a few months after being put on the market, and in a troubled economy, Sam’s Club announced that they would open Más Club in the space. The store was described as being a Hispanic Sam’s Club, selling imported items in bulk and with a cafe serving fresh tortillas. The descriptions were a bit vague, and things like membership pricing had not yet been established, although they knew they wanted to use a separate membership from Sam’s. While not mentioned in the article, Sam’s did modify the property before moving in. First, they would enclose about 90% of the planned lumber yard to act as a warehouse. A passageway would be constructed between the two buildings, creating a single “H” shaped building. The sales floor side would be built out from the basic interior completed by HD Supply, and finally, the corner of the property would be paved, and Sam’s Club would build a gas station. Shortly after Más Club was announced, Walmart announced a second experiment, not too far away in Spring Branch, where a Neighborhood Market location would be converted to the similarly themed Supermercado de Walmart.

Houston’s large Hispanic population had already attracted specialty grocers like Fiesta and more mainline competition to specialized stores, like Kroger’s Gulfton location or Mi Tienda, so Walmart’s decision to experiment here made a great deal of sense. When the two stores opened, they both received a good amount of press coverage, painting them both positively. Más Club was a hit with Hispanic business owners, as the pricing on hard-to-find items was consistently lower than competitors. However, much of what you would find in a typical Sam’s Club was still available at Más Club, while foreign brands were common in the food and cleaning supplies, electronics, or the pharmacy resembled any other Sam’s. Still, the concept did find ways to differentiate itself. For example, the fresh tortillas on sale at the cafe was actually a constantly operating in-store tortilerilla. That being said, the cafe was also updated; in addition to a slice of pizza or a hot dog, you could also get tamales or tacos, which were all regarded as being pretty good for as cheap as they were! Más Club seemed like it was a success; the store had a consistent flow of customers, but in early 2014, Walmart announced their plans to shut Más Club, and only a few months later, they would do the same to Supermercado de Walmart. While Walmart never gave direct reasoning for the closings, looking back now, 10 years later, it seems like the closure was related to bigger problems at Walmart during this time. While the stores had good traffic, the concepts had failed to take off in any great number (a second Supermercado de Walmart was built in Pheonix); at the time, Walmart was looking to “take on Dollar General” in terms of being everywhere through different sized stores Supercenter, Express, Neighborhood Market, etc..) Finally, at their cores, the stores were rebranded versions of those existing concepts with well-adjusted product mixes. Walmart felt pressure to focus on its existing brands, and diversifying its product mix was something it had already done, so creating a second brand for that purpose wasn’t intuitive. After closing, the site would become a warehouse for Sam’s, and later Walmart, which is still as of this article. Some relatively interesting retail history lies in the two failures that created this warehouse.


  1. I never did visit Mas Club, but I do remember Holcombe of Hidalgo’s photos of the place on Flickr so I’m glad you were able to combine those photos with a historical piece. I did visit the Supermercado de Walmart Neighborhood Market in Spring Branch when it first opened and it was really fancy for a Walmart, a Neighborhood Market no less, but maybe that’s why it didn’t last long.

    I wonder if Mas Furniture, which is owned by ‘Super Sam’ of Exclusive Furniture, is using the Mas name in a similar fashion to how Walmart used the Mas name (the reverse of Sam). Mas Furniture recently opened up in my area in the old Staples at 290 and FM 1960 W. I reckon this is essentially a replacement store for the Exclusive Furniture that used to operate in the old Jersey Village Handy Dan for many years.