The future of Dollar Stores at a former Gerland’s

Howdy, folks, and welcome back to HHR. Today, we’re looking at a former Gerlands and touching on the question of the future of dollar stores in Houston, given 99 Cents Only’s pending exit. We will get to that question, but let’s start with some history. The King Dollar at 2555 Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 77080, started life in 1969 as the newest branch of Gerland’s Food Fair. While the store is often misidentified as a former Weingarten’s, it was indeed built for Gerland’s. While the store does resemble various Weingarten’s “chapel ceiling” locations, it was never one of them. Rather, the building was constructed with designs from Minimax or possibly directly from Fleming Cos, their owner. A few differences include the peak of the roof, which was steeper at Weingarten’s, the height of the glass, which is shorter here, and the offset placement of doors. The building style was reused at a few other Minimax locations and a handful of independent markets in more rural areas, which Fleming supplied. Moving on from that, this store operated as a Gerland’s from 1969 to 1983. In 1983, A.J. Gerland sold his stores, splitting the company among his two sons and three other associates. No one in the group picked this location up, so it reverted to Minimax and was operated by someone named Kyle. However, they may have possibly associated with Gerland’s as their company name was “Kyle’s Food Fair.” (if you’re a Gerland’s history expert, please reach out!) Kyle’s would go out of business by 1987, and the building would sit vacant for a few years until its next occupant, Old America, a craft store with an interesting history, moved in. In brief, Old America was founded as a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch and eventually spun off, where it grew rapidly in small towns. This rapid expansion would overstretch the chain, and in competition with others, Old America would file for bankruptcy in 1999. This store was closed in 1997 in an attempt to stave off impending doom. The building would once again sit vacant.

In 2002, King Dollar moved into 2555 Gessner and brought shoppers back for the first time in years. The area had changed, and so had the economy, and by 2002, a dollar store fit in perfectly. Coincidentally, had this still been a Gerlands, it likely would have been a candidate for only their early Food Town rebrandings before that company would acquire Gerlands nearly ten years later. With King Dollar in the spot, things were looking up again. My understanding is that King Dollar is a partnership between a few companies backed by different gentlemen who share a name and buying power to supply their stores. At least some of the stores were partially supported by Bargain Wholesale, the bulk arm of 99 Cents Only Stores, which dealt with other independent stores. This support came in the form of merchandise, some signage, and potentially a bit of decor (checkout lights). King Dollar was not the only chain that bought from BW. Many independent stores went so far as to stock their stores from 99 Cents Only’s warehouse essentially. In general, these were stores in areas where 99 Cents didn’t have an outlet, and they were usually $1.50+ stores in an era where 99 Cents Only was sticking to its motto (for the most part). So, with the recently announced demise of 99 Cents Only and its implications for Bargain Wholesale, whose website has been offline for a few weeks now, what does that do for independents like King Dollar? Well, probably not too much. The thing is, Houston is a big city, and part of the reality is that we’re competitive. Many other independent distributors existed alongside Bargain Wholesale and have been siphoning more and more customers by the year. It’s likely part of what presented difficulty to the 99 Cents Only chain. While prices continue to rise, I doubt the Dollar name will drop anytime soon.


  1. The King Dollar on Northwest Freeway originally had “Nothing Over $1.00” but slowly raised that to “Nothing Over $1.25” over the next several years before giving up and replacing the signage.

  2. It seems to me that King Dollar are pretty much the ‘kings’ of local dollar stores in this area. I remember many, many years ago when they had a smaller spot in the Jones & FM 1960 former Kmart/Kroger/Weiner’s shopping center before moving into their current spot in a sub-divided spot in the old Weiner’s. The Gessner King Dollar looks nicer than the Jones & FM 1960 King Dollar.

    I don’t shop at dollar stores very often. In fact, I think King Dollar is the only one I’ve been to in the last ten years or so even with 99 Cents Only being (for now) just across the street!