This Universe used to be Incredible

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today, we’re using a unique opportunity to take a look at some reused retail. We’ll be checking in on the former Incredible Universe store, now HCC’s West Loop Campus. Before we go inside, I will warn you that nothing from the old store has remained beyond the reused entrance. For anyone outside of Houston, HCC is Houston Community College, and this building is not generally accessible to the public. First, let’s start off with some history; this land was originally part of Pin Oak Stables. These stables were the finest in the Southwest when built. The Pin Oak Horse Show was started here, and it eventually moved out to Katy when development surrounded the once quaint area. The redevelopment of the stables finally gave way in the 80s, with pieces of land being sold off. The original stables, however, remained, with many in the area citing the historical precedent of the buildings and the trees that lined the property. When Tandy, owners of Incredible Universe, attempted to negotiate for the property, they had to make promises about the trees and state of the property to win over neighbors. Incredible Universe’s time in Houston was short, with the location opening in September 1995 and closing in February 1997. The building was offered up to Fry’s, who supposedly heavily considered it but ultimately backed down because of the nearby competition between Best Buy and Micro Center.

The building would only sit vacant for about a year, as plans were made but fell through for a call center to use the space. Almost as soon as these plans flopped, HCC stepped up to buy the property. Their long-time Galleria campus was aging, undersized, and about to lose its lease. As soon as HCC moved in, they had to begin classes, and only limited renovations took place in one-third of the building. Over time, the other building portions would be gutted and renovated to allow for expanded enrollment. Some of the buildings would be given to HISD, which built a high school in a portion of it. Some bits and pieces of Incredible Universe remain, like the entryway, portions of the dividing wall between the warehouse and salesfloor, and a few of the original stairways. While the loss of the Incredible Universe is a tragic story in retailing, the 26 years as a college versus the two as an electronics store speak volumes about how most of the community likely remembers this former Incredible Universe.

One comment

  1. Their computer museum could have come out of my attic. Maybe I should charge admission.