A look into Houston's retail past

Taking a shopping trip to stores of the Past (Part 2)

Editors note: This is a guest post by commenter Anonymous in Houston. Be sure to check out Part 1 here.
Welcome back folks! Today we’re finishing up the second part of our journey through The Portal to Texas History. As mentioned in the previous post the portal is a website operated by the UNT Libraries. As the school is in Denton, the majority of material is from DFW. However we have a great shared retail lineage with our neighbors to the North. So much in fact that with the help of Houston Historic Retail, I have compiled a Shareable Spreadsheet that I will continue to update with new content as I find it.
This photo of a Marina style Safeway from Abilene was featured among other grocery stores in part one.
So far I have found not only videos and photos on many major stores such as Sears, Montgomery Ward, Safeway, Kroger, etc.. I have also found media of some obscure retailers too. For example Docktor’s Pet Stores, and Sound Warehouse, and the Southwestern Bell stores are all on the edge of my memory and are nearly impossible to find many photos of online. The database features videos filmed inside all three of these stores. The superior quality and unedited cuts of the master tapes also provide a better overall viewing experience. In the mean time I invite you to fire up the Retail-tini and watch the pictures fly through the net as we move on to the main attraction.

Dillard’s/Joske’s

In Houston, we did not get Dillard’s department stores here until they took over the Joske’s chain in 1987.  However, in the Metroplex, Dillard’s entered the market in the early 1970s through various acquisitions.  News clips from the Metroplex about Dillard’s allows us to take a look into Dillard’s stores before they even got to Houston. Here is a video from 1977 which not only shows a new Dillard’s department store in Ft. Worth, but it also shows the work of another retailer, Tandy, and their Tandy Center mixed-use shopping mall in downtown Ft. Worth.  The Dillard’s here ultimately did not last all that long as it was gone by the mid-1990s.  Nonetheless, it was a nice store when it opened as one can see in the video

This 1983 video from a Metroplex Dillard’s is one of my favorite videos in the Portal. Compact Disc players had just hit the market and Dillard’s had them for sale. Younger readers might be surprised to learn that Dillard’s ever had electronics, but they most certainly did even in the first few years after Dillard’s entered Houston via the Joske’s buyout (Joske’s likewise had a nice electronics department). Anyone who knows anything about quality vintage Hi-Fi will surely be impressed by the Marantz gear being sold by Dillard’s at the time! It seems that in 1983, not only did Dillard’s have electronics, but they also sold major appliances like refrigerators as well as they can be seen in the background of this video. Also, Texas Instruments computer software and games, likely for the TI-99/4A system, can be seen in the background of this video.
Here is a video from 1987 discussing Dillard’s purchase of the Joske’s chain the question is brought up of what would play out at malls which have both Joske’s and Dillard’s stores.  The video has some footage from inside a Joske’s store at what is presumably the Town East Mall.  It also includes some interviews with clerks at the Joske’s store on their future job prospects.

Foley’s/Sanger-Harris

The two Foley’s and Sanger-Harris videos below will actually be somewhat similar to a couple of the Dillard’s videos from above. The first video shows the glitz and glamour at the opening of the Hulen Mall Sanger-Harris in 1977. This video absolutely shows department stores were in a different era back decades ago.
The next video comes to us from a decade later in 1987 when Foley’s took over the operations of Sanger-Harris.  This video shows how much stronger Foley’s was then Sanger-Harris within the Federated Department Store structure, and it also previews in a way Macy’s taking over Foley’s a couple of decades later:

Incredible Universe/Radio Shack & a Sears Electronics bonus

One might expect that the Portal would have a lot of videos about Radio Shack and various other Tandy store formats given that Tandy was based in Fort Worth.  However, that’s not really the case.  That said, there is a video from 1994 showing the inside of the Metroplex Incredible Universe.

One Radio Shack video on the Portal website that I found particularly interesting shows competition between Radio Shack and a somewhat unlikely competitor, Sears. The video is from 1990 and discusses how Radio Shack and Sears hoped to fill the expected large demand for personal computers in the 1990s.

At that time, Radio Shack was selling Tandy’s own brand of computers, most of which were IBM compatibles by 1990, and Sears had a computer department that had a few prominent brands including IBM. Sears might seem like an unlikely place to buy a computer, but the reality is that Sears had a large computer department at one time. In fact, this 1984 KXAS video from the Portal shows a Sears Business System Center which was a store dedicated to selling business PCs, copiers, phone systems, and pagers.

Oddly enough, Tandy stopped making their own computers in the early 1990s and focused on selling computers mostly through their big box format stores like Computer City, McDuff, and Incredible Universe.  Sears downsized their computer selection right before the Internet boom.  While it was possible to buy computers from Sears and Radio Shack even in the late 1990s, the reality is that they had stopped being computer stores by then and most people looked elsewhere when buying computers.

JCPenney

Just as younger readers might find it hard to believe that Dillard’s ever had electronics, younger readers might find it hard to believe that JCPenney once sold electronics, tools, and had auto centers just like readers might remember Sears and Montgomery Ward selling.  It was in the early 1980s when JCPenney decided to eliminate hard lines from their stores and here is a video about that.

Mervyn’s

In the early 1990s, a famous Mervyn’s commercial had a woman lining up at the store several hours before opening time while chanting “open, open, open” to get some great sale prices. That commercial always made me laugh because the thought of someone lining up at a Mervyn’s seemed rather unlikely.

Ah, but the Portal has the power to make the unlikely into reality! Here is a video from 1983 discussing the grand opening of several Metroplex Mervyn’s stores. Included in the video is a large crowd of shoppers who were lined up to enter one of the stores as it opened. I can’t hear them saying “open, open, open,” but I assume that they were saying that!

For most of Mervyn’s time in Texas, they were owned by the Dayton Hudson Corporation which also owned Target and has since taken the Target name. Mervyn’s was an anchor tenant at most of the major Houston malls. In cases like Willowbrook Mall where they weren’t a mall anchor, they were located close to the mall. The video does a good job describing what Mervyn’s was and who their intended customer demographic was. Mervyn’s was never the most fashionable place to shop, but it was a place where a lot of people bought their school and work clothing. In many ways, they replaced what Weiner’s was for decades in the Houston area as Weiner’s started to fade away.

Pacific Stereo

There were many electronics specialty stores which came and went very quickly in the 1970s-1990s. Some of them, like Federated, are easy to remember for those of us who were around in that era due to their catchy marketing, but many of the chains have faded from pretty much all consciousness. One of those chains is Pacific Stereo. That said, Pacific Stereo was a great store for Hi-Fi gear back at a time when people actually put a lot of money into Hi-Fi gear.

Here are two videos that KXAS did about compact discs in the mid-1980s which show off Pacific Stereo stores. The first video is from 1984. It introduces viewers to the brand-new realm of Compact Disc Audio! This report shows off the features of new CDs and features both customers and sales staff commentary on the new technology. Check out that awesome Technics SL-P10 CD player! Of course, it was playing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as almost every CD demo from that time did! In 1986, KXAS re-visited a Pacific Stereo to discuss the reduction in prices in CD players and discs:

Sakowitz

At one point in time, luxury shopping in Houston meant shopping at Sakowitz.  Sakowitz decided to try to see if they could run a department store in the Metroplex in 1981. The reference to crosstown rivalry if of course because Neiman Marcus was founded in and still operates out of Dallas.

Now that we’ve discussed mid and upper-level department stores and specialty stores, let’s take a look at discount stores.

Gibson’s Discount Center

Now that we’ve discussed mid and upper-level department stores and specialty stores, let’s take a look at discount stores. One of the more memorable discount/variety stores in Texas were the Gibson’s Discount Centers. These stores competed with the Woolworth and TG&Ys of the world for those who were on a tight budget or who wanted the lowest prices on basic items. While the chain shutdown during the 1970s Gibson’s still has a couple of independently owned stores in Kerrville and Weatherford, Texas. I believe the people behind Gibson’s are also behind the Drug Emporium chain of large pharmacy stores that still operates a handful of stores across Texas. They were in Houston during the 1990s. Here’s a look inside a Gibson’s Discount Center in 1979.

Here’s a video from a year earlier discussing the Blue Laws that were on the books in Texas until 1984 that restricted retailers from selling a random list of items consecutively on Saturday and Sunday (they could sell the prohibited items one day but not the other). For a long time, retailers stayed closed on Sundays because of the Blue Laws. However, in the years leading to the change in the law, many retailers started to open on Sundays and sold items illegally. Given all of this, the laws were mostly changed, but some Blue Laws still exist regarding alcohol and car sales. This is why car dealers in Texas are only open on Saturdays or Sundays, but not both. Here is Gibson’s talking about their opposition to the Blue Laws. The video includes lots of nice views of the interior and exterior of the store.

Kmart

On the topic of Blue Laws, here is a 1984 video about Blue Laws as it relates to Kmart.  There are also some images from inside a Kmart store.  Some great shots from the Kmart electronics department can be seen in this video.  Also visible in the video is a 1980s version of an outlet mall.  Malls like this were popping up all over Houston, typically in the form of Deauville Fashion Malls and Buyers Market Malls (a couple of the latter were turned into Garden Ridge Pottery stores here in Houston).  These malls often defied Blue Laws which boosted business.  Once other retailers started opening on Sundays illegally and after the laws were changed, these malls lost their advantage.

We’ll stay in 1984 with the next Kmart clip. You might have heard of Sears’ ‘stocks & socks’ strategy of selling financial (Dean Witter and Discover Card) and real estate (Coldwell Banker) services that they owned at their stores in the 1980s. It seems Kmart was trying to experiment with ‘stocks & socks’ strategies as well and their entry into the Texas market is the point of this video. Some scenes from inside the Kmart are also visible.

Now we will step back into Christmas of 1983At least one Metroplex Kmart was experimenting with senior citizens shopping hours on Sundays (probably in defiance of Blue Laws) so that seniors could shop in peace.  Some great images from inside the Kmart are visible in this video.  I sure do have a lot of memories of shopping inside Kmarts with that orange stripe interior!

Now that we’ve had a look at 1980s Kmarts, let’s take a look at the earliest days of Kmart. When the first full-sized Kmart opened up in Garden City, Michigan in 1962, the S.S. Kresge company already planned on opening three Kmart locations with Kmart Foods locations in Houston by the end of 1962. These locations opened in Baytown, Pasadena, and Spring Branch (the Spring Branch Kmart was famously built around the Hillendahl family cemetery). Finally here is The Baytown Sun newspaper issue for November 7, 1962 in which there is significant coverage of the opening of the first three Houston-area Kmart locations including photos, ads, and details about the stores.  The information about Kmart is on pages 20-32.

Sam’s Club

It didn’t take long for Sam’s Club stores to make their way into Texas after the first Sam’s opened in Oklahoma in 1983.  By that same year, Sam’s had a store in the Metroplex and that is the feature of this 1983 video.  Membership club stores wouldn’t have been new to Texans at the time.  Stores like Gemco and FedMart had existed in Houston for many years previously, but the idea of the warehouse store selling items in bulk was still pretty novel at the time.  In this video, you can see how first generation Sam’s Club stores looked.  Also, Sam Walton himself is interviewed in the clip.

Fast Food

We’ll now briefly take a look at restaurants and fast food.

Here are a couple of general fast food videos which show multiple fast food restaurants. All of these fast food restaurants had locations in Houston at least one time or another. The first video is from 1982 and shows the interiors, exteriors, and signs of various fast food restaurants, including Taco Bell, Del Taco, and Long John Silvers.

Here is a video from 1981 where several new fast food menu items are taste tested.  Images from outside these fast food establishments are also provided. This video contains many segments used in the previous one, alongside lots of new footage. Some of the chains featured in this video include, McDonald’s, Whataburger, DQ, and Del Taco.

Here are a couple of not-so-flattering videos about Jack In The Box restaurants in the early 1980s. There were two situations, one in the very early 1980s and one in the very early 1990s, which caused Jack In The Box a tremendous amount of embarrassment. First we have a 1981 video discussing how Australian horse meat labeled as beef was used at Jack In The Box restaurants. Probably the more famous of the two was in 1993 when four children died and several hundreds were hospitalized about an E. coli outbreak in the Pacific Northwest. While, I couldn’t find any videos about that in the archives there is an excellent 11 minute Retro Report on the outbreak. Finally for Jack, here’s a video about a Hepatitis scare at a Metroplex Jack In The Box in 1984.  Jack In The Boxes, at least the one in the video, certainly had more upscale interiors back then.

Now that we’ve discussed Australian horse meat, E. coli, and Hepatitis at Jack In The Box locations, let’s take a look at a video about a more contemporary fast food problem, unhealthy food. This 1977 video from KXAS discusses the potential health pitfalls of a fast food diet. Surely this isn’t news to anyone reading this 40+ years after this video aired.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the interior of the Burger King restaurant in the video and also at the distinctive uniforms the employees wore. These are the same uniforms that were featured in the famous “Have It Your Way” commercials that Burger King aired in the 1970s.   Also, the video contains outdoor scenes from a Taco Bell and a Whataburger.  There might also be a brief indoor scene at the Whataburger at the very end, but all we can really see is the booth.

Full Service Restaurants

Finally, we’ll conclude this look at retail videos from the Portal with a couple more 30 minute interviews from the Abilene Christian University TV station.  The first video I’ll present is a 1985 interview with Lynn Packer, chairman of the board for Wyatt Cafeterias.  Packer talks about the history of the chain and talks about the differences between his cafeterias and fast food as we typically know of it.  Wyatt Cafeterias were once quite popular in Houston.  They were similar to Luby’s and Piccadilly.

Houstonians might remember Grandy’s. Although Grandy’s has not been in Houston for quite some time, they’re still around. In Texas, they are mostly in North Texas these days, but there is a restaurant location in Victoria. For those who don’t know, Grandy’s was a cross between traditional fast food chicken and diners. Although I think their food was quite good, they obviously didn’t manage to stick around in Houston. Here is a 1986 interview with Ed Johnson, co-founder of Grandy’s. He talks about the history of Grandy’s and he talks about how he distinguished Grandy’s from traditional fast food.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some retail videos from The Portal to Texas History website. There’s a lot, lot more on the Portal which I did not post. I encourage everyone to visit the Portal page and search for retail videos and other resources. If you find something interesting, feel free to post about it in the comments section. Also, since things are continuously being added to the Portal, who knows what great resources might be added in the future. With that in mind, this keep an eye out for possible future installments! In the meantime check out my Live Spreadsheet which contains a database of videos I have found and I plan to continue updating it with new content as I come across it.

This Week in Demolition: 3015 ½ Inwood, the French Quarter garage apartment in River Oaks

This Week in Demolition we have a much shorter list than we’ve seen in the past few weeks, with only a couple of non-residential demolitions. Starting off this week we have a garage apartment from a house that you’re almost sure to recognize if you’ve ever driven through River Oaks. Located in the rear of the neighborhood 3015 Inwood is one of the original homes in the area. Construction was started in 1935 under the direction of notable regional architect John F. Staub. The house is colloquially known as the “New Orleans” house. A designation it seems to have gained from realtors who were officially using the term to list the home by the 1980s. The original structure was described as a two-story nine room brick veneer home, it was built for Robert Bowles and his name is used as the official historic designation for the residence. The house did not originally have its “New Orleans style” cast iron balcony as the second story was not added until 1952. By this point the home had been sold to Patrick Rutherford, a rather wealthy oilman. Mr. Rutherford would live here until 1990 and oversaw most of the expansion, updates and renovations to the house which also included the addition of the garage apartment in the 1960s. All outbuildings stylistically match the main house both inside and out. With the fact that Staub was brought in by Rutherford to oversee the second story in the 50s it’s not unrealistic Staub helped with the garage, and pool cabana which were all added around the same time. Historically speaking this is a small loss, but it was an interesting dive into the history of a house I recognized as soon as I pulled the address.

Other interesting properties this week include, 3002 Locke Lane, a 1940s Colonial Craftsman style two-story home in Avalon Place. 5806 Par 4 Drive, a house that seems to have been flooded prior to 2018 remodeled, and then flooded again by Harvey on the market, and finally 2418 Albans Road, another garage only demolition but some great photos of the main property which is a 30s or possibly 40s two story brick structure. It’s in great shape and includes lots of originals like the pedestal sink! Hey I know it wasn’t great this week, but what do you expect for free… rubber biscuit? P.S. Even if you don’t normally check out our retail offers keep an eye out for this week’s upcoming blog post which is Part 2 of Anonymous in Houston’s trip through the Portal to Texas History! Also, if you do read the retail stuff, good on ya for reading the demo posts too, enjoy your Easter egg!

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Residential Demolitions
3015 Inwood Dr, Houston, TX 77019– River Oaks, John Staub 1937 New Orleans Style House, Garage Only, Photos
3002 Locke Ln, Houston, TX 77019– Avalon Place, 1940s Colonial Craftsman, Photos
2418 Albans Rd, Houston, TX 77005– Museum District, Garage Only, Photos
2107 Bartlett St, Houston, TX 77098– Chevy Chase, Mentioned in the February 6th TWID, Photos
3771 Syracuse St, Houston, TX 77005– Sunset Terrace, Large corner lot along Bissonnet, Photos
5806 Par 4 Dr, Houston, TX 77088– Inwood Forest, Remodeled after earlier flooding, but photos from prior to Harvey so likely flooded again, Photos
4119 Drummond St, Houston, TX 77025– Ayrshire, 1950s Ranch, FEMA Lot (does this mean they were a FEMA buyout?), Photos
6617 Avenue C, Houston, TX 77011– Central Park, Photos
3602 Oak Forest Dr, Houston, TX 77018– Oak Forest, Sold for lot only, Photos
4115 Drummond St, Houston, TX 77025– Ayrshire, Sold as-is, Photos
615 E 12th 1/2 St, Houston, TX 77008– Heights, Photos
3521 Tartan Ln, Houston, TX 77025– Emerald Forest, Flooded and condemned, Photos
2333 Hoskins Dr, Houston, TX 77080– Neuen Manor, Photos
3825 S Braeswood Blvd, Houston, TX 77025– Linkwood, Flooded and abandoned, Photos
1217 Omar St, Houston, TX 77008– Heights, New construction by Aspen Homes, Listing
3705 Bruce St, Houston, TX 77009– Greater Heights, Photos
5206 Braesvalley Dr, Houston, TX 77096– Meyerland Corner Lot, Photos
3007 Hazel Park Dr, Houston, TX 77082– Parkhollow Place, Photos
1721 Viking Dr, Houston, TX 77018– Oak Forest, Photos
6254 Meadow Lake Ln, Houston, TX 77057– Oak Forest, New home by Laird Investments, Original photos replaced by renders, Listing
703 N Milby St, Houston, TX 77003– Merkels, Photos
1913 Hoskins Dr, Houston, TX 77080– Neuns, Home also site of business “Free Air Corp”, Photos
5633 Fairdale Ln, Houston, TX 77057– Westheimer Gardens
1530 Pleasantville Dr, Houston, TX 77029– Pleasentville
4219 Hartsville Rd, Houston, TX 77047– South Acres Estates
1807 Ryon St, Houston, TX 77009– Ryon
1115 Wakefield Dr, Houston, TX 77018– Oak Forest
10806 Riverview Dr, Houston, TX 77042– Riverside
7818 St Louis St, Houston, TX 77028– Liberty Road Manor
1248 Richelieu Ln, Houston, TX 77018– Oak Forest
32 W Broad Oaks Dr, Houston, TX 770560– Broad Oak Place
5814 Wipprecht St, Houston, TX 77026– Kashmere Gardens

Non-Residential Demolitions
1314 Allen Genoa Rd, Houston, TX 77017– Allen Genoa Game Room, Listing
1433 Dian St, Houston, TX 77008– Former Bell/AT&T Service center, Categorized as residential demo, so residential redevelopment likely Listing

All quiet at the Taco Cabana

Taco Cabana is a unique restaurant, starting in 1978 from a single location in an old Dairy Queen in San Antonio they brought they idea of Drive Through Tex-Mex across a good portion of the Southern United States. Taco Cabana was so successful early on they even experienced a few imitators by the 80s such as Two Pesos who would later be famously sued by Taco Cabana. By the 90s the family involved with founding T.C. had left the company and after going public the chain experienced enormous growth. Expanding beyond Texas into New Mexico, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and possibly a few other states.

A few things set Taco Cabana apart from their competitors, first off the restaurants were open 24 hours a day 7 days a week offering breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, their drink menu included alcoholic beverages like beer, and margaritas, next the food was ready just as quick as any other fast food joint, finally they hooked you with the fajitas. I sincerely don’t know what it was about Taco Cabana’s fajitas but they were straight up delicious, and while not gourmet quality, they were cheap and well complimented with seasoning which is really where fajitas come from. While I don’t have as much information on the expansion of Taco Cabana I do know that they experienced lots of Luther’s BBQ like issues. Including changing ownership, mismanagement, poor quality control among franchisees, and over expansion. Taco Cabana was likely over 200 stores at one point but is now much closer to 100. The out of state stores did not last with Florida being the first market T.C. left, they would slowly trickle out of Georgia and Arizona too, leaving us with Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico as of 2021.

The over expansion problems weren’t limited to out of state locations. Even after the infamous Two Pesos chain was purchased and their locations converted to Taco Cabana, new stores continued to pop-up. At one point there were over 20 Taco Cabana locations in the Houston suburban area. As issues with quality control, and declining sales increased Taco Cabana stores in Texas started to close. For the most part these closings were quiet and the building was well disguised. However as of late issues seems to only be increasing for the chain. The current owner Fiesta Restaurant Group who also hold Pollo Tropical, closed 19 stores in early 2020. Today we’re taking a look at one of the locations that closed, 2535 South Highway 6 Houston, TX. This location opened in 1994 after Taco Cabana had taken over the Two Pesos location inside of West Oaks mall. Prior to 90s this side of Highway 6 and Westheimer had been mostly undeveloped. This new development also brought a Venture, Builder’s Square, Service Merchandise, and many other new retailers. Unfortunately this development would flop with Venture then Kmart failing along with Builder’s Square and Service Merchandise. For many years this shopping center operated without any major anchors, eventually Burlington Coat Factory and Floor and Decor, along with a few other minor tenants would occupy the empty space. Although Burlington would move in 2018 leaving the center partially empty again.

When looking this location up online it had pretty negative reviews. Most customers either had issues with the food or the response or the staff. If you look up reviews from Taco Cabana locations that are currently open you’ll see lots of similar complaints, bland and boring food, dismissive staff, and increasingly higher prices. While I do understand that prices rise over time, the quality of Taco Cabana’s food continues to drop. The last time I ordered Fajitas I couldn’t even finish them they were so dry, it was like eating a jerky taco. The short sightedness of corporate failings is apparent in this store too. Just as the T.C. closed this center began to take off again with Alief ISD purchasing the former Venture/Kmart to re-purpose as training space. If Taco Cabana could have looked forward a bit it’s likely they could have easily mothballed this restaurant until the new center opened. However as of 2021, its just an empty eyesore on the property.

This Week in Demolition: Is the Eiffel Tower included?

Happy Easter loyal reader! I hope you’re enjoying what is likely a day off for you, I hope you have time to spend with your family and those around you. As such we’ll keep today’s post short. We have no real commercial demolitions this week, the closest being a former home turned church but nothing of interest. Moving onto homes it seems the time of the “Modern Ranch” is coming to a close. By this I mean homes that were originally built in a traditional ranch style around the 60s or so. They were then highly remodeled during the 90s and early 2000s. Some examples include 13927 Perthshire located in Memorial this is a perfect example of a Modern Ranch. The exterior remains completely untouched down to the lamp post. However, on the inside you’re greeted by an open floor plan, updated kitchens, bathrooms, and just about everything else. Another great example is 122 Cinnamon Oak Lane, while not staged like the last example you can again see an original house on the outside, with an updated interior. It does look like the first house had the more recent renovation, but the similarities are still there, opting for an open floor plan and updated kitchen and bathrooms. While ranch homes, and their updated counterparts are not all that unusual to find, generally more homes in nicer neighborhoods have been updated. This has created an odd phenomenon I have noticed while creating these demolition posts, updated ranch homes that seem to still have Harvey damage being issued demolitions permits as of late. I reached out on my Facebook to my realty followers to see if anyone knew why this was, but didn’t receive a response. Do you know why?

Let’s move on to the main affair this week, the quirks of Houston’s housing market. It’s no surprise to you loyal reader that Houston’s housing market is “unique”, especially if you read the first paragraph! Beyond affairs like people holding onto flood damaged properties, you’ll find some truly unusual properties being demolished sometimes. For example, this is I believe the third to fourth week in a row we’ve had a River Oaks mansion be up for demolition, and in fact this week we have two. Both are nothing to cry over starting off with 3227 Huntingdon Place, which is I believe the second home to stand the property. Although well-kept, there’s not much significant about this house beyond is location. The same can be said for the even newer 2530 Stanmore. Built in 1994 I do have to say that the house does do a great job of capturing the essence of an older River Oaks mansion, but again not much is lost here. When I talk about the quirks of Houston housing I mean things like 5740 Darling, which includes a charming mock Eiffel Tower out front, topped with a Star of David. I’ve heard the argument made “if it appears in the listing photos then they have to include it” this makes me wonder if lawn decor falls under that category. This wrought-iron replica likely won’t be replaced when whatever replacement is planned pops-up. Although if it’s anything like the neighbors expect more town homes.

Our house of the week 5740 Darling. Check out Streetview for a better look!

This is a list of the buildings which received a City of Houston demolition permit the week before this post.

Continue reading “This Week in Demolition: Is the Eiffel Tower included?”

Taking a trip to Grocery Stores of the Past (Part 1)

Editor’s note: In lieu of an April Fools prank this week’s post comes to us as a guest submission from commenter Anonymous in Houston. I’ll be back Sunday with the demo post -Mike!

Have fun thinking with Portals!

The Portal to Texas History website operated by the University of North Texas Libraries offers a tremendous database of primary historical resources including videos, newspapers, photographs, and more. While there is a lot at the Portal which might be relevant for those interested in retail history, I’ve found the videos at the Portal to be especially illuminating. Specifically, news clips from KXAS-TV, the NBC affiliate in Fort Worth, TX which covers the Metroplex, are a rich source of video clips which show retailers as they existed from the 1960s through the 2000s. The old KXAS newsreels have been carefully captured and are far higher quality than most historical video clips on sources like YouTube. One can see fine details in store décor from 40+ years ago in these video clips.

Although I have personal memories of visiting the majority of the retailers featured in the video clips below, I must admit that my memory cannot easily recall all the fine details about these retailers. Watching these video clips helped me bring back many memories of obscure parts of retail history like old aisle markers, store flooring patterns, and earthtone color designs. It’s really quite amazing. Since these are news clips, they also show reactions from store employees and customers as they were years ago. While some aspects of shopping and working at retailers years ago has not changed, many aspects will seem completely foreign to those who were not around to experience it in person. Even those who did experience these things might have forgotten about what life was like back decades ago. I feel that watching these video clips has helped transport me back to a time that has really become quite fuzzy to me over the passage of time. It’s really quite a powerful experience!

With that in mind, I’m going to share several video clips I’ve found to be interesting that I have come across while searching the Portal. Hopefully these video clips will either bring back a tremendous amount of memories or will inform you about how retail operated in a time before you were born. Most of the retailers which existed/exist in Dallas also existed/exist in Houston and their store designs and décor are quite similar in the two markets. Also, a proud Houstonian should not be ashamed of watching Metroplex retail videos. After all, Tom Thumb did get bought out by Randall’s and Sanger-Harris did become Foley’s! On to the video clips!

Albertsons

Although Albertsons did not stick around in the Houston market for very long, the topic of Albertsons in Houston has generated a tremendous amount of discussion on retail blogs and forums over the years.  With that in mind, this first video comes from 1991 and shows the Colorful Transitions décor package Albertsons used in the time prior to them coming to Houston.  The Lake Jackson Albertsons, which opened in the 1980s, would have had similar décor to what is in this video.

Here’s an B-roll clip from 2001 showing the Albertsons Blue & Grey Market décor package.  This is the décor package that most early Houston Albertsons stores would have opened with and some re-purposed former Albertsons stores, like the FM 529 & Highway 6 Food Town, still have this décor in their stores.  Some aspects from this décor, like the wall tiles in the meat department, still live on in some Houston Krogertsons and HEBertsons (former Albertsons that live on as Kroger and HEB stores): https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1505305/m1/

Food Lion

There’s not really a that much to say about Food Lion. They encountered the exact same issues at the same time as the Houston Division, and closed on the same timeline. As such there’s not a whole lot to see in these two 1997 B-roll clips, but they do have some views of the exterior of a Food Lion going out of business sale. Here are some interviews with a few customers.

Kroger

One of the most iconic supermarket décor packages has to be the Kroger Bauhaus décor that was used in the 1970s and 1980s and survived until the 2010s at some Kroger locations.  The Bauhaus décor is closely associated with the Kroger Greenhouse architectural design that was used by Kroger for their new stores built during the Bauhaus era.  The Portal has several videos which really show off several aspects of the Bauhaus décor as it existed in the 1980s.  I’ll start off by showing the videos from the earliest years and then move towards the newer ones.  With that in mind, let’s go Krogering!

The first video comes to us from 1981, and it shows off the Bauhaus décor when it was still relatively young.  More than that, the video shows off UPC scanner technology for the days when electronic checkouts were still fairly young itself.  In this video, we see two technologies discussed which were designed to make customers more trusting of electronic checkouts (yes, a lot of customers were wary of them when they first came out): talking checkouts which say the price as items are scanned and itemized receipts.  While itemized receipts are common now, talking checkouts did not exactly become common.  I do think some self-checkout systems do talk though.

Another interesting thing to keep an eye on in this video is the cart.  It was not uncommon in the 1980s and prior for supermarkets to have carts where the baskets flipped up when not in use and the front of the cart opened up so clerks could pull items directly off the cart as they checked them out.  Since these Bauhaus stores did not have conveyor belts for customers to put their scanned items on (they did have conveyor belts which moved the items towards the baggers), Kroger did implement the fold-down gate design that you see here in 1981. By the 1980s couponing had become all the rage taking over the “stamp” mania This video about Krogers use of coupons also shows some of the Bauhaus décor from the checkout area.  Also, check out those Cost Cutter cigarettes at the registers!  Cost Cutter was Kroger’s value store brand at the time and the Cost Cutter scissors logo was easy to find all over Kroger stores at the time.  I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing Kroger no longer has store brand cigarettes! We now move forward to 1984 and the topic is impulse buys.  Specifically, the topic is how Kroger spurs on impulse buys with the design of their Bauhaus store.  In this video are a lot of scenes from various corners of a Bauhaus Kroger.  It’s worth watching it for that.  Also, in the upper right corner at around 0:35 in the video, you can see the little wooden trellis that Kroger used in their gourmet cheese display at Bauhaus Krogers in the 1970s-early 1990s.  Kroger eventually, and sadly, removed those displays to extend selections of regular items. The year is 1985.  How are you going to pay for your groceries, cash or check?  Wait, Kroger is now accepting debit cards!  Whoa!  Predictions are made that customers will still mostly continue to pay by cash and check for the foreseeable future.  Well, that might have been mostly true through the early 1990s, but certainly that prediction didn’t age very well beyond that!

The year is now 1986.  French musician Jean-Michel Jarre is causing massive traffic jams with his Rendez-vous Houston concert and fireworks show in downtown Houston and the topic of beef is popular in the Metroplex.  I’m mostly posting this video because of the “Service at no extra cost” sign at the meat counter.  I remember that sign well!  In front of that sign would have been the little semi-circle brick floor in front of the meat case that always caused a racket when you moved a cart over it.  Some ideas are better in theory than in practice, but at least the service sign is really neat. We stay in the year 1986 for the next video.  This video is probably the wildest video in this whole post.  It seems that Kroger decided to hold a singles night in 1986 where they invited singles to come out to a Bauhaus Kroger to try to find love over blindfolded ‘guess that produce’ games!  The crowd for the singles night was quite large though.  Given that, I wonder why Kroger no longer has single nights. Internet dating sites cannot compare with the awesomeness that is the Kroger Bauhaus produce department lights!  Oh, this video really helped me bring back memories of those Decorated Cakes displays at Bauhaus Kroger stores as well!

Piggly Wiggly:

Yes, believe it or not, Piggly Wiggly did have stores in Houston at one time in the 1960s at the very least.  Here is a silent film showing a Metroplex Piggly Wiggly in 1968.

As you can imagine, Piggly Wiggly didn’t seem to be fairing much better in the Metroplex than they did in Houston.  Here’s a 1977 video showing how a Piggly Wiggly converted into a discount, bulk grocery format called Sav-U.  Also, I believe that is a Sears catalog store next to the Sav-U location:

Randall’s/Tom Thumb:

The following two videos are not news clips from KXAS, but rather they are 30 minute interviews conducted by the Abilene Christian University TV station.  Nonetheless, these videos are still housed at the Portal and I think they are quite interesting.  One is a video from 1985 where Bob Onstead, founder of Randall’s Food Markets, and Bob Gowens, a then-Randall’s executive, were interviewed about the history of Randall’s and how they manage the chain.  There are a lot of good insights in this interview and it helps explain how Bob Onstead built a small grocer that was able to reach the top of the Houston grocery market in the 1980s.  Also, given how much we hear about Texas products in current HEB marketing, it’s interesting how Randall’s was quite committed to selling beef from Iowa!  Randall’s did have very high quality beef in the 1980s so maybe they were on to something: 

In 1986, the same ACU TV show interviewed Charles Cullum of the Cullum Companies,  which owned Tom Thumb at the time, about the history and operations of Tom Thumb.  Once again, it’s not difficult to see how Tom Thumb was able to reach the top of the Metroplex grocery marketshare list, and would later make a perfect match for a merger with Randalls.

Safeway:

Safeway had a very major presence in the Metroplex at one time just like they had in Houston.  A very large number of KXAS news clips were filmed within Safeway stores.  Thus, it’s hard to pick out the best of the bunch, but I’ll try to do my best. The first news clip comes to us from 1978 when Safeway shut down their bread plant in the Metroplex because federal inspectors found insect activity.  With news like this, it’s no wonder why Safeway pulled out of Texas a decade later!  I’m sure Marvin Zindler would have had a lot to say about this story! 

If you’re a fan of the TV game show Supermarket Sweep, you’ll probably like the next clip from 1982A woman won a shopping spree at a Metroplex Safeway.  Some well-aged Safeway décor is quite visible in this video.  One thing this video reminded me of is that Safeway stores had this Christmas garland looking stuff wrapped around the edges and dividers (with the Safeway logo) of their refrigerated cases back in the day and they, like some other grocers, had an Astroturf-like lining to the meat cases. Also from 1982 is this B-roll footage from a Safeway Marina store. While the Houston division never built any Marina style stores one was transfered from the Dallas division prior to closing, and would end up becoming an AppleTree. I mentioned talking cash registers earlier in the Kroger section of this post, but here is a video about talking registers at a Safeway in 1982.  You can notice this larger store includes much more modern 1980s décor compared to what was likely 70s remnants in the Marina Store. 

Here is some exterior footage from 1987 when Safeway pulled out of the Metroplex. It includes an interview with an employee who learned that day he was loosing his job, and some exterior shots of an 80’s pylon store. 

Here’s some further coverage of Safeway’s exit from the Metroplex including some discussion of the Metroplex grocery marketshare at the time in 1987.

There are some wonderful photographs in the Portal database to go along with the photos.  Here are some 1960s photos of two Safeway Marina stores in Abilene, TX.  The Marina design is one of the most recognizable exterior designs of supermarkets.  Some Safeway Marina stores are still open in other parts of the country, but they are considered quite small by modern standards.  However, they were considered quite large in the 1960s and one can see that they even had enough room to sell clothing!

 

Finally, here is an interesting newspaper ad related to Safeway, Kroger, Eagle (Lucky Stores), and Minimax Texas Super Foods from the a 1983 issue of the South Belt Leader newspaper from Southeast Houston.  This Texas Super Foods ad, which spans two pages (the other page is accessible from the link below), has a comparison of prices between the four chains.  For the most part, Safeway was the most expensive.  That probably isn’t a surprise to most readers. 

Winn-Dixie

Winn-Dixie never entered Houston, although they did have a ring of stores around the area in Bryan, College Station, Port Arthur, Orange, and Port Neches.  Nonetheless, they did have stores in the Metroplex after they purchased the Buddies chain in 1976.  I thought that it might be interesting to look inside a Texas Winn-Dixie.  Here is a clip showing their décor in 1980

Here is a video showing a 1990s Winn-Dixie Marketplace store in Ft. Worth.  Interestingly, the store still had a Buddies sign in addition to the Winn-Dixie sign.  The video is partially blank in some spots, but the relevant parts are visible.

I hope you have enjoyed viewing these grocery videos and other resources!  I have good news for you if you’re left wanting more retail videos!  While I tried to select what I believe to be the best and most relevant videos and photos to post in this blog entry, the reality is that there are at least twice as many grocery-related videos on the Portal than what I could post here.  That means there is a lot left for everyone to explore on the Portal website.  The Portal is constantly adding new resources to their database, so there might be more great stuff to view in the future.  If you find any great grocery-related videos from the Portal, please share them with us in the comments. Also, if you would like to add any additional information about these videos, please feel free to comment about it below.

Now, you might be wondering about non-grocery retail videos.  Yes, the Portal has plenty of those as well!  There will be a part two to this post in the future where we will delve into some great non-grocery retail videos from the Portal.  Stay tuned to Houston Historic Retail for that and other upcoming posts!

This Week in Demolition: Etta’s Lounge meets its end, and an address on the NRHP

Welcome back loyal reader, This Week in Demolition we see the loss of one of a popular former club with a long history, along with a few interesting residential addresses. Let’s start of with Etta’s Lounge, the building has a unique history as one of Houston’s first 7-Eleven locations. Opening around the end of 1952 or early 53, it was operating only a few months after the first 7-Eleven had come to town. These early locations were small but packed with a variety of products they often served as a “neighborhood market” in a world where convenience store wasn’t yet a known term. After a string of robberies the store was sold to U-Tote-M in the early 60s who dealt with the same issues for another 10 years before finally shutting it down. The building would mostly sit vacant for the next 10 years, until a small restaurant opened sometime around 1980. The restaurant was named Etta’s Lounge, and served a “traditional Southern fare” including Brisket, Fried Fish, and Ribs. The restaurant also included a bar and the establishment soon became a favorite of many within the 3rd Ward area, by the mid1980s the spot had become known for live music and their “open ’till we close” policy. The music of choice was Soul and R&B with the 3rd Ward supplying plenty of local talent to this venue in a former convenience store. Some of the artists who performed at Etta’s include local legends Grady Gaines, Big Robert SmithJerry Lightfoot, the club would also occasionally host touring acts like The Untouchables. Etta’s was known not just for its incredible music, but the fact that their kitchen stayed open all night, and with a $1 cover patrons could BYOB well past serving hours. It was not unusual to end up eating ribs at 2 AM listening to some of the best soul and R&B Texas had to offer. Sadly, by the late 90s the Soul and R&B club scene had all but dissolved within Houston. However, Etta’s would manage to solider on at least into the 2000s as a restaurant and bar. Serving the same soul food menu they had become famous for before the music.

In terms of residential demolitions this week we have some fascinating houses to take a look at! Let’s start off with 7111 Schiller a house that is quite literally joined at the driveway to their neighbor. Most shots try to block this out, but take a look at the first few photos and you’ll see what I mean. Next we have 4646 Devon which from the outside looks like a mostly typical 1950s Afton Oaks Ranch Home, save for what appears to be a second story addition. On the inside you’ll see in fact that this an updated open concept home and the second story is likely in fact original! Finally, lets look at 2910 Lazy Lane in the heart of River Oaks, you know this is going to be an expensive one. Let me start off by saying the demolition permit issued is not for the entire home but rather the “Spa Only”. The house cannot be demolished as it is actually listed on the National Register of Historic Places as it was the personal home of prominent Mod Architect Hugo Victor Neuhaus. Considered to be a prime example of Mod architecture Neuhau’s home has been updated slightly over the years but still retains most of its original features, and all the original shaping and layout. With what will likely end up being the impending demolition of the River Oaks theater, it does spark the discussion if we can preserve the house of an architect why can’t we preserve historic commercial buildings? The answer is, we can! We just can’t wait until the last minute to act.

Residential Buildings
2910 Lazy Ln Blvd, Houston, TX 77019– River Oaks, Miesian Mansion, House on NRHP, Spa Only, Photos
7111 Schiller St, Houston, TX 77055– Pine Terrace, 1950s, Very modern updates including great looking gravel driveway, Photos
3514 Grennoch Ln, Houston, TX 77025– Braes Oakes, 1950s Ranch, Photos
4646 Devon St, Houston, TX 77027-Afton Oaks, 1950s Ranch with second story addition, Photos
4642 Ingersoll St, Houston, TX 77027– Afton Oaks, 1950s Ranch, Photo
3504 Suffolk Dr, Houston, TX 77027- Lynn Park, 1950s Ranch backups up to railroad, Photos
3209 McCulloch Cir, Houston, TX 77056– Lamar Terrace, 1950s Ranch, Photos
3234 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77098– River Oaks, Original 1940s Brick House, Fenced in as property fronts Westheimer, Photos
10310 Chesterfield Dr, Houston, TX 77051– Sunnyside, Photos
1242 W 30th St, Houston, TX 77018– Shepherd Forest, Updated 50s Home, Photos
9842 Porto Rico Rd, Houston, TX 77041– Carverdale, Sold for lot value only, Photos
3207 S Braeswood Blvd, Houston, TX 77025– Braes Terrace, Flooded sold for lot only, Photos
8637 Antelope Dr, Houston, TX 77063– Blossom Heights, Photos
89 Fichter St, Houston, TX 77022– Elmwood, Seems to be gutted, Photos
401 Goldenrod St, Houston, TX 77009– Glen Park, Abandoned Meth Shack, Backs up to Bayou and Cemetery, Photos
1305 Lawson St, Houston, TX 77023– Greater Eastwood, Garage Apartment Only, Photos
107 Northwood St, Houston, TX 77009– Bradley Acres, 1920s Bungalow, Garage Only, Photos
1402 Caplin St, Houston, TX 77022– Lindale, Garage Only, Photos
1604 Goliad St, Houston, TX 77007– Greater Heights, 1930s Shotgun Shack, Photos
2120 Rice Boulevard, Houston, TX 77005– Southhampton Place, 1930s Mansion, Garage Only
5525 Bunte St, Houston, TX 77026– Kashmere Gardens, It’s gotta be somewhere back there!
2430 Albans Rd, Houston, TX 77005– West Houston
1314 Zora St, Houston, TX 77055– Westview Terrace
7225 Boggess Rd, Houston, TX 77016– Scenic Woods
4062 Durness Way, Houston, TX 77025– Ayrshire
7014 Hoffman St, Houston, TX 77028– Trinity Gardens
8021 Record St, Houston, TX 77028– Clairmont Place
6625 Avenue P, Houston, TX 77011– Magnolia Park
3126 Beran Dr, Houston, TX 77045– Willow Glen
1602 Hawthorne St, Houston, TX 77006– Mandell Place, 1920s 2-story
1086 St Clair St, Houston, TX 77088– Lincoln City
7143 Miley St, Houston, TX 77028– Homstead
7933 Ritz St, Houston, TX 77028– Settegast
5311 Newkirk Ln, Houston, TX 77021-Macgregor Place
8602 Othello St, Houston, TX 77029– Pleasantville
9301 Meldrum Ln, Houston, TX 77075– Easthaven
4054 Durness Way, Houston, TX 77025– Ayrshire
19609 Dunbar Ave, Humble, TX 77338– Humble Heights
7050 Inwood Park Dr, Houston, TX 77088– Inwood Heights, Condo, Unit not listed
513 Frisco St, Houston, TX 77022– Belt Junction City
714 W 21st St, Houston, TX 77008– Heights, 30s Bungalow, Bad shape
7437 Avenue K, Houston, TX 77011– Magnolia Park
4619 Dunnam Rd, Porter, TX 77365– Porter

Non-Residential Buildings
1001 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77042– Montrose and Westheimer Shopping Center
5120 Scott St, Houston, TX 77004– Eta Lounge, 1950s 7-Eleven, Listing
3115 & 3117 D’Amico St, Houston, TX 77019– Bavarian Machine Specialists (BMW Repair Shop)

This Week in Demolition: Site of explosion comes down one year later

This Week in Demolition, we take a moment to reflect on a tragedy just over a year later, the special houses this week will be in the second paragraph. On January 24, 2020 a deadly explosion occurred at the Watson Grinding Facility in Spring Branch. Two employees were immediately killed by the blast, and a third man who lived near the facility died later from injuries related to flying debris. Sadly most neighbors were unaware of what the purpose of the Watson Grinding facility was, or that they stored hazardous chemicals on site. Many houses in the area sustained large amounts of damage, injuring occupants and forcing a large number of people to relocate. An active investigation into the cause of the explosion has prevented much  demolition and the site along with the surrounding buildings until now. A lack of coherent zoning regulations, a famous caveat of our fair city, is being put to the fire by the Watson Explosion. While we can’t get back what was lost in this tragedy, we can move forward and cleanse Houston of this collective “scar”, and protect our future generations.

Moving on to a lighter topic lets take a look at some of the better demos this week! To correlate with the grand opening of the 80’s Diner we have 9159 Briar Forest a true 80’s home, that reminds me of Cameron’s Dad’s house in Ferris Bueller’s Day off. Interestingly this is a condo in a private community and the home backs up to Buffalo Bayou. We also find our next house on a private street, backing up to Buffalo Bayou. 3702 Knollwood A 5 bedroom, 5 bath 1950s River Oaks Mansion, that was dropped mid-reno likely from Harvey. Third we’ve got another large house that is right along Brays Bayou and was very obviously flooded 5237 Braesheather. This has me wondering, have these homes sat vacant waiting for the market to improve or is this truly coincidental? I’m not sure, and don’t have the knowledge to really weigh in. However, I can leave you with a 20s Bungalow at 916 Highland which is not being demolished, but the garage apartment is and the pics are worth it!


This is not my drone footage, but some of the best I found online. While the fireball from the explosion was powerful, you can see that the blast force shredded the metal and had a similar effect on houses nearby.

This is a list of the buildings which received a City of Houston demolition permit the week before this post.

Continue reading “This Week in Demolition: Site of explosion comes down one year later”

Sunoco’s attempt at earning their Stripes

In this fast-paced world of corporate acquisitions it sometimes gets confusing as to who owns what. Family owned concerns are getting harder to find as time goes on, often selling to firms promising an investment that never comes. Stripes was no stranger to all this confusion, having gone from arguably the strongest independent chain in Texas to a subsidiary of 7-Eleven in the short span of only 3 years. Stripes started out as a family owned company in Corpus Christi in 1938, with the actual Stripes we know and love debuting in 2006. It would quickly grow a fan base in areas underserved by traditional chains all the way up until their sale to Sunoco. After the sale Stripes would continue to run as an independent division. One of the most immediate effects was a switch in branding from Stripes gasoline to Sunoco gas. Other superficial changes would take place, like Stripes moving their management to Dallas, and Sunoco experimenting with Laredo Taco Co locations in existing locations.

Overall things looked good for the company, and to celebrate this success one of the first projects under new leadership was a redesign of traditional Stripes stores. Ditching the lego brick look for roomier more modern looking stores. The new stores featured open ceilings, updated design packages, and a slightly modified sales floor layout. Overall the changes were a positive mark for Stripes beings received well by their customers. A good number of new locations would be built throughout 2016 and 2017, but construction would stop by the time Sunoco finalized the sale of their entire C-Store division to 7-Eleven. With the new parent company more interested in expanding their brand into Texas, Stripes would be slowly disassembled, with their Support Center (in a former Wal-Mart) closing by the end of 2018 effectively killing of Stripes as anything more than a brand name and promotional tool.

In the end, this is quite a sad story in my opinion. Not because 7-Eleven is choosing to build their own stores over these Stripes prototypes but because you can tell lots of time and effort went into designing this generation of store. Even as an over merchandised 7-Eleven the building still manages to feel roomy, and open. I could really see these stores taking off, so it makes me a bit melancholy to see all this effort abandoned. Thankfully we did at least end up with the stores we got, and experience tell us that the folks behind Stripes will likely be back one day.

This Week in Demolition: A philanthropist’s River Oaks Mansion and an abandoned Federal Building

This Week in Demolition, we’re spoiled for choice! Let’s start out with some houses of note. Our most expensive residential demolition of the week is no doubt 3315 Del Monte. Located in the heart of old River Oaks this 1960s mansion is not original to the neighborhood. It was built by Albert Alkek, one of the early pioneers of the Texas petrochemical industry being involved early on with Sinclair oil. After Mr. Alkek and his wife passed it seems the house was put under a charitable trust which has donated tons of money throughout the state most notably to Texas State who have named a library in their honor. Next up, we have a house whose history is not nearly as old, built in 2010 1614 Lakeshore seems an unlikely contender for this post. However, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey is still being dealt with nearly three years later, and it’s important to recognize this. Visiting Kingwood earlier this year, I drove through neighborhoods along the San Jacinto River and can attest that this house was definitely flooded well into the second floor. Unfortunately many houses that were flooded, but didn’t qualify or refused a FEMA buyout, were left in limbo to be dealt with at a future date. Well it seems that we have finally reached that date, with the only option being to demolish and move further away from the river. Finally, in terms of important houses lets also take a look at 4719 Jackson while not particularly noteworthy this is a 1930s Cottage that has been lovingly updated. It looks like very little expansion has been done giving the space an overall cozy and homey feel. Also check out the small details like the exposed piping for the shower head. Its obvious someone spent a lot of money to bring this house up to this shape, and it’s sad that it will be demolished. While I do understand and appreciate the call for increased multifamily dwellings, this is an example of a well maintained, masonry house that would have been premier housing in its time.

A photo of the building from 2012 Photo: Patrick Feller Licensed by CC/2.0

Let’s get on to the “entrée” of this week’s post, the 1939 U.S. Appraisers Stores Building. Located a 7300 Wingate along the Port of Houston, by the Federal Government. As the Port of Houston grew so did the number of international imports heading through town. As I’m sure you’re aware, foreign goods are inspected by customs and are given a value for tax purposes upon their arrival in the U.S. As such this building and the giant warehouse across the street were built and connected to the railways and roads of the Port of Houston. The building served its purpose for over 50 years before being eventually sold to the Port Authority. The building was an excellent asset to the port inspecting over millions of articles during its lifetime. However, lacking maintenance and much needed asbestos abatement caused the building to decay over the years. It seems that the interior has been vacant at least upwards of 10 years now. While I’m not sure what is planned for the property next, a plot of land across the street is home to a new gas shipping terminal. If you’re interested more photos can be found here.

This is a list of the buildings which received a City of Houston demolition permit the week before this post.

Continue reading “This Week in Demolition: A philanthropist’s River Oaks Mansion and an abandoned Federal Building”

Whos been painting Eckerd?

Remember Eckerd? Sure you do, it was the second largest pharmacy chain in the United States at one point! And its blue and white color scheme with purple, red, and gold accents are peak “90s aesthetic”. Even if you’re not familiar with the store, you’e likely to agree they looked awesome! Eckerd stores looked nice, had locations nearly from coast to coast and were all unfortunately doomed. This was largely due to the 1996 merger of Eckerd with JCPenney’s Drug Store division. Their stores were headed by Thrift Drug, along with multiple other chains they had acquired throughout the East Coast. While some locations were converted most stores varied in size, products, departments, policies, and names. The merger was seen as a way to help Eckerd grow their store count, and provide a coherent brand for all of Penney’s drug stores. The merger was initially hailed as a success, with Eckerd brining in approximately 45% of JCPenney’s income at their peak. However, the task of merging all of these stores together proved to require more cash than Penney’s was willing to spend putting them all under the same brand but not the same infrastructure. The company also continued to run two separate support centers to run each side of the company.

A surprising decision was made to sell the company which was still in the midst of building new stores, unable to find a single buyer the stores were split up. CVS chose the locations across the South and West including those in Texas, with the Northern and East Coast stores being sold to Brooks Pharmacy, who would as a result fold, but we’ll save that for the end. The store we’re looking at today (7215 Bissonnet) opened in 1999, and I believe it replaced an older location which was in a strip center nearby. In 2004 CVS made their first push into the Houston market opening brand-new stores. Only a few months later the Eckerd deal would close instantly skyrocketing their store count within the city. This store was just a block away from a brand-new CVS (7102 Beechnut) located on a corner lot adjacent to HBU. The easiest decision was to just shut down the “old” Eckerd location and sell the property. Over 15 years later the property continues to sit vacant outside of one occasion you’ll see below.

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In closing, this is a sad state for a store to sit in, but I’m glad I was able to get these photos. The history of Eckerd would likely have been a lot different if JCPenney had not sold them off so quickly. As mentioned before, the Brooks Eckerd merger failed within two years, and the stores were again sold off. This time Rite Aid bought the combined chain and began to rebrand everything under their name. Rite Aid would do a decent job of brining the stores up to par technology wise, but many old Thrift Drug locations and even some old Rite Aids that came full circle sat in old Eckerd’s decor. In 2015 Walgreens would attempt to merge with Rite Aid, however the FTC blocked this deal and instead allowed them to purchase stores in certain areas. While for the most part Walgreen’s took over older, less desirable locations. I covered what they did with some of these a while back on the blog what I didn’t know at the time was that Walgreens had also acquired some former Eckerds, and here is your reward for sitting through this verbose rambling. Walgreens best imitation of an Eckerds.
-See you Sunday folks!