A look into Houston's retail past

The Ghost of Sears Past | Willowbrook Sears dresses up for Halloween

As of 2020 Sears has nearly left the Houston area. They have shutdown all but the Pasadena store, sold their outlet chain, and shutdown all area Hometown stores. It’s really a shame for a chain that once had a major influence over the Greater Houston area. Their presence in this town was built as the city grew starting downtown and expanding to the suburbs as our sprawl progressed. In 1978 Sears announced plans for three new stores along with two new malls to be built by the company’s Homart division. At FM 149 (Now TX-249) and FM 1960 would be Willowbrook Mall to the South I-10 and Mason was to be the site of Meadowbrook Mall. The plans also called for a Sears at 59 and FM 1960 but a mall was not announced.

Of the three new stores only two would be built with Meadowbrook Mall never coming to fruition. Likely due to competition from the proposed Williamsburg Mall but that’s a story for another day! Source: Houston Chronicle.

Today we’re taking a look at one of these former locations. The Willowbrook store closed in mid-2020 amid the pandemic and unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of the closing sale. However to my surprise it has “reopened” under the Spirit Halloween banner. While Spirit is no newcomer to Houston area, they tend to go for smaller shops as seen in last years post.

The sign on the North side of the building is still up. This can only be seen when driving along the backside of the mall as is not visible from either highway.
I believe this entrance was at one point Customer Pickup but I couldn’t verify it. The doors are however now being used as an employee entrance for Spirit.
The grand arches seem to be unique to this Sears. Although I’m sure there are other examples. Spirit has multiple banners up, but none where Sears had their signage.
All store entrances were closed with paper signs directing you to use the mall entrance. Notice that there are a large number of fixtures left behind.
The mall front sign is a new one for me! Although I’ve seen Halloween stores in malls before they usually use banners.
Walking into the Spirit only a tiny portion of the former Sears floor space was being used as sales floor. Including the “backroom” Spirit only took just under 1/3 of the downstairs.
Some of the original fixtures were being used behind the scenes as storage, like these hangers used for products that had “slipped out of their packaging”.
I’m not sure exactly what this counter was as it was un-staffed but I think it was either makeup or more specialized costumed. This area was the back right of the sales floor, and was significantly larger than the left side. You can see through the door that a separate backroom was setup here.
This long shot really shows how big the space was compared to most other Halloween stores. This was only about half of the sales floor.
This photo was taken directly in reverse of the last one. I believe that this carpeted area was the mall entrance checkout. It’s possible that may have hosted the a small amount of the jewelry section but it was difficult to tell as the store had been well kept.
Moving over towards the back left corner of the store you can tell this was a clothing area based on the column mirror. You can also see the aforementioned escalator above the false wall.
Peeking behind the curtain again, I was able to see even more abandoned fixtures. If you look directly to the back you can see an escalator and another abandoned price check mount.
While Sears is selling the actual price check devices the signage and mounts were all left in the store.

While I was a little disappointed by the amount of the Sears that was reused, with no dressing rooms or original fixtures present I did enjoy getting a chance to check out the Willowbrook Sears at least one last time. On the way out of the mall, I noticed something was up with the Old Navy. I had seen the false front on the way in, but had figured it was a COVID related closure. Especially with the large red “We’re Open!” signs.

On closer inspection the red sign was from Old Navy Canada, and the false entrance was in Old Navy colors but was otherwise unbranded.
Looking at the note on the door, it seems that Old Navy hasn’t been paying their lease! As of this posting the store is still listed as temporarily closed. Could this be the feature of a new post? We’ll find out soon!

Checking in on Meyerland Plaza

Meyerland Plaza is one of Houston’s oldest continually operating shopping centers. Opening in 1957 as part of the Meyerland Housing Development it underwent an extensive renovation in the early 90s turning it from a more traditional outdoor mall to a department store anchored shopping center. Only a few original tenants managed to survive to the transition. The renovation added new features such as a second story and a new Venture Department Store. The mall has continued to change over the years and has been rather successful.

Starting off Meyerland has received a new sign. This is the large sign along 610, the previous large neon sign was not original as the first sign supposedly collapsed during Hurricane Carla. I believe the sign change was part of H-E-B’s agreement to become a tenant.
Moving along to the front of the plaza Bed Bath & Beyond has shut their Meyerland location leaving a oddly shaped vacancy. This was one of the store to originally include a second floor.
When the plaza was renovated the interior walkways were converted to second story loading docks. As such the first floor was given to BB&B, giving the store a T-shape.
While some larger fixtures were left behind, it looks like the space was stripped of most everything else including flooring. Within the last few years the second story of most stores had been closed.
The large blue skylights give a nice looking light, they’re not particularly stylish compared to more modern shopping centers but make up a large part of Meyerland’s design so hopefully they stick around.
To the left this space was most recently occupied by Justice’s a girls clothing store that closed in 2015. By 2018 Navy Federal Credit Union opened in a majority of the vacant space, leaving just this small portion vacant.

The old interior is still in tact with the new bank’s wall running down the middle of the former sales floor.
This space received temporary use as a BBVA branch. Originally occupying the former Meyerland State Bank, the branch (famous for one of Houston’s biggest robberies) was torn down for the new H‑E‑B, where they now lease tenant space.
This store was most recently a Motherhood Maternity. It seems to have closed around the end of 2019 as part of a bankruptcy related multiple unit closing.
Argenta Silver was a local silver jewelry shop that closed around late 2018. The space has sat vacant since then.
Next is Palais Royal which closed within the past few months. This location previously had a second story, some of which was converted to offices and a training center, the entrance to which sits to the left of the store.
Inside of Palais Royal one of the interesting features is this hallway which originally provided access to the second story.
Moving down the line to JCPenney. While this location is not listed in the closures, I’m not optimistic for Penney’s continued success.
This is approximately where the fourth entrance sat, it was pretty well covered up and is only visible by differences in the ceiling.
This jewelry case had the tile knocked off exposing the original grout which matched the brown tiles seen at the former Almeda and Northwest Penneys locations.
Looking out of the new second story entrance which was added when H-E-B opened. For a look on the other side check out these photos from earlier in the year.
These last two photos are from a few days later and show Pier One which was one of the first to close in Houston. It was recently converted into a new Five Below location
Pier One and all shops on this side of the plaza were added later after General Cinemas closed their location here.

While Meyerland Plaza has experienced lots of success thanks to proper upkeep and a good mix of stores, they are just as effected by the retail apocalypse as any other shopping center in Houston. With this new loss of anchors hopefully more space will be redeveloped.

What’s left of West Oaks Mall

Welcome back, today we’re taking a look at West Oaks Mall. A place which is special to me. It was my middle school mall. At the time the mall had a good selection of stores, was pretty safe, and most importantly was closest to where my family lived at the time. By the time I was in high school I was either driving or new people who could drive me, and would generally go to First Colony. I stopped by West Oaks last December, and took so many photos it has taken this long to filter through them.

West Oaks has been through many different stages of life. Originally opening in the mid 80’s with high-end stores like Lord and Taylor and  Saks Fifth Avenue, the mall seemed destined for greatness. However with a slow economy, development stalled and, the mall stagnated becoming just another general suburban shopping center. That is until a tremendous amount of traffic was driven to the area with the opening of the Westpark Tollway. During the early and mid 2000s a huge number of new homes were being built just beyond West Oaks Mall.

A full force remodel took place to update the mall from it’s early 90’s suburbia look into a Ranch styled masterpiece. This remodel brought in many new stores, and helped to revitalize the few upper-end retailers left. It was going quite well for west Oaks all up until the late 2000s recession. The mall was dealt its final blow throughout the 2010s as all the anchor tenants except for Dillards shutdown. Ever since then the mall has been fizzling into a quiet and mostly unnoticed death.

The food court entrance was generally quite busy. The building straight ahead was originally the movie theater, and was last Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar and Grill. 

Coming under the very retro looking canopy you can notice some of the original decor which was removed during the ranch renovation. The hole in the plaster went all the way through and was meant to be reminiscent of a mission’s window. I believe the canopy was extended during the early 90s renovation. 
This falling plaster is probably one of the best examples of the lack of care given to this mall. Rather than fixing the leak causing this, they just continually replaster the result.

The brand carpet was left untouched during the most recent renovation which aimed to keep a similar color scheme with the removal of most ranch elements. 

This shot is looking down towards the food court. The movie theater on the left, and the former McDonald’s and T-Mobile on the right. 

Whoever this dude is, he seemed to be renting out the former T-Mobile as ad space. 

The movie theater space at West Oaks originally opened as Plitt Theaters in 1984, who sold most of their chain to Cineplex-Odeon. The name was changed around 1986. It would close at the end of 2000, reopening mid 2003 as Houston’s first Alamo Drafthouse location. It would close in 2013 to make way for a Toby Keith’s which would only last until 2015. It has sat vacant since. 

This was once McDonalds, which closed around 2014. The black square of tiles was where the golden arches were mounted. 

This map is not up to date with all the store closures. It was a piece of false hope before entering the depths of the mall. 

Looking into the food court, the dire situation the mall is in becomes more apparent. The food court originally had a second floor smoking area around where the fireplace sits today. This area was completely updated during the ranch renovation. 

This is the corner of the food court near the restrooms and offices. The left storefront was most recently Orange Julius, which puts the former McDonalds to the right. 

Los Ranchos, which I believe replaced a pizza spot? has closed. The Chinese restaurant to the left was one of only two spots open in the food court. 

Long time hold out Kelly’s Cajun Grill also seems to have closed their West Oaks location, leaving behind an untouched store front. 

These ranch table tops were one of the best things of to come of the renovations. They are being mostly phased out after years of neglect. I tried to grab a couple of shots to help document whoever compiled all this research into these ranches.

Krispy Krunchy Chicken replaced Arby’s a few years back. It actually seems to do pretty well, granted it’s either this or chinese. 

Roman Delight has finally called it quits, packing up sometime in 2019. 

Originally a Great American Cookie Co this spot was used by a few independent bakeries, but has sat empty for a bit now. 

The former FootAction USA has been remodeled. After they moved out, an R/C group rented the space, and used it without any real changes. The floor still sports the shoe brands though. 

Pac-Sun, or Pacific Sunwear if you’re of a certain age, left behind this facade. 

Hollister opened here during the mall’s mid-200’s upswing. It only lasted a few years closing by 2011. 

Beyond the former FootAction one wing of the mall has been demolished. This was done to facilitate construction of the Edward’s Theater. A large glass wall was built to create a new entrance. This one seemed to have much more traffic than the older Food Court Entrance I had used. I was unable to get a direct shot of it for that reason. 

I came outside to get a glimpse of the theater. It was early afternoon and the place was relatively dead. The mall overall had very little traffic for the Christmas season. The exterior of the Edwards theater is beginning to show some age, which doesn’t bode well for such a new facility. 

This whole section used to be indoors. The original plans showed the entire mall was receiving similar updates but it seems unlikely that anything new will be done at this point. Original anchor Mervyn’s was demolished during the update. Although by that point it had been vacant for many years after briefly serving as Steve and Barry’s. 

Another look at the old Hollister shows at half decent job at covering up the center porch the stores tend to have. Looks better than most other dead malls. 

Walking back through the food court, you cross by the former Image Nails. During the mid 2000s upswing this was converted quickly from a Cingular Wireless store to the new location of Hot Topic.

Walking down the busiest corridor (the one leading from the food court towards Foley’s) you see a mix of stores that are reminiscent of Northwest Mall. 

Yup, definite flashbacks to Northwest Mall. 

The Guest Services desk, is beautiful decorated but completely unmanned. Behind it, is the Dillard’s now a clearance location. 

Zales has shut their doors at West Oaks, the large mural to the left is part of a child’s play area which hides the former entrance into JCPenney. 

This part of the mall has been fronted by vending machines for a few years. It was originally a part of Kay Jewelers whose space was subdivided when they closed. 

The remaining portion of Kay Jewelers, if my memory serves correctly they were the ones who distributed the “You are loved” buttons that were popular for a while. 

The Sears signage remains despite the store closing over a year ago. 
Champs seems to be doing well. They are often among the last stores to close in dying malls.
Entering the park court the high mission window still in place, it’s easy to notice that the ranch remodel was less drastic here
Getting to the so called “Park Court” you can see the ranch renovation was much less drastic on this side of the mall. This is pretty much what the food court used to look like, including the mission influenced round window.
Originally serving as a secondary food area the park court featured a few food based retailers, including a small sunken seating area. This was filled in during the renovation and the only remnant is this now defunct smoothie shop.
The Palais Royal is still open and as far as I can tell has not been converted into a Goordman’s. This space was briefly a Linens n’ Things. With Palais Royal returning to the mall in the late 2000s. Thanks to Rachel on facebook for confirming this!
Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works are still both running strong. They were by far the busiest stores in the mall. Despite this they are smaller compared to any other nearby mall. They also lack their co-branded counterparts (Pink & White Barn) which some nearby malls have.
The former Sears space still has some lights on. I’m sure to some extent the management it aware that morbid curiosity of the mall does generate some foot traffic.
Looking inside Sears this was a elegant looking store with some distinct Saks Fifth Avenue features left behind.
Looking down the final corridor the number of open stores does perk back up near operating anchors. Such is the case with Foley’s/Macy’s replacement, The Outlet.
This however, did not stop Visible Changes from deciding to leave the mall.
The Outlet, which is as the name implies an Outlet style store which replaced Macy’s is deserving of its own post. The place is HUGE!
Being back where the mall started over 35 years ago, that leaves one thing left to do. Take a look back, then head outside.
Foley’s is where everything started, this store included an entrance with terracotta handprint tiles made by school children. When The Outlet moved in, they chose not to use that entrance, but it still sits there untouched.
Now a Fortis College this was originally built as a Lord and Taylor. I remember shopping here quite a bit with my mom when it was a Penney’s. The store was cramped, with oddly placed departments.
This building was added to the mall in the mid 90s for Linens n’ Things. Palais Royal moved in around 2009.
It’s you can tell that this store wasn’t originally a Sears, it is almost difficult to identify that it was originally a Saks Fifth Avenue.
Built during the mid 2000s update, this was originally home to an Applebee’s which closed a couple of years ago. It was replaced by an African restaurant which also failed.
Lets take a look at Dillard’s. This store is special for two reasons, one it is the only anchor to have never changed names. Second, this pad site was originally going to be a Macy’s. At the time Houston only had one other Macy’s and this was also prior to their purchase of Foley’s. However, with the failure of Saks and Lord and Taylor, plans were abandoned.

All in all, this is a sade fate for such a great mall. The memories of this mall will stick around for some time. I plan come back and document the area around the mall a bit better. Including the West Oaks Village shopping center across Westheimer. I’m also curious to see what old photos I can pull up. If you have any you want to share consider dropping me a line on Facebook.

Two Closures in Galleria IV

Upon visiting the Galleria last week, I was surprised to learn of two recent closings. One of them I saw coming from a mile away which was of course Best Buy Mobile. The stores, which were more similar in fashion to a cell phone retailer, than a real Best Buy. I had tried shopping here a few times, and never had an exceedingly pleasantly experience. Best Buy announced the closure of all BB Mobile locations back in May of 2018. I did not see the store have a clearance or going out of business sale.

The exterior has been left untouched so far, although black covering was added to the doors and windows. It’s likely in this case, that there’s either not a tenant lined up just yet or Best Buy Mobile still has a lease which has yet to end.

The next closure in Galleria IV, came a more of a surprise. It was the former studio of KPRC-TV (Channel 2)’s “Houston Life”.  The show which is still on the air, has moved to another location, but that’s a story for Mike McGuff to tell.

I wanted to include one final shot to show where the studio was located. It was shoved under the escalators next to Nordstrom. It was directly sandwiched by the ebar.

Visiting Almeda Mall for the first time

In light of the recent publicity of my website thanks to a Chron.com Article I decided to visit the literal twin of Northwest Mall, Almeda Mall.

The following may come as a surprise to my readers, prior to yesterday I had never set foot in Almeda Mall. I had of course driven by many times, knew where it was, and knew its shared lineage with Northwest. Both malls opened in October of 1968, they also shared developers, and shared many tenants. There were 70 stores in each mall, with a total of 6 unique stores per mall by 1976. (This leaves out obvious exceptions such as independent barber shops, pet shops, and cinemas located at both malls.) The malls were also built around pre-existing Foley’s stores.

Approaching the mall from the Gulf Freeway, one of the first things I noticed about the mall was it’s striking similarity to Northwest. However, getting closer to the entrance I noticed that it had been updated.

The similarities to Northwest Mall were extremely noticeable. Such as this former exterior entrance to both mall’s Tex-Mex Restaurant El Chico. The locations seemed to have both closed by the mid-90s.

Entering the mall the first thing you’re greeted by is a set of claw machines. These are built into a false wall which covers the exterior of the former Piccadilly Cafeteria location which closed at Almeda in 2014.

Across from the former Piccadilly Cafeteria inside of the prior mentioned El Chico space, is 4040 Arcade. This is not an original arcade to the mall, however it is interesting that it’s still up and running.

Step 1 in spotting a dead mall, check for retail in the food court. Except, this mall isn’t really all that dead. In fact it was quite lively, and this was on a Tuesday night. I actually had trouble getting pictures without people in them.

This is the middle of the food court, facing back towards the entrance. Sesame Hut is still going strong, and not just the Almeda location. The Northwest Mall location moved out from the mall, and is still in business. The stall next to Sesame Hut, was apparently at one point a KFC/Taco Bell Express, notice the reused “Taco” sign.

As you continue forward, you’re finally greeted by the main hall, and mall entrance to Palais Royal. The differences between Northwest Mall and Almeda are very evident here. There is no raised stage, the flooding and walls have been updated. As well the lighting has updated, and “kites” have been added to the raised window.

Due to the length of this article (nearly 40 pictures!) I have added a read more tag, if you want to keep reading click below. If not, keep scrolling and you’ll find the Northwest Mall Article among others!

Continue reading “Visiting Almeda Mall for the first time”

Northwest Mall July 2018 Update

Well, we’re coming to the end of July, which means it’s finally time for another biannual trip to Northwest Mall, before you read any further not much has happened. However, everything is still there, at present there are no plans for demolition. The last stated plans were to remodel and redevelop the inside with a possible grocer taking the space of a former anchor. I have since been contacted by the group wishing to purchase and redevelop the land, my update is at the end of this post.

Nothing much has changed with Palais Royal. They are using the former mall entrance as sales floor, as opposed to keeping it open. The exterior plants and grass are all well kept.

I wanted to include a picture to show that not only are the lawns and hedges trimmed, but the edging is even nice!

The stage is still assembled, which you figure they might try to sell if they were completely serious about selling the mall.

Some of the stray items left behind at Thirsty’s former location have been removed.

This cart is the final visible cart in the mall. I’m not sure if the carts have been sold yet. Prior to closing most of the carts were moved to the former Movie Theatre hallway.

The Dryer’s signage remains attached to the building. Sticking my fingers between the glass I could tell that the A/C temperature inside the mall was either higher than Palais Royal or completely off.

Looking down towards the former JC Penny’s entrance you can see that everything in the hallways has been removed. The former movie theater hallway no longer had carts or kiosks in it when it was converted to an emergency exit.

This is the final exterior mall entrance with any access. The movie theater hallway is open to allow access to the emergency exit for the club. However you’re not able to access the rest of the building.

The former Foley’s remains untouched. Even the original F door handles remain attached. You would think that someone might attempt to make off with them, however security seems to primarily patrol this side of the mall.

The 610/290 interchange construction has died down enough that Entrance 7 could easily be reconnected with the feeder. However, it seems highly unlikely this will happen at this point. I truly believe this mall has its days numbered.

This construction lot honestly, may be one of the few things preventing redevelopment. It’s likely that this government acquired contract has some sort of lease stipulation preventing breaking of the lease without a penalty.

The Northwest Mall is open for business along with 3 of the 4 business signs have been removed. These are on the former Macy’s building. The only remaining store from this sign has bene Palais Royal for the past few years.

The former front entrance, or “Entrance A” has been completely covered for a while now, construction dumpsters which were in the service courts have been removed.

Again, all but the Palais Royal Sign has been removed. This was on the former JC Penny’s/Antique Mall building. I wonder why they have never made any attempts to cover the non-existent stores.

Unfortunately, I really think we’ve hit the end of any kind of full mall restoration. We may see retail based redevelopment, if the idea of placing the high speed rail station there pans out. Otherwise we must play the waiting game to see what happens next. If you enjoyed this update check out my past entries on the same topic.

7/24 Update: I was contacted by Michael Moore Regional Vice President of External Affairs for Texas Central Partners (The Company which is building the bullet train between Dallas and Houston) who informed me that Northwest Mall has officially been selected as the location for the Houston Station. He also said “Texas Central has an option on the land and will close after we finish our environmental review by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)”

This will prove to be a fitting use for the old mall. As opposed to another new shopping center they have chosen a unique modern design, which matches the nearby HISD buildings. Mr. Moore also provided a video showing what the proposed station will look like. https://texascentral.sharefile.com/d-s72321f159d842aaa

Katy Mills Renovation

Katy Mills which has been previously covered in this blog, is undergoing a renovation. Simon who purchased the malls original developer (The Mills Corporation) had not invested much in Katy Mills in terms of upgrades. Individual stores had updated their store fronts, but nothing in common areas.

One of the first things to go was the “Star Family” a common mascot among the Mills malls. My understanding is that the idea was that you and your family were members of the star family, because at Katy Mills you’re the star? Regardless the star family slowly disappeared. They sank into obscurity around the same time Katy Mills removes the Neighborhood sponsors.

The mall is in need of an update. As is evident by the state of maintenance in the mall. This is not the first time I have seen a former Mills mall receiving a refresh that goes to Grapevine Mills which went through this process a few years ago.

It’s likely that many of the unique design features in this mall will be lost. The Katy Field Day theme is being removed from the food court. Which includes restaurants themed to look like lunch kits and a dining area not only the size of a football field but a fully marked one as well.

Business at the mall seems good, especially for the middle of a Monday. Hopefully this renovation helps ensure Katy Mills continued success.

Check out the rest of the photos on my Flickr

Northwest Mall December 2017 Update

As it had been nearly 6 months since my last visit to Northwest Mall, I figured it was time for me to stop by. From the outside it looks like not too much is going on, and the views from the inside support that as well. All the stores with exterior entrances are still open, including Thompson’s Antique Center, Palais Royal, The College of Health Care Professionals, The Post Oak Club, and Chapa. Upon speaking to an employee at Palais Royal it appears that the mall may be up for sale, and as a result the renovation is on hold.

Looking to the A-Entrance you can see that all tables, chairs, ropes, etc.. have been removed from the food court.

 

The plants next to the stage have been removed, but the soil is still there.

 

The cart advertising the opportunity to have your own cart at the mall is still there.

 

The former Dryer’s is oddly still intact, however it closed prior to the mall.

 

Looking toward the old JC Penny, all carts have been removed. I noticed that one of the permanent booths was actually for sale at the antique center soon after closing.

 

While I didn’t get it in this picture, an emergency exit arm has been affixed to one of the four doors to the outside.

 

It looks like the temporary wall, is a bit further back than I originally thought.

At this point it doesn’t look likely that the mall will reopen, and if it does it won’t be anytime soon. If anyone has any information please feel free to leave it in the comments below, and we’ll see where we are in the next 6 months!

Katy Mills Opening Day

All images in this post were taken by Darel Rex Finley. With his permission, I have used them to write this post.

When Katy Mills Mall opened in 1999, it wasn’t surrounded by much. To the South two recently developed, and unfinished neighborhoods, Pin Oak Village and Falcon Point. To the North, downtown “Old Katy”. With no development to the East or West. Even the outparcels of the mall were underdeveloped, with a Walmart and Toys ‘R Us, being the only other retail nearby.

The sign remains on the feeder of I-10 Unchanged to this day.
Photo Credit: Darel Rex Finley

The idea of building a mall here puzzled some, as it seemed to be “out in the sticks”. The reality is that this was a prime location for a mall. The suburbs were booming, and the developer, The Mills Corporation, had gone through tons of trouble to build this mall. The land on which the mall sits was part of the Katy Prairie, specifically they were wetlands.

Although, no longer in such great shape most outdoor decor is still around. However, many lighted elements have burned out.
Photo Credit: Darel Rex Finley

The Mills Corporation had given a large donation to the Katy Prairie Conservacy to help purchase new land, and prevent environmental backlash. The Army Corps of engineers had to permit and supervise the draining of the wetlands as they had a protected status. As well, the land was owned by the City of Houston, it was sold to Katy who then sold it to the developer. During development competing companies tried to open two rival malls both of which would fail.

While the Field Day theme is still used, chairs and tables have been thinned out to make room for more retail opportunities
Photo Credit: Darel Rex Finley

The mills corporation was finally able to build the mall pushing the original goal of early 1999 to late December, just in time for Christmas. The mall was sold on the outlet concept, but in a traditional mall setting. Many stores in the nearby Sealy outlets would jump ship to Katy Mills. This would help to make Katy Mills the premier shopping destination for most of West Houston.

Johnny Rockets was definitely a cool feature, but it did not last closing in 2010.
Photo Credit: Darel Rex Finley

The mall was designed in the standard “Mills fashion” the mall had a racetrack layout with a center food court. Each segment of the racetrack was considered a neighborhood. Each neighborhood was sponsored by a company. Upon entering the mall you were told by an automatic speaker which neighborhood you had just entered.

The AMC movie theater, which is still open, is located at the “end” of the track.
Photo Credit: Daniel Rex Finley

The mall had a theme of a day out at the mall with the Star Family. The colors and styles were meant to evoke the idea of children creating the decor using only construction paper and scissors. The food court had its own unique theme, entitled Katy Field Day the individual stalls were each themes to look like a child’s lunchbox, and the ends of the food court were flanked by full service restaurants.

The main corridors which were mainly vacant when the mall opened, have had kiosks placed throughout.
Photo Credit: Darel Rex Finley

The corridors were designed with a rising and falling pattern. The changes were dealt with by a combination of ramps and stairs. The floors were wood under a heavy coat of lacquer. Trees were placed at certain intervals in planters built into the ground. The ceiling was unique in that no drop ceilings were used or required by stores. Meaning that for the most part if you looked up you could see straight to the roof.

Until recently most of the mall has retained this color scheme.
Photo Credit: Darel Rex Finley

With the exception of anchors and the two full service restaurants, store fronts were limited to their logo and minimal branding. They could add some individual touches but for the most part they were very standardized. The ideal behind this probably fell to the fact that Katy Mills was considered to be an Outlet Mall, but the conformity would diminish over the years.

The spot to the left of Vitamin World, was a restaurant. However like the other corner spots (Johnny Rocket’s) it has since become a Tommy Bahama store.
Photo Credit: Darel Rex Finley

Certain areas were themed based on their sponsor, such as the Coca-Cola neighborhood. It featured a giant white polar bear (Coke’s mascot at the time) sled shaped benches and moving spotlights with snowflake shaped filters. The theming reflected the company, and save for the sled shaped benches would be stripped when Coca-Cola was no longer sponsor.

Notice the Pacsun in the back using the old full name of “Pacific Sunwear”. It is still in the same location, however they have updated the sign.
Photo Credit: Darel Rex Finley

Please take some time to visit Darel’s website. Not only does he have more pictures of Katy Mills on opening day. He also has tons of tutorials for cool things.

Northwest Mall June 2017 Update

Northwest Mall closed the interior of the mall March 31st, 2017. It was a sad and unexpected occasion. I made a final visit to the mall to try to talk to some of the shop owners. I found that everyone was unaware of the closure, until Mid-March, and for the most part lacked concrete plans of where to go or what to do next.

Once the mall closed, the interior sat untouched for a few months. During May the exterior doors were walled off and covered. With the exception of, The entrance near The Post Oak Club, which had a wall built further  back, and a door installed to accommodate entrance into the interior of the mall. The entrance near Chapa Club, the former movie theater, had a similar recessed wall built to accommodate the building’s interior emergency exit.

All stores with exterior access have remained open. The Antique Center of Texas, former JC Penny, closed their gate to the mall, and it has been walled off. Including a plastic covering to prevent dust getting into the store. Palais Royal, has not covered any of their windows or entrances.

The Food Court as viewed from Palais Royal

 

Zooming in on the doors, the original “Entrance A”.

 

A shot of the Macy’s Wing through the Palais Royal gate.

 

A view of the JC Penny’s Wing.

 

A Final Panoramic View of the mall.

 

As you can see little to nothing is going on. There are some construction dumpsters out front, which are loaded up. However only time will tell if Northwest Mall’s revitalization will actually be put into place. If interested you can find the rest of the album and higher resolution photos here.