Venture Department Stores

Company History
Venture Stores Inc. originally started out as a project of the May Department Store Company, a large conglomerate that bought and owned many department store chains throughout the US. In the late 60s, the company hired a few ex-employees of competing Dayton-Hudson, including Target co-founder John Geisse, with the plan to develop a competing upscale discount department store. The first location opened in St. Louis in 1970 and was quickly followed by a few stores throughout the suburban area, along with a few around Chicago. These early stores stylistically resembled Target, using large amounts of red coloring throughout the building, and similar block lettering for the logo, next to a geometric accent. The earliest stores even had their department layouts directly lifted from Target.

May slowly built up the Venture chain building many new locations and converting a few individually purchased competitors’ stores. Decisions for new locations were based on markets where May had experienced success with their full-line department stores. By 1985 Venture had made it to over 50 stores mostly split between Chicago and St. Louis. They also began to expand into medium-sized markets in the Midwest, such as Oklahoma, Indiana, and Kansas. This careful growth into under-served markets helped to bolster the chain’s success. With the 1988 acquisition of Foley’s by the May Company, executives had their sights set on Texas for the next expansion of Venture. In 1990 Venture was spun off as an independent company from May. The idea behind this was that Venture would be able to focus more resources, and money directly on its stores instead of having to play second banana to its upscale brothers and sisters.

As Venture expanded into new markets they tried to emphasize low prices.

Houston History
On July 22, 1992, Venture announced a huge new plan, they would expand into Texas giving concrete plans for a total of 9 stores in the state. The first property to be purchased was an empty lot across from Willowbrook Mall. It had taken the better part of a year to acquire the land due to the bankruptcy proceedings of the landowner. The amount of work needed to acquire that parcel showed that Venture used a great deal of finesse in locating their stores. At the same time, three leases were also executed taking the spaces of three former Woolco stores which had closed in bankruptcy 9 years prior. Venture was also still in the process of negotiating a lease in conjunction with Builder’s Square at Westheimer and Highway 6.

Within a month Venture began to release more information about their Texas expansion to the public. They were shooting for around fifty stores in Texas. Outside of Houston, they had made started making plans for the DFW area with four stores. May Co executives had become familiar with this area due to Foley’s merger with Sanger-Harris one year prior to the acquisition. A distribution center was also under construction in Corsicana just South of Dallas. This location would help centralize operations for Venture’s proposed service area which stretched all the way to San Antonio, and Corpus Christi.

Venture was very responsive to the communities they served. The company believed in trying to tailor products in a store to meet local demands. After the opening of their first Houston store, some changes were made to the products carried. This included reducing soft lines, increasing hardware, and changing some of the fare available at the Venture Cafe (Renamed in the Texas market due to the already extant Cafe Express). The changes were viewed as somewhat radical at the time, as Venture was quite well known for their higher quality and more extensive selection compared with other discounters. This shift required limiting selection to increase the number of items for sale.

Photo Gallery

Store No.
#12117717 Tomball Parkway Houston, TX1993-1997 First location built, sold to Kmart subdivided between REI, Petsmart, and Best Buy as of 2020
#12214411 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX1993-1997 Built by Venture, sold to Kmart, Later Burlington Coat Factory, now Alief ISD Building
#1233503 Palmer Highway Texas City, TX1993-1997 Built as a Woolco, sold to Wal-Mart then to Kmart, sold to BP used as offices, now subdivided into shopping center (Originally 3401)
#12511542 Gulf Fwy Houston, TX1993-1997 Built as a Woolco later subdivided with Front Row, Bizmart, and Shoetown, Sold to Kmart, now Floor and Decor (Originally 11540)
#126310 FM 1960 W Houston, TX1993-1997 Built by Venture, sold to Kmart, subdivided between Fallas Parades (using original entryway) Dirt Cheap, and Planet Fitness
#1306802 Spencer Hwy Pasadena, TX1993-1998 Built as a Woolco, subdivided with J Brannam, Wal-Mart after 1983. Did not become KMart. Now subdivided among multiple stores
#1311001 Bay Area Blvd, Webster, TX1994-1997 Built by Venture, sold to Kmart, Later subdivided including Circuit City
#13512005 Northwest Freeway1994-1997 Built by Venture, sold to Kmart, Now Burlington Coat Factory
#1382745 Town Center Blvd Sugar Land, TX1995-1997 Built by Venture, sold to Kmart, Subdivided between DSW, Saks, and David's Bridal
#139300 Meyerland Plaza Houston, TX1994-1997 Built where half of Meyerland Plaza once sat. Sold to Kmart, then Target.
#1407600 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX1995-1998 Built by Venture, Became Expo Design Center, Now mostly Academy with small unoccupied space on left.
#1418300 W Sam Houston Pkwy S Houston, TX1995-1997 Built by Venture, sold to Kmart, now Viet Hoa Market
#1434553 Garth Rd. Baytown, TX1994-1998 Built by Venture, sold to Kmart, now subdivided mostly Hobby Lobby


    1. L, I’m not aware of any Venture photos from the 1990s. That said, I do know of some photos taken inside a Kmart in Clive, Iowa that was turned originally a 1990s Venture not unlike many of our Venture stores here in Houston that were turned into Kmarts. This Iowa store has many similarities to our Venture-turned-Kmarts in Houston including the partial drop ceiling design. Since this Kmart lasted a lot longer than the Houston ones did, this store did get some updated decor along the way, but it mostly looks like how our Venture Kmarts looked.

      1. The Clive, IA location looks like it was built identically to the Westheimer/Hwy 6 location. When that location closed, it still had an active K-Cafe/Little Caesars at the front that had great popcorn and cotton candy.

  1. The location on Almeda-Genoa is the one that baffles me the most. The interior of Floor & Decor doesn’t look anything like Venture, but I can tell it had the exact same layout as the Westheimer/Hwy 6 store. The ceiling just has weird looking brown rafters instead of the regular open-webbed ones. Your thoughts?

    1. Very interesting question! Almeda-Genoa was in a much older Woolco built building, whereas Highway 6 and Westheimer was a Venture new build. The buildings are actually different in lots of ways, the former Woolco is much larger with their stores running around 300,000 square feet. There is actually a large section of the building that was sublet. Probably close to 50-75,000 sq feet. Also, the Almeda store is an older brick/concrete block building where Highway 6 is a modern tilt wall concrete.

      1. Yes, I agree. I too have noticed all of these changes, however, I can tell both stores had the same identical layouts as Venture. I visited the Floor & Decor store a few years ago and noticed that the restrooms are in the same place as they would have been as Venture, and they look the same as the Westheimer store but with remodeling. There is also a large space between the restrooms and the entrance which is where Kmart customer service would have been, that I noticed too. I feel that while it was an original Woolco build, Venture was trying to make it as identical to their own layout as much as they could. The sublet section to me looks like it may have came later, after Kmart left the building.

  2. The Bellaire-beltway one had Kansas City street maps and Midwest Living magazine for sale at the checkouts. How could any employee not say “uh boss, why do we have these?”

    1. No kidding, I had read multiples times that the stores were reworked and remerchandised to fit our needs. Guess they weren’t paying THAT much attention.


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