North Oaks Mall

In the 1970s the suburbs of Houston continued to grow with a marked expansion to the Northwest. In 1974 the realty division of the Weingarten company announced a shopping center to compliment the numerous new housing developments in the area. A 4 acre site at Stuebner-Airline and 1960. Named North Oaks Plaza, the center was planned to incorporate entertainment and shopping into one complex. The mall was to include an ice rink, bowling alley, and racquetball courts, in addition to a six screen cinema and bowling alley. The ice rink was to be the central feature surrounded by stores on three sides making up 150,000 square feet of mall space.

Construction would begin in 1975 construction began on the new mall. Outside the movie theater, none of the planned entertainment components would be constructed. The first tenant was a Weingarten’s grocery store which was quickly followed by a Target both holding grand opening in mid 1976. They were at opposite ends of the lot and plans at the time deteriorated to a corridor linking the two existing stores with the movie theater in the middle. A junior anchor was proposed for the center of the complex, which would eventually become Big Lots.

North Oaks Mall resembled other indoor shopping centers of the time more than a mall. As consumer tasted changed the mall corridors were slowly abandoned, and retail spaces expanded. What little of the mall corridor exists today only provides access to the movie theater.

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  1. Thanks so much for posting about North Oaks Mall. I basically grew up there!

    My dad owned a surf and skate store called Harmony Surf ‘N Sunwear, and North Oaks Mall was the first location (later expanded to 7 locations around Houston). It was located across from B Dalton Booksellers and next door to a kids shoe store (if memory serves). I spent many, many hours scouring every inch of that mall. So many good memories.

    When Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video came out, the mall hosted a big event. They built a platform stage, and a troupe of professional dancers in full zombie makeup performed a dance routine to the song. It was awesome.

    I also remember when they essentially busted a hole through Target in order to connect it to the rest of the mall. You couldn’t get through originally. It was a big deal when they connected them. I think there was even a ribbon cutting. Ha!

    Some of the other stores I remember from that era:
    – Palais Royale (which was an anchor at the opposite end from Target)
    – Alladin’s Castle
    – Hallmark
    – Brook Mays Piano
    – Sam Goody
    – Some kind of pet store that I swear sold crawdads at some point
    – A hair salon with the most 70s illustration of a man and a woman in silhouette on its facade
    – A place that sold “exotic” merchandise from the “far east” (read: nunchucks, swords, and Bonzai trees)

  2. I just discovered this website and I love it! This page in particular was really interesting. I thought North Oaks was just a rundown strip mall that had a weird entrance to a movie theater. Also, some updates: The McFrugal’s sign is gone, some time before 2020 probably. The movie theater “temporarily” closed at the start of the pandemic and never reopened. Meanwhile, the Half Price Books, which was the main reason I went there, closed in 2022 citing the rent getting too high and the next door comic shop moved down the road. The Big Lots closed just a month ago, leaving most of the property empty now. It’s a shame since I would love to visit any of those stores with the context of this place being an enclosed mall at one point.

    1. Anonymous, Mike did a Retail News post back in early December about the North Oaks and Willowbrook area Big Lots both closing. The North Oaks owners plan a pretty major overhaul of the center and it seems Big Lots had to close to make this possible. Burlington and Five Below are coming to North Oaks and will be building over the space where the theater was so the last remnants of the mall part of North Oaks Mall will be gone soon. Link:

      It is good that North Oaks is getting a bit of a revival to go along with the opening of the Gordon Food Service Store. That said, it is a bit sad that the last remnant of the mall is going away. I shopped at that center when it was a mall. It wasn’t any kind of great mall, but the center had good stores during the mall era and even afterward with Half Price Books. The loss of Half Price Books in that area is really the biggest loss to me. That was a large HPB and I shopped there many, many times over the years.

      1. Shame so much is being lost but maybe this could revitalize that entire stretch of 1960 because it is in sad shape.

  3. I grew up on this side of town and never knew this was launched as a ‘mall’. I also thought the layout was odd getting to this theater (which I believe is closed now) and this fills in those gaps. Thanks!

    1. We moved here in 1980, and we used to go to North Oaks when it was a mall. It was nice, you could walk thru Target and go into it. I don’t remember the stores. Wish we took pictures back then. The movie theater was busy, we saw Halloween 2 in 81, Star Trek 2, Return of the Jedi in 83, there was a big line for that. I don’t remember when they closed the mall part.