A look into Houston's retail past

Spring Break Demolition Report: The Famous Cypress of Chippendale

Based on the feedback from my last attempt at a Demolition Report, there seems to be a good amount of support for inclusion of residential properties. As of Friday I’m going to attempt a Daily Demolition Report over the remainder of Spring Break.

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

The famous Cypress of Lebanon don’t have anything on the cabinets in the very 60’s kitchen.

Continue reading “Spring Break Demolition Report: The Famous Cypress of Chippendale”

Half Price Books has left The Village

In July of 1981 Half Price Books opened in a prominent spot on University Boulevard. The first store to be built at the corner of University and Kirby was White House, which opened in June of 1941. A local department store chain, they were known for building smaller sized locations throughout the Houston suburbs. It would be purchased by the Meyer family, a group of family members who had been employed in various positions with Foley’s until they sold out to Federated in 1947. At this point they would switch the name to Meyer Bros. White House. In 1950, Only nine years after opening the original White House location, Meyer Bros rebuilt the University store. This was done to create an anchor location for the new announced “Village Shopping Center”. The grand opening included two free Braniff all-inclusive trips to Cuba!

The Original White House store in from a 1941 ad.
The renovation was done in a Ranch Style to compliment the homes around, and the new “Village” shopping center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the 1950s and 60s Meyer Bros. continued to operate out of this location. The company would eventually sell out during the late 50s to another department store chain which would quickly fold. The store space was rented out during the late 60s and early 70s to a few short lived clothing stores. In the early 70s, the space was divided. With the right side (Jos. A Bank) becoming a Vespa Dealership for many years, and the left side was first an exercise equipment shop, then an asian grocery store.

The Terrazzo tile entrance is one of, if not the only remaining original piece of flooring.
This was one of the original entrances into Meyer Bros. The store would have expanded to the left where the bookshelves now sit.
This wall is what was added to separate out the two parcels. This would have happened during the 1970s split. When the “Thai-Asian Market” took over the left half of the original building.

During the 1970s Rice Village experienced a decline, with the popularization of indoor malls, and suburban bound movement. The worst of this was during the late 70s. Many people focused on the idea that Rice Village was full of adult shops, seedy bars, and bad clubs. At one point, the Jos. A Bank portion of the building was used as a club. The reality of this was actually that Rice Village had become a mix of bars, some adult stores, and multiple ethnic food shops. Regardless traffic dropped, and so did the quality of tenants.

So far as I can tell, the balcony is in its original location.
The grand staircase at the rear of the store does not actually sit against the rear wall. There is a small passageway leading to what would have been the other half of the store.
I’m relatively sure a chandelier sat here at one point. It would have probably been removed after the Meyer Bros left.
This was one of the coolest things in the store, an elevation plan showing the facade which was approved by the city. Notice that Fu’s Garden sits where Joseph A. Bank now sits.

When Half Price Books announced their intent to move into what had most recently been a Thai grocery store, some updates needed to be made to the building. It was basically the leftover 2nd story portion of the original Meyer Bros store, and whatever little space existed under it. As such HPB also acquired a small piece of the building next door.  A book store was considered a higher end tennant for Rice Village at the time, even if it was used books. This would begin a chain of gentrification that gives us the Rice Village of today.

This back corner was expanded at some point with the room straight ahead being added on. The murals were one of my favorite parts of the HPB. Very well done, and providing useful information too!
A floorplan of the first floor from 2010. The two rooms in the top left, were built as an addition, and the Kids rooms actually expand into the building next door.
This was an addition room.
As was this one, the difference in floor level leads me to wonder if this is a result of leftover portions of the original 1940s store.

In the end, according to Half Price Books what finally drew them out was the hike in rent. It’s somewhat ironic to consider that the fact that Half Price’s own existence is what led to its eventual downfall. In a city like Houston it’s not hard to imagine Rice Village falling apart, and being torn down for condos, or other cheap housing. However this building has managed to stick around into 2020, let’s hope it remains a bit longer.

My attempt at a classic, February’s Retail Demolition Report

As with many of my current readers, I still have a huge, Swamplot shaped hole in my heart. The rise in my frequency of posting is largely due in part to a few readers contacting me and mentioning that this site helped somewhat to fill the void. In my research I sometimes check demolition reports. I have been wanting to share the demolition reports I’ve seen. However, I wanted to make some distinctions from Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report. I’m only featuring commercial properties which have: some connection to retail, are interesting, or are historic.

1134 Hamblen according to some old Chronicle Ads this was originally a Phillips 66. Source: Google Street View
02/03/20 – 1134 Hamblen Rd Humble, TX 77339 Late 70s Coastal Station looks like it hasn’t sold gas in a few years
02/04/20 – 812 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77006 Theo’s Greek Restaurant which closed in January due to planned demolition of the strip center it leases space in.
02/13/20 – 747 Dairy Ashford Rd Houston, TX 77079 Originally a Bill Blankenship Firestone most recently an independent auto shop.
02/24/20 – 2600 S Richey St Houston, TX 77017 UTBAPH (Used to be a Pizza Hut) property now owned by 7-Eleven
02/25/20 – 1508 Westheimer Rd Houston, TX 77006 Demolition of a storage shed by new occupant “Cutthroat” possibly a third location of the Barbershop?
02/28/20 – 4111 Fannin St Houston, TX 77004 Demolition of the former Sears Midtown Auto Center, great Street View from when it was still open. Seem like it will become a parking garage.

Welcome back Taco Bueno!

Welcome back readers, this week we find ourselves at a closed Carl’s Jr. Not for an update on the departed burger joint, but rather what will be taking its place. Back in April of 2019 Taco Bueno announced their intent to repurpose the building. For those unaware,  Taco Bueno is a mid size quick service “Tex-Mex” style restaurant. Take that categorization with a grain of salt, as their menu somewhat resembles Taco Bell’s.

Although a few advantages Taco Bueno has over Taco Bell would be, a higher reputation of quality, and a semi-local connection to Abilene, Texas. The company has had issues with ownership, and debt within the past few years and had emerged from bankruptcy only 2 months prior to the announcement of the Katy store.

The base of the Carl’s Jr. Sign remains in place, painted black. The top star section has been completely removed. Notice a Taco Bueno banner on the other side of the driveway.
Taco Bueno’s banner can be seen next to the door. The neon open 24 hour sign is a holdover from Carl’s Jr. Most of what has been done to the building has been an attempt to the cover up the previous tenant. The red canopies which hung above the windows have been removed.
Stone has been added to the entryway replacing brick. The stucco has also received a new coat of paint, the lighting and metal canopies were retained.
The interior is mostly untouched. Some table tops have been taken out, and the internal canopies/signage were removed as well.
The metal from the canopies along with the vinyl from them were sitting around the dumpster. The sign is the one of the aforementioned interior signs. This was the “Refreshments” one.
The Carl’s Jr. logo was covered as soon as the location permanently closed.
The menu board was left in this half removed state. Everything will likely be replaced by the new Taco Bueno.
This paint color is likely what the entire building will end up in. Plaster stars were removed from both sides of the building.

As implied in the title this is actually Taco Bueno’s second attempt in Houston. In the early 80’s the company expanded into Houston in a venture lasting only a couple of years. Let’s hope that this attempt lasts a little bit longer. Although honestly, I’m a bit more partial to the idea of expanding Taco Casa.

 

Mercado Cerrado

In a somewhat shocking update to the Mercado 6/Big Kmart saga, the flea market in West Houston has bit the dust. The store which I visited on two separate occasions in the past few years, has been purchased and gutted. The news seemed to break early this year around the time I published my last update. A few online reviews noted that “the store” was closed, but I naively assumed this meant individual shops. Driving back to the future 7-Eleven from Sunday’s post I noticed the vacant parking lot and stopped to snap a few photos.

The doorways which were Kmart originals have been removed to allowed construction equipment to enter the building. Many doors in this structure were welded shut essentially forcing the demolition of this entrance. Much of the metal caging has also been removed from emergency doors.
The new owner is listed on this paper, but other than the fact that Mercado 6 closed there isn’t really any information. It seems like vendors weren’t told anything either.
Look straight back you can see that for the most part the structure has been gutted. A couple of lights have been installed to help construction, but these older Kmarts have almost no natural light.
Looking to the left of the entrance you can see that the loading docks have had their metal caging removed. The caging around the doors has also been cut open. It’s a bit scary to think what would have happened if this place ever caught fire during the flea market days.
Look up and into the ceiling you can kind of see where the central customer service desk would have sat. It would have been under the sideways metal framing.
This is pointed in the direction in which the KCafe sat. It would continue to operate as a snackbar mostly untouched from the Kmart days.
Moving down the building the next significant thing is the former Garden Center. This has been multiple things over the years, but was most recently an event hall for the Mercado.
This is where the Garden Center’s greenhouse sat. At one point it served as an outdoor gym. The fencing stayed up through much of the life of the building but was eventually cut down.
This display case was left by one of the tenants when they moved out. Looking online this does resemble some of the Big Kmart Jewelry displays. I can’t say so definitely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this unit was left behind when Kmart took over the Venture space.
The last remaining business on the property is the used car lot in the Southwest corner of the parking lot. This always operated separate from the Mercado. While there were outdoor businesses which leased space from the Mercado they were limited to opening on Saturday and Sunday.

Trying to look up what is going to happen to the building is unsuccessful. The company which bought the property was created solely to buy it. It does share an address with some other retail investment properties, but again it doesn’t point to much. From what’s going on inside it does look like the building shell may be saved, although we’ll have to wait and see if anything on the exterior is saved.

7-Eleven’s less than triumphant Houston return

As with many of the subjects of my website, Houstonians of a certain age will remember when one of the largest convenience stores in the area was 7-Eleven. Originally founded in urgh… Dallas, the chain operated under the name “Tote’m” initially. It would not be until after World War II that the store would famously change their name to represent store hours of “7-11”. This name change would also allow for expansion into territory, like Houston, which was already held by the similarly named “U-Tote’m” convenience store chain.

These “six-sided” stores were some of the last that 7-Eleven built in Houston. They were so new, that when Stop n’ Go acquired them they made it a point to note that the stores would not be remodeled.

Houston’s first 7-Eleven would open in 1953 at 5115 Allendale in Southeast Houston near Sims Bayou. With the company announcing plans to build up to 100 Houston area stores within the next few years. A number which they would not only quickly reach, but exceed. Finally after years of fighting a highly diversified market compared to many other parts of the country, 7-Eleven decided to Exit Houston in 1987 (Thanks to Aaron J. from Carbon-izer for helping me confirm). They sold their 270 location chain to Stop-N-Go who converted most, but not all locations over closing a few in the process.

In 2014 the first hint of the Slurpee Giant’s return to the Houston area was teased when 7-Eleven acquired the majority of Victoria Based C-Store Speedy Stop’s retail operations. Included in the purchase were four locations in the Houston Metro area. These stores had all previously been operated as Speedy Stops, but after the acquisition the branding was covered up and the Tetco name (another brand which was acquired) was used instead. This was kept until 2018 when some Tetco signs were replaced with 7-Eleven. During this time 7-Eleven would also acquire Stripes. The plan seemed to be to convert all stores into 7-Elevens, using Stripes as a distribution channel.

5700 New Territory Blvd Sugar Land, TX 77479
2480 S Hwy 35 Byp, Alvin, TX 77511
18555 Tomball Pkwy Houston, TX 77070 (Converted to Tetco, had some type of conversion but was not completed)
6102 Hwy 6, Houston, TX 77084 (Was a Speedy Stop, then was quickly sold to an independent likely never Tetco)

This is the New Territory location, I had a chance to check it soon after it was converted. As of the publishing of this article this is the closest 7-Eleven to the Houston City Limits. Originally the white sign was completely green for Speedy Stop, then the middle was swapped for a white Tetco sign. Finally, it was all turned white.
The logo stripe is a new addition. It stretches across all the windows. Another update worth noticing are the shopping baskets. I know these were somewhat more common in convenience stores of the past. However, I’m unsure if these baskets are a remnant of a heyday or an import from their Japanese parent company.
Slurpees and Big Gulps are among some of the most iconic 7-Eleven products. They were actually available as soon as the Tetco name switch was complete.
Although the brand availability has changed somewhat, the GM section of the store remains mostly the same. The coffee bar is on a reused island, but has been modified somewhat.
Most updates, including those related to the Deli section was done under the Tetco banner. This includes the section seen here, and an open face cooler to the left.
And here’s the aforementioned cooler, Now this does somewhat resemble a Japanese convenience store, where “grab and go” selections are very prevalent.
I believe the wood paneling and tiles all received updates, but have no easy way to confirm this. The store had very little backroom space compared to how much product a 7-Eleven tends to keep. Meaning there was a bit of “organized chaos” mostly made up of the drink back stock.

As mentioned earlier in the article, I took these photos around 2018. The reason I have been sitting on them for so long is I, along with many other Houstonians had been expecting the return of 7-Eleven. The acquisitions were made with quite a bit of fanfare, and with press coverage. The reality is that outside of being able to buy Slurpee’s and other 7-Eleven exclusives at Stripe’s we’re not much closer to having actual locations inside Houston city limits. At least this was what I thought until I took Eldridge Parkway home a few nights ago.

This gas station was originally an independent selling Chevron branded gasoline. At some point it was slated to be converted to a Stripes. Exterior vinyl signage said to apply at the Stripe’s up Westpark a few blocks.This would have been the last time I saw it. The store sat vacant for quite some time.
This sign replaced the old Chevron sign and was clearly one of the newest pieces added to the gas station.
However it looks like within the past few months new signage has been added. Combining 7-Eleven with Laredo Taco Co. ( I went back to get better photos but with the cloud cover most of my night shots ended up better)
The gas pumps and canopy are essentially untouched from the independent days. Although a large inter-modal storage container now sits between pumps 2 & 3.
The car wash system looks like it completely replaced, including new draining dug.

At this point it looks like the remodel is fully underway. Hopefully I can try driving by on a weekday and see if the shutters are open. If this is the case, we will likely have a new 7-Eleven within Houston city limits by summer.

Grocery Options may have left the Target on Eldridge

During my recent blog post about the Super Target downgrade in Missouri City, I realized that another Super Target may have fared a similar fate. Looking back through my photos, I found some of the Super Target at Eldridge and Westheimer during construction. I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention at the time, but looking back at them now, I believe the grocery section may have been shrunk.

My reasoning behind this lies partly in the full renovation that kicked fresh grocery out of its home, and behind the cash registers. Secondly, the website now resembles the Missouri City one in terms of departments, deleting Expanded Grocery, Bakery, and Deli. I’ll have to make a trip back to confirm but my suspicions are relatively strong.

What actually got my attention was the fact that the stores sign had been removed. From facebook commenters outside of Houston it seems like this may be the plan for all Super Targets.
The produce and refrigerated section of the store had been moved into the entrance/walkway area behind the dollar section. Grocery was completely walled off. At this point produce was being sold by the piece instead of by weight. Most P-Fresh Targets use this method too.
Glass Case Fridges lined a wall built to seperate the temporary grocery section from produce. You can see one of the self-checkouts to the right showing how little space was actually given to grocery.
Each Fridge had a blank top. Some had writing on them, some did not. You can tell that these were likely brought along from other stores as the writing had been erased and rewritten many times.
The reasoning for these temporary coolers would be the need to store perishable items while the in store coolers are likely being moved to the front.
I’m relatively sure that the product selection will/has decreased if a downgrade did take place. Even still, a tremendous amount of perishables were kept compared to produce.

This Super Target was one of the few Hypermarket style stores left in the area. This brings the count down to the Walmart on Kirkwood and the one on Highway 6. Hopefully limited product selection will not cause too many issues, but it is a bit sad. As when I lived in the area this Target was always a good place to get just about anything you needed.

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.

So long Super Target in Missouri City

Target recently finished a large number of renovations on their Houston area stores. This was done to help bring their image up in line with their more up to date locations. It’s actually part of a nationwide effort to cutback and aid underselling locations.

Edit: I have received word from a reader that this same conversion took place at the Baybrook Target.

The general Southwest area received an expansion of Super Targets in the late 90s. With locations in Houston, Pear Land, Sugar Land, and Missouri City to name a few of the numerous upgrades. However a recent trip to the Missouri City store revealed a surprise, the store has been downgraded! It seems that grocery was not preforming well and the store was downsized to help remedy this.

One of the first clues was the new central sign which nearby Sugar Land did not receive during their upgrade
Despite the blurry image you might be able to make out that the separate Grocery entrance was kept.
The grocery section has been reduced to the size of a typical P-Fresh Target. With an expanded beer and wine selection taking the place of the bakery and deli.
At first glance you can tell something is off. This wall is not as deep as the the bakery and deli were. That is because about half of the grocery floor space has been closed off and is being used as storage.

Looking back towards the entrance, you can see that Starbucks has been left pretty much untouched. It still occupies the from alcove and keeps separate from grocery.

You might notice that for a Target this is a better than average P-Fresh department, that’s because most of the P-Fresh locations in Houston are actually undersized compared to normal. The fixtures were replaced for this conversion and scales along with weighted produce sales were discontinued. The conversion also meant reducing dairy cases down to one shared one, and freezers were consolidated and moved forward.

As mentioned earlier the selection is larger than a normal P-Fresh but compares closer to average sized selection when looking at newly built stores.
A new freezer bank was installed as the original freezers were demolished in the back. Notice the use of drop-in conduits for their new freezers. The original layout did not have these, as conduits were run underground.

 

This back portion of the grocery section was the original frozen section. The Dairy cases
This is looking straight to where the dairy case once stood. The curved wall is a first generation left over.

The next few photos are from various stages during the conversions completion. I was actually in a situation where I had to visit this specific Target a few weeks in a row and watched this all happen. There was no news or publication about the downgrade, and outside of the grocery section you really wouldn’t be able to tell this was no longer a Super Target.

I took this photo prior to the conversion being completed. When I saw this I mistakenly thought they had temporarily modified this area to be storage during the renovation.
Another photo from the renovation in progress. The floors were cut concrete, covered by laminate tile. Sugar Land did this as well, but did not first grind their flooring. Which means the lines show through.
One advantage of the downsized grocery was the fact that the Food Avenue or Cafe a it is now called was allowed to stay. Many other stores have had their Cafes removed during this last round of renovations.

Outside of the grocery downgrade this is still a very nice store. Honestly it’s much quieter than the Sugar Land store and easier to shop. The downgrade is a bit of a shame and means I can’t reliably grocery shop there anymore. I do think that with the way Missouri City and the Western area is expanding there is a small chance grocery could one day make a comeback, but it’s a slim chance. Till next time!

Retail News: Closures and Openings

Welcome back loyal reader to another edition of Random Retail. This one comprises some photos from the past month as today we take a look at openings and closures in the Houston area.

Let’s start with the new Meyerland H-E-B. It had its grand opening January 29th, and I was there about three days prior. When Meyerland Plaza opened in 1957, it included a Henke & Pillot grocery store as one of the major tenants. Located in the Southeast corner of the shopping center, near where Cafe Express sits today. This store would eventually be converted to a Kroger, and would shut down in 1980. It was used by a number of short term liquidation businesses before being demolished during the 1990s renovation of Meyerland Plaza.

The store was built to the West of JCPenney which meant that they lost some parking space, and the former Meyerland State Bank was required to be demolished. The garage does have signage directing banking customers to the new location across Endicott Lane.
The elevated parking structure helps on two fronts. One it does add some parking back to JCPenney, with some spaces on the first level being reserved for the store. Second it helps prevent excessive flooding damage. The issue is bad enough that it required HEB to permanently close their old Meyerland store prior to building a replacement. Some infrastructure doe exist on the first floor, but it’s mostly off the ground by a bit.
This new parking structure has given JCPenney a new entrance. If you so desire you can either swap between stores, or even purposely try to fight HEB traffic to visit Penney’s!

Next, Xfinity is coming to Highland Village. Replacing long time tenant VisionWorks, previously known as EyeMasters, who replaced Workbench, a furniture store in 1989. This new store represents a growth in retail presence by Xfinity. The goal of the stores is to boost technology sales, including mobile phones.

VisionWorks closed prior to (or right at?) Christmas, with Xfinity immediately starting demolition and renovation. At this point it looks like the new store should be poised to open by the end of February.

Other previous tenants included Chez Orleans Creole Restaurant, however the building has been substantially rebuilt from those days. Older readers may even remember when Suffolk street went all the way through Highland Village into Oak Estates.

The next story takes us Southwest of Houston. The former New Territory Randalls has a new tenant, Al-Rabba an international food store with a decidedly Arabian name. This Randalls was one of the last non-Safeway locations to be built. It was the 70th location (likely including the Austin stores) and rightly opened to quite a bit of fanfare. It was a concept store, ditching a drop ceiling for exposed roofing. It also included new features like in store dry cleaning, photo and video processing, along with a full in store restaurant. It was painted in a hunter green color scheme that was also used in the Woodlands store. New Territory was also rumoured to have sold beer and wine prior to any other location.

This very Randalls was actually my first job during high school. While the store had recently been converted to the standard Safeway lifestyle format it still had hunter green shelves in the back.

The store did quite well serving not just New Territory but the quickly developing Greatwood and Riverpark subdivisions as well. They were initially open 24 hours and would remain so for many years. The scaling back in hours would actually happened slightly before I started working there, but it did not affect me as I worked in the deli. The stores decline began in the mid 2000s when the Riverpark Shopping Center was developed. A pad side which had been purchased by Albertsons was sold to HEB when the prior company exited Houston. This new HEB was the first in what would become the Richmond (later to become Sugar Land) area. Both stores were able to maintain steady traffic for many years. With HEB handling the majority and Randall’s getting the overflow.  However conveniences like Curbside pickup, and lower prices led to HEB winning out.

I visited a day or two after the store’s lease had finally expired. Everything left in the store was for the new owner to deal with. There was actually a meeting going on inside of the store. Even ripped apart this store still looks so much nicer than a standard location.

Finally it seems that Carl’s Jr. has exited the Houston market for good. Right after Christmas I stopped by the North Shepherd location to snap a couple of pictures. Via Google Reviews it has been confirmed that all except the N. Highway 6 locations have closed. The company website has not been updated and lists all locations as open, except for the missing N. Highway 6 location. Carl’s Jr. entered the West Houston market in full force in the early 2010s with aggressive growth. The plan was to get a steady foothold on the well developed West, and then build to the newly developing East.

Although all signage had been removed everything else was pretty much business as usual in terms of a store closure. It does raise the question, could these stores come back?
All product in the store had been removed so it was obvious that this store had a proper shutdown. However it was filthy, which leads me to believe they have little intent to return.
While most of the lights were off, enough were on that you could get a sense of everything left in the building. Electronics were mostly still in place. With the only thing missing being food and packaging.

Open 24 hours Carl’s Jr. attempted to compete with the likes of Whataburger and Jack in the Box. Their food initially was good for the price, but the quality dropped quickly and prices rose. The restaurants also generally had a reputation of poor customer service, and long wait times. Ultimately poor management/franchising was likely a key, as the Houston locations had a history of randomly opening and closing with little to no notice to employees.

The single location may be where the product from these stores ended up. We will see if this round of closures is permanent or if the stores reopen. Although with Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s trying to seperate themselves at the moment I doubt they’re focusing on a slow market like Houston.