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.

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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!

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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

Laredo Taco Company, is a fast food concept owned by Stripes Convenience Stores. In 2015, Stripes was acquired by Sunoco. Some experimentation was undertaken by Sunoco to help improve their convenience store operations. Outside of Stripes switching to Sunoco brand gasoline there was little change for the  Texas based Stripes customer to notice. However, outside of Texas Sunoco chose to build a new store concept, including co-located Laredo Taco Company locations. Three stores were built throughout the Nashville, TN area. Another was also built in Greensburg, PA which is outside of Pittsburgh. This is the location I was able to get photos of.

This location operates under the A-Plus banner of stores. It is owned by Sunoco, and was completely torn down and rebuilt when the Laredo Taco Company was added. There is exterior signage both permanent featured here, and temporary glass cling advertisements for LTC. There’s also outdoor seating.

The menu has some differences from the Texas version, such as the addition of both bowls, salad bowls…

… including would you believe it “Nachos Grande”!

Taking a look around the inside, the store does not resemble a conventional Stripes location. It borrows more from A-Plus styling and themes. Overall I think it looks nice. A-Plus uses a very basic interpretation of the LTC branding and styling, which looks very modern.

The order kiosk system, while not new to the chain is still in a slow roll out mode. If a store was built more than 6 or 7 years ago, chances are they don’t have kiosks.

 

Now, you may be wondering how this relates to Houston? Well during the end of 2017 Sunoco sold all their convenience store businesses to 7-Eleven who will eventually convert all stores to their own brand. This likely means either a stoppage of new LTC locations or the overall removal of the brand. That’s unfortunate for the brand because it’s solid, and it has something that most other Taquerias lack which is consistency between locations. Everything is the same, and the quality is consistent. However, it’s not necessarily the final sign of death for the stores. As some Stripes locations approximately 200 were sold to a third party who has not indicated any plans to change to 7-Eleven as of yet. So for outside of the Southwest Laredo Taco Company locations, this is probably it for now.

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While researching the history of a never opened Houston Eckerd’s Location I stumbled upon a few unsusal Eckerd’s buildings these images were mostly hosted on architectural design websites and risk eventual removal. They have been re-posted here to help preserve unique examples of a completely extinct chain. For the most part these locations all share a very general “Southwest” motif, while retaining as much of classic Eckerd’s design as possible.

This location; Broomfield, CO seems to have never opened as an Eckerd. Town planning documents mention that it was built by Eckerd, but the building has been significantly altered. All Colorado Eckerd locations were acquired by CVS, and closed. This one survives as a Walgreens. Google Streetview

This render may have been purely speculative, but it sure looks nice! I unfortunately don’t have any information on where this was built, or planned to be.

 

While obviously a real photo, I don’t have a location on this. The Developer, Hines stated that this was part of a project designing locations in Arizona, Colorado, and Florida. Based on the foliage and lack of ground cover it makes a strong case for Arizona, however it could also be Colorado.

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Prior to Toys ‘R Us closing I took a day to drive to the locations closest to me and grab a few pictures.

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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

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The Pig Stand was supposedly the first chain to ever offer, drive-in service. Fort Worth was home to the original location, eventually expanding to Houston by location number 7.

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I found this image while researching other properties. I figured it would be worth identifying for the sake of prosperity.

This photo is of The Big Kmart at 333 S Mason Rd Katy, TX 77450. It was located where Mason meets I-10. This location is now a Fiesta. The entire building is dedicated to Fiesta, with the exception of the Garden Center which is now a gym. The Fiesta opened in April of 2008.

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Cornerstore was originally founded as a Subsidiary of Valero Corporately owned gas stations, as a brand to operate their C-Stores under. Eventually Cornerstore would be spun out on their own, and later purchased by Circle-K. Due to the long history CST had with Valero, most stations sold Valero fuel. However, a select few did not.

This was one such example, a Phillip’s 66 Corner Store. Which is located and still operating as of 2018 in Tomball, TX

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