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SOHOPEDIA: Our Favorite Places to Spend Loot


SHOPPING MALLS


ALMEDA MALL, Gulf Freeway at Almeda-Genoa Rd.
Opened on Oct. 10, 1968, as one of two Houston area mega-malls to debut that month. Two weeks later, Northwest Mall opened. Both were developed by the Rouse Corporation of Maryland. The mall was anchored on the north end by Foley's and on the south end by J.C. Penney. Foley's had opened as a single store in the spring of 1966. Built to meet the shopping demand of residents in the Sagemont and Clear Lake areas, Almeda Mall quickly replaced Gulfgate as the mall of choice on the Gulf Freeway. But Almeda Mall met the same fate when Baybrook Mall opened in 1978 at the Bay Area Blvd. exit. Foley's was later taken over by Macy's. J.C. Penney left the mall in 2006. Numerous satellite shopping strips and stores have come and gone, each departure marking the continuing decline of a once bustling shopping location.


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GULFGATE SHOPPING CITY, Gulf Freeway at Loop 610 South

​Opened on Sept. 20, 1956. Considered the first regional mall in the Houston area. Originally an open-air mall, Gulfgate was enclosed in the early 1960s and air conditioned. Its popularity briefly boomed. A Cinema I & II was built on the other side of a pedestrian bridge spanning the new 610 Loop from the mall's south side. Anchor stores included Joske's, Sakowitz and J.J. Newberry. A bowling alley was built under the mall. Gulfgate's decline started almost immediately after the opening of more spacious Almeda Mall, just a few miles farther south, in 1968. Gulfgate was demolished in 2001 and replaced with a strip mall configuration.

 

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PASADENA PLAZA, Spencer Hwy. at Shaver

Plans were unveiled in 1959 for Pasadena's first enclosed mall, although technically Pasadena Plaza was located in South Houston. The mall offered a more central location for Pasadena businesses looking to take advantage of what was shaping up as a population flight out of old Pasadena, south, down Shaver, toward the Gulf Freeway and beyond. Pasadena Plaza opened in 1962 and businesses began to fill in the spaces, with Henke & Pillot and Key Rexall Drugs leading the way on the Spencer end. From Henke's, the mall followed a double dogleg to the left, ending with White's on the Shaver side. J.C. Penney, the hot spot for buying school clothes, held sway in the middle. Two backside entrances connected to the main walkway and provided frontage for a handful of smaller businesses. The mall's iconic parking lot sign, featuring a space satellite on top, reigned supreme at the corner of Spencer and Shaver. A string of small businesses set up in an annex closer to the street corner. The mall was angled to form, with the help of the two busy streets, a five-sided box. The mid-point of Pasadena Plaza (Penney's) lined up directly with the mall sign and the middle of the intersection. Other mall shopping staples included Palais Royal (next to White's), Kresge's (next to Henke's) and Thornhill's Cafeteria, which soon gave way to Pancho's Mexican Restaurant. Holland's Music (later H&H Music) was a favorite for band kids and anyone looking for the latest rock 'n' roll records. Pasadena Plaza was kid-friendly in every sense. Even pre-teens could ride their bikes to the mall and safely hang out. Moms would grocery-shop at Henke's and let the kids prowl the mall, which offered plenty of stuff to keep them entertained, including a pet store that operated under various names. Large glass windows gave Pasadena Plaza an open-air feel while the inside stayed cool on hot days. Many groups set up bake sales and such. On occasion, the mall would open to teens on Saturday nights for performances by local bands. South Houston HS alums recently shared their memories of the mall and attempted to reconstruct the location of stores as the mall was laid out in the early 1960s (see below). Several stores were hard to pinpoint because of frequent changes in names and locations. The opening of Almeda Mall, located on the Gulf Freeway, in 1968 cut into Pasadena Plaza's business and its popularity. But it's fair to say that Pasadena Plaza, during the 1960s, was the "general store," and a favorite gathering place, for area school-age kids and their families. The mall closed sometime in the 1980s and was later demolished. Mi Tienda and other businesses now occupy the spot in more routine grids that have erased Pasadena Plaza's unique physical features.


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CONVENIENCE STORES

 

Cunningham's Superette, 906 Edgebrook, 944-6956
The go-to place for Freeway Manor bike-riders with change in their pockets. Always well-stocked with baseball cards and sweet delights. Teenage boys remember it as the distribution station for local Houston Chronicle paper routes. Mr. Berry, the distributor, ran things from a small portable building on the east side of the Cunningham's parking lot.


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WAG-A-BAG, 3812 South Shaver, 946-9936
Yearbook ad reads, "Convenient to school" -- which was a major understatement. Located on the other side of a drainage ditch marking the north boundary of the school along Shaver. A wooden bridge once separated the school parking lot from the store. The bridge was a favorite gathering spot for kids on bikes looking for a place to drink Dr Peppers and munch candy bars. Located In the same strip as Helmer's Cleaners, which is still in business. Wag-A-Bag has changed owners -- and names -- many times over the years.

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OTHER FINE MERCHANTS


TEXAS TAPES & RECORDS, 1615 Spencer Hwy., 943-3963
Billed as the "World's Largest Record Store," TT&R reigned supreme as the area's rock-record hot spot in the 1980s. Dozens of major heavy metals bands turned out for autograph parties, including Metallica, Deep Purple, Cheap Trick, Twisted Sister and Motorhead. Overnight lines of concert ticket-buyers were common place. The store offered all the cultural necessities, from records to cassettes to VHS movies to custom T-shirts and other "stuff." Status symbol of the time: toting a TT&R "Head Bangers" card. The stores generated many Iconic images, including its candy cane exterior and its trademark Cowboy Santa, complete with hat, spurs and a pair of six-shooters with U.S. and Confederate flags sprouting from the gun barrels. A Family Dollar store occupies the site today.


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