Friday, October 5, 2018

The 50th Anniversary of Almeda Mall: Flashback Tours from 1968 and 1976

Almeda Mall is a central concern here on the South Belt Digital Archive, primarily because it was the epicenter of youth culture from its opening in 1968 in the hot, humid Houston climate where there was no "town center" to speak of, unless you counted the Mall.

For its 50th Year, I thought it might be fun to put together some visual tours of places as they correspond to the tenant maps of the mall in their respective years. 

It also happens to be the fifth anniversary of the South Belt Houston Archive. It was in 2013, on the hunt for my Foley's Shoe Ship photo, that I began scanning and sharing the South Belt Leader and Dobie Yearbook photos online here. 

I'm pretty proud of how much I've been able to unearth over the past five years. When I started, doing a Google search of many familiar South Belt places came up with nothing at all. Now, if you give it a try, a whole lot of what appears is from this Archive.

I've unearthed two floor maps of Almeda Mall. 

The first was published in the Houston Post for the opening day festivities at the mall on October 10, 1968 and the second in a special section run around President's Day 1976.

In both cases, strangely, the maps are laid out south to north, with Penney's at the top and Foley's at the bottom.

On this map, the stores were listed alphabetically to the right of the map. I've taken the liberty of superimposing the names on the store areas. 

I tend to organize my thinking about the shops in the mall into four non-equivalent sets. If we're sticking with the orientation of south at the top:

1) From Penneys down to the hallway at Le Petit on one side and Lerners on the other

2) From the other side of that hallway (Radio Shack/TSO) through the center courtyard to the center of the atrium

3) From the center of the atrium to the hallway at Pipe Pub, with Farrell's at the end of that hall.

4) From the other side of that hallway where Gold Mine and Doktor's Pet Center (and the play area in front of it) resided, on down to Foley's

I do have to laugh at the oft heard criticism that Almeda Mall of today "is all shoe stores." 

When the mall opened it was home to nine shoe stores:  Bakers Florsheim, Hardy, Jarman, Kinney, Krupp and Tuffly, Margolis, Odells, and Thom Mc An. This is not counting all the other stores that sold shoes in addition to other goods.

And the Houston Shoe Hospital, for good measure!

(At this writing,  Almeda Mall  is home to Foot Locker & Kids Foot Locker, Foot Action, Finish Line, All Shoes, and Shoe Envy.  Even if you want to count sporting goods stores, it's still not more shoe stores than 1968.)

Here are storefronts or logos or advertising with the original tenants from "back in the day" that I've been able to find.

They are arranged in sets that correspond to the list above, starting with 

1) Penneys to Le Petit and Lerners 

In 1968 this includes Playhouse Toys, H&H Music, Woolworth's, B. Dalton Booksellers, Thom McAn Shoes, Lane Bryant, Studer Photography, Lerner's, Le Petit, Tobola Barbershop, and Houston Shoe Hospital. 

Note that the mall was not at capacity when it opened. There are two storefronts empty on this map between the Shoe Hospital and the Barbershop.

I've come up with very little on Playhouse Toys, which would later share this space with a couple of other storefronts. The closest I could come on a storefront is off of the site:

Ahead on the right, Le Petit Cafe

a peek inside the French Cafe, serving hot dogs under the name "French Poodle Supreme" mmmmm

Coming up on the left, Lerner Shops

Also not our mall, but similar placement/signage/displays

I found this one of an unidentified mall, but saved it since it had a very similar placement of the Lerner Shops jutting out from the central courtyard shops, as well as a kiosk in place (where I remember Things Remembered being)

And that brings us to

2) the central courtyard shops down to the atrium and half of the food court.

These shops included, in 1968, the hallway with Great Western bank, Vincent's World of Beauty, and Merle Norman. The only thing I've come up with is a shop of the Merle Norman store from the back of a Dobie yearbook and a Great Western ad from the Grand Opening spread in the Post.

Turning the corner into the courtyard proper (where the Christmas train, Easter Bunny, etc held court on their respective holiday seasons) is Hardy Shoes, a shop called Tops and Bottoms, Kimo's Polynesian Shop, Leopold, Price and Rolle, and Palais Royal. Palais Royal holds the distinction of being the only original tenant still in place at Almeda Mall today, for fifty years.

On the other side of the courtyard was the Singer Sewing Machine store, Houston Trunk Factory, Samperi's, Card Mart, Spencers, Corrigan's Jewlry, something called Kiosk Corp, and Barricini Candy. The only center kiosk in 1968 was the Bombay Shop. 

The "top" half of the food court wasn't a lot of food in 1968. GNC, Shop in Denmark, Ella Pryor Fashions, and Picadilly Cafeteria were in these spots. 

Execs at the Grand Opening in 1968 at the Courtyard, with Lerner Shops and Singer visible in the background

 This is looking down the courtyard from where the execs are seated towards the atrium

And then turning around and looking back towards Penneys:

Houston Trunk Factory, best I can find is about half the storefront from the background of a photo purchased through the HRMC

Corrigan's Jewelers is part of the Zales Corp., which originated in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1924. (It acquired Corrigan's in 1944.) I'm pretty surprised I haven't been able to come up with a single storefront photo. Corrigan actually started the Houston Watch Co. in 1912 and incorporated as Corrigan's in 1922. So, since I can't find a Zales' owned Corrigan store...

but they did publish a picture of . . . the chandelier 

The Barricini candy shop was under the striped awnings and looked nothing like this storefront, but it's all I've got with their logo.

Ok, hanging a right at the candy shop...


Shop in Denmark? Best I could do was an old ad from a Texas Monthly...

Ella Pryor Fashions had a store in Pasadena before Almeda opened, and I don't think they kept a mall presence very long. Mrs. Pryor eventually moved to River Oaks and move the store there as well. This shot is in the Pasadena store in 1964

and at the end of the hallway, of course, the Picadilly


Jumping back to the other side of the courtyard shops...

Hardy Shoes is tough to find. This is also from a background of a purchased HMRC photo

Big surprise, Nothing comes up on "Tops and Bottoms" as a 1960s storefront.

Kimo's Polynesian Shop was also a tough one. I could find an old label, but no shots of the front or interior of a store.

I'm not really sure what Kiosk Court was, but here's a photo of it, although not where it appears on the 1968 map

Surprisingly, I am having a heck of a time locating a good Leopold, Price, & Rolle shop photo. This is the reflection in the Palais Royal window ...

a big shout out to Doug and his sister Terry Rebhun for finding this one for me!

And while I've got you here in the Atrium...

Onward to

3) The other side of the food court hall had The Flaming Pit when the mall opened in 1968, and  Pasadena Savings and Loan office. The rest of this section is down the main walkway: Parklane Hosiery, Wicks N Sticks, Jarman Shoes, Baker Shoes, Saybrook Corp, Kinney Shoes, Susies Casuals and House of Nine.  On the Battlesteins side, TSO, Joan Bari Bags and Gems, Leeds Ties Ltd, and Zales Jewelers on the Palais Royal side. 

The Flaming Pit photos are from its home state of Missouri, but thanks to our wonderful community on the Facebook page, I was able to confirm the Flaming Pit in Almeda Mall was a franchise of the steakhouse.

Many thanks to Cindy Cross for volunteering a photo of a pin her husband had kept as a memento from his first job at the restaurant in Almeda Mall when he was 16, now 50 years ago

because that matched the logo of an ad seeking franchisees

I've come up empty on Saybrook Corp., except to discover it was a Fabric store.

House of Nine would be renamed 5-7-9 later


unfortunately, the only storefront/signage I have for the shops on the opposite side is this one:

which brings us to the final section, 

4) Here at the last hallway, Margolis Shoes, Tobaccoland (later Pipe Pub), Donita's Chuck Wagon, and Odells. Across the hall, Doktor's Pet Center with its play area in front, Florsheim Shoes, The Tycoon, Joyce Bertram, Margo's LaMode, Krupp & Tuffly, and Battlesteins.

No luck finding a Margolis Shoes storefront, but that seems like an extraordinarily large space for a shoe store with all the competition. It would later be divided up into multiple stores, with the Baldwin Piano's entrance down the hallway behind the Pipe Pub.

Speaking of, here's Tobaccoland!

Donita's Chuck Wagon as a Google search yields absolutely nothing, but Kay Johnson Jackson shared this photo that is just priceless

and  I did come across a two photos from yearbooks inside the place.

but I am not certain if old postcards of other Chuck Wagon interiors match well enough to say it was part of a franchise.

And at the end of the hall, where Farrell's would hold court (also in the Chuck Wagon space) years later, was the one store I am most disappointed to be missing good photos of. A 1900 circus atmosphere? How are there no photos!

The first edition of the Dobie yearbook has the only one I've located thus far, featuring the freshman class officers. Cheryl, pictured below standing behind the popcorn wagon, was the person who alerted me to the first Foley's shoe ship picture I ever tracked down, from the same yearbook. 

Across the hall, there no Gold Mine yet, just empty space, next to the Doktor's Pet Center and children's play court:

Turning the corner back into the main walkway, we would come upon Florsheim Shoes, because you can never have enough shoe stores.

The Tycoon, a men's ware store, ran an ad for employees in September of 1968 in The Galveston Daily News, but no storefront, alas.

The same freshman class officers from the first Dobie yearbook almost came through again, though. They are sitting on a bench in front of the store. The logo is on the door. 

Inside of Margo's from 1968

Margo's La Mode had a nice 1972 write up in The Deer Park Progress

(it's an azalea flower)

Flash forward 8 years to the second Almeda Mall Map found, from 1976, and a majority of the stores at opening in 1968 are still in place. But there are a few more stores to check out

The first changes come at the first hallway at the corner of La Petit.

Where the Houston Shoe Hospital was in 1968 is now Warren's Coin & Stamps, and the two empty spots before the barber shop are now home to State Farm and Weight Watchers.

Vincent's World of Beauty is now Kelley's Beauty Shop.

Across the hallway, Radio Shack is now in place where Merle Norman had been

and Merle Norman is over where the Kiosk Corp. once was. Next door to that, Barricini Candy is now Mrs. Stover's, which seems a little odd, since the Mrs. Stover's Bungalow Candy that became Russell Stovers did so decades before 1976 and the couple had sold the company by 1960. I can't find any information on a Mrs. Stover's store past the 40s.

The Tops and Bottoms store is now Kathy James, and next door to that, where Kimo's Polynesian Shop was, is now Chess King.

There are also several kiosks in the central courtyard. 

Where Things Remembered will be, near Lerner's, in 1976 was the "Can Do Shop" which was also an engraving place, and at the bottom near the atrium is the Bombay Shop and the Nut Hut

Shop in Denmark has become The Gift Tree, and Ella Pryor Fashions is now Pat Walker's, another weight loss place, but they used the phrase "Figure Salon." And it's right next door to the Picadilly's.

Across the hall, the large space that was The Flaming Pit has now been divided into The Saloon and El Chico's

Also new to this side of the hall: Life Uniforms, Shipley's Donuts, City Appliance, and Baskin Robbins, taking over the space where Parkland Hosiery once was.

The GAP is in the space where the Saybrook Fabric store was originally (although the only older logo storefront I could come up with is actually from the 80s)

House of Nine is now 5-7-9 and moved across the hall to where Joan Bari's store once was.

Disc Records is in the Lees Ties spot now.

Ventura Formal is where House of Nine was.

Margolis Shoes is gone and its space is empy, but considerably smaller than on the 1968 map as Baldwin Piano has a storefront facing Doktor's Pet Center now

And down the hall from Baldwin? Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour, which had opened in 1975

And across the way, The Gold Mine

and the play area has removed the jungle gyms and replaced them with more low to the ground animals you can climb on

Gordon's Jewelers is now where The Tycoon had been, and across the way, the Krupp and Tuffly space has been split down the middle to home both  Casual Corner and J. Riggins


  1. Thank you for sharing all this. It brings back memories of an important part of my life.

  2. Thanks for the incredible amount of work you've done putting this together. It was a wonderful stroll down Memory Lane for this gal, who well remembers it all.

  3. So wonderful. I remember everything from my time there in the 70's, 80's, and 90,s. Thank you so much.

  4. I love this! If I could go back in time it would be to the 70's and shopping with my mom and sisters here! :)