Editor’s Note: Though many shops at the mall will be closing March 31 (as stated in today’s print edition), places such as Palais Royal, the bar, Thompson’s Antique Center and the healthcare school will remain open, as they have exterior doors. The Leader apologizes for any confusion caused.
As a teenager, Denie Lunsmann remembers the rush which enveloped the Northwest Mall, and the independence she felt as her parents would drop her off each weekend amidst the crush and zoom off without a second thought.
“It was such a big deal to have all these stores under a roof. I remember my mom dropping me and my friends off, and would leave us there for the whole afternoon,” Lunsmann said with a hearty laugh. “They would give us like $5, and we would just shop for hours. We were kids, but we were totally on our own over there, and we thought it was awesome.”
Lunsmann’s tale is one of many who have fond memories of the Northwest Mall, and those memories will soon be all they have.
The Leader first reported in 2014 that the nearly 800,000-square-foot Northwest mall, which sits on over 50 acres of land near the U.S. Highway 290 and Loop 610 interchange, was up for sale, but that its owners were keeping quiet on the details. Rumors have flown wild over the last couple of years, and earlier this week it was confirmed to The Leader that the venue is indeed scheduled for closure, effective March 31.
While it may seem desolate and almost deserted today, those familiar with it said the Northwest Mall in its heyday was the place to be, and it holds special memories for Lunsmann and many others in the Leader area who grew up in the days when Northwest Houston residents flocked to the venue.
“There were a whole bunch of stores, and it was very lively. Management also organized a health fair and things for the children. There was a lot of stuff going on,” said Lazybrook resident Patricia Stankovich, who has been visiting for more than 25 years.
“This was such a big thing in Houston, it was a big deal to have this great mall—it was just such a great new thing with this cool place to shop,” Lunsmann added.
Though Stankovich has only visited stores under Northwest’s roof once or twice per week, she the venue has long provided her an outlet for a unique exercise regimen.
“My favorite activity is that I would go there almost every day for walking. If they close the mall, where am I going to walk,” she wondered. “There’s no inside safe space anymore. The main issue for me is walking, because they even added in the walking club.”
“I don’t see myself walking in a park, and the pavement in my neighborhood isn’t 100 percent perfect, so I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
For resident and area realtor Janet Schmidt, the quaint shopping center represented a haven, a place to get away.
“When we were kids, you could just drop your kids off without worrying (you can’t drop them off now),”she said. “As kids we just liked to go there and hang out—it was just fun. I’m not much of a shopper, but I would just go over there with my friends to have fun and hang out.”
Lunsmann, who frequented the establishment from the moment it opened back in the late 60s, shared a similar tale.
“We would go nearly every Saturday. My girlfriends and I would just hang out at the mall—it’s what we did, just walking up and down and messing around. It was a great, safe place to put your kids. We just messed around and felt our little independence.”
Upon hearing of the plans, Lunsmann couldn’t help but feel a wave of nostalgia and fondness for something which will always hold a special place in her heart.
“Even as it’s gone down in size with so few stores left in it, it’s sad to see it go down so much. It’s been sad all along watching it deteriorate. Once the Macy’s closed down and a lot of the major ones began shutting down, a lot of the smaller ones began closing down,” she said. “That’s where we always went—it became the place for northwest Houston to shop. It was so awesome, and it’s been sad watching it go down, but I’m sure hopefully something good will come out of it.”
Moments will last a lifetime
Whatever the result of the situation, however, nothing can take away the lasting memories. From gobbling down a daily hot dog and Orange Julius, to perusing Spencer’s and Macy’s and taking pictures in the old photo booth, Northwest Mall has provided Lunsmann countless memories that she will cherish even as the old mall fades into the annals of history — those that she will forever cherish as the moments that helped shape some of the fondest memories of her 13-year-old self.
“I don’t really remember one thing that stands out. We just spent a lot of time there learning to be responsible individuals,” she said. “We were able to do it with independence and without getting into trouble. We just hung out as kids do.”
“My lasting image is that every Valentine’s Day I would go over to the Chocolate Chip Cookie Company and pick up cookies for my kids, and for birthdays we got the big chocolate chip cookies,” Schmidt added. “That thing was there forever.”