Dad could lose track of time while checking out the selection of tools, while Mom might shop for clothes or household appliances. The department store has had plenty of attractions for kids as well, such as cheap toys, sweet candy, fresh popcorn and wintertime visits with Santa Claus.
If the family vehicle needed a new set of tires, Sears was the place to go for that, too.
The Sears at 4000 North Shepherd Dr. has been a one-stop shop for generations of families from the Heights, Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and other area neighborhoods since opening its doors in 1949. But the store lights will soon go out, with yellow signs on and near the entrance saying Sears is having a “Store Closing Sale.”
News of the upcoming closing, posted Monday on theleadernews.com, prompted a flood of nostalgic comments on The Leader’s website and Facebook page. Rita Burton said she shopped there for years while living in the area, because Sears had most everything she needed.
“Very, very sad to see the end of an era,” Burton wrote. “… So long, old friend.”
It is unclear when exactly Sears, which has only one other location in the Houston area, will say goodbye to the community it has served for so long. An employee who answered the phone Monday and asked to remain anonymous said the store plans to close Saturday, July 11, while another employee who answered the phone Tuesday said the closing date is Aug. 30.
A message left for a store manager went unreturned, as did an online message to the company’s media relations office.
Whenever Sears closes, it will be missed by the area residents who grew up going there. Sharon Gaye Becker Jarrell, 70, said she’s been going there when she was a child and her grandmother worked there in the 1950s.
Ernest Reyna said his mother worked at Sears for more than 25 years. He often picked her up and spent time roaming the two-story department store, getting toy knives when he was a kid and later tickets to concerts and Houston Rockets playoff games when Sears had a Ticketmaster outlet, even camping out before the store opened so he could be first in line.
Stephen Davis said his family had a Friday night tradition of eating at a nearby Mexican restaurant before going to Sears, where his dad would shop for tools and he would get G.I. Joe figurines.
“You couldn’t help but smell the delicious popcorn cooking when you walked into the door,” Cathy Pawlowski said. “My dad would give me 25 cents to get what I wanted and I always got the chocolate covered malt balls. All of our appliances and yard tools came from that Sears, and even when I got married, the first place we shopped for our new home was … you guessed it … Sears on N. Shepherd.”
While Sears was a popular place in its heyday decades ago, when its annual catalog served as a shopper’s ultimate guide, the store became less and less of a destination after the dawn of online shopping and strip centers with a variety of businesses that covered similar needs.
There has rarely been more than a few cars in the Sears parking lot at any given time during the last few years, leading one area resident to say he thought the store had already closed.
Sears, which was founded more than 125 years ago, filed for bankruptcy in 2018 and subsequently closed hundreds of stores across the country. So the impending closure of the Garden Oaks location, one of two remaining Houston-area locations along with a store in Pasadena, was not surprising to many.
“It was a nice ride while it lasted,” a commenter named Grant said on theleadernews.com. “I imagine that Sears will be online-only, or gone altogether, within another year or so.”
Added Chris in another comment: “I knew it was destined to close pretty soon. Thank goodness I took pictures of it when all this closing talk started.”
The property remains prime real estate along a stretch of Shepherd that is gradually being overhauled by developers. According to information on the Harris County Appraisal District website, the 509,600 square foot tract where Sears is located is valued at $6.4 million.
Gerald James said he predicts the property will be redeveloped into a cluster of big box stores or restaurants, similar to Highland Village on Westheimer Road.
“Demographically speaking, the money is in the area and it should be enough to support a variety of upscale retail and restaurants,” James said.
For now, though, Sears is still where it’s been for the last 70-plus years. But it won’t be there much longer, which is a startling realization for a community that developed such as strong bond with the iconic retailer.
“I have a lot of memories of this store from my childhood,” Brenda said on theleadernews.com. “In reading all the comments, they hit home. Will miss this store. I will be going there real soon.”