Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My life at Sharpstown Mall

The Chronicle writes how things are changing at Sharpstown Mall:
Half the stores at 46-year-old Sharpstown are now mom-and-pops and many jewelers there sell flashy items made popular by rap artists. Most apparel stores offer urban clothing influenced by street culture, including labels owned by hip-hop icons Russell Simmons, Nelly and Beyoncé.

"Basically, Sharpstown's got everything you need," said a young man who would identify himself only as 33. He was at the mall with his friend Terrence Starks, aka Dat Boy Cuzin, to buy a jeweled grille, a mouthpiece to cover his teeth.

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This is not a terribly new story, things have been going in this direction at the mall for years. It was sad seeing half the stores close down in the past.

I am something of a self-proclaimed Sharpstown Mall historian (so is someone else). Heck I was born down the street at the old Sharpstown General Hospital which is now named something else or totally closed.

My family went to Sharpstown Mall all of the time. My grandparents even had a house near there in the 60s on Hiawatha. Get this, back then Sharpstown Mall was only one level and there was a grocery store inside! You know that Sharpstown Mall claims to be the first air conditioned mall right? Back then they wanted cool air, but fast forward to modern day and they want the heat while shopping in The Woodlands and Sugar Land. Go figure.

Remember the red dots that made up the flooring in the 80s? As a kid, I loved the coo coo clock store near Foley's (which used to have its own restaurant by the way). As I grew older I gravitated towards the marshal arts oriented store. They had cool swords for us Bruce Lee types who watched the Saturday afternoon karate flicks on channel 26.

Nathan's Physical Whimsical was a blast. Clearly I'm not the only one who remembers that. It was in the food court which got a big makeover in the 1980s. Across the way was Babbage's. I got my Commodore 64 game on there. There was also a model shop on the first floor close to where you met Santa Claus at Christmas time and bought Icee's in the summer.

Depending on the year, there were various arcades and music stores. I bought my Nirvana Nevermind tape at one shop near Montgomery Wards and a few years later the In Utero CD near JC Penney.

In the 90s a movie theater was built at the Bellaire entrance. Not many people went. As teens, my girlfriend, best friend and I caught a double feature of The Addams Family Values and Demolition Man for the price of one! At least Sandra Bullock was cute. Isn't the theater now a charter school?!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I am glad Sharpstown Mall has reinvented itself. Luckily it didn't go the way of Westwood Mall. If this recollection gets you misty eyed, you should read my love letter to that mall down 59.

At least now I know where to buy a grill from a guy who I swore I saw on The Girls Next Door. I should videotape myself walking through Sharpstown Mall now and then put it on this blog. Here's how it would happen...as soon as I would enter the mall, I could fall to the ground and kiss it as tears fill my eyes and I sob uncontrollably from the great memories. Then security could escort me out. It could be a YouTube classic!

17 comments:

  1. You must be close to my age because I remember the channel 26 Saturday martial arts movies and I also had a commodore 64 computer. Thanks for this post, I patrol this area and look at it in a historical context also. That charter school you talk about is Alphonse something or other and that's where the thugs who got kicked out of HISD schools go to. Although it doesn't do much good because most of them are walking out of class through the back and leaving. The woman who runs it doesn't seem to care and most of those kids can't act right anyway. I get a cold reception everytime I've had to go there. If you get a chance, try to go into the conquistador apartment complex across the street. It was built in 1964 and hasn't changed. Walk around the lobby, you'd still think it was 1964.

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  2. Oops, forgot to mention, although there is a lot of history, I don't recommend you hang out there after dark. Remember that guy you did see on girls next door? A ways back someone did try to rob him in the parking lot. I've popped people out there in that parking lot. We've recovered quite a few guns out there too. Plus there are a lot of robbers, hookers, drug users and drug dealers in those apartments behind the mall. I even got into a car chase in the damn parking lot. Perhaps I'll post that video one day if I haven't already.

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  3. North of the Brazos5/23/2007 11:48:00 AM

    I'll come help you video that reunion at the Mall. Hmm...

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  4. Jason,
    Based on your blog, I bet we are the same age. I've always wondered about the apartment highrise, it looks like the 60s from the outside too.

    I remember a few years ago when there was a shooting in the mall parking lot.

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  5. I loved Good Time Charlies. I remember spending a lot of time in the food court back in the 80s when I was in high school.

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  6. Some historian I am, I forgot it was called Good Time Charlie's! Thanks!

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  7. Mike -- I worked for the PR firm that publicized the construction of the entire new second level of the mall in the early 80s. It was a real coup -- all the construction was done after the mall closed so the stores' business wasn't impacted. Guess who sang at the ribbon cutting of the new mall? ELLA FITZGERALD! She was going to be in town to sing at The Tower Theatre. My boss contacted her about singing at Sharpstown. She agreed to sing and we paid her an honorarium to be donated to her favorite charity.

    When the movie theatre was built, it hosted a big Hollywood premier of a movie with Chuck Norris. I think Mattress Mac was a big investor in the film so he was there, too.

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  8. Susan,

    Thanks for letting us know about that. Now that you mention it, I kind a remember the Chuck Norris and Mattress Mac tie in. I think they both produced the movie Sidekicks too.

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  9. HoustonHistoryBuff9/07/2007 12:54:00 PM

    The grocery store in the mall was Food Giant. We lived WAAAY out Westheimer in Walnut Bend in the early 60's. The Food Giant at Sharpstown Mall was the closest grocery store!

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  10. I've lived in sharpstown since 1973 and I use to walk to the Gene's Model Shop on the first floor of the mall. But the way things are there not I avoid the mall as all it is now is a big indoor park where people wonder around and don't buy much but steal quite a bit from the stores. There have been numerous shooting there and other bad things too.

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  11. I use to work at the Steak & Ale by Target which is gone now. There use to be a Weingardens grocery store next to Target back then off Larkwood and Hwy 59. The Red Lobster moved to Sugar Land so it's gone too.I use to bank at the Texas Commerce Bank in front of Sharpstown Mall.I use to go to the Orange Julius inside the food court when it opened in the 1980's.

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  12. Sharpstown Mall is still open. I go there every now and then for nostalgia. The jewelery store is still there but I don't think it's open. The drug store on that entrance is open to my knowledge. The Luby's is now closed after a unsuccessful Chinese buffet. The Army enlistment area is still there. JC Penny is no longer there. The cool white staircases are though! The cool upper-level parking still looks 100% 80's although there is some graffiti up there now (there was 80's graffiti above the pr0n shop next door till the charter school came by). The elevators still work and they are still 100% retro. The babbages has turned into a perfume depot (I bought several NES games back in the day from that place). The KB toys is now a dollar store (crappy one at that). The pretzel store is gone as well as the thristy's or whatever it's called. The hamburger and chinese restaurants are there still (the greek place is now cajun). Edo is gone though (the food didn't taste good the last I had it from them). Visible changes moved then it turned into a barbershop for rappers. The Walgreens turned into a cheap costume jewelery store. It's sad to see an icon turn into a crappy flea market type place. The old school you are here signs are gone as well. The diamond shop near army place is open still. Eyemasters is still open as well. If you guys want photos I'll be happy to share them from my last outing there.

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  13. Hey, Mike or anyone else who knows...it's about Good Time Charlie's -- was that named after Charlie Wilson, the politician who just died yesterday or an old song before my time? I remember freaking out when my mom brought to show me this fascinating thing on a giant stage(well, giant to a nine year old) when we moved down here to Texas called "Good Time Charlie's" and the darn thing broke down right in front of my eyes. They never did get it to work right after that incident in 1979 I think it was. I remember it standing there stagnant for years creeping me out in the food court where we went to get good NY-type pizza after our Bealle's shopping sprees till one sad day they took it down. Maybe it wouldn't have scared me so much if I hadn't seen it die in front of me as a mere shell-shocked child who was new to Houston from the east coast. Anyway, any relations to the late Charlie Wilson? Oh, and we did get mugged there once in the late 1980s, but we miraculously fought of the muggers who had a knife but not gun...my mom and I were a feisty team.

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  14. When I was in High School in the late 1980s, we always went to Dream Merchant.

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  15. I grew up at Sharpstown Mall. Even took my children there later on. It was different, but still the same if you can get that. I remember the Montgomery Ward and the Nathan's Physical Whimsical; I went there several times and was crushed to learn the place was no longer there. I'd wanted my children to get just what I got growing up.

    Babbage's...OMG! I remember getting "Duck Hunt" for NES for my birthday. Afterward, it was off to the food court for the best fare they had to offer. I wonder if that candy counter is still there? They sold original jawbreakers, rock candy and licorice whips. Can't find that anymore. And the Walgreen's...I remember getting my bare bottom spanked for stealing candy from that store when I was five. My mother marched me right back in to the manager and then to the ladies room for a session with the hairbrush. Memories...

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  16. i grew up in the mall. soent many weekends at Good Time Charlies. I watched the 2nd floor being added. Used to work at Neptune Pet Center.

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