Remember Joske's? A look back at Houston's department stores

Photo of J.R. Gonzales

To many of us, department stores hold a special place in our memory.

For those of us who grew up in Houston, we remember visits to Sakowitz's downtown store with grandma. Or those Christmas displays outside Foley's. Or the popcorn aroma that filled Sears.

But we can't forget Penney's, Joske's, Weiner's, Palais Royal, Globe, Britt's and others, too.

And as retail commerce shifted from the center of Houston to its suburbs, the Houston Chronicle and Pos  captured this transition.

Here's a look at how two brick-and-mortar chains made the move out of downtown.

* J.C. Penney opened its first Houston store on May 24, 1934. It was located at the southeast corner of Main at Texas, formerly the location of Harris-Hahlo Department Store. Fifty thousand Houstonians turned out for its opening.

A second location would not open until 1949, when it a new store designed by Kenneth Franzheim went up at Main and Stuart. Later stores opened in Pasadena in 1954, on North Shepherd near Sears and at Palms Center the following year.

WHAT ABOUT MONTGOMERY WARD? 1959 photos show Ward's expansion to Palms Center

* San Antonio-based Joske's entered Houston in 1948 when it signed a lease at 407 Main. That location was well-known to Houstonians because Foley's had been there since 1922. The Houston-based store left that building to move into a more modern structure down Main Street. The Joske's store was unique in that it only sold home furnishings.

The chain opened a second location in 1956 at Gulfgate. That one was a complete department store that sold home furnishings and apparel.

The downtown Joske's closed in 1963 and became a grocery store of sorts. At the time, it was reported that the building could not be economically expanded to match Houston's growth. The Post Oak store would open on Labor Day that year. A location at Northline soon followed.

In 1987, Little Rock-based Dillard's bought Joske's.

These days, as more of these brick-and-mortar stores disappear from the retail landscape, let these photos above serve as a time when shopping in Houston was altogether different than today.

J.R. Gonzales, a third-generation Houstonian, covers local history with an eye toward the people and events that have mostly been forgotten to time. Follow him through Bayou City History on Facebook and Twitter. He can be reached at 713-362-6163 or