Carbon-izer Presents Uptown Houston - Sakowitz
5000 Westheimer Road

The genesis of what would be Uptown was built around Sakowitz, building a full-line colonial-style department store in what was farmland (skip to 24:00) but adjacent to the newest, wealthiest, exurbs of Houston. While Sakowitz had previously built a store at Gulfgate in addition to its flagship store downtown, the new store would stand alone when it opened in March 1959. Despite not part of another development it became an instant success, despite thoughts from others that it would fail.

The store expanded in 1970, possibly as a response to the new Galleria mall built behind Neiman Marcus. By 1980, Sakowitz was one of six upscale department stores in the area, with Marshall Field's, Lord & Taylor, and Neiman Marcus at the Galleria, Joske's as a stand-alone store, and Saks Fifth Avenue surrounded by smaller stores. By the early 1970s, according to Texas Monthly, two eateries were in operation at the store, the Old Colony and the Crazy Calorie, with the latter being a "quick lunch mezzanine" and the former offering hot lunches and salads.

Sakowitz's success spread through not only Houston (in the suburbs, smaller "Sakowitz II" boutique stores were opened) but also as far out to Arizona.

In 1985, Sakowitz filed for bankruptcy, with the downtown and Gulfgate branch closing, and staff moving to the Post Oak location, and by January 1986, Sakowitz was a hometown store once more, with all but Town & Country Village and a few smaller stores in the suburbs. During this process, Sakowitz ended up closing 16 out of its 18 stores. During the bankruptcy process, Hooker Corp. bought 80% of the chain in late 1987, having already bought Bonwit Teller from Allied earlier that year. In 1988, renovations began on the Post Oak store with a new focus on apparel, with domestics, fabrics, silver, fine china, and collectibles being phased out. The renovations focused on small specialty shops built around a department store.

In 1989, plans were announced for a new store in Sugar Land (though from what I can tell this never opened), a new store in Dallas, and finally, a new store in Ohio at the Forest Fair Mall. (Based on Forest Fair Mall's advertising, the new stores were called "Sakowitz Destinations"), and all during this time, Hooker also proposed buying out Frost Bros. (which still had a store in Houston) and bringing that into the Sakowitz name and division. But within months of all that, the Frost Bros. buyout was cancelled and Hooker was having cash flow problems, filing for bankruptcy in 1989, and all of the department store names owned by Hooker went on the block, spelling disaster for the department stores that Hooker owned. Parisian was sold back to family ownership, Bonwit Teller was ultimately left with two stores owned by Pyramid Cos. (closing in 1996 and 2000, respectively), and B. Altman closing entirely.

Despite promises that Sakowitz would go on, Sakowitz was also put on the sale block in 1990, along with Hooker's other chains, but attempts to buy the chain in bankruptcy failed, and in June 1990, Sakowitz announced liquidation. The Dallas Sakowitz Destinations closed, and after a long going out of business sale, the Sakowitz store at Westheimer and Post Oak closed in August 1990. About two weeks later, the Sakowitz Destinations in Forest Fair Mall closed along with B. Altman and Bonwit Teller. Eventually, the Sakowitz brand was sold to Jerry Gronauer for Sakowitz Furs.

In 1994, the site was sold to Weingarten Realty, which planned to build a new shopping center called The Centre at Post Oak. At this point, the shops adjacent to Sakowitz were torn down (but not the newer shopping center built in the 1980s), which in the 1990s had "a jeweler, a shoe store, an optical outlet and Spring National Bank" (Houston Chronicle) and construction began in 1995 for a new shopping center.

Sources: Houston Chronicle articles

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