Alabama Bookstop Stop Date: September 15th

That summer clearance sale that’s been going on at the Bookstop in the Alabama Theater Shopping Center on South Shepherd is uh, final. The store will be closing for good on September 15th. The new Barnes & Noble in the River Oaks Shopping Center on West Gray will be opening the next day (a bit sooner than was announced earlier), but no unsold books from the Bookstop location will be making the trip north.

So what happens to the Alabama Theater after then?


A new tenant has not been found, said Brooke Harvey, leasing director for Weingarten Realty Investors, which owns the River Oaks and Alabama Shepherd shopping centers where both of the old marquee theaters are located.

Until then, he can’t speculate about how the cavernous, art deco interior, which retains its balcony and terraced first floor, might be used going forward.

“We love the building. We’re just leasing it as is,” Harvey said.

“We have no plans to make any changes. You just won’t be buying books in there.”

That sign advertising up to 13,000 sq. ft. of space available for lease in the shopping center has been up for about a year now. Of course, if you just got rid of all those annoying staircases inside the old theater and jammed a new mezzanine in there, you might be able to come close to doubling that figure. Or you could just chop the thing up into a bunch of smaller spaces. And how about a build-out allowance?

Meanwhile, Weingarten apparently is busy enough already selling off a good chunk of its other Houston-area properties and trying to find tenants for the rest of its newly constructed River Oaks Shopping Center space. Harvey tells the Chronicle‘s Robin Foster that the company has no current plans to scrape and rebuild any more of the River Oaks center.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

24 Comment

  • I like those annoying staircases.

  • As a customer, I used to have Three Brothers Bakery, The Black-Eyed Pea, and Bookstop. Now I have only a giant Barnes and Noble. I’d be willing to bet that anything I would want at B&N would also have been carried at Bookstop, with the possible exception of music, which Allrecords does better anyway. How does this serve me, the customer, better? I’m kinda serious, actually.

  • marmer,

    I’m afraid you’re simply looking at this from the wrong perspective. What’s important is not what you want, or how you are being served. What’s important is whether the people who make the big decisions about these things have the freedom to make money on their investments, or at least have fun trying. If what they do works well for you, great. If not, you are free to become a multimillionaire and buy their properties from them so that you can then impose your will on others. Otherwise, quit complaining.
    Clearly, you haven’t been reading the comments on this site carefully enough.

  • regardless of what weingarten says, my take is this is stage 1 to the wrecking ball and then on to re-development of that whole site. people were fighting tooth and nail to get the theater listed as an histoical one, but it didn’t happen. it doesn’t take much smarts to know the best thing is to play it cool…and let the natural sequence of commrcial re-development happen. the theater has come to the end of it’s useful life as a viable commercial property.

  • d. You might be right, but it won’t happen soon. The commercial real estate market is too damaged right now, and Weingarten is suffering. With the open question of whether they could find tenants for a new development there, it would be difficult for them to find financing.

    This is not to say that WRI might not scrape it and build a new development there once the economy picks up. But in the short run, it seems unlikely.

    I love that space. If I had huge quantities of money to risk, I think I could make something cool out of it. But I don’t, so I will limit myself to commenting here–which is still free.

  • The Barnes and Noble guy summed it up when he said, “Operationally, it [The Alabama] doesn’t bear much resemblance to what we usually have,” he said. Which is one of the reasons I liked it. But at least now we have a full service cafe in the store to compete with the 2 starbucks that stand within 20 yards of it.

    And how bout the rose colored glasses on the Weingarten guy when he said, “If you disregard the new development section, almost every space in the shopping center is taken.”

  • “No unsold books will be making the trip north” – huh? Did I misread that? Does that mean that the books will go on further clearance? Or that unsold books will be destroyed? I’m not sure I follow. While I like real estate gossip, I really love books – and if good deals are to be had, I want a piece.

  • i’m just surprised that anyone still shops at big box bookstores. bland selection and full retail in the internet age…i think not.

    i guess you can look at magazines but i just go to Issues if i actually want to buy one.

  • “Harvey tells the Chronicle’s Robin Foster that the company has no current plans to scrape and rebuild any more of the River Oaks center.”
    Hmmm… this reminds me of a newspaper article that appeared in the West U Examiner about 10 years ago. HEB had just purchased some land occupied by some older commercial buildings on Buffalo Speedway. The Kroger across the street had just opened, but the spokesperson for HEB said they had “no immediate plans” to build a store on the property. Slowly but surely, leases weren’t renewed. Eventually, lo and behold, the empty buildings were demolished and a new HEB was built on the property. Imagine that…

  • One goes to a big-box bookstore to browse. Something which Bookstop was good for. Also you go there if you need or want something right now and don’t want to wait a few days or pay for shipping.

  • I’m probably just dreaming here, but is there any reason why an Alamo Drafthouse would not thrive in this location? With so much new residential development between Shepherd and Kirby, they could even get a nice walk-up crowd.

  • I think an Alamo Drafthouse-like business would be cool. The question I have is that, could such a business survive with only one screen (Alamo Drafthouses and its imitators are usually multiplexes)? They could chop up the Alabama the way they have done the River Oaks, but I don’t know how you could make the Alabama a multiplex AND a place that served beer and food at tables the way Alamo does it.

    But who knows? Maybe it could work. I would be glad to patronize that kind of business, if it were there.

  • Here’s a revolutinary idea….What about turning it into a theater?

  • Hey, there’s a thought! I really don’t think I am being blinded by nostalgia here when I say that a repertory-style theater a la River Oaks in the 80s could be a very attractive thing, even in the Netflix era. Market it as being a modestly priced way to see a classic movie with a big screen and good sound, with decent movie-theatre food. Call it “The True Movie Experience” or something like that. If I could pay, say, five bucks to see Casablanca or The Wizard of Oz or Rear Window in a theatre, I’d do it in a heartbeat, and I don’t think I’m that weird.

  • marmer, I think you are blinded by nostalgia. Hey, I LOVED the River Oaks Theater back in the day–hell, it’s what drew me and my movie-loving friends inside the loop when I was a suburban teenager. I literally put the posters of the next month’s shows (which always looked cool as they tried to fit as many images as possible onto a calendar grid) on my wall every month all through high school and college.

    But I can’t see it working now. I don’t think the Alabama can be saved by looking backwards. I hope it can be saved by looking forward, by finding a new use that preserves the old form. Bookstop was actually really innovative that way. We need more innovators like that.

  • Bookstop is ( was ) a unique place. It is part of what makes Houston fun. In a sea of sameness, places like Bookstop in the Alabama theater give Houston character. Even though I dont live in Texas, I do own commercial property in Houston and I read Swamplot to keep an eye on things in the area. The property is too valuable to keep vacant. It would be a great re-development project if the property were ever to hit the market. Even in this down economy, the dollars will be found to rebuild the site.

  • RWB, you may be right, but I thought about it pretty hard before posting. I went to the River Oaks theatre a LOT, not as a suburban teenager, but as an employed twenty-something. I always preferred seeing movies in a theatre, even when videos were freely available. I still think it’s worthwhile, and why else would rich people spend all that money on special theatre rooms if there wasn’t something special about the movie theatre experience? You’d have to sell it as being all about the past and tradition, but that’s something that we seem to always be lamenting the loss of around here.

  • @LT: The linked Chronicle story says most unsold books will be returned to the publisher.

  • Unsold books are returned to wholesalers and distributors and credited against sales for the publisher. Large publishers distribute their own books, small publishers use distributors and/or wholesalers. Remaindered books are owned outright by B&N (owner of Bookstop) and will not be returned. They may end up being thrown out. B&N also owns books published under the B&N brand, but I have no idea what they’ll do with those.

    It does seem weird that they won’t be moving any of the books in stock from Alabama to West Gray. It may be for some inventory control reason, or perhaps they don’t want the new store to open with any shopworn books on the shelves. Ironically, it is almost a statistical certainty that a few of the books returned to the B&N distribution center in New Jersey will be returned to the shelves at the new B&N on West Grey at some point.

  • RWB says: “Ironically, it is almost a statistical certainty that a few of the books returned to the B&N distribution center in New Jersey will be returned to the shelves at the new B&N on West Grey at some point.”

    Can this be comment of the day, or week, or something?

  • Why not a fancy cabaret supper club? They have several in San Francisco and New York. It’d be great to have a place to go for dinner and dancing and to hear a great singer or band.

  • A cabaret or supper club would be great, and wouldn’t require re-installing theatre seating. Making the floor flat might be an issue, but could be done. After all, the famous Jimmie Menutis club of the 50s and 60s was in the Interstate Wayside theatre.

  • retrofitting that building with a commercial kitchen would be rediculously costly. about the only thing the building is good for is retail – maybe another bookstore or a music store.

  • I like Alabama bookstop (I love that theater)
    Please send me and articles if you have one
    please thank you