MANOR EAST MALL
East Villa Maria Road and South Texas Avenue
Bryan, Texas

Finding an answer to the question "where was the first shopping mall Wal-Mart?" proved quite elusive. An email query sent to the Wally World corporate website resulted in a less-than-helpful, standard form, "check our website" (which had no such information) response.

Readers of the MALL HALL OF FAME submitted several likely candidates. The most plausible, it seems, was a "Brown era" store, which was added to Bryan, Texas's MANOR EAST MALL.

Originally envisaged as MANOR VILLAGE CENTER, the complex was developed on a 34 acre plot, situated 1.9 miles southeast of downtown Bryan. An outdoor theater, the Skyway Drive-In, occupied the northeast portion of the site between 1948 and sometime in the 1960s.

Bryan, Texas' John Culpepper would build his shopping center in phases. The first, consisting of a freestanding (57,500 square foot) Montgomery Ward, was dedicated May 18, 1961. This single-level department store was joined by a (19,000 square foot) Kroger supermarket, which held its grand opening April 11, 1967.

Construction commenced on a single-level, fully-enclosed shopping center in late 1969. Now promoted as MANOR EAST MALL, it was anchored by a 1-level (60,000 square foot) Britts, this store being dedicated October 8, 1970. Britts was an upscale subsidiary of the J.J. Newberry 5 & 10 chain. Its MANOR EAST department store included a Coffee Shop.

The mall's (19,600 square foot) S.H. Kress 5 & 10 opened for business November 5, 1970. This was followed by the dedication of a (17,500 square foot) Bealls, on December 10, 1970. By this time, mall tenants included Vick's Drug Mart, Zales Jewelers, Bell Brothers Shoes, Gallenkamp Shoes and Christy's Hallmark Card Shop. Grave Fashion Shop and Wicks 'N Sticks made their debut in December 1971.

The first expansion of MANOR EAST MALL added the Schulman Theatres Manor East 3 Theatres, which was dedicated November 7, 1973. With this modification, the shopping hub encompassed approximately 225,000 leasable square feet. The first anchor nameplate change followed the shuttering of Britts, on July 1, 1976. J.C. Penney opened in the store space November 3 of the same year.

The complex was expanded with a third anchor store in 1980-1981. Wal-Mart built a 1-level (83,900 square foot) location onto the southeast side of the existing mall, with the Manor East 3 triplex sandwiched between. MANOR EAST MALL now housed approximately 308,100 leasable square feet and contained fifty-eight stores and services.

Retail rivalry arrived in February 1982. POST OAK MALL {2.8 miles southeast, in College Station} encompassed 800,000 leasable square feet and eighty retailers. An expansion of POST OAK MALL, completed in 1985, snatched J.C. Penney from MANOR EAST. The vacant MANOR EAST store was retenanted by Food 4 Less and then 50 Percent Off.

Wal-Mart relocated to a SuperCenter {1.3 miles northeast of the mall} in the fall of 1994. Montgomery Ward was shuttered in 1997. By this time, MANOR EAST MALL was substantially past it's prime. Jack Culpepper, son of the mall's original builder, began to envisage a redevelopment in 1999.

The three-phase project got underway in April 2003 and included demolition of 150,000 square feet of vacant mall space. Remaining structures were refurbished, with stores re-oriented with exterior entrances. Modern, creme-colored facades were added. A newly-built (93,000 square foot) H-E-B supermarket opened December 12, 2004.

Encompassing 360,000 leasable square feet and thirty-five stores and services, the complex, now known as TEJAS CENTER, was completed in August 2006. Tenants included Jo-Ann Fabrics, Bealls, Family Dollar, The Theatre Company (a live performance venue in the old triplex space), Hastings Used Music & Video and Gold's Gym.

Sources:

Posts by "Jonah Norason"
Houston Architecture Information Forum / Posts by "RJC0618", "Iron Tiger" and "Scotch"
www.btutilities.com
The Daily Eagle
http://csroadsandretail.blogspot.com
www.cinematreasures.org
http://gen.culpepper.com
www.stalworthonline.com
Bryan, Texas property tax assessor website