Texas Retail Recovering in Wake of Ike

The two biggest retail centers in Houston reopened Sunday as the area continued its recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Ike.

DALLAS — Some stores and restaurants at The Galleria and Memorial City Mall, the two biggest retail centers in Houston, reopened Sunday as the nation’s fourth largest metropolitan area continued its recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Ike.

As of press time, eight deaths had been attributed to Ike, which swept onshore at Galveston, Tex., at 2:10 a.m. Saturday and pounded the Houston metropolitan area for hours before moving into east Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.

The majority of businesses in the city remained closed due to widespread power outages affecting 2.9 million households and businesses in southeast Texas and as many as 5 million people. Houston businesses were ordered by city government to shut down Friday and Saturday because of the storm.

Estimates of insured property damage and lost business by risk assessment companies ranged from $8 billion to $18 billion, primarily in southeast Texas. That was far lower than had been anticipated by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who speculated Friday that Ike could cost as much as $100 billion.

The massive storm also snuffed out the lights in 100,000 households in East Texas plus 153,000 in Arkansas and 69,000 in Louisiana, where an additional 22,300 have been without power since Hurricane Gustav hit Sept. 1. Those numbers were dropping Sunday as power was restored.

Dallas had braced for tropical-storm winds, but Ike shifted east and the city experienced little more than driving rain Saturday.

“I don’t know that people will have shopping on their minds, but with the enormous power outages, many people will be looking for a place of refuge from the heat and to find places to eat,” said Nicole Davis, Galleria marketing director, on Sunday.

The center, with 375 stores and restaurants plus a Westin Hotel, didn’t lose power or sustain damage during the storm, she said.

“There are some curfews in certain areas by the city of Houston so we are not making it mandatory for our tenants to be here and show up,” Davis noted at midday. “It’s getting pretty busy. Eleven of our restaurants and 26 stores are open — not any anchors but Ann Taylor, White House|Black Market, Gap, Banana Republic, those kinds of stores. The anchors are opening tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Galleria will close early at 6 p.m. [Sunday], Monday and Tuesday because of a dusk-to-dawn curfew by the city of Houston.

The Galleria is the nation’s fourth-largest mall housing moderate to luxury tenants and anchors Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and two Macy’s.

Reached Sunday, a  Macy’s spokesman said he had no reports yet on the status of the stores.

About 75 percent of the 145 stores at Memorial City Mall were open Sunday, including anchors Target and Dillard’s, said Brian Colston, deputy director of security. Anchors J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Sears were expected to open Monday, he added.

Specialty stores open Sunday included Eyemasters, White House|Black Market, Lids and Camille La Vie, he said. The Texas Department of Transportation discouraged travel in affected areas via warnings on digital highway signs.

“Houston Premium Outlets are not opening yet today,” said Ashley Pearce, the Houston spokeswoman for Simon Property Group. “Trees are down, stoplights are down — it’s a mess.”

At Wal-Mart, 137 stores were closed in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri primarily due to power outages, said spokeswoman Ashley Hardie. The company shut down 141 stores and facilities in anticipation of the storm, and some of those to the west and south of the storm had reopened by Sunday. At the same time, other units in the four-state area lost power as Ike moved through as a tropical storm.

“We do have some stores in less impacted areas that are already up and running,” Hardie noted Sunday. “It is a fluid number as power comes in and out. We do have one store open in Houston and three are scheduled to open around noon in that area. It is too early to have a damage estimate, but it was better than expected. We don’t know of any that had severe damage.”

Shoppers are stocking up on water, ice, flashlights and cleaning goods as well as  gloves, tarps and duct tape, she reported.

Tootsies in Highland Village Shopping Center near the Galleria lost an awning but had no other damage, according to Penne Weidig, designer buyer.

“The bigger problem is that there are limbs and branches and trees down all over that area, which is making it difficult to get to the store,” she said.

“We plan to reopen Monday if there is power.”

Calli Saitowitz, owner of two BB1 Classic women’s boutiques in Houston, said, “Our home is without electricity as are both of our stores, and we are trying to get down there to see what kind of damage the stores have. People have told me that awnings were ripped off of both stores. I’m also concerned about security.”

Rachel Clements, owner of La Mode Lingerie, an upscale boutique, also said her home and business were without power and an awning had been ripped from the store. “I’ve heard that 90 percent of Houston residents and businesses are without power,” she said. “My main concern is security.”