Monday, September 19, 2016

Goodbye to 711 University, So Long to the BB&T...

Since I didn't get a picture of the bank before it became a big hole in the ground, we'll have to do with this.

I love punny titles, and what better way to do that would be to mention the demolition of the old University Bank Building?

This was (going past tense here) a rather large and rather old bank that was a Citibank until very recently when it changed to BB&T. Brazos CAD says it was built in 1961 and from what I confirm that is absolutely true. Besides the many transactions at the bank itself, here are the major transactions in terms of name changes and all.

1962: College Station Bank relocates to this building from a previous location.
1963: The name is changed to University National Bank.
1990: After a long run as University National Bank, it is acquired by Don Adam to become First American Bank (officially acquired that year)
2005: Citigroup acquires the bank chain, rebranded to Citibank
2014: BB&T purchases 41 Citibank branches including this one and rebrands them.
2016: BB&T relocates to The Rise at Northgate; building torn down, thus beginning and ending its life with relocation.

That being said, there are two more things I want to hit:

The bank property also included an adjacent space, which was 707 University, BCAD link here which was a two-story office building with a small footprint. My records show this was used for non-bank space as early as 1974 (with the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Co.) and my 1989 phone book mentions "The Personal Computer Store" (with the ad mentioning it was "since 1984"). This became MicroAge by 1993, and starting in 1999 moved out to their current home (now known as Avinext) on East University Drive. I don't think anything has occupied the space since.

711 University was also where food trucks congregated (or near the now-defunct Notes-N-Quotes next door). Since I graduated a few years ago, I can't list all the more recent food trucks and trailers there, though here are a few I remember:

Wafology - Seen spring 2014 and maybe late 2013, this was a waffle food truck which had chicken and waffles and a few others. The waffles weren't great, they were more of the standard "using pancake batter in a waffle iron" that I've seen everywhere except for home cooking. I think it returned for fall 2014. It is now known as MESS Waffles.

Vittles - This was seen summer 2014. It was a trailer operated by Gumby's serving sno-cones, pizza rolls, and chicken legs (the latter two obviously prepared off-site).

Chef Tai's Mobile Bistro - Moved inside campus due to a contract.

Southern Comfort Road Trip - The old Village Foods food truck which in fall 2013, was the new home of Hebert's Cajun Food dishes. Their already-borderline prices had gone up, but it still felt like it was putting the universe one step closer to being back in balance.

Mr. Chinese Burger - I wanted to like it, but the burgers I had needed reheating...and they were shut down by the health department at least once. Still, I was amused by the (possibly deliberate?) broken English menu ("One Chinese Burger", "Two Chinese Burger", etc.), they sold pulled pork on chewy steamed buns.

The replacement is supposed to be a 16-story, 800-bed residential tower (student housing, it seems, as usual) with two retail spaces at the bottom which may or may not go unused (considering how the Rise struggled with retail the first few years, though the CVS did well).

Monday, July 4, 2016

Leaning Tower Pizza / Primo Pizza / My Daily Bread Bakery

Primo Pizza in better days, September 2013

Originally I was going to rewrite my old Eastgate page, but then I figured I could easily rewrite it into several posts, not to mention it was several years since I did anything with it.

109 Walton, from my records, seems to have been food related for most of its life. "Wing Zone" was here in the early part of the 2000s, records indicate, and during the 1990s it was home to Partners Food Delivery. My personal experiences deal with the current tenant and the two before it. First, there was Leaning Tower Pizza, which if I recall was here since the mid-2000s. It was an interesting place, with a particularly greasy pie with a unique cheese pizza. It was also pretty grimy for a College Station restaurant, but I didn't mind because that's why you have enough to kill any dubious bacteria. It had some garden furniture for an "eat-in" area and had "free delivery" that had a significant discount if you picked it up in store, which means it wasn't actually free at all.

Well, for whatever reason, Leaning Tower closed in spring (May) 2013. Luckily, it was said on MyBCS that Charles Stover, fresh from creating Flip & Peel at Post Oak Mall, had bought the store and recipes and would reopen with a new name and theme. Well, that didn't quite happen, and instead in late summer 2013, Primo Pizza & Rolls opened with an entirely new concept of gourmet takeout pizza, which included pesto on every slice (this opened in late summer 2013). Unfortunately, gourmet takeout pizza without an eat-in area wasn't something the market could handle (especially located in a neighborhood that was populated by college students and minorities) and Primo shut down in February 2014 due to underperformance, but the way it was worded indicated that the closure could be temporary. After all, the sign remained up. But in May 2014, new pictures revealed that the restaurant was gutted. (One more thing regarding Primo: Primo Pizza's webpage, archived in PNG form)

While an Eastgate pizza place was no more than a memory, it did have one more tenant afterwards that opened by fall. This is still open today...My Daily Bread Bakery. This was one of my favorite places in my neighborhood when I lived on Eastgate, cinnamon rolls for breakfast if I was running late for school, decent coffee and espresso, and even (though I don't know about it today), a selection of used video games (from her husband) for sale, where I bought Pikmin and I believe Metroid Prime. I haven't made much progress in either, or you would see it in Carbon-izer GAMES, my "game review" page.

Here are a few other pictures that I took in May 2014 after the restaurant was gutted.

Gutted PP, May 2014
Gutted PP, May 2014. This is where the counter and menu were. The kitchen was behind that wall. This configuration was intact for both LTP and PP&R.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Handy Burger / The Onion Ring / The Deluxe / Chimy's Cerveceria

Chimy's sign looks kind of cool at night, but no picture of that, sorry (December 2015)

This restaurant, best known to me as the Deluxe Diner, always had a bit of a special place in my heart, even if I never went there. It was the first thing I saw besides the late Dulie Bell Building if we were going down the ramp from Wellborn, plus it was always featured in a little "menu booklet" that the George Bush Library had in their early days. It started as a hamburger restaurant called the Handy Burger, which was the first place in town to have a microwave for food use. Eventually, this became a restaurant called "The Onion Ring" (which picked up a well-known nickname probably more common than the REAL name of the restaurant).

Later, the restaurant was remodeled and became "The Deluxe Burger Bar" (renamed The Deluxe Diner sometime later).

Deluxe Diner menu from better days (c. 1998), note that this is not the full menu

The shuttered Deluxe Diner, Google Street View (c. 2007)
The Deluxe Diner closed in 2006 (that I know for sure) but by that time was in a state of huge decline (food was terrible, management was even worse). Despite having some period diner pieces inside (though the exterior had been modified since the Handy Burger days), the building started to rot and mold until 2012 when most of the restaurant was demolished save for a few walls and was rebuilt into Chimy's Cerveceria, which opened in January 2013. I've never eaten there, based on reports of overpriced food and what I've seen myself (long, cafeteria-like tables). That was disappointing, as I'd been wanting some decent Tex-Mex in Northgate, not a bar. Rest assured, though, with the opening of Torchy's Tacos when I lived at Eastgate, I no longer thought of Chimy's as a wasted opportunity.

So there you go. The tale of one of College Station's oldest restaurant sites in one post. Sorry for the absence as of late...I'll be wrapping up several more of the posts here with one more for the memories.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pooh's Park, Tinsley's, and Others Replaced by a Shopping Center

View of the center today

Once again, we come back to one of our blog, this time to roll a few smaller posts into a bigger one. As the picture above shows, the area at Holleman and Texas Avenue is now a large (kind of low end) shopping center. In addition to covering all the changes that went on there (which I have yet to do), I can combine a few older posts into this one. So, first, we have Pooh's Park at 1907 Texas Avenue South.

There's far more to Pooh's Park (no, not related to the "Winnie" one) I can get into today, because it's a popular topic on local nostalgia threads: if you want to learn more, you can head over to Facebook to talk or browse through old photos (and they include newspaper articles!)

I never got to experience Pooh's Park myself, but from what I've seen and read, it was like Chuck E. Cheese, Putt-Putt, and a skating rink (roller, not ice) all wrapped into one. It opened in 1972 and was where the shopping center where Hobby Lobby, Big Lots, and Ross are now. I would like to say that Pooh's Park remained open until it became too valuable to remain (and was getting run-down anyway) and closed in the early 2000s, but no, that's not the case (it is very similar to a certain defunct theme park that closed about a decade ago, though). It closed in by 1989 (at that point, the phone book no longer lists it) and only the sign remained up (with the logo of the yellow dog they had, and not the one pictured above, and the name gone) until around the time they built the shopping center in the early 2000s, and then remained up until a little while afterward.

A 1984 phone book has a different ad that does mention things like a water slide (408 feet) and a different address (at some point, they changed to 105 Holleman, though based on what you can see from Google Earth, and backed up by a picture of Texas Avenue from a local history book I don't have a copy of with me) is that Pooh's Park was accessed through Texas Avenue, not Holleman.

Google Earth 1995, with modern streets overlaid

Some older maps (circa 2001-ish, long after Pooh's Park bit the dust) put a "Pooh's Lane" roughly where the Bahama Buck's is now, but unless that first part of Holleman Drive East was actually called that (after all, there's a few things that do support that, including the odd alignment of Holleman Drive and Holleman Drive East suggests that the East part was first, and then Holleman Drive extended that way later by way of a particularly awkward curve, or the fact that the subdivision nearby (behind the strip center and the other businesses on the east side) is named Pooh's Park Subdivision.

Sharing the address with Pooh's Park (at least the original address) was one "Furniture Liquidation Mart" which closed in October 1985 (The Eagle), and I would guess that this is what Bahama Buck's replaced (it used to be the foundations of another building). It should be noted, though, my 1984 phone book doesn't list it.

Near Pooh's Park was Tinsley's Chicken 'n Rolls.

Chicken done well, chicken well done!

Opening in late 1979, Tinsley's was located on 1905 Texas Avenue but was closed by 1989 after the Tinsley family sold out to Church's, which would eventually close or convert the restaurants (I don't think this restaurant was ever converted). Later, it was Kokopelli's (by 1998), and soon after, the Clay Oven (by 1999), a quick-serve (cheap!) Indian restaurant. This location, unfortunately, was razed for the shopping center, but Clay Oven was already closed by then. I have no actual pictures of what the building looked like in reality, nor do I remember Clay Oven being there at all. Sad, isn't it?

The plane was a real thing, though, David Tinsley used an actual 1930s plane to promote his restaurants, not unlike how Flying Tomato used hot air balloons.

While the "Boss Bird" made a brief appearance in Huntsville (after a long period of total absence), it is now closed (now a Hartz Chicken Buffet). It wasn't particularly to die for (although I think the "dried out chicken" complaints were an over-exaggeration, at least from what I saw in my visit).

There were a few other places on Holleman that later disappeared beyond Jot 59 (see picture), though one of them was a quick-lube auto place (name escapes me).

So anyway, all that was torn down for the shopping center (University Shopping Center, the name of which wasn't promoted), which opened around 2003 (after the H-E-B, I remember), with many of the stores it has today (Hobby Lobby, Shoe Carnival, Ross Dress for Less, Petco). Hobby Lobby moved from their old location at Post Oak Square, with the others being new. There was a branch of Loupot's, CiCi's (which came a few years later, as the old Culpepper Plaza was partially demolished), and a Goody's Family Clothing.

Goody's would close in early 2009 as the chain went under, but it was replaced with a few new stores, Big Lots (returning back to the market, as by that time, their old location at the former Kmart had been closed for several years) and a Twin Liquors (which, despite slightly nicer d├ęcor, seemed like a smaller, inferior competitor to Spec's).

Another shopping strip was built around the same time as the rest (but named The Shops at Wolf Pen Plaza) with Starbucks Coffee, a Sprint store (which initially had the older logo), and Champion Firearms (moved from the Kroger shopping center).