Sunday, January 30, 2011

From Country Grocery to Living Water Pottery

The shadows make this look far darker than what it actually is


101 N. Dowling Road

Back way before the Harvey Mitchell overpass and before the Holleman expansion, I'd like to tell you about a building on North Dowling.

My earliest memories involve a Shell station, with the older logo (golden shell surrounded with red) and a gray building, with, in capital letters, COUNTRY GROCERY. Between Country and Grocery, there was a circle, but covered up with a withered ad for pet food (I never found out what the circle originally said, though evidence strongly suggests it said LONE STAR FEED). It was far older than I was, existing since at least 1983.

Unfortunately, my parents never went there. Ever. I heard it was because the owners were dishonest (keep in mind that the pumps were not pay-at-the-pump, something I take for granted today), and given the fact it was a convenience store, prices were always higher than a normal supermarket. (Ed: someone on MyBCS says it used to have tasty BBQ in this era)

Eventually, in the late 1990s or early 2000s, it cleaned up dramatically and got a new sign: Barker's Country Store. This was in a "western" font and the sign was white on brown.

Around 2004, however, a few things changed, the store and even the gas station changed hands. By early 2005 (I think?) it was a Summit (with still the red-and-yellow signs) with one of the ugliest signs I had ever seen. It looked like someone had just taped masking tape onto red poster board creating a "JAKE'S FOOD MART".

Jake's was a bust as well. It was noticed that the store was no longer in operation when the gas prices ceased to change with the rest of the town's gas prices.

Around 2006-2007, the property was really cleaned up (repainted light tan, replacing whatever shade Barker's had painted it) and opened as "Shortee's Café", featuring a rather strange chef character. The pumps were torn out and the ground patched (I think the tank's still there). This was short-lived as Shortee's (I don't know if they ever opened the dining area) moved out to Bryan within months, with the building reopened as Travis' Soul Food. This I actually ate at. It was run by these nice old ladies with southern accents...I managed to get a menu (seen below)



Food was served from metal pans that I guess were cooked from the kitchen and served cafeteria-style. It wasn't bad, but that not great either (I had a horrible feeling that I would be throwing up that night from food sickness). In retrospect, it was probably on par with mediocre cafeterias anyway. If it had been more accessible, it would have been popular with the senior citizen population, but that never happened.

Eventually, it reopened as "Living Water Pottery", which is still open and offers pottery lessons. I'm guessing it stays in business due to it being a niche, and they even sell the pottery online at Etsy.

Since the construction of Holleman's extension and the new Harvey Mitchell overpass, Living Water is in a pretty lousy location. But despite that, it still manages to get business. I'm glad that even though that section of North Dowling is no longer viable for retail, it can still stay in business. We leave you with one final picture: the old gas station sign, empty and decaying in the sun:


Updated May 16, 2012, originally titled "A Building on North Dowling", later updated in summer 2013, with a minor update in 2015

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wolfe Nursery

Artist's conception, which is actually relatively accurate (see below)

6900 East Bypass

Where Cavender's Boot City is today, used to be a plant nursery called Wolfe Nursery, and the only reason I remember it so well is its carcass sat vacant for years (but not THAT well, apparently, as I called it "Wolf Pen Nursery" erroneously. No wonder I had so few Google hits). It isn't that old. A few people report there being a go-kart track here at one time, and indeed a go-kart track was granted a permit in the late 1980s, so it's probable that Wolfe Nursery came in-line in the early 1990s. [6/30/14 Update: This was "Post Oak Go-Carts Amusement", 609 Holleman Dr. E]


These two pictures, snagged from Google Earth, shows how much the building was reconstructed. These were in 2004 and 2008, respectively. Reconstruction I believe, took place late 2005 [5/9/17 Update: The grand opening was in September 2004. The old store off Harvey had opened in 1986.]




This is what the building roughly looked like from the front.

The font in the front was greenish, and a more bold variant of Helvetica that was common in the 1980s. The building was tan and had green trim as well.

It closed in spring 1998 when the chain went bankrupt (after a fast expansion in the early to mid 1990s), and I remember being inside of it once. It had skylights but had a fairly empty feel (it also had different sections of the store that felt like rooms, maybe). Bankruptcy information from the Houston Chronicle.

In addition to Houston-area locations, I remember seeing a "Wolfe Nursery" was going out of business...in Austin. That at least solves the mystery when I thought it was "Wolf Pen".

In terms of the Houston locations, here's a former one according to the old addresses, now serving as a "distribution center" of sorts for Houston Garden Centers. It looks familiar, doesn't it? The College Station location didn't have a lit sign, but still--not bad on the facade memory, huh? Too bad I never got the NAME right!


Anyway, it's a Cavender's Boot City these days (as well as a different address), part of the future Wolf Pen Village development, which was put on hold after the recession. And frankly, plant nurseries don't live that long anyway.

Editor's note: I doubt they sold orchids. ;)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tom's BBQ and Steakhouse

2001 Texas Avenue South (College Station) - the southeast corner of Holleman Drive and Texas Avenue
3610 South College Avenue (Bryan) - current location of J. Cody's

You may have come from the latest Tales of Defunct Restaurants. This is a restaurant, I don't know when it opened (you could send their meat to a loved one back in the late 1980s, page 17), but it hit its peak in the 1990s.

Raise your hand if you remember Tom's BBQ and Steakhouse. It was two restaurants in town, with a menu of steaks, burgers, barbecue, and a few others. Well known for the "Tom's Famous Aggie Special", which gave you barbecue (your choice of meats, whether it be ribs, brisket, or whatever), a block of cheddar cheese, pickles, onion, bread, and served on butcher paper with a knife. Even though it opened a location in College Station sometime in the early 1990s, food quality went downhill, and both closed in late 2001 or early 2002. The Bryan location was later re-occupied by J. Cody's, while the College Station one remained vacant until 2005 when it was flattened for the strip center with Batteries Plus and Blockbuster.

Here's a menu from Project HOLD (which was supplied by me, actually). I don't know of the date, maybe late 1990s?

Originally some menu items were removed and blacked out (like the Veggie Basket), while some were added (they were stapled to the front)





There also used to be a Buffalo Wings one stapled on, and it used buffalo clip art, again.

There's also a Facebook group for former employees.

UPDATE: November 26, 2011

I recently found the old Tom's BBQ website (as early as the late 1990s, the College Station Tom's BBQ website disappeared and the domain was taken over by an Arizona-based Tom's BBQ). Here's the History page from it (thanks, Archive.org)


If you go to the archived website, you can see that for early 1997 and late 1996, it was a pretty advanced website: you could order online for pick-up, which wasn't common back then.

Updated May 13, 2012: Removed the first paragraph, which stated "This is College Station Roads and Retail, but occasionally, we can deviate from that, as restaurants are totally permitted in this site." Some days later, some additional information was added.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

University Square Shopping Center / Legacy Point


A still-standing reminder of what the center was. All but one was gone as of this when this photo was taken in 2012. The Junction pulled out in summer of 2012 and was replaced by "Piranha Fitness Studio". There's a smaller sign signed as Legacy Point closer to IHOP.


This was one of the more popular topics of this blog, and one of the first "requests" for a blog topic on this blog. This post began with telling the history of "Skaggs Shopping Center" and how it ended up as the sad "University Square" we know today. This all would all change, of course, when it was revealed that the center would be dramatically altered for a new mixed-use development, and now it looks completely different.

This post has gone under a lot of changes. The former Albertsons at 301 South College Avenue, I removed and moved to this link, so that's where most of the pictures that used to be here disappeared to. Speaking of disappeared, the old Albertsons is gone completely these days...another major change from the old post.

Another major error was "Skaggs Shopping Center" being the original name. As it turned out, "University Square" was always the name of this shopping center, which was previously believed to be Skaggs Shopping Center, which was an understandable mistake since all the ads for adjacent stores featured the [supermarket] Shopping Center (whatever was in the spot at the time) until the closure of the supermarket (c. 1997), at which point the University Square name came into more common usage. A more amusing example is when the coin & jewelry store was going out of business in October 2013 it referred to the center as the "IHOP Shopping Center". Ultimately, this ended up being bought and renamed David's Jewelry & Coin Exchange instead.

Since so many changes have been happening to the center (and Albertsons, which was the main feature of this post has been demolished), and the long list of running updates were getting too unwieldy, I've rewritten this post multiple, multiple times, and then later outsourced parts. Like I said before, it's still a work in progress, but I hope to get it under control.

As early as 2003, the city was looking to improve on the center (which had lost Albertsons by that point) as part of a largely far-fetched Northgate redevelopment that would see University Square (eventually) get developed into something else: a "Cultural/Science Center" anchor, citing the Exploratorium as a model (and THIS I did hear about back in '03), a think tank/business incubator, or a mixed-use project that would incorporate a variety of restaurants and a modern movie theater.

As you might have guessed, none of that ever happened (frankly, it was rather vague) and we're just starting with a redevelopment that's far less "out there", though across the street, Century Square is going up, which will be closer to what University Square will become.

303 University Drive
Most recently Traditions. I went in in spring of 2013, wondering when it would be demolished (at the time it was still open) but the next time I went by the area a few months later, it was being razed. Short shelf life, apparently.

As seen in the comment below by "buzzz", there was a Mitchell's department store here. I'd like to say thanks, but I had added in that comment myself anonymously in an attempt to aid further discussion, which was a failure (and it just made me look more pathetic). It wasn't a "real" department store, much smaller than even small-town Wal-Mart stores (unless it took up the space of both the future Hancock Fabrics and Rother's, in which case it would still be quite undersized).

I took a picture from an old TAMU yearbook (thus, the poor quality) that shows the logo.


Notice the Tandy Corporation logo--that was RadioShack's parent company (which later adopted the name of RadioShack). They had a much greater range in those days, and ran full companies. By 1992, the store became a McDuff Superstore (according to a 1992 ad that I have), also at the address and owned by Tandy. I read that there was a RadioShack itself even later here. Somewhere in the late 1990s or early 2000s, it became Rother's, which would remain (save for a rename) until its demise.

309 University Drive
There is no 305 or 307 because even by 1980, this was Hancock Fabrics and remained so until it closed (leaving the sign up) and eventually BCS Bicycles. BCS Bicycles even left the sign in the back up (like Traditions did to Rothers), which can be seen in the pictures below. There was however, a 306 College, which in 1979 was occupied with Webster's Catalog Showroom.

The Old Theater and Around It
The other side of the shopping center has a slightly taller roof. This used to be the Cineplex (later Plitt) III, a three-screen movie theater. It lasted through the various names of the supermarket, but closed around 1996 and was divided between an expansion of Hurricane Harry's (at 313 College Avenue, which dated back to at least 1992--well before the theater closed, it also shares the address with what was once simply "The Jewelry & Coin Exchange") became TJ's Laser Tag (315 College Avenue), which was around from maybe 1996 to 1999. That spot later became The Junction (a pool hall that didn't serve alcohol). The Junction eventually closed around 2012 and became Piranha Fitness Studio. There was also additional A+ classrooms at 311A College Avenue, but they're gone (even though the space is still standing). At one time, 313C (unknown what's there now, but the building is still there) was a restaurant called "Fred's For Lunch" which sold submarine sandwiches and Blue Bell ice cream.

The Restaurant at 317 University Drive
Speaking of hurricanes, the restaurant in the east side of the parking lot was Crazy Cajuns', created by Hurricane Rita evacuees (Lake Charles, Louisiana) and was on its second location, moving from a very small place in Wellborn (indeed, the sign on the building side still read "Wellborn, Texas" up until its closure). While I first went to the location in Wellborn (I don't know what's there now), which included only a large covered area with picnic tables (December 2006 is when I went), this eventually did end up being a favorite of mine, as I went in March 2011 to this location and had a blast. Lots of food for a good price. It was still spicy, and had been in this place since somewhere about 2008-2009. It went through a few changes in ownership, and steadily declined, notably in service first, then food, and health ratings, before finally closing for good in summer 2012. It shut down the same week as Hebert's did (sad time for Cajun food lovers). I expressed some hope that Hebert's would be able to move into the restaurant, and go from essentially a snack bar to a full restaurant where you could take your family, but that wasn't going to work.

There used to be a Thai place before it (the second incarnation of Thai Taste, and not a particularly great one), and before that a combo Mexican/Cajun place called Alicia's (thanks to HAIF user "keyser" for the restaurant history). The comments tell a bit more of the story. In fact, while wandering around around the 2012-2013 holidays, I found the canopy had some older names exposed...


Alicia's AND Thai Taste!

It started out as a Bonanza Steakhouse in 1973 (or 1972), which was more a cafeteria/buffet affair (rather than a traditional "steakhouse") and later served briefly as Cow Hop (before it moved back to the main strip on Northgate). But in 2013, nearly 40 years after its construction, it now serves as BCS Bicycles & Repair, which moved from their location in the strip.


Even though there was a bookstore (Rother's, later Traditions), a fabric store (later BCS Bicycles), two A+ Tutoring locations (one of which was in a stand-alone building, which it shared with Fat Burger), a "Jewelry and Coin Exchange", the city had their eyes to redevelop the property. I don't know exactly what was in the center before all that: some MyBCS topics refer to a pool hall/arcade/foosball place called "Tom Foolery" next to the supermarket.


Right now, Legacy Point is far from complete: the first phase, "The Stack" is being built in the old "Mud Lot" area, and two structures, the Albertsons building and the A+/Fat Burger building came down in late July 2012. BCS Bicycles and Traditions are to follow.



Other shots, taken January 2011 & surrounding buildings...





Regrettably, I was never able to get a picture of the interior of the Albertsons, or any other time: the windows were painted over, and my one shot of the interiors was kind of messed up by the flash, and while it did capture some of the interior in a blurry configuration that revealed rows of fluorescents and columns, it mostly created a reflection of me, which I didn't like.


The next shot is one that's not mine, but it's a great shot, with the old Hancock Fabrics sign visible. The second and third show older tenants, like Rother's and Hancock Fabrics. These were taken in May 2012 by me. I guess the businesses didn't bother changing the signs in the rear...





I had noticed there was a ladder behind Albertsons, so you could climb up on the roof (in theory, of course--you wouldn't actually be stupid enough to go up there, would you?) No matter, since there's nothing of Albertsons anyway.

Two Food Shacks
For years (since approximately 1991, if I recall correctly), there was a little Cajun food place called Hebert's Cajun Food. It wasn't that cheap, but it was fast, delicious, and worth it: much like a food truck. It closed on June 15th, 2012 with more pictures (not mine) here, and later moved to Village Foods, but it's not the same (drinks were cheaper, for one). On August 30, 2013, Hebert's left Village Foods, so don't go there if expecting gumbo. In October 2013, they were still looking for a new location but that didn't stop a certain local Yelp!er from changing his opinion on it 360°. This was what was said prior to leaving:
Heberts was indeed the top Cajun in this area, and it will continue. In Village Foods, here for Yelpers;

http://www.yelp.com/biz/…

It's gonna be in Stover Cafe so we have not lost it Now Hebert's will be available daily and year round. My wife and I will be taking home gumbo by the pound, as this is simply the best Cajun ever in BCS. Quarter of a century, and it will go on.

There was also a coffee shop, "Java Jitters" just directly across it, which was a small shack operated by the same owners of Hebert's (the same guy ran both shacks, but obviously never simultaneously). Never went to it, it was only open in the mornings. The addresses of Hebert's and Java Jitters were 727 University Drive and 729 University Drive, respectively. You can see my pictures below.


Java Jitters, gutted.



725 University Drive
I also took the picture (a few, actually!) of the A+ Tutoring/Fat Burger building, which had both closed after the spring 2012 semester (the building was torn down in July 2012). Which was a shame, as I had gone to both buildings in the semester prior: trying to pass Organic Chemistry through A+, or hanging out in Fat Burger (not related to a chain called Fatburger, that's different--seems it's confused Yelpers), which had a fixings bar (which I went to fairly early in the day). It wasn't bad like Rev's American Grill (that was a disappointment, which I will never eat at again), and the place lived up to its name--offering the 1/3 pound "Fat Burger" and the full-pound Bevo Burger.

I didn't take the front of A+, nor Fat Burger at night, unfortunately (Fat Burger kind of had this half-burned out light, and A+ didn't light up at all). There was a picnic bench in front of both buildings. I know I remember (maybe circa 2003) that A+ actually had the "AT+" logo on the front, but it still must have ran afoul of TAMU logo usage, as seen below). In the pictures from June and July 2012 below, you can see a picture of the Albertsons interior taken by Stalworth (so it's not mine--my old cell phone would never be able to capture that resolution) and another ad, from December 1971 (the first Christmas of the grocery store). You can see those above.

According to a 1989 directory, the original tenant of A+ Tutoring was Music Express, a record store, and in the 1970s, was the site of Budget Tapes & Records, which was a popular music chain at the time. Later, a 1995 directory refers to the spot as "A&M Tutoring" (one of those TAMU related business names that ran afoul of the new usage terms: it's not clear if they had already changed their sign by that time).


They offer CHEM 227 and CHEM 228, just not at the time they painted this. Good thing, they did later...



Never thought to get Fat Burger delivered.



Old and less old.



The front of the building, taken in daytime by a cell phone camera.



Sad.


Former condiments bar.



This location is gone, too.


711 Church Avenue
Announced as the first new addition to Legacy Point, The Stack at Legacy Point is a large, low-rise apartment building that is unfortunately cheaply built with far too few elevators and paper-thin walls. We'll add a picture at another time, but the Yelp! page has pictures of outside and inside.

The most intriguing part is that it does have retail inside, the first tenant being a MedPlus branch ("MedPlus at the Stack"), which opened in February 2014. By the way, that's the Rise in the background, not the Stack.


The IHOP
Here since the 1970s, this restaurant is open 24 hours whether you're visiting people who live on campus, a rotund local who eats here regularly, or totally wasted. I haven't eaten here since about 1999. My only other significant memory of it was when they were playing "Mr. Blue Sky" on the outdoor speakers, which was earlier in 2013.

A few more things to note: while the former Crazy Cajuns', IHOP (oldest continuously operating restaurant in College Station), Hebert's, Java Jitters, Scholotzsky's, and that tiny building that serves an ATM are part of University Square, the Taco Bell, Chipotle, and McDonald's are NOT and can be found elsewhere on the blog. For more information on Mr. Gatti's (later Schlotzsky's) and that tiny building, click here to learn more about them.

Most recently updated in June 2014.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Walmart, Albertsons, and Other Stores

Wal-Mart 1995
Our two stores, back in 1995

Back when this blog started, I mentioned that I had a bunch of stuff back at the now-defunct Two Way Roads (well, not entirely defunct--if you're a fan of an old computer game called "Yoot Tower", and not the iOS one, check back this Thanksgiving, it will be worth your while).

One of these posts was about the local College Station Wal-Mart. This wasn't just a Wal-Mart, this was my Wal-Mart, this was College Station's only Wal-Mart, and I remember when blue-vested employees handed out smiley face stickers and there was a lot more American goods there than today.

Too often you'll find most blog posts about Wal-Mart being either adoration of the store or how Wal-Mart is the Devil. Not here, there will be criticism, but it is what it is.

College Park Station is the "official" name of this strip center (mentioned on a PDF I forgot to download before it disappeared), announced in 2009 when the Wal-Mart said it would remodel. I don't know if had anything before that (I think it was Southwood Place, like the mini-strip center behind it). Either way, neither of these were mentioned ever again.

This post deals primarily with Wal-Mart (or Walmart, depending on stylization). It was also written about the time of the remodel, of which I was excited about (it was the biggest thing happening at the time), and that takes up the majority of the article.



Unlike the nearby Albertsons (1991-summer 2008, which you can read more about below) Wal-Mart was a success, and from opening in 1988, helped drive Kmart out of College Station (and other cities, for that matter).

It should be noted that the unusual layout was from this early era, and will not be altered, even though it no longer tends to "fit" with the rest of the blog.

My story dates back to 1995 when the Wal-Mart was ditching its 1980s-era brown facade for a slight refreshening and expansion (see top of the page).

I forgot what the 1988 Wal-Mart facade looked like: it didn't have the enclosed tinted-glass breezeway you see on some small-town Wal-Marts, and I'm not sure of any "Discount City" signage either. But soon after, it did remodel to the 1990s Wal-Mart format (star between WAL and MART, American flag, blue, McDonald's inside).
This came at a time when the nearby Bryan added a new Supercenter format, closing down a 11-year-old location at Manor East Mall.
Talks arose that the Wal-Mart might move to a Supercenter format. For years, the idea was bounced around, but zoning permits and citizen outcry blocked any serious attempts. Ultimately, the Albertson's would perish and the Wal-Mart moved in for the kill, expanding to a Supercenter.

I remember a bit about the original store. On the right after you entered was the One-Hour Photo, then the Customer Service, then the restaurant.
Customer Service had restrooms (admittedly pretty dirty, but remember the "hand" shaped water fountains? I overlaid my hand on them as I pushed them, but eventually they just switched to the regular "PUSH" buttons). I remember they had atlases there, and even at one time, a Daytona USA arcade machine!

The restaurant was a McDonald's after the renovations (I don't recall anything before that), complete with a bench with Ronald sitting there. Ronald was a great photo-op (you could sit next to him) but sometime later they removed the bench and replaced him with a creepy (and not at all affable) statue of Ronald standing up. This monster Ronald was, I believe, one of the causes of the McDonald's closing circa 1998-1999. It was replaced with Radio Grill, a vaguely-1950s themed restaurant that piped out generic greasy food. While some may liberally toss the "greasy food" label around, Radio Grill was nothing more than that. And forgettable greasy food, since I don't remember much about it. This lasted until 2006, when it was torn out for Subway. Subway was a bit different, featuring a false brick facade, and instead the food in the back, the serving line was in the side.

In 2010, the restaurant space met its demise when it was torn out for the renovations.

The electronics section was largely a "pen" in the middle of the store, kept that way so they could check out items (as they were high-price). Originally, games were on the left, videos on the right. The games had a scanner system so you could scan a bar code and watch a video of the game on overhead TVs. By 2004, it mostly not working, as was the terrible GBC model they had bolted in to the wall (the right button on the D-pad was completely screwed up by 2001). I remember this because one time I had stayed behind in the electronics section to play The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. The right button on the D-pad became the least of my concerns when my dad found me...

In 2005, they rearranged the store, so that from left to right (you entered from the right, so it was left to right in your perspective): computer peripherals, DVDs, music, video games, iPods, AV equipment. The electronics section really was a nasty place, as it was cramped, misbehaving kids would mess up the place with their disgusting hygiene and over-aggressive video game playing.

Early yet random memories include a floor-to-ceiling stack of N64s and either a stand-up Donkey Kong 64 or Pokémon Snap display. Or both.

I think the electronics section became the pharmacy later: our family's now-defunct Performa 550 came from this Wal-Mart, but I don't remember it being the 1995-era electronics section.

The hardware section I seem to remember had fans overhanging the section. There was also a paint chip center which I remember being abandoned out in the rain (complete with all the old chips) after the renovation happened.

Funniest memory? They had a column near the spray paints where people (illegally) tested them out.

I also remember a rack of different signs you could buy (they were basically plastic) that had stuff like "Garage Sale" on it. I bought one that was black with red letters that read "Keep Out!". I kept that on my door for many years.

Along the back wall, there were large pictures, one had a family eating watermelon, two boys laughing, a moon with some 1990s script lettering. The boys section was where I got most of my clothes (my mother bought them, anyway), and the jewelry was the place where I got a few of my watches. I remember seeing a "Baby Ear Piercing Kit", which was about as bad as it sounds.

Fabrics was a huge section, and had all the thread, rugs, creepy dolls that you can paint, and wax fruit you could ever need. It wasn't as big as Hobby Lobby, but had all the basics (including a particular flowery smell).

No big memories on toys. I bought a Pokémon board game here and some Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars, but that was long ago (to put it in perspective, I used to get said little cars at Kmart). I don't really have a lot of toy memories: the KB Toys and Toys R Us were both far away from home, and I never went to either. Most prominent section was the bicycles, which ran down the corridor to the Garden Center.

The pet section had huge racks of dog food and cat litter. On the back wall, there were lots of embedded tanks in the wall with fish with colors on how they'd behave with others (green, yellow, and red). Red fish were aggressive (but there were few of them). Green fish would coexist with others peacefully.

The pharmacy was huge, it had images of medicine stuff above the pharmacy window, a large seating area, and a large section with shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, over-the-counter medicine (many of Equate, the house brand), hair coloring kits, and more.

Mens section had a huge row of jeans.

Shoes was another huge section, and in the 1990s, had a slanted mirrors on some benches. My siblings would pretend the floor was tilted and try to roll down.

The pesticide/herbicide section was near the garden center. It smelled strong of chemicals, but that was where we got the Amdro, something always needed in a land plagued with fire ants.

Food section had a candy aisle, chips, two-liter sodas, and other dry staples.

The Vision Center, located to the left from the entrance once had a way that you could run all the way through the Vision Center, out the door, and in through the Wal-Mart main entrance. Near the Vision Center were old refrigerated shelves that had faded red, yellow, and blue striping. They sold milk.

Dressing room was located in the middle of the women's clothing: a shoddy operation, with only five dressing rooms and only one mens room.

There was also a reasonable selection of books and magazines. For years, they sold most of the "Wizard of Oz" series. The garden center was also there, being a humid place where plants were sold.

And up until the early 2000s, there was an occasional tent sale in the parking lot.

I grew to hate Wal-Mart, because they played terrible music in it, and a strange overall smell permeated me, feeling like washing hands when I got home was not enough. In the mid-2000s, they replaced the carpet in the clothing department with faux hardwood, which quickly got quite nasty-looking from scratching carts.

But around September 2009, the local Wal-Mart decided to finally start remodeling into a Supercenter, ending rumors and putting to rest their plan to open at a proposed shopping center off Rock Prairie Road. And for the next six months or so, I was really excited. I took pictures. I attended the grand opening. I got cake at the grand opening, two types.

But the Supercenter wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.

It was really huge in terms of square footage, 254,000 square feet (likely counting the garden center). This put it on par with the late 1980s "hypermarkets". The store's layout also resembled Target in many aspects. Unfortunately, they wasted a lot of space, in the backrooms, in the main store, it was a real disappointment.
They actually admitted to lowering shelf height and widening aisles. The lights changed, making the store much more sterile than before. I didn't like it.

Every department shrunk. The electronics section was admittedly more open with even a display Wii, which I'm sure won't last long. Electronics was the only one that didn't downscale dramatically. Everything, Cosmetics, Jewelry, Health & Beauty, Pharmacy, Mens, Pets, Womens, Fabric, Shoes, Vision Center, everything pretty much was sliced down.

Not a lot of new checkouts opened up, and they didn't even open a portrait studio in the front arcade area. A larger Subway opened up, however.

The food section wasn't that impressive: it had HVAC ceilings but plain concrete floors. They didn't bother to do anything to it. And rotesserie chickens, one of my favorite features of the Hewitt Wal-Mart Supercenter, weren't really phased in until months later. I think I got my hopes up, because I was comparing to a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Hewitt that opened in 2003 or 2004.

They took out a section of parking lot for a retention pond as well.

Also, the name irritated me: they just called it "Walmart", even though it had a Supercenter inside. Much to my chagrin, Wal-Mart Supercenter stores in Houston were later repainted tan and redubbed as "Walmart".

So it was back to not liking Walmart again, though I did appreciate the fact I could buy delicious foodstuffs at the bakery, and I'll admit it, it was fun having a Supercenter, being able to pick up a few groceries while going to Wal-Mart (it was no H-E-B). Eventually, the Walmart started to get a bit of bad publicity. Not much sooner had it reopened that it was the opening to an incident that left a Fort Worth police officer critically injured, and shoplifting started to dramatically increase, culminating in a shooting, wherein a military-trained LP officer was forced to shoot a shoplifter, which had both a gun (which he managed to get out of him during a struggle) and a knife.

Here are the photos taken during the remodeling process.

These first ones were taken early on in the process, around October 2009 or so.


The first order of business was to rip into the old Albertsons.



The new pharmacy, then floating in a sea of cheap t-shirts



The new pharmacy, again



A barrier was put up on the side of the store where the addition would come in. As of February 1, 2010, the actual walls had not come down yet, but this is looking up to the ceiling. I never did find out when the walls actually came down.


Old vision center. This was a fairly open area originally, with this part of the lobby in front of the checkout stand. A bench was around here.

Checkout stands have been moved back.


Makeshift vision center. It eventually moved to an alcove spot in front of the store.




This is around Easter break, after the original entrance had closed




A rainy day in February, I believe. This has the original walls of the store, and also proves that the Yelp photo is incorrect.




New signage. Identities obscured.




I'm not sure when this picture was taken. It was early 2010, that's all I know.




Another angle.


EDIT July 1, 2012: Changed "in" to "circa".

EDIT July 29 2012: More pictures (Set 2)


Look out! A giant spider! This was what the "Outdoor Living" entrance area looked like when it was new and fully enclosed.



I think I have this as my cellphone wallpaper. It is a cool shot.



This used to be Subway, taken sometime in April or late March.



...


Velcro board so departments could move around.

Those are the only pictures worth mentioning: I had some pictures of the back wall of what is now the lunch meats, but those aren't particularly good or historic. It's a bummer that the supermarket section isn't particularly large or very good at all. I think that some of that 250,000 square feet is all storage space (apparently, they DO have some storage space in the back of Albertsons, which was painted from a reddish brown to a yellowish brown).

I'd like to say that should Wal-Mart have been a competent grocery store owner, I would like to say that the new supermarket section was all that the Albertsons lacked and more. The butcher section was good--the meat selection is comparable with H-E-B or Kroger. The florist has great arrangements, the international foods section has brought a lot of great stuff that no one else carries, and the bakery is wonderful. There's free samples every day.

But that paragraph is a blatant lie: there's no butcher, no florists, rarely a free sample, and the bakery is average at best (I doubt they make anything from scratch there).

1815 Brothers Blvd.

ALBERTSONS
Albertsons (no apostrophe, something I found a few years back) had never really thrived in my town, despite reaching a peak with three stores between 2002 and 2006. Similar to Winn-Dixie, which slowly perished in the area years ago (closing its last local store in 2002), Albertsons held out in the region, with this (its first store) opening in 1991 and closing its last one in 2011

This particular store closed in summer 2008.

My family never shopped at Albertsons. Not because it was far away: it was actually one of the closer grocery stores, but because the prices were substantially higher (and overall quality worse), so we ended up going to H-E-B Pantry Foods and Kroger. It's a mystery it survived for as long as it did.

The Albertsons in question doesn't have a lot of fine memories for me, but I did visit it often enough to remember some things about it (that couldn't be said for AppleTree, for instance) but here's what I do remember:

- It remodeled in 2002.
- The renovated part included a Starbucks kiosk (really).
- The original store had a cool checkout counter with a cool circular conveyor to get the food to the bagger. I don't know exactly how it worked, but it made the checkout conveyor belts at Wal-Mart, H-E-B Pantry, Kroger, and Target downright boring.
- A section in the front rented DVDs at a ridiculously low price but the discs were dirty and scratched. We got these around 2004-2006. It eventually closed toward the very end and sold Aggie merchandise.
- The fish market was smelly which is actually a bad sign. It wasn't fresh.
- The front of the store, looking up, had a huge mirror. This was removed in the remodel.

Around 2006, Albertsons was split up and sold to different companies. A few years prior (or was it in 2006?) the Albertsons also was rebranded as "Albertsons Sav-on", though no one really called it as such.

2205 Longmire

CIRCLE K, NOW TEXACO
The Circle K opened circa 1989, after Wal-Mart but before Albertsons. This was the first and last Circle K stores to be built in College Station as a Circle K. There were other Circle K stores in College Station, but they were all dated stores from UtoteM without gas pumps. Well, by 1998 or so, Circle K had left town and it became a "Handi Stop" and Conoco. Later, this gave way to Diamond Shamrock (early 2000s?) which ultimately became a Texaco by the late 2000s. Unfortunately, I also don't have a picture for it. 2201 Longmire Drive.

CHURCH'S CHICKEN
The Church's Chicken opened circa 2005, replacing a Wienerschnitzel, which opened in the early 1990s. The buildings were almost identical, except Wienerschnitzel had red trim instead of blue (also, don't have a picture). I don't know when Wienerschnitzel closed: I want to say 2002. In any case, the older Bryan location still is open. Likewise for Circle K, I don't have a picture for it. 2800 Texas Avenue South.

SCHLOTZSKY'S
Opened in the late 1990s, this has gone under one significant change--circa 2007, they redecorated (with the "lotz better" décor instead of the "Silly Name, Serious Sandwich" décor), dropped the "Deli" part of the name, and started serving Cinnabon.
2210 Harvey Mitchell Parkway South.


OTHER STORES
There are other stores to the right of the (former) Albertsons, all with blue awnings (which I all lack pictures for, but you can see a few by visiting Wikimapia, but the photos aren't mine. The Western Beverages hasn't changed probably since day one (1991?), but the others have. There used to be a Kirk's Cleaners (which moved out a bit further down Harvey Mitchell) apparently. Current tenants to the right of Western Beverages (and face Longmire) include (in order) RICOH [former Kirk's Cleaners?], Sun City Tanning, MediSpa & Salon, D.V. Nails, and State Farm Insurance.

There's another whole strip on Brothers, behind Walmart. That's going to be covered another day.