Tuesday, January 4, 2011

College Station's Kmart / College Station Shopping Plaza

The former store as it stood c. late 2010

2700 South Texas Avenue

The shopping center at the northwest corner of Harvey Mitchell Parkway and Texas Avenue has a long and storied history. This post originally went up in June 1, 2010 and has been added and edited to over the years and last received a rewrite in 2014, and is due for a rewrite (posted December 2018). This list will cover the three main eras that this underwent over the years.

Part One - Kmart
College Station was a growing city in the early 1970s like most of Texas with its explosive growth following World War II (and widespread use of air conditioning), and one of the things that College Station got as its status of a growing town was America's largest discounter at the time, Kmart.

Celebrating a grand opening in May 18, 1974, not too long after FM 2818, the "West Loop" opened, Kmart opened store #7013 (actually the smallest of the early stores without the 9000-series) in the south end of College Station. It also opened an adjacent grocery store as well, a smaller attached grocery store, which was developed as the "Kmart Foods" branch. Kmart Foods wasn't like the modern Super Kmart Center (or even the misleading "Big Kmart" name): it was often operated by a local chain, in this case Houston-based Lewis & Coker, which also operated Kmart Foods as far south as Galveston. Additionally, a gourmet foods store operated in the parking lot by the end of the 1970s, though it was never really part of the center.

The stores did have an interior connection, but not for very long, as Kmart Foods was on its way out at the time of the store opening (it's doubtful if it was actually ever branded officially as Kmart Foods in this case), so it remained as Lewis & Coker. The Kmart was typical of stores of that era: a white slanted roof and ridged concrete. Lewis & Coker would close this store in the late 1970s with Piggly Wiggly taking over in 1977. The changeover was similar to the gutting of AppleTree years later, quickly go through and change prices in around 48 hours. The store was only about 19,000 square feet (of selling space) and was the only Piggly Wiggly to have a bakery. At some point in the late 1980s, however, Piggly Wiggly closed, and Kmart found a new neighbor across the street that would ultimately contribute to the store's closure (and would do irreparable damage to the chain as a whole), the Wal-Mart at the southwest corner of the intersection, opened in 1988. Rather than remodel, Kmart merely changed their logo in the early 1990s (supposedly they did expand into the Piggly Wiggly space, but I can't confirm that).

Kmart advertising in a 1976 Texas A&M-Texas Tech basketball program

In February 1995, facing a (relatively new) Wal-Mart preparing to remodel, a nice new Target up the road (opened 1992), and the closure of Piggly Wiggly (that is, if the "expansion into Piggly Wiggly" didn't actually took place), the now-badly dated Kmart was shuttered in a round of closings announced in September 1994 (it never even got automatic doors). Target remained popular and the renovated Wal-Mart got a new shade of blue that Wal-Mart loved so much in the 1990s and even had a McDonald's inside.

Kmart, shortly after closing. Ferreri's Italian is in the upper right.

Part Two - Post-Kmart
With Kmart's vacancy, it left 83,000 square feet open, which was difficult to fill. Southwood Valley had developed out by this time, but beyond Rock Prairie Road only a smattering of other subdivisions existed.

A few years later, the first hope came back when Tractor Supply Co. moved in the far left part of the store (or the southern part, for those thinking geographically) and remodeled the interior and exterior (the exterior being the metal siding TSC is known for) but only for that part of the store. The TSC took over the garden center part of the store and was rebadged as 2704 Texas Avenue, as most of the former Kmart was still vacant and around that time, the building at the southwest corner of Texas Avenue and Valley View had renumbered from 1704 Valley View renumbered to 2702 Texas Avenue.

Later additions in the late 1990s included Big Lots (in the center, taking the main facade) and Dollar General (cutting into the ridged '70s concrete Kmart was known for). Big Lots took the 2700 address and I believe Dollar General did too (though I'd have to look at my phone books to confirm that).

Finally, around 2000 or 2001, a discount grocery/discount store type place called "YES! Less" featuring a rather obnoxious-looking anthropomorphic exclamation mark filled in the vacant Kmart Foods/Lewis & Coker/Piggly Wiggly (and ironically, this was operated by Fleming Cos., which was Kmart's main food provider at the time). The former Kmart and its adjoining stores were finally full.

Unfortunately, around that time, Dollar General closed (it later ran a store at the corner of Longmire and Harvey Mitchell, but that didn't last too long either). In 2003, YES! Less went out of business (along with the rest of Fleming, really) but quickly reopened under California-based Grocery Outlet (branded as "Grocery Outlet Bargains Only". Save-a-Lot bought Grocery Outlet and reopened it AGAIN if ever so briefly, and I'm sure it was gone by spring 2005. It only lasted a matter of months, and I don't remember it much at all.

Goodwill managed to fill in for Dollar General after its closure, but Big Lots closed around 2005 (there was a store closure wave). With Big Lots being the most prominent tenant, and the added vacancy of the failed discount grocery store space, the shopping center ended up looking like just a vacant Kmart again, like many across the country.

Part Three - College Station Shopping Plaza
In 2006, the entire shopping center was given a major exterior facelift (though was never able to get rid of the Kmart concrete ridges) and three new tenants were added. BCS Asian Market (also known as BCS Food Market) came around this time to the old Grocery Outlet (with 2704 Texas Avenue #4 as the address), AutoZone was built in the parking lot next to Taste of China (2706 Texas Avenue), and U-Rent-It (2704 Texas Avenue #5) built on the side of the building and using cinderblocks instead. The parking lot lights are also original. The big change was that the stores were ALL renumbered as 2704 (this probably means Goodwill, now 2704 #3, was changed, since Goodwill opened while Big Lots was still extant).

U-Rent-It closed in 2008, and was eventually replaced (2010) by "The Everything Backyard Store", which renamed to Champion Pools & Patios (same business, though I'm afraid the Facebook proof from that is gone) and relocated out a few years afterwards (by 2012, it looks like) to the College Station Business Center just west of the center. Ultimately, it remained vacant until a 2015 renovation to Impact Church, and became CSL Plasma in 2016 (still open as of December 2018).

Big Lots remained vacant, however. but returned to College Station in 2009 when it occupied an old Goody's further north. In spring 2014, it was finally filled with Vista College (training in things like HVAC, so no Blinn competition here), though by that time, the eastern (newest) store is still vacant. It would be cool if BCS Asian Market expanded to the east some by taking out that wall and sealing off an entrance, but wishful thinking. As of late 2015, the vacant space will be slightly expanded through the rear and become some sort of medical clinic. Vista College also replaced the rusting roadside sign that used to be where the Kmart sign was.

The 2006 redo effectively deleted the 2700 address for years until a new building was built next to AutoZone around late 2017, which was labeled 2700, but as of December 2018 this building remains vacant.


Larissa Dobbin said...

Wow, you really managed to tell its history! How did you know all this? What happened in the 1990's is interesting! It would be nicer if you placed their former logos here. Anyway, great review and photos!

Larissa Dobbin

Pseudo3D said...

I did research. I asked around on forums, learned the tactics that Kmart used, and of course, using my memory to figure out what the stores were that replaced it. In terms of logos, Kmart only used two: the 1960s turquoise-and-red logo that was used until 1990, and the red logo with "mart" scribbled in the center of the K, which is what I remember it as. Don't actually remember too much about it, I do remember getting a toy car there (Hot Wheels) at least once.

Pseudo3D said...

Removed from the main post as it was out of date: Thanks to folks at the HAIF for some early source information, and Wal-Mart employees for telling me when the store opened, Newspapers.com and others

Anonymous said...

Taste of China was originally built as a wine and liquor store named Ira’s. They had an imported foods section, and delicious chocolates. Ira always gave me a piece of chocolate when I went into the store with my parents.