Sunday, February 27, 2011

Parkway Square

The Kroger's facade was once dated but at least looked okay as compared to this disaster.

This was one of the first posts on the blog, and has of course gone through numerous updates and rewrites (a rather extensive one in 2013 with updates in 2014). The post originally started out with a post back on the HAIF many years ago when I was young and relatively naïve. Parkway Square holds a good bit of nostalgia for me (of course) and all the things surrounding it, including the shopping center catty-corner to it, the hamburger place on the north side that was torn down for what it is now Drew's Car Wash (it was a Redline, but that wasn't the name it had before it closed--and I did discover a real Redline in Dallas recently that looks almost like I remembered it here), Fort Shiloh, the Days Inn, Manor House Inn, and the closed-down Royers' (note that none of the aforementioned posts were even thought of when this post was originally published).

In 2016, the center was updated, giving the Kroger a repaint to make it look miles nicer after an unfortunate stucco disaster, as well as giving a new roadside sign, replacing its dated early 1980s signage with something that is bland but at least modern. This lasted a matter of months.

Construction on Parkway Square seems to have taken a long time, it opened in 1982 (from what I've heard from DrFood, and confirmed by KBTX, but I also wonder if this is one of those "self-confirming things" where KBTX just "researched" it here) but construction was announced in 1979. Part of the problem must have the drainage, as the parking lot is built out of numerous concrete "squares" sitting on top of a drainage area.

Aerial of shopping center being built, from Project HOLD

Growing up in the 1990s in College Station was a time when there was a wide variety of supermarkets, where there was an H-E-B Pantry, two Albertsons stores, a Kroger, an AppleTree, and prior to around 1997, a Winn-Dixie and a Randalls. Of course, none of that mattered if you only went to two. For me, those were the H-E-B Pantry at Holleman and Texas Avenue (now a DSW) and the Kroger.

H-E-B Pantry of course was nice and homey, but it was Kroger that was the cooler, better one (even if it was older), and that was the anchor that was always there at Parkway Square, so I'd like to share a few words about it. It was a classic "Greenhouse" Kroger with "bauhaus" lettering if I recall correctly (there are lots of Flickr pictures related to that and what they mean), there was a red stripe running the perimeter of the store, the deli/bakery area (it was a small, combined department, and still is) had some seating near the entrance to the video department (more on that later), and the entrances and exits were very small and simple. One door in, one door out, operating by spring-loaded carpets. This was at the far right end of the store (that is, if you were looking at it from Texas Avenue). They had large arrows on them.

But enough on Kroger for now, we'll discuss that red stripe and all in a second. To maintain compatibility with the Texas Avenue directory I made, I'll have to start from the Firestone at the corner, which I'm not sure is actually part of the shopping center.

2400 - Firestone is on the corner at Brentwood and Texas Avenue. It renovated sometime in the mid-2000s or so, but about the time it happened, we had quit going there (it was once the "go-to" spot for car fixes for my family--until a management change). It appears it is the original tenant, as it was listed in the 1984 phone book.

2402D - The combined 2402 space (all tenants) is taken by "China King Buffet". This used to be Old Country Buffet, which I never liked, even before I stopped liking (and started hating) Golden Corral. I think it closed circa 2004, along with others in the state. It later became China King Buffet by the mid-2000s, which I remember eating at once. It was bland, and seemed overly large for the space, but I don't remember getting sick from it, which is probably why it has still stayed in business without any name changes (it did "renovate" once though). It remains open as of July 2016, though the recent renovation took away its distinctive "peak" shaped storefront from the OCB days. I might have a picture somewhere, I should add that in a future update. I actually think this was originally a Chinese restaurant originally...there was originally one "B B's Chinese Restaurant" in the early 1980s, though sharing the address of Firestone (which did exist at the time and was new) instead of its modern address, 2402-D.

2404 - RAC Rent-a-Center has been here for the last several years. It absorbed old space from other retailers, like Paradise Scuba, which was located at 2404C prior to moving to the old Putt-Putt site in 2008. At 2404B, there was Champion Firearms, which moved out around 2003 when the new center with Hobby Lobby and Ross Dress for Less was built.

2406A - Resale & More is here and has been here since at least around 2009. I don't remember what was here before it.

2406B - Jackson Hewitt moved here after 2008, it used to be closer to the Southwest Parkway side.

2406D - USA Nails I believe has been here for a long time, possibly changing its name from another nail salon.

2408 - The original 2408 (please ignore the typo on the official PDF) was a TG&Y Family Center.

It was a larger version of the TG&Y five-and-tens (basically, a discount store, which almost every five-and-ten did). It's worth noting that the parent company of TG&Y sold out in October 1985 (same time as this ad), so I'm guessing TG&Y didn't last much longer here.

After the closure of TG&Y, it (eventually) became Gold's Gym and a hobby store(?) called Amber's, and after Gold's moved in the early 2000s, it became Harbor Freight Tools and Dollar King, which both opened circa 2003-2004. Amber's would close around the late 1990s and become Stein Mart. Today, Harbor Freight takes 2408A, King Dollar next door takes 2408D, and Stein Mart takes 2408B.

2410 - Initially a location of "Chuck-E-Cheese Pizza Time Theatre", which was gone by 1989, with the area not getting another Chuck E. Cheese until the year 2005. That means, of course, that growing up, I never got to have any birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese because it didn't exist in my town, but that also means I wasn't traumatized by any scary animatronics, the same ones that would be the inspiration for the cult-hit survival horror series Five Nights at Freddy's. (If you're reading this, I do plan on playing it when I get a new computer, and I'll make a review for it on Carbon-izer...despite its repulsive fanbase).

After that it became one of the more intriguing concepts in the history of Kroger supermarkets that I've never seen anywhere attached video store called Family Center Video, though admittedly the set-up was pretty useless. Because of the differences in elevation between Kroger and the video store, about three feet, there were stairs and a ramp (it may or may not have been ADA compliant, at least by today's standards), but the ramp was usually gated off, meant for those with disabilities and not for those with big shopping carts. I don't think I saw ANYONE actually transfer between the Kroger store and the video store, especially considering that it wasn't near any checkouts or entryways inside the Kroger. It probably would've been cheaper to demolish it and drop it to Kroger's level, which would let it be used for food and drug space, and perhaps ultimately save the store (see below).

FCV disappeared pretty quickly after the arrival of Hastings (probably closing 1999), and the space sat empty until Half Price Books moved in around the early 2000s (2003/2004), and that was after the Kroger moved in. If you walked in HP Books near (ironically) the video section, you could notice a slight depression when you walked near the wall. In the original (carpeted) video store, there was a counter near that, in the far left end, plus a big metal "cage" in the middle of the FVC. This was where the kid's videos were, including Pink Panther shorts, Barney, and Bananas in Pajamas. The video store closed in the late 1990s (1998, 1999), perhaps because of the fact that you couldn't buy groceries at the video side, or vice versa, but the restrooms were kept into the Half Price Books era, and may still be there. The Half Price Books replaced it circa 2003/2004, and was there up until 2011. In 2012, it became "College Depot", which sells A&M branded stuff (always a popular choice) and items for dorms (a good idea, actually), and despite being a bit pricey, it ended up moving up to a slightly larger place when it took to half of the old Winn-Dixie/Lacks in mid-2014, and 2410 has been vacant space.

This is looking straight through to the old entrance from the Kroger. Prior to the video store's closure, there was a small area with seating.

2412 - The biggest tenant of the plaza, Kroger, is just a bit over 46k square feet, which is far smaller than the H-E-B, though it was larger than the Pantry. In July 2016, it was announced that the Kroger would be closing forever in August. Seeing how it's the largest and one of the longest-lasting tenants in the center, let's talk about it a bit.

The history of how this Kroger came to be is a bit murky, as it was a former "Greenhouse" store (image links for those who have no idea what that means) but was also known as "Kroger Family Center" through most of its life and had a store number (997) usually assigned to those were full-fledged Kroger Family Center stores, like the one in Bryan was .

Originally a red stripe ran the perimeter of the store, which I loved as a kid. Notice in the hack job of a renovation they did, they didn't even bother getting identical tiles.

One more thing I remember was that the milk area contained a lower ceiling and was tucked in a little corner of the store, forced down that way by the beer aisle (which, by the way, was once rumored to have sold more kegs than any other supermarket in the nation). Little plastic mock-ups of milk (and an orange juice) displayed prices. I've never seen anything like it since.

The floorplan resembled, except for the aforementioned entrance to the video store, the "Superstore" design in terms of floorplan (and some other people on this page back that up).

The Kroger was unofficially known as the "Kroger Family Center" even into the 2000s, even though they never had the Family Center merchandise mix, it was planned to be so, even gaining the store number that the Family Center stores had instead of the common early 1980s Greenhouse stores. I don't believe it was ever a Family Center, as it was built as a definite Greenhouse.

This is where the original exits were. You had to go straight and then left out through tiny doors.

Produce bags had nutrition facts printed on them (of fruits and vegetables), they had sample cookies, which were better than the store-bought pre-packaged stuff and did make shopping at Kroger a pleasure in my growing up years, and the bottom of the cart was spacious enough that even a 9-year-old kid could fit in there. Well, around 2001 or so, it renovated (very cheaply) to a then-contemporary décor package and rebuilt the facade so that there could be offices above the old "greenhouse" area, and pretty much meant that everything about the Kroger that was cool was gone, and it became just as dated as before and still not nearly as nice as the Kroger Signature to the south or the new H-E-B to the north.

Were these tiles even touched? Gross!

Most of my visits to Kroger post-renovation have been for convenience. I remember being mildly impressed post-renovation in early 2002, when my brother took me there to buy some dry ice, but it got dated and dirty VERY quickly, and most of my subsequent visits have been disappointments. It wasn't anything like the Rock Prairie Kroger or the H-E-B. The produce was sub-par (with a "little too ripe" smell), the international foods section was a disappointment (they put taco seasoning in this department), and generally everywhere else was slightly smelly and generally disappointing. When KBTX announced the closure in 2016, I was a bit surprised that it would come this soon but also had a twinge of sadness, as this was, after all, my childhood's Kroger (in August 2016 it closed permanently). For a brief time, the empty Kroger would come to look pretty rough, with graffiti on the windows, but it re-opened around June 2018 as another "Tru Fit Athletic Clubs".

2414 - To the left of the Kroger growing up was Roly Poly Rolled Sandwiches, which was in the Parkway Square of my youth (even if it opened in 1999, as I later found out, and not 1997). It lasted into the early 2000s with the sign and interior décor remaining up until the mid-2000s). I always thought it was a one-off, but it was actually a full franchise concept, because I remember it probably as early as 1997. Roly Poly sat vacant for a while, then it became "Next Level Sports" circa 2008-2009 (mostly tennis), and after that BVMMA (Brazos Valley Mixed Martial Arts). I believe it's vacant again, after BVMMA moved to the mall a few years back.

2414A - Texas State Optical has been here for as long as I can remember, probably even as far back as 1996. I would have to pull out my directory scan to confirm that though.

2414B - Based on what I could find, it looks like TSO has absorbed this space, but originally this was The Cork Liquor Store (mid-1990s at least) and became Whiskey Charlie's in 2009 following a purchase of the local stores. Liquor stores usually did good business next to supermarkets as Texas law prohibits hard liquors and spirits on grocery store shelves, and every supermarket in town has a nearby liquor store that supplies the "harder stuff" you can't get at the store. For the College Station H-E-B, it's Spec's (even though it's a stoplight down), for the Tejas Center H-E-B it's Libations, for the Tower Point H-E-B, it's Whiskey Charlie's #3, and both College Station Albertsons had Western Beverages nearby, as does the Bryan Kroger. The Rock Prairie Kroger likewise has a nearby Spec's (formerly JJ's). The closure of Whiskey Charlie's in about 2012-2013 should've been a red flag that the Kroger wasn't going to make it.

2416A - Like China King, this space (a restaurant) takes up the 2416 space as well. Honey-B Ham & Deli (not to be confused with "Honeybaked Ham", a chain) was here for a long time. In late June 2009 it closed and was replaced with Taz (though not immediately), an Indian restaurant/buffet. I finally ate there in 2015 (and the first time I had goat in well over a decade), ate too much bread, and saw some bizarre (some would say paranormal) incident where a bowl of yogurt sauce managed to slide in a curving, non-friction way toward me even though the table wasn't slippery or leaning in that direction.

2416B - Advance America Cash Advance is next, and that used to be a Christian bookstore in the late 1990s and early 2000s, though results are turning up for a Pack & Mail. Maybe it was Smoothie King that the bookstore was in.

2416C - Smoothie King was here in the early to mid 2000s before moving to near the College Station H-E-B. Later on, it became My Party Palace (I believe around 2007-ish, since the chain was founded in 2005). It was part of a chain out of the Austin area to do princess-themed party planning for young girls, but it ran headlong into the recession, and all eight other locations closed. The College Station location was the last to close, closing in December 2014. The space is still vacant.

2418 - On the corner sat the Baskin-Robbins. It faced both the main parking lot and Southwest Parkway and had doors to both. Featuring "thirty-one-derful flavors", this was my favorite ice cream parlor for years. I had fond memories of this place. Anyway, Baskin-Robbins became "KaleidoScoops" around 1999 (though I swear it was a year or so later), the "32 Degrees: The Ice Cream Club", then just "32 Degrees" until it closed entirely, which was maybe 2004-2006 (by this time Cold Stone had opened up). Later on this was replaced with Corner Cuts, as it was the corner and they did do haircuts...but later they changed names to Classic Cuts (in spring 2016).

2418B - Then there's Gomez Shoe Repair (originally Cobblestone Quality Shoe Repair, I vaguely remember when they changed the name, but I forgot when). I can't find a 2418A either, probably because where 2418A would be is just a wall. Despite what the leasing plan says, I'm pretty sure that whatever was before Advance America (possibly dating back to the first tenant) used the space there and walled it off.

2418C - This has been more or less vacant for a while, between late 2009 (when they signed the lease) and 2011 (when they were locked out), this was Moosegus. I believe this used to be the original Subway (see Subway's entry further down). In the previous version of this, I claimed they never opened. I was wrong, they did! It was a skateboard/wakeboard/snowboard store. The immediate problem with that it was for a market that didn't exist. At the time it opened (late 2009/early 2010), the skateboard park there on Rock Prairie didn't exist, the wakeboard park off of Deacon didn't exist (and still really isn't open yet in many aspects as of this writing), and snowboarding? know the answer.

2418D2 - This was Farmers Insurance, which I think was the old Jackson Hewitt. The latter was intact in 2008, and had opened several years prior to that, but by 2008 the sign was rather faded. It remains vacant today.

2418D - This Subway store the first Subway in the state of Texas, sort of. By sort of, I mean, it was originally on this side of the shopping center but at some point in the mid-2000s (after a logo change but before 2007), it switched from just a few spaces down. It's store #628 (the others have numbers in the thousands), and although it switched slots in the shopping center, the first Subway in Texas is in the shopping center on Southwest Parkway. I learned that when applying for a job at a local Subway (as Centex Subway did a group interview...and my old early 1980s phone books later confirmed) and although I ultimately didn't get the job, it was still a really neat piece of information. I seem to remember a store called "Beepers" (or at least the facade being called such) being around here until around 2000.

2418E - This was the former Buck's Pizza, closed circa 2010. They left the menu board intact, which you can see below. Never ate at Buck's all that much, but they had okay pizza rolls when I did have it. (For what it's worth, Buck's was here in 1998). As of 2016, this is becoming a noodle restaurant (guess they got rid of the pizza equipment)

2418F - For many years, this was FabricCare Cleaners. It had a drive-through window, but it moved in the mid-2000s, and became Tobacco Junction, which utilized the drive-through but closed after less than a few years. The awning was removed and I believe this has been vacant since.

Besides the Kroger fuel station which opened a few years after the remodel (maybe 2005), the only other thing worth noting is the McDonald's, which is technically not part of the center.

2420 - Based on the fact that McDonald's ads in the October 1985 paper list the only two stores at the time (University Drive and Villa Maria, both of which were torn down and rebuilt about a decade ago), but a 1984 phone book did show this store being built and open, suggesting that it was opened around the same time of the Kroger shopping center after all). It had an extremely cramped and strange ramp orientation regarding the drive-through, so when the McDonald's was completely rebuilt around 2005-2006, the playground was removed to alleviate this situation. The playground was the worst: it wasn't much more than a wooden structure resembling a spaceship. You climbed up, looked out...and that was all. My brother claimed it replaced a much cooler and better playground. When it was rebuilt, there wasn't a playground at all, just a couple of Nintendo GameCubes with things like Mario Kart. Within a year or so, the controllers (they had been fixed in with metal) were so dirty and worn out. The control stick, for instance, looked like it had been chewed off.

The sign is fairly unique as well--it was originally a full McDonald's sign, but it was destroyed by a windstorm circa 2009-2010. It either had gotten grandfathered in from new sign ordinances and couldn't rebuild, or maybe McDonald's was just cheap--but they removed the damaged golden arches entirely and replaced the "McDonald's Restaurant" sign with a new simple "M". In 2018, the restaurant was renovated to be another casualty of McDonald's quest to get rid of mansard roof restaurants, even newer ones. (It doesn't look like the picture anymore).

Note the fake owls mounted on the roof to scare off birds that roost on the stoplights at certain times of the year.

This photo makes the area surrounding it seem leafy and green. Not entirely trickery, a large tree was once adjacent to the McDonald's, torn down for widening of Texas Avenue. The butchered sign is in the background.

So that's my story of one of the most nostalgic -to me- shopping centers in this area, as this stretch tended to be my stomping grounds growing up. I hope you enjoyed it. This post featured extensive updates in July of 2015 and July of 2016. In April 2019 some new additions were made.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

F&B Road (and Health Science Center Parkway?)

Updated May 17, 2012, formerly known as "F&B Road: In Name Only". Updates have since been made.
Removed as of June 2013

A long time ago, I wrote one of my first posts on this blogs: "On Turkey Creek, F&B, and HSC", which you can read at this link. To be honest, it was a bit of a mess, and I tried to explain the three roads and how they connected. It was almost an editorial on HSC Parkway.

As you may know (or maybe not), F&B Road stood for either "feeding and breeding" or "farm and bureau" (although you can make up your own obscene acronyms, as many a student and faculty have done). Having been around since the late 1950s (and before), as as you can see here, it was a connector road from Turkey Creek (the rural areas, where cows presumably grazed) to Wellborn Road and Texas A&M, where research was done on the cows (hence, the "breeding" part). After all, this was the A in Texas A&M stood for. The road connected Wellborn Road to Turkey Creek, with Agronomy Road being the only other access point.

And for all intents and purposes, for the nearly the next 50 years, F&B never changed: sure it was paved with the tar-and-gravel found in the rural roads around here, the "West Loop" crossed it (making it a bit more difficult to cross at that point). The way between Turkey Creek and FM 2818 (renamed Harvey Mitchell Parkway in 1999) gave way to homes, and Finfeather Road was built in the 1960s or 1970s, giving hanging yellow (and red?) blinking lights at the intersection (right next to the railroad, it was!) I miss those lights. I really do.

Then, with two railroad crossings and a dip in between, it hit Wellborn.

But in the mid-2000s, dramatic things started to happen to F&B Road. Things that would change it alter it quite significantly.

First, in 2006, F&B Road started to undergo a dramatic makeover between Wellborn and Harvey Mitchell. After reduction to one lane, the new F&B Road opened up sometime later, featuring a left hand turn lane, smooth asphalt paving, streetlights, a stoplight at Harvey Mitchell, and a reconfigured entrance to Finfeather. The new Finfeather was actually an extension of Agronomy, curved around to meet Finfeather at the other end, with a four-way stop. The original section with the lights was kept as a (very wide) driveway, but lost the blinking lights.

Then, even more dramatic changes happened to the other end. Traditions Blvd. was to intersect Turkey Creek Road just south of F&B Road, but plans changed.

F&B Road extended and overtook Turkey Creek by bisecting it and breaking it into different sections.

It extended to this point now (2006 photo shown for comparison)

Notice that the "curve" is a stub intersection that will extend. The plan is, of course, to extend Health Science Center Parkway across from 47 to Traditions, and likely overtake the only part of F&B west of Wellborn not fully "refurbished". It certainly seems that way (look on the stoplight coming east from F&B, you'll see it goes longer than the left hand turn signal).

Who knows if HSC will overtake the F&B entirely, but it certainly seems that way. The agricultural element of Texas A&M is certainly being swept under the table for more "modern" pursuits, and, either way, whatever the name of that section of F&B is, it reflected a point in TAMU history.

In 2011, F&B did indeed get a small extension on the south end, ending the "curves into Tradition" days, a dead-end into Caliber Biotherapeutics. Curiously, the road actually gets even narrower heading into Caliber's direction and thins out even more (there's room for expansion on two sides of the road), and this is the road that's supposed to be Health Science Center Parkway (yes, that's the address). How very odd.

What does the future hold for F&B and Health Science Center Parkway? I don't know, but this post will be updated as new information comes in.

Comments about this post? Please them here!

Credits: Thanks to Scotch at TheHAIFand for giving the two names of F&B.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blue Baker Dominik

Taken January 2017 by author.

This post was originally titled "Dominik Road: Of Beer and Sandwiches". After several rewrites and ultimately spinning off other information, it was rebuilt as an article on Blue Baker 3/4/19.

Built as a restaurant called Danver's Restaurant in the late 1970s (built 1977, possibly opened 1978) that served burgers, sandwiches, and iced tea. It also had a salad bar. (Poor-quality pictures are available somewhere in the archive and were posted to a Facebook group, but I can't find it).

According to my records, it later became a branch of Texas Aggie Bookstore in the late 1980s (you know, before the name was modified), then Brazos Brewing Company by the mid-1990s, a brewpub that didn't last too long, possibly due to the until-very-restrictive Texas brewpub laws. The coasters were adorned with wheat and hops. By the late 1990s, it was the Brazos Blue Ribbon Bakery (moving from the Villa Maria Rd. location), then later Blue Baker (opened May 2001), which it is today. According to a Blue Baker employee, Brazos Blue Ribbon closed abruptly one day--employees found the door locked, and all the baking equipment was left inside. In fact, a lot of Blue Baker's mixing and baking equipment (including a large brick oven, which is no longer used) is from Brazos Blue Ribbon. Despite the similarity in names, Blue Baker and Brazos Blue Ribbon are not related. Blue Baker was a modern success, and by 2007 a new location had opened up on University Drive. Today, they even have a location in Austin as well as off of Highway 40.

I actually have a menu from 2002, with prices and items similar to the original 2001 mix (clearly they've gone up...), but I have yet to scan it.

201 Dominik Drive