Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sunset Gardens


Welcome to Sunset Gardens!


3020 South Texas Avenue

Quick, what's between Sonic and Wings N More on Texas Avenue? A bunch of things, actually, including the old location of Petal Patch, a Domino's Pizza, lawyers offices, a fitness place, a pool store, and a burned-out greenhouse/garden store that has been more or less untouched since the late 1980s.

Yes, this is Sunset Gardens. Considered an unclaimed property since 1992, Sunset Gardens was destroyed in a fire in the late 1980s by reasons unknown, and supposedly, according to MyBCS, due to the fertilizer contamination, would require lots of cleanup dollars invested if that area was to be ever utilized again.

I have no idea what Sunset Gardens looked like before its devastating fire: seems that there's no readily accessible satellite imagery from those days. However, I do have this ad, which given the original October 1985 publication date, indicates it first opened in 1983. Notice the logo: you can still see in the modern pictures, three decades after it opened.



But I did make the trip out there recently and take a few pictures.


Welcome to Sunset Gardens!



Same area, different view



The sign, relatively untouched, even with some of a labelscar attached, in a similar font to the "Parkway Square" font near the Kroger. Unfortunately, it's been marred by the anti-bevel crowd, which is a stupid issue I care little about.



Looking out.



A bit of foundation visible.



This structure was saved, except for the burned puncture.


UPDATE: Added opening date, and the ad based upon which this was derived.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Southwest Crossing



Southwest Crossing was built in the mid-2000s, I believe it was late 2005 or early 2006 when it was completed. On paper, the center sounds great, partly because there's so much food to be had there: chicken fingers, kolaches, pizza, barbecue. But it's really a small place, and it's surprising it even has a name. It was evening when I took this, so the main sign's angle is bad, but others aren't.

Tenant turnover is surprisingly low (well, given the thing has been here for about a decade), so here's what we got so far, starting from the side closest toward the university (from the left, should you be looking at it head on).

- C.C. Creations (1311 Wellborn) was first big tenant to open, moving from their warehouse center on Holleman. Interestingly, in 2013, they moved out, consolidating with the Trophies location (Harvey Mitchell Pkwy. and Southwood) into the former Red Oak Sportswear building (very close to where they were before). Later on, this became a fly-by-night tutoring operation (one-on-one, not a group "here's how to pass the tests" type) called Aggieland Tutoring but I think that's gone too.

- Layne's of College Station (1301 Wellborn) opened a bit later (before December 2006). This Layne's is modern, unlike the hole-in-the-wall in Eastgate.

- Haix Stores (1411 Wellborn Ste. 100) has been here for years, but I don't remember anything before it.

- New York Subs (1411 Wellborn Ste. 200) was replaced with the suspiciously similar Sub Culture. But Sub Culture couldn't last and in early 2012 it became Harold's Hot Dogs & Ice Cream, a local outfit serving hot dogs and ice cream. Harold's closed in June 2014, which was a bit of a bummer because, in essence, it was Maggie Moo's from the Rock Prairie Kroger center, and with the passing of Harold's went a number of unique things, including their oatmeal cookie ice cream. In spring 2015, it reopened as another Kolache Rolf's location.

- Aerofit Express (1411 Wellborn Ste. 300) was an Anytime Fitness franchise before, and for the longest time the leasing office for the Woodlands of College Station. Before THAT, it was a college bookstore that was forgettable and closed within a few months. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of it.

- The Beach Tanning Salon (1411 Wellborn Ste. 400) was one of the originals, though I'm trying to think if it's still there or not (did it close in summer 2014?).

- C&J Barbecue opened here fairly early on. I used to love their mashed potatoes, full of melty cheese, bacon, and topped with parsley. At some point in the past, they switched to processed cheese (like, as in, Velveeta), but I think they changed back (though it was pricey). Later on, we stopped going due to the high price of beef.

- Hungry Howie's Pizza opened its first College Station-Bryan location here. This opened circa 2006, and is the only HH's Pizza in the county (it's more popular in areas like Florida and Michigan). They made some news in the sports universe when they had a Heisman trophy pizza.

The last building is 105 Southwest Parkway, and both have that address.




EDIT 10/8/12: C.C. Creations moved, consolidating the Trophies location (on Harvey Mitchell), closing this location and moving back to close where they were--on Holleman. Notably, not where they were before exactly--they moved to the old Red Oak Sportswear, which closed circa 2008.

EDIT 5/12/13: Took out a bit of Layne's bashing, added address to post

EDIT 7/9/14: Updated post to account for closure of C.C. Creations and Harold's. Took out more negativity. Rewrote other parts. I think the Beach may have closed.

EDIT 10/13/15: Streamlined post and updated it some, to be added

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Aggie Food

Formerly "The Commons and Other A&M Food Options"

This "Special Collection" features food options on campus. There are links to four outbound articles, all of which you should look at.

Sbisa
Originally written at this article, I originally included Sbisa on here, but in later revisions, I moved it out.

The Original Mess Hall
Found here.

The Commons
The Commons is now found here.

The MSC
Covered in MSC Old and New.

The Rest
- The University Club, which we won't cover today—it's the only places in campus where I didn't eat in spring 2012.
- The Golf Course Snack Bar—which closed circa 2004 and had hamburgers and grilled cheese. It was later functionally replaced with the Grill at the Pavilion, which took on a new name (from Pavilion Snack Bar) at about the time it closed. It got a menu update when the MSC closed, as well.
- The Ag Café was built circa 1991 and had Tomato Bar Express, Chick-fil-A, and Which Wich at the start of Spring 2012. Which Wich replaced a self-branded sandwich counter, and apparently the Ag Café was more of a cafeteria-type outlet at first until the mid-2000s, when Chick-fil-A was added, and the sandwich counter was renamed West Side Deli. Tomato Bar Express came later. Not much is known beyond that. (from MyBCS) In August 2012, it got some updates, including a repaint (from faded maroon to that pale green color I've seen around) and some removal of the florescent lights which gave it the "1980s food court" look. Tomato Bar Express was changed into 2-Mato and now has pizza slices instead personal pan pizzas.
- Pi R Square is in the CE/TTI basement. Until August 2012, it had the only known Olla Roja left, a disgusting Asian place called Lucky 8, a kiosk with Freschetta pizza, and Pickles Deli. No information is known beyond that. In August 2012, however, Olla Roja was replaced with a new concept (Chick-n-Grill), Lucky 8 was renamed as Wiki Wok, and like the Underground, Pickles became Mondo Subs.
- ChopStix may have opened in the mid-2000s. I'm not too sure. In August 2012, it became Feisty's and serves hot dogs instead of the mediocre but somewhat pricey for what you got rice bowls, which were never any good (hint: the microwavable stuff you can find the frozen foods section that look like rice boxes were about on par in terms of quality)
- The "Bus Stop Snack Bar" near Reed-McDonald had sandwiches and drinks. It closed circa 2006.
- Critical Care Café in the Veterinary Building used to offer food until the afternoon, but it does no longer serve food at all.
- At some point in the early to mid 2000s, "Zachry Snackry" closed down.
- Back when Cain Hall housed athletes, there was a buffet with gourmet food (at least, better than Sbisa and Duncan had to offer). Unfortunately, you had to be an athlete to eat there. (from Epinions)
A&M also used to have a full distribution center for its dining center, which it quit doing in the mid-2000s. The Fred Dollar Commissary was the place, complete with a functioning railroad spur. Since A&M no longer does the full distribution center, the Commissary is currently used for other purposes (like bike storage), although the railroad spur is still connected (the only connected spur in College Station in the city limits, in fact).

One of the things that was great was the Maroon Plate Specials, the "meal" plan: if you weren't eating a full meal at one of the Dining Centers, you could use a MPS as a meal, which included (usually) a drink, a side, and an entree, perhaps a fruit as well. Unfortunately, it began shrinking as of 2009, until it was announced they would be eliminated, with no meals in fall 2012, which means that it wasn't Compass Group's fault after all (at least for the loss of MPS). Another change that happened in fall 2012 was due to a mix-up in convenience store ownership...I heard from someone that Rattler's apparently won the contract to operate the convenience stores but was no longer affiliated with the University...so the convenience stores no longer accept Dining Dollars (the Rosenthal Meat Center store never did, by the way). I had heard that the convenience stores had Maroon Plate Specials at one time, though.

You can get more information on whatever food A&M is currently hawking at Dining.Tamu.edu. For everything else, please write it in the comments or check out the source thread at MyBCS.com.

I'd like to get more pictures too...you can wait for me to slowly collect them or you can be kind and send them to me!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Before (and After) Taste of China

Don't those stripes suggest an Italian eatery of sorts? (photo from Yelp)

Built as a gourmet foods store, this building later served as the buffet Taste of China, which is what most remember it by. At some point, the building changed addresses from 1704 Valley View to 2702 Texas, but here are the various incarnations of the building.

#1: Ira's
First alluded to a comment on this blog, Ira's was a two-level gourmet foods store that sold (among other things) wine, chocolate, and baked goods. You can see an early 1980s ad here if you'd like), built sometime in the mid to late 1970s. It's unknown to when Ira's went out of business exactly (sometime in the mid 1980s, likely during the oil crash).

#2: Ferreri's Italian
Owned by former hotelier Joe Ferreri after he lost nearly everything he had after the oil bust caused him to lose his beloved Ramada Inn. Probably the red, white, and green striping was added to the building at this point. I just don't have a lot of information on Ferreri's, though, nor do I know if it was any good or not (Olive Garden was just at Holleman and Texas at this point). In early 1997 it closed when he retired. After that it became the "Burton Creek Pub & Brewery".

#3: Burton Creek Pub & Brewery
Discounting the fact that Burton Creek is in Bryan and the closest creek is Bee Creek (and Carter Creek Parkway is next to Burton Creek...don't ask), Burton Creek Pub didn't last too long, circa 1996 to 1998. The place sold cigars and homemade beer, with décor including a "walk-in humidor, leather sofas, [and] bear skin rugs". Somewhere I remember reading...it was either on MyBCS or the HAIF, that Taste of China, for years just hid the leftover brewing equipment and never used it. I don't know if they served real food otherwise, though.

#4: Taste of China
Finally, it became Taste of China, which was your average (forgettable) Chinese food place (though we picked up food a few times here before, but all I can remember is greasy noodles and such), though unfortunately, it's one of the "better" buffets (a very relative term), and that was in 2005 (I have no idea what it's like now nor am willing to find out). In summer 2014, it received a repaint (all yellow, but a different shade than the nearby AutoZone) and in spring 2015 closed with little fanfare.

#5
In 2016, it became Q Beauty Supply (without fanfare) and C2 Education Centers (suite 200).

Updated July 2014 with new ad and some other stuff, then again in 2015 after it closed. In 2016 this post updated again, and I'll probably change the name and photo soon. Slight update in 2017 to account for formatting. The first comment alludes to Tales of Defunct Restaurants III, which had the restaurants mentioned below. These can be found elsewhere on this site.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Putt-Putt Golf & Games

The building today


1705 Valley View Drive

The 1990s were a pretty sleepy time for College Station, and that was where I spent my youth. Many of these have been covered, but for mini-golf, it was Putt-Putt Golf. Located off Valley View and Harvey Mitchell, and opening circa 1988 (after the 1987 filing), Putt-Putt (no relation to the children's adventure game by Humongous Entertainment), was always pretty small (nothing too fancy, no windmills or exciting options, mostly green carpeting, two "levels" of golf), some large fiberglass animals thrown around (giraffe, elephant: trying to with a vaguely "safari" theme), plus an arcade with tokens and prizes (it was really small--I don't even remember it having air conditioning or not, even as of circa 1999), a batting cage, and a small area for bumper boats, the only place in town for them. While the bumper boats and mini-golf were unique, it was no Gattiland. If you wanted to have fun as a kid in those days, you went to Gattiland, case closed.


The logo. It's an edited version from Putt-Putt of Rome, Georgia, which did not update their logo, enabling me edit it for the purposes of this article.




Probably because of that fact (and everyone knew it), Putt-Putt just got sadder and more run-down over the years. The bumper boats went first, closing in the early 2000s (not that it was very big, I think it could only fit four), then the Putt-Putt name ("Brazos Valley Golf & Games" was the new name). By 2005, they had converted the bumper boats area to a skatepark, which seemed mildly popular. But by the end of 2006 (or early 2007--help me out here), the whole thing was closed, with only some tattered mini-golf holes, a creepy-looking abandoned batting cage, and those fiberglass animals, now fading in the sun.

Eventually the batting cage and mini-golf remnants were demolished, and the bumper boats area filled in for good for its new tenant: Paradise Scuba, which relocated from Parkway Square. They doubled the size of the old arcade building, even adding in a swimming pool inside (why they didn't use the old Bumper Boats area, who knows). They did, however, leave the lighthouse from the bumper boats area, though the lower rungs were removed so you couldn't climb up.



Paradise Scuba opened in September 2008 closed in June 2012 for good, despite the renovations to the property. Two years later, it reopened as a second location of Aggieland Cycling, which presumably filled in the pool inside.

But back to Putt-Putt. It lasted over a decade, but to this day, we don't have a real mini-golf place. Sure, Grand Station Entertainment, the only place for bowling (Triangle Bowl and the MSC met their demise around the time Putt-Putt closed up shop) or mini-golf (of the "glow in the dark" variety, and they've got some sort of weird Western theme going on.

Aggieland Cycling of course doesn't use most of the property but rumors are a Domino's Pizza going roughly where the batting cages were.

Extensively updated in July 2014 with new tenant and picture, then again in 2015
1/19/17 - A few new tidbits for you. I found out in September 1991, it was bought by the actual Putt-Putt company (from a franchise) and was expanded slightly (though it's unknown what features were ~1988 features and which ones were 1991 features). Also, as of this writing, the Domino's Pizza restaurant seems to be mostly complete (at 1801 Valley View).
5/10/17 - The Domino's Pizza opened in April 2017. Weirdly, the official "entrance" to the pizza restaurant is the far side of Aggieland Cycling's parking lot, the closer driveway (shared with Aggieland Cycling) is supposed to be an exit-only lane.