Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year In Review - 2013

Like last year, the year in 2013 was also marked with great and not-so-great events.

- In February, Bryan suffered the loss of two firefighters in one of the first firefighter deaths in decades when battling a blaze at the Knights of Columbus Hall events center. KBTX also mentioned a Sprouts Farmers Market would come to the old Linens N Things, but they withdrew their plans. Back to being Halloween stores for it.

- In August, residents moved into the new Rise at Northgate. Northgate's first drug store in decades, CVS/pharmacy, opened about two months later, on the first floor of the complex.

- In late October or early November, the century-old Parker-Astin Hardware closed.

- In December, during the Kyle Field teardown, a worker fell to his death when his construction vehicle caught a piece of concrete too big for it, causing the machine and the man inside of it to fall four stories. Also, the former Fowl Digits (which renamed and diversified their menu), Sully's Sports Grill & Bar, closed permanently in December.

Other events this year:
- Albertsons on College Avenue was completely demolished. The teardown started last year.
- Fitzwilly's closes in May and is replaced by The Backyard.
- Two new Charles Stover restaurants open: Primo Pizza (replacing the former Leaning Tower Pizza) and Salad Sculptors. He also runs another food option in the Cognizant building, which has the rest of its U.S. headquarters moving here (not world, that's still in Jersey)
- "Chicks", a large Buc-ee's knockoff, opens in spring at Briarcrest and Highway 6. By the end of the year, their sign is altered due to a settlement from a trade dress suit.
- Taco Casa opens next to Chicks. The former Taco Casa in College Station reopened as a Little Caesar's Pizza.
- Briarcrest finishes a new widening which adds medians and new stoplights from Kent Street to the frontage road. Victims of this include vintage "Walk/Don't Walk" signs, the main entrance to Village Foods, and the classic hexagonal Safeway sign.
- The Blackwater Draw Brewing Co. opens. Wobbly Monkey also opens at Northgate, in the old Zapatos Cantina spot (the barbershop side only). Another minor change in Northgate area: "Daisy Dukes" becomes "Duke's".
- G. Rollie White Coliseum and the Read Building are closed down as part of the Kyle Field redevelopment. The lower stands (the oldest 1920s-era part of Kyle Field is gone as well).
- Blockbuster closes its local stores, including the one at the McDonald's. They close the rest later, save for 50 other franchised locations.

Any other events this year you found notable? Write it in the comments!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Weingarten Supermarket, Bryan

From this photo gallery.


This is the old Weingarten building, colloquially Weingarten's (which was on the sign). Unlike the companion College Station store which lasted no more than around 2 months, Weingarten's here lasted for about three decades before it changed hands and closed less than a decade later.

Opening on September 1, 1954, the 25,000 square foot supermarket was not only the largest in Bryan and featured a variety of things unusual at best though may seem commonplace today. These included a self-service deli, a general merchandise department "where the housewife can find everything from work clothes to dresses to cooking equipment", a drug and tobacco department, "magic carpet" automatic doors, a lunch counter, a children's daycare area "where they'll find comic books and other things to keep their attention", and a full-service butcher department. Courtesy of John Ellisor, check out the article from which these great facts were derived from.

While I can't imagine much general merchandise fitting in an area that seems pretty small itself for a grocery store, nevertheless, Weingarten stayed in this spot for nearly the next three decades before Weingarten's owners at the time, Grand Union, decided to divest the division.

The Weingarten was unceremoniously sold to Safeway in January 1984 but I don't know if Safeway rebranded the store or closed it and reopened it under its own name. Confusingly, the store remained open as the Safeway store at William Joel Bryan and North Texas Avenue did so (just a mile north) until that store moved in 1986 to Culpepper North (which would later be the last AppleTree store, ever). Conversely, the one at this location, 1010 S. Texas Avenue (originally 1010 South College Avenue) was one of the first to close. When I first discovered the "fourth AppleTree", revealed by a January 1992 article about the bankruptcy of the chain, I erroneously believed that it was Safeway at Texas Avenue and WJB, which wasn't quite correct. It was this one.


It became an AppleTree in 1989 and closed in 1992 as one of the initial (second round of 5) stores to close in bankruptcy. Later referred to one of the "dogs" when Richard Goeggel, Vice President of AppleTree after it shrank to half a dozen stores, the store would later be reused, first as Williams Furniture Company (see comments), then others.

Part of the store is used to host 1016 S. Texas Avenue, a space used as a nightclub. Some basic Google searching shows that there was "Prime Time Nightclub" and "Whiskey River" recently, the latter predating the former, but not by much, but now it's Rockies (full name: "Rockies The Canyon") moved from its long-time spot at Post Oak Mall. 1018 S. Texas Avenue has been Bingo Barn for years, and at 1010 S. Texas Avenue, C&J Barbecue hangs off of the end, which I didn't get too good of a picture of. Note that despite the visible "old" C&J logo above, it's not the original location--that's on Highway 30, when it was a combination store/restaurant (the store section was dropped in the late 1990s).

The pictures are bad because the sun was setting and I was taking it out of the car window. I want to make another return trip to it, see if I can find more things about it. Mysteries abound still: as shown by the gallery linked above, there's a chimney in the back (and not on the C&J BBQ side either) and a lack of modern loading docks.

I wondered if it had a railroad spur at one time, and that may be actually the case (a spur definitely ran through the area where Advance Auto Parts is, just south of the store). After all, trucks weren't as commonplace in 1954 as today, and shipping things from Brownsville sounds awfully harrowing for trucks in 1950s-era highways. But I don't know of any grocery stores in the 1950s that actually had railroad spurs. If anyone knows more about this store, such as that.


Updated 5/27/14 with opening and trimming of other stuff

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Northgate: The Businesses of Boyett

This post will show some of the businesses of Boyett Road in detail, except, of course, the Blackwater Draw Brewing Company. The problem is that because of the way that tenants absorb each other and the spotty nature of the city directory, it's been exceedingly difficult to figure out what actually went where.

The current tenants in the here and now are the following:
103 - O'Bannon's Taphouse (an Irish-themed pub, if the name didn't give it away)
109 - Paddock Lane
113 - Tipsy Turtle

It's been difficult to find out buildings about this strip simply because they change addresses. For example, there was a Marine recruiters at 105 Boyett in the mid-1990s (likely absorbed into O'Bannon's), and even until the late 2000s there was "Pinky's New School Tattoos" at 113 Boyett. Here a few more ads for your viewing pleasure.

One of the countercultural "back to nature" stores inspired by the late Whole Earth Catalog, this ad is from 1985 and is still around in Houston, Austin, and other major cities...just not in BCS.

Almost a decade earlier, you could get a motorcycle there (University Cycling).

Such a way to respect the elderly. Tact, it's useful!


At 109 Boyett, there was a small café here in the 1980s.

Doesn't sound like a bad place, but I like eating outside when the weather's nice, which sadly doesn't happen very often.

Gizmo's Cafe & Bar: it's from an old copy of InSite Magazine, this is now the site of Paddock Lane. Gizmo's was not the first tenant here, but it's what I have information for.

Above Paddock Lane and Tipsy Turtle is some 1-bedroom apartments, located at 214 Patricia.

Other tenants I've picked up from city directories:
107 - Boyett Properties (this was actually an office)
113 - U.S. Marine Corps (recruiters have been around since at least from 1986 to 2005...and to back it up about the directories being spotty, it wasn't listed in the 2000 one--in 1995, this was the only one on the block). [EDIT 6-21-14: This was "BJ's Package Store" in 1980]
105 - The Cue (found in '96 directory)
103 - Hole in the Wall (2000 directory, I believe it was interconnected with Shadow Canyon)

By no means is the list complete! If I missed anything ("Ozone", "Vertigo" being among the not-here), please mention it in the comments!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Post Oak Square, featuring Weingarten

NO PICTURE YET


This is going to be one of those posts that have gotten many, many rewrites (see University Square or the one involving Fish Richard's), but I had originally started this back in August 2013 and never got around to it because of burnout (at the time I was doing something nearly every day), then I finally finished it up in December, with seemingly conclusive research that the supermarket there was not Weingarten as I had read on one of my websites but rather a supermarket called Mariel's. Turns out I was right, and yet so wrong.

The reason why Weingarten in College Station isn't well remembered is because it ended up being the shortest-lived supermarket in the area, existing from November 1983 to January 1984. On the other hand, Weingarten in Bryan lasted around 30 years.

The intrigue I've had with this building goes back some time, as according to the HAIF's DrFood, "Weingarten's in College Station in the shopping center next to Post Oak Mall. The store was very upscale when it opened. They had gourmet food like Central Market does, a coffee bar, and a huge candy/nut bar. They had a bakery that today would rival Central Markets. Being a Weingarten's they had the only Kosher section in the [greater area]. It then became another name when Weingarten's sold out on the verge of bankruptcy. I don't know what it is now, I think a Toys-R-Us."

After some discussing on message boards and reading other archived material, I erroneously determined that the intel was false, as others independently remembered a supermarket named Mariel's (or the inaccurate "Muriel's").


It was indeed Mariel's, which didn't last too long itself (don't know when it took over Weingarten but it lasted until at least November 1984, as that's when the ads found below are from).

The reason why Weingarten lasted such a short time here (after all, the Weingarten store in Bryan dated back to the mid-1950s) was the fact that by this time, Weingarten had been sold from the original family that owned it (yes, the same real estate company) to another supermarket called Grand Union, which remodeled many stores and built new ones, but decided to pull out just a few years after buying it, and most of the stores were flipped to Safeway.

When it opened in November 1983, Weingarten was on the small side, but relatively upscale

One of the articles here mentions that Safeway took over the other Weingarten in Bryan, but I found nothing else in the January 1984 paper about the exchange (it may have been mentioned somewhere, but I didn't see anything). The reason that Safeway didn't take over this Weingarten was the result of the Safeway at Culpepper Plaza, a store with a comfortable long lease and a great location, and arguably a good thing too...the fact that Safeway bought all these Weingarten stores caused a ripple effect that would end up cutting the Houston division off from the main chain, which was shrinking at the time, to become AppleTree, only for that chain to quickly fail because of all the dated Weingarten stores Safeway picked up.

It cut off "The New" part of the logo. Sorry about that.


Listed as "Mariel's Fine Foods" in the phone book, "Mariel's Home Town Foods" was now competing head to head on "good quality, low prices" like the other stores in town were (Kroger, Six Star Foods d/b/a Piggly Wiggly, and Safeway). Here's a newspaper ad from Mariel's in '84, which was presumably after its fall from grace. Enjoy. Note that although it wasn't the upscale store it was, it still had a number of perks, including video rental (uncommon at the time, though Skaggs Alpha Beta also did it) and grocery delivery (I don't think any supermarket in town does grocery delivery anymore).


Both the College Station Weingarten's and Mariel's are obviously not well remembered, but part of the problem was that there just weren't very many people living on that side of town. Safeway at Culpepper Plaza wasn't very far away and was a slightly larger, more established store in a better location.

For what it's worth, Toys R Us isn't part of the shopping center, and not just because its parking lot is different (this may have been because it was built earlier, but I don't know), but I'm going to try to explain the history of the center the best I reasonably can.

Weingarten, and later Mariel's, was occupied by Hobby Lobby, which moved circa 2003 to its current location at Holleman and Texas Avenue. After it left, it was divided into two stores (1200 Harvey and 1210 Harvey), which at the time was a store called "The BOUNCE!" and the 99 Cents Store, which was expanding heavily during that time. The BOUNCE was a bit overlooked.

The storefront was colorful, but it didn't last. A surviving ad that I found had this:

"The BOUNCE! [is a] locally owned and operated 12,500 square foot party facility featuring your favorite inflatable castles, obstacle courses, huge slides, rock climbing walls and more, all in a safe, climate controlled environment. Four private party rooms with a private jump arena are available. Great family fun! Has diner seating with drinks, coffee and snacks plus WiFi access."

These things tend hinge their existence on birthday parties, and for whatever reason, it failed within a few years (maybe lasting from 2006 to 2009), and I think that it's the same reason why Putt-Putt and Gattitown declined and ultimately closed.

Eventually those two stores became different ones. Burke's Outlet is now the current holder of 1200 and the adjacent 1210 Harvey Road is Tuesday Morning.

Between the Toys R Us and the former Weingarten, there's two tenants I have little to no history on:

1222 - vacant - Closest to Toys R Us, mostly recently housed Sleep Station (which moved)
1220 - Funky Cheveux Hair Studio - This used to (still does?) have a billboard at Villa Maria and College Avenue

Heading clockwise around the center, we have...

1140 - LifeWay Christian Stores - used to be Avenue, a plus-sized women's clothing store. Lifeway opened in spring 2014. It may have absorbed two smaller stores.

1128 - TJMaxx - Here at least 1989 so I assume it was a charter tenant. T.J. Maxx has been there for years, and always had some budget educational software for the Mac on sale (for some reason, CD-based computer software was a big thing in the 1990s, every store had them).
1120 - vacant - Bea's Bridal most recently but it seems to have closed a few years.
1112 - Bea's Alterations - There was also a branch of Wild Birds Unlimited but it closed in 2004 (The Eagle archives, but I can't link to it right now)
1108 - Q Beauty - In 1998 and 2001, this was Treasures Gift Shop.
1106 - Citifinancial - Currently I have no history on this. The tenant used to be shared with Weight Watchers (which moved in March 2015), and Weight Watchers used to be 1104-D. 1104-D turns up "Kristin Dungan", which appeared to be a photography-related store.
1104A - Plato's Closet - This opened around 2009.
1102 - Wolfies - Ninfa's opened in the mid-1990s (January 1995, according to InSite Magazine; the space was formerly Imperial Chinese Restaurant, unrelated to the one on the bypass) before it moved and eventually became Wolfies. It was vacant for several years.
1402 - Mattress SleepCenters - Formerly Pier 1 Imports until the early 2000s when it moved to Texas Avenue Crossing at Texas Avenue and George Bush.
1400 - demolished - Former Cavender's Boot City, moved out around 2006 and NEVER retenanted (it's the blank spot behind Mattress SleepCenters, and nearly impossible to see).

1100 is a strip in front of Wolfies with four tenants - Al's Formal Wear, Edward Jones, Merge Boutique, and Merle Norman. Papa John's was located here for a number of years, then closed (not moved) and was vacant for a number of years. I think it was Suite D (Merle Norman).

Finally, there's one more story to tell, and one I unfortunately got wrong for at least a year, the Grandy's. Located at 1002 Harvey Road, the Grandy's was likely next to Mattress SleepCenters and was where the parking lot is today (if I had a mid-1980s aerial, I could prove this). I think Grandy's probably closed in the early 1990s, based on my phone books. To note, I had read a classified ad in the microfilms that they were looking for older women to be waitresses.

Grandy's isn't found south of Dallas anymore (except Victoria). I believe the closest one is in Italy, Texas, where it shares the building with a gas station, McDonald's, and motel.


(Update December 8th: All references to "Village" replaced with "Square". See an error? Report it! Thanks)
(Update December 11th: Weingarten was found after all!)
(Update January 24th: Newspaper ad for opening added)
(Update August 20th: The Village is added)
(Update December 2015: Removed the Village, as Grandy's was never there)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Square One


Remember when we talked about Stover Boys over at Westgate Center, and Charles Stover acquiring Square One Bistro?

Square One was a restaurant in downtown Bryan that was probably the first non-Mexican restaurant to enter downtown Bryan, beating even Mr. G's by one year. Square One at first seemed like a great fit for Charles, as it was what he always wanted: a small fine dining establishment. Square One was primarily Italian cuisine.

However, as it turned out, the Square One Bistro building in horrible shape: wiring was antiquated (the building was built in the early 20th century, expansions to the building were powered with extension cords) and the plumbing was in poor shape (pipes went up before going down--which has all sorts of potential problems, including grease build-up and sewage backups), and Stover had to spend an astronomical amount to fix those problems.

Nevertheless, the renovations were well-received: Yelp! reviewers were pleased at the fact that everything was redone so nicely. The ubiquitious BCS Yelper, "Greg D." said as much:

As it turns out the new ownership has remodeled it, respectfully. Gone is the chalk board menu (which my wife missed), gone are all of the mismatched tables and chairs adorned with cheap Walmart dinnerware, replaced with black table cloths and red cloth napkins and heavier silverware that feels much better. And little white candles at each table. Gone is that annoying breezeway folding wall-whatever it was and now what do you have? A dimly lit much wider open space with the romantic meter shoved up dramatically setting the stage for remarkable food that the "old" Square One proved that they can pull off. All with the perfect music at just the right level. The staff now operating with a sense of urgency in new uniforms were all pleasant and helpful, service was remarkable and relaxed.

Unfortunately, this renovation marked the beginning of the end. While Stover Boys and Square One were both profitable (Square One's wine list grew from 10 to 110, and offered class and variety like no other area restaurant did), the problems stemming from Square One's renovation caused the owner to go into debt and it just got worse. Instead of turning profits and fueling what could be a prosperous chain bound for great places, the profits were funneled into debt payoffs. According to an old The Eagle newspaper, in October, Square One closed down and converted to the lower-end but more profitable Stover Boys brand, but it was far too late. Stover Boys was crushed under debt by late 2010, and the Westgate and Downtown Bryan location shuttered.

At the time, great debate ran on TexAgs on how Stover "destroyed" Square One, without taking into account said expensive remodel (or the fact that Square One possibly would've closed if it hadn't been for Stover).

After the shuttering of Square One Bistro, the building was reopened in Summer 2011 as "Square 1 Art Studio". There's loft space above the gallery on the second level (don't know use during the Bistro days).


The historic name of the building is the Ward Building, unfortunately, I haven't found out too much about it.

211 West William Joel Bryan Parkway

Editor's Note: I had meant first NEW restaurant. Unfortunately, this wasn't caught until I had been called out on it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Parker-Astin Hardware

The passing of Parker-Astin Hardware (alt. Parker-Astin Hardware & Gifts, 108 North Bryan Avenue) didn't go unnoticed here on this site (the "Gifts" part was known even back in the 1970s), so I added a picture I took to memorialize the store. I'm happy to say I went into it once but unfortunately didn't take any pictures, and pictures are pretty rare today (sorry). An alternate photo of the facade can be found here. Other than that, I've got nothing, and this is no longer "canon" to the blog since I don't really have enough to give a write-up on it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Rise at Northgate

Not there yet...this view may be impossible in a few years when the apartments replacing BB&T get built.

I can still remember sitting on the "porch" of the A+ Tutoring and Fat Burger building (profiled here in this post, which is undergoing changes, but that's okay), looking out at the abandoned building that once held a BBVA Compass Bank (formerly Guaranty Bank until they were bought out) and United Realty. United Realty is now on Graham, and BBVA Compass moved out as well. I don't know when or where they took off too, but I'm pretty sure that BBVA Compass disappeared in 2010 or so.

They were to be torn down for a huge building known as 717 University. This was spring 2012. At first, I couldn't really comprehend a building being there. After all, the Plaza was coming down, and the Plaza occupied a much bigger footprint. I wondered if they would close off Church Avenue for additional space. Turns out they didn't. When they filed something in regards to the airport ordinance, I knew it could be good.

Initially, there was talk of a gourmet grocer (Whole Foods was the rumored choice, and supposedly they even signed a letter of intent), but that eventually fell through as the building was renamed The Rise at Northgate and ultimately CVS/pharmacy would take the place of the lower level tenant, which was just as well.


Early concept. It looks substantially different in real life. (snagged from local news site)

Over the fall semester, I watched from the Evans Library them build the large structure, adding a new floor every week or so before it was visible on the skyline.

Anyway, the bank was home Community Savings & Loan Association which surprisingly lasted from the 1970s until 1989. Later, it became Guaranty Bank and United Realty (sharing the bank), the former becoming BBVA Compass and moving out. By 2011, it was boarded up and vacant.

I know I had once parked my bike in the lot in the overgrown grass there, but didn't get any good ground pictures at the time.

Not too long before, this is what was there.

I don't live in the Rise, but a friend and I checked out the CVS and explored around. It's smaller than a real CVS...there's a selection of food that's generally better than a convenience store, and of course a full HBA (Health & Beauty Aids) department, something convenience stores don't have. The best thing, at least to Rise residents, is a little hallway in the back that links the elevator to the complex (and the parking garage) with the CVS, so in theory, you could make a midnight run for snacks...or at least, it would be midnight, if they didn't close at 12 (that might change in the future).

It's a bit of a bummer that they don't carry any fresh fruits or vegetables, as that would round out the neighborhood nicely. After all, just literally outside used to be the old Albertsons which did have not only a pharmacy since the early 1970s but all manners of produce as well. 24 hours, too. A sad day when it finally closed, as for the next 31 semesters, Northgate lacked a pharmacy (that's spring 1998 to spring 2013, for those keeping count).

A few more pictures that I took...


Due to the orientation of perhaps the parking garage ramps above, the CVS isn't flush with ground level, requiring going up a several steps or using a (rather narrow looking) ramp. Still, the potential is great: a huge (at least by College Station standards) apartment building, and streetside retail in a pedestrian area (something the Lofts lacked).

Around spring 2014, they replaced their bike racks with bike racks designed for the MaroonBikes rental bikes, requiring people to hook their bikes to trees or other things (way to screw over your main audience) but you could still hook it on a bench or a tree. As of 2016, they've posted signs not to park bikes in the vicinity but rather put them in bike racks in the upper levels of the parking garage, which makes the CVS and its other tenants definitely less accessible.

Surprisingly, as of 2016, the tenants of the Rise are fully filled out.

The first tenant here was CVS/pharmacy (Ste. 101), the largest store, which opened September 29, 2013. It faces University and while it is a smaller CVS than most of its more suburban counterparts, it is merchandised to the neighborhood by having a mix of at least 50% food, though only has a very abbreviated mix consisting of a few dry foods, frozen foods, and a few other items, all priced higher than grocery stores. The best thing, at least to Rise residents, is a little hallway in the back that links the elevator to the complex (and the parking garage) with the CVS, so in theory, you could make a midnight run for snacks...or at least, it would be midnight, if they didn't close at midnight.

The second tenant is "YAKU Japanese Eatery" (Ste. 171), which replaced Great Wraps. Great Wraps opened in spring 2014 but didn't match up with its Houston counterparts. My quest for a good chicken caesar wrap on or near campus was foiled when the wrap was stuffed with croutons, and that was enough to put me off forever. By the end of 2014 it was gone, with YAKU taking its place next year. By the time YAKU opened, I was out of college, and while I was dubious of the sign offering chicken fingers and ramen (having put off by Happy Yogurt and their store-bought garbage), it has lasted until now (September 2016) with mixed reviews.

The third tenant, located at the end, is the BB&T (Ste. 181), which opened August 2016. It has an ATM outside of it. The BB&T moved here after their old location was demolished.


July 27 2014 - Updated.
October 09 2016 - Updated a second time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shiloh Inn, Now the Days Inn on Texas Avenue

The architecture seems to be original. Taken August 2016, and modified to increase exposure.


We talked about Fort Shiloh, the restaurant, and in the early 1980s, a new two-story motel opened just adjacent to it: Shiloh Inn. Unfortunately, Shiloh Inn didn't actually last long under that name, switching to the nationally-known Quality Inn soon after:

Before Quality Inn switched to the "circle" logo, soon after the Shiloh Inn change

Sometime in the early 1990s, names changed again and it became Days Inn (the first and only Days Inn up until the middle of the 2010s). The motel still has 98 units as always.


Aerial view from Google Earth


Editor's Note: I updated this post in December 2016, just adding a new picture, renaming the post, moving the original aerial down to the bottom of the post, and rewriting the last bit of the post, since after this post was added, the hotel WAS renovated, and two MORE Days Inn hotels are in town. Lastly, I replaced the Editor's Note with this, as the old one discussed the forum and then-contemporary updates to OTHER posts.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Westgate Center

Westgate Center: A Relic of the 1980s (from the lease plan below)


Westgate Center has long been a topic I considered before finally publishing it in October 2013. In the light of the more interesting and exciting things I was doing (at least to me), it just seemed boring, and was kind of hard of research. There's Holick's, which was forced to leave Northgate (heresy for sure), and a few other places, including a Pizza Hut take-out (check out the PDF). To make this integrate better with the city directory I'm building on my other site, this will be a directory of sorts...

BUILDING ONE
4201 - Sunny Food Mart as of 2012, but closed as of January 2014. The 2013 PDF said it was "Oaks Food Mart"
4207 - Pizza Hut (carry out/delivery only?) since at least 1998
4223 - DCI Biologicals has been traditionally here at least since 2010, though I've heard reports it moved or changed names
4243 - Tiki Tan (hasn't changed since I wrote this post)
4245 - official offices for the shopping center

BUILDING TWO
4309 - vacant
4315 - Holick's (moved here in the early 2000s)

BUILDING THREE
4337 - See below

We take a break to explore 4337, a store that at least in the Eatology days was besides itself (all the spaces to the north were vacant, I'd have to make a return trip to see if that's changed). The reason we're talking about it here is it held a legacy of several places, and it was convenient to me since I could disassemble another Tales of Defunct Restaurants as well as re-activate part of the Stover story all in one.

Picture from Yelp

Our story goes back to 2007 when Blimpie was there, but sometime around that time Blimpie "deflated" and the store closed. At the time, Stover Boys, a new burger eatery at the Exxon at FM 1179 and Boonville, was over capacity. Despite a rustic "menu on a chalkboard" theme, it needed space to expand (the parking lot would fill up and people couldn't get to either the restaurant nor the gas station). Stover Boys then opened in 2008 and would be the home base for a growing chain of successful burger joints, and it would be all local. Things were looking good.

A location at the intersection of Graham Road and Highway 6 was discussed, but was scuttled due to a complex and expensive side-mechanism that was due to some draconian CoCS ordinance about having no visible HVAC systems. Instead he went for Square One, which ended up wiping him out (see link below).

Here are some photos (not by me), from Yelp.


This was the best picture of the Stover Boys Burgers I could find. Wellborn location. I can read most of the items, but not ALL of them. (If anyone has a better picture, don't hesitate to tell me)


The original Stover Boys also featured a wall of comic book stuff. Daily Ruckus over at Northgate had a similar concept, but this was far more well-done...and they did it first. Debt occurred from an expensive renovation of Square One eventually caused Stover Boys to close in late 2010.

Soon after the demise of Stover Boys, "Burger Boy Café" moved into the spot. Burger Boy (no "Café" at that point), had been on Church Avenue for the last past 12-13 years (which had previously moved from 301 Patricia), and was sold from George & Tara Sopasakis (long time owners) to Ken Simmons of the "local daycare industry" (in early 2010). In or around October 2010 (about the time Stover Boys shuttered--but don't quote me on that), Burger Boy moved there and became "Burger Boy Café". Of course, this didn't last long, and Simmons closed Burger Boy forever in January 2013, after more than two decades and five different locations. Note that neither Stover Boys nor Burger Boy repainted the old Blimpie parking lot spaces. I wonder if they're still there.

After that, it became home to Eatology Paleo-Zone (though I don't think the "Paleo-Zone" was part of the name initially), which made meals that cater to the "Paleo" diet. Originally, back in 2013, I made a quip about how "we'll see what happens when the paleo diet goes out of fashion" after a pretentious quote on the website by the owner (something about paleo not being a diet but a lifestyle, or some such). Well, not sure if paleo's gone out of fashion, but as of August 2015, Eatology had its letters gone and locked up!


4351 - currently "Wes-Gate Hair Salon"
4345 - was a location of Texas Burger was there, but it closed down in the late 1990s or early 2000s. (Texas Burger is pretty rare--there was one in Madisonville, but it disconnected and became TX Burger). Later home to Home's Haven Catering
4353 - Current tenant is Swamp Tails, a Cajun restaurant that I've found I liked. Names that I can recall or otherwise researched included Barracuda Bar, Salty Dog, and X-Treme

Updated 2015 with some new tenants and altered title

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fort Shiloh

It would be fair to say that the contrived "fort in the wilderness" theme was played well. (See below for source)

2528 S. Texas Avenue

Some years ago, when this blog was younger, I had an idea to compile several different "dead restaurants" into what I called "Tales of Defunct Restaurants". Most of these were eventually split up, with the name kept alive through old URLs on the site. When I broke up Tales of Defunct Restaurants I, I mentioned that I would add a real post on Fort Shiloh, and this was the result.

Until around 2005, the overgrown sign of this restaurant (Fort Shiloh Steakhouse, though some phone books listed it as the Fort Shiloh Grille) could be seen as well as some wooden teepees, with a (much older) building in the back. I don't know the exact history of the restaurant, but from this link, which shows the demolished restaurant, it says that it was opened as an agricultural co-op (Shiloh Club) in what was Shiloh, a (very small) community established in the late 1800s. I don't know when the building was built, but it was an era when the land was farmland (whether it was a considered a part of Shiloh or College Station, I don't know). Before opening as a restaurant in 1976, it had most recently been a dance hall (see link above). If I got my facts straight, the restaurant was owned by Ken Martin Restaurant Group (owning numerous restaurants) and shut down in and around 1996 (per the Eagle article). If I remember right, one of the people involved in the creation was a guy who works in Sysco now (I can't remember his name, I think he was the manager) and served with the restaurant for years (as a sidenote, the guy who worked at Ken Martin's Safari Grill in Bryan was a long-runner as well, with 38 years of experience), but had to quit because the restaurant was apparently too successful and put a strain on his family. From the comments and confirmed, the name of the manager was Joe Ruiz, but searching his name with Sysco turns up no results (guess he hasn't set up a LinkedIn account).

The above picture is from Project HOLD, which have other photos in and around Fort Shiloh, though regrettably none of the teepees or the sign.

From what everything I've heard, it was a rather nice place in its heyday. Here's a comment from the original TODR thread:

Back in high school, I washed dishes at the Fort Shiloh Steakhouse. At the time, it was one of the more fancy local restaurants (filet mignon, anyone?). Sorry that a local landmark closes and is replaced by a dozen chain restaurants from Dallas/Houston.

Additionally, soon after I originally posted this post in 2013, on November 4th I found a 1980s phone book ad that further backs up it being Steakhouse. Note that despite the fancy surroundings, it was a dry establishment even though the county was wet.


updated june 2017 with new link and slight rewrite

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Best Little Creamery in Aggieland

During better days. Dairy Sales inside! (Cushing Memorial Archives)

The Meat Center, as discussed the other day, is a most definitely unique place on campus, where you can buy real cuts of meat (lamb, pork, and beef) as well as dried meat products (the jerky is famous, but do try the dried sausage). It's also good in the sense that it wasn't outsourced with the rest of the establishments (A meal plan never could be used at the meats center (and most certainly not today), but a long time ago, there was more than Aggie-butchered meat you could buy. It was also ice cream! The "Dairy Science" building (also dairy sales) was located on Spence Street between modern-day Heep Laboratory Building (not Heep Center, that's different) and the Pavilion. There was also an older "Creamery" (that physically looked a bit like the Pavilion) that was demolished on West Campus in the mid-1980s (right on the other side of the railroad, where Old Main is today...yes, it even remained after the semi-circle of Olsen was built, and all that). That is not the subject of this post.

Cushing Memorial Archives


The dairy manufacturing building (the Main Campus one, at least) was demolished in 1995 for what would eventually be the Central Campus Parking Garage (the facade was where the main entrance off of Spence is). Just a few years prior, the dairy had been featured in Southern Living as part of a small page on Texas A&M with a small picture of the dairy/creamery's inside. While this article is still framed at the Meats Center, it has faced the window for years (thus, becoming quite faded) and the picture was never very large anyway. If you know of any interior pictures of the building featured in this post, please tell us.

It wasn't a spiteful move that the dairy manufacturing building was demolished, though, as a new modern creamery building was built soon after on Discovery Drive, in West Campus. However, the facility was never actually used as a dairy manufacturing plant since another group needed it more and the dairy group lost funding. It's still a bitter issue to this day for many involved. This turned out to be the Electron Beam facility, a food irradiation facility that partnered with a private company called SureBeam. Unfortunately, food irradiation in general never took off because "consumer safety groups" (read: professional scaremongers) convinced the public with the false notion that food irradiation was bad ("it has radiation in the name! oh noes!") and SureBeam paid the price for it (going bankrupt in January 2004). After a second short-lived partnership with another food irradiation company and some internal shakeups that resulted in a lot of the TAMU employees leaving the facility, the electron beam facility was never utilized properly again. Hopefully we can get back to the electron beam facility another time, but the real end point was that A&M didn't have a creamery after the demo, and thus, no homemade ice cream. I don't even know if you can get Blue Bell on campus anymore: I haven't been inside Sbisa proper in at least a year, the two places that served Blue Bell: Common Grounds and Bernie's Café, have both closed.

The thing that burns the most is that LSU does still have a creamery and serves it at campus dining location (and yes, they too have Chartwells doing the dining). Are we going to let LSU make their own ice cream without having our superior version?

The answer is yes for the time being...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Building Formerly Known as Fitzwilly's

Courtesy of Project HOLD, a black and white photo. While not nearly as ancient as this suggests, it does represent a time gone by. 803 University.


This is titled "The Building Formerly Known as Fitzwilly's" because that's what this was for 19 years. For many years, it was the place of good burgers, good wings, and good times, and I was saddened when it closed, partially because it stayed longer than anything that had ever been there before.

Except one occupant.

From approximately 1930 up until 1979, this building once held apartments, titled "The Varsity" (a TexAgs thread mentions it was the Alamo Apartments, but I believe I've found differently). From second-hand stories on TexAgs, the building was dilapidated (at least in the later years), the manager was the same woman for 44 years, and the building had no air conditioning or central heating. It's worth noting, though a lot of dorms on campus didn't have air conditioning either (Walton Hall didn't get air conditioning until the late 1990s, at least). It also didn't have a phone line, which led it to be excluded from phone books in the 1970s.

The historic date and land use is backed up by city documents.

While the directory I have seen below is from 1939 (and a bit difficult to use since nearly every road name has changed, but the addresses have been renumbered).

Inspiring "Varsity II Apartments" on Wellborn, perhaps?



While I can't readily pull up an aerial from 1939 (they do exist, but not in a format I can readily use), the buildings on Northgate did retain the configuration until at least the early 1960s, and the buildings do align with the directory. In this picture, you can readily see where the Fitzwilly's building was.

Directly taken from the Citgo post


- The private residence to the southwest (where that Citgo station was) is the private residence listed (two addresses, possibly because of the two buildings).
- The Varsity is the no-telephone building where Fitzwilly's later was.
- The vacancy is where Dry Bean Saloon is now.
- The next building is where the former "Miranda's" portion of modern day Dixie Chicken is. The "main" building (originally Aggie Den) was built later, which created Bottlecap Alley——notice that in this era, "Bottlecap Alley" is enough to fit two rows of cars comfortably. Try fitting one car into Bottlecap Alley today. This is the original "North Gate Cafe" (there was a Northgate Café in modern-day Basil Whippet's in the 1990s, but they are unrelated)
- and finally, the building to the northeast is the famous Old Army "Charlie's Grocery", which finally disappeared in the 1980s after sub-dividing part of their store out to Texas Aggie Bookstore, which remains today (though in the 1990s had to make that "AggieLand").

In 1979, the building finally was converted into a two-story bar but I've been unable to secure the names of said businesses very easily (a 1985 city directory even listed "Edward Jones", which is at 303 EAST University Drive). Luckily, capn-mac has his own chronology (I've also learned "Bogie's" was there as there as the last bar to inhabit the building before the "renovation" mentioned). From what I have, in 1980, it was Alamo Bar & Grill, which probably (compared to the building layout today) a dump and far more obvious about its former status as a run-down apartment building it was before. There was also "Sebastian's Tavern" as well around 1982-1983, but Bogie's was in the 1983 phone book but not the 1984 one. It's possible that the building sat vacant for a bit before being renovated again (which would make since). The link posted above also mentions said "renovation" to the building, which is probably what made the building it is today: a skylight was added at about this point, and probably the interior was rebuilt to restaurant code. It was in this phase from the late 1980s (1987, perhaps?) that it was the Flying Tomato Pizza (the city directory lists it as "Flying Tomato & Pizza-N-A-Pan"). By other independent sources, they had a hot air balloon that dropped Frisbees and other prizes. I don't know how I came across this, but it wasn't from this location, as by the time my family moved here, Flying Tomato was now Two Pesos.

Proof.


Two Pesos (not Dos Pesos, as I wrongly believed at one time) was a Taco Cabana knockoff (as briefly discussed here), which by all accounts was cheap and tasty.

Two Pesos also had a turn at the building's facade: while we can't see what the building looked like in the days pre-Two Pesos, we do have this picture from a Northgate redevelopment plan...

Not in the Northgate color palette.


In 1994, it became what it would be known as for nearly the next 19 years: Fitzwilly's. Unfortunately, Fitz's, despite having good, cheap food (wings and burgers) fell out of favor with the Northgate crowd. Even when it wasn't crowded, service was slow (and also, food portions shrunk in the last year). It was still liked by an older crowd, but that's not what the Northgate landlords wanted, so the lease wasn't renewed and it went to the controversial Eccell Group, which has all but exited the Northgate area these days (Daisy Duke's has been sold, Café Eccell has moved, and La Bodega has closed as well).

While not in the gaudy "cotton candy" colors of Two Pesos, The Backyard seems a bit boring.

The Backyard is the name of the replacement, which has a far darker interior than Fitzwilly's, more expensive food, and other changes I didn't particularly like, and due to aforementioned color restrictions, the new owners just painted it the same dark beige tone we've seen everywhere else. I didn't take a picture of the back area of the restaurant--while Fitzwilly's had a few tables and some delightfully dated blinking incandescent lights, the newer facility's back area was significantly rebuilt. If you crave more Fitzwilly's pictures that are in color, you can visit the Yelp page. Since leaving college, I've heard The Backyard has revised its menu to add more sandwiches (the old menu was burgers and tacos).

Finally, if you know for sure any bars missed, fill 'em in at the comments!

Update 8-5-14: Removed the first paragraph about the last post or so, and also took out mention of the contest, which nobody won.
Update April 2015: General maintenance to ensure continued relevance.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Rosenthal Meat Science Center

This building was erected in 1981 and opened to classes in January 1983. A unique feature of Texas A&M, the Rosenthal Meat Center is a full-service meat processing plant and learning facility, slaughtering (and offering for sale) lamb, beef, pork, and derived sausage products.

UPDATE 10-26-13: The loading dock is seen in the final picture (taken after the previous ones)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Alta Vista Christian Academy

3110 Rock Prairie Road West (3110 Gandy Road)

The time is September 1997. Rock Prairie has just recently or is in the process of extending from the stub where it abruptly dead-ended at Victoria Avenue all the way to Wellborn Road. Using the rural back road of North Graham Road was about to end, and in February 1998, a railroad crossing connecting Gandy Road and Rock Prairie Road was approved. It was this time that Alta Vista opened.

The Rock Prairie extension only had a street sign (Wellborn/Rock Prairie Road) and a stop sign (along with a new Exxon station that opened, which included an A&W). Beyond the railroad was a dusty road ending at a yield sign. This was Gandy Road. Though a dusty, rural road, it included the Diamond T Stables and Storage (still with "3270 Gandy" on the address to this day), some sort of facility that looked like a fish farm or water retention (little ponds in the back), and Alta Vista Christian Academy.

My only experiences of Alta Vista came from exploring the new extension of Rock Prairie after it opened circa 2000-2001. The new extension was fascinating: there was a dip in the railroad crossing (as opposed to the "humps" in the others): this was taken out when they expanded Wellborn Road. In the early days of the crossing (circa 2001, I believe), there was a four-way stop at Old Wellborn, and several country-oriented places along the way: including aforementioned Diamond T Stables (still with "3270 Gandy" on the address) and of course Alta Vista (a small private school). The new extension went all the way to North Dowling, and then, on the other side, Blue Ridge Drive, which went even further.

I remember how the old railroad ROW looked in 2001: it was a sad, gated-off place that was kind of creepy-looking, with the (patchy) I&GN Road going the other way. That was the original ending of Gandy (it curved into I&GN). The rest of the way has the partially-undeveloped Great Oaks Estates, farmland, and another trailer park (substantially less attractive than the ones closer to the old ROW).

The entire Class of '98. (picture from The Eagle)


Of course, all that began to change as urbanization slowly crept west. Alta Vista struggled for years, even having to be saved from bankruptcy in the early 2000s thanks to donations, but by the mid-2000s, Alta Vista had folded up and disappeared, with no trace remaining. It's now the Williams Gate subdivision.

Editor's Note: Some of this text comes from The Development of Rock Prairie Road, which will be discontinued. Check for updates on Holiday Inn, Sbisa, and the MSC. The index will be updated soon.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Battle for the Promenade Part One - 301 Patricia

From The Eagle, so apologies for the quality.


Welcome to "Brazos Buildings & Businesses", the new name for the BEST source for Bryan-College Station business history.

Buildings don't vanish without a trace in this town very often. Sure, Fish Richard's is gone completely, but those are exceptions, not rules. Did you know there was a tiny strip center where the Northgate parking lot is, which is next to the Promenade?

It was built in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and it featured four spaces, with the end store being a UtoteM, a convenience store commonly found in the South. The chain was ultimately bought and absorbed by Circle K.


A bit blurry, but on the original, you can actually make out the U TOTE M sign!


A view from the early 1990s, looking east toward College Main.


Besides the UtoteM, the tenant history has been a little hard to tell: at one point, the three tenants renumbered. In the early 1980s, there was The Varsity Shop (a), Aggieland Washateria (b), and UtoteM (c), and in 1988, there was The Varsity Shop (a), Burger Boy (b), and "The Deli Shop" (c). At some point, however, the space that was UtoteM ended up becoming B, Burger Boy was in C, and B was Advanced Tutoring Services (in the early 1990s). In the mid-1970s, Planned Parenthood even maintained an office here (before their location at 303 College Main) in the era of UtoteM and Varsity Shop. Advanced Tutoring Services (ATS) was owned by the owners of Burger Boy, who might've sub-divided suite B.

The Varsity Shop, which survived from the 1970s to the 1990s. This ad is from the 1970s.

The UtoteM didn't survive long enough to be a Circle K (a 1983 phone book lists it as part of the UtoteM stores, but by 1984, it wasn't listed with the newly rebranded Circle K stores). If it did convert to a Circle K, it was brief: Circle K began to cut back the most run-down stores (many of the former UtoteM stores exist: the convenience store at College Main and Old College DID survive into the Circle K era). An InSite Magazine issue from 1997 (regarding the Northgate redevelopment) indicated that there was an Indian food store there at one time, but I haven't found it (it wasn't "The Deli Shop", which offered "Frankie's Fried Chicken"). By 1996, it was the offices for the Northgate redevelopment. By the summer of 1997, it was being gutted.

The Varsity Shop was in suite A, and suite B was Advanced Tutoring Services (ATS), which was owned by the owners of Burger Boy (but had closed by 1996, apparently). It wasn't always this way, though--a mid-1970s phone book mentions that Planned Parenthood was in the center at the same time as UtoteM and the Varsity Shop. This was even before they moved to 303 College Main. Varsity Shop lasted for around 25 years but closed after spring 1996 after "they could not get any of their beauty operators to return because beauty operators depend on following and there were too many rumors going around" (InSite Magazine), which indicates that they were closed in summer.

It was suite C, though, that caused the stir when the building was going to be demolished in 1997. That was Burger Boy at Northgate (the only business left by December 1996), which had been there since the latter part of the 1980s. The owners of Burger Boy at the time felt like the city was overstepping its boundaries in the eviction of the restaurant, and there wasn't any suitable spot to move to Northgate at the time. It had to stay on Northgate, as a full 90% of its business was delivery via bike. It's worth noting that when Burger Boy moved to Northgate, it replaced the restaurant which is now the Bryan Fat Burger. In 1989, they also had their original location at what is La Familia Taqueria at 300 North Texas Avenue but closed it in favor of the Northgate location, which was now (at this point) at the soon-to-be-razed 301 Patricia. I don't know what was there before Burger Boy.

Ultimately Burger Boy was able to find a new location in Northgate (what is now Daily Ruckus, though prior to Burger Boy's move-in, it was a garage), which the Sopasakis continued to run for the next 13 years. After the Sopasakis retired, the location soon moved and closed in December 2012 (January 2 had the announcement that it would not reopen).

As for the rest of the building, it was flattened in late 1997 or early 1998 for the Northgate Promenade.

Here is one last picture, from The Eagle with George Sopasakis standing in front of his business. Apologies for the quality.


Information and photos are derived from a few The Eagle articles:
"Local Eatery Seeks New Home" - December 12, 1996
"Business owners express concerns about relocation" - June 11, 1997
"New Northgate look" - June 12, 1997

Oh, and there's more too: be sure to watch for "Battle for the Promenade Part Two - Before Texadelphia", coming soon to this site.

I don't have a schedule for future posts--maybe once a week for now, at best. The problem comes with collecting and watermarking images, and of course, I need more traffic and feedback. No feedback = no posts. Rather, there could be some significant new changes coming soon. This nice, long post is even rare--don't expect anything like it again, at least for a while.

The other thing is that especially with the non-2013 standards posts, and even an amazing number of other posts that still exist, is that it would be a Herculean effort to update all of them. At this point, many of them are so badly out of date (non-2013 standards) that it would be easier to remove them instead of attempting to upgrade them.

With a truly abysmal number of real readers as opposed to image thieves (as of August 20th, Saber Inn only got about 20 views), I often have to ask myself if it's something I want to do at all.

But it doesn't have to be that way! If you want this site to remain independent, please leave a comment in support! We'll accept donations, volunteers, photos, anything!


EDIT: Another tenant that was here (predating Burger Boy?) was Chanello's Pizza, found in the 1983-1984 range.