Tuesday, January 22, 2013

7-Eleven

This page was removed a while back. It covered the known former 7-Eleven stores in town prior to the sale to E-Z Mart in 1993, and mentioned how the local Speedy Stop stores would convert. They aren't branded as it though. See this post instead.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ace of Aggieland and Other Stores at Navarro

11907 FM 2154

This story doesn't have a happy ending.

Navarro Drive was originally a road in the part of the Southwood Valley subdivision that had duplexes. It ran from Rio Grande to Welsh, with stop signs at Welsh and Pedernales Drive, neither of which had stopped cross traffic. It ended abruptly on the west edge of town, with no cul-de-sac, or even an even cut-off the road.

Over on Wellborn Road, there was a small private road called Elbrich Road, which was a dirt road that led to a small self-storage facility. It was a lonely little property with a few sodium-vapor lights (or mercury-vapor), and lacked a formal name. Just further up from the storage unit was a private dwelling, but it wasn't able to be seen from Wellborn. On the other side of Wellborn was Cain Road. But circa 2000, Elbrich and the house were destroyed and replaced with a large extension of Navarro, which included a very wide stretch with more duplexes. Still, while Navarro now connected to Wellborn, it felt lonely and empty at that corner.

Fast forward to 2007, when a sign announced that a small strip mall, anchored by Ace Hardware, would open. Over 2008, I saw it go from a foundation (March 2008, en route to Houston for Spring Break) to a full plaza. "Wellborn Shopping Center" opened in November 2008, though it originally opened as Navarro West Plaza, which I think is a better name.

It seemed so cool that "Ace of Aggieland" was a "small" hardware store so close to home -- it came in years after Doug's, Furrow, and Paint & More all closed. Ace was the place for my family, as it was the closest hardware store, and actually was a place where you could walk in and explore. Unfortunately, it didn't have the same feel as Furrow's, which I sorely missed: it had a lot of home decor and random kitchen junk, and was smaller. It did have a lot of the things that Lowe's and Home Depot had, which made it convenient. And although it didn't have candy, it had free coffee and popcorn.

But in fall 2010, Lowe's opened at William D. Fitch and Highway 6, with Ace folding in late January 2011, without even a going out of business sale. It liquidated in March of that year, losing its inventory and signage.

The other stores, still open, include Fat Burger Grill, All Phone Toys, and Mak's Liquor, which all opened in March 2009. I've never really eaten at Fat Burger Grill, and the PDF mentions a "Shoe Bar" between Ace and the "All Phone Toys" store, but that space has never been open. (Edit July 14: All Phone Toys is now closed as well)

These two pictures are from Google Earth, showing Elbrich and Navarro.





(formerly known as "Wellborn Shopping Center" until January 21, 2013)
(formerly known as "Road Profile: Navarro Drive" until May 19, 2013, which added information about Ace Hardware, taken from another post)\
(formerly known as "Ace of Aggieland" until July 14, 2013, which added information on closed stores)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Abandoned Texaco / Shell

This post has been removed from the Index indefinitely and won't be updated.


Back when I talked about when all the Texaco gas stations in town converted to Shell, there was one that didn't quite make it.

Located on Texas Avenue near the intersection of Lincoln and Texas Avenue, the reason why this still isn't still selling fuel today should be obvious--it's right in, right out, with no access to the Barnes & Noble lot. Aggieland Cycling survives because it's a niche business, gas stations have to live on a busy and convenient area.

What makes it bizarre and cool is that they started putting up new Shell décor and removing Texaco decals before completely abandoning it. Since then, it's been a time capsule. I took some pictures with my cellphone as I was getting my bike repaired, so here it is:




Unfortunately, I didn't get any good exterior or interior shots--mostly to show the transitionary décor (and renaming), plus the odd "Cops in Shops" sign (does the CSPD even still do it? I've never seen it elsewhere).

Updated May 9, 2013, from "The Death at Mid-Conversion"

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Northgate: Church Avenue

Looking east. This post was rehabbed in June 2014 as its current form, built around the old "Tales of Defunct Restaurants".


Church Avenue, another Northgate street, was always Church Avenue. It used to be when you could refer to this as "Church Street" and no one would care, but since the 2011 annexation of Wellborn, which has an actual Church Street, it forced the Church Avenue name into more common usage. Since renaming Wellborn's Church Street seems a bit too much like oppression and the Northgate street is more storied, we'll have to live with what we got (at least they aren't close to each other, or we'd have confusing nonsense like O'Neal Lane intersecting with George O'Neal Road). This list was originally written sometime in 2013, but will be disassembled into separate posts (like the entry for what is currently Blackwater Draw Brewing Co.), as this is becoming a "shell" for a new "directory" page, much like the University Drive page is becoming.

Here's the buildings that already have their own posts that are not covered here:
Café Eccell's Former Domain (101 Church Avenue)
Falling by the Wayside (102-104 Church Avenue)
303 Boyett (not actually Church but faces it)

The first building at Church Avenue and Wellborn Road is Church Street Blues and Barbecue, which opened before the Great Church Street Mix-Up but relatively new nonetheless. CSB&B wasn't even built in early 2010, but unfortunately it isn't open for lunch (at all) and only in the evening and night of certain days (weekends and the days leading up to it). The barbecue is inconsistent but it was one of the first to actually feature New Republic Brewing Company beer back in 2011 (maybe the year it opened, not sure). The address is 100 Church Avenue.
[Yes, I know that CSB&B has since closed. This will be addressed when I put up an actual post for this]

At Boyett and Church, we find "The Tradition at Northgate" (301 Church), which opened in about 2002, as that's when Second Street closed off and became a pedestrian promenade, the remaining part of it turning directly into the Northgate Parking Garage (picture taken May '14). Approaching the building on the other side, we find the former Burger Boy.

First off, Burger Boy was not founded on Northgate, but on 300 North Texas Avenue in Bryan (La Familia Taqueria's current location), and later where Fat Burger is now (in Bryan). It soon settled in the Northgate area in the early to mid 1980s, and took off from there. The Burger Boy location at 2nd and Church Avenue was not originally there.

All I know about this building that currently has Aggie Time to Go, MaroonBikes, and the shuttered Happy Yogurt is that it was a "converted garage" and converted to commercial use to 1997 when Burger Boy moved in. This was derived from information when researching Battle for Promenade Part One: 301 Patricia.

While I never went there myself there is a menu and other photos from the second Northgate location. After over a decade of continuing to run Burger Boy in the new location, in early 2010, George and Tara sold the restaurant to Ken Simmons, who moved the restaurant to Westgate Center where it shuttered for good. Meanwhile, at Northgate, it was replaced with Front Porch Grill, which would've been forgotten if not for Internet users and Yelp!. It closed after some four months. It later became Daily Ruckus, which was around in 2012-2013. I rarely ate there since the operating hours were so strange, and when I did, I wasn't terribly impressed with their "batter something and throw it in the deep fat fryer" fare (it's more than that). The odd operating hours and rinky-dink operations led the place to be closed after about two semesters. They had a lot of random 1990s stuff drilled to the wall, including a Super Metroid cartridge. In fall of 2013, Joy Luck Fusion "opened", boasting what would be a second location of Joy Luck Chinese & Sushi, but it never really opened for more than a test run (if at all). This non-starter was replaced with a sushi bar called "Aggie Time 2 Go". This took over in spring 2014 (others included VHS tapes and a Goosebumps book), the Super Metroid cartridge was gone. AT2G never lasted long either (never ate there), and in summer 2014, it was already replaced completely with a bar called Soho, offering "wine, beer, wings, and music". Soho DID update the décor (mostly just painting the walls black). A picture of Soho can be found here, taken May 2014.

On the other side of the Burger Boy/Front Porch Grill/Daily Ruckus/Aggie Time 2 Go/Soho (new cursed spot?) was MaroonBikes, at 313 Church Avenue. Hawking their (rental) "airless, chainless bicycles", the tires are solid and chainless because the pedals are directly connected with the wheel, but it's not cheap to rent (better off getting a cheap bike from Walmart, Target, or Academy). MaroonBikes moved into their spot on August 1, 2012 though I don't know where they were prior, or when they moved out, or where they moved out. Before that it was MacResource Computers @ Northgate. As for MacResource, it did not do repairs on site, and mostly had some software, a few display computers/iPads/iPods/iPhones, but no on-site repair, meaning that you could drop off your computer here but they'd take up to Bryan and back, so it was only of use to customers if they actually lived within walking distance. In May 2012, this was cemented when they moved into the MSC, which helped the "walking" part but hurt Northgate-area customers and anyone with a car. My records show that it opened in October 2009. Before MacResource, it was "Finders Keepers", an apartment locator service.

Next to MaroonBikes was Happy Yogurt. This used to be Jin's Chinese Restaurant. Related to Jin's Asian Café on Nagle but NOT T. Jin, Jin's (317 Church Avenue) was a popular place before it burned down in the early morning hours of December 1, 2008 and never reopened. It later became Happy Yogurt. I have no idea when it opened, but these Yelpers generally hate it. However, I've also heard really good things about this place, including having "real" Chinese food...spices instead of sauces, and healthy foods instead of deep-fried meat so typical of your garden-variety food court Chinese.



It never reopened became instead Happy Yogurt. Happy Yogurt was supposed to be a trendy spot with boba tea, frozen yogurt (not a serving by weight IIRC), American & Asian food, and a trendy place to hang out. It had blue and white tiles, and certainly looked the part. Unfortunately, it was an overpriced place that served primarily reheated frozen food that you could buy at the supermarket (except with jacked-up prices) and served on paper plates. This was not even properly prepared--it's not like they deep-fried potstickers instead of microwaving them, or added special ingredients to make the food more worth it...it ended up being a drunk-food hangout (most of their business was after dark). They reduced hours and eventually quietly folded when the ruse of a "trendy place" wore off and people realized that their food was terrible. Here's a picture of the now-closed Happy Yogurt, here. That said, the décor inside isn't bad, and it's a shame that the space isn't something that can utilize it, like a good hole-in-the-wall ethnic food place. While continuing in that general direction is mostly churches! (room for a later post, perhaps?)

That's about it for Church Avenue, at least what we covered today. Please leave comments/questions about the things covered today. For the intersection of Church and College Main, check this out.

Updated 6/17

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Checkers

604 Holleman Drive

Today's post is about the gas station at Holleman and Welsh, or more accurately, what came before it.


This was the building in question.


While I was told it was a laundromat at one time (last tenant, prior to when it was demolished circa 1997-1998), it was actually a convenience store, which was built sometimes in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Built as a UtoteM and rebranded as Circle K in 1984, the store closed sometime later, but from reading everything about it, it wasn't a nice place. It never sold gas, had bars on the windows, and was once investigated by police for selling pornography near the counters that wasn't wrapped in any sort of plastic.

"Checkers", the gas station that replaced it was/is unique in a few ways. It's not any type of branded station, which is fairly unique in the landscape: Texaco, Summit, Citgo, Valero, Shell, Exxon, and Chevron are all common, but none I can think of is a truly unique name (but Googling the name strongly indicates it's a Texaco in all but name). The other thing that's even odder is the fact that there appears to be an obvious second level with windows looking out. Perhaps that someone lives up there--though even with locally owned businesses, "living above the store" is rare today, and personally, I doubt it, due to two reasons:

1) The windows never seem to be lit.
2) Given that three windows face the bright lights of the station, it seems rather...undesirable.

Still, I don't know if the space is for rent, and saying "I live above a gas station" is kind of cool where low-rise is king and mixed-use is almost unheard of.

There were "restaurants" in the gas station for years (mostly over-the-counter), going with a yellow sign for several years, all of them with names you never heard of. Mostly Mexican and fried chicken (current one is cajun, "The Remnant from Nawlins"), the only one I really remember was "El Taco Loco", which had a anthropomorphic hard taco with sunglasses, which was probably 7-10 years ago.

Circa 2011, they repainted their sign (gas station overhang) from green to white.

By the way, one more thing: there wasn't a stop here for years. A stop sign was added on Holleman in the late 1990s (with the eastbound on the light pole) but in the late 2000s (2009?) a stoplight was finally added here.
[8/14]

Tiny updates made on May 19th

Friday, January 4, 2013

[Side Stories] Easterwood Memories

Of my many regrets in documenting this town, I've long forgotten and lost many things: Manor East Mall, the stoplight at North Graham, the old pedestrian bridge over Wellborn, the old H-E-B Pantry, the old Kroger, and countless others. One of the things is the changes that the McKenzie Terminal building.

To date, I've only flown out from Easterwood Airport (the McKenzie Terminal, specifically) no more than 4 times (1998, 2008, 2010, and 2012), but I've been to the terminal building (built in the late 1980s or early 1990s). I can't remember the early days too much...the building had late 1980s décor, and had those black felt seats in the lobby area. There were always two airlines, Continental and American Airlines (I think they weren't connector lines then, but I could be wrong--and at one time, Delta operated, though don't know if they were operating at the same time). Given that my father went out on business trips, that always meant a trip to the airport. My mother would try to entertain us by having us count the white dots along the perimeter of the outside. We would rush up to the windows on the upper level (before they installed handlebars on it), and watch him take off, or arrive. Downstairs, the wood-paneled area near the baggage check had a little sign about the light that would go off. We'd take his suitcases, and drive off, every time, having parked in the upper level loop (short-term).

The entrance/exit was the downstairs front, with the departures on the right (metal detector and baggage X-ray)

Of course, about the time of September 11th, things started to change rapidly. With air traffic plummeting, in addition to new security measures, the airport made "improvements", starting with adding a wooden bar to the airport departure windows, updating the décor so it looked less from the 1980s, reopening the restaurant (it used to be entirely empty, except for something with an electronic sign display). Given that the last eatery closed in 1998 (what was the name?), it's no wonder why I never remember it being open. I definitely never ate there.

In 2003, as part of these "improvements", there was a new restaurant (Sully's Landing) and a gift shop on the opposite side (Reveille's News & Gifts). Unfortunately, Sully's never did too well (despite being one of the few places on campus that sold alcohol), so eventually the bar and food options were stripped out for "Easterwood Airport Howdy Café" that sells little more than coffee and pastries. Given that the flights after 9/11 plummeted and Easterwood was never a big airport anyway, it shouldn't have been a surprise.

One of my other memories is when American Airlines introduced jets on their commuter planes, before pulling out entirely a year later and relying on an airport brand that I forgot the name of. There was the time around 2009 when one of the auto rental places pulled out (forgot their name, too).

After a time where they closed off the bottom-right side of the stairs (expanding the security area), they decided to use tunnels. While this cleared out the lower level entirely (no more waiting in the small lower level "cove" or being restricted by grumpy TSA agents), it was somewhat devastating because not the fact that the gift shop was gutted, but almost the entire upper level (the viewing area upstairs) was closed.

So what that's what I remember about Easterwood. These changes are notoriously poorly-documented, but it's a start. Any memories you have of Easterwood or this terminal?