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...