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.