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


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 - 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)