Wednesday, April 30, 2014

FedMart (Chimney Hill Shopping Center)

Rather desolate now, isn't it? (Photo from KAGS)

Before Wal-Mart, there was Kmart, at least locally. But both were founded in 1962, and in 1954 there was already a "Mart" in San Diego, FedMart, founded by Sol Price. In fact, the late Sam Walton "borrowed" a number of concepts from FedMart, including the "Mart" suffix (the rest of the concept was lifted liberally from Ann & Hope, which ironically Wal-Mart forced out of business in 2001).

FedMart was called such because it was only open as a membership-only store to government employees but this was dropped by the 1960s.

This ad appeared in a publication shortly before coming to College Station. (Google Books)

In November 1973, a few months before Kmart arrived, FedMart came knocking on the county's door and featured "one-stop shopping" including not only apparel, sporting goods, and other dry goods, but a complete supermarket.

Sorry, you won't be able to click for larger size on this one.

There was also an auto center on the premises (the Chamber of Commerce building, though I can't confirm that for a fact)

In 1975, FedMart was sold to German hypermarket operator Hugo Mann, and they tried to run to run the stores like European hypermarkets, which was an untested idea at the time (while stores like Meijer were meeting success with large stores, the new FedMart stores in California weren't, and the rise and fall of hypermarkets would begin with a few years), and in 1982, FedMart closed all of its stores including locally.

The FedMart stores in California were picked up by other retailers for the most part (Target in particular), but the one in College Station wasn't picked up by any other stores (even though Target was in Houston), so it just became a shopping center, this one becoming Chimney Hill Shopping Center. About this time, Gibson's shuttered too. That left only Kmart, the large TG&Y at Parkway Square, and the mall stores as far as discount/department stores went. But the loss was still significant, as it would be another 6 years before College Station got a discount store to functionally replace it (Wal-Mart in 1988), 9 years for another supermarket to show up in that neighborhood (Randall's New Generation store, which would continue as a grocery store for another twenty years) and 18 more years for a store to combine food and general merchandise like FedMart did (Walmart again, 2010--after it expanded to a Supercenter).

The old FedMart met with some success as a shopping center (even including a bowling alley at one time), and later down the road was bought to be redeveloped into a convention center for the city, but that even failed and it dwindled down to little more than the Republic Steakhouse (very upscale, accessed from the east end) and a Western Beverages (in a section that was newly built out from the original).

After the city sold it at a loss, it is currently planned to be a multi-story/mixed-use building. There's a lot on the "after FedMart" years of Chimney Hill which I am either forgetting, glossing over, or simply don't know, but one more story about Chimney Hill remains to be told.

Shakes Frozen Custard. Closing in fall of 2010 and being demolished in 2011, the brick building at the corner of Tarrow and University is no more. The air conditioning gave out and the owner was unwilling to fix it. It did move however under new ownership--to Carrollton, Texas, in the Dallas area, which would still be considered a loss.

701 University Drive East

Editor's Note: Hey everybody! The site is still updating, with some new pictures of TETCO and JJ's. Coming up, we'll take another look at Texas Avenue Crossing, formerly Redmond Terrace Shopping Center.

And don't forget comments!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Played Out

Taken June 2014.

Once a Planned Parenthood location a long time ago (likely something else, built in 1964), this is now a bar (Cedar Lane, another bar is in the back), but the focus is on PLAY Gaming Café, which was open around 2005 and advertised at Hastings (another now-defunct establishment). The College Main location was tucked out of sight from the main Northgate establishments, and related parking problems didn't help. From the comments, I have this quote from "downhillcrasher", "I remember Play pretty well, they had everything from the latest games to old school nintendo. Almost everything that is. What didn't they have? Cheap beer. And what do you need to make it in Northgate? Cheap beer." The archived website website sort of works, but almost nothing remains of it on the Wayback Machine save for a Flash intro video and a page of the forums (appropriately, from 2005).\

303 College Main