Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Nightlife at Doux Chene Apartments

See those stairs leading up to the second level in the main office building? That's the focus today here. (Google Maps Picture)


I originally wrote this in August 2014 and the text below reflects that, as well as an email/addition I got from the owners at the time. In April 2015, however, all this would change when it was sold and was rebranded as "Flats on 12", which so far over a year and a half later (August 2016) looks like the typical game apartments have run in town, change the name, give a repaint, cheap remodel, jack up the rent. This also added a lighted sign on the front of the building and also changed the entrance to the former restaurant/nightclub area (I think it's supposed to be a clubhouse now). This is a bit disappointing because Doux Chene was famously the holdout in these sorts of shenanigans. And now back to our original post...

First off, this is not an apartments review site. Nor is the title supposed to be some sort of snarky joke. Most of the content here is long out of date. If you came via Google looking for information regarding the actual apartments as they stand today, move on. Or not. I could always use visitors here. So, Doux Chene Apartments (I think it's pronounced "doe shane", though I'm not entirely sure, and the translation is "sweet oak") is one of your typical run-down apartment complexes from the 1970s, except it's more than that.

First off, Doux Chene was designed to be trendy, trendy enough that they would actually advertise themselves as "country club apartment living", and trendy enough to be the first true mixed-use building in the City of College Station.

From circa 1974 to late 1970s, it was "Mansard House". Mansard House, despite being the upper level of an apartment complex on the edge of town (sure, why not?) was one of the really nice places in town. Live entertainment, seafood, lobster, lamb, and more were all on the menu.


This was the kind of apartment complex Doux Chene used to be, and apparently wasn't one of a kind...the Chateaux Dijon apartments, known for when George W. Bush lived there in the early 1970s, was also the same theme and layout, but unlike Doux Chene, managed to upkeep itself quite nicely.

By 1980, while Doux Chene was still successful, Mansard House had closed and was replaced with Studio 2818, an actual discotheque.

Source: personal collection


Later night clubs included Dallas: The Night Club...


...and finally, Scandals.


Most of these are sadly relatively undocumented, only whispers across forums and other sources, including stories of ladies' nights with male strippers, with men being let in after the women had several drinks. Perhaps it's better that some of the craziness that went on is better left unsaid (I'm sure there were many regrettable nights).

Doux Chene of course is also a rather unlucky apartment complex, such as a tornado in 2006 striking a building, necessitating its demolition, or the fact that the building caught fire some months later due to improper wiring (it's also worth noting that anytime I read about an apartment complex fire, it used to be that there was a good chance it was Doux Chene).

If there are any restaurants/clubs I missed, or you have any memories of them, please write in the comments.

Since writing this post, we (I) was contacted by a management representative of Doux Chene Apartments, whose name has been redacted for identity purposes.

"While your account of the history of the complex is mostly accurate, I take issue with the assertion that Doux Chene has not 'managed to upkeep itself.' While the property did fall into a state of disrepair in the late 80's to the early 90's, the current management has put a lot of effort (and money) into repairs and renovations and enhancements. While there is no hiding the fact that the property is 40 years old, it is in very good condition for a property of its age.

Doux Chene has indeed encountered more than its share of challenges.

A lightning strike destroyed 4 apartment units, severely damaged a dozen others. No injuries, a quarter of a million dollars in damages.

Severe hail required the replacement of nearly a dozen roofs, another quarter of a million dollars.

The tornado in 2006 actually destroyed two buildings, damaged several roofs, caused water damage in nearly 80 apartments, required replacement of over 160 central air conditioning systems. Total casualty loss, just over $4 million.

And then the small fire that happened shortly thereafter... The fire marshal initially indicated it was electrical, but upon further investigation it was found to be caused by a resident's cigarette butt rolling into a gap at the edge of his balcony.

Through all of this, we have been blessed in multiple ways. Firstly, there have been no injuries as a result of any of these incidences. Also, our insurance company has consistently paid in a timely fashion, and we have been fully made whole. We have also been given the reassurance, that no matter what we face, we will be able to come through it. I won't get all preachy here, but our faith in God has been strengthened through these difficulties.

Some ads were also sent as part of this, including Doux Chene hosting some wild parties (it's hard to imagine even the student-oriented apartments specifically hosting a keg party today)


As wild partying obviously upset the neighbors, a nearby apartment complex offered a shotgun as among the freebies you could get for signing a lease.


- 9/3/14



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Alas, Luby's

For several years prior to closure, the sign had read "Luby's Drive-Thru"


Today's post isn't filler, it's something I actually have content and information for, the late Luby's Cafeteria in Bryan, Texas. Opening in February 1977, it opened at a time when cafeterias were more plentiful, but much like the clientele they tend to service, they've been dying off. No more Piccadilly Cafeteria stores exist in Texas, and even Luby's has been closing far more cafeterias than they've been opening (one opened in Cypress c. 2005, so it may not be a lost cause). Unfortunately, I have no photos of Luby's when they were opening and operating, because it was a Luby's, and the Luby's closing took many by surprise. It closed in April 2014 after a few decades of opening by a mystery owner, which turned out to be Café Eccell, after the drama surrounding it at Church and Wellborn Road, which opened in August 2014 after renovating it.

But Luby's is the one with the history behind it. A full page ad had been taken out for its opening, describing the restaurant that didn't have waiters or waitresses.

"You'll feel good about Luby's... selection... Everyone likes what they get, because everyone chooses their favorites. Snappy fresh fruits and crisp garden salads. Hot and hearty entrees. Piping hot vegetables. Home baked rolls and breads. And the taste-temptingest selection of homemade desserts you've ever seen."

Enjoy the pictures I took in and around the restaurant shortly after closing, taken May 2014.


4401 South Texas Avenue

Editor's Note: Hey! If you didn't already see it, check out the updated "McDonald's at Northgate" page.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Few Demolished Southgate Area Houses

REMOVED FROM INDEX NOVEMBER 2015



Back in spring 2011, I noticed that there were old homes at the northwest corner of the Welsh and Holleman intersection (catty-corner to the Checkers, of course) being razed for smaller, student-oriented-looking homes. Unfortunately, in my rush to screen shot the Google Maps Street View, I didn't accurately write down the address numbers even seen up there, but they were run-down duplexes nonetheless at this address. It would've been pretty cool if I could do a photo address map like Arch-Ive.org does, but oh well. That's just the way things are.

I had made this post back in 2011 but didn't publish it, publishing it only now to get it out there, and to fulfill part of the purpose of this blog never really explored: to add houses, too. However, there's not a whole lot of houses (maybe a few) that are really notable of being added: there's a house in the Southwood Valley area with red pipes and other stuff, but that's about it.

The "raze and rebuild" trend has been accelerated in recent years as gentrification pushes south, but this is what I captured.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Highway 21 Truck Stop

3401 Texas 21

Funny story--I originally had wanted to do this post back in September 2016 (the rewritten version of course, as the "date posted" is from well before that) when Alimentation Couche-Tard buying CST Brands. In layman's terms, Corner Store, the convenience store commonly associated with Valero (though independent since 2013) will be turned into Circle K (which unfortunately recently did away with its classic or at least classic-inspired logo for a new, worse one). With that in mind, I felt it was high time to cover one of the Circle K stores that did grace our fair city before a wave of new Circle K stores come in adjacent to the Valero stores (if not taking them over entirely). This is of course a "rebranded" post originally posted as "Two TETCO Stores" many years ago.

But not to be outdone, there was news some months later that Sunoco, which had bought Stripes a few years back (resulting in new Sunoco gas canopies), was selling its convenience stores out to 7-Eleven, which will hopefully be the boost that puts actual branded 7-Eleven stores in town instead of two TETCO stores, making this post relevant again instead of old dated news.

There is one other TETCO store that used to be covered on this blog, and that would be the one at Harvey Road and Texas Avenue, which has difficult access (parking was never accessible from Culpepper Plaza) and has been operating for years as an Exxon. That one has been operating for years as an Exxon (since the 1980s, though unfortunately I don't have a lot of info on it, it seems like there was more of an emphasis on auto parts), and would eventually go under the Speedy Stop name (but still an Exxon). I believe the SS name has been in place since 2000, as evidence seems to point that the original Exxon was auto repair-oriented but the rebuilt Exxon was not. I don't remember the old Exxon, personally, but I did take two pictures when it was Speedy Stop.

To begin, who remembers UtoteM? It was a small convenience store chain that once had locations all over the area, and we've covered a number of them in this blog before. My records indicate that there was one at the current site of Jin's Asian Cafe (though I currently lack the phone book records for it), one at 301 Patricia, one at the current site of Northpoint Crossing, one at what is now the current site of Checkers there at Holleman and Welsh, one at 105 Walton (that link goes to the main Eastgate page, I've been wanting to separate those into different pages), and one that later became a bus station, and those are the ones actually covered here. (An extant example can be found at the corner of Old College Road and College Main, unless that has closed and I just haven't been aware of that fact yet)

Well, as the page on Walmart currently mentions (as of this writing, these things are in flux all the time), Circle K bought these stores and shut most of the original UtoteM stores down almost immediately afterward. They weren't all bad, though, because UtoteM did construct a few modern stores with pumps just a few years before it sold out. This was one of them.

By the early 1990s, this would be branded as a Circle K "Truxtop".

OK, I cheated: this isn't actually from the Bryan store, it's from Skyline Products but I still imagine the Texaco sign looking sort of like this

As part of a sale in mid-1999, Circle K sold its stores in town to Duke & Long as part of a 142 store deal, which rebranded the stores to Everyday and gave all the stores Conoco gas pumps, but a few years later, Duke & Long filed bankruptcy, and from there, the stores went their separate ways. Many of the stores went to Speedy Stop, which in turn sold a few, like Villa Maria/Cavitt and Longmire/Harvey Mitchell Parkway sold to Handi Stop in the mid-2000s, becoming Diamond Shamrock briefly before switching to Texaco as Valero began to consume the Diamond Shamrock name. Others, like 1600 South College Avenue, went independent (it still holds a Conoco-shaped sign).
Note the oval-shaped sign, that's from Conoco

However, 3401 Texas 21 held onto its Speedy Stop name until it was the only one in town left (along with a second Speedy Stop not related to the Circle K lineage). I don't know if 3401 Texas 21 had a Diamond Shamrock branding in the mid-2000s, I want to say yes, but it did have Texaco gas by 2007 like the Handi Stop stores. Despite promises, the TETCO stores have yet to receive full 7-Eleven branding, perhaps when the Stripes deal is closed they will get the leverage to finally push it, as it will expand their holdings to 10 stores (in theory--I can imagine the Holleman Rattlers sold off for being too close and the former Chicks sold off for being too big). It would also put well above Circle K, which would only gain four stores in their deal, all of them east of Texas Avenue and none of them too impressive.

Hopefully this will receive proper 7-Eleven branding soon enough!

But no matter what happens, neither of them will gain the heyday they did back in the 1980s.

Updated June 2017 with focus on Bryan store and new name from "Two TETCO Stores"

Monday, August 11, 2014

Newport Condominiums

One of the things mentioned in this old post about the Circle Drive-In on Northgate was the presence of the Newport Condominiums, a now-defunct (to be used for the expansion of St. Mary's, should/when that ever happen). These were built sometime in the 1980s but were torn down partially for their questionable structural integrity. The apartments were built on a modified pier and beam layout where the parking was below the building about half a floor down. I could've sworn I had pictures of what remained, but apparently not, which was aggravating: I wish I had gotten interior photos before Dulie Bell disappeared, but at least I was able to actually get in.

Seems that just about three months before their untimely demolition, the buildings were advertising as "Campus Lodge at Northgate" and still leasing! I got these from Street View over a year ago and was intending to use them for the blog, which I finally am.


402 Nagle

Any more comments on these would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Palace Theater

"And a screen without a picture since Giant came to town"

This is a very, very old post that I'm finally posting again after putting it away for a few years. I originally posted this after the fall 2011 Texas Reds Festival (and it's a good thing too: summer was especially brutal), where I saw the newly revitalized Queen but was disappointed about the redevelopment plan, ate some steak and fried Oreos, etc. (but no beer or wine). The map I was intending to scan (different blog standards at the time, you see) had gotten so much powdered sugar on it I declared it was a loss and threw it away.

My opinion about Downtown Bryan has changed somewhat. At one time I felt it was too sanitized and cartoonish but even those have gotten some wear into them like breaking into a pair of tennis shoes. It's certainly better than the alternative: crumbling into decay and ruin, as it was circa 1990.

Sadly, I have no pictures of how it was and how I remember it in the 1990s. Fortunately, I do however have a music video of "This Old Porch" sung by notable country-western singer (and TAMU alumni) Lyle Lovett.

This video is from Lovett's official site and contains several pictures and an interview (it's part of a three part series called "Trucks, Tortillas, and Tombstones")

There's a bit on the beginning where he's interviewing someone (didn't catch his name):

"...But Bryan fell on hard times, like so many downtowns and towns of all sizes in the '60s when the shopping centers began to spread, same kind of thing happened here......Several attempts have been made by people who said 'well, we could rescue this place, look at these fine wide streets down here, this would be a pleasant place to shop, live on a...make a kind of historic district out of it' but there's really not enough population to do the kind of things they've done in Denver and even in Houston to some extent. And so, it just gets worse.....It just isn't happening. It's not likely to happen now.


Bryan did ultimately did "rescue" the downtown, by sinking tax dollars into it. And though they weren't able to truly revive it as it was in its "glory days", it managed to coax in new shops and businesses. Boarded-up buildings, empty storefronts, and peeling paint were ultimately done away with, but it seems like some of it has been lost (at least they never did convert it to a pedestrian mall at any time. I felt a bit nostalgic watching this: not because I actually lived in that era, but the downtown like I remembered it. The Palace Theater, in particular is featured prominently: the withered curtain still intact, with a shot of the fire escape next door. I remember that fire escape. I was at a Mexican-themed festival there years ago, and rather than watch the dancers on stage, I was drawn to it. There was something about it, some vaguely spooky and depressing feeling that was later seen in things like desolate old malls and Detroit buildings.

That's what today's post is about.

Starting in the late 19th century or early 20th century (as a live theater, it was acquired by Morris Schulman in 1926 and started to show movies. Sadly, Schulman never got to see the theater empire that the Schulman name would become, as he committed suicide in the backstage of the Palace Theater in 1935. His widow would later acquire the Queen, and ultimately pass the business on to Bill Schulman, who passed away in May 2013, even though by that time business had passed on to his sons and the Schulmans pulled out of Bryan-College Station. The Palace, along with others in downtown Bryan, closed in the mid-1980s (at the latest).

Anyway, the Palace Theater was somewhat butchered in the renovation: apparently, the Palace is outdoor because the roof collapsed in 1986, but today the Palace exists even less: only the marquee is original (at best).

See how many things you can spot that are distinctly different: where Stafford Main Street looks like the original building was destroyed, leaving only the facade, there's "Discount Trophies & Engraving" with some greenish tile: the facade was changed (restored or completely redone) for its current incarnation of EarthArt (DT&E appears at 4:35). You can also catch a glimpse of the late missed Los Norteños restaurant.

Here's a few modern glimpses from summer 2013 (my pictures): here, here, and here.

Hopefully you find this post interesting, as it's been sitting in the "back room" for years (it was originally published as "Downtown Bryan: At the Bottom of the Night"). There's more coming that will be from storage from the old CSR&R or was haphazardly put in the Texas Avenue post.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Barbecue, Catering, and Tires at 2319 Texas Avenue

Picture from Yelp Review

Built in 1984 as "Pop's Barbecue" ([Maybe. See comment.]), this building is now a shiny modern tire store.

Around 1997-1998 it became Epicures Catering, which existed in the 1980s but somewhere else (unfortunately, the phone books don't list the address of where it is).

Over time, Epicures lost popularity and fell into disrepair until closing (actually, Epicures didn't close, they just ended up moving). The original green overhang was replaced with a gold one in the mid-2000s after the old one was too tattered. The 2011 conversion to Tiremax cleaned up the building and parking lot quite a bit, but the franchise went bust a year later and it had to change its name to "BCS Tires & Lifts", so the sign didn't look quite as good after that. You could actually see in Google Earth where Tiremax even added a bit to the building. I don't have any pictures of BCS Tires & Lifts (that you can see anytime), but there is a Pop's Barbecue ad which you can see here.