Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Café Eccell's Former Domain


Taken by me, on the last day Café Eccell was legally operating on the city's lease, January 14th, 2014


A few years ago, I showed you the former Luby's, which as of this writing isn't updated yet (when it is, I'll do a quick update on this page to remove that disclaimer), which is where Eccell is located today.

For a number of years, though, Café Eccell was located at the corner of Church Avenue and Wellborn, 101 Church Avenue. The building of Café Eccell, as plain and kind of ugly as it was, used to house the city's first city hall and jail back in the 1940s (built 1947). The city hall moved out in 1970 when a new building was built, and I'm not sure of what it was used for later (the police station was also in Northgate during those days, though not that building). The city held onto the lease and in 1989, it reopened as a restaurant, Café Eccell, which featured a classier, "adult" atmosphere and food that the rest of Northgate lacked, and still tends to lack today.

The first incarnation of Café Eccell closed permanently in March 2014 a few months after its lease ran out (why the city never locked them out is unknown). The restaurant opened in 1989, and after changing of hands to the Dallis family completely around 1991, the restaurant continued for many years. The food was also plagued by inconsistency in its latter days as well as the drama involving the Dallis brothers (a.k.a. Eccell Group), the developers, and the community as a whole.

A few months later the building was wrecked for The Domain at Northgate apartment building, which is only four stories, occupies the whole block, and includes retail opportunities, though only one is currently open (4.0 Cuts Barber Salon, opened spring 2016). The building itself was ready in time for the fall 2015 move-in season, and for a time had a leasing office in the former Cycles Etc. on University Drive.

Of course, the Domain was not the first development to try to redevelop CE, it was to house "Gameday Centers College Station" circa 2004, a large multi-story tower (about 7-8 stories). Gameday Centers was largely doomed to begin with: the company was building luxury condos for big-money donors to stay in on game weekends, but the asking price of $500,000 a condo was too much* (it would be a better value to buy a house in the Traditions subdivision, which is what many have done), negotiations with the city broke down, and rather than a first phase done by August 2007 and completion by December 2008*, it was canned. The center would've had 10,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space and had even signed a 10-year lease with Café Eccell as part of the agreement*.

*Unfortunately, since this page was originally published, one of the links I had for this page has gone dead and I have been unable to relocate it, as the Batt link is dead and Archive.org does not have it. Likewise the links for the other links seem to be lost.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Gumby's Pizza, Dominik Drive

This was taken sometime in January of this year, when I did the Whataburger re-post.


107 Dominik Drive was built in 1985 as a College Station branch of Pepe's Mexican Food but became a branch of Gumby's sometime in the 1990s, and I want to say 1998 based on coupons of the time. (The old Gumby's was next to Sweet Eugene's, the parking lot bumpers still mention Gumby's despite moving twenty years prior)

The history behind the Gumby's pizza chain is murky, the website for the chain gives no clue of its founding and I can only guess it was licensed from the decades-old children's TV show many years ago and allowed to fester and grow into its own identity to present a pizza chain more common for the college crowd. Even in the 1980s, there was a pizza known as the "Gumby Dammit". The website also features classic Gumby videos, which are bizarre in their own right, and almost feels like something they'd show on Adult Swim, as it gets even weirder when you're sleep deprived or otherwise under the influence.

It's the pizza chain that's very rare (less than a dozen locations, all near colleges). It's the one where you can get a pizza delivered at 1:15 in the morning (they stop at 2) and sells pizzas like the Stoner Pie, which includes mozzarella sticks, french fries, pepperoni, and sausage. It's also a place that can get away with having a non-lit sign and choosing instead to string Christmas lights around the non-functional signage.

I've eaten at Gumby's a few times and it's, well, it's not very good and if I was in the area (which I was a few years ago) I would probably go to DoubleDave's. The drama around Gumby's got interesting a few years back when they opened up a location in Wellborn called Black Sheep Pizza, which featured a different logo but still the same menu (and presumably the same recipe). The way I understand it is Gumby's was sold among different partners, and Black Sheep Pizza (renamed GranDandy's Pizza & Meals after a trademark dispute) spun off completely, with a clause that Gumby's could buy them back, which they did after GranDandy's became a moderate success, leading the owner to build Howdy's Pizza (still in the works) with the modified recipes and menu.

Unlike Gumby's, this blog is open 24 hours. Care to leave a comment/question?