Showing posts with label Retail. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Retail. Show all posts

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pooh's Park, Tinsley's, and Others Replaced by a Shopping Center

View of the center today


Once again, we come back to one of our blog, this time to roll a few smaller posts into a bigger one. As the picture above shows, the area at Holleman and Texas Avenue is now a large (kind of low end) shopping center. In addition to covering all the changes that went on there (which I have yet to do), I can combine a few older posts into this one. So, first, we have Pooh's Park at 1907 Texas Avenue South.


There's far more to Pooh's Park (no, not related to the "Winnie" one) I can get into today, because it's a popular topic on local nostalgia threads: if you want to learn more, you can head over to Facebook to talk or browse through old photos (and they include newspaper articles!)

I never got to experience Pooh's Park myself, but from what I've seen and read, it was like Chuck E. Cheese, Putt-Putt, and a skating rink (roller, not ice) all wrapped into one. It opened in 1972 and was where the shopping center where Hobby Lobby, Big Lots, and Ross are now. I would like to say that Pooh's Park remained open until it became too valuable to remain (and was getting run-down anyway) and closed in the early 2000s, but no, that's not the case (it is very similar to a certain defunct theme park that closed about a decade ago, though). It closed in by 1989 (at that point, the phone book no longer lists it) and only the sign remained up (with the logo of the yellow dog they had, and not the one pictured above, and the name gone) until around the time they built the shopping center in the early 2000s, and then remained up until a little while afterward.

A 1984 phone book has a different ad that does mention things like a water slide (408 feet) and a different address (at some point, they changed to 105 Holleman, though based on what you can see from Google Earth, and backed up by a picture of Texas Avenue from a local history book I don't have a copy of with me) is that Pooh's Park was accessed through Texas Avenue, not Holleman.

Google Earth 1995, with modern streets overlaid


Some older maps (circa 2001-ish, long after Pooh's Park bit the dust) put a "Pooh's Lane" roughly where the Bahama Buck's is now, but unless that first part of Holleman Drive East was actually called that (after all, there's a few things that do support that, including the odd alignment of Holleman Drive and Holleman Drive East suggests that the East part was first, and then Holleman Drive extended that way later by way of a particularly awkward curve, or the fact that the subdivision nearby (behind the strip center and the other businesses on the east side) is named Pooh's Park Subdivision.

Sharing the address with Pooh's Park (at least the original address) was one "Furniture Liquidation Mart" which closed in October 1985 (The Eagle), and I would guess that this is what Bahama Buck's replaced (it used to be the foundations of another building). It should be noted, though, my 1984 phone book doesn't list it.

Near Pooh's Park was Tinsley's Chicken 'n Rolls.

Chicken done well, chicken well done!

Opening in late 1979, Tinsley's was located on 1905 Texas Avenue but was closed by 1989 after the Tinsley family sold out to Church's, which would eventually close or convert the restaurants (I don't think this restaurant was ever converted). Later, it was Kokopelli's (by 1998), and soon after, the Clay Oven (by 1999), a quick-serve (cheap!) Indian restaurant. This location, unfortunately, was razed for the shopping center, but Clay Oven was already closed by then. I have no actual pictures of what the building looked like in reality, nor do I remember Clay Oven being there at all. Sad, isn't it?

The plane was a real thing, though, David Tinsley used an actual 1930s plane to promote his restaurants, not unlike how Flying Tomato used hot air balloons.

While the "Boss Bird" made a brief appearance in Huntsville (after a long period of total absence), it is now closed (now a Hartz Chicken Buffet). It wasn't particularly to die for (although I think the "dried out chicken" complaints were an over-exaggeration, at least from what I saw in my visit).

There were a few other places on Holleman that later disappeared beyond Jot 59 (see picture), though one of them was a quick-lube auto place (name escapes me).

So anyway, all that was torn down for the shopping center (University Shopping Center, the name of which wasn't promoted), which opened around 2003 (after the H-E-B, I remember), with many of the stores it has today (Hobby Lobby, Shoe Carnival, Ross Dress for Less, Petco). Hobby Lobby moved from their old location at Post Oak Square, with the others being new. There was a branch of Loupot's, CiCi's (which came a few years later, as the old Culpepper Plaza was partially demolished), and a Goody's Family Clothing.

Goody's would close in early 2009 as the chain went under, but it was replaced with a few new stores, Big Lots (returning back to the market, as by that time, their old location at the former Kmart had been closed for several years) and a Twin Liquors (which, despite slightly nicer décor, seemed like a smaller, inferior competitor to Spec's).

Another shopping strip was built around the same time as the rest (but named The Shops at Wolf Pen Plaza) with Starbucks Coffee, a Sprint store (which initially had the older logo), and Champion Firearms (moved from the Kroger shopping center).

Monday, June 30, 2014

Jin's Asian Cafe / Lippman Music

Despite looking bad, this is about the extent of it.

This building, built in 1963, has seen a lot, including the after-effects of a fire in June 2014, which despite looking worse for the wear, was only quite limited to what to you see here, with Lippman's opening the next day and Jin's the following week.

The Jin's side (110 Nagle) was originally (by the early 1970s, so presumably as opening in 1963) one of the many UtoteM convenience stores in town though by 1980 had disconnected to become the Universal Grocery & Snack Bar, even by the 1990s becoming "Universal Restaurant", though by 1998 it was back to "Universal Grocery" before finally closing and becoming Jin's (at a date I have yet to discover). I didn't take a picture of this, because it's fairly common elsewhere (see Yelp, for instance)

Lippman's side (112 Nagle) opened as Lippman Music in 1994 (guitars and such, not albums) after moving from Culpepper Plaza (where it opened in the 1980s) but according to Brian Lippman served as a bus station in the distant past (the double doors that don't open was a freight entrance). Prior to 1994 it was the original location of Notes-N-Quotes before it moved to the old Exxon.

Other than that, I have nothing. Comments would be appreciated. We (I) would also like some feedback on the following old 2011 posts which have been updated:

- University Square / Legacy Point - mostly updating and refining, but a new ad for a long-gone store
- Campus Theater - new updates regarding sale
- Wolfe Nursery - new info on go-kart track
- East 29th and Texas - new post name and update

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Park Place Plaza

The most activity here in a long time.

2501 Texas Avenue South

This post originally appeared as part as the Texas Avenue page (yes, I tried to cram a lot of things, including a second index, into Texas Avenue--imagine that) and when I was going through as of May 2017 I found this still somewhat error prone. I'll fix this all at some point similar to the Parkway Square post. This is going to be a work in progress since the suite numbers aren't as well publicized as Parkway Square was. The center was built at some point in the 1980s (about 1986) catty-corner to Parkway Square, and was basically its equal at one time.

While Parkway Square had its Kroger, Park Place Plaza had its Winn-Dixie Marketplace. While Parkway Square had McDonald's, Park Place had Kentucky Fried Chicken. Check back to this post when I keep adding new things quietly, because when I started re-writing this in 2017, I don't ALL the information to make this a good post. I don't even have a good tenant list. Imagine that!

The center is divided into four sections. Section A is the side that faces toward Southwest Parkway. Section B is the former grocery store anchor. C begins east of the former grocery store anchor and toward the back. D is the section of the stores in a separate building not attached to the grocery store anchor that face toward the parking lot (direction towards campus).

B101 - This was originally a 45,500 square foot space housing a Winn-Dixie Marketplace. WDM was the company's attempt to build bigger, more modern stores for the 1980s, but unfortunately, the company had expanded too far and built too few Marketplace (or larger) stores, contributing to the chain's Texas pull-out in 2002 and bankruptcy in 2005 (and their future demise?). The College Station store closed before that, sometime around 1997 or 1998. After the Winn-Dixie closed, it was filled with Victoria, Texas-based Lack's Furniture. There's a glowing review by notorious Yelp reviewer Greg D. but the sentiment on TexAgs was that it wasn't missed at all, and it's been proven that Greg makes fake reviews just to get the coveted "First to Review" badge. It closed in late 2010 along with the rest of the locations. The sign hung around (literally) for a little while longer but in 2014 the space was finally filled with two new tenants. The left side, keeping the address, became College Depot (which moved from Parkway Square) and the right side became Planet Fitness. As of May 2017, College Depot is going out of business. As Lacks Furniture did not really help the shopping center even during the best of times, the filling of the anchor space did revive the strip center somewhat. Here's a picture of the co-branded former anchor from May 2014.

C108 - Most recently this was Gun Corps, a consignment store that specialized in guns. It closed after year end 2016 but there was a catch: their inventory was still locked up, and those guns were all collateral for loans and the bank seized everything during the bankruptcy and as of this writing, customers' guns (at the store for repair or installation) are still tied up in legal limbo. Previously it was a short-lived restaurant called Aloha BBQ Hut.

Over on the west side, the biggest thing there was a Little Caesar's Pizza, which held fond memories for me through all of its renovations and continued to be the "go-to" pizza spot for my family until the Rock Prairie Road location opened. Originally, the pizza place had blonde, 80s looking, wood paneling on the walls, this was removed in a 2000s renovation and replaced with black and white tiles. There was also a gumball machine, and for many years had a promotion where if you got a black (grape) gumball, you'd get a free small pizza. I know I won at least once. It was great fun, but probably a bit of a money-loser and it was eventually discontinued (another discontinued item--I last saw the Baby Pan!Pan! around 2005, and even then, the packaging was dated). Prices went up and down for the Hot N Ready, sometimes $5, sometimes $6. Next door to that was a martial arts studio that closed in the early 2000s, became a sketchy video/DVD store for a few years, and then became a martial arts studio again.



Lupa's Coffee can be seen, this filled the old Big Johnson Deli/Quizno's. I read that this used to be a Schlotzsky's Deli back in the 1990s before they moved to near Wal-Mart.
Prospector's Grill & Saloon with its new custom facade.
A Planet Fitness and College Depot now fill the former Lacks/Winn-Dixie.

The Kentucky Fried Chicken in the parking lot moved in the mid-1980s as well from Dominik Drive and renovated in the mid-2000s (exterior and interior). Other than all that, there's not much more to say about the moribund shopping center besides some forgettable shops and services.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Townshire Shopping Center

Albertsons never lasted long at Townshire, but made a profound impact on it. (BTU)


We finally arrive at Townshire as our latest talking point today, partially to help pad out the still-under-construction Texas Avenue page and partially because it's such a popular topic anyway. Opening in 1958 (it advertised to even Hearne) with Safeway, Lester's, Hotard Cafeteria, Kelly's Toylane, Stacy's Furniture, Texas State Optical, Woolworth's, the "Laundromart", and Sears. It was, of course, the first big shopping destination that started to draw attention away from Downtown Bryan.

The Sears was at a slightly different grade than the rest of Townshire. At only 20,000 square feet, which rather small ("B" class store) for Sears, especially since a "full size" Sears was 10 times that size (the current Post Oak Mall location is around 80k, still on the small side). After Sears moved out, it would become Central Texas Hardware for a while, and eventually classrooms for Blinn (which happily vacated it after their new campus in Bryan was built, as by the time that happened, the building was in horrible condition).

Here's the 1964 tenant list:


Lester's pulled out before the downtown Bryan location did, in 1973 when it moved to a stand-alone location.

Safeway probably moved out in 1977 to its later home catty-corner to where Village Foods is now, and eventually to its current home, where it lasted less than 2 years (at best) before becoming AppleTree (and you know the rest), but by that time, Townshire was already beginning its decline, with Manor East Mall and newer strip centers, like Culpepper Plaza and Redmond Terrace. Finally, Post Oak Mall opened, putting all of the Bryan shopping centers in deep decline. By the early 1980s, Townshire was getting cleared out.

Unfortunately, I don't have too much Townshire information beyond that and a few restaurants that were there. I was told a Goodwill was here for a while, but that turned out to be false intel. In the early 1990s, however, there was Burdett & Son, which moved to Redmond Terrace for a while. There was also Keyser's, a local hobby shop that had a rather long run in the center even into the 1980s, when Townshire too was losing luster.

Townshire reopened in great fanfare in 2002 by the same developers that built the Rock Prairie Kroger center with a new facade and a completely rebuilt north anchor, when the ratty old Sears/Central Texas Hardware/Blinn building was torn down and replaced with the area's third Albertsons supermarket, joining the two in College Station and attempting to give the nearby Kroger and H-E-B Pantry Foods a run for the money. Despite seemingly solidifying the grocery race, since H-E-B had its new store in College Station and two other Pantry Foods locations, and with Kroger's three locations around town, it was an odd choice since at that time. Albertsons was retreating from Houston area (after a short run of less than a decade) and San Antonio, with Waco and Austin (and the breakup of Albertsons Inc.) not more than a few years away (the three stragglers, including the one in College Station, would all close by 2011). For all its fanfare, the new Albertsons at Townshire didn't even last five years, and closed in 2006, becoming one of the shortest-lived grocery stores in town, though not even close to unseating poor Weingarten near Post Oak Mall.

But the new Townshire didn't whither up, despite the loss of its largest tenant. CiCi's and a dollar store (now King Dollar, but not originally) kept trucking, and several service-oriented tenants came in.

Around 2012 or so, the Albertsons gas station reopened as a generic "Tigerland Express", and in the summer of 2013, the new Walmart grocery store finally opened.

Of course, Walmart Neighborhood Market was much more downscale than the Albertsons it replaced, but it was much cheaper and what the neighborhood needed. It didn't hurt H-E-B very much, and Village Foods was having its own problems thanks to some extensive road construction.

Today, Townshire (I believe it became "Townshire" officially rather than "Townshire Shopping Center") is not a thriving shopping center. Sure, the new Walmart brings in a ton of traffic, but the rest of the strip, not so much. Really, besides the CiCi's, a dollar store, and a beauty salon, most of the space is service-oriented or completely vacant (that and the Walmart). Here's some pictures taken in May 2014.

Two former grocery stores, Safeway on the right (I think it's a pawn shop now) and the former H-E-B Pantry in the back (we'll do that when we get there)
AlphaGraphics, originally Tops Printing
Moving my camera toward CiCi's, more shops, none of them too impressive or unique
CiCi's, a beauty salon, and a nail salon
Looking back toward the Walmart Neighborhood Market. You could see the façade incorporates much of the old Albertsons facade, though they painted parts brown. King Dollar is to the right. Apparently, some months after the grocery store opened, Walmart opened a separate liquor store but I neither looked for it nor noticed it.

[Update 6/10/14: I neglected to point out that where CiCi's is now was originally an open-air arcade/courtyard area with a large live tree in it. This was destroyed in the re-do.]
[Update 6/19/16: Walmart Neighborhood Market closed in January 2016 as part of a wave of Walmart closures nationwide. To date, it remains vacant.]

Can you help expand this post?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Redmond Terrace Shopping Center / Texas Avenue Crossing

Texas Avenue Crossing (a name not seen on signage, by the way) is also the only strip center for miles around with rooftop parking. If you have lived in College Station for more than six months, you've probably been here: it has a Panda Express, Cold Stone, World Market, Bed Bath & Beyond, Charming Charlie, Jason's Deli, and DoubleDave's.

But before that...it was different. Prior to 2003 (roughly), it was a completely different center. Opening in the 1960s at Jersey and Texas Avenue on a dairy farm, Redmond Terrace Shopping Center was the first strip center in College Station and featured a variety of stores, including a Ben Franklin five and ten, Brookshire Brothers, a post office, and Gibson's. All of these were housed under a continuous "squiggly roof" (not unlike the defunct discount store The Treasury). Here's one of the few photos I have of the original configuration, from a photo of a photo.


Gibson's, of course, was the main anchor. Not a whole lot is known about Gibson's, as even when its largest franchisee (it was a franchised discount store, allowing it to spread across from Texas to Ohio with a variety of store formats) sued the chain and closed/renovated/reopened its stores (before going out of business in 1986, and some sources erroneously state Wickes BOUGHT the chain that same year).

A few pages do discuss this store, and the Dallas stores even included full supermarkets in theirs. While the Gibson's here never contained such a thing, it did include a garden center and pharmacy, the latter indicated by this December 1971 ad from our very own The Eagle. It may have even had a snack bar.

Get "Monoply" for the kids!


From what I've read, though, Gibson's was a dump (I've heard someone tell me it smelled like tires). If we fast-forward, things started to change at Redmond Terrace...as stores changed, the squiggly roof went away, but only partially, leaving the center very disjointed looking. Academy would demolish or extensively renovate the Gibson's space. Piggly Wiggly would replace Brookshire Brothers and close early on (it was not very large at all, much smaller than even Navasota or Hearne's Brookshire Brothers). The post office was replaced with Joe's Used Books.

Jason's Deli (a Stacy's Furniture for a time, by address) would be on the far right of the center. Other stores included Burdett & Son's and Loupot's, as well as a mattress/furniture liquidator. Here's a picture of Burdett & Son's, in which you can see the original figuration as well.

Burdett & Son was here from 1997 to 2002, as says their website. Copy Corner is off to the right.


At the corner of George Bush and Texas was a Shell gas station with a Zip'N convenience store, but it was extremely small (or am I just remembering this wrong?). This went first with little more than some remains in a raised section of concrete to show that something was here.

Around 2002 or so, it was announced that Academy would be moving out to the bypass and the whole thing would be wrecked for a new center: Texas Avenue Crossing. While one portion was saved and rehabbed (Mattress Giant and Pier One Imports, and I think this was where Jason's Deli originally was), the rest was demolished and built anew, featuring a mostly stable line-up of tenants. If you were looking at it from the George Bush side, the tenants are:
DoubleDave's PizzaWorks (moved from either the Northgate location or Woodstone)
European Wax Center (formerly Urban Salon)
Charming Charlie (originally something else, I think)
Mattress Firm (Mattress Giant, changed names in 2012)
Pier 1 Imports (originally near the mall)
Bed Bath & Beyond (new to the market)
Pine Boutique (for years Ritz Camera & Image, closed in 2012, one of the last ones to close--originally located across the street where Shiraz is now)
Darque Tan (never liked the name of this one--I always imagined cooking on the tanning bed not unlike a clamshell grill)
World Market (new to the market)
Jason's Deli (new location)

On top of Bed Bath & Beyond to Jason's Deli is that rooftop parking area, but it's never been very full. An elevator takes you back near BB&B.

Over at the Shell spot, a new plaza was built with Panda Express (new to the market), Complete Nutrition (formerly "Bath Junkie"), James Avery Craftsman (originally something else?), and Cold Stone Creamery (new to the market).

TAC remains rather popular, having brought new retailers to the market and a popular lunch spot with inexpensive restaurants (Jason's Deli, particularly, remains a popular after-church spot).

I've probably got some details wrong--directories aren't very helpful in this aspect, and I've obviously abridged some stuff, with this article mainly posted to just fill in gaps in dealing with the Texas Avenue post. If I have anything wrong, please mention it in the comments.

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!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ardan Catalog Showroom / Rolling Thunder / Gattiland / Thunder Elite / Planet Fitness

The former Ardan/Gattiland/Thunder Elite (and current Planet Fitness) as it stands today.

This place in Bryan-College Station is best remembered (at least to me) as Gattiland, but the history of the building goes farther beyond that, and we'll start there instead.

One of the more deceptively popular webpages that have hung around for years is DISCOUNT STORES OF THE '60S, a part of "David P. Johnson's House O' Retro", specializing in really bad 90's webpage clichés. Well, most of them are from the Midwest with names that disappeared decades ago and have virtually no familiarity to anyone living in Texas. Well, almost. Around mid-way that first page, you'll see Ardan Catalog Showroom, which I originally believed we got in Bryan in the 1970s or late 1960s. According to a comment below, the Bryan store came in-line in 1980, which explains why the pre-1980s Newspapers.com showed nothing.

One of the ads Ardan ran locally, from November 1983. This, coincidentally, is a great example near the apex of when the video game industry crashed and retailers were forced to sell cartridges at low prices.


While I can't vouch for the name changes that the Des Moines branch experienced, nor can confirm or deny that this location featured a supermarket (update, it didn't), it did in fact exist in this location. Ardan Catalog Showroom went out of business at some point in the late 1980s, presumably 1986 since evidence backs that up.

Originally called "Ardan Crossing Plaza" (which shows that the Travis Landing name didn't come in until after Ardan Catalog Showroom bit the dust), but based on the references (or lack thereof) to University Square, I'm not even sure anymore.


Ardan Catalog Showroom ad from 1985. Note the new logo, and that Des Moines isn't listed.


By 1989 and heading into the early 1990s, the space (or at least part of it) became Rolling Thunder Skating Rink, a roller skating rink that lasted for a few years, and now we return to our story that began with Mr. Gatti's on Northgate, the opening of Gattiland in '96. I don't believe the rest of the old Ardan Catalog Showroom was EVER utilized again. Some small tenants in the east part of the old store probably did come and go, but Gattiland did not cover the whole area.

Gattiland was the place to have fun/birthday parties/etc. (as Pooh's Park was dead and gone by this time, leaving little but the sign) for anyone growing up in College Station between the late 1990s and early 2000s. Oh yes, it was definitely something: there was a large buffet and a regular eating area, the party rooms, a large room that showed Cartoon Network on a projection TV (remember, this was Cartoon Network of the late 1990s, which is still spoken of very highly), and the "Midway", which had the prize booth right as you went in. To the back was the bumper cars and a huge McDonald's Playplace-type playground, only larger (with one of those things you could grab and push off and it would slide down the metal rail: I don't know what it's called). There was also air hockey and tons of games, both redemption type games and arcade games (including several linked Daytona USA arcades). Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the inside but I can remember most of it on the inside and could probably describe parts of it to you if asked nicely (it was the purple bumper car that was put in storage in the later years, for example).

Well, it got really run down pretty quickly, and I remember hearing around in 2000 or so (at the time, of course) some hoodlums coming in one day and damaged a bunch of machines (some of them never worked quite right after that). By the time it moved, the playground was dismantled and a bunch of stuff didn't work. In 2003 it moved to College Station and renamed to Gattitown (which will continue here). The building sat vacant, became "Thunder Elite", a kids gymnastics/cheerleading place for a while, too, though it eventually packed up and left as well (new location).

Google Street View

In mid-2014, the former Gattiland/Thunder Elite space became Planet Fitness, which prohibits grunting. It also gave part of the facade a purple paint job which didn't match the rest of the plaza.

So that's it for Gattiland, Ardan Catalog Showroom, and the like. Pictures are welcome, you know...

1673 Briarcrest

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, October 30, 2013

The Rise at Northgate

Not there yet...this view may be impossible in a few years when the apartments replacing BB&T get built.

I can still remember sitting on the "porch" of the A+ Tutoring and Fat Burger building (profiled here in this post, which is undergoing changes, but that's okay), looking out at the abandoned building that once held a BBVA Compass Bank (formerly Guaranty Bank until they were bought out) and United Realty. United Realty is now on Graham, and BBVA Compass moved out as well. I don't know when or where they took off too, but I'm pretty sure that BBVA Compass disappeared in 2010 or so.

They were to be torn down for a huge building known as 717 University. This was spring 2012. At first, I couldn't really comprehend a building being there. After all, the Plaza was coming down, and the Plaza occupied a much bigger footprint. I wondered if they would close off Church Avenue for additional space. Turns out they didn't. When they filed something in regards to the airport ordinance, I knew it could be good.

Initially, there was talk of a gourmet grocer (Whole Foods was the rumored choice, and supposedly they even signed a letter of intent), but that eventually fell through as the building was renamed The Rise at Northgate and ultimately CVS/pharmacy would take the place of the lower level tenant, which was just as well.


Early concept. It looks substantially different in real life. (snagged from local news site)

Over the fall semester, I watched from the Evans Library them build the large structure, adding a new floor every week or so before it was visible on the skyline.

Anyway, the bank was home Community Savings & Loan Association which surprisingly lasted from the 1970s until 1989. Later, it became Guaranty Bank and United Realty (sharing the bank), the former becoming BBVA Compass and moving out. By 2011, it was boarded up and vacant.

I know I had once parked my bike in the lot in the overgrown grass there, but didn't get any good ground pictures at the time.

Not too long before, this is what was there.

I don't live in the Rise, but a friend and I checked out the CVS and explored around. It's smaller than a real CVS...there's a selection of food that's generally better than a convenience store, and of course a full HBA (Health & Beauty Aids) department, something convenience stores don't have. The best thing, at least to Rise residents, is a little hallway in the back that links the elevator to the complex (and the parking garage) with the CVS, so in theory, you could make a midnight run for snacks...or at least, it would be midnight, if they didn't close at 12 (that might change in the future).

It's a bit of a bummer that they don't carry any fresh fruits or vegetables, as that would round out the neighborhood nicely. After all, just literally outside used to be the old Albertsons which did have not only a pharmacy since the early 1970s but all manners of produce as well. 24 hours, too. A sad day when it finally closed, as for the next 31 semesters, Northgate lacked a pharmacy (that's spring 1998 to spring 2013, for those keeping count).

A few more pictures that I took...


Due to the orientation of perhaps the parking garage ramps above, the CVS isn't flush with ground level, requiring going up a several steps or using a (rather narrow looking) ramp. Still, the potential is great: a huge (at least by College Station standards) apartment building, and streetside retail in a pedestrian area (something the Lofts lacked).

Around spring 2014, they replaced their bike racks with bike racks designed for the MaroonBikes rental bikes, requiring people to hook their bikes to trees or other things (way to screw over your main audience) but you could still hook it on a bench or a tree. As of 2016, they've posted signs not to park bikes in the vicinity but rather put them in bike racks in the upper levels of the parking garage, which makes the CVS and its other tenants definitely less accessible.

Surprisingly, as of 2016, the tenants of the Rise are fully filled out.

The first tenant here was CVS/pharmacy (Ste. 101), the largest store, which opened September 29, 2013. It faces University and while it is a smaller CVS than most of its more suburban counterparts, it is merchandised to the neighborhood by having a mix of at least 50% food, though only has a very abbreviated mix consisting of a few dry foods, frozen foods, and a few other items, all priced higher than grocery stores. The best thing, at least to Rise residents, is a little hallway in the back that links the elevator to the complex (and the parking garage) with the CVS, so in theory, you could make a midnight run for snacks...or at least, it would be midnight, if they didn't close at midnight.

The second tenant is "YAKU Japanese Eatery" (Ste. 171), which replaced Great Wraps. Great Wraps opened in spring 2014 but didn't match up with its Houston counterparts. My quest for a good chicken caesar wrap on or near campus was foiled when the wrap was stuffed with croutons, and that was enough to put me off forever. By the end of 2014 it was gone, with YAKU taking its place next year. By the time YAKU opened, I was out of college, and while I was dubious of the sign offering chicken fingers and ramen (having put off by Happy Yogurt and their store-bought garbage), it has lasted until now (September 2016) with mixed reviews.

The third tenant, located at the end, is the BB&T (Ste. 181), which opened August 2016. It has an ATM outside of it. The BB&T moved here after their old location was demolished.


July 27 2014 - Updated.
October 09 2016 - Updated a second time.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wickes Lumber

You aren't missing much in terms of building variety.


This has always been a building I've seen since my youth, operating as a business I can't remember anymore (it had six letters and appeared to be there for a while, given how faded it was) but originally, it was Wickes Lumber, operating since at least 1975 (likely built soon after the completion of the "West Loop"). Given the ad below, it seemed to be a full hardware store, even going with its own functioning railroad spur to bring in lumber directly.

A full-service hardware store!

I don't know when Wickes Lumber went out of business...FundingUniverse seems to indicate late 1980s or early 1990s, which makes sense and then somehow later down the line, Wickes was bought and operates in the UK exclusively, but such a thing is out of the scope out of this article.

After the closure of Wickes in the late 1980s or early 1990s (as mentioned before), about two or three other businesses tried their hand at the building. There was that faded sign with six characters in the early to mid-1990s (as far as I know that was the first tenant after Wickes) and something else as well later (or two), until finally coming to Moore Supply Co. and their "Bath & Kitchen Showplace" (initially with a tiny sign) sometime in the early to mid 2000s.

The surrounding buildings that Wickes had were all sold off (at least, I assume they were owned by Wickes). Brazos Valley Turf occupies the building to the right of it (has been there for years), and Boral Bricks is in the back (probably originally something else). The addresses are all different...Wickes Lumber had been 101 West Loop, but the current addresses include Moore Supply Co. as 1530 Harvey Mitchell, Brazos Valley Turf as 101 N. Dowling Road (which is strange since the same address is shared with Living Water Pottery), and Boral Bricks ("Boral Bricks Studio"?) is at 95 N. Dowling Road. Brazos CAD was no help in trying to get any information on the confusing addresses of these things, nor any old phone books. The only things that I gleaned from my resources was that Brazos Valley Turf opened in the late 1990s (which makes sense with what I remember), but even before BV Turf opened, the address of Country Grocery was 101 A N. Dowling Road, which suggests that even back in '96, there was a second address for that.

Finally, we have those pictures of railroad spur I mentioned before. It shut down around or before the untimely closure of Wickes Lumber, and a cell phone tower has been built on the site, but some of it remains today. These pictures were taken in June 2010 with my then-new cell phone camera, and I'm excited to show these, even if they are a bit low quality. It had been around since at least 1975, so it was likely built soon after the completion of the "West Loop".



UPDATE OCTOBER 2015 - Added in info about when pictures were taken and took out mention of then-contemporary blog happenings.

Friday, July 5, 2013

McDonald's & Blockbuster


Opening in December 2001 as the first of its kind (remember, the "heady times" mentioned yesterday) and renovating circa 2008, the McDonald's features an adjoining Blockbuster. It used to be really cool at the time but also an odd combination: McDonald's and movies? (I guess the Redbox kiosks installed circa 2006 at most McDonald's fulfills a similar purpose). The 2008 remodel cut down on the huge cavernous feel of the original store for a separation into the three "zones" developed around that time, an area for kids near the Playplace indoor playground (which it always had), the "Grab n Go" zone, and the "couches" area. I didn't really like the post-remodel version. I remember when I went for a "McTeacher" night when teachers made burgers for charity in middle school.

The Blockbuster closed in spring 2013. I wanted to take a picture of the inside of the Blockbuster, for posterity (this site) last summer, but was stopped by a clerk, who no longer works there for obvious reasons.

I think it would be interesting if the Blockbuster side was filled in with some sort of new concept...now, I know that McDonald's divested itself from Chipotle in 2006, but sure would be awesome to see it occupy the other side, provide some competition to the nearby Freebirds, as well as giving those who don't like McDonald's another option...or perhaps another seemingly wild concept (McDonald's + haircuts?)...but in all likelihood it will be remodeled into an expansion of McDonald's.

UPDATE 1: As of July 2013, there's some McDonald's signage and decor on the outside of the Blockbuster side, which is cleared of all décor. It doesn't exactly look aesthetically pleasing.

UPDATE 2: Well, the "haircuts" might have come to pass...sorta. As of December 2015, it has become a location of Sola Salons, a chain of rentable salon spaces. Unfortunately (but understandably) it lacks a connection to the adjacent McDonald's.

1748 Rock Prairie Road (Blockbuster)
1750 Rock Prairie Road (McDonald's)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

College Station Business Center

2151 Harvey Mitchell Parkway

Here's another one that got a bit overlooked because of the fact that it was thrown in with Stories of the West Loop, which got a bit overlooked at the time. At least the comments were relatively good at the time.

The name "College Station Business Center" invokes something grandiose, like a small cluster of mid-1990s office buildings, but it's not. In reality, CSBC is just a strip mall with some unimpressive tenants, and according to LoopNet, built in 1984 (which may or may not be true, since LoopNet is often wildly inaccurate at these types of things).

The other major tenant, roughly in the middle of the plaza, was Acrofit Gymnastics, a gym for kids and teenagers. I think it closed 2004, about the time an "AcrofitGymnastics.com" launched. I have no idea if they're related, with the only clues being that Acrofit had another location in Houston, the other location is in Kemah (a suburb of League City, which is a suburb of Houston). I also have some vague collection of "Tumble Tots", which the other site does have. Acrofit was a trashy place: it was large and cavernous, although it had moved some equipment around, there was a small viewing area (and an upper level, which they closed off). There were high ceilings, gymnastics equipment, chalk, a trampoline suspended over a six-foot concrete pit(!), running mats, no adequate air conditioning (just lots of fans). There were some rather dubious-looking paintings of children's cartoon characters (including Barney). They also had the "AcroBus", which had been seen in town post-closure. I did go to it at one time in the distant past, but I can only remember the smell (like feet), those scary-looking ropes, the basic layout, the mysterious upper level, those cheap seats they had for viewing, and a few framed pictures of Olympic gymnasts. Over all, it was a filthy place: I have no idea how old it was, but here's some 1996 forum postings regarding it.

There used to be a location of Jacob's Well right next to it, which has purified water. Jugs of it, and when I was there as a much younger person, wished I could get a drink of delicious filtered water, while being tired out from the various run-and-jump-at-the-springboard.

After Acrofit closed, it was replaced by Action Printing and something else, though Action Printing closed later (2008? 2009?).

There was 2818 Grooming at the end, which I recall the temporary sign being far better than the permanent one (an ugly backlit white-on-red sign, rectangular), Thunder Computers (which, despite the presence of a website, is no longer around), and a few other forgettable stores.

As you might've guessed, with a name like "College Station Business Center", it consists of mostly service-oriented tenants, not exactly shopping (which is probably why Paint N More, Franklin Candle Co., and Dollar General couldn't hack it).

I took a few pictures from my cellphone from odd angles (hey, the car was moving), and there's this picture from LoopNet (toward the bottom), which shows Action Printing.





The suite numbers are below (still working on this part).

Ste. 101 - For years, this was a small hardware store called Paint N More, at least that's what it was in the 1990s. It closed circa 2000, then it became Franklin Candle Company a few years later (2004-ish), and then Dollar General after that before it closed. And yes, I realize that while there WAS a Dollar General at the old Kmart building, it opened a few years after the other one closed, maybe occupying it from 2005 to 2009. It later became Fastenal, which closed in June 2017 when it consolidated with the Bryan location.

Ste. 107 - Southern Fastening Systems until early 2017 when it became SouthernCarlson (merger).

There's a few warehouse areas behind it like an iPhone repair place invisible from all angles unless you were heading southbound on Longmire. Some of these include Doggone Maintenance & Cleaning Services, Aggieland Computer Repair, and What's the Buzz Coffee Company (free samples, apparently). There was also a wholesaler's business back there. I took a few pictures of the area, but they're not very good.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Lester's


While appearing as an unassuming office building that has been vacant for the last several years (last tenant, a "Lonestar Systems Inc.") , this building was not built as such. You are in for a treat.

Lester's opened here in '73 and at least lasted until 1985, though I have no idea when it actually closed.


2504 Kent

UPDATE 10-4-13: Apparently, this still has "The Smart Shop" in tiles outside the store. Neat!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Texas 707 / 707 Shopping Village

Right, so avid readers may notice I put back up the Plaza Hotel article, this time showing more of the other buildings on the block. The reason, of course, being we have a -new- article that has that for context.

It's the circa 1972 "Texas 707", formerly the "707 Shopping Village". Seems during that time, it had unique specialty stores in a time when the local economy was flourishing. Today, it's mostly service tenants (like Tutor John and a few travel agencies). Even into the 1990s, there was Charli (moved to University Drive) and Hunan (an excellent Chinese buffet by all accounts).

According to commenter AggiePhil, who derived his information from the Brazos CAD database, "Originally built in 1972, 707 Texas Avenue today consists of seven buildings across three phases or sections: A (one building, nearest Texas Ave.), D (one building), and E (five smaller buildings). I can only assume that phases B and C existed but were torn down at some point. Phase B was probably Phase A's twin, torn down in 1996/1997 to make room for On The Border."

The last part has been backed up by a 1997 article that describes how On the Border and Lone Star Pavilion (the shopping center with Office Depot, Barnes & Noble, and Best Buy).

The older picture is from Project HOLD (note the Gulf station and Ramada Inn in the background). The newer picture is from Loopnet.



There are more modern pictures below, taken in May 2014 (except for that article).
Charli was in either B or C, but it appeared to have its own building.

You can see both the Charli building and the "twin" building mentioned here. And, like the article backs up, Charli was torn down for more parking while the other building (B?) was the main one that was torn down for On the Border.

I took a stroll down one of the "hallways" in the back building (E), it actually is well-maintained, and a bit of a shame it isn't better utilized. It was probably lined with interesting funky local stores at one time.

I didn't too thoroughly explore Building D.

Building E leads into the "mall" area, and of course Building A is the one that looks out toward the street. It may look slightly different than the first shot since I remember a storm ripping off one of the exterior walls.

Other tenants of Texas 707 historically include Petal Patch, which according to an early 1970s phone book was "Petal Pushers", interestingly enough. Additionally, a 1996 directory lists these other services, besides aforementioned Hunan and Charli: A R Photography [may have been "A&R"], Arthur J Roach PHD, Associated Printing & Graphics, Copy Boy, Doug Hunter's Enterprises, Hair Extraordinaire [this actually ended up moving to Culpepper Plaza II], Hunnybee, JMS Building Maintenance [no idea], Kaplan Test Prep [I'm pretty sure this is still here!], Kirby Co. [vacuum cleaners], Let's Talk, Stress Dynamics Inc., and Travel Designers [travel agencies have tended to be a historic part of 707].

OK, if there are any comments, please leave them, I always appreciate it, and see you next time!

Want to see more of the Texas Avenue stuff?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Eastgate

Here's a look at another major neighborhood in town: Eastgate. Unlike Northgate, Eastgate hasn't quite gotten the "student saturated" appearance. Part of this is preservation of an actual neighborhood. The definition of Eastgate is the official, city-supported version, so we'll roll with that.

Here's a few things about Eastgate you should know. I covered Dominik Road a while back, so we'll go ahead and skip that. We're also going to skip the College Station City Hall and the first fire station, mostly on the basis that it's fairly well documented elsewhere (and we mentioned it here, which is where these things tend to wash up). The "Eastgate" businesses are mostly limited to a large area at Walton and Texas Avenue (though a few exist tucked in the back).

This was a proposal we got in the early 1990s, where Walton comes into Texas Avenue (originally, you couldn't turn left in or out of Walton--those parking lots were long yield lanes).



Unfortunately, this never happened, and all we got was some abstract art and a new stoplight.

But look at those businesses...a convenience store, only two familiar faces (Alfred T. Hornback's and Acme Glass), and no Layne's. Based on the placement of Eastgate Food Store, I'd put that at early 1990s or late 1980s.

Starting down the list, we have 101 Walton-103 Walton. 103 Walton was Robinson Pet Clinic in 1989 (but 103A, the space seems small enough so that there's no B...103 must be on the right). 101 was presumably Texcomm. Both are vacant these days.
The empty green roofed building, May 2014

105 Walton, which was a UtoteM since at least the early 1970s (and probably since Day One), became a Circle K in 1984 (if briefly) before becoming Eastgate Food Store in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After decades of being a convenience store, it became Military Depot, a retailer of military-related goods around '92-'93. A few pictures of the Military Depot facade...
You can barely make out the EAS here, I don't know if the shadow was from the military badge or not (probably)
Another view.

Valley Cycling (a 1990s business) was what I remember being in the "main" section of Eastgate at 107 Eastgate. This I do have a picture but it's only postage-stamp sized, and it's on my computer but I'm not going to dig it out right now. , as you may know, was where Textbook Solutions is now. Later, it became a vintage clothing/nostalgia-type store ("Left-Handed Monkey", which lasted...not very long. Blissful Wishes Bridal was here for a while, but eventually by the late 2000s, it was Textbook Solutions, which it remains today.

109 Walton wasn't always food related ("Wing Zone" being here in the early part of the 2000s, records indicate), and it's also where the "Guitar Shop" was in the diagram. Regardless, this is where Leaning Tower Pizza was here at 109 Walton for several years (Partners Food Delivery was here for several years prior apparently, back in the 1990s--but the tenant space for this one is largely drawing a blank). Primo Pizza & Rolls took over when Leaning Tower fell down in spring of 2013. Leaning Tower was an interesting place--it made a particularly greasy pie with a unique cheese mixture. It was also pretty grimy (that's why the pizza is piping hot). It had some garden furniture for an "eat-in" area and had "free delivery" that had a significant discount if you picked it up in store, which means it wasn't actually free at all.

Primo Pizza, a Charles Stover concept, initially planned to reopen the restaurant with a new name and theme and a similar recipe (the recipes were bought along with the store), but instead revamped the recipes and made a more upscale carryout pizza that had pesto on every slice (this opened in late summer 2013). For whatever reason, Primo shut down in February 2014 due to underperformance, but the way it was worded indicated that the closure could be temporary. After all, the sign remained up!

The pictures I took in May 2014 revealed the restaurant was gutted.

Primo Pizza in better days, September 2013
Gutted PP, May 2014
Gutted PP, May 2014. This is where the counter and menu were. The kitchen was behind that wall. This configuration was intact for both LTP and PP&R.

So why did Primo close? Now, I don't know the reason why, but like with Sully's I can make a few guesses.

There's always a chance that Primo Pizza will reopen since Charles Stover still has the recipes and name, but it definitely won't be Eastgate. Here's Primo Pizza's webpage, archived in PNG form.

Further down the line we have Eastgate Hair Shop for Men, I'm pretty sure this hasn't been updated in years (111 Walton) and Oasis Pipes & Tobacco, which moved here from a spot on University evicted for the Plaza Hotel redevelopment and was reduced to rubble soon before the Plaza Hotel came down. The business (and the sign) transplanted to here, 113 Walton, but didn't last long either. There appeared to be some baking equipment scattered in the building. This may have been a holdover from Partners Food Delivery.

Looking inside Oasis, May 2014
Eastgate Barbershop and Oasis, May 2014
Oasis, a body piercing shop, and an apartment finder service, May 2014

119 Walton is called "To The Point" now and the older spot of Textbook Solutions.
123 Walton (no 121 Walton, apparently) is now "Aggieland Apartment Finders", and way in the back behind the strip mall area tucked away is Lost Souls Fixies (it seems pretty sketchy in the areas behind the center).

Over on the other side, we see Alfred T. Hornback's, May 2014. This popular bar (120 Walton Drive) was here for many years, and although not built as it, had a large floor with pool tables and country music. Eastgate was not a huge draw like Northgate was and it closed permanently in summer 2011 though remained open for special events. After DC (Dixie Chicken, not DC Comics) moved out of the building that later contained Blackwater Draw Brewing Company. There's also a small professional office next to it, but I didn't read it too closely (nor is it particularly important to this narrative).

More businesses, May 2014. Behind these is Crossfit 979. Acme Glass is a viable company that's been here for years, but The Event Company has been closed for a few years (wedding planners). The business at 118 Walton hasn't updated its website since July 2013. Acme Glass at 116 Walton does a good business, this one is pretty stable, the building next to it appears to be the old Greyhound station (114 Walton), but it seems vacant and used for storage (a visit in 2011 revealed a filthy but late 1990s era washing machine). I don't know when it went out of service, but it was a while ago. 108 Walton was Wilson Plumbing, but now is the home of Layne's.

Layne's, May 2014. The former Sully's is in the background (check that out here). For what it's worth, Layne's opened before the first Raising Cane's (in 1994 vs. Cane's 1996).

Behind these businesses is Eastgate Park, a place in four segments: it's the medians between the parking lot and Walton, and about four or so vacant lots on Foster. However, city records show that this has been parkland since the late 1930s. Abstract art was installed in 2000.

Of course, that's just the tip of the iceberg, I could also go into the story of Munson Drive, which you could find and read about on MyBCS but since I read a scrapbook of articles, when Munson expanded to Lincoln in the late 1990s, the residents of Munson got the city to put up gates to prevent people from cutting through their neighborhood, which upset everyone else but it took nearly a year of fighting and countless letters to the editor before the city voted to remove the gates (and because at the time, Munson was where all the well-off and politically powerful people were, giving them enormous influence in the city). Or Thomas Park, which had always been owned by the city (all 16 acres) since 1938, but it wasn't until the 1970s when it began to become an actual park. The flagship of this was Thomas Park, which wasn't developed until the late 1970s. According to the great but dated College Station 1938-1988, it mentioned one of its accessories being a "plastic bubble dome which allowed indoor swimming during the winter months."

Either this plastic bubble was impractical and/or fear of lawsuits from people asphyxiating in chlorine gas meant that it would be never be seen again, because I know that Thomas Pool is definitely never open in the winter months to my memory. But such a thing did happen, and you can see some B&W pictures here and here which I originally scanned for Project HOLD.

That's all for now...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Buildings of Luther Street and Wellborn Road

What a strange journey it's been for this post. I originally wrote this post way back in June 2011. After trying to bump it and the like, and realizing that were tons of errors, I figured "forget it" and removed it from the blog. But that was a while back, and I've had this in the "blog boneyard" for a bit. Then I posted it in fall of 2012, complete with a rewritten part with help from Grover Fugate, whose comment is reproduced here.

But it still just wasn't that good, and I had to fill in for something. Furthermore, Fugate's comment was far out of date--this was the 1940s that he was referring to, and I just wanted to know more about when the crossing was closed. I also wanted to know more about the Chinese food place at the corner of Luther Street and Wellborn. What I saw on a 1940s architect's map was that the place where Twin City Mission resale shop is now was a place called "Hrdlicka Café" (which I really can't be sure if I'm pronouncing correct: is it "Herd-lick-ah?"). I updated it again in July 2013 but still found errors: specifically, how Amtrak wasn't accessed through Luther Street West, so we'll get to that later.

For several months, I had a newspaper article on the closure of the crossing at Luther Street West and Wellborn, but removed it again. However, something interesting along the way, specifically how Henry Mayo wrote something for the official city blog on the same subject. It shed some more light on Hrdlicka's restaurant (the italicized paragraph below are from before this blog post came about), plus had a few other treats in store. The picture captions aren't italicized.


Now, what of this Hrdlicka Café? I got a comment from Grover Fugate in the original version of this post (seen below):
1 comment:
Grover Fugate said...
Yes Luther extended over the railroad. That road led to the dump. Right across the railroad was a beer distributor on the left. On the right was a National Guard building.
Right past the NG bldg was a place that made charcoal for a while. Maybe two hundred yards back was a pond that we played around as kids. You can get in touch with me via Anne Boykin. I would rather answer your questions via phone or a personal meeting. Ed Hrdlicka was my Grandfater. I lived in his house with my Mom and Dad. The house was right in front of the railroad crossing.
June 19, 2011 3:46 PM

Indeed, in the 1970s, there was a house there, owned by one Jack Fugate, at 801 Wellborn Road (it wasn't Wellborn Road then, it was Old Highway 6, but the addresses haven't been renumbered). Indeed, he married Marilyn Hrdlicka in 1943 and settled down to the "home place" in College Station, which was likely where her parents were (Jack grew up in Houston Heights). According to the obituary linked above (Jack passed away in 2005), he established "several businesses, including a printing company, a mom and pop store with a washateria next door". It was likely during this time that Hrdlicka Café became a small convenience store: the Piknik Pantry (marked as "2" on the map below).



The laundromat and printing press listed were listed as "803 Luther" on the directory, and it was likely the building (also gone) that was behind the Piknik Pantry.

At some point, the Piknik Pantry changed hands and started serving Chinese take-out as well. Piknik Pantry survived well into the 1990s even as Fish Richards and the other businesses of Fugate's disappeared from the corner.
See below regarding "1", 803 Wellborn.


By the 1980s, the (now gone, unfortunately) house at the corner of Luther Street and Wellborn (labeled as "1" on the map) was converted into a restaurant. This was Fish Richards Half-Century House, serving a variety of good meats and good wines.


Notice that I had mixed up 2 & 3...#3 is the convenience store.

Piknik Pantry & Chinese Food (name confirmed from old phone books and directories) was where my dad picked up this for work several times, and it was (possibly) the first Chinese food I ever had. It probably wouldn't pass modern Brazos health inspections today, though.

At some point prior to the 1990s, there was a dive bar in that area ("The Peanut Gallery"), just south of it.



It's possible that the declining neighborhood caused Fish Richards to close: the Southgate Village Apartments were already there in 1971 and they were already subsidized before Wellborn even adopted its current name!

Here's an Eagle ad from December 1971.

Apparently the reason that Fish Richard's closed was due to a divorce by the couple that owned it, but the building burned down soon after nonetheless (though some ads in the final days of FR's mention that Fish Richard's was looking for a new place). The other interesting aspect is that the Amoco station seen above was the Piknik Pantry and had a different facade at the time. Should I be surprised it had pumps at one time?

Here's an update regarding the building 1, referred to 803 Wellborn even in 1980 (confusing, right?). What was once the printing press and laundromat was home to Fish Richards Bakery, which sold a variety of baked goods all day, every day (except Sunday afternoons). I read somewhere (but lost the source) that this was the original supplier for Subway when it came into town in the early 1980s. Ad can be found here.


Feel to free to leave comments on anything related in this post.

EXTRA NOTE 11-13-13: Looking through directories revealed there was another Chinese restaurant owned by the same owner (Sing Lee, 3030 E. 29th Street)

Updated June 2014 with additional information about Fish Richard's and the bakery.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Grand Station Entertainment / Wolf Pen Bowling / Lowe's

Any College Station resident knows that until circa 2010, we only had Home Depot in terms of big-box store choices.

"Spring Creek Village" at William D. Fitch currently features a Lowe's, Chick-fil-A, and Whataburger, wraps around a gas station with an empty restaurant pad. Great to learn that College Station finally has its first Lowe's, after Bryan having one for years and years.

We did have one, though, in the distant past. As it turns out, we did get a Lowe's back in the mid-1980s, on the bypass. It was much different than the Lowe's of today, much smaller and featuring slightly more departments before streamlining (like electronics!) but it didn't do so well, and closed circa 1989 before being renovated into Wolf Pen Bowl & Skate, which featured a large skating rink (roller, not ice), a snack bar, PowerSports Gymnastics (which was fairly large and did have a small upper level viewing area). Unfortunately, I have no pictures, save for the ad below. It seems based on the ad that they sub-leased the space, and I recall hearing that after it closed it was used as storage space.


I remember going to PowerSports Gymnastics in the early 2000s (later "Power Gymnastics" before finally disappearing in the mid-2000s) and the skating rink (sixth grade, maybe?), and of course, a bowling alley, which was slightly better than the MSC's but not by much. To think that both of the alleys came from the 1990s is beyond me, as by 1999, both were quite run-down. Sadly, I don't have pictures, but by 2007 it was acquired by a new owner. While this meant the loss of a different bowling alley in town (Triangle Bowl in Bryan, which was even worse, apparently, than the other two alleys) it meant that Wolf Pen Bowl & Skate would be renovated. The plan would be like "Boonville Station", a similar project planned in 2005 in Bryan but never got off the ground, and soon Wolf Pen Bowl & Skate closed and was gutted for a new bowling alley, an arcade (though the original Wolf Pen Skate had a few arcade games, I think), glow-in-the-dark mini-golf, an expanded eating area, and laser tag. This, of course, was Grand Station Entertainment, which remains today. It is often mistakenly called Grand Central Station, undoubtedly its namesake.

I don't know if the Wolf Pen Bowl built in front of the store (the aerial suggests the building was expanded to the front and the parking lot altered) or not, but one wonders if they had simply expanded. There's certainly enough space to.

2400 Earl Rudder Freeway

Friday, June 22, 2012

Northgate: University Drive


Flickr photo from "treyerice", showing Northgate as it was. Regrettably, they took out on-street parking a few years back.

This has always been one of the posts I originally wanted to make for a long while, cobbling together various pieces and trying to decide what I wanted to do. At one time, I considered "Northgate: Urban Core or Student Wasteland", and a SEPARATE one for College Main. I also wanted to call a post "Requiem for a Loupot's", too, and the Loupot's building stayed on the page before it got its own page as one of the "post script" posts. Eventually it ballooned into a full fledged post on almost everything that was bounded by Wellborn, University, College Avenue, and the Bryan city limits, but it got too unruly and I eventually started to re-focus it to the University stretch. Even that got out of hand, so check out the new directory page. The result will be just a shell to be able to make comments on the page, though I will likely write full posts for those that have more information than little more than a picture (so, something like one of the bars with constantly change, likely, Chipotle, likely not). Please note that because of this change, there are a number of items here that are out of date. You can write comments saying that things like Notes-n-Quotes, Schotzi's, or Basil Whippet's are gone...I am aware of this.

One of the items I found after this post was originally published, was a copy of "Northgate Historical Resources", which cleared up some misunderstandings on where everything was.

This post goes west to east on University Drive from Wellborn Road to College Avenue and begins at the underpass. Most of us can't remember life without it. It was the first (to my knowledge, and do correct me if I'm wrong) railroad bypass project of the county, but it wasn't always that way. Originally it was "Sulphur Springs Road" (not to be confused to the one in Bryan), and had a railroad spur paralleling it. The overpass was added in the 1960s, after the abandonment of I-GN Railroad (that's why the railroad is dead-on to you when approaching from the south). I wanted to add a photo from Project HOLD of the overpass when it was being built, and there is one elsewhere on this blog which I'll add at a later date.

For me, a trip down University Drive usually involved zipping down the long Yield lane down toward University (which is no longer, even more so since they wrecked Dulie Bell, passing the Deluxe Diner, which often included its menu in the quasi-dining guide I got from the George Bush Library (you can see a recreation of it below), passing by the large building that later had Schotzi's (plus "Skybar", which is owned by Schotzi's) and Zapatos Cantina. Years ago it once had a large DoubleDave's advertisement but DoubleDave's has moved on. Although there are no longer DoubleDave's off campus easily accessible (best you could try for is Texas Avenue Crossing way over at the golf course end), there are DoubleDave's in Texas and beyond.

The first building on this stretch to still exist is Chimy's Cerveceria at 203 University Drive, which was formerly the aforementioned Deluxe, as covered by our new (1/16) post. The numbering starts at 203, since what would be 201, "Boyett Distr. Co." was demolished for what would be the overpass. Looking at a site like Historic Aggieland shows what appears to be a gas station, and apparently it was indeed a Magnolia Oil gas station, which was the origin of the "Pegasus" logo of Mobil.



The "Onion Ring"



Next to the Deluxe Diner is a building with metal siding, 205 University. While it was an eatery called M&M Grill (not to be confused with A&M Grill of the distant past) in the mid-1990s, it was later the flagship location of DoubleDave's PizzaWorks, until it moved off of Northgate for good in 2006. Today, the old DoubleDave's sign can still be visible under the new Schotzi's bar name, with the "Sky Bar" above. You can see in pictures on Yelp, it used to be Skyybar. Schotzi's has live music, which it usually advertises.

Directly next to Schotzi's was The Ranch (209 University), which actually filed in the New Development as "Aquarium Bar", but that never came to past. This used to be Aggieland Flowers & Gifts until around the mid-2000s.

Next to that was Zapatos Cantina at 211 University. Zapatos closed in spring 2013 after Chimy's opened (probably because it was better overall for a similar menu/theme) but one thing that many people don't know is Zapatos Cantina was in fact the original DoubleDave's PizzaWorks location on Northgate (but not the original-original, that is the modern day Coco Loco). Like Bill's next to it, this was once "Don's Barber Shop" in the early 1970s.

A long time ago. I dare say the pizza rolls were better than they are now (Project HOLD)



There was also a barber, "Bill's Style Shop" at 215 University but eventually Bill retired and the space was absorbed into Zapatos Cantina, which eventually became Wobbly Monkey. The original Zapatos section (DoubleDave's) was not part of the deal, but Wobbly Monkey never lasted more than two semesters because the owner sold out. It is now Northgate Juice Joint, which will use part of the outdoor space for an urban garden. Interesting.

Before Bill's, in the early 1970s, this was "Andre's Bicycle Shop".

No alcohol served here, then or now.


At the corner of Boyett and University, where a new stoplight is being built to be the "main entrance" of Northgate, it's a pretty trashy intersection as it stands now. As of this writing, Boulevard 217, the latest in a revolving door of trashy dance halls, and besides, that nasty wood siding replaced the finest (and only) example of Art Deco this city ever had. Read more there for the history of that building.

The other side of Boyett holds a Citgo, which used to be an E-Z Mart. Read more about that here.

One of the cool things about the core of Northgate is that it resembled a bit of an "Old Western" town. Unfortunately, since it was built in the 20th century as mentioned before, FM 60 was not a land of horses, shootouts, and the occasional hanging back in the old days, but as a kid growing up in College Station, it gave it some semblance of something different. Unfortunately, in 2012, the city slapped up a cheap-looking pedestrian barrier, making the area less appealing to the eye.

Information on the current "The Backyard" restaurant and the former Fitzwilly's can be found here, the 303 University tenant.

305 University
Next to The Backyard is a Northgate staple, the Dry Bean Saloon. Like its name suggests, the front resembles something from a different time: a time of horses, shootouts, and the occasional hanging. The ugly pedestrian barrier brings down the appearance of the whole area (as if Northgate wasn't already a bit unsightly).

A shot bar that doesn't allow anyone under 21 in, the building wasn't Dry Bean Saloon until the early 1990s, as prior to it was Sticky Chin's, an ice cream parlor which opened sometime in the late 1980s (and was still open in 1990). At one time, this was a hobby store ("Hobby World of Texas", '72)

307-309 University
"The Chicken" has been a Northgate fixture since 1974. Prior to that was the ""Aggie Den", a pool hall, where (supposedly, since we only have a forum thread mentioning this) you could buy and sell pornographic magazines (they covered the walls, after all), watch porn, or smoke (the last one being a bit of a no-brainer, of course, everyone smoked inside back in the day). It was bought, cleaned up, renamed and played country by Don Ganter. It soon served alcohol, and the rest is history. There was a bar next door (Miranda's, a fern bar), the only major remnant of being it was a painting not covered up by wood (near the snake cage). This was added in 1982 where Dixie Chicken started serving hamburgers. Prior to this expansion, the Chicken only served cheese and summer sausage. Miranda's was at 309 University and the older of the two buildings.

The Aggie Den was not just a nickname for the Adult Arcade, an adult-oriented establishment in the upper level of the Loupot's building, which was raided (illegally, as it turned out later) by the DA. This I remember reading about in a newspaper archive, but the Adult Arcade was a much sleazier place (as in, almost exclusively X-rated films). It was indeed in that place since the late 1960s or early 1970s (as confirmed by a phone book), but did serve some sort of food, possibly summer sausage and cheese like Dixie Chicken did.

Between Dry Bean and Dixie Chicken is "Bottlecap Alley", a small area strewn with thousands of bottlecaps, many of which have rusted into dust due to rain (and urine).

Miranda's


311 University
Home to Duddley's Draw, owned by the same company as Dixie Chicken. It replaced a beer-and-pizza place called Ralph's Pizza back in the 1970s, and is known to be less of a "redneck" place than the Chicken is. This used to have the address of 313 University.

315-317 University
A bit more complicated. In the late 1980s, the space of 317 was Cow Hop (owned by Gideon's, see below), which had by then expanded to the adjacent (tiny) space of 315 University. However, it closed and moved out to University Square, leaving the combined space to a large bar called The Bullseye, which by 1995 closed and became two bars: "The Alley" (315) and "King of the Roadhouse" (317). Soon after, The Alley would become a bar called Coupe de Ville with the Cow Hop returning to its original space (by 1999). Both closed soon enough: Coupe De Ville was crushed by a lawsuit filed in the early 2000s when a young man who turned 21 died from alcohol poisoning. As it turns out, Coupe De Ville's drinks were extremely potent: all of them had names that bragged about how high they were in alcohol: names like "Bad Mother****er, Liquid Cocaine and DWI" (as says the Houston Press--and no, in the real bar, there were no blanking out obscenities). The Flaming Frog's Ass was mostly Everclear (190 proof), and a few contained 151-proof rum (three shots each). By the time police found him that morning, the man's blood alcohol level was .48.

Eventually, both became bars: there was "Bar 315" which closed in March 2012, and Mad Hatters, which remains today. Many an Aggie in the 1980s and 1990s remember getting a "Cow Pie with Fries" from Cow Hop. TABC records mention a place at 317 called "Big Pauly's Garlic Room" (Goodfellas reference?), but I don't think it ever opened (voluntarily cancelled TABC license--would've opened sometime in late 2001 or early 2002).

Sure, this is for the spin-off at Culpepper Plaza and not actually of the Northgate original, but it's a better copy overall from what I have.


In the early 1970s, 315 was "Sound Shop" and 317 was "Burger Hut".

319-327 University
Freebirds World Burrito, Wells Fargo, and Texas Aggieland Bookstore occupy the next building over. At 321 University, there was the original location of "Charlie's Grocery", the first grocery store in College Station. Also known as "Luke and Charlie's", the grocery store wouldn't impress anyone today, and by the time it disappeared in the mid-1980s, it was a joke compared to supermarkets such as the Skaggs Alpha Beta down the road. It was also becoming increasingly irrelevant as similarly-sized UtoteM convenience stores sprouted around the area. Some space was ceded to Texas Aggie Bookstore (327). At one time in the 1980s prior to Freebirds, there was a bar/restaurant called Billy Jack's (319), which also fed off of the old space from Charlie's. Freebirds World Burrito arrived in 1991. Briefly, Texas Aggie Bookstore assumed the old Charlie's space, before it became Wells Fargo. Today, Texas Aggie Bookstore is the Texas AggieLand Bookstore, forced by a name change.

In the early 1970s, they were all small tenants: 319 was Godfrey's Restaurant, 321 was still Charlie's Grocery, 323 was Varsity Barber Shop, 325 was Jeans n Things, and 327 was Texas Aggie Bookstore (much, much smaller).


329 University
Beyond that is Basil Whippet's Pub & Apothecary Lounge, a bar that opened in 2010. Basil Whippet's used to be, briefly, the rap-oriented BMO's in 2009, and before that The Library. While having a bar with a name like that is a classic pun and a convenient excuse to go out drinking, The Library closed in 2008 or 2009 due to poor sales. It also had problems when allegations of racism surfaced. That being said, The Library had a surprisingly long life for a non-"main strip" bar, opening in 2000. Before that, it was "Crooked Path", before that before THAT it was "Equinox" (early to mid 1990s, I'm told) and before that, Northgate Café. Northgate Café did have live music.

From at least 1980 up to the early 1990s, it was Farmer's Market Sandwich Shop, a limited menu version (it later became full line) of Farmer's Market Bakery and Delicatessen in Bryan. It sold sandwiches, soups, salads, and fresh baked goods before becoming Gideon's Farmer's Market (adding catered meats to the Bryan location and pasta, pastries, and beer to the Northgate location--free delivery to dorms, too), and then closing the Northgate location, which became Equinox (the Bryan location closed later). It was somewhere in the long history of being Gideon's/Farmer's Market that it absorbed 331 University, the next to last home to On the Double copying. The building has had a few exterior updates; unfortunately, I don't have pictures I can readily show you (yet).

Mid-1970s, too!

Prior to Farmer's Market, the space was a place called "The Tavern", with the upstairs split between an insurance company and brokers.

As of November 2015, coverage of the Loupot's that was on this page can be found here.

Across College Main is the Sparks Building. Information on the Sparks Building can be found here, in the post linked.

409 University
There's a building that contains a Starbucks Coffee, Potbelly Sandwich Works, and Domino's Pizza, from right to left. Up until around the mid 2000s, the entire building was the University Bookstore (ANOTHER bookstore, yes). According to MyBCS, it closed in February 2006 and was replaced with the new stores by years-end. Though apparently Starbucks had replaced a jewelry store.

Summer 2013.

Just past 409 University is A&M United Methodist Church (417 University), which we'll take a closer look later on (even then, not much more than photos).

Aggieland Credit Union at 501 University Drive has been there for a long time, but it used to be Pizza Hut (yes, even though Pizza Hut is still there at University and Texas). Cycles Etc. (505 University Drive) used to be a different bicycle shop (Cycle Spectrum, apparently), though Cycles Etc. has been in the same place since '98. FedEx Office (509 University) used to be FedEx Kinko's, and before that Kinko's. It also looks like part of the building was demolished and rebuilt later. Apparently it used to be a large patio for a Mexican restaurant/bar that used to be here. I do have pictures of at least some of these, but I'm choosing not to add them for now.

601 University Drive
This once was a more interesting building. As of this writing, this is now a very large Subway, but it wasn't always that way. From what I can tell, this place was built in the late 1980s. In terms of recent history, this was once the home of Rusty Taco, which used to be Papa John's until about 2009-2010. I snapped this picture in 2011 that has some sort of "Treats" listed. The Subway has always been there. Rusty Taco on the other hand, was a 24 hour taqueria, but the summer hours were severely restricted in summer 2012, turning it into a mostly lunch-based option, and it closed around the time the fall 2012 semester started.


Prior to Rusty Taco's move in

I don't have a menu of the Rusty Taco (I remember seeing it on the Internet, but can't find it).

The Rusty Taco, as mentioned above, lasted from about October 2011 to September 2012, and Yelp! is the best resource if you'd like to read more (and it pictures of the front, too!). It was a cheap taco place--cheaper than Fuego--and it showed--the tacos were $2-$3 each and were full of meat, with the flagship item being the "Rusty Taco", a taco filled with reddish-colored meat. It was a chain that had locations in the Dallas area (and has two in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, oddly enough), and put in the old Papa John's, even incorporating a garage door in the restaurant in lieu of windows, creating a hybrid open-air restaurant. The beer was cheap ($1 Pearl), and it was open 24 hours.

According to a guy who worked at the Daily Ruckus (not anymore since that also closed), Rusty Taco's pricing was such that breakfast tacos were cheaper (usually egg-based than meat-based) but the profit margins were much thinner. Not that they were grotesquely overpriced--the tortillas were small and tasted no better than what you could find in a grocery store--but for whatever reason, it didn't work out. Hours were severely cut back in the summer of 2012, and it perished shortly after school started for the 2012-2013 year.

The intriguing part is the fact that this building was once known as (on paper at least) as the University Food Court (from the New Development listings). Since two restaurants (much less one) is hardly a food court, the building once had THREE options: Baskin-Robbins, Little Caesar's, and Subway. I did recently recover a black and white photo that had all three. It should also be noted that Smoothie King took over in the late 1990s ever so briefly (also a bit funny since Papa John's and Smoothie King have Underground outlets), but that eventually disappeared. I don't remember being inside of Papa John's, did they have an eat-in area?

609 University
The Shell used to have the "old Shell" logo. It also has gas priced ten cents higher than elsewhere. The Zip'N here has been around for many years.


701 University
Notes-n-Quotes has been in its current location since 1992. It used to be an Exxon station, and that was still listed in a 1989 directory (as "Dean's Exxon"). Behind it is Jin's Asian Café and Lippman Music. It's possible that the Exxon suffered and/or closed due to a road widening.

Next we have the late BB&T site, its legacy finished after decades of bank use, the the Rise at Northgate (that's a link back to our post on it, not their website) and its CVS at the bottom of it, and across the street, a Taco Bell, which we covered here.

Behind Taco Bell lies what was University Square, a shopping center largely untouched from its groundbreaking in the early 1970s, until very recently. Texas A&M students lost the opportunity to eat at Fat Burger or Hebert's Cajun Food, an incredibly sad double blow, since both had been there since the early 1990s.

There's a McDonald's, which includes a studying area part of the restaurant (well, DESIGNED for studying anyway--it's basically a different dining room) and built on the site of the first McDonald's in the area, and a Chipotle, the last building in the block not owned by University Square/Legacy Point. The Chipotle (815 University Drive) used to be a Mobil gas station until its demolition in the late 1990s/early 2000s for a Chipotle. I always thought it was cool back circa 2003 how McDonald's owned both the McDonald's chain and the Chipotle chain (they later spun it off). This we do not have a picture for.

This is worth noting because Chipotle and Freebirds started out very similarly, except it was Chipotle who had the angel investor (McDonald's) that turned into a national brand. One wonders if it was Freebirds, not Chipotle, that McDonald's bought.

There's even a Chipotle on University Drive East, near the bypass, but they're the only two in town.

And that's it. Sure, a good other portion of Northgate isn't covered, including Church Avenue, but we did cover Boyett. College Main businesses I have put back up (and it was expanded), and Church Avenue is covered elsewhere (that did have originally-cut material).

v53 (9/20/16): Removed the entry for what was the BB&T due to another article outsource.
v52 (1/22/16): Rebuilt intro paragraph to outsource Chimy's and some other things.
v51 (11/1/15): Removed Loupot's as it received its own post.
v50 (9/20/15): Removed 609 University (the Shell) to be on the new directories page, announced further cuts.

For the rest of the updates that used to be listed here, please visit this link.