Showing posts with label central college station neighborhood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label central college station neighborhood. Show all posts

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ace of Aggieland and Other Stores at Navarro

11907 FM 2154

This story doesn't have a happy ending.

Navarro Drive was originally a road in the part of the Southwood Valley subdivision that had duplexes. It ran from Rio Grande to Welsh, with stop signs at Welsh and Pedernales Drive, neither of which had stopped cross traffic. It ended abruptly on the west edge of town, with no cul-de-sac, or even an even cut-off the road.

Over on Wellborn Road, there was a small private road called Elbrich Road, which was a dirt road that led to a small self-storage facility. It was a lonely little property with a few sodium-vapor lights (or mercury-vapor), and lacked a formal name. Just further up from the storage unit was a private dwelling, but it wasn't able to be seen from Wellborn. On the other side of Wellborn was Cain Road. But circa 2000, Elbrich and the house were destroyed and replaced with a large extension of Navarro, which included a very wide stretch with more duplexes. Still, while Navarro now connected to Wellborn, it felt lonely and empty at that corner.

Fast forward to 2007, when a sign announced that a small strip mall, anchored by Ace Hardware, would open. Over 2008, I saw it go from a foundation (March 2008, en route to Houston for Spring Break) to a full plaza. "Wellborn Shopping Center" opened in November 2008, though it originally opened as Navarro West Plaza, which I think is a better name.

It seemed so cool that "Ace of Aggieland" was a "small" hardware store so close to home -- it came in years after Doug's, Furrow, and Paint & More all closed. Ace was the place for my family, as it was the closest hardware store, and actually was a place where you could walk in and explore. Unfortunately, it didn't have the same feel as Furrow's, which I sorely missed: it had a lot of home decor and random kitchen junk, and was smaller. It did have a lot of the things that Lowe's and Home Depot had, which made it convenient. And although it didn't have candy, it had free coffee and popcorn.

But in fall 2010, Lowe's opened at William D. Fitch and Highway 6, with Ace folding in late January 2011, without even a going out of business sale. It liquidated in March of that year, losing its inventory and signage.

The other stores, still open, include Fat Burger Grill, All Phone Toys, and Mak's Liquor, which all opened in March 2009. I've never really eaten at Fat Burger Grill, and the PDF mentions a "Shoe Bar" between Ace and the "All Phone Toys" store, but that space has never been open. (Edit July 14: All Phone Toys is now closed as well)

These two pictures are from Google Earth, showing Elbrich and Navarro.





(formerly known as "Wellborn Shopping Center" until January 21, 2013)
(formerly known as "Road Profile: Navarro Drive" until May 19, 2013, which added information about Ace Hardware, taken from another post)\
(formerly known as "Ace of Aggieland" until July 14, 2013, which added information on closed stores)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stories of the West Loop

The "West Loop" was built in the early 1970s, about the time of the "East Loop". Unlike the East Loop, the West Loop was two lanes, and didn't even connect to the East Loop, each went around what was the Highway 6. The West Loop converted into a (mostly) four lane road (with turn lane) sometime in the late 1980s (I think) and was rebranded as Harvey Mitchell Parkway in 1999.

Originally, the way that this post worked was that there were 13 "stories", which roughly go down 2818 from south to north, but were contained chronologically within itself.

The Red Barricade
The Red Barricade is no longer with us, but it was a curiosity for years. Like the red barricade at Wellborn, the red barricade stood there, but it was a curiosity since it was located off to the side and there was nothing in front of it. As it turns out, it marked where Dartmouth would come in (it was planned for years, and in the mid-2000s once proposed to the "city center", complete with a roundabout and numerous new buildings). Regardless, I still remember it, as it was there for so many years.

The Areas Beyond Wal-Mart
The Citibank used to be First American Bank. More on FAB (which was a local bank) will be discussed later when we get around to talking about Momentum Plaza. One of my earliest memories was...never mind. It used to be our family's main bank, but we switched around the time of/before the Citibank rebrand. There's also an Exxon here, with its tall sign (again, before ordinances). I wish I remembered the convenience store before "Frankie's" (probably a generic Exxon convenience store). Frankie's seemed to get a sleazy reputation after a report a few years back when it was one of the sellers of synthetic cannabis (which was later banned).

There's a Periko used car lot behind here, which used to be something else. Does anyone remember what it used to be? All I can tell you about Periko is the obnoxious advertising that only ran for a few months, which featured just some guy talking, with another guy in a parrot costume shouting "PERIKO! PERIKO!". It's a lot less funny than it sounds, unfortunately.

The College Station Business Center
The name "College Station Business Center" invokes something grandiose, like a small cluster of mid-1990s office buildings, all mid-rise, looking fairly nice with fairly high rent. Read more about it here.

Doux Chene Apartments
We don't cover apartment complexes on this site typically but for now we'll make an exception, since three things are in play.

#1: This isn't a dedicated post, so it's more acceptable.
#2: Doux Chene Apartments has never changed their name since day one, which makes it more acceptable than others who slap a new coat of paint on their dated apartment complexes and name it something more attractive. Honesty is always nice.
#3: It had an upscale restaurant there at one point.

From circa 1974 to late 1970s or early 1980s, it was "Mansard House". Mansard House, despite being the upper level of an apartment complex on the edge of town (sure, why not?) was one of the really nice places in town. Live entertainment, seafood, lobster, lamb, and more were all on the menu.

"For the life you lead"? What's that supposed to mean?

Later on, it was also a nightclub called "Studio 2818", "Dallas", then "Scandals" (there might be more) but eventually everything closed and it's just an empty space.

Grace Bible Church Southwood
One of the many "one church, two locations" churches in town. The only thing notable about GBC Southwood is how it was built in the late 1970s as A&M Church of Christ, which closed in the early 2000s (it moved out to the bypass), and eventually was "rebranded" as "Community Service Center", and ultimately was extensively renovated by Grace Bible Church to become the current location (they even extruded the doors out slightly)

Put A Tiger in Your Tank at the Home of the Tigers
This was built maybe 1997 (before my brother entered high school) as a modern building with a convenience store, white awnings, Popeye's (with a drive-through window), and Zuka Juice (a smoothie shop). Within a few years, Zuka Juice was acquired by Jamba Juice in 1999 but shut down in the early 2000s (2001-2002), never to be seen again in College Station (it once had another store near Barnes & Noble) until the University Town Center opened in 2005. I once believed them to be totally extinct until a visit to Houston in 2003 (remember--this was before Wikipedia). In the mid-2000s, Popeye's shut down (it was small and dirty) and the withered awnings were replaced with blue awnings. It wasn't until maybe 2009 that it started to come back to life, with a new bank rebuilding the Popeye's drive-through, and Donald's Donuts replacing the Jamba Juice area.

As I got into high school, I realized that the gas station was not as great as I once thought it was. It was always overpriced (similar to how the gas stations on Northgate are priced a dime higher per gallon to elsewhere in town). It was where the "bad kids" went behind the school to smoke (this wasn't hearsay, I actually witnessed it. After I got out of high school, there was a fight here that made the local news). When I was in high school, a clerk was shot in a late-night robbery.

A&M Consolidated High School
We used to have a post on this, but I took it off because I wasn't satisfied with it. More on this later.

The Mysterious Building
There's an old building off 2818 on the south side between Wellborn and 2818. Whatever was there didn't stick around for very long. I think it's empty now. No idea what it was or what it was built as.

The Overpass at Wellborn
Growing up, this used to be an intersection with two overhead blinking lights blinking red in each direction. Before my time, FM 2818 was once two lanes, but it was modified to four lanes. With four yield lanes on every side (except on the southbound Wellborn-to-westbound FM 2818, where it was a merging lane), it barely received any traffic during the daytime. Cars stopped, and went. You'd be lucky if there were cars at all four areas. By 1997 or 1998, it was not going to work as a long-range plan, because traffic had increased, so a stoplight was installed. As traffic sources built up in all four directions, the intersection got increasingly busy, and the railroad complicated things during rush hour. I remember my father telling me that they were contemplating building an overpass (something, at the time, seemed unbelievable: the final product was completely unrecognizable for months), that it would take five years to start building, and another five years to finish. He also told me that the fields surrounding it would fill up with business. While the north side was developed with The Woodlands ca. 2006, the south side remained (I always heard rumors of a Wal-Mart Supercenter there).

Around 2008, the gravel piles on the southeast side that had been there for years and years started to get bigger. A lot bigger. A huge dirt pile appeared off of Dowling Road, and I remember when the first new railroad crossings went up. From June 2009 until around spring 2010, it was a mess. You couldn't turn from North Dowling Road in or out at all (and they took out trees and that little streetlight at the corner, installed in the early 1990s to help drivers turn at Dowling), and from Jones-Butler, it was only right in, right out. Many times we had to turn around at the Shell gas station to get home, or worse, make U-turns to get into the airport. But eventually it was completed. The detour roads constantly shifted (Wellborn was moved at this time). I got these from Google Maps Street View back in 2010, before they were removed.

Keep in mind that not all of these pics were taken ON the West Loop, some include Dowling (note the bit of surrounding asphalt to the north side--that's the original Dowling crossing remnants, which, if you know Texas 6 history, was once part of the official Texas 6 route)











The Dowling Used Car Lot
In the late 1990s or early 2000s, someone had the bright idea of parking their car in the area between Harvey Mitchell Parkway and what is now Moore Supply Company (though it wasn't Moore Supply Co. back then), and putting a "For Sale" sign on it. This, in turn, was a success. The car was sold, and other people started to put up their cars in the space to be sold. At one time there was up to five cars, and no less than 3, until the company (or the county) that was there got fed up with people parking their cars there, and put up "No Parking" signs in the area.

Luther Street West
Like explained below, there was a time not too long ago when Luther didn't have many apartments on it at all, maybe one or two instead of the full lining of the south side like it is today (as the north side is still owned by the University). Since Marion Pugh often got clogged and difficult to turn in and out of George Bush Drive, the next best option was taking Luther Street West to Harvey Mitchell Parkway. Unfortunately, the topography of 2818 is less than ideal, and in 2005, a slew of accidents, including one where a woman with a head injury had to be airlifted to the Temple Scott & White, finally forced the city to put up a median in 2006. This separated it from the last segment of Luther, which led to the poultry science building. Eventually, a light was put up in late 2007, which annoys many drivers to no end.

Since they'll add a light at George Bush and Penberthy after extending it to Luther Street West, I'll be satisfied if they disable the lights and add a median that prohibits left turns (perhaps also renaming the poultry science section as "Poultry Science Road"), or if they blast it through to Dowling Road. But neither of those will happen.

The Picket Fence
In the blissful days before 9/11, FM 2818 was far more rural than it is today. 2818 Place was just open countryside, the power lines and streetlights had not yet invaded, and Luther was practically empty. One of the things was that Easterwood Airport had a white picket fence, probably no more than three feet in height. It also had a curious little military "obstacle course" (or at least someone told me it was some sort of obstacle course) that resembled a playground, somewhere around the fence near George Bush Drive. I forgot which side of the fence it was on (probably their side), but it was demolished circa 2002 when the picket fence was demolished for a six/seven foot barbed wire topped metal fence which is in place today.

The Entrance to Bryan
If you continued down FM 2818, you would get to the Bryan entrance. Now, it's all torn up now, but you would go down a long hill, and pass by a huge Exxon sign. It's now run down, with the taller Exxon sign completely smashed out, and the convenience store painted tan. The Shell billboard was there, always, (repainted once), but always displaying the price.

There was the "Welcome to Bryan" sign, drop to 50MPH, and the hanging lights at Villa Maria and 2818. I think there was a time when the Exxon was not even there, and for a while, the left hand turn light had this funky grating on it so you could only see it when facing it dead-on. This remained until they started construction on the overpass, and by the time that happened, there were several changes: the new northbound part directly connected to the older Shell, the whole northwest corner behind the Exxon station (been there for a while, includes Subway, Wells Fargo, a dry cleaners, and a Popeyes--though Popeyes updated its signage as of late) has been torn up for that new Walmart Supercenter I've been hearing of (and they just opened a new Walmart grocery store, too), while there's a Shell with McDonald's on the other corner.

They started construction on the overpass and closed off the familiar old fading stoplight (and the streetlight that glowed green because it was mercury vapor), and on Friday, July 12, I saw that the stoplight was the same as it always was (having been covered for months due to reconstruction of the old southbound lanes of Harvey Mitchell into the new frontage road), but on the way home, they updated most of the lights on the unit and added the "grates". That's not how I remembered it!

The Flashing Lights
The Turkey Creek lights, as I found out, were the one of the last holdouts in what used to be a pretty common occurrence in B-CS, and as of January 2012, they're gone. They WERE at the intersection of 2818 and 6 (north side), maybe were (are?) at Sandy Point, maybe was at Leonard. Leonard is a real stoplight now, and I know the two gas stations were originally something else. One was a Mobil until relatively recently (and by "relatively recent" I mean "sometime in the mid-2000s"). There are no more active Mobil stations in College Station-Bryan to my knowledge.

The Industrial Park
First off, some recent research suggests that this part of FM 2818 pre-dated the West Loop (forgot what it was called--it may have been FM 2818). The Texas Hall of Fame was here, which was a dance hall, built in the 1970s but closed in early 2012 or late 2011 and was torn down for a huge Walmart that hasn't opened yet.

North of Leonard is Scarmardo Foodservice Inc., with large "Scarmardo Produce Co." sign on the side. This is the company that operates the Farm Patch farmer's market on College Avenue in Bryan, and prior to the outsourcing, supplied a significant amount of food to the Texas A&M Dining Service before they switched to Compass/Chartwells, which prefers to serve corrugated cardboard rather than locally sourced food. Go figure.

The "Industrial Park" area began with the Texas Hall of Fame for me, which I never understood really what it was as a kid (and now it's gone...), then the trucking company, then the Budweiser bottling plant, and a few other entities, all clustered together. The railroad would go overhead (which was the westbound railroad out to Caldwell), and there would be two roads that paralleled FM 2818 but ended at the railroad or turned off into parts unknown. As this often tied in with the "Waco trips" that I took as a kid (to see my grandfather, this is the only time we went up this way), the industrial park and the railroad overpass overhead (which was rarer at the time).

The Railroad Spurs
Even further north was the Bryan Business Park, which curiously built the railroad spur network before the businesses came, so there was a railroad coming toward FM 2818 and stopping. It was amazingly strange, to have this "abandoned" railroad just emerging from the distance, cutting through a small field, and ending in a small mound of grass. There was another business closer to Highway 6 in the two-lane section of 2818 that DID have another railroad spur, but I never saw it as a kid and thus was much less interesting. Memories of association of this one with those Waco trips still haunt me/enable me to remember long gone days.

On a recent trip to Waco (far less common, to different places) I noticed that the space on the business park that I had always seen was gone, leading me to never discern what it was. Bummer. I did discern that the park was named "Northpoint Business Park", predating the name of a certain apartment complex replacing a certain hotel.

The End
They replaced the sign at the very end with a slightly different design sometime after 2007, which I have archived somewhere in my collection of Google Maps Street View screen grab collection. I was saddened when they took out the aforementioned blinking light, and also when they built that gas station/Denny's/truck stop ("Big Gas"? Did they let a ten year old name this? Heck, a three year old named a restaurant, so...) , which gave it more of an urban feel and robbed it of its "last chance Brazos County" look.

So that's Stories of the West Loop in a nutshell. You may notice something new on the blog: I've enabled "Share" buttons on this blog, which means you can "+1" this, share on Facebook, Twitter, or the like.

RAW DUMP UNTIL I GET THIS POST REPAIRED AS IT IS MUCH OUT OF DATE AND I CAN'T DO THAT UNDERTAKING RIGHT NOW:
Shell (Bryan)
I've been to this one, located at the intersection of Villa Maria and 2818 several times. It was built roughly 2007, and one of the few restaurants I've ever heard in 2011 if I wanted to "Super Size" my meal. Maybe they just meant large, but I do remember "Super Size" and how it largely defined the "Golden Days" of McDonald's for me. It was already getting phased out when a certain filmmaker did some sort of hatchet job on the restaurant, so know the truth of what happened.


I really appreciate the comments here, keep it up!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sunset Gardens


Welcome to Sunset Gardens!


3020 South Texas Avenue

Quick, what's between Sonic and Wings N More on Texas Avenue? A bunch of things, actually, including the old location of Petal Patch, a Domino's Pizza, lawyers offices, a fitness place, a pool store, and a burned-out greenhouse/garden store that has been more or less untouched since the late 1980s.

Yes, this is Sunset Gardens. Considered an unclaimed property since 1992, Sunset Gardens was destroyed in a fire in the late 1980s by reasons unknown, and supposedly, according to MyBCS, due to the fertilizer contamination, would require lots of cleanup dollars invested if that area was to be ever utilized again.

I have no idea what Sunset Gardens looked like before its devastating fire: seems that there's no readily accessible satellite imagery from those days. However, I do have this ad, which given the original October 1985 publication date, indicates it first opened in 1983. Notice the logo: you can still see in the modern pictures, three decades after it opened.



But I did make the trip out there recently and take a few pictures.


Welcome to Sunset Gardens!



Same area, different view



The sign, relatively untouched, even with some of a labelscar attached, in a similar font to the "Parkway Square" font near the Kroger. Unfortunately, it's been marred by the anti-bevel crowd, which is a stupid issue I care little about.



Looking out.



A bit of foundation visible.



This structure was saved, except for the burned puncture.


UPDATE: Added opening date, and the ad based upon which this was derived.

Friday, August 26, 2011

[Side Stories] Welsh Avenue

Originally called "Welsh to George Bush", then became a Road Profile, then went back to a Side Stories.


I do remember a time in the 1990s, not directly, when it was proposed that Welsh go all the way to George Bush, at Houston. Houston and George Bush put up a stoplight circa 1994, and in the late 1990s, a stop sign had been placed at Welsh and Holleman.

Of course, this ended up not happening, and Welsh continued as a two lane road (no turn lane) to Angus Street, where it still ends today.

But such a thing was still on the table in the late 1980s, when Welsh was proposed to be a four-lane road going straight into "new Jersey Street" (that is, the current George Bush). Residents were (of course) unhappy with this, and petitioned the city to not do that (they didn't).



Now, what's interesting is that they ARE willing, unlike in the 1990s, to let Welsh add a turn lane all the way to Jersey, as well as upgrading Dexter. Of course, that ended up also not happening. There's even a gap in between the Dexter(s) at Southwest Parkway and the rest of the city that was placed sometime before the 1990s, that is, if it wasn't always that way to begin with.

And it's kind of a shame they didn't go with one of the other options because there is really not that many ways to get into campus. East-west through George Bush and University, north-south through Wellborn, and maybe College Avenue...and wouldn't it be nice if there was a road that could go from Rock Prairie to TAMU?

Around 2011, a bunch of homes along Welsh (closer to the western side) were razed and replaced with denser and newer houses.

There's also the Checkers at the corner, which has been a site of a convenience store for at least 30 years, mostly solidly.

At Southwest Parkway and Welsh Avenue, there's the Embassy Townhomes. These laughably ugly places can be best described as exactly the same type of townhomes found in the Eastern United States (particularly Washington DC and points north), except placed there years after the fact. It would be as if someone built a Soviet-style apartment building in an upscale suburb. Fortunately for Embassy, it tends to blend into the somewhat dumpy surroundings, which prevents it from sticking out too much.

The stretch of Welsh from Southwest Parkway to Harvey Mitchell is largely failed commercial with successful education purposes.

For many years (dating back to the 1980s), the "Student Korner" grocery was located next to the gas station. By the late 1990s, it shut (with the old sign NEVER being changed) and sat vacant for years and years before reopening in 2012 as "Determined Faith Christian Center", which besides changing the sign, made no exterior renovations. In fact, the Student Korner road sign is still up.

Next to Student Korner was a little Greek hole in the wall. Since it never bothered to put a sign above the storefront, it was passed over and closed. By 2006, it was a Coco Loco and still is today.

On the right is 1806 Welsh Avenue, which was obviously a failure, because it only has one tenant (Suite G, so six/seven empty), Monograms & More. It's almost certain that 1806 Welsh never was 100% filled.

Next to it was an old yellow sign (gone now, disappeared in the late 2000s) that said "Now Leasing for Fall XXXX". The XXXX was actually blacked out spot, because it was originally a year (1998, maybe?), then the CSISD offices. After that is the massive A&M Consolidated High School complex.

The stoplight at Harvey Mitchell and Welsh was originally a two-lanes-and-a-turn-lane affair coming up to the road. A small post had been put on the right side to prevent people jumping into the bike lane/drop off to turn right. The construction in 2007-2008 not only updated the stoplight design, but added additional straight lanes to both sides, plus yield lanes. It also added a crosswalk on the west side of the intersection (which is almost never used).

On the other side, there's an Exxon station, covered in Stories of the West Loop.

From there on, it's mostly suburbia (forgettable, though may cover it in some form or fashion). Navarro Drive is here, which often has some people turning in and out, but it's never enough for Welsh to require a stop sign (yet).

The Deacon one DOES require a stop sign, however. There's a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints here, and it used to have a bizarre (and TALL) sculpture of three rods pointing up. It was later removed (height ordinances?)
I seem to remember that it until 2007, the intersection had just traditional left hand turn lanes, and then they changed it into this slightly strange merging thing today. (Maybe it wasn't 2007. I just remember going down a house there and seeing it) Why? Who knows! It causes problems for people unfamiliar with it. Well, Welsh ends at Rock Prairie, which installed a light there in the early 2000s.

It is two lanes with turn lanes for most of the way except in parts mentioned and has always been done in asphalt past Holleman.

Given that Victoria's start is a block away and it requires a short "jog" to Victoria (a similar sized road), I wish that they could've connected both together. Unfortunately, since it's hemmed in on both sides, that would be near impossible.

Oh, and a few other things: it wasn't as nearly as long it is today, and was expanded numerous times, with the Rock Prairie end coming in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Start: Angus Street
Terminus: Rock Prairie Road

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Walmart, Albertsons, and Other Stores

Wal-Mart 1995
Our two stores, back in 1995

Back when this blog started, I mentioned that I had a bunch of stuff back at the now-defunct Two Way Roads (well, not entirely defunct--if you're a fan of an old computer game called "Yoot Tower", and not the iOS one, check back this Thanksgiving, it will be worth your while).

One of these posts was about the local College Station Wal-Mart. This wasn't just a Wal-Mart, this was my Wal-Mart, this was College Station's only Wal-Mart, and I remember when blue-vested employees handed out smiley face stickers and there was a lot more American goods there than today.

Too often you'll find most blog posts about Wal-Mart being either adoration of the store or how Wal-Mart is the Devil. Not here, there will be criticism, but it is what it is.

College Park Station is the "official" name of this strip center (mentioned on a PDF I forgot to download before it disappeared), announced in 2009 when the Wal-Mart said it would remodel. I don't know if had anything before that (I think it was Southwood Place, like the mini-strip center behind it). Either way, neither of these were mentioned ever again.

This post deals primarily with Wal-Mart (or Walmart, depending on stylization). It was also written about the time of the remodel, of which I was excited about (it was the biggest thing happening at the time), and that takes up the majority of the article.



Unlike the nearby Albertsons (1991-summer 2008, which you can read more about below) Wal-Mart was a success, and from opening in 1988, helped drive Kmart out of College Station (and other cities, for that matter).

It should be noted that the unusual layout was from this early era, and will not be altered, even though it no longer tends to "fit" with the rest of the blog.

My story dates back to 1995 when the Wal-Mart was ditching its 1980s-era brown facade for a slight refreshening and expansion (see top of the page).

I forgot what the 1988 Wal-Mart facade looked like: it didn't have the enclosed tinted-glass breezeway you see on some small-town Wal-Marts, and I'm not sure of any "Discount City" signage either. But soon after, it did remodel to the 1990s Wal-Mart format (star between WAL and MART, American flag, blue, McDonald's inside).
This came at a time when the nearby Bryan added a new Supercenter format, closing down a 11-year-old location at Manor East Mall.
Talks arose that the Wal-Mart might move to a Supercenter format. For years, the idea was bounced around, but zoning permits and citizen outcry blocked any serious attempts. Ultimately, the Albertson's would perish and the Wal-Mart moved in for the kill, expanding to a Supercenter.

I remember a bit about the original store. On the right after you entered was the One-Hour Photo, then the Customer Service, then the restaurant.
Customer Service had restrooms (admittedly pretty dirty, but remember the "hand" shaped water fountains? I overlaid my hand on them as I pushed them, but eventually they just switched to the regular "PUSH" buttons). I remember they had atlases there, and even at one time, a Daytona USA arcade machine!

The restaurant was a McDonald's after the renovations (I don't recall anything before that), complete with a bench with Ronald sitting there. Ronald was a great photo-op (you could sit next to him) but sometime later they removed the bench and replaced him with a creepy (and not at all affable) statue of Ronald standing up. This monster Ronald was, I believe, one of the causes of the McDonald's closing circa 1998-1999. It was replaced with Radio Grill, a vaguely-1950s themed restaurant that piped out generic greasy food. While some may liberally toss the "greasy food" label around, Radio Grill was nothing more than that. And forgettable greasy food, since I don't remember much about it. This lasted until 2006, when it was torn out for Subway. Subway was a bit different, featuring a false brick facade, and instead the food in the back, the serving line was in the side.

In 2010, the restaurant space met its demise when it was torn out for the renovations.

The electronics section was largely a "pen" in the middle of the store, kept that way so they could check out items (as they were high-price). Originally, games were on the left, videos on the right. The games had a scanner system so you could scan a bar code and watch a video of the game on overhead TVs. By 2004, it mostly not working, as was the terrible GBC model they had bolted in to the wall (the right button on the D-pad was completely screwed up by 2001). I remember this because one time I had stayed behind in the electronics section to play The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. The right button on the D-pad became the least of my concerns when my dad found me...

In 2005, they rearranged the store, so that from left to right (you entered from the right, so it was left to right in your perspective): computer peripherals, DVDs, music, video games, iPods, AV equipment. The electronics section really was a nasty place, as it was cramped, misbehaving kids would mess up the place with their disgusting hygiene and over-aggressive video game playing.

Early yet random memories include a floor-to-ceiling stack of N64s and either a stand-up Donkey Kong 64 or Pokémon Snap display. Or both.

I think the electronics section became the pharmacy later: our family's now-defunct Performa 550 came from this Wal-Mart, but I don't remember it being the 1995-era electronics section.

The hardware section I seem to remember had fans overhanging the section. There was also a paint chip center which I remember being abandoned out in the rain (complete with all the old chips) after the renovation happened.

Funniest memory? They had a column near the spray paints where people (illegally) tested them out.

I also remember a rack of different signs you could buy (they were basically plastic) that had stuff like "Garage Sale" on it. I bought one that was black with red letters that read "Keep Out!". I kept that on my door for many years.

Along the back wall, there were large pictures, one had a family eating watermelon, two boys laughing, a moon with some 1990s script lettering. The boys section was where I got most of my clothes (my mother bought them, anyway), and the jewelry was the place where I got a few of my watches. I remember seeing a "Baby Ear Piercing Kit", which was about as bad as it sounds.

Fabrics was a huge section, and had all the thread, rugs, creepy dolls that you can paint, and wax fruit you could ever need. It wasn't as big as Hobby Lobby, but had all the basics (including a particular flowery smell).

No big memories on toys. I bought a Pokémon board game here and some Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars, but that was long ago (to put it in perspective, I used to get said little cars at Kmart). I don't really have a lot of toy memories: the KB Toys and Toys R Us were both far away from home, and I never went to either. Most prominent section was the bicycles, which ran down the corridor to the Garden Center.

The pet section had huge racks of dog food and cat litter. On the back wall, there were lots of embedded tanks in the wall with fish with colors on how they'd behave with others (green, yellow, and red). Red fish were aggressive (but there were few of them). Green fish would coexist with others peacefully.

The pharmacy was huge, it had images of medicine stuff above the pharmacy window, a large seating area, and a large section with shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, over-the-counter medicine (many of Equate, the house brand), hair coloring kits, and more.

Mens section had a huge row of jeans.

Shoes was another huge section, and in the 1990s, had a slanted mirrors on some benches. My siblings would pretend the floor was tilted and try to roll down.

The pesticide/herbicide section was near the garden center. It smelled strong of chemicals, but that was where we got the Amdro, something always needed in a land plagued with fire ants.

Food section had a candy aisle, chips, two-liter sodas, and other dry staples.

The Vision Center, located to the left from the entrance once had a way that you could run all the way through the Vision Center, out the door, and in through the Wal-Mart main entrance. Near the Vision Center were old refrigerated shelves that had faded red, yellow, and blue striping. They sold milk.

Dressing room was located in the middle of the women's clothing: a shoddy operation, with only five dressing rooms and only one mens room.

There was also a reasonable selection of books and magazines. For years, they sold most of the "Wizard of Oz" series. The garden center was also there, being a humid place where plants were sold.

And up until the early 2000s, there was an occasional tent sale in the parking lot.

I grew to hate Wal-Mart, because they played terrible music in it, and a strange overall smell permeated me, feeling like washing hands when I got home was not enough. In the mid-2000s, they replaced the carpet in the clothing department with faux hardwood, which quickly got quite nasty-looking from scratching carts.

But around September 2009, the local Wal-Mart decided to finally start remodeling into a Supercenter, ending rumors and putting to rest their plan to open at a proposed shopping center off Rock Prairie Road. And for the next six months or so, I was really excited. I took pictures. I attended the grand opening. I got cake at the grand opening, two types.

But the Supercenter wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.

It was really huge in terms of square footage, 254,000 square feet (likely counting the garden center). This put it on par with the late 1980s "hypermarkets". The store's layout also resembled Target in many aspects. Unfortunately, they wasted a lot of space, in the backrooms, in the main store, it was a real disappointment.
They actually admitted to lowering shelf height and widening aisles. The lights changed, making the store much more sterile than before. I didn't like it.

Every department shrunk. The electronics section was admittedly more open with even a display Wii, which I'm sure won't last long. Electronics was the only one that didn't downscale dramatically. Everything, Cosmetics, Jewelry, Health & Beauty, Pharmacy, Mens, Pets, Womens, Fabric, Shoes, Vision Center, everything pretty much was sliced down.

Not a lot of new checkouts opened up, and they didn't even open a portrait studio in the front arcade area. A larger Subway opened up, however.

The food section wasn't that impressive: it had HVAC ceilings but plain concrete floors. They didn't bother to do anything to it. And rotesserie chickens, one of my favorite features of the Hewitt Wal-Mart Supercenter, weren't really phased in until months later. I think I got my hopes up, because I was comparing to a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Hewitt that opened in 2003 or 2004.

They took out a section of parking lot for a retention pond as well.

Also, the name irritated me: they just called it "Walmart", even though it had a Supercenter inside. Much to my chagrin, Wal-Mart Supercenter stores in Houston were later repainted tan and redubbed as "Walmart".

So it was back to not liking Walmart again, though I did appreciate the fact I could buy delicious foodstuffs at the bakery, and I'll admit it, it was fun having a Supercenter, being able to pick up a few groceries while going to Wal-Mart (it was no H-E-B). Eventually, the Walmart started to get a bit of bad publicity. Not much sooner had it reopened that it was the opening to an incident that left a Fort Worth police officer critically injured, and shoplifting started to dramatically increase, culminating in a shooting, wherein a military-trained LP officer was forced to shoot a shoplifter, which had both a gun (which he managed to get out of him during a struggle) and a knife.

Here are the photos taken during the remodeling process.

These first ones were taken early on in the process, around October 2009 or so.


The first order of business was to rip into the old Albertsons.



The new pharmacy, then floating in a sea of cheap t-shirts



The new pharmacy, again



A barrier was put up on the side of the store where the addition would come in. As of February 1, 2010, the actual walls had not come down yet, but this is looking up to the ceiling. I never did find out when the walls actually came down.


Old vision center. This was a fairly open area originally, with this part of the lobby in front of the checkout stand. A bench was around here.

Checkout stands have been moved back.


Makeshift vision center. It eventually moved to an alcove spot in front of the store.




This is around Easter break, after the original entrance had closed




A rainy day in February, I believe. This has the original walls of the store, and also proves that the Yelp photo is incorrect.




New signage. Identities obscured.




I'm not sure when this picture was taken. It was early 2010, that's all I know.




Another angle.


EDIT July 1, 2012: Changed "in" to "circa".

EDIT July 29 2012: More pictures (Set 2)


Look out! A giant spider! This was what the "Outdoor Living" entrance area looked like when it was new and fully enclosed.



I think I have this as my cellphone wallpaper. It is a cool shot.



This used to be Subway, taken sometime in April or late March.



...


Velcro board so departments could move around.

Those are the only pictures worth mentioning: I had some pictures of the back wall of what is now the lunch meats, but those aren't particularly good or historic. It's a bummer that the supermarket section isn't particularly large or very good at all. I think that some of that 250,000 square feet is all storage space (apparently, they DO have some storage space in the back of Albertsons, which was painted from a reddish brown to a yellowish brown).

I'd like to say that should Wal-Mart have been a competent grocery store owner, I would like to say that the new supermarket section was all that the Albertsons lacked and more. The butcher section was good--the meat selection is comparable with H-E-B or Kroger. The florist has great arrangements, the international foods section has brought a lot of great stuff that no one else carries, and the bakery is wonderful. There's free samples every day.

But that paragraph is a blatant lie: there's no butcher, no florists, rarely a free sample, and the bakery is average at best (I doubt they make anything from scratch there).

1815 Brothers Blvd.

ALBERTSONS
Albertsons (no apostrophe, something I found a few years back) had never really thrived in my town, despite reaching a peak with three stores between 2002 and 2006. Similar to Winn-Dixie, which slowly perished in the area years ago (closing its last local store in 2002), Albertsons held out in the region, with this (its first store) opening in 1991 and closing its last one in 2011

This particular store closed in summer 2008.

My family never shopped at Albertsons. Not because it was far away: it was actually one of the closer grocery stores, but because the prices were substantially higher (and overall quality worse), so we ended up going to H-E-B Pantry Foods and Kroger. It's a mystery it survived for as long as it did.

The Albertsons in question doesn't have a lot of fine memories for me, but I did visit it often enough to remember some things about it (that couldn't be said for AppleTree, for instance) but here's what I do remember:

- It remodeled in 2002.
- The renovated part included a Starbucks kiosk (really).
- The original store had a cool checkout counter with a cool circular conveyor to get the food to the bagger. I don't know exactly how it worked, but it made the checkout conveyor belts at Wal-Mart, H-E-B Pantry, Kroger, and Target downright boring.
- A section in the front rented DVDs at a ridiculously low price but the discs were dirty and scratched. We got these around 2004-2006. It eventually closed toward the very end and sold Aggie merchandise.
- The fish market was smelly which is actually a bad sign. It wasn't fresh.
- The front of the store, looking up, had a huge mirror. This was removed in the remodel.

Around 2006, Albertsons was split up and sold to different companies. A few years prior (or was it in 2006?) the Albertsons also was rebranded as "Albertsons Sav-on", though no one really called it as such.

2205 Longmire

CIRCLE K, NOW TEXACO
The Circle K opened circa 1989, after Wal-Mart but before Albertsons. This was the first and last Circle K stores to be built in College Station as a Circle K. There were other Circle K stores in College Station, but they were all dated stores from UtoteM without gas pumps. Well, by 1998 or so, Circle K had left town and it became a "Handi Stop" and Conoco. Later, this gave way to Diamond Shamrock (early 2000s?) which ultimately became a Texaco by the late 2000s. Unfortunately, I also don't have a picture for it. 2201 Longmire Drive.

CHURCH'S CHICKEN
The Church's Chicken opened circa 2005, replacing a Wienerschnitzel, which opened in the early 1990s. The buildings were almost identical, except Wienerschnitzel had red trim instead of blue (also, don't have a picture). I don't know when Wienerschnitzel closed: I want to say 2002. In any case, the older Bryan location still is open. Likewise for Circle K, I don't have a picture for it. 2800 Texas Avenue South.

SCHLOTZSKY'S
Opened in the late 1990s, this has gone under one significant change--circa 2007, they redecorated (with the "lotz better" décor instead of the "Silly Name, Serious Sandwich" décor), dropped the "Deli" part of the name, and started serving Cinnabon.
2210 Harvey Mitchell Parkway South.


OTHER STORES
There are other stores to the right of the (former) Albertsons, all with blue awnings (which I all lack pictures for, but you can see a few by visiting Wikimapia, but the photos aren't mine. The Western Beverages hasn't changed probably since day one (1991?), but the others have. There used to be a Kirk's Cleaners (which moved out a bit further down Harvey Mitchell) apparently. Current tenants to the right of Western Beverages (and face Longmire) include (in order) RICOH [former Kirk's Cleaners?], Sun City Tanning, MediSpa & Salon, D.V. Nails, and State Farm Insurance.

There's another whole strip on Brothers, behind Walmart. That's going to be covered another day.