Showing posts with label gas station. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gas station. Show all posts

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Jimmy Jackson's Exxon

The landmark Exxon sign has stood here for over three decades.


This is the first new post in many months, but it's not a truly new post, it's just an old post "edited for syndication", and was originally part of The Far South Point of Texas Avenue (which is no longer, as the post has been rewritten), one of the last posts, which itself was originally supposed to be a part of "Texas Avenue: The Main Street of the City". Anyway, "Jimmy Jackson's Exxon" opened in 1983 at Miller's Lane (FM 2818 before it finished expanding to the highway) and Texas Avenue, this Exxon has a massive sign that was clearly grandfathered in as College Station would not allow such a majestic structure anymore like that, this Exxon was a full service stop built catty-corner to the Kmart on the edge of town (well, it was the edge back then) with a self-service car wash, garage, and convenience store.

Selling out to "Franky's" in 2001 (aka Frankie's), I actually managed to make contact with Jimmy Jackson's daughter (Mr. Jackson sadly passed away in 2013), but could not locate any photos of the gas station in its heyday. There was a second Jimmy Jackson gas station, which was sold and torn down well before his death, it was the Eckerd (now CVS) at the corner of Villa Maria and Texas Avenue.

In reality, the sign isn't quite so massive as it appears from further 2818 (mostly due to the hills), but something tells me that it was designed to be seen from the bypass when it was built (at least going northbound). As of this writing, I don't seem to have a picture of the actual "Franky's" convenience store, but it seems to have been altered from its original form anyway. I also get the feeling Franky's is kind of sleazy anyway (it was one of the ones pointed out by KBTX as having synthetic cannabis before a variety of laws cracked down on that).

2801 Texas Avenue South

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Burger King at the End (or the Beginning) of Texas Avenue

The store in question.

This post is just on a Burger King (3129 Texas Avenue S). Before I get into that, let me tell you this. I would be lying to you if I said that nostalgia was not one of the driving forces behind this site. After all, I grew up here, and in these posts, published in the last few years and updated since then (such as this post, which received a rewrite nearly a year after its creation) detail most everything I remembered or should've remembered. I've already told about the shops and restaurants here, many of which I grew up, and in versions past of this site, even included things like my old schools, or Adamson Lagoon, and probably if I had more time and research, the doctors and dentists as well (the old pediatric dentist office is gone, with the old Scott & White building at 1600 University Drive East to come soon after).

This part of Texas Avenue, originally explored in a full post with all the descriptions of the stores nearby, including the pool store and the curiously unnoticed empty spot was really special to me in years past. You see, back in those days, the only reason why we would go this way is to go somewhere cool, like my uncle's house in Baton Rouge or perhaps Houston. Even in the early 2000s, there just wasn't a lot out there. Rock Prairie Road had stuff on it, of course, like the hospital, junior high school (whoops, middle school), or even the nice new Kroger that opened in 2000, but that was just about it. There wasn't even another interchange until Greens Prairie Road, and that just had the water tower and an Exxon/McDonald's combo.

Since the Highway 6 bypass was built in the 1970s, prior to around 2006, there was an intersection here with the southbound one-way traffic from the bypass intersecting with Deacon. To the south was Texas Avenue turning into an entrance for Highway 6 south with the northbound lane going from Highway 6. To the south at Deacon was a two-way frontage road that paralleled Texas Avenue up to Wal-Mart and became the southbound Highway 6 frontage road for the section south of Texas Avenue. Yes, for a time, you could drive straight from Nantucket Drive to the Wal-Mart parking lot and back without making a single turn or getting on the highway.

Around 2006, that all changed, and the set-up was altered. The road that paralleled Texas Avenue was cut off at an apartment complex, and the two lanes from Texas Avenue went to the frontage road south (now all one-way) or the highway. Another thing that did change was the demolition of a small Diamond Shamrock gas station (catty-corner from a new Texaco with a Subway inside).

Opening in 2007 (early 2007, I believe), this Burger King opened to replace the one at Culpepper Plaza, which was torn down and replaced with a Chick-fil-A. I always found it a bit strange that there just wasn't very many Burger Kings in town, as in some places they compete head to head with McDonald's...but it still wasn't too far away, and it was never very crowded. As long as it stays open and I don't get some sort of food poisoning, that's a plus!

Updated in August 2015 with new focus. There used to be other photos and a bit of other info, but sorry, that has gone into "storage"

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Rare Gas Station Revival


Figures that I'd have to update this blog every once in a while. This is a small update to one of the Texas Avenue parts with new photos and info. Located next to a Century 21 office (which we didn't photograph), this was a Mobil for years (at least back to 1980, which is when I have phone books) but closed in 2004 (to the best of my memory) and was converted to Stratta Auto Repair for a number of years a few years later. I never released these pictures because the direct sunlight tended to mess them up, but here they are.
Looking at the garage, September 2013. Sorry my thumb partially obscures the shot. It was bright!
Another view, September 2013. I think that chimney is from another building which I believe may be part of the same complex. I remember the name of the business was written on the side wall facing Lincoln, but I'll have to do more research into it.
The pumps are still intact, September 2013. What a time warp!
Mobil signs, September 2013. A lone shadow looks in.
September 2013.
September 2013.

In September I returned to take a few more pictures. Sadly, inquiring within about the Mobil signs had no positive response--the signs were gone, likely disposed. Bummer. FabricCare has made their home in the garage while a tobacco store is opening next to it. Here's some more pictures from Sept. 2014.

Wow, this thing still lights up!.
Another pump that lights up.
More lights.


Behind it was an old garage, originally known as "Murphy's garage" or something like that (informally) but later it became Mechanics Unlimited, all the way into the early 2000s. Eventually, it closed. The building was recently repainted on my visit. The maroon board in the lower right was used to board up the garage doors, while you can see the maroon paint that was once on the bricks

It's 102 Lincoln, but there appears to be something going in there, though the fact that it was issued nearly two years ago makes that dubious. By the way, the chimney seen in the old Mobil shots are from this building, not the Mobil, which is 901 Texas Avenue S.

UPDATE 8/30/15: Shortly after making this post, the renovations were completed at this location. A sign replaced the long-empty Mobil that read, "The College Station" with "Discount Tobacco" written under it.

I still lived in the neighborhood at the time, and was aware of this. "Cute," I thought. "I like the fact that they made efforts to make this look very similar to the Mobil that was once here." After all, no gas station had been here for about a decade, the vacant "Texashell" was never re-occupied, probably owing to a difficult location, and I found it implausible that anyone would open a gas station without an electronic display. Everyone did, and every year more gas stations (especially the Shell stations) would upgrade. I should've noticed that the prices were indeed changing with the market, and what ended up happening is that during late summer, a Valero banner was placed over the sign. It shocked me, because not only was Valero buying essentially a dated gas station (the pumps were updated, they were not mock-ups, but the station hadn't seen a lot of updates over the years), but it was real the whole time! I felt a bit foolish for having thought so (plus "The College Station", the name, was a decent enough pun, though the "Discount Tobacco" threw me off) but come on...at the rate it was going, it was likely to be razed entirely for a new building, with the pumps taken out in the process, or at least, have the canopy destroyed and paved over. You would agree, right?

UPDATE: 10/21/15: Sadly, Valero has upgraded the prices to digital numbers. Alas...

Note: The title photo appears on Wikimapia with permission. I also plan to "outsource" the post, as part of this post was written as the big Texas Avenue post. That's why the name of the post as of 2015 went from "Mobil & Mechanics" to "A Rare Gas Station Revival". Please stand by while further edits continue.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Highway 21 Truck Stop

3401 Texas 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Exxon on Boonville


The Exxon at the corner of FM 1179 and Boonville, which I have only recently seen, as shown here in a picture I took this February. It has been open since at least the mid-1990s and has had several restaurants in it (a bit unusual for something not off of a major thoroughfare), since it has a kitchen and an eat-in area. "Fratello's Pizza Company" is the only one I've found at this address (3200 Boonville Rd) but they also have their location as at the old Daylight Donuts space a bit west of here.

In late 2007, it became the home of Stover Boys, a hamburger-and-fries outlet that kind of had a "rural outlet, specials written on a chalkboard" feel to it that opened to much local acclaim. It was where Bryan-College Station was acquainted with Charles Stover and his restaurants.

Stover's restaurant was an instant success, and people would come out to this little gas station and fill up every available parking space. When it turned out that people would pass it by rather than fight for parking, it was clear that Stover's had outgrown itself and Stover Boys moved into an old restaurant pad in Westgate Shopping Center, clear on the other side of town. This was in 2008, and although it opened around early 2009, the Stover Boys signage still hangs at this Exxon, which also suggests how rarely new restaurants come in.

If you've paid attention to our Facebook page, I updated a number of other articles, which are listed there.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

North of University Drive and South of Bryan

Is this intersection even recognizable anymore?


I decided to separate this from the main Texas Avenue article (as parts of that are looking hairy itself, mostly in dealing with massive walls of text) partially because the area has been changed so much. I was having a bit of trouble in formatting this post, as the area has changed over the past 30-40 years significantly (with the lots being redrawn, even). This is not filler, this is some pretty cool stuff featuring some ads from the past, and a lot of other information. Enjoy.

This page is also intended to complement this page.

EXISTING STRUCTURES, WEST SIDE

Northpoint Crossing we will not cover, even though it's the biggest thing University and Texas has going for it. I know, just bear with me here.

• Hampton Inn was built in the mid to late 1980s. It retains its original exterior, is at 320 Texas Avenue, four stories, decent reviews. It's nothing too memorable, and photos are relatively commonplace.

Official picture from the owner. Notice the Applebee's in the background.


• Home2 Suites by Hilton is the newest thing along Texas Avenue. It's part of the current "hotel boom" and isn't open yet. I don't have photos either. It takes up some old apartments and also the old car wash (see next section).

• Applebee's was built in 1994 according to Brazos CAD. It's at 200 Texas Avenue.

• Knights Inn (104 Texas Avenue) isn't a great hotel today--it had a bit of charm with its uncommon-for-this-town evergreen trees (pine, looks like), but the reviews indicate that it's a dark, dank, nasty place that's rarely cleaned (or cleaned poorly), and in a bad neighborhood. This isn't an entirely unfounded accusation for that last one, because of its proximity to the scruffy apartments behind it, it put up a row of chain link fence blocking access from Meadowland Street (thankfully, aforementioned scruffy "Meadowlands Apartments" seem to be mostly cleared out--mostly). In the early 2000s (up to 2005, it seems), it was Kiva Inn and before that, a Comfort Inn (note that the name had been there before they built the Comfort Suites further down University), and before that, the Texian Inn. Texian Inn opened in 1984 (again, according to Brazos CAD).

DEFUNCT STRUCTURES, WEST SIDE

• Like Northpoint Crossing, a notable "missing building" is the building later known as the Plaza Hotel, which once was a Ramada Inn and later, student dorms entirely for a time. You can read more about the hotel here from this post two years ago. [EDIT 6-18-14: And not to forget the Chevron station either. That was originally a Gulf station, at the northwest corner of Texas and University. Read that here]

• Where the Hampton Inn is now was once the Sands Motel (and the same property plat, as I found out later). I have a good picture of the Sands, and that picture showed it was a "Best Western", back when it was a designation, not a brand. The Sands was razed in the early 1980s. Since the Hampton now occupies the pad, it may have had the same address, but it was 324 Texas Avenue.

• I used to be not sure what this thing north of the Hampton/Sands is. It was definitely there in 1982. In looking at directories, it said this was 300 Texas Avenue, Travel Kleen Car Wash. "But Pseudo3D...or whatever your name is...wasn't Travel Kleen over near Harvey Road, where they built that new strip center?" Yes it was. But my 1982 directory shows that Travel Kleen not there in 1982, and looking at the layout of the building, "self-serve car wash" is the only thing that makes sense in context. Mystery solved!

• Joe Faulks Auto Parts was the thing just north of that. It was open in 1980 (but not '83), and had the address of 208 Texas Avenue. Other than that, I have no info there. It may have also had 206 Texas Avenue.

• Western Motel was there at 204 Texas Avenue. This was another forgettable motel of which there are no decent photos or good ads. It was built in the early 1960s and demolished in the early 1990s. Unknown to when it shut down.

• Where the Texian Inn (now Knights Inn) operates was once a mini-golf course (and good, from what I heard, including the near-ubiquitous windmill). This was the Turf Green Miniature Golf Course (120 Texas Avenue). Turf Green (built in the early 1960s) that sadly I don't have a lot of information on (write in the comments?) but west of that (behind it) was an even more obscure "Western theme park" behind it, Jubilee Junction, opened by Marion Pugh himself. This opened in 1967 but it closed just about one year later in 1968, briefly home to a campaign rally for Texas governor hopeful Paul Eggers in 1970 and a few other events. Jubilee Junction had some 21 structures and featured a variety of displays (including live birds and animals), places to buy food & drink (such as soft drinks at a salvaged saloon bar) and some authentic pieces scattered around the village (Keeny TX's old post office). You could get a souvenir artisan horseshoe from the blacksmith, ride in a covered wagon around the village, or watch a mock gunfight, staged twice a day.

While it certainly sounded unique and interesting, it does sound like the model was flawed, and not enough a big enough trade area to keep it going year after year. That's not an uncommon fate among these types of things, and bigger failures have happened since (like AutoWorld in Michigan). Anyway, Jubilee Junction ultimately turned out to be a bust. By the end of the 1970s, it was completely gone.

Picture courtesy John Ellisor. Used with permission.


• I'm not forgetting the "Snowflake Donuts" building either. That you can read here. It also needs some tenants it's missing.

EXISTING STRUCTURES, EAST SIDE

• At the northeast center of this intersection (University and Texas), is an Exxon, which was built in 1993. This is at 425 Texas Avenue. There is nothing remarkable about it.

413 Texas Avenue is an insurance office. It's also a small, somewhat ugly building, but take a close look at it. Some of you may be old enough to remember it as a Pizza Inn in the late 1960s (Brazos CAD says it was built in 1966) to sometime in the mid-1980s. The building still looks remarkably similar to the ad below. Pizza Inn itself has shrank in recent years, but you can still find it in a few corners of the world not too far away from here (a modern Rattler's gas station en route to Temple has a new location, and one is near Northwest Mall in Houston).

1970s phone book.


411 Texas Avenue was Tokyo Steak House in 1980. The building was built in 1966, but I can't find anything for what it was in the beginning, and the results for Tokyo Steak House indicate that in the mid-1970s (1976, looks like) it started over in Townshire and later came here. It was a bank in the late 1980s, records indicate, though nothing's listed under the Banks in the 1989 yellow pages for this address. Interestingly, it was a bank before becoming a restaurant (1978 directory has "The Last National Bank" here at this address) [EDIT 10/21/15: I think that was actually a supposed to be a joke, and it was really a restaurant.]

1984 phone book


• You can get your fried food fix at the Sonic at 401 Texas Avenue, which was built around late 2004 or early 2005 and replaced an old Sonic at University Drive East (redeveloped in 2007 and now a Brake Check). This was a vacant lot prior to that (at least to 1995), but it wasn't always vacant...

301 Texas Avenue is a Super 8 Motel.

4613 Texas Avenue is a Fairfield Inn & Suites.


DEMOLISHED STRUCTURES, EAST SIDE
• The Shell at the corner of Texas and FM 60 was a Shell up until the early 1990s. You can see a shot of the smaller Shell (logo) sign here (annotated version by AggiePhil) but there was a larger one, too (see the Texas Avenue page). This gem comes from TexAgs, and I have yet to find a picture for this, because that would be hilarious. I have also yet to find an address for this one.

In the late '80s or early '90s, that Shell station had a giant S H E L L sign. One night the S burned out. Someone took a picture of the intersection and the "H E L L" sign and sent it to the Daily Texan, who ran it with the headline, "Welcome to College Station."


• The current home of Sonic at 401 Texas Avenue was "Darby's Foreign Car Parts" in 1978 and 1980 (these two years are not indicative of when it was built, but it was open in this era). I'm not sure when this was demolished, but it was the late 1980s or early 1980s. It also did business as "Enginooity Import Parts & Repair". Not sure which is the "official" one (but Enginooity still operates in Bryan even to this day, apparently) [EDIT 6-21-14: Additionally, 401 Texas Avenue was ALSO the site of Cut Rate Liquor No. 5 concurrently]

301 Texas Avenue at the corner of Cooner and Texas was originally A-1 Auto Parts and then later became Aggie Solar Guard by the late 1980s, which ultimately became Ag Solar Guard in the 1990s as use of the word "Aggie" was cracked down on. It was then demolished, but not before ASG moved north.

315 Texas Avenue was Senter-Piece Flowers in the early 1980s just south of Tom's. This was also demolished for Super 8 eventually.

209 Texas Avenue: Tastee-Freez was here into the early 1970s. Tastee-Freez was at about 1,800 in the 1950s and 1960s but imploded as they couldn't control franchises. There's less than 50 today, so T-F's departure from Bryan should be expected. I can't find what happened to T-F's space later, but it was demolished eventually. The 1980s phone books list nothing for the address (1980 and 1983). I'm not exactly sure where it was.

4613 Texas Avenue was Tom's Barbecue (not "Steakhouse") yet, before it moved to Bryan. This moved in the late 1980s.

4611 Texas Avenue was A&W Drive-In, this also has no information for 1980 and 1983, which implies a restaurant was no longer here. I believe this was the one closer to the Bryan city limits. A&W did make a brief re-appearance in south (well, at the time) College Station when it opened in the Exxon at Rock Prairie, but that's a story for another day.

Wow, it had an eat-in area? That's better than Sonic ever had.


OTHER MYSTERIES
"Gary's Exxon" was supposedly at 408 Texas Avenue, but I can't find a place for it.

This information here was compiled with old directories and phone books, so please don't go ripping this wholeheartedly. Please write in the comments...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Junek's Grocery / Wellborn Grocery

My photo. I wish I had taken it when was still, you know, a real sign.


Gas station nostalgia isn't an obscure hobby, but there seems to be less for the recent nostalgia as well. Case in point: the old "gray and solid colors" Chevron stations from the 1980s and 1990s. I first really noticed the difference a few years ago (there was an abandoned Chevron in Conroe, Texas, in 2011 that had the striking difference, and a Chevron near Jersey Village survived with the original color scheme before the tower finally came down this year).

This "gas nostalgia" often goes hand in hand with the growing endangerment of rural gas stations that are often small and out of date but have excellent barbecue, and the former Chevron in Wellborn was an example of this (along with Rolling Ridge Grocery). Junek's Grocery (Junek being pronounced unfortunately similarly to "eunuch") was the name but around 2007, the Chevron here lots its pumps and branding around 2007, about the same time when the new design was starting to roll out chain-wide (probably closer to 2010 was when it saturated) and not when a more modern Chevron was built nearby.

Because of how far away Wellborn was, I never had the barbecue here. About the time the gas station stopped selling gas, Junek's Barbecue moved out to a nearby lot, had a change of ownership, and closed (becoming a revolving door of restaurants and eateries, none of which have survived for more than a few years: Outlaw Jack's Brew N Chew, Country Cafe, Chubby's Meat Wagon, and now a Cajun restaurant. Meanwhile, the former Chevron station renovated (the facade, at least) and became Wellborn Grocery. You can also see what the facade looked like as "Junek's Grocery" right here or what it looks like as "Wellborn Grocery" right here.

The Chevron here was always a fun sight to see, as I never went this way except on rare occasions (such as going on a long trip). Even in the early to mid 2000s, there wasn't much to see past the Exxon at Rock Prairie. The area between Graham Road and Rock Prairie only had a few (brand new) buildings, Highway 40 didn't exist yet, and Wellborn was entirely two-way only, save for a left hand turn lane near Rock Prairie Road and the remains of North Graham Road. Then, after you'd give up on whether you'd see anything until Navasota, you came to Wellborn.

14889 FM 2154

Update/partial rewrite in 2015

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Travel Kleen and Summit


from Loopnet

317-321 Redmond Drive

Put this in the "forgotten Texas Avenue" file (and the "recycled post" file). Originally reported as part of the Aggieland Inn article when, according to the development list has lots 317, 319, and 321 Redmond Drive abandon their public right of ways. These used to be the "Travel Kleen" car wash and the Summit station, which were both demolished circa 2007. I thought they were part of a redevelopment, but it's not--today both have been cleared for a small strip mall under construction.

I've stopped at the Summit at least once (it was quite run-down) but never at the Travel Kleen--I wasn't aware there was a car wash even there (probably why they closed). Unknown to when either were built.

EDIT 11-6-13: A strip mall is up, featuring the area's first "Sleep Number by Select Comfort" and Aspen Dental. A third space is vacant.

EDIT 6-18-14: In the mid-1990s, this Summit was originally a Shell with a Zip'N convenience store. While a number of the older Shells did not make the conversion in 2003-2004 and had to convert to Summit stores, namely the two rural Shell stations profiled elsewhere on this site, the Shell here converted earlier. I'm not sure when this conversion took place. The Shell was at 321 Redmond (the same as Summit), and it was a Zip'N in 1989 (store #102) though it had been removed by 1993. The Shell signage remained up until at least by 1995.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Older Shell at Harvey Mitchell and Villa Maria

Because it was taken out the car window, it reflected my shirt. Oops.


1439 W. Villa Maria Road

I snapped a few pictures of this gas station recently. First off, it's old, from circa 1988 (or says the anonymous comment from Stories of the West Loop), and while I do remember it was a Zip'N, I don't remember the other tenant (I don't remember the "music/drum shop" but dry cleaners sounds more plausible). In any case, the basic history of this place includes the following: in 2003-2005, it DID in fact remain a Shell (from the older design) without forcing an upgrade of the property. It also didn't originally front 2818 as it does now: it exited onto a power line right of way, which was unpaved and just dumped you on back on Villa Maria. The snow cone/smoothie shack was there as long as I can remember, and the convenience store became "Villa Express" around 2006-2007, which in the first picture is quite faded.

The other shop that's there is "Xtreme Hitz", a clothing store. According to Facebook they opened in March 2012 (but I never saw them going to summer classes at Blinn that summer), so maybe they opened in October. They appear to carry hip-hop related clothing and clubwear. In any case, I don't remember anything in my travels about a clothing store co-habitating with a gas station (mostly banks, restaurants, and aforementioned dry cleaners).

Recent trips have indicated, however, that the signs are gone and they are re-doing the exterior (the weathered red-and-yellow on the sign front remains, however). Speaking of weathered things, the Shell has had for years a billboard near the Exxon at La Brisa announcing the prices. Over the years, I've sadly watched the prices climb (and the sign fade, get repainted, and fade again).

Today's "updated old post" involves Madden's Street Cuisine, which features a new photo.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Northgate Chevron

She cleans up nicely. There's even a canvas-covered area on the University side for the taco truck that hangs out here.

301 University Drive

When I went to college at A&M in the early 2010s, I always had seen this strange pile of bricks on the corner of where a run-down gas station sat and wondered what, if any, grander building was once there. Turns out, there wasn't one. There has always been a gas station structure here since the 1970s or 1980s, and before that, it was a residential house with a yard. Below you can see the area circa 1961 from Historic Aerials (as is prominently printed on the screengrab). You can see the building that houses The Backyard (originally residential, actually), along with the present-day Dixie Chicken (before it expanded), the present-day Dry Bean Saloon, Bottlecap Alley when it was wider (making it an actual usable alley and not a trash-filled, urine-soaked walkway labeled as a tourist attraction), and of course, the Campus Theater. It's a shame that most of the residential houses on Northgate had to go, converting them ALL to bars and restaurants would have made for a much more aesthetically interesting area, much how Montrose in Houston used to look like.

Sometime around the late 1960s or early 1970s, the house was torn down and a Philips 66 gas station was built, but after that things got a bit murky. In the very late 1970s it was enclosed to be a bar. Two of the comments from the older version of this page seem at end with each other: "Around 1979-80 the owner enclosed the old service bays, remodeled and turned it into the Thirsty Turtle" and "I bought the Thirsty Turtle and remodeled it and reopened it as the 12th Man & Co. in 1978. The Thirsty Turtle was indeed a bar. It had a small but loyal clientele. Some of them actually blamed me for closing the Turtle and were somewhat threatening at times. But we got opened and survived until Texas changed the drinking age laws."

Others seem to remember 12th Man & Co. came first. Regardless, sometime during the mid-1980s (likely 1986, which would make sense with the "drinking laws" time frame) the building was torn down for a gas station again, a Citgo with a 7-Eleven (as Citgo and 7-Eleven built stores together in that era). In the spring of 1993, the 7-Eleven name vanished from the area as they were sold to E-Z Mart (by this point, the stores in Houston had also since been sold to National Convenience Stores where they obtained the Stop N Go name).

While I'm sure E-Z Mart still had the Slurpee machines (until they all broke like the rest of the former 7-Eleven stores in town), over time, the E-Z Mart just got more and more run-down, with the nickname "Sleazy Mart"which kept the Slurpee machines for a while, but even that didn't last. It picked up the name "Sleazy Mart" and just got worse from there (though to be fair, it was in very close to proximity to the bars). The earliest reference I could find is from this 2004 posting but who knows how far it really goes back.

By the time I got to A&M, the E-Z Mart name had disappeared, having sold their stores to other owners around the mid-2000s (I seem to remember the Citgo at Southwest Parkway and Wellborn became Zip'N around 2004, but don't quote me on that). The store had been renamed to "Aggie Food Mart" but A&M's lawyers don't want private businesses using "Aggie" or "A&M" for anything anymore, so it was just removed. The canopy was literally falling apart, the pumps didn't really work properly, and there was a trash-filled alley in the back where a faded mural was (now painted over), but I imagine that it was probably meant to be used for additional retail adjoining the 7-Eleven. Today that space (space is valuable in Northgate) is just wasted.

Sad thing is, ALL the gas pumps had looked like that.

The Boyett stoplight installed in summer 2012 made the intersection a more prominent "entrance" to Northgate (compared to the east side of Northgate, where large attractive campus buildings co-mingle with fast foods and the Rise at Northgate) just made the eyesore intersection more obvious, sharing it with the ruined Campus Theater across the street.

Sometime around 2016, things started to change. The Citgo branding completely disappeared and the gas station went unbranded for a time as it morphed into a Chevron, and finally, came the "Gig'Em Food Mart" name, complete with a shiny new Chevron canopy and pumps (interestingly, this came right at the time as the Southgate Chevron lost its branding), but I haven't been inside since they redid it since I have no idea if it's just window-dressing or the inside was done as well. You know, I kind of hope that perhaps that Stripes buys it (before the deal closes with 7-Eleven) so that perhaps it could become a 7-Eleven once again.


Updated 7-30-17: Reports of this being a Chevron (originally) were false, that has been changed. Some new information on post-Philips 66 was added. New photo was added. New title (formerly "Citgo Gas Station, Northgate").

Friday, May 24, 2013

Other Buildings Demolished for Northpoint Crossing

When the Plaza Hotel article was cut and re-edited, an allusion was made that I would be returning to the cut material eventually. All these buildings are gone, incorporated (well, most of them, at least) into the Northpoint Crossing development.



Represented by the 1 on the map was a gas station. It was originally a Gulf station, opening too long after the Ramada, with a garage. It was kept relatively updated, with the only known change being turned into a Chevron in the early 1990s, which gave it a re-do on the trim from red-orange tiles to the 1990s Chevron blue-and-gray. It was finally shut down in the mid-2000s and torn down circa 2007. I don't remember the garage specifically, however--it's possible that it was converted into a convenience store in the 1990s. Some older phone books refer to this as "Piper's Gulf (later "Chevron", of course) Service Center". The address of this was 420 Texas Avenue.

Courtesy "je"

2 was a mystery for me. You can see a picture here. This was 100,000 Auto Parts, which had the same address of Ramada Inn (410 Texas Avenue, which it had up to its demise).

I also recently took a picture of an old aerial of the area (so it's a bit low quality) here.


3 was built as a UtoteM convenience store, once extremely common across town and the state. It became a Circle K in 1984 with the buy-out of the chain. Later on by 2007, it became "Ink Dreams", and a few years later, "Oasis Pipes & Tobacco". The address was 1405 University Drive. I don't have the full history of the building, however. In July 2013, I discovered in 1995, it was listed as "Sterling Automotive". Since the lot of the former UtoteM is pretty small, it's likely that this was either just a showroom or the old parking lot behind it (as seen) was used for Sterling, and not for University Tower. Oasis moved to Eastgate after it was evicted.

4 was a Kettle at 1403 University Drive, dating back to at least 1980. Distinctive because the yellow and black P A N C A K E S sign, it closed sometime in the 1990s (It was open at least into 1998, so that's the date I'm going to go with) after being open since the early 1980s. While the Kettle signage disappeared several years before its demise, the PANCAKES sign (not unlike the Waffle House logo, which it's often confused with) was very distinctive.

Regarding these twoI have two Google Maps Street View photos, one from 2011 and one from 2007 (it shouldn't be too hard to tell which one is which). It also clearly shows the P A N C A K E S sign, so if you have any doubt that it was a Waffle House, you can dispel them, because we never had one and from the likes of it won't be getting one anytime soon (let's be realistic here).



Originally part of another development called North Park (and the building out of the rest of Meadowland Road), the Meadowland Apartments (6) were (likely) built in the 1980s and were owned by the same owners of University Tower at one time. I'm guessing these were closed in 2005-2006, but I don't know for sure. I believed them to be located at 701 University, but later evidence suggested that they had individual addresses per building, which I haven't found yet. Remarkably, a few still stand: I guess that Northpoint Crossing never managed to get all of them. At least one of them was demolished for the "Home2 Suites by Hilton" hotel.

As for North Park, 5 was the only remaining house left on the block, 125 Meadowland. This was taken out for the redevelopment. It looks like it had a second structure behind it: possibly additional bedrooms. I have buddies who live in Eastgate, wherein at least two live in the main house, and at least one lives in a shack behind the main house.



Finally, we have 7, a 1960s-era building has seen a few things come and go. The address was 100 Texas Avenue South.

The mid-mod building started out as the Dutch Kettle Snack Bar (*not* related to the Kettle restaurant on University) there at Hensel and Texas, and probably one of the first (if not the first) 24 hour eateries in College Station. Alas, while other 24 hours eateries benefitted from the Plaza implosion such as Fuego and Denny's, this did not, as had been closed for years (even as the donut shop, which was decidedly NOT 24 hours). Eventually, by 1990, it was a Schlotzsky's Deli location (confirmed), and from the mid-1990s up to the mid-2000s, it was "Snowflake Donuts", which closed without much notice well prior to the demolition of the area.

The leasing office for Northpoint Crossing sits here and has apparently taken the address for its own.


Not mine, originally from a Brazos County history book




There were still even more on this block...more motels, a restaurant that you may have heard of on this blog, mini-golf, and more. That can be found here


updated 11/18/13
updated 6/7/14 with 2

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Taco Bell on University


731 University Drive

Although the New Development lists mention that the exterior will be redone soon, this started out in the early 1990s (according to MyBCS) as a James Coney Island, a hot dog chain out of Houston. I don't have a picture of the building when it was a James Coney Island, but I can surmise it looks similar (if not identical) to this picture, right down to the door placement, the black and white checkered part, and, just out of view in my Taco Bell shot, a circular window. This look is also supported by the original outline of the roof. In any case, I think it would look better as a JCI than a Taco Bell (and the source is true).

Before the James Coney Island, it was an old-style Texaco, built with custom maroon roof tiles instead of the stock red.

EDIT July 15: Drove by to find that they were completely renovating the restaurant. It doesn't look like this anymore. Too bad...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rolling Ridge Grocery



3898 North Graham Road

Like what what we've been doing recently, this is an expanded version of a part of an earlier post.

A cluster of trailer homes is at the intersection of I&GN and North Graham (yes, I know that I&GN between Rock Prairie and North Graham is Holleman, but...) and was fairly well-kept for a number of years. They're the "double" sized trailer homes, and I believe there was even a small community pool. There's also a gas station, which seemed to be (and still is, to a certain extent) out in the middle of nowhere. Remember, this long predated every gas station along Rock Prairie and Graham. This is Rolling Ridge Grocery.

It's also notable because at one time, it sold barbecue, and every Texan worth his salt knows that some of the best barbecue can be found in a no-frills, backroads joint. Yes, back in the days in the 1990s and early 2000s (though by the latter time, it had passed into a different owner, and it wasn't quite as tasty), this sold barbecue (hence, "Rolling Ridge Grocery & BBQ") with awesome ribs. It was also a Shell station. Back in the Shell days, there was an old poster from the 1980s about a sleeping child not buckled up. This was removed after the Summit branding took over. Inside, it was (and still is) relatively rustic. I even remember a few baskets of fruit near the exits (inside, of course). Regrettably, I couldn't get great photos of the Shell/Summit (I didn't want to attract attention). It became a Summit about the time Shell went through a major upgrade: everyone had to update to the new Shell logo or lose the license (this happened about mid-2000s), which is interesting as it's the only Summit in town now (both the one on Dowling and the one near J.J.'s shut down a while back).


Regrettably, I couldn't get great photos of the Shell/Summit (I didn't want to attract attention), and I don't believe they sell barbecue anymore (smoker was sold, I think), which is a shame (but if they still do, leave a comment! I'd love to be proven wrong!)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Villa Maria and Texas Avenue


Texas Avenue South and Villa Maria Road

Here's another snapshot of life that I never really experienced, if I did, it was brief like a passing moment. The loss of a large Texaco and a Chinese restaurant for a Walgreens. As it turns out, Walgreens does have a penchant for tearing down good Chinese buffets. The "Aggieland Texaco" was here, as listed as 2907 Texas Avenue on older (pre-2005) restaurant report cards, and based on nearby addresses (and there IS no longer a 2907 Texas Avenue), this is what it was, though it did convert to a Shell later. It replaced something else between 1995 and 2000, though I don't know what.


The photo on the top is from the Eagle. I seem to recall a different photo from a different angle that had the gas station (fully intact) but I can't find it anywhere. Bummer. I know the gas station had brown brick, though.

I don't have a lot of information on the businesses here, but Soundwaves was an audio store and China Garden had two levels, though the Chinese buffet had closed prior to being demolished. According to MyBCS, the rumor was the woman who owned it committed suicide, but I don't put a lot of stock in that (being a rumor and all). It was previously a Mr. Gatti's pizza. There was also a furniture store (in the back part? Or maybe the front? Never mind, see the comments) that was torn down. I can't tell which is Soundwaves and which is the furniture store, but Soundwaves was a head shop back in the 1970s.

I was relieved that when they tore it down, they didn't touch the Golden Chick (blue roof) right next to it, but unfortunately it closed anyway about that time and turned into a Chinese fast food place. I never ate there when I went to Blinn, but if someone prefers one of the iffy Chinese buffets we have nowadays, well, that raises a red flag.

Despite my feelings on the whole demolition thing...I admit that Walgreens is more useful than a gas station (even though it would've been nice to have a gas station on that side of the road), and it wouldn't be fair if I didn't mention that I utilized the small retail shops they built. I've returned Amazon packages at the UPS store (2005 charter tenant?), I've bought pizza at Little Caesar's (fall 2010 opening), and I've used Walgreens (though there still is a vacancy between Little Caesar's and UPS).

On the subject of Golden Chick--well...at least there's one in Hearne.

Updated a few weeks later to alter to new format, minimal edits

EDIT 7/4/13: Mr. Gatti's closed sometime prior to Gattiland's opening. Mr. Gatti's in Northgate was the one that moved.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Checkers

604 Holleman Drive

Today's post is about the gas station at Holleman and Welsh, or more accurately, what came before it.


This was the building in question.


While I was told it was a laundromat at one time (last tenant, prior to when it was demolished circa 1997-1998), it was actually a convenience store, which was built sometimes in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Built as a UtoteM and rebranded as Circle K in 1984, the store closed sometime later, but from reading everything about it, it wasn't a nice place. It never sold gas, had bars on the windows, and was once investigated by police for selling pornography near the counters that wasn't wrapped in any sort of plastic.

"Checkers", the gas station that replaced it was/is unique in a few ways. It's not any type of branded station, which is fairly unique in the landscape: Texaco, Summit, Citgo, Valero, Shell, Exxon, and Chevron are all common, but none I can think of is a truly unique name (but Googling the name strongly indicates it's a Texaco in all but name). The other thing that's even odder is the fact that there appears to be an obvious second level with windows looking out. Perhaps that someone lives up there--though even with locally owned businesses, "living above the store" is rare today, and personally, I doubt it, due to two reasons:

1) The windows never seem to be lit.
2) Given that three windows face the bright lights of the station, it seems rather...undesirable.

Still, I don't know if the space is for rent, and saying "I live above a gas station" is kind of cool where low-rise is king and mixed-use is almost unheard of.

There were "restaurants" in the gas station for years (mostly over-the-counter), going with a yellow sign for several years, all of them with names you never heard of. Mostly Mexican and fried chicken (current one is cajun, "The Remnant from Nawlins"), the only one I really remember was "El Taco Loco", which had a anthropomorphic hard taco with sunglasses, which was probably 7-10 years ago.

Circa 2011, they repainted their sign (gas station overhang) from green to white.

By the way, one more thing: there wasn't a stop here for years. A stop sign was added on Holleman in the late 1990s (with the eastbound on the light pole) but in the late 2000s (2009?) a stoplight was finally added here.
[8/14]

Tiny updates made on May 19th

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.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gulf / Chevron at Southgate


Click for larger size/higher resolution. I don't know who the subject is.


Something different today: here the focus isn't on a building, but the places around it. Here's a pretty awesome picture [click for higher resolution] of a Gulf station off of George Bush Drive, courtesy of Project HOLD from 1985 (supposedly). Based on the placement of the road, I'm guessing this is where the Chevron is. It's great seeing the George Bush (er, Jersey) stoplight as it was...the "old style" of College Station stoplights (becoming increasingly rare today), complete with the old railroad crossing (a cantilever railroad crossing? Awesome! Wait, where's the crossing gate? Guess it doesn't have one, since those of that type have the cantilever but no gate), and all those trees, too: this must have been before Olsen Field, and a time when you could probably still see the I-GN right of way on both sides.

I can't see what is behind the Gulf station. Whatever it was, it later became some crummy liquor store, and ultimately was cleaned up to be a clothing shop (Aggieland Outfitters, of course).

Anyway, the gas station has been a Chevron since the early 1990s when a merger happened that converted area Gulf stores to Chevron. It updated once to the newer 2005 design (didn't roll out fully until the late 2000s), and has always been Reveille's (convenience store) at least since the mid-1990s (if not further back).

I snapped this modern view of the gas station (the Reveille's sign can't be seen) from a bus.


I found this picture as well, which could be this Chevron. The angle will work, and the garage could easily have been turned to a convenience store later.

300 George Bush Drive

Sunday, January 30, 2011

From Country Grocery to Living Water Pottery

The shadows make this look far darker than what it actually is


101 N. Dowling Road

Back way before the Harvey Mitchell overpass and before the Holleman expansion, I'd like to tell you about a building on North Dowling.

My earliest memories involve a Shell station, with the older logo (golden shell surrounded with red) and a gray building, with, in capital letters, COUNTRY GROCERY. Between Country and Grocery, there was a circle, but covered up with a withered ad for pet food (I never found out what the circle originally said, though evidence strongly suggests it said LONE STAR FEED). It was far older than I was, existing since at least 1983.

Unfortunately, my parents never went there. Ever. I heard it was because the owners were dishonest (keep in mind that the pumps were not pay-at-the-pump, something I take for granted today), and given the fact it was a convenience store, prices were always higher than a normal supermarket. (Ed: someone on MyBCS says it used to have tasty BBQ in this era)

Eventually, in the late 1990s or early 2000s, it cleaned up dramatically and got a new sign: Barker's Country Store. This was in a "western" font and the sign was white on brown.

Around 2004, however, a few things changed, the store and even the gas station changed hands. By early 2005 (I think?) it was a Summit (with still the red-and-yellow signs) with one of the ugliest signs I had ever seen. It looked like someone had just taped masking tape onto red poster board creating a "JAKE'S FOOD MART".

Jake's was a bust as well. It was noticed that the store was no longer in operation when the gas prices ceased to change with the rest of the town's gas prices.

Around 2006-2007, the property was really cleaned up (repainted light tan, replacing whatever shade Barker's had painted it) and opened as "Shortee's Café", featuring a rather strange chef character. The pumps were torn out and the ground patched (I think the tank's still there). This was short-lived as Shortee's (I don't know if they ever opened the dining area) moved out to Bryan within months, with the building reopened as Travis' Soul Food. This I actually ate at. It was run by these nice old ladies with southern accents...I managed to get a menu (seen below)



Food was served from metal pans that I guess were cooked from the kitchen and served cafeteria-style. It wasn't bad, but that not great either (I had a horrible feeling that I would be throwing up that night from food sickness). In retrospect, it was probably on par with mediocre cafeterias anyway. If it had been more accessible, it would have been popular with the senior citizen population, but that never happened.

Eventually, it reopened as "Living Water Pottery", which is still open and offers pottery lessons. I'm guessing it stays in business due to it being a niche, and they even sell the pottery online at Etsy.

Since the construction of Holleman's extension and the new Harvey Mitchell overpass, Living Water is in a pretty lousy location. But despite that, it still manages to get business. I'm glad that even though that section of North Dowling is no longer viable for retail, it can still stay in business. We leave you with one final picture: the old gas station sign, empty and decaying in the sun:


Updated May 16, 2012, originally titled "A Building on North Dowling", later updated in summer 2013, with a minor update in 2015

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.