Wednesday, June 23, 2010

H-E-B College Station

Author's picture of 1900 Texas Avenue South from June 2019

This H-E-B store opened as the FIRST full-line store in the Bryan-College Station area (as opposed to a Pantry store) and it replaced the H-E-B Pantry Foods across Holleman. The store opened in spring 2002 around the time that the H-E-B Pantry stores in Houston were being replaced at a rapid rate, and while I had been in a "real" H-E-B before, the now-defunct Valley Mills/Dutton store in Waco (that's a link to my other site, Carbon-izer), the H-E-B here blew it out of the water, offering everything the Pantry had (except for the nice ambience) and adding a real bakery (with bolillos, which were a favorite when visiting the Waco store), a tortilleria, a pharmacy, a floral department, seafood, and a deli.
Up until 2015, the store's décor and layout remained largely the same, with some changes have gone on within H-E-B in the past decade. Originally, they had a video game section with a display in the middle that had TVs playing the Super Smash Bros. Melee trailer (hey, it was early 2002), and you could buy a portable PSOne there. This was gutted for more of the "general merchandise" selection they have today. Unfortunately, it was one of the earlier departments scrapped when it became clear what customer's buying habits were, though it was for the better (H-E-B's merchandising is not quite as sharp these days). The sushi-making kiosk and "Showtime" were added later during later reconfigurations, and at some point in the early 2010s, H-E-B moved away from plates in the deli (though there wasn't much besides dried-out fried chicken and potato wedges) in favor of cold "grab-and-go" items (and later, "Meal Simple" kits). In the front, there were what appeared to be large sheds (they were later removed to accommodate more garden supplies), and there was also a Washington Mutual bank inside (which may or not have been the first bank there). Fortunately, H-E-B converted it to an IBC bank (removed circa 2012) before Washington Mutual collapsed completely.

The store really is big.

Until COVID, the store was 24/7 all year, which made the store extremely convenient (and not even all of the Houston area stores did that). Of course, night hours meant that the stores were cluttered with boxes and the service departments were shuttered, but it was still extremely convenient (though H-E-B wasn't the only one that stayed open that late)...though the store's popularity and tight footprint meant that parking was an issue, and that tight footprint meant that the store could never be physically expanded. The 2015 remodel mostly just replaced the existing décor ( tearing off the giant lettering on the sides of the colored walls), moved the florist to the other side of the store near the pharmacy (where the books and magazines used to be), rearranging the produce area so that it was easier to access the main store instead of winding around it, and adding the "Curbside" service to the store (using old bank space, but taking up even more parking).

Enjoy these few pictures I took at H-E-B in June 2010, taken with my old cellphone camera.





In the early days of this post, I used to have H-E-B directories from 2002 and 2005 available for download, but I figured it wasn't worth re-uploading from the Dropbox Public folder where it used to be.

The H-E-B saved part of the parking lot that El Chico used (though a few years after H-E-B opened, El Chico was torn down entirely for a bank), which was once part of a larger parking lot. Across from El Chico (on the other side of the parking lot, further down Holleman) was a shabby-looking maroon building (with cedar shake shingles if I remember right), built in the mid-1980s, holding Aggieland Printing (1801 Holleman), and later Early Bird Cleaners. Both moved to a new building in the parking lot of the H-E-B at Park Place. This was the only other retail the H-E-B had near it.

Aggieland Printing was at 1902 Texas Avenue South from 2002 to 2019 when Aggieland Printing owner John Stimson retired, and it was merged into Angonia Print and Copy of Bryan, which adopted the Aggieland Printing name, and in 2020 was replaced with a HOTWORX fitness studio. 1904 Texas Avenue South held Sew Vac City by 2005 and into the mid-2010s when it was replaced by Mattress One. They were still here in 2018 but a few years later had been replaced with F45 Training.

Smoothie King moved into 1908 Texas Avenue South in early 2010 (they used to be at the Kroger shopping center, 2416C Texas Avenue South). LA Weight Loss had previously been here since 2003 and through the 2000s (and I believe that this is where Early Bird Cleaners might have been when it first moved, didn't last long...but the drive-through presence would support that). There doesn't seem to have been a 1906 Texas Avenue South...everything has been accounted for. Below, you can see the configuration of El Chico and surrounding retail before the H-E-B was built.

UPDATE 07-19-2021: Spun off El Chico (and the car dealerships before it) into a new post. This is not the first update of this post. Major rewrites had been done in 2015 and June 2019.
UPDATE 04-05-2023: Another significant rewrite, better incorporating the adjacent retail building.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Randall's / Albertsons

The decaying monolith beckons.

If you're reading this article from the archives, this isn't the first blog post (a number of other early articles were removed), but it is the oldest one available.

In the fall of 1991, Randall's Food Markets, based out of Houston, opened a "New Generation" store in College Station at 615 University Drive East, fairly close to the Texas A&M University campus. Until H-E-B began building larger stores in the 2000s, it was the largest grocery store in the county (not like there was much competition) and definitely the largest one in College Station. It had, according to this article featured "a coffee department with a bar and stools, fresh-made juices, pizza from scratch, a full-line floral department, a full-service bank and a one-hour photo shop", and at 80k square feet (the size of the H-E-Bs now), it was a sight to behold. Unfortunately, due to ongoing difficulties with Randalls' financial conditions, in 1997, it was sold along with stores in Pasadena and Round Rock to Albertsons, which renovated and reopened the stores. In College Station at least this resulted in the closure of the University Square store, though as you can see from that page Albertsons at some point realized this to be a mistake and made plans to renovate and reopen that store until financial difficulties scuttled the plan.

By 2011, this was the only Albertsons remaining in town, and it was sold, along with the Kerrville and New Braunfels stores (the latter two remnants of the defunct San Antonio division) to H-E-B, which reopened the Kerrville store but simply closed the other two. While parking was used for A+ Tutoring, it continued to hold a lease on the store for the next decade.

Eventually, H-E-B's lease expired, and plans have been filed to renovate the building into a REI Co-op and Crunch Fitness.

Some of my additional interior photos can be seen at Safeway and Albertsons in Texas.

Over to the west side of the store is 607 University, a small strip center with about four or so stores. Besides Haiku Sushi & Hibachi Grill, which I remembered being here for a long time (don't know when since I never remembered the building as a Randall's), and became Kobe Steak & Sushi much later (around 2012--this new incarnation shut within months). Most of the places here were pretty forgettable: "TGF Precision Haircutters" was another that was later absorbed by A+ Tutoring.

There was a little café in that strip center called Tuscany's that had a several year stand in the 2000s (my records show it closed in early 2008). Proudly proclaiming that it was the only gelato in miles around (a fact) plus offering upscale-ish coffeehouse goods (coffee, tasty-looking bagel chips), it opened around 2004 with being an Internet café a defining feature (that and the gelato). Any number of factors could've caused its closure: it's possible it wasn't favored by students as a place to hang out (if they wanted any students--some places don't), it was hard to see from the road (invisible heading westbound), or maybe just gelato was a novelty that wore off quickly.

A+ Tutoring is here currently, taking two places at the far end. They came in just before "The Martial Arts Studio", which replaced Tuscany's, moved to Homestead Place (the little shopping center on Texas Avenue, near the cemetery, where the library used to be, if you can remember back that far). A+ Tutoring gets really crowded on some nights, taking up a good half of the parking (which is why the owner of A+ ended up buying the property).

The side closest to University Drive East (Ste. 100) is currently GoldStar Barber (opened as Mike's Barber Studio), Anything Bling Boutique from 2015-2017 (roughly). Notably, from 1998 to around 2013, this was Haiku Japanese & Korean Restaurant, though changed names to Kobe Steak & Sushi in its final years. There was also in Ste. 106 briefly, I don't remember signage on the building for it but it took up the Albertsons signage on the roadside for a while until it rotted off.

Speaking of signage, Early Bird Cleaners also sub-leased space since 1995 (it was kept through the conversion!) and was accessible from the store itself. This was Crown Cleaners when it opened in 1992. It looks like Early Bird may have closed as early as 2002, but it was definitely shut by the time Albertsons died. Finally, you should see this awesome YouTube video of a Randall's opening in 1992 in Lufkin. While not in College Station, it gives a feel for what it was like, as the décor was almost identical.

UPDATE 02-01-2024: Partially rewritten and updated. Previous updates have been commented out, with some new edits to restore it closer to what it was originally before the outsourcing.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Welcome to College Station Roads and Retail

Hello! I'm Pseudo3D. I am a native resident of College Station, Texas.

This blog was created as a spin-off of my main blog, Two Way Roads to focus on College Station. Specifically, roads (old and new) and retail (also old and new). Please check back as I add content, including some content that is currently being hosted on Two Way Roads.

P.S. I have worked with Project HOLD last summer, so unless there's something really specific, please don't alert me to its presence, I already know. ;)

As of February 21, 2012, this article is considered obsolete