Thursday, January 13, 2011

University Square Shopping Center / Legacy Point

A still-standing reminder of what the center was. All but one was gone as of this when this photo was taken in 2012 with my old cell phone camera. The Junction pulled out in summer of 2012 and was replaced by "Piranha Fitness Studio". There's a smaller sign signed as Legacy Point closer to IHOP.

This used to be one of the more popular posts on this blog and to this day, the picture of the closed Albertsons (since demolished) is used as the Facebook header. The old Albertsons (or Skaggs Alpha Beta, or however it is remembered) is a topic in itself, which is covered at this page now.

Most of this shopping center is actually gone now, including the former Albertsons, but was composed of several buildings, which I'll try to describe going counter clockwise around the center from University to College Avenue.

Almost directly behind the Taco Bell on University was two food shacks.

For years (since approximately 1991, if I recall correctly), there was a little Cajun food place called Hebert's Cajun Food. It wasn't that cheap, but it was fast, delicious, and worth it: much like a food truck. It closed on June 15th, 2012 with more pictures (not mine) here, and later moved to a variety of locations, including Village Foods for about a year. They later built a short-lived physical location in downtown Caldwell, and the latest location is operating of the Buc-ee's in Brazoria.

There was also a coffee shop, "Java Jitters" just directly across it, which was a small shack operated by the same owners of Hebert's (the same guy ran both shacks, but obviously never simultaneously). Never went to it, it was only open in the mornings. The addresses of Hebert's and Java Jitters were 727 University Drive and 729 University Drive, respectively. You can see my pictures below.

Java Jitters, gutted.

My old compiled University Drive directory, 729 University was "Film & Photos No. 2248" in 1980 and Nachos to Go in 1993. "The wooden shack of Java Jitters was almost certainly not the photo booth. However, Java Jitters and Nachos to Go were likely the same building."

Behind these food shacks was another building, was 725 University Drive. Like the two food shacks, it is also gone. It was located approximately where the intersection of the two halves of Church Avenue meet the main driveway that dead-ends at the Stack location and faced south (behind the Taco Bell). It was torn down in July 2012.

I also took the picture (a few, actually!) of the A+ Tutoring/Fat Burger building, which had both closed after the spring 2012 semester (but before the demolition). It wasn't an unfamiliar location that semester, either, I had gone to both buildings in the semester prior: trying to pass Organic Chemistry through A+ (if you are a student or considering to be one, please do not do this, just study and know the material), or hanging out in Fat Burger (not related to a chain called Fatburger, that's different--seems it's confused Yelpers), which had a fixings bar (which is, of course, best at the beginning of the day). It lived up to its name--offering the 1/3 pound "Fat Burger" and the full-pound Bevo Burger. The fixings bar I don't have a picture of, only the gutted remains of it after the store closed. Seems like they also may have had a different logo at one time.

Neither tenant was original, Fat Burger's "goodbye" sign implies it was there since 1984, and from my notes, "Mo-Peds to Go", then "Tommy's" was at Fat Burger's site (suite A) and for suite B (A+), there was Budget Tapes & Records, which was a popular music chain at the time, then Music Express until around the mid-1980s.

I didn't take the front of A+, nor Fat Burger at night, unfortunately (Fat Burger kind of had this half-burned out light, and A+ didn't light up at all). There was a picnic bench in front of both buildings. I know I remember (maybe circa 2003) that A+ actually had the "AT+" logo on the front, but it still must have ran afoul of TAMU logo usage. A 1995 directory refers to the spot as "A&M Tutoring" (the university cracked down on unlicensed use of "A&M" or "Aggie" in business names, but it's not clear if they had already changed their sign by that time).

On the side of the building, the original logo could still be seen. They offered CHEM 227 and CHEM 228, just not at the time they painted this.

Never thought to get Fat Burger delivered.

The front of the building, taken in daytime by a cell phone camera.

This location is gone, too, with both locations consolidating near the old Albertsons/Randalls.

Right to the east of that was the main shopping center, which is now "The Stack Field" (just open space). The Albertsons was the largest tenant at the center, closed at the end of 1997, following the purchase of the Randalls store on University Drive East. While Albertsons drew up plans to reopen the store (again, covered on the post dedicated to the store itself), it fell apart a few years later when Albertsons closed down the Houston division of the company (the local stores were moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth division) and scrapped much of its expansion plans.

As early as 2003 (presumably when the Albertsons deal was completely dead), the city was looking to improve on the center (which had lost Albertsons by that point) as part of a largely far-fetched Northgate redevelopment that would see University Square (eventually) get developed into something else: a "Cultural/Science Center" anchor, citing the Exploratorium as a model (and THIS I did hear about back in '03), a think tank/business incubator, or a mixed-use project that would incorporate a variety of restaurants and a modern movie theater. This all would all change, of course, when it was revealed that the center would be dramatically altered for a new mixed-use development, but ultimately all that resulted was a new development behind it, and some demolished buildings, most of which haven't been replaced since they were torn down. Even now, only a sad-looking "Legacy Point" sign stands near the IHOP that used to be the sign of Albertsons long ago. Some "legacy". The current plan as of 2019 is supposed to replace the remainder of the shopping center with a Century Square-like development. We'll see.

It should be noted that University Square was always the name of the shopping center, not Skaggs Shopping Center as some publications have suggested.

With 301 College already covered, going down the center has these tenants.

303 College Avenue
Photo from an old yearbook.

Mitchells "department store" was a clothing store previously owned by (at least a majority of) Leonard Brothers of Fort Worth, which had been acquired in 1967 by Tandy Corporation, with a location at University Square in the early 1970s. By 1974, Tandy had disposed of the chain along with Leonard's (which was sold to Dillard's), but Mitchells continued to operate at University Square until around 1976. In 1977, Webster's Catalog Showroom opened in the spot. While this ad lists it as 306 College (for some reason), both Mitchells (per ads) and Webster's (per a 1980 phone book) had it as 303 College Avenue.

Mitchells "department store" was a clothing store previously owned by (at least a majority of) Leonard Brothers of Fort Worth, which had been acquired in 1967 by Tandy Corporation, with a location at University Square in the early 1970s. By 1974, Tandy had disposed of the chain along with Leonard's (which was sold to Dillard's), but Mitchells continued to operate at University Square until around 1976. In 1977, Webster's Catalog Showroom opened in the spot. While this ad lists it as 306 College, both Mitchells (per ads) and Webster's (per a 1980 phone book) had it as 303 College Avenue.

Notice the Tandy Corporation logo--that was RadioShack's parent company (which later adopted the name of RadioShack). They had a much greater range in those days, and ran full companies. By 1992, the store became a McDuff Superstore (according to a 1992 ad that I have), also at the address and owned by Tandy. Someone mentioned that there was a RadioShack here at one time, which may have been when Tandy ended the brand name, but I don't have confirmation of RadioShack's presence at University Square. Somewhere in the late 1990s or early 2000s, it became Rother's, which would remain (save for a rename to Traditions) until its demise.

Next to it was BCS Bicycles (at 309 University), which moved to 317 University. Even by 1980, it was Hancock Fabrics until sometime in the late 2000s or the early 2010s, then BCS Bicycles. Probably due to the fact that both the size of the Mitchells/Webster's/Rother's/Traditions and Hancock Fabrics/BCS Bicycles, there wasn't a 305 or 307 University, even looking through archives.

The last stores on the block are a little harder to track because of various expansions of Hurricane Harry's (313 College), which dates back to at least 1992. The other side of the shopping center has a slightly taller roof. This used to be the Cineplex (later Plitt) III, a three-screen movie theater. It lasted through the various names of the supermarket, but closed around 1996 and was divided between an expansion of Hurricane Harry's, and well before the theater closed, it also shared the address with what was once simply "The Jewelry & Coin Exchange" (now "David's Jewelry & Coin Exchange" since late 2013). The last tenant on the end (315 College, taking half of the theater) was TJ's Laser Tag, which was around from maybe 1996 to 1999. I remember my brother had gone there a few times for his birthday, but I was still in elementary school when it closed.

That spot later became The Junction (a pool hall that didn't serve alcohol). The Junction eventually closed around 2012 and became Piranha Fitness Studio. There was also additional A+ classrooms at 311A College Avenue, but they're gone (now offices for Eccell Group). At one time, 313C (unknown what's there now, but the building is still there) was a restaurant called "Fred's For Lunch" which sold submarine sandwiches and Blue Bell ice cream.

Speaking of hurricanes, the restaurant in the east side of the parking lot was Crazy Cajuns', created by Hurricane Rita evacuees (Lake Charles, Louisiana) and was on its second location, moving from 14841 FM 2154 (indeed, the sign on the building side still read "Wellborn, Texas" up until its closure). While I first went to the location in Wellborn (I don't know what's there now), which included only a large covered area with picnic tables (December 2006 is when I went), this eventually did end up being a favorite of mine, as I went in March 2011 to this location and had a blast. Lots of food for a good price. It was still spicy, and had been in this place since somewhere about 2008-2009. It went through a few changes in ownership, and steadily declined, notably in service first, then food, and health ratings, before finally closing for good in summer 2012. It shut down the same week as Hebert's did (sad time for Cajun food lovers). I expressed some hope that Hebert's would be able to move into the restaurant, and go from essentially a snack bar to a full restaurant where you could take your family, but that wasn't going to work.

There used to be a Thai place before it (the second incarnation of Thai Taste, and not a particularly great one), and before that a combo Mexican/Cajun place called Alicia's (thanks to HAIF user "keyser" for the restaurant history). The comments tell a bit more of the story. In fact, while wandering around around the 2012-2013 holidays, I found the canopy had some older names exposed...

Alicia's AND Thai Taste!

It started out as a Bonanza Steakhouse in 1973 (or 1972), which was more a cafeteria/buffet affair (rather than a traditional "steakhouse") and later served briefly as Cow Hop (before it moved back to the main strip on Northgate). But in 2013, nearly 40 years after its construction, it now serves as BCS Bicycles & Repair, which moved from their location in the strip.

Other shots, taken January 2011 & surrounding buildings...

Regrettably, I was never able to get a picture of the interior of the Albertsons, or any other time: the windows were painted over, and my one shot of the interiors was kind of messed up by the flash, and while it did capture some of the interior in a blurry configuration that revealed rows of fluorescents and columns, it mostly created a reflection of me, which I didn't like.

The next shot is one that's not mine, but it's a great shot, with the old Hancock Fabrics sign visible. The second and third show older tenants, like Rother's and Hancock Fabrics. These were taken in May 2012 by me. I guess the businesses didn't bother changing the signs in the rear...

You'll notice that I forgot to mention the IHOP, which is part of the center. I don't have pictures of it, nor have been inside for over two decades.

Most recently updated in February 2020.