Sunday, February 27, 2011

Parkway Square

The Kroger's facade was once dated but at least looked okay as compared to this disaster.

This was one of the first posts on the blog, and has of course gone through numerous updates and rewrites (a rather extensive one in 2013 with updates in 2014). The post originally started out with a post back on the HAIF many years ago when I was young and relatively naïve. Parkway Square holds a good bit of nostalgia for me (of course) and by this point, most of the buildings around it have been covered, something not even conceived when the post was originally made: Red Line Burgers across the street, Fort Shiloh, Manor House Inn, and Shipley Do-Nuts.

Construction on Parkway Square seems to have taken a long time, it opened in 1982 (from what I've heard from DrFood, and confirmed by KBTX, but I also wonder if this is one of those "self-confirming things" where KBTX just "researched" it here) but construction was announced in 1979. Part of the problem must have the drainage, as the parking lot is built out of numerous concrete "squares" sitting on top of a drainage area. In 2016, the center was updated, giving the Kroger a repaint to make it look miles nicer after an unfortunate stucco disaster, as well as giving a new roadside sign, replacing its dated early 1980s signage with something that is bland but at least modern. This lasted a matter of months.

Aerial of shopping center being built, from Project HOLD

Growing up in the 1990s in College Station was a time when there was a wide variety of supermarkets, where there was an H-E-B Pantry, two Albertsons stores, a Kroger, an AppleTree, and prior to around 1997, a Winn-Dixie and a Randalls. Of course, none of that mattered if you only went to two. For me, those were the H-E-B Pantry at Holleman and Texas Avenue (now a DSW) and the Kroger.

H-E-B Pantry of course was nice and homey, but it was Kroger that was the cooler, better one (even if it was older), and that was the anchor that was always there at Parkway Square, so I'd like to share a few words about it. It was a classic "Greenhouse" Kroger with "bauhaus" lettering if I recall correctly (there are lots of Flickr pictures related to that and what they mean), there was a red stripe running the perimeter of the store, the deli/bakery area (it was a small, combined department, and still is) had some seating near the entrance to the video department (more on that later), and the entrances and exits were very small and simple. One door in, one door out, operating by spring-loaded carpets. This was at the far right end of the store (that is, if you were looking at it from Texas Avenue). They had large arrows on them.

But enough on Kroger for now, we'll discuss that red stripe and all in a second. To maintain compatibility with the Texas Avenue directory I made, I'll have to start from the Firestone at the corner, which I'm not sure is actually part of the shopping center.

2400 - Firestone is on the corner at Brentwood and Texas Avenue. It renovated sometime in the mid-2000s or so, but about the time it happened, we had quit going there (it was once the "go-to" spot for car fixes for my family--until a management change). It appears it is the original tenant, as it was listed in the 1984 phone book.

2402D - The combined 2402 space (all tenants) is taken by "China King Buffet". This used to be Old Country Buffet, which I never liked, even before I stopped liking (and started hating) Golden Corral. I think it closed circa 2004, along with others in the state. It later became China King Buffet by the mid-2000s, which I remember eating at once. It was bland, and seemed overly large for the space, but I don't remember getting sick from it, which is probably why it has still stayed in business without any name changes (it did "renovate" once though). It remains open as of July 2016, though the recent renovation took away its distinctive "peak" shaped storefront from the OCB days. I might have a picture somewhere, I should add that in a future update. I actually think this was originally a Chinese restaurant originally...there was originally one "B B's Chinese Restaurant" in the early 1980s, though sharing the address of Firestone (which did exist at the time and was new) instead of its modern address, 2402-D.

2404 - RAC Rent-a-Center has been here for the last several years. It absorbed old space from other retailers, like Paradise Scuba, which was located at 2404C prior to moving to the old Putt-Putt site in 2008. At 2404B, there was Champion Firearms, which moved out around 2003 when the new center with Hobby Lobby and Ross Dress for Less was built.

2406A - Resale & More is here and has been here since at least around 2009. I don't remember what was here before it.

2406B - Jackson Hewitt moved here after 2008, it used to be closer to the Southwest Parkway side, but it has since moved on. (I don't know exactly when, probably late 2010s).

2406D - USA Nails I believe has been here for a long time, possibly changing its name from another nail salon.

2408 - The original 2408 (please ignore the typo on the official PDF) was a TG&Y Family Center.

It was a larger version of the TG&Y five-and-tens (basically, a discount store, which almost every five-and-ten did). It's worth noting that the parent company of TG&Y sold out in October 1985 (same time as this ad), so I'm guessing TG&Y didn't last much longer here.

After the closure of TG&Y, it (eventually) became Gold's Gym and Amber's, an arts & crafts store based out of Dallas. The Amber's opened in 1988 when it moved from Post Oak Square, and after Amber's closed (it closed a few years after most of the other stores in the chain, lasting well into 1996), it became MJDesigns before they too went bankrupt, at which point it became Stein Mart. After Gold's moved in the early 2000s, it became King Dollar (opened 2003) and Harbor Freight Tools (opened 2004). For years, Harbor Freight took 2408A, King Dollar next door took 2408D, and Stein Mart took 2408B.

Stein Mart unfortunately went bankrupt in 2020 and closed all of its stores.

2410 - Initially a location of "Chuck-E-Cheese Pizza Time Theatre" (as the chain was called), which was gone by 1989, with the area not getting another Chuck E. Cheese until the year 2005. That means, of course, that growing up, I never got to have any birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese because it didn't exist in my town, but that also means I was spared any childhood trauma from the animatronics.

After that it became one of the more intriguing concepts in the history of Kroger supermarkets that I've never seen anywhere attached video store called Family Center Video, though admittedly the set-up was pretty useless. Because of the differences in elevation between Kroger and the video store, about three feet, there were stairs and a ramp (it may or may not have been ADA compliant, at least by today's standards), but the ramp was usually gated off, meant for those with disabilities and not for those with big shopping carts. I don't think I saw ANYONE actually transfer between the Kroger store and the video store, especially considering that it wasn't near any checkouts or entryways inside the Kroger. It probably would've been cheaper to demolish it and drop it to Kroger's level, which would let it be used for food and drug space, and perhaps ultimately save the store (see below).

FCV disappeared pretty quickly after the arrival of Hastings (probably closing 1999), and the space sat empty until Half Price Books moved in around the early 2000s (2003/2004), and that was after the Kroger moved in. If you walked in HP Books near (ironically) the video section, you could notice a slight depression when you walked near the wall. In the original (carpeted) video store, there was a counter near that, in the far left end, plus a big metal "cage" in the middle of the FVC. This was where the kid's videos were, including Pink Panther shorts, Barney, and Bananas in Pajamas. The video store closed in the late 1990s (1998, 1999), perhaps because of the fact that you couldn't buy groceries at the video side, or vice versa, but the restrooms were kept into the Half Price Books era, and may still be there. The Half Price Books replaced it circa 2003/2004, and was there up until 2011. In 2012, it became "College Depot", which sells A&M branded stuff (always a popular choice) and items for dorms (a good idea, actually), and despite being a bit pricey, it ended up moving up to a slightly larger place when it took to half of the old Winn-Dixie/Lacks in mid-2014, and 2410 remained vacant until January 2020 when Uptown Cheapskate moved in.

This is looking straight through to the old entrance from the Kroger. Prior to the video store's closure, there was a small area with seating.

2412 - The biggest tenant of the plaza, Kroger, was just a bit over 46k square feet, which is far smaller than the H-E-B, though it was larger than the Pantry. In July 2016, it was announced that the Kroger would be closing forever in August. Seeing how it's the largest and one of the longest-lasting tenants in the center, let's talk about it a bit.

The history of how this Kroger came to be is a bit murky, as it was a former "Greenhouse" store (image links for those who have no idea what that means) but was also known as "Kroger Family Center" through most of its life and had a store number (997) usually assigned to those were full-fledged Kroger Family Center stores, like the one in Bryan was .

Originally a red stripe ran the perimeter of the store, which I loved as a kid. Notice in the hack job of a renovation they did, they didn't even bother getting identical tiles.

One more thing I remember was that the milk area contained a lower ceiling and was tucked in a little corner of the store, forced down that way by the beer aisle (which, by the way, was once rumored to have sold more kegs than any other supermarket in the nation). Little plastic mock-ups of milk (and an orange juice) displayed prices. I've never seen anything like it since.

The floorplan resembled, except for the aforementioned entrance to the video store, the "Superstore" design in terms of floorplan (and some other people on this page back that up).

The Kroger was unofficially known as the "Kroger Family Center" even into the 2000s, even though they never had the Family Center merchandise mix, it was planned to be so, even gaining the store number that the Family Center stores had instead of the common early 1980s Greenhouse stores. I don't believe it was ever a Family Center, as it was built as a definite Greenhouse.

This is where the original exits were. You had to go straight and then left out through tiny doors.

Produce bags had nutrition facts printed on them (of fruits and vegetables), they had sample cookies, which were better than the store-bought pre-packaged stuff and did make shopping at Kroger a pleasure in my growing up years, and the bottom of the cart was spacious enough that even a 9-year-old kid could fit in there. Well, around 2001 or so, it renovated (very cheaply) to a then-contemporary décor package and rebuilt the facade so that there could be offices above the old "greenhouse" area, and pretty much meant that everything about the Kroger that was cool was gone, and it became just as dated as before and still not nearly as nice as the Kroger Signature to the south or the new H-E-B to the north.

Were these tiles even touched? Gross!

Most of my visits to Kroger post-renovation have been for convenience. I remember being mildly impressed post-renovation in early 2002, when my brother took me there to buy some dry ice, but it got dated and dirty VERY quickly, and most of my subsequent visits have been disappointments. It wasn't anything like the Rock Prairie Kroger or the H-E-B. The produce was sub-par (with a "little too ripe" smell), the international foods section was a disappointment (they put taco seasoning in this department), and generally everywhere else was slightly smelly and generally disappointing. When KBTX announced the closure in 2016, I was a bit surprised that it would come this soon but also had a twinge of sadness, as this was, after all, my childhood's Kroger (in August 2016 it closed permanently). For a brief time, the empty Kroger would come to look pretty rough, with graffiti on the windows, but it re-opened around June 2018 as another "TruFit Athletic Clubs".

2414 - To the left of the Kroger growing up was Roly Poly Rolled Sandwiches, which was in the Parkway Square of my youth (even if it opened in 1999, as I later found out, and not 1997). It lasted into the early 2000s with the sign and interior décor remaining up until the mid-2000s). I always thought it was a one-off, but it was actually a full franchise concept. Roly Poly sat vacant for a while, then it became "Next Level Sports" circa 2008-2009 (mostly tennis), and after that BVMMA (Brazos Valley Mixed Martial Arts). I believe it's vacant again, after BVMMA moved to the mall a few years back.

2414A - Texas State Optical has been here for as long as I can remember, probably even as far back as 1996. I would have to pull out my directory scan to confirm that though. It too has closed up by 2018, though.

2414B - Based on what I could find, it looks like TSO has absorbed this space, but originally this was The Cork Liquor Store (mid-1990s at least) and became Whiskey Charlie's in 2009 following a purchase of the local stores. Liquor stores usually did good business next to supermarkets as Texas law prohibits hard liquors and spirits on grocery store shelves, and every supermarket in town has a nearby liquor store that supplies the "harder stuff" you can't get at the store. For the College Station H-E-B, it's Spec's (even though it's a stoplight down), for the Tejas Center H-E-B it's Libations, for the Tower Point H-E-B, it's Whiskey Charlie's #3, and both College Station Albertsons had Western Beverages nearby, as does the Bryan Kroger. The Rock Prairie Kroger likewise has a nearby Spec's (formerly JJ's). The closure of Whiskey Charlie's in about 2012-2013 should've been a red flag that the Kroger wasn't going to make it.

2416A - Like China King, this space (a restaurant) takes up the 2416 space as well. Honey-B Ham & Deli (not to be confused with "Honeybaked Ham", a chain) was here for a long time. In late June 2009 it closed and was replaced with Taz (though not immediately), an Indian restaurant/buffet. I finally ate there in 2015 (and the first time I had goat in well over a decade). It was fine, and might share more when the restaurant eventually closes.

2416B - Advance America Cash Advance is next, and that used to be a Christian bookstore in the late 1990s and early 2000s, though results are turning up for a Pack & Mail. Maybe it was Smoothie King that the bookstore was in. Advance America mentions that this opened in 2003. Sounds right.

2416C - Smoothie King was here in the early to mid 2000s before moving to near the College Station H-E-B. Later on, it became My Party Palace (I believe around 2007-ish, since the chain was founded in 2005). It was part of a chain out of the Austin area to do princess-themed party planning for young girls, but it ran headlong into the recession, and all eight other locations closed. The College Station location was the last to close, closing in December 2014. In 2020, it reopened as Le Macaron French Pastries.

2418 - On the corner sat the Baskin-Robbins. It faced both the main parking lot and Southwest Parkway and had doors to both. Opened in 1988 and featuring "thirty-one-derful flavors", this was my favorite ice cream parlor for years. I had fond memories of this place. Anyway, Baskin-Robbins became "KaleidoScoops" around 1999 (though I swear it was a year or so later), the "32 Degrees: The Ice Cream Club", then just "32 Degrees" until it closed entirely, which was maybe 2004-2006 (by this time Cold Stone had opened up). Later on this was replaced with Corner Cuts, as it was the corner and they did do haircuts...but later they changed names to Classic Cuts (in spring 2016) before closing a few years later. The space is now Aggieland Supplements, which I believe opened 2019.

2418B - Then there's Gomez Shoe Repair (originally Cobblestone Quality Shoe Repair, I vaguely remember when they changed the name, but I forgot when). I can't find a 2418A either, probably because where 2418A would be is just a wall. Despite what the leasing plan says, I'm pretty sure that whatever was before Advance America (possibly dating back to the first tenant) used the space there and walled it off.

2418C - This has been more or less vacant for a while, between late 2009 (when they signed the lease) and 2011 (when they were locked out), this was Moosegus. I believe this used to be the original Subway (see Subway's entry further down). In the previous version of this, I claimed they never opened. I was wrong, they did! It was a skateboard/wakeboard/snowboard store. The immediate problem with that it was for a market that didn't exist. At the time it opened (late 2009/early 2010), the skateboard park there on Rock Prairie didn't exist, BearX off Deacon didn't exist, and snowboarding? know the answer.

It is now the home of Liberty Tattoo, which it has been since at least summer 2018.

2418D2 - This was Farmers Insurance, which I think was the old Jackson Hewitt. The latter was intact in 2008, and had opened several years prior to that, but by 2008 the sign was rather faded. It later reopened as Lara & Associates Insurance.

2418D - This Subway store the first Subway in the state of Texas, sort of. By sort of, I mean, it was originally on this side of the shopping center but at some point in the mid-2000s (after a logo change but before 2007), it switched from just a few spaces down. It's store #628 (the others have numbers in the thousands), and although it switched slots in the shopping center, the first Subway in Texas is in the shopping center on Southwest Parkway. I learned that when applying for a job at a local Subway (as Centex Subway did a group interview...and my old early 1980s phone books later confirmed) and although I ultimately didn't get the job, it was still a really neat piece of information. I seem to remember a store called "Beepers" (or at least the facade being called such) being around here until around 2000.

2418E - This was the former Buck's Pizza, closed circa 2010. They left the menu board intact, which you can see below. Never ate at Buck's all that much, but they had okay pizza rolls when I did have it. (For what it's worth, Buck's was here in 1998). As of 2016, it reopened as "Twisted Noodle Cafe" (guess they got rid of the pizza equipment), which I have yet to eat at.

2418F - For many years, this was FabricCare Cleaners. It had a drive-through window, but it moved in the mid-2000s, and became Tobacco Junction, which utilized the drive-through but closed after less than a few years. The awning was removed it stayed vacant for several years. It is now Daiquiri Barn, which has done even better since it opened (in 2018-2019?) due to state law changes on drive-through liquor sales.

2420 - Based on the fact that McDonald's ads in the October 1985 paper list the only two stores at the time (University Drive and Villa Maria, both of which were torn down and rebuilt about a decade ago), but a 1984 phone book did show this store being built and open, suggesting that it was opened around the same time of the Kroger shopping center after all). It had an extremely cramped and strange ramp orientation regarding the drive-through, so when the McDonald's was completely rebuilt around 2005-2006, the playground was removed to alleviate this situation. The playground was the worst: it wasn't much more than a wooden structure resembling a spaceship. You climbed up, looked out...and that was all. My brother claimed it replaced a much cooler and better playground. When it was rebuilt, there wasn't a playground at all, just a couple of Nintendo GameCubes with things like Mario Kart. Within a year or so, the controllers (they had been fixed in with metal) were so dirty and worn out. The control stick, for instance, looked like it had been chewed off.

The sign is fairly unique as well--it was originally a full McDonald's sign, but it was destroyed by a windstorm circa 2009-2010. It either had gotten grandfathered in from new sign ordinances and couldn't rebuild, or maybe McDonald's was just cheap--but they removed the damaged golden arches entirely and replaced the "McDonald's Restaurant" sign with a new simple "M"...and it wasn't even a real sign, it was just fabric that stretched over the sign skeleton (though it has held up for a number of years). In 2018, the restaurant was renovated to be another casualty of McDonald's quest to get rid of mansard roof restaurants, even newer ones. (It doesn't look like the picture anymore).

Note the fake owls mounted on the roof to scare off birds that roost on the stoplights at certain times of the year.

This photo makes the area surrounding it seem leafy and green. Not entirely trickery, a large tree was once adjacent to the McDonald's, torn down for widening of Texas Avenue. The butchered sign is in the background.

2422 - This was originally home to the Kroger fuel center (built in 2005 and torn down after the Kroger closed). After remaining empty as a repaved concrete patch for a few years, the concrete was torn out for a new Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen restaurant, the first new Popeyes restaurant in the area since the one at Graham Road closed nearly a decade ago.

So that's my story of one of the most nostalgic -to me- shopping centers in this area, as this stretch tended to be my stomping grounds growing up. I hope you enjoyed it. This post featured extensive updates in 2013, 2014, July of 2015 and July of 2016. In April 2019 some new additions were made. In August 2020, another wide-scale update of the page was done.

UPDATE 02-04-2021: Made another update to account for a new Popeyes, as well as adding Advance America's opening, and Le Macaron. A few other changes were made.
UPDATE 04-22-2021: A rewrite of the post-TG&Y tenants was done, including the mention of MJDesigns, more info on Amber's, and more accurate dates on King Dollar and Harbor Freight Tools. Removed tag [2000s].

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blue Baker Dominik

Taken January 2017 by author.

This post was originally titled "Dominik Road: Of Beer and Sandwiches". After several rewrites and ultimately spinning off other information, it was rebuilt as an article on Blue Baker 3/4/19.

Built as a restaurant called Danver's Restaurant in the late 1970s (built 1977, possibly opened 1978) that served burgers, sandwiches, and iced tea. It also had a salad bar. (Poor-quality pictures are available somewhere in the archive and were posted to a Facebook group, but I can't find it).

According to my records, it later became a branch of Texas Aggie Bookstore in the late 1980s (you know, before the name was modified), then Brazos Brewing Company by the mid-1990s, a brewpub that didn't last too long, possibly due to the until-very-restrictive Texas brewpub laws. The coasters were adorned with wheat and hops. By the late 1990s, it was the Brazos Blue Ribbon Bakery (moving from the Villa Maria Rd. location), then later Blue Baker (opened May 2001), which it is today. According to a Blue Baker employee, Brazos Blue Ribbon closed abruptly one day--employees found the door locked, and all the baking equipment was left inside. In fact, a lot of Blue Baker's mixing and baking equipment (including a large brick oven, which is no longer used) is from Brazos Blue Ribbon. Despite the similarity in names, Blue Baker and Brazos Blue Ribbon are not related. Blue Baker was a modern success, and by 2007 a new location had opened up on University Drive. Today, they even have a location in Austin as well as off of Highway 40. More recently (c. 2018), an entrance opened up from George Bush Drive East, allowing direct access that way (but not an exit out).

I actually have a menu from 2002, with prices and items similar to the original 2001 mix (clearly they've gone up...), but I have yet to scan it.

201 Dominik Drive