Thursday, December 20, 2012

Manor East Mall

725 (East) Villa Maria Road

I never did get any Manor East Mall pictures before year end, so went ahead and override what I had planned and released what we have today. I regret that I gave a lot of what I discovered--including the discovery of Britts as the first anchor--to Mall Hall of Fame, as well as an early name of the complex (pre-building): the "Manor Village Shopping Center", but here it is at last.

Manor East Mall has long has been a favorite subject of mine, dating back to this little summary I wrote for a few year back with an outdated Internet moniker, which was clever but ultimately stupid. (If you know me in real life--the answer should be pretty clear in a few seconds).

I first went to Manor East Mall over twelve years ago, my first and last time, and discovered (by then) it was a mostly empty corridor with a pet store and boarded up storefronts. I seem to remember it was blue, and it had benches. Although originally a "cross", you only went in, and turned right.

With that said, here are some bits about it, including some where you will find nowhere else. Remember, on some of these, you heard it here first!

A lot of false and misleading information is floating around about Manor East Mall, specifically two objects: its initial line-up including a J.C. Penney (which is partially true) and opening in 1972 (which may or may not be true). These facts were derived from a Brazos Valley history book, and I don't know where they sourced that from. This is the REAL scoop. Its initial anchors did include a 68,000 square foot Montgomery Ward (built before the mall, in 1966) and Britts as majors, but not much else about the mall line-up beyond the initial line-up. It included "The Fair", a Houston-based junior department store for a while, a Karmelkorn, a radio station, and some of the initial tenants shown on this 1972 ad from The Eagle (appearing on the Internet for the first time, exclusive to this blog). Some other tenants are listed on Kroger also was a charter tenant, though disconnected from the mall. Here's an early, easily-available picture of the Montgomery Ward and Kroger, before the mall was built.

Given that the original anchor, Britts, had its arches on the inside, I'm guessing the Britt's building was built a bit before the mall, which must have opened in 1971 (not 1970). Check out these Britts opening ads and other advertisements from The Eagle. These are exclusive to this blog, folks--never before seen on the Internet.

The Manor East III Theaters opened in November 1974. It was the first multiplex in town.

Kroger moved out in 1977, and the space had been taken by Hastings by the early 1990s (although it's quite possible that Hastings was around in the late 1970s--there was a Hastings at Culpepper Plaza).

When Britt's left in the late 1970s or early 1980s, it was briefly filled with a JCPenney (from downtown) before moving to Post Oak Mall. A unique feature of this JCPenney during this time was a rare but not unheard of coffeeshop inside the store, which was almost certainly originally the coffeeshop at Britts.

Hey, it's Pelican's Wharf!

By the late 1980s, it was occupied by a "Food 4 Less" grocery store. During that time, in 1982, Manor East Mall got a third anchor: the world's first mall-based Wal-Mart (which is yet to be disproved). It had two entrances (one exterior, one interior) and was a "brown" Wal-Mart as was standard in those days.

Post Oak Mall was a vacuum that ended up killing the last of the major downtown stores and Bryan retail (including the downtown Bealls, Woolworth, the Townshire Sears, and the Manor East JCP). It even added Dillard's and Foley's.

Wal-Mart was ultimately short-lived, and moved out circa 1994 for a new Wal-Mart Supercenter on the bypass. The mall had a fast exodus of tenants during that time, losing most of its national tenants.

In 1991, Food 4 Less closed (within weeks of the H-E-B Pantry's opening to the north) and it was split between Jo-Ann Fabrics and the 50 Off Store.

In mid-1997 the 'Magination Station, a local playhouse group, moved into the old movie theater and started renovations. But Montgomery Ward closed its only and last store in the area in early 1999, as part of the last round of store closures before bankruptcy.

While the 'Magnination Station (known as The Theatre Company within the next few years) and Bealls still active, the mall soldiered on until circa 2003, when the last of the in-line tenants closed and it was razed by the son of the developer that originally built it. A few of the corridors were converted to in-line space, but it was largely lost.

A few of the stores by the late 1990s had exterior exits. Family Dollar did (though that was a result of being added in the 1990s as a last-chance addition), and Bealls did too. I think these were behind the barriers of the north wall, though. Eckerd, which moved out circa '99 for a stand-alone store, also had one (if you visit Mall Hall of Fame, the map is wrong in its placement of Eckerd...wrong side of the mall, it faced Villa Maria--but correct in other places).

Also during this time, Shivers set up a snow-cone shack near Wayside and Villa Maria Road. This didn't last long, but Shivers survived, jumping to Culpepper Plaza II, and eventually Woodstone--I think it closed circa 2008).

The strip mall next to Hastings largely survived the transition. There was a Payless ShoeSource (moved) and a store called "Lease Town Rent to Own", which later became "Rent City" after the transition much to my bemusement. It later closed.

Gold's Gym was also in the old mall, I seem to remember it was behind the Hastings area. (Actually incorrect in an email. There wasn't enough space back there anyway!)

Here's an overview from 2003, showing where things were.
The "A" is where Family Dollar and Bealls had exterior access (Family Dollar opened circa 1997, it seems). There's also the Theatre Company visible. To put it in the present day context, the interior hallway north toward the old Britts has been demolished and replaced with an alley, the east-west corridor is now in-line space (Project: Yogurt, the ink store, etc.), and everything south of it is gone for H-E-B.

Note that in the present day, Hastings has expanded slightly, too. The building to the south had Carter's Burger if I recall correctly but I don't know what else.

Further information on its next incarnation, the Tejas Center, another time.

Thanks to The Mall Hall of Fame (though I supplied a lot of information to it to begin with), The HAIF, MyBCS, and The Eagle.

You'll notice there's a curious lack of interior photos...I couldn't find any, and emailing Stalworth Development (the company that both built it and redeveloped it) was at first promising but ultimately turned up nothing. There's an exterior photo floating around (see Mall Hall of Fame) that is the same view of Kroger and Montgomery Ward taken years later.

A rare interior picture, courtesy John Ellisor

Here's more stuff added as of June 2013 (I haven't actually gotten the pictures yet, except for one):

An ad from 1973. I find this hilarious since they seem to indicate everyone's father looked like that goofy guy from up there. Also, note that "Bell Bros." and "Beall Bros." are pronounced exactly the same.

Although I was sloppy in getting this from the microfilms (cutting off some), this 1973 ad has Animal World featured, which was one of the last in-line stores to leave, and one of the oldest. It was where we got some stuff immediately after getting our cat in 2000 from the animal shelter. Sadly, she's no longer with us.

Crafts Etc. ad from 1994. The theater had closed by this time.

If I got anything wrong, or you'd like to add something, leave a comment! Or send an email!

In later years (1990s), the mall still held a variety of local tenants even though the best days had long left it. Here are a few gathered from local publications. A beer and liquor memorabilia store? That's cool, I guess.

Here's a list of the mall stores about the time Post Oak Mall opened:
Animal World
Bell Bros. Shoes
B&F Shoes
Cloth World
El Chico [may have been located outside the mall]
Fifth Avenue Bookstore
Great Western Credit [ATM machine?]
House of Jeans
Keyboard Center
Margos' La Mode
Mean Machine
Montgomery Ward
Mor Rea's
J.C. Penney
Orange Julius
Powder Room
Singer Sewing Center
Starship Hallmark
The Fair [out of Houston, not the Chicago The Fair]
Turquoise Shop
Village Casuals
Wicks N Sticks
Your Optical Shoppe

Last updated 9/21/14 with a new picture by John Ellisor and another small change. Did you notice it?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Defunct Madden Concepts

This picture was taken by the author on a miserable December 2021 day.
Editor's Note: This page was originally titled "All Hail the Late, Great, Madden's Street Cuisine" and de-indexed in September 2019. In 2021, the page was rewritten to focus on 404 Jane Street and added to the Index as a full article as "Defunct Madden Concepts".

404 Jane Street is one of the rare "in-fill" commercial buildings in College Station, located off of but not on a main commercial strip, but because that segment of the market is still pretty new it has tended to struggle. There is only one known operating business, Tune Up: The Manly Salon, which opened in January 2017.

The second is/was also HUB Collaborative, a "co-working space" which opened in early 2015 and closed (likely) in 2020, and while the website is defunct, the sign still lights up as of December I don't really know. Finally, there was one more restaurant, which has since closed. In May 2015, a new concept started by Peter Madden opened—Mad Taco (suite 400). He sold his restaurant in downtown Bryan, Madden's Street Cuisine to focus on the restaurant, which despite a fairly crowded market in that part of town (Torchy's, Fuego, et. al.) and a near-invisibility from both Texas Avenue and University Drive East did fairly well. A second location opened in south College Station in the next year. In 2020, however, the student market was gutted, and Mad Taco, which already struggled during the winter months, was converted into a new concept, which opened in late 2020 to focus on sandwiches and soups. The restaurant closed around May 1, 2021, and little trace of it remains on the Internet today. The Yelp page has 569 reviews of the restaurant, but only 18 of them are actually of Mad Melt, the pages were merged. While I did manage to get some menu copies from Facebook's cache, someone did take a few photos of the menu on Yelp, as Mad Melt came and went without much bravado, and now the restaurant, which began with so much hope as Mad Taco, is closed.

It was not, however, the first concept that Peter Madden had tried and closed. Before Madden's Casual Gourmet in Bryan was sold (and eventually closed), a food truck was operated by him, known as Madden's Street Cuisine.

The sad fate of the food truck as of 2012, now a second Chef Tai's Mobile Bistro.

Madden's Street Cuisine, which stopped delivering deliciousness around town in summer 2011 is covered here. I ate there and got a repeat customer card (completely useless now) and a menu, both of which are pictured here for your infotainment.

The menu actually was printed on old scratch paper: the other side has some sort of multiple-course "Civil Engineering Staff Appreciation Lunch" with classy things such as "Tomato Bisque garnished with fresh mozzarella, saffron whipped cream and fresh basil chiffonade", but I didn't scan it since it's in poor shape (and only half of the page).

UPDATE 12-14-2021: Just three days shy of this article's 9th year anniversary, this page has been updated as "Defunct Madden Concepts".
UPDATE 04-17-2022: Tacobar is to replace the Mad Tacos/Mad Melts spot, having moved from Southwest Crossing; however, it isn't open yet as of this writing. [Restaurants] was also added to the post.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kroger Family Center, Bryan

Did I mention I have an ad for ammunition sold here?

Most of the modern Kroger "Marketplace" stores in Houston and Dallas (as well as beyond, and including other Kroger brands including King Soopers, Fry's, and Smith's) all come from Fred Meyer, a company based out of the Pacific Northwest Kroger bought in 1998, featuring a full line of merchandise, including clothing, hard goods, jewelry, and of course, food.

Years before Kroger even involved itself with Fred Meyer, Kroger began an experiment to make a true "supercenter" with a full line of products including apparel and sporting goods. Most of the early of the early stores were closed or converted by the early 1970s to traditional Kroger stores but the Houston-area stores were an exception, with Kroger Family Centers going all the way down to the border.

Before we get into the history of this Kroger, the store at 2104 South Texas Avenue opened in 1969 as Cooks Discount Department Store, owned by Cleveland-based Cook United. Due to CU's rather spotty growth across the nation and already distracted with diversification ventures, Cooks closed in the late 1970s and was renovated into Kroger Family Center in 1977. (Cook United would file for bankruptcy in 1984 and cease to exist by 1987).

The Kroger Family Center replaced a smaller store at Manor East Mall with the store opening in 1977. with a wider selection of merchandise.

Store facade as it appeared in 2004, featuring the modified facade

While the "full line" continued into fall 1985 (and long after many of the other Kroger Family Center stores had closed, like Victoria's), it wasn't too long after that the store remodeled to resemble the then-common "greenhouse" facade and the merchandise mix altered to have the basic Kroger "food and drug" mix, much like what the College Station store had.

The strangest fact is that there appears to be a significant gap between the closure of this store and the opening of the next, a Kroger Signature store at 2303 Boonville Road. Usually when a store moves, either both remain open (briefly), it can open next day, or a total closure for two weeks. But from the way it looks, it looks like it was closed for about three months.

The new Kroger opened in April 2006 but no mention was of the older store, because when the news came when the short-lived Bryan Albertsons closed, it was mentioned that the Kroger had closed in late 2005. Combined with the fact that the new Kroger isn't meant to really appeal to the same crowd as the Kroger it replaced, it suggests that the Kroger was a loser store but Kroger still wanted to stay in the area.

A few years after the store closed, it was renovated into "Bryan Square Shopping Center". The "fake greenhouse" was retained for the 99 Cents Only Store but the rest of the facade was remodeled. Other stores added in front of the store were Citi Trends and the Dollar Floor Store. Interestingly, a small building on the south side (at Post Office Street and Cavitt) with some smaller tenants still remains, as well as part of the original Cooks/Kroger facade next to it.

Article overhaul done in March 2020

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sbisa Dining Hall

Sbisa, in modern times but prior to the renovation of the plaza (

233 Houston Street

This post was one of the last posts to receive a big update (October 2014) so a lot of this information is current and I didn't need to do much when I did some minor updates in May 2015. Note that as I'm no longer a student, this information will go out of date, so I'll need your help (email) to update this.

As of 2019, some of the changes that have happened since this was last published include Lime being replaced with a Chartwells concept, Copperhead Jack's. Additionally, I express in the current version hopes that Rattlers' (misspelled as "Rattler's" in this article) would return to campus, but that's obviously NEVER going to happen since the chain was sold to the parent company of Stripes, which in turn sold the convenience stores to 7-Eleven.

This post is on Sbisa Dining Hall (and if we go by the pronunciation of Sbisa's name, it's "spee-za", not "sa-beeza" as is commonly used.

After the fire at the Mess Hall, at some point long before any current attending Aggie or faculty was born, a decision was made to not rebuild on the site and build an entirely new dining hall a block away.

Sbisa in years past. The Corps crowd is replaced by the Northside dorm crowd, which is completely different.

Sbisa Dining Hall is located at the corner of Ross and Houston, where the current building has been there for nearly a century. Named after Austrian-born chef Bernard Sbisa (the head chef of A&M), it was built in the classic European style that dominated campus in those days (regrettably most of those have been demolished). I don't have pictures of the old Sbisa Hall (though its incarnation in the 1940s can be seen in the film We've Never Been Licked), and I did manage to snap this picture in Military Walk, showing a much smaller Sbisa and a railroad spur from the Ross end, roughly where the "back entrance" (near the C-store) of the Underground is. It should be noted that Sbisa wasn't named Sbisa originally until well after Sbisa's death: he died in 1928 (shortly after the dining hall completed a physical expansion in 1925, which was known as Sbisa Annex for a long time) but it was still called the Mess Hall for a few decades afterward (or do I have my references wrong?).

Because there are so many facets of Sbisa I want to focus on, this post is broken up into multiple parts.

The Main Dining Hall (Sbisa Dining Center)

In 1954, Sbisa was renovated (and not for the last time), adding new lighting, new décor, and air conditioning for the first time. It was likely at this time that the plumbing and electrical work was overhauled (also not for the last time). At the time, meals at Sbisa were still served family-style.

A further detail is elaborated in Aggieland '74 in which it stated that the dining rooms had different purposes, for breakfast, one served a full breakfast, the other was a continental breakfast (which included doughnuts, though I'm guessing they were cake donuts). Similarly, the lunch line featured a hot lunch while the other offered soup and sandwiches. Sure, it all sounds pretty reasonable, but Sbisa and Duncan were still the "main places" to eat meals (the four "Snack Bars" and Rumours were coming in at this time). It's also possible that the "third dining room" was in the lower level, which would eventually be the Underground.

In 1975, Sbisa went through another renovation, which would be for the next two and a half decade.

The new 1975 Sbisa (completed in 1976) introduced a few innovations to Sbisa that would still carry over to modern times, including a wheelchair ramp and a conveyor belt system to send trays back in for washing. The renovation removed walls from the dining rooms, with two dining areas (one reference said three, however), one of which served fast food (pizza, soups/sandwiches, hamburgers). The ceiling level was dropped as well.

The article I derived this from (courtesy John Ellisor) has one of the first mentions of the "Peniston Cafeteria", which would be the Underground many years later. Unfortunately, mention of that is rare since punching that in on TexAgs would censor it (the Scunthorpe problem in action). Jay Peniston was the TAMU dining supervisor in the 1940s and 1950s, and oversaw the 1950s renovation of Sbisa and Duncan.

By the late 1990s, the HVAC system (some of which hadn't been changed since the 1950s system under Peniston), sewer system, and décor were out of date, and Sbisa closed in December 1999 to perform major renovations on sewer and HVAC work.

During closure, there was an option to get food, a temporary area that's gone by both "Fish Pond Outbound" and "Sbisa Hut".

When it reopened in fall 2000, it featured two "areas" to get food with seating between them. There was the "Market", which offers a few salad bars, an omelet place, and a few cafeteria style lines (usually with freshly carved meats). The other side of "new" Sbisa featured several mini-lines clustered around the seating area (which was the reincarnation of the "fast foods" portion and the creation of a new main dining room), the first known "Sargino's" on campus (did you know it's a pun on "Sergeant"?), which was later renamed "Pizza & Pasta Station", probably because the P&PS pizza was the worst pizza on campus (maybe not so much with the service provider change--everything might taste the same now. While this negatively affected the pizzerias in the Commons and Ag Cafe, Sbisa's may have benefitted). "Dessert Center" (formerly "Sweet Traditions") had things like both fruit and Blue Bell ice cream. "Fish Fountain" was the drink center but renamed later for obvious reasons. The only things that still carried their original names up before Compass performed a cheap redecoration: "Ag's Diner" (hot dogs, hamburgers) and "World Cuisine" (Mexican or Oriental). There was also a soup station, and at one time a cook-your-own station...although there was still a waffle maker, I think the CYO had long been replaced with gluten free options. Some parts were served buffet style, some parts were cafeteria style.

I've pulled up a few pictures (via Google search) that show Sbisa after renovation, but none before. Also note the tables: they're not like that anymore, by early 2012 it was mostly cafeteria-style tables, which flip-flopped in later years (the cafeteria tables disappeared again after Chartwells took over).

In September 2012, I returned to Sbisa to find it oddly changed. All signage was gone: the neon "Market" sign, all the graphics and lettering gone, the price board, even the "no taking food out" signage. The food quality was altered due to Compass (no more "TruMoo" chocolate milk, though the nickname "Sa-grease-a" was less of an issue) as well. Also removed were the long, cafeteria tables, returning to individual tables. This disappointed the dorm groups, who would sit at those tables. A few months later, the signage was back, but only generic red Helvetica lettering (as slightly different food lines). What the heck was Compass thinking?

This was a time of much anger, as the food/price quality was worst and due to a maligned meal plan, people were forced to stand in long lines at peak hours, routinely stretching outside. One planned change of having an entrance at Houston Avenue never happened.

In summer, Sbisa was totally gutted again, losing the circa 2000 layout and the joke of a redecoration put there a year or so prior.

The new layout would alter the lines. Rather than the two "areas", there was one common food dining area with several kiosks to get food. Part of the reconfiguration involved some new eateries accessible from Houston Street. These included Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, which is actually not a concept from Compass (as I was previously told, or at least led to believe), and actually has locations mostly in Florida (and a few in Chile, even) and Smashburger. Smashburger is an actual chain. More on these are described later in the post.

Through the doors of Sbisa. Note the long lines.

Taken near the entrance of Lime. The dining hall originally went well past this mark, but this is an emergency exit now. Patrons of Lime/Smashburger and Sbisa can see each other, but you can't actually go through this door.

One of the new features of Sbisa (which I actually got to eat in ultimately, and the food was decent, but sadly Compass lacked the great dessert options the original Sbisa had) was a second level accessed via a slightly curving staircase. Since the renovation only took place over the course of the summer, I'm sure they re-used a lot of the 2000 infrastructure which was still up to code, but I'm still not sure on the added second level loft. Is the century-old building really that sturdy, or did the extensive 2000 renovation make that theoretically possible?

Houston Street Side

As seen above, we have the current tenants, Einstein Brothers, Smashburger, Lime, and the underground. As mentioned before, Lime and Smashburger were created in the 2014 renovation.

Up until its closure in January 2013 (a previous version of this page reported 2012, that's wrong, I apologize, it was a typo), Bernie's Place opened at sometime in the 1990s (or even the late 1980s, or whenever the new metal roof was added). It featured pizza and pizza rolls (really good pizza rolls, apparently) in the early 2000s, but by the end of the decade, it primarily offered sandwiches and wraps, changing names over time, becoming "Bernie's Café Espress-O" after the Sbisa renovations circa '99-'00, and then eventually Bernie's Café.

One day, it was spotted on the Restaurant Report Card that Einstein Bros. Bagels was listed in Sbisa's address, which, although it would be preferable if we got a real one (i.e.: off-campus), turned out to be not going in the Underground where bbqs was, but where Bernie's was, marking the death of the former pizza emporium. Einstein Brothers opened in February 2013. Before mention of Bernie's disappeared from A&M's dining website, I grabbed a copy of the Bernie's menu.

As for Smashburger and Lime, they are accessed through a new interior corridor with a restroom and a window into Sbisa (it's emergency exit only). I was looking forward to Smashburger because the menu actually included beer, but apparently so did Lime (why can't I have a cerveza with my tacos?), and obviously neither did Smashburger. I'm not sure why it's gone, especially since as stated in the MSC article, beer was supposedly considered but removed because of the MSC's memorial status, and it's very very close to Northgate, which does have beer.

Lime Fresh Mexican Grill is good, and I was the very first customer there (got my picture taken, but it's not posted). It's not cheap but it is very good, enough for me to get my "I want Taco Bell style tacos but not actually Taco Bell" tacos. I have since learned that in the late 2010s it closed and became "Copperhead Jack's", a Chartwells brand, and given my opinions of Chartwells in this post, I think it speaks for itself.

Smashburger is alright as far as burgers go. It's got soft egg buns like Harvey Washbanger's (at least I think they're egg buns), fries are lackluster, and it will do in a "I've got a feeling for burgers" pinch.

The Underground

The Underground was opened sometime in the 1970s as a straight cafeteria that served "the same stuff as Sbisa" (that would be Peniston Cafeteria, of course--now you can see why that's not found on TexAgs), but it wasn't called the Underground at that point, however, by the late 1980s, even though it didn't have Chick-fil-A or anything at that point, it was called the "Sbisa Underground Deli", although in 1988 it was known as (get this) "Underground Railroad". Whether you think is offensive, silly, or maybe a bit of both, it was scrapped after not too long. I found this ad in a 1988 Football Program.

Betcha you didn't hear that on TexAgs, either.

The Underground opened in its current form circa 1993 or 1994 in its current phase: there were actually surveys done (back when surveys were done through students and not email spam) about what students would like to see in the Underground. It was quite an opportunity to get fast food on the meal plan, which was a huge deal at first to many students (Chick-fil-a and Whataburger on the meal plan was nothing to laugh at). One of the original tenants was a Taco Bueno (a limited-menu walk-up one--and not a Taco Bell, which some accounts have), which sadly closed in 1999, the roster since 2001 has had Whataburger, Chick-fil-A, Se Wrappé (A&M concept), Alonti Deli (apparently a chain?), and Colombo yogurt. One source as to when the "new" Underground opened is the official CFA website, which claims it first opened February 20, 1995. Another sign of when it opened was the fact that Whataburger closed after the fall 2004 semester after its lease lapsed and they didn't want to renew it.

I also captured this article from Google's cache. It was from January 2001, and recently taken offline. This may be the only chance to see it:

Texas A&M board plans expand

Published on

The number of students on meal plans this year at Texas A&M Univ. in College Station has jumped 5%-6%, says dir. Ron Beard, who expects it to rise more when a new dining center opens in the spring.

"Most of the increase is due to the huge flexibility offered through our Outbound program," he says. The program began in Jan. 1998 to offer take-out meals from board-operations. In fall 1999, it was expanded to two cash-operations "and was a smashing success overnight."

Fully rolled-out: When Sbisa, the campus' largest dining hall, closed a year ago, the program was further developed to all cash operations in order to continue providing students with a wide variety of food.

Outbound offerings vary from location to location, but in each, six to eight choices are available. These range from pasta with sauce, salad, garlic bread, medium fountain drink and a dessert such as cookies or fruit, to a breakfast croissant or sandwich with fresh fruit and a drink such as juice, milk or Starbucks coffee.

The latest renovation being undertaken at the 43,000-enrollment university is at Sbisa Dining Hall, which was built in 1911-12. "This will be the Taj Mahal of f/s in the U.S.," says Beard (see Oct. 15, 2000, FSD, p. 42).

Basement brands: Sbisa's basement foodcourt will remain virtually unchanged, although a local franchised brand will be switched to a new in-house concept: Se Wrappe, featuring wraps and "Mexican burritos as big as your arm." Also featured are Chick-fil-A, Whataburger and alonte deli. [sic]

The lower level also houses a smoothie bar and a remodeled c-store. "We cut it in half to add 50 more seats for the foodcourt," says Beard, who says he feeds 2,500 students in daily in this unit alone. "We'll offer the same variety, but will just stack foods higher and restock more often. The c-store is still pretty big (approx. 1,200 sq. ft.) so I don't expect this to hurt us at all."

(The same article mentions that A&M was eyeing a "third Chick-fil-A" during this time, which probably was the Ag Café)

I'm not sure what they mean by Outbound options: is it another name for the late Maroon Plate Special, or was it a way to export food out of Sbisa? (Either way, there are still illegitimate "exports" from Sbisa) [SEE COMMENTS ON BOTTOM - Ed.]

One of the big changes of the Underground and Einstein's above it was done in the renovations. I was surprised to find that after the Underground was built and before the renovations, the Underground had zero handicap access whatsoever (I suppose that it's possible to get around through back entrances and what have you, but that's not exactly accessible). It was after the renovation, then, that the maze of handicap ramps were added to the side of the building, one leading up to Bernie's (later Einstein's, and until the 2014 renovations, the only thing up there). The 2000 renovations would add a shelter and a patio area near Bernie's. You can read what the original roster of the Underground was, and there were six spots: Chick-fil-a, Whataburger, Taco Bueno, Colombo Yogurt (I think that's what it says), Alonti Deli, and something else (I'd like to say that it's the convenience store, but I don't think so--I think it's a coffee brand). If you can identify this mystery, please leave a comment! [UPDATE 5/28/15: It is indeed a coffee brand, see comments below]

Over time, the yogurt place added smoothies (renaming to "Ultimate Fruit Sensations") and by the end of the decade, coffee (renaming to "Degrees"), at some point Alonti Deli became Pickles Deli, and Se Wrappé was stripped out for a barbecue place (01 Old Armydillo's like the old MSC place, renamed to bbqs sometime after 2008). Sadly, the Whataburger in the Underground would depart by the end of 2004, with the eatery "temporarily" replaced by The Other Burger. Over seven years later, The Other Burger was "temporarily" still there. There's also a convenience store in the basement. Despite what the article says, it seems cramped, small, and dirty and was last branded as a Rattler's, but in August 2012, it became "Outtakes", a house brand owned by Compass. However, Rattler's soon "re-took" the convenience store, including a short but awkward time when the convenience stores didn't accept Dining Dollars. Other changes in the Underground about that time was that Degrees closed and was replaced by a Smoothie King. I never liked Smoothie King, having used a coupon at Parkway Square years ago. Still, I appreciate it in spirit, as it as another branded option. Pickles Deli was now Mondo Subs (having now turned into a plain, generic sub sandwich place), The Other Burger was now The 3rd Degree (with a substantially reduced menu and quality, not that TOB was top-notch), and Chick-fil-A is still there. bbqs was gone, however--sad, but almost makes sense: it was designed to replace 01 Old Armydillo's, but since barbecue has returned to the MSC (as "Smokin'"), it rendered bbqs obsolete. After some hectic times where none of the places (save for Smoothie King) were open after lunch hours to my dismay, in fall 2013 a few new changes shook up the Underground.

I do have some pictures of the Underground I took a few years back soon after the Compass takeover. Note that 3rd Degree still pays homage to its predecessor eatery.

One of the reasons I despised Compass was because I despised Mondo Subs. While at the Pickles Deli locations, a chicken caesar wrap was pretty good, Mondo Subs managed to screw it up in every single way. The chicken was flavorless, the lettuce was white, the tortilla was old, the caesar dressing tasted awful, and the parmesan cheese had the look and feel of toenail clippings. I should never have to describe food with the phrase "toenail clippings". For a while, the bbqs vacancy was rumored to be a Denny's Fresh Express but that never happened. The bbqs vacancy was filled with 3rd Degree while the old Whataburger location became Papa John's, which I was excited about, but instead of having boxes of pizza, they're offering 8" personal pizzas (three flavors and not even Supreme), and didn't even taste really like Papa John's, they just ran them through a conveyer-belt style cooking thing and I think the pizzas were undercooked (there was a narrow window when they were cool enough to eat but just within an hour it became inedible). The lines also became really long during the Compass mandatory meal plans days, which is why I ended up stopped going to the Underground altogether.

In fall 2014, as part of the Sbisa renovations, the Underground was renovated again. The new renovation opened it up a lot more and gave the brands larger and more attractive storefronts. There was still Smoothie King, of course, but while it did change it to pay-at-the-counter (like a traditional mall food court), which eliminated the walls, but reduced the food court's store count.

The old Chick-fil-a front became a large wall with a Chick-fil-A Express logo (and I was told that the CFA would become full line), the Papa John's now faced toward the entrance, previously, that used to be the pick-up line for the burgers (which was walled up when The Other Burger closed), a new place called "Houston St. Subs", which was a Compass/Chartwells brand.

I never ate at Houston Street Subs because I had little reason to believe it isn't a repackaged "Mondo Subs", the aforementioned "toenail clippings wrap" place mentioned before. It also lacks a fifth option, which eliminates burgers (Smashburger is above).

The bathrooms pre-renovation were terrible, there was a urinal, toilet with door, and sink, but this was cramped and likely not ADA compliant, so that was altered to get rid of the walls and just make it single-use.

Going around to the back, the convenience store is still the same (untouched, really, including the same old floor tiles), but it also lost the Rattler's again (though having lost and re-gained it, I wouldn't put it past Rattler's to re-take the convenience store, though as of early 2015 this has yet to happen. The Rattler's at Hullabaloo Hall and the Commons were also genericized.

Sbisa mostly serves the Northside dorms, with the once-common "'Bisa Ball" fights (mostly constructed of the napkins) among the Northside dorms, which have fierce rivalries (subcultures, gotta love 'em). I never really liked Sbisa's main dining hall anyway: mostly because of aforementioned buffet food, and I felt like what I was eating was both bad and bad for me. That and the folding chairs near the dessert area/pizza area were awful. Coupled with the rising prices and the general creepiness of the place (that's Northside for you) caused me to avoid the main Sbisa Dining Hall.

Of course, with the numerous changes to Sbisa, Old Army hates it, but that's to be expected, right?

Here's a photo from c. 2001 (official marketing shot) of the once-generic "Underground Market".

More recently (spring 2014), however, I managed to get a picture of when something on the awning changed, revealing the original brand. It did briefly go back to Rattler's again, then "The Aggie Express" or something when it lost the branding again. I hope that Rattler's can get it back, or some other convenience store brand.

Other Places

Not all of Sbisa is used for eating. There's an entrance on the southeast side (to the right of the main entrance) but I'm not so clear on the history of it (as of 2014, it's the "Global Supply Chain Laboratory", but in Spring 2012 was offices for something nuclear-related, if I recall correctly).

For more places to eat on campus, both current and former, check out Aggie Food, or see specific pages, like the MSC article or what we have on The Commons.

updated May 2015


These were salvaged when I changed formats in 2019 and kept here for posterity, as well as referencing parts above.

Jenny said...

Lots of memories of The Underground, but I was a Southsider and never really into Sbisa though.

For the record, Outbounds were the pre-dining dollars options for using your meal plans at the non-cafeteria dining options. They were good basically everywhere, including the C-stores and you had to use them or lose them before the end of the semester.
December 3, 2012 at 1:54 PM
Jenny said...

I was typing a comment and it deleted itself when I logged in. I was a Southsider and wasn't a big fan of Sbisa (only went when my Northside friends made me). But I did frequent the underground. Lots of memories there.

For the record, Outbounds were the pre-dining dollars option for using your meal plan on non-cafeteria style dining options. You could use them anywhere for set meals or up to a certain dollar amount at the C-store. They were still around in 2004 when I got to A&M, but were phased out at some point while I was there (I only had a meal plan freshman year so I don't remember exactly when). They were use it or lose it by the end of the semester. They were also way overpriced. Even the largest meal plan had you paying $6-7/outbound for usually $4-5 of food. It was even worse at the C-store as I think you'd only get $2 credit. We'd use them to buy everything, you could share them and buy stuff for friends or combine them and at the end of the semester you'd see people seeking out hungry folks to help them use up their leftover outbounds. Corps folks were required to buy the biggest plan so they always had a ton. Hope that was helpful! :)
December 3, 2012 at 2:01 PM
Matt Harvey said...

"Outbounds" was before my time. When I first started at A&M, it was "Lagniappe" (see for the definition). Then around 96 they changed it to "Aggie Meal Credit".
October 8, 2013 at 11:43 AM
Anonymous said...

I lived in McInnis my freshman year in 10-11. Yep, last class in that crappy dorm. As you can imagine, I was frequently in Sbisa/Underground. I loved Sbisa, wasn't always good but when they offered good food I couldn't stop eating. The pizza was never that great. I think they made a small change in the pizza that fall. The burger place still had someone taking orders, usually the same apathetic guy. My only gripe was weekend service was abysmal, very limited menu and poor food. Underground wasn't open at all and the Commons was a hike. MSC renovation was in full swing. No other options for on campus students. I remember going back once fall semester of my sophomore year (2011) and being really disappointed with the food. It had really declined in quality. I don't remember exactly when but the burger place started a touch menu to order which I liked. But eventually that got replaced to just someone bringing out already cooked patties and fries. That was the end of my satisfaction with Sbisa burgers. I returned to Sbisa a couple times til graduation in May. Most recent was in February. Quality was way off. No more long pasta line. Pizza was weird. Dessert offerings were limited. Just seemed like a sad place. MSC food court may have had something to do with that.

As for the underground, I remember the old burger place and BBQ place (which I always thought was too expensive). The burgers reminded me of Whataburger, too much mustard and chunky lettuce. I still remember waiting to get a burger on that open side. Like Sbisa, seemed underground slid after my freshman year. Burger place was lower quality and no more BBQ.I resented that it was now open on Saturday. I would've gotten CFA every other saturday. I always liked that one more than the Commons one anyway.

Overall, being a little sentimental and prone to reminiscing, I'm not thrilled about all the changes around that area. You can stand on the sidewalk from Sbisa (well, the parking lot across the street) to Hullabaloo Hall and no matter which direction you face, something has been changed. Brand new dorm, repaved (and I think slightly altered layout) lot 30 and 77. New little recreation area to replace the demolished bb court between Walton and McInnis which also got rid of the eye sore grassy section that was mainly dirt. Everything that happened with Fish Pond and Ross Street. The whole redoing of University Drive as well as the closing off of Houston/College Main to cars. Granted, a lot of these are improvements, especially with the roads. Having just bikes and pedestrians crossing University is a lot safer. The drunk wall outside the bars helps. I can't get over the fact that they moved Fish Pond but the road is in much better shape and better suited for bus traffic. I remember when between H2O fountain and Spence street was gated off. Now it's great to use after hours as an alternative to University and it's lights.
October 13, 2014 at 10:38 PM
Pseudo3D said...

Even before the outsourcing, the pizza at Sbisa tasted worse than Sargino's in the Commons (MSC was closed at the time). That was in spring 2012, first semester at TAMU. The burger place at least had orders ready, and had the patties out in the Chartwells incarnation, buffet style. Gross. That's what I remember at least. They had also weird stuff after the Chartwells incarnation, like a soup that as my Northside dining compatriots (all strangers) commented that the dark, greenish soup tasted like it had a dirty sock marinating in it all day.

In fall 2012, the burger place in the Underground changed again as well, and wasn't even cooking burgers fresh anymore. There wasn't a line like before...TOB wasn't anything special but definitely still an option.

Like I've said before, the MSC food court was very good when it reopened, but it was ruined after the outsourcing, with every thing that I liked about it having been altered in some way.
October 14, 2014 at 8:27 AM
Anonymous said... the blog.

The coffee place you are trying to figure out in the original Underground was "Papanicholas" (not sure of the spelling) you can almost make out from the photo you posted.
March 19, 2015 at 11:41 AM
Rob said...

I was searching for some info about Bernie's Place. You said you were sure if it started in the '90s or late '80s. All I can say is that it was definitely there when I started school in 1989. I don't remember anybody saying it was brand new, but that certainly could've been it's first year.

And yes... the pizza and pizza rolls were great. It sounds so sad that all of this has been outsourced and cheapened now. All of it was actually good food back in my day. I was on campus last year and excitedly grabbed a meal at Sbisa. That excitement was gone before I even took my half-filled tray to the conveyor belt. :(
February 3, 2016 at 11:01 PM

Monday, November 26, 2012

Confucius Chinese Cuisine

An early 1990s advertisement for one of my favorite defunct eateries

Today a Walgreens, this was the home of one of my family's favorite places to eat in the 1990s, Confucius Chinese Cuisine (2322 Texas Avenue South). In older versions of this page, I provided two links comparing the 1995 aerial to the 2011 aerial. You can see the same thing with Historic Aerials or a copy of Google Earth (just search for the address).

While I sadly do not have a picture for Confucius Chinese Cuisine (and I did look, though buried on Project HOLD you can see the sign, however, I can't find it either), it was housed in a building at the corner of Brentwood and Texas Avenue. I still remember how cool it looked on the inside and out. It had a curved Chinese-style roof, the sign had one word in orange, one in green, and one in red. And those were lit up at night. I don't know what the history of it was. All I know was that it was open in 1989 but the building pre-dating it for a few years courtesy of an even older Chinese restaurant called "Jade Garden".

Inside, to the right you had the restrooms, a mural was toward the front, with what appeared to be a crowd of tiny Buddhas playing, and the décor was mostly red and gold, with the aquarium bubbling in the background (complete with an eel that never became a dish).

It was my family's go-to place for Sunday after-church dinners. The buffet was a single line with some really good egg rolls but I don't know if it was good or if I just thought so because I was young and didn't know what good food tasted like (it was markedly better than the old Chinese buffets in town following its closure, which admittedly isn't saying much). I seem to remember it closing a bit later than it actually did: Brazos CAD lists the Walgreens replacing it was built in 2001, and the deed changed hands from restaurant owner Jimmy Chang in early 2001 (though I do remember it was in spring), indicating it closed then. Referring to Jade Garden (as it was called in 1984, likely not built too long prior to that), it appears based on deed info that it changed names and ownership later. In 1982, the deed was transferred to Kwan and Helen Chui, then to Confucius Chinese Cuisine in 1993 (though the restaurant had that name by the time) until Jimmy Chang in 1995, which indicates that Jade Garden changed names before it changed hands.

I suppose it's better that the restaurant closed instead of selling out to new management: it never saves restaurants, just leaves a "bad taste" in people's memories of how good the food was. Interestingly, throughout the entire restaurant's "career", there was Imperial Chinese Restaurant, which moved there sometime between 1993 and 1995 (it was in the place where Wolfies was, which was Ninfa's by '95) just two doors down at Brazos Square. This one had declined from its early days, but outlasted Confucius Chinese Cuisine. Between them was College Station Pawn (2316 Texas Avenue South). The pawn shop and the empty Confucius Chinese Cuisine were demolished, with the pawn shop moving to a space at Manuel and Texas. After Imperial succumbed, the pawn shop moved back to the place where Imperial was. The restaurant closed within a few years of the Brentwood stoplight being added, too.

UPDATE 11-05-2020: Clarified previous name and date. Previously updated February 2019 to account for more accurate closing date, revisions in writing, and cutting out Brazos Square info.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

University Apartments and Century Square

Trendy mixed-use right in the heart of the city! (Picture by author, 2/20)

This post was originally written as "University Apartments", which focused on the group of university-owned apartments that were largely torn down around 2014 for what we now know as Century Square. Initially, I had no interest in covering Century Square as I had updated the post to my standards at the time to wrap up the site (it's why there's an eight month gap between the last 2014 post and the first 2015 post). As a result, this covers the predecessor of Century Square, the University Apartments, first, and we'll progress to the present day and the current occupier of the site.

During my time at A&M, I was thankful that I had enough sense to photograph many buildings on their way out in terms of demolition or extensive renovation. I didn't get enough pictures of the old Scoates Hall, and no inside shots of Dulie Bell, but did get pictures of The Commons, Zachry Engineering Center, Read Building, G. Rollie White, and of course, these.

When making this post originally (or at least doing a significant update), I had done research at Cushing Memorial Library, which refers to Battalion articles that aren't available to be linked. Some of the links that were available, dating from the mid-2000s have been removed from the Battalion's webpage (with no to rescue them, I didn't have enough sense back then to archive my links).

Originally rows and rows of two-level Army-style barracks filling up the diagonal-row roads in the early 1950s, with two complexes, College View and Southside, a federal grant in 1957 (to the tune of 2.5 million dollars, which would be about 20 million today) allowed more to be built.

From what I could tell, the original College View Apartments were Army-style barracks filling up the diagonal-row roads east of Northgate built in the early 1950s (at the same time Southside was built, which appeared to have been at the northeast corner of Wellborn and modern-day George Bush Drive, more on that another day).

In 1960, the Hensel Apartments (later Hensel Terrace Apartments) were built, and originally not air-conditioned (until likely the 1970s). The new College View Apartments, built in 1969, were built facing FM 60 and according to The Battalion were "cool, comfortable, and complete", being climate controlled at 70 degrees.

Interestingly, despite the new College View apartments replacing the old College View buildings on a 1:1 basis, only about 7 buildings were built. Nearly 30 others were torn down (a few lasting into the early 1980s, a footnote at a document called "Brazos Valley Chronology" at Project HOLD, mentions the last of these were removed in 1982) without replacement, and until the Century Square development, those spaces remained vacant, possibly due to lack of funding. The back 13 were redeveloped into Avenue A Apartments on a 1:1 replacement, but it was still a lot of vacant space. The 1970s also saw the construction of College Avenue Apartments, which were directly across College Avenue from University Square Shopping Center.

As time went on, the Married Student Housing became known as the "University Apartments", as it started to become known for international students as well. The maintenance of the apartments declined and the roads started to deteriorate, but there wasn't any major trouble. Piecemeal improvements were made to the complex, including the addition of the Becky Gates Children's Center, a 1997 addition on Hensel that would have childcare for students married with children. Later on a community center and playground were built as well. However, it was an incident in 2004 that did change the University Apartments forever.

One day in July 2004, residents complained about a smell of natural gas in the Hensel Terrace Apartments. The maintenance worker responded but decided to not repair the leak until the next week (in fact, they told residents to close their windows, thus making the smell inside worse). Saquib Ejaz, a resident of those apartments, lived with his wife and daughter at Hensel Apartments. His parents were visiting from Bangladesh. While his parents, wife (who was pregnant with another child), and daughter were home, the gas somehow ignited and fire consumed the apartment's interior, severely burning all four. His wife and father survived, but his daughter and mother did not. Other apartments were damaged, as well, however; the structure itself survived.

Lawsuits were filed, and by 2005, a number of new improvements were announced, including new stoves, new detectors, and much better maintenance. This still wasn't "enough" maintenance, as the apartment complex was still falling apart, with the College Avenue Apartments on Ball Street having unleveled floors.

However, by fall 2006, a plan was approved to add the Gardens at University, which, instead of building it on vacant land, would replace the existing apartments. When I first wrote this article in 2012, the College Avenue Apartments had been demolished in 2011 (without replacement), and two-thirds of the Hensel Terrace Apartments (including the rebuilt apartments where Ejaz's apartment was) had been torn down for the Gardens. Nothing else had been altered since then.

In early 2013 "Campus Pointe", a long-planned redevelopment of the area, was trotted out again and approved. This would essentially lease the university's land to a private developer, becoming one of the few shopping malls built on property leased from a university (Stanford Shopping Center is another example).

College View Apartments, Hensel Terrace Apartments, and Avenue A Apartments were marked for destruction--all residents had to move out. There were even stories of the mattresses being moved out first, so many had to make do with sleeping on the floor, and a new field designated for playing cricket (popular as most of the residents came from overseas) had to be closed. Despite (presumably) assistance, the apartments all near campus had much higher rent, and both Northgate and Southgate had undergone some degree of gentrification.

While The Gardens, the daycare, and the maintenance building were not affected and still stand, the demolition for redevelopment seemed to take a long time, for months, the abandoned apartments (speckled with graffiti) stood, then for many more months with just vacant land. Sometime during all of this, Campus Pointe was renamed to Century Square.

A friend and I took these in May 2013, soon before eviction in summer 2013 (the picture at the title is also from that):

Nobody's home.

Avenue A Apartments, which has eight units per building, four of which are seen here.

There is so much open space here, great for large group games or tossing a Frisbee around. Too bad this will go away...

College View Apartments. These face University Drive.

Hensel Terrace Apartments. Most of these are already gone, including the unit that exploded in 2004. It's worth noting that the building wasn't actually destroyed. The apartments have concrete foundations and despite being old and run-down, are better built then similar apartment complexes of the same era.

The Gardens at University Apartments. These will stick around.

Interesting vents on the University Apartments Maintenance Building.

For the next few years, the entire area was gated off as new construction began to take over, opening as Century Square.

The center would open in phases, with many of the restaurants coming in-line by fall 2017 (the hotels opened sooner). I haven't actually been to most of what Century Square has to offer...the parking is a major issue, in an effort to be more like Houston high-end development, the developers instituted paid parking everywhere except the garage (which also once had a strict time limit for staying).

The "mall space" is composed of a bunch of buildings floating in parking lots. As the way I'm going to explain it is going to be confusing, I recommend you look at the PDF directory to understand the layout. It's an archived version, and will go increasingly out of date as time goes on, but the link should stay up.

1025 University Drive - Located at the corner of the development, closest to the College Drive/University intersection, this building has, from left to right, Mo's Irish Pub, Orangetheory Fitness, Sharetea, Merge Boutique, Clean Juice, and Piada Street Food. I ate at Mo's Irish Pub once—airy, modern space, cute waitresses, but average food with only a few token "Irish" dishes. Clean Juice doesn't seem to show up in the directory anymore as of this writing, though, so it might be closed.

1099 University Drive - This is almost the same building as 1025 University Drive except there's a covered open-air walkway between them. This building has three tenants, Velvet Taco (opened September 2021 and the former home to Runway Seven, a women's clothing store, which closed sometime in 2019 after about two years), Tiff's Treats, and Zoë's Kitchen.

1027 University Drive - Directly behind the 1025/1099 building is 1027, a two-story building that wraps around the parking garage. This is where Star Cinema Grill is, located on the upper level (I have yet to visit it). The lower level is mostly vacant, with only Harvest Coffee and a second local location of I Heart Mac and Cheese (opened September 2020). The largest store in the block is College Station's own lululemon athletica store, with its pricey, brand-name yoga pants. Next to that is Grass Stains, a specialty boutique with its only location here (the original location in Graham, Texas has since closed).

166 Century Court - Directly east of the preceding building, 166 Century Court is a multi-story office building ("Century Square Two") with three retail tenants currently on the ground floor--Onward Reserve (opened November 2019), King Ranch Saddle Shop and Hemline, a women's clothing boutique out of New Orleans. In December 2020, a "selfie museum", Instaland BCS, opened next to Onward Reserve, with Luchesse Bootmaker opening north of it soon after.

144 Century Court - To the east of the preceding building. Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Hey Sugar, and Sabi Boutique, are all located here. Sabi Boutique opened in April 2019 as their second location. The boutique had maintained a storefront at The Lofts at Wolf Pen Creek for years, but they moved that location to University Drive East within a few months , meaning that they had two locations on the same road less than a mile away from each other. It is not listed on Century Square's website anymore. Yelp says the location is closed, while Sabi Boutique's Facebook page just reports that on May 2020, the Century Square store would remain "temporarily" closed. The other two places, Hopdoddy and Hey Sugar I've never bought anything from, and I have some less-than-flattering impressions that I could tell you about, but it would be bad form to disparage open businesses.

143 Century Court - The "mirror" of the preceding building to the east, on the other side of The Green (an open space for outdoor events and al fresco dining) has three more tenant spaces: Blaze Pizza, Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream (closed as of February 2020, and has yet to be retenanted), and Sweet Paris Crêperie & Café. I've never been to Sweet Paris but I do know of it since it had replaced the Rice Village location of Texadelphia (a fact mentioned in our Texadelphia post).

175 Century Square Drive - The only retail tenant below the Century Square One office building is Galleria Spa Salon, formerly Galleria Day Spa (for years it used to be at the corner of Cavitt Drive and Villa Maria Drive, until it moved to Rock Prairie, which is still there). The office tenants include Breakaway Ministries, UBS Financial Services, and BRW Architects.

Going counterclockwise around toward the back are two boutique hotels, "The George" (with "1791 Whiskey Bar" inside), which opened August 2017, and Cavalry Court, which opened November 2016 (one of the first tenants) with its "The Canteen" restaurant. Despite being a four-star hotel with off-season prices being around $120 a night, all the rooms open to the outside.

Directly behind The Green was Poppy (named after the late Bush 41's nickname). Sometime right around very early 2020 before you-know-what happened, Poppy closed for an upscale Mexican concept (to be named Juanitas), but seeing as 2020 has been atrocious to restaurants, it remains empty (though is still planned). West of the former Poppy is Porters Dining + Butcher, a high-end (well, at least for College Station) steakhouse.

170 Century Square Drive - Finally, to the east of the complex is 100 Park, an apartment building that fits into the whole modern "mixed-use" concept, though not oriented toward students. At the bottom of this apartments include Pokéworks (opened January 2020) and MESS Waffles, which opened October 2018. This used to be known as Wafology, which was mentioned at the 711 University Drive article.

1289 University Drive - The first tenant to come...and go...Neighbors Emergency Center opened in October 2016 but closed around August 2016. This opened in October 2016 as Neighbors Emergency Center, a private 24-hour care emergency clinic that was the first open tenant in the Century Square development. However, it closed within about 10 months. In November 2018, CapRock Urgent Care opened in its place, and in spring 2021, became Integrity Urgent Care as CapRock sold off most of its facilities.

UPDATE 01-04-2021: After adding Century Square in the fourth edit version to this page in February 2020, the fifth edit to this page includes some tenant changes and other minor fixes.
UPDATE 07-10-2021: Minor updates, but the only thing of note was Integrity Urgent Care (CapRock sold).
UPDATE 12-13-2021: Added Velvet Taco and minor update regarding Poppy, as well as UBS.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Culpepper Plaza / Central Station

Signage and Chick-fil-A, May 2019

This post is a "mega-post" of sorts on Culpepper Plaza (later Central Station) which was opened in March 1976 with a Safeway and a full collection of other retail stores. In late 2006, the redevelopment began on the strip, which was looking pretty shabby (Weiner's, Eckerd, AppleTree, and other major stores had all left), and by 2007, parts of the strip were torn down, and assumed its current name at this time.

Burger King (one of the wood-trimmed-interior ones built in the early 1980s, 1719 Texas Avenue) would move out and be replaced by a new Chick-fil-A, the second Chick-fil-A in College Station (that is, if you didn't count the four CFAs at the time on campus--Ag Café, MSC, Underground, Commons--though they were all "Express" locations) and the first that wasn't part of a larger structure (Post Oak Mall, specifically), and also the second stand-alone CFA in the county. Specifically, Burger King would move and replace an old Diamond Shamrock (the classic old green-and-white design, with the helvetica lettering) at Deacon. To this day, that Burger King continues to be the only Burger King in town, while McDonald's has the area well saturated. The strip center was renamed "Central Station", though people rarely call it that (in favor of its original name or "Kohl's shopping center", which is increasingly becoming more common as Culpepper fades into memory).

I also remember a weird hobby shop that hadn't been remodeled since the 1970s that I remember from the very early 1990s. For some reason I remember a bronze interior and it being fairly dark, too? (It was one of my earlier memories of the plaza...)

My original source, beyond some random forum postings, was an old Sanborn Fire Insurance map from the 1980s and some poor VHS screencaps (not just taken from a VHS tape, but photographed near the TV--admittedly it's better than nothing--thanks je):

In late 2006, the redevelopment began on the strip, which was looking pretty shabby (Weiner's, Eckerd, AppleTree, and other major stores had all left), and by 2007, parts of the strip were torn down. Burger King would move out and be replaced by a new Chick-fil-A, the second Chick-fil-A in College Station (that is, if you didn't count the four CFAs at the time on campus--Ag Café, MSC, Underground, Commons--though they were all "Express" locations) and the first that wasn't part of a larger structure (Post Oak Mall, specifically), and also the second stand-alone CFA in the county. Specifically, Burger King would move and replace an old Diamond Shamrock (the classic old green-and-white design, with the helvetica lettering) at Deacon. To this day, that Burger King continues to be the only Burger King in town, while McDonald's has the area well saturated. The strip center was renamed "Central Station", though people rarely call it that.

We have an ad here for Culpepper Plaza. It lists Quick as a Flash, which is strange since not even the parking lot is connected. It shows some things I didn't know existed, including a popcorn shop (in the 1990s, there was a bagel shop), Starships & Dragons (comics and collectibles?), Games Galore (arcade on what is now the Los Cucos side, but I can't place it). and Singer Sewing Center. This must be (in 1988) just prior to Safeway selling out to AppleTree.

There's a better list below that I've created from directory listings and others, but it's far from complete--lots of stores and restaurants aren't even on here.

1505A - As far as back as at least the 1990s, this was the local Bennigan's restaurant. I never ate at Bennigan's, but it had an old mural (of the logo, nothing special) facing Texas Avenue. It survived the Central Station remodeling, but it closed in July 2008 when the parent company imploded. Later, it became an AT&T store, which it is today. This was one of the stores on the "smaller strip" and facing Texas Avenue.

1505B - The location of "He's Cafe" today, this has been serving Asian cuisine for years. From the early to mid 2000s to sometime in early 2016, this was Ping's Buffet. In 1996, this was "China Wok Restaurant". In 1989, In 1989, this was "Singapore" or "Steamboat Singapore", which helps dat a map I found referring to a "STMBT SPR.". (H/T to Andrew Y.)

I've always wondered if the two restaurants were one tenant at one time.

1507 - Swensen's use to be here. One of my fondest memories is the inverted ice cream cone resembling a clown face. It lasted until around 2004. It was here when my parents discovered I could read signage at a young age. It was one of the earliest stores, existing as early as 1979 (it gets coverage in the 1979 TAMU yearbook, a two-page spread!). Eventually, it was filled by Firehouse Subs.

1509 - From summer 2009 to late summer 2014, this was the location of Spoons Yogurt (the FIRST Spoons in the chain). It looks like it was part of Swensen's originally (the space, that is). Supposedly, the reason it closed was a failure to renew the lease. That said, Spoons Yogurt's plans for expansion in later years never really took off--under the name "3 Spoons Yogurt", locations opened as far away as Clemson, SC, Lawrence, KS, and Knoxville, TN, but they all failed. Only the locations built in Texas (Huntsville, Waco) did well and remained open. After Spoons Yogurt closed, it was reopened as Galaxy Ice Cream & Bubble Tea (or Galaxy Tea House). Surprisingly, within a year, Galaxy was "sucked into a black hole" and Spoons Yogurt reopened in the space by late September 2015...and from the pictures I've seen of them on their Facebook page, it looks almost identical to how I remember it.

1511 - Current location of the UPS Store. I don't know what used to be here. In 1980 this was "Mother Nature Home of Nutrition"

1513 - It's likely the address was originally on the smaller strip, which some sources indicate as an address for Dollar Tree. Was it originally here before it moved into the larger strip?

1515 - In 1980 this was Godfather's Pizza. It was gone from here by 1989. I can't find any data on it in neither the '96 directory, the 1980s map, nor present-day searching...I believe it was absorbed into 1517.

1517 - This was "Luvz Jewelers" back in the mid-1990s (as for 1515, I can't find ). Luvz wasn't short-lived, it was around in 1988, as seen in the ad in this post. Muldoon's Coffee House opened in 2009 and closed at the start of the fall 2014 semester, the exact same timeframe as the also-missed Spoons. After Muldoon's closed, it became "Eyemart".

1519 - Supercuts. Has been here since at least '96 (if not longer).

1521 - When I was a kid, this was Pancho's Mexican Buffet (opened early 1992). Featuring a little guy in a sombrero, Pancho's was a Mexican buffet restaurant. While I can't say too much about the food, it was a wide open area, with a collection of large, creepy "sun masks" hanging above the food. They were traditional Mexican art, but none of them had painted eyes (just holes) and all of them were staring at the customers. As a little kid, these things freaked me out. My sister also had a traumatic birthday here when she was young (with the "singing waitstaff surprise": you should never let a restaurant know it's your birthday, for children or adults). Needless to say, with both her and me traumatized by separate incidents, we never went here again, and it finally went out by the early 2000s or late 1990s. Around 2002, it was replaced with Los Cucos, a much classier Mexican restaurant. In the mid-to-late 2000s, Los Cucos ended up becoming notorious with a string of issues related to the Health Department, but Los Cucos has stayed out of the spotlight since. Los Cucos In the 1980s, the space had been carved between two tenants. One of them was Cow Hop Junction, a spin-off of the Northgate establishment. Not sure what the other one was, but the 1980 directory lists "Little Mexico" for this tenant.

1601 - At the very end of Culpepper Plaza, this space has traditionally housed a large restaurant.

It was home to Rosewood Junction in 1980, this was Mama's Pizza in 1989 (relocated from what is now Torchy's). By the late 1990s, this was Bullwinkle's. Bullwinkle's Grill & Bar was located at the very end of Culpepper Plaza, closest to Dominik Road. It's still talked about on TexAgs sometimes.
Later home to Margarita Rocks (a seafood restaurant, in fact), which closed August 2009 (according to Yelp), it was replaced by Katsuya, a Japanese restaurant opened in late 2010 or early 2011 at the end of the strip (lots of vacancies). It had a short life: it got good reviews, but it had a kitchen fire soon after and did not reopen. The sign was soon taken down after about a year.

TITLE Boxing Club, the first non-restaurant in the space, operated from late 2014 to early 2020 (or very late 2019).

1607 - 1980 directory lists this as "That Place II". I think it was some sort of hair salon. Today it is a salon as well...Apex Salon and Cuttery.

1611 - H&R Block was here in the mid-1990s and still here (there's mostly vacancies in this stretch, have been here for years). Interestingly, 1609 is also listed for H&R Block, so I really don't know which they do inhabit. Serendipity Shop was here in 1980.

1613 - From early 2012 to early 2015 this was Grateful Dog Self-Serve Dog Wash. Despite constantly advertising on TexAgs, I was not sold on the idea of a dog wash place--with all the effort it takes to load a filthy dog into your car and pay someone for use with presumably hoses and soap, why not just use your hose at home? The place officially closed because the owners were moving back to Dallas (if I read correctly) but I may have a theory on the REAL reason it just wasn't enough to make ends meet. Two years later the space was reopened as Sweet Horse Bubble Tea, a "dessert café" with rolled ice cream and bubble tea. Historically, this was once part of (store space-wise) Lewis Shoe Store back in the 1980s (even in 1980). I don't have information on what it was prior to that, I know that it was one of the many vacant stores on that end of the shopping center.

Sweet Horse closed sometime around 2020, not too long after a second location in H-E-B Jones Crossing closed (probably a reason for the parent company's demise—the H-E-B location did a terrible business).
1617 - In the mid-1990s, home to U.S. Black Belt Academy. No info found on the current tenant today.

1619 - Current home to Honolulu Poke House. Prior to this it was Coach's Liquor. A comment below mentions that this used to be at Highland and Jersey (later George Bush), which I do remember it being there. I always wondered why there was a liquor store when Spec's was down the way, but I think it had moved after the building at Highland and George Bush was redeveloped for Aggieland Outfitters but before Culpepper Plaza got redeveloped. This was Lippman Music prior to 1994 and in 1980 was "Animal World Too" (spin-off of a long-standing Manor East Mall store, which eventually held out onto the very end). Yelp! mentions that the store closed in December 2014 rather abruptly for reasons unknown, and despite the dubiousness of that particular user, the closure is corroborated by the 2015 Google Street View, which shows the note (illegible) and decaying interior (signs fallen down, no open sign, etc.) In October 2017 it reopened as Honolulu Poke House.

1621 - In 1980, this had been listed as "The Seat Cover". Might have been upholstery to cover chairs but I think mostly of toilet seats. Now a State Farm agent (Scot Semple)

1623 - Douglas Jewelry in 1980 and "Triple Crown Sports" in 1996. This was vacant for a while in the revived Central Station but it later became Breezesmokes (styled as breezEsmokes, but whatever), which opened early 2014 or late 2013 (to my knowledge). As of January 2016, it's now Signature Eyebrow Threading (apparently store #4) with no sign of Breezesmokes in that space. It seems like they retreated back to their Waco location (home base).

1625 - American Passenger Travel Agency in 1980 and Linder's High Tech Health in 1996.

1627 - Sandy's Shoes in 1980. An anonymous comment submitted in November 2014 says that her parents (store named after mother) opened the store in 1977.

1629 - Aggieland T Shirts in 1980. Seems to be unrelated to current Aggieland Outfitters.

1631 - Originally Hastings (at least back to 1980), which moved circa '98 to the corner of Holleman and Texas Avenue (where it died in 2015). Much of the space it was in is now occupied by P.O.E.T.S. Billiards.

1635 - "No Return" in 1980, which is not the name of a store, but it implies that there was something there once.

1637 - Modern day spot of P.O.E.T.S. Billiards, a pool hall. This survived the renovation. I think it came in around the late 1990s, because my 1993 directory does not list it.

1641 - Wyatt's Sporting Goods in 1980 and "Rick's Sporting Goods" in 1996. Today, the space is still intact, but vacant. It's possible that this was larger in 1996 and not a small storefront like today.

1643 - Painting with a Twist is here today, a "paint-n-sip" studio. In 1980 it was Brazos Valley World of Books Shoppe.

1659 - This was Anna's Linens from the time of the Central Station redevelopment. It takes up half of the old Weiner's. In June 2015, Anna's Linens went the way of Weiner's and closed. It is now Wally's Party Factory as of summer 2016. Within about a year, that became Party City (for reasons I'm not entirely sure of).

1661 - Weiner's from at least 1980 to at least 1996. It was a clothing store. The address and half of the space is taken by Dollar Tree today.

1663 - "Kids Mart" in '96. Modern day location of Cato Fashions.

1665 - Starship Hallmark Shop (a Hallmark store, no relation to Starships & Dragons, it seems) in 1996.

1667 - My 1996 directory scan lists University Book Store Inc., Sew Vac City, and Douglas Jewelers all in one place. Strange considering that the Sanborn Fire Insurance map and the modern day location of Brazos Running Co. (well, until it moved to 1717) shows it isn't very large at all (indicating that it was probably an error). It's now Grand Nail Spa.

It used to be Shala's, which closed in 1985. Click for a larger picture, it is pretty small.
This is one of those 1980s clothing stores that went out of business in October 1985. I'm guessing that it died early from the oil bust fallout.

The 1980 directory further complicates this by listing Starship Hallmark as 1667 and "A A A House of Curtis Mathes" as 1667b.

1669 - Radio Shack in 1980. Later moved.

1671 - Cato Fashions in 1996, which is still around in a different place. The image above is from a picture pre-redevelopment. In the early 1990s (it closed by '96), it was Colberts. As you can see by the image below, Colberts had some rather outlandish women's clothing. This space was razed for Kohl's. In 1980 it was "Rush R & Co"
...that's for a costume party, right? Right? (1992 ad)

1673 - Radio Shack was here. It closed shortly before the space was torn down for Kohl's. I remember driving here circa 2006 to look for something related to a school project only to find nothing. We ended up going to the mall, which until around the time when ol' RadioShack went bankrupt had one (there's still one in Bryan). In 1980 this was Roseanne's.

1701 - Address of modern day Kohl's.

1703 - One of the shops torn down in the redevelopment, this was The Curiosity Shop in 1980, Career Apparel in 1996 (listed as 1702, that can't be right), and by 1998 Bruegger's Bagels. By 2002, it was operating as "The Bagel Station" (source: August 2002 Restaurant Report). When it closed within a few years, we didn't have a bagel shop anymore. We still really don't.

1705 - "Floppy Joe's Software Store" in 1996, opened sometime in the late 1980s (open by 1989). According to comments received (edited for clarity), "Floppy Joe's was a place that rented out mostly PC games and later some console games. You left with your rentals in a gallon size Ziploc baggie full of 3.5's. I frequented that place quite a bit, a husband and wife ran it, he was going to A&M and I believe went on to work for Dell, really cool people, but a younger guy bought the store (I think he mentioned his grandparents fronting the money), could have been a sign of the times but it did not last after that.

In 1980, this was Top Drawer Pant Company.

As an aside on Floppy Joe's, I have to wonder how that even worked, as PC games in that time had notorious copy-protection schemes that often involved looking something up in the manual or on a piece of paper, so I'm wondering if they rented out the cracked copies, which in turn could be re-copied on another floppy disk.

1707 - "Right Price" in 1996 and "Regan's Dept. Store" in 1980. Demo'd for Kohl's.

1709 - Eckerd Drugs was an original tenant, lasting from 1976 to at least 1996. Demo'd as well, but it had moved out for some time prior to that. While I'm not sure if Safeway (later AppleTree) had its own pharmacy (it certainly had the space for it), Eckerd was often co-located with the Houston division Safeway stores, sometimes next door. I'm pretty sure that Eckerd did move to 2411 Texas Avenue in 1999, which makes sense chronologically (especially if it recycled its store number, which on the newer store was #382).

1711 - Payless ShoeSource, but died when it was evicted for Kohl's. See the image above (where Cato Fashions was discussed). In 1980, this was the home of Carnaby Square, a women's clothing shop.

1713 - This space has flip-flopped between restaurant use and non-restaurant use. In 1980 it was Trudi's Restaurant (as per the directory) and the spot of Clothestime (in 1996), though this was a CiCi's Pizza in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Post-redevelopment, it was HobbyTown USA (relocated from the Best Buy/Barnes & Noble shopping center) until it closed in January 2016. In June 2016, Nothing Bundt Cakes replaced it.

1717 - FX Video Game Exchange moved here shortly after the center was rebuilt (guessing 2007?) but closed in December 2017. I did buy a few video games here used, but many of the merchandise was in poor shape (particularly strategy guides) and overpriced, and the trade-in values were absurd. After FX closed, Brazos Running Company relocated here.

1719 - Burger King (one of the wood-trimmed-interior ones built in the early 1980s) was here for a number of years and would be the only Burger King in town despite the rapid of expansion of McDonald's stores in the area. As part of the renovation around 2007, Burger King moved out and was replaced by a new Chick-fil-A, the second Chick-fil-A in College Station (that is, if you didn't count the four CFAs at the time on campus--Ag Café, MSC, Underground, Commons--though they were all "Express" locations) and the first that wasn't part of a larger structure (Post Oak Mall, specifically), and also the second stand-alone CFA in the county. Specifically, Burger King would move and replace an old Diamond Shamrock (the classic old green-and-white design, with the Helvetica lettering) at Deacon (more on that here). In 2017, the Chick-fil-A completed a re-do of the exterior that added a second drive through that eliminated a number of parking spaces (you can't park in front of the store anymore).

1723 - "Shoe World" in 1996, now Sally Beauty Supply.

1725 - Originally also encompassing the modern 1729, this opened as the city's third Safeway supermarket in 1976 and becoming AppleTree in 1989 when Safeway spun off the Houston division. It was my parent's supermarket when they moved into town, but I don't have anything but the vaguest recollections. The AppleTree survived for far longer than the rest of the Houston-based chain of almost 100 stores, as it was one of only six that survived after the company sold off most of its stores in 1993, and it only closed in November 2002 following the opening of the H-E-B down the street, especially since H-E-B trumped it in every category: it was newer, cheaper, larger, nicer, more upscale, et cetera and it was the third to last to close. After it closed, it remained vacant, was extensively renovated on the same footprint when the center was redeveloped (it likely reuses the foundation), and even then the address wasn't re-used until 2012 when OfficeMax moved into the side that Spec's didn't use. To note, this was one of the largest Safeway stores in Texas when it opened. The OfficeMax, store #6501 closed around December 2017, presumably so the company could consolidate with the Office Depot down the street. As of this writing (May 2019) the space is becoming HomeGoods (owned by the TJX Companies).

1727 - Napa Flats Wood-Fired Kitchen. This used to be Souper Salad for the longest time. This isn't part of the main strip, this is directly behind the Exxon. Before that, it was 3-C Barbecue.

1729 - Spec's Wine, Spirits, and Finer Foods takes up of the old AppleTree and is a newly badged address. This opened in about 2007.

UPDATE 03-15-2021: Most of the previous updates have been lost but 1613, 1667, and 1717 were updated. A full audit of the center needs to be done again.