Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Culpepper Plaza / Central Station

Signage and Chick-fil-A, May 2019

Culpepper Plaza (renamed as Central Station following a 2007 renovation) opened in March 1976 with a Safeway (later AppleTree) and a full collection of other retail stores. Even into the 1990s it had large stores like Weiner's, Eckerd, and AppleTree, but by the early 2000s these were gone, prompting a large-scale remodel starting in late 2006.

je of Southern Retail did send me a screencap of a video taped at some point in the 1990s; regrettably, it's a photo of a television screen and poor quality. You can see that here. Below is an ad of Culpepper Plaza circa 1988. It lists Quick as a Flash, which is strange since not even the parking lot is connected. It shows some things I can't place, including a popcorn shop (in the 1990s, there was a bagel shop), Starships & Dragons (comics and collectibles?), Games Galore (an arcade) and Singer Sewing Center.

I've created a list of tenants from directory listings and others, but it's far from complete—lots of stores and restaurants aren't even on here. Starting from the block next to 1503 Texas Avenue South we have the following...

1505A - As far as back as 1981, 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 - This location has been serving Asian cuisine for years. Currently (since 2021) it is "F&F Japanese Grill" (Fast & Furious Japanese Grill). From December 2015 to 2019 this was He's Cafe, Ping's Buffet from 2005 to 2015, China Wok Restaurant from 1991 to 2005, and prior to that was "Steamboat Singapore". (H/T to Andrew Y.)

1507 - From 1979 to October 2005 this was Swensen's. Swensen's was a great ice cream parlor (they also had a few food items like hamburgers and hot dogs) at its peak, they had things like kids' meals in paper foldout pink Cadillacs, a "clown face" ice cream using an inverted cone as the hat, and a bunch of other things. It also gets coverage in the 1979 TAMU yearbook, a two-page spread!

After a short time as Little Blue Heron, a steakhouse/seafood restaurant, it became Firehouse Subs in December 2008.

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). Spoons was great while it lasted and looked to be a growing chain. 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. Spoons closed in fall 2014 and became Galaxy Ice Cream & Bubble Tea (a/k/a Galaxy Tea House), but Spoons Yogurt reopened in the space by late September 2015...and restored the cafe to its original appearance before closing for good in early 2020. By spring 2021 it became the current tenant "Rush Bowls".

1511 - Current location of the UPS Store. This was Games Galore back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and in the late 1990s/early 2000s was a Mail Boxes Etc. store. I don't know what used to be here. In 1980 this was "Mother Nature Home of Nutrition".

1513 - This was "Schmaltz's Sandwich Shop" from 1980 to 1996, though I don't know where it fits in exactly. It was Dollar Tree from 1996 to 2007. Because of this, I would assume that the current "Eyemart" is where Dollar Tree was previously.

1515 - Holding the address of also 1517 (both the same tenant), this was Godfather's Pizza from 1980 to 1988. Eventually (a "Luvz Jewelers" was in 1517 in the mid-1990s) this became of Muldoon's Coffee House (at 1517) from fall 2009 to fall 2014. Following this it became Eyemart.

1519 - Supercuts has been here since 1989.

1521 - Pancho's Mexican Buffet was here from early 1992 to around 1999. I never liked it because of the large, creepy "sun masks" hanging above the dining area. Los Cucos replaced in 1999, and prior to Pancho's was Cow Hop Junction (a spin-off of the Northgate restaurant for more casual diners), and before that (1982-1987) was Texas Tumbleweed. A 1980 directory lists "Little Mexico" for this tenant.

Now we move on to the 1600 building, starting at the side closest to Dominik.

1601 - At the very end of Culpepper Plaza, this space has traditionally housed a large restaurant though sadly it hasn't been a restaurant for a number of years. From what I can piece together, It was home to Rosewood Junction from 1977 to 1981, Padre Cafe in 1984, Jumping Jack Flash in 1987 (very brief), Creole Cafe – 1987 to 1988, Taco Tempo – 1988 (if opened, only for a month), and Mama's Pizza in 1989-1991 (relocated from 1037 Texas Avenue). From 1992 to 1999, this was Bullwinkle's Grill & Bar was located at the very end of Culpepper Plaza, closest to Dominik Road. I do vaguely remember visiting it when I was younger, and it's still talked about on TexAgs sometimes.
In November 1999 City Crab Seafood opened but it was gone within a year. It was "The Pour House" in early 2003 and Margarita Rocks (a seafood restaurant, in fact), which operated from 2003 to August 2009. The restaurant was replaced by Katsuya in 2011. At this point, I'm not sure if it opened. I read that a kitchen fire early on ended it, but the source has been discredited. Either way, the sign remained up for another year. Sadly, this also meant the legacy of restaurants here would come to an end. TITLE Boxing Club, the first non-restaurant in the space, operated from late 2014 to early 2020 (or very late 2019), and a few years later, after the 2020-2021 issues got squared away, The Cut Axe Throwing opened in around December 2021.

1607 - 1980 directory lists this as "That Place II". I think it was some sort of hair salon. In 2011 this was Total Tan and after a brief period of vacancy became Apex Salon and Cuttery. In 2019, Funky Cheveux moved from Post Oak Square.

1611 - H&R Block has been here since 1992 (there's mostly vacancies in this stretch, have been here for years). They also occupy 1609.

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 closed...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). This was replaced with GLGT Bubble Tea (Good Luck Good Time).

1617 - In the mid-1990s, home to U.S. Black Belt Academy, and was vacant for a VERY long time before Tanaka Ramen opened in 2017.

1619 - Coach's Liquor moved here in 1997 from 210 George Bush Drive (which was renovated into Aggieland Outfitters). In spring 2014 the store closed, and In October 2017 it reopened as Honolulu Poke House (which closed in January 2021). From 1985 to 1994 this was Lippman Music which moved to Northgate. Before that it was "Animal World Too" (spin-off of a long-standing Manor East Mall store) from 1978 to 1985. The Manor East Mall Animal World ended up lasting into the very early 2000s just before the mall closed for good.

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 operated from 2013 to 2015. Signature Eyebrow Threading replaced it but was also gone within a few years. In January 2024, it reopened as vegan bakery chain Cinnaholic.

The next current space is 1637, P.O.E.T.S. Billiards. The other spaces did seem to exist at one time--1625 was American Passenger Travel Agency in 1980 and Linder's High Tech Health in 1996, 1627 was 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 was Aggieland T Shirts in 1980. (Seems to be unrelated to current Aggieland Outfitters.) and 1631 was Hastings (at least back to 1979), which moved in the mid-1990s 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. P.O.E.T.S. Billiards opened in 2002. It's likely 1637 should be closer to Kohl's because there's significant vacant space between it and Painting with a Twist at 1643, though 1641 was Wyatt's Sporting Goods in 1980 and "Rick's Sporting Goods" in 1996. 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 opened in Anna's Linens in 2008. It takes up half of the old Weiner's (see next entry). 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 - Houston-based Weiner's was here from 1978 to 1998. Dollar Tree moved to this location in 2007 from a different place in the strip. 1663 - This was Kids Mart from 1984 to 1996 and is the home of Cato Fashions today. Cato Fashions also seems to have absorbed the original 1665 Texas Avenue, Hallmark (Starship Hallmark, a franchise found in many Texas malls in the 1980s and 1990s). 1667 - In the late 1980s and early 1990s this was Suzanne's Shops and later the home of Brazos Running Company before it moved to the 1717 spot. It's now Grand Nail Spa. From 1980 to 1985 it was Shala's. 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.

Kohl's, the main anchor of the center, is at 1701 Texas Avenue and opened September 2007 but it displaced much of the older shopping center. Stores here included Radio Shack at 1669 (as of 1980, later jumped a few places), 1703 (this was The Curiosity Shop in 1980, Career Apparel in 1996, and by 1998 Bruegger's Bagels. By 2002, it was operating as "The Bagel Station" (source: August 2002 Restaurant Report) but closed around that time.

Another demolished site was 1705 Texas Avenue. This was originally Top Drawer Pant Company (1976-1981), then Krista's Court & Casuals (1987-1988), and Floppy Joe's Software Store from 1988 to 1997.
1996 ad (source)
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."

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. Anyway, after Floppy Joe's it was Juice Stop (1998-1999), Muscletech (2000-2002), and Beignet City Cafe (2004-2005).

1707 was "Regan's Dept. Store" in 1980 and "Right Price" in 1996. 1709, however, was Eckerd often co-located with Safeway stores in the Houston division, and while this one was not directly adjacent (I believe Safeway/AppleTree DID have its own pharmacy) it followed the same pattern as the others. A few stand-alone CVS stores in the Houston area can trace their lineage back to these Eckerd stores. Eckerd was here from 1976 to 2000 when it built a new stand-alone store at 2411 Texas Avenue South.

Finally, 1711 was Payless ShoeSource, but it was not replaced when it was evicted. In 1980, this was the home of Carnaby Square, a women's clothing shop.
That left just three stores between the current Kohl's and the former AppleTree.

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 c. 2013 from Post Oak Mall 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 before relocating to Century Square between 2022 and 2023.

1723 - From 1996 to 2022, this was Sally Beauty Supply (wiped out in a chainwide purge). From 1986 to 1996 this was Shoe World. Originally, 1725 Texas Avenue South was a large Safeway store, opened in 1976 as one of the biggest supermarkets in town (not quite as large as Skaggs Albertsons, but still one of the largest Safeway stores in Texas when it opened). In 1988, parent company Safeway Stores Inc. sold off the Houston division, with the stores renamed as AppleTree in 1989. I only have vague memories of AppleTree myself as H-E-B Pantry and Kroger quickly became favorites and other supermarkets in town, including Winn-Dixie and Albertsons were scarcely seen. In November 2002 it closed due to heavy competition. After it closed, it remained vacant, was extensively renovated on the same footprint when the center was redeveloped (it likely reuses the foundation), with half of it reopening as Spec's Wine, Spirits, and Finer Foods in 2007 in a newly badged address (1729). The other half (reviving the 1725 address) was finally reused in 2012 when OfficeMax (#6501) moved into the side that Spec's didn't use. The store was smaller than the one it replaced just down the road and it closed around December 2017, presumably so the company could consolidate with the Office Depot down the street. In 2019, it reopened as TJX Companies' HomeGoods.

The last building, behind an Exxon (not part of the center) has 1731 (Sleep Station) and 1727 (Napa Flats Wood-Fired Kitchen, opened 2013). From 1977 to 1993 this was 3-C Barbecue and from 1993 to c. 2011, Houston-based Souper Salad, which closed several other stores in that timeframe. (I'm not sure what, if anything, Sleep Station used to be).

Finally, the restaurant outparcel of the center was originally Burger King, one the wood-trimmed-interior ones, built in 1985. For a number of years, it 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).
UPDATE 04-23-2024: The most recent update fixed a bunch of problematic entries, with almost every entry being rewritten and updated.