Sunday, December 15, 2013

Former Bryan Weingarten

Not the greatest picture but it does show some of how the supermarket used to look.
Colloquially known as Weingarten's (which was on the sign), this Houston-based supermarket made its stand in Bryan in the mid-1950s and suffered a similar fate to its Houston stores. Unlike the companion College Station store which lasted no more than around 2 months, Weingarten's here lasted for about three decades before it changed hands and closed less than a decade later.

Opening on September 1, 1954, the 25,000 square foot supermarket was not only the largest in Bryan and featured a variety of things unusual at best though may seem commonplace today. These included a self-service deli, a general merchandise department "where the housewife can find everything from work clothes to dresses to cooking equipment", a drug and tobacco department, "magic carpet" automatic doors, a lunch counter, a children's daycare area "where they'll find comic books and other things to keep their attention", and a full-service butcher department. Courtesy of John Ellisor, check out the article from which these great facts were derived from.

In 1980, the Weingarten family decided to focus on real estate and sell its supermarkets to Grand Union. Despite giving it a new logo, four years later, Grand Union dumped the chain in late 1983. The two-month old College Station store closed permanently while this store (and most of the stores) were sold to Safeway, which closed it in January 1984 and reopened it under its own name, giving the California-based chain four stores in the area. Also at some point, the address changed from 1010 S. College Avenue to 1010 S. Texas Avenue.

Safeway sold the Houston division to management, and it was rebranded as AppleTree in 1989. It finally closed in 1992 as one of the initial (second round of 5) stores to close in bankruptcy and later referred to one of the "dogs" as Richard Goeggel, Vice President of AppleTree, put it, after it shrank to half a dozen stores. In 1995, the former supermarket became Williams Furniture Center, which operated until 1999. After that, the building's history gets a bit more murky as it was subdivided. 1010 S. Texas Avenue #A became "Billiard Barn & Drinkery" from 2001 to 2003. Burton Creek Bar-B-Que also operated from 2001 to 2002 in "suite B" OF 1010 S. Texas Avenue, with C&J Barbecue officially taking over in 2002 as the second location of the chain (from the original off of Harvey Road). Within five years a third location would be established at Southwest Crossing. In August 2022, C&J Barbecue relocated to 2112 West Briargate Drive at William Joel Bryan Park, with Los Plebes Mariscos & Wings opening in Jan. 2024. 1016 S. Texas Avenue, the center portion of the store, ended up becoming a nightclub, first as T&T Billiards in 2003 (it's possible that "A" was Billiard Barn, and "B" was the barbecue spot), then Status in 2004, Whiskey River (2008-2010), Prime Time Nightclub (2011), Rockies (full name: "Rockies The Canyon") which moved here in 2011 from its longtime spot in Post Oak Mall before moving again in 2019. (It was evicted for Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, which has since closed pretty much all of its locations from lease non-payment), Alquimia Night Club (2019-2020), and currently (since 2021-ish) is the home of TE-JOS Super Deal, which has returned merchandise from discount stores and other odds & ends. 1018 S. Texas Avenue has been Bingo Barn since 2003.

It doesn't look the same as it did, the store received an exterior re-do around 2020. There's a few other pictures from December 2013 below.

UPDATE 02-15-2024: Finally gave this the upgrades it needed (last updates from 2014) and its back on the Index.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Boyett Street Businesses

One of the countercultural "back to nature" stores inspired by the late Whole Earth Catalog, this ad is from 1985 and is still around in Houston, Austin, and other major cities...just not in BCS.

This post will show some of the businesses of Boyett Road in detail, specifically the block between Patricia and University, not including the Campus Theater. The problem is that because of the way that tenants absorb each other and the spotty nature of the city directory, it's been exceedingly difficult to figure out what actually went where.

The current tenants in the here and now are the following:
103 - O'Bannon's Taphouse (an Irish-themed pub, if the name didn't give it away)
109 - Paddock (formerly "Paddock Lane" but they dropped the "Lane" and changed the logo)
113 - Tipsy Turtle

It's been difficult to find out buildings about this strip simply because they change addresses, so this next section may never be complete.

103 - Hole in the Wall (2000 directory, I seem to remember it had the same ownership of Shadow Canyon and may even have had an entrance)
105 - The Cue (1996 directory). Directories also mention a U.S. Marine Corps recruiter in this space. In 1985, this was Whole Earth Provision Company. Almost a decade before that, it was the home of University Cycling.

Are they talking about the elderly?

This space was probably absorbed into O'Bannon's later.

107 - Boyett Properties (office?)

109 - Paddock's space had "Gizmo's Cafe & Bar" in the 1980s. I received a comment a few years ago about this place: "I worked at Gizmo's in the late 80's as a server and bartender. It was a great little lunch place with good food. At night, it became the place where all of the Northgate bartenders and servers came to drink, as it was (notably at the time) the only place with a full liquor license on the Northgate strip. Fun times."

Doesn't sound like a bad place, but I like eating outside when the weather's nice, which sadly doesn't happen very often.

Gizmo's Cafe & Bar: it's from an old copy of InSite Magazine, this is now the site of Paddock Lane. Gizmo's was not the first tenant here, but it's what I have information for.

113 - This was BJ's Package Store in 1980, and likely that was the first store in this section (the building with apartments over it was built in the late 1970s). Later on, it became U.S. Marine Corps recruiters offices (moved from a different section?) and eventually becoming Pinky's New School Tattoos by the late 2000s.

Above Paddock Lane and Tipsy Turtle is some 1-bedroom apartments, located at 214 Patricia.

By no means is the list complete. I know I missed some ("Ozone", "Vertigo" being among the not-here), but email me if you have more information. (Updated June 2019, mostly reorganization).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Post Oak Square, featuring Krispy Kreme

Can it stand up to Shipley's?

Like some of my other older posts, this one has gotten numerous rewrites and updates, and initially the original version of the post actually had some wrong information. This was because the supermarket in question only lasted two months. Post Oak Square was built in 1983 as a companion to Post Oak Mall (by different developers—more on that later), with one of the major stores it opened with being Weingarten.

The intrigue I've had with this plaza goes back some time, as according to the HAIF's DrFood, "Weingarten's in College Station in the shopping center next to Post Oak Mall. The store was very upscale when it opened. They had gourmet food like Central Market does, a coffee bar, and a huge candy/nut bar. They had a bakery that today would rival Central Markets. Being a Weingarten's they had the only Kosher section in the [greater area]. It then became another name when Weingarten's sold out on the verge of bankruptcy. I don't know what it is now, I think a Toys-R-Us."

The reason why Weingarten in College Station isn't well remembered is because it ended up being the shortest-lived supermarket in the area, existing from November 1983 to January 1984. On the other hand, Weingarten in Bryan lasted around 30 years.

After some discussing on message boards and reading other archived material, I erroneously determined that the intel was false, as others independently remembered a supermarket named Mariel's (or the inaccurate "Muriel's").

It was indeed Mariel's, which didn't last too long itself (don't know when it took over Weingarten but it lasted until at least November 1984, as that's when the ads found below are from).

The reason why Weingarten lasted such a short time here (after all, the Weingarten store in Bryan dated back to the mid-1950s) was the fact that by this time, Weingarten had been sold from the original family that owned it (yes, the same real estate company) to another supermarket called Grand Union, which remodeled many stores and built new ones, but decided to pull out just a few years after buying it, and most of the stores were flipped to Safeway.

When it opened in November 1983, Weingarten was on the small side, but relatively upscale

One of the articles here mentions that Safeway took over the other Weingarten in Bryan, but I found nothing else in the January 1984 paper about the exchange (it may have been mentioned somewhere, but I didn't see anything). The reason that Safeway didn't take over this Weingarten was the result of the Safeway at Culpepper Plaza, a store with a comfortable long lease and a great location, and arguably a good thing too...the fact that Safeway bought all these Weingarten stores caused a ripple effect that would end up cutting the Houston division off from the main chain, which was shrinking at the time, to become AppleTree, only for that chain to quickly fail because of all the dated Weingarten stores Safeway picked up.

It cut off "The New" part of the logo. Sorry about that.

A few months later, Mariel's Fine Foods would take it over (as was listed in the phone book and other official documents) but by fall of 1984, it was branded as "Mariel's Home Town Foods" and was now competing head to head on "good quality, low prices" like the other stores in town were (Kroger, Six Star Foods d/b/a Piggly Wiggly, and Safeway). Here's a newspaper ad from Mariel's in '84. I don't know if it was ever officially branded as Mariel's Fine Foods, though. Note that despite "Home Town Foods" sounds downscale, it still had a number of perks, including video rental (uncommon at the time, though Skaggs Alpha Beta also did it) and grocery delivery (which at the time I wrote this, was not in vogue and none of the local stores did it).

In the end, Mariel's only lasted about a year (if that).

Both the College Station Weingarten's and Mariel's are obviously not well remembered, but part of the problem was that there just weren't very many people living on that side of town. Safeway at Culpepper Plaza wasn't very far away and was a slightly larger, more established store in a better location. Post Oak Square's only other claim to fame was a Grandy's restaurant (branded as "Grandy's Country Cookin'" at the time) built between the two main entrances, located at 1002 Harvey Road and presumably built at the same time as the rest of the strip (listed in the 1983 phone book).

Post Oak Square had major access problems as it had very few inlets and outlets. An attempt to connect to Post Oak Mall's ring road was also shot down as the mall decided to take advantage of their property and put barricades blocking the access road, and eventually posting guards there before the driveway was removed. (A shout-out to Henry Mayo who helped me nail down where Grandy's was, and also gave information about the ring road access).

In 1986, Cavender's Boot City was built, a new retail building was built in 1987 close to Harvey Road on the west side of the building (if it wasn't Cavender's when it opened, it was by 1989), and in 1990, Pier 1 Imports was built in front of Cavender's. However, only the new retail building was actually part of Post Oak Square, and with the shopping center struggling with vacancy, a proposal to redevelop the struggling center in 1991 would involve the demolition of most of the shopping center (except for the strip of stores built in 1987 and a strip of stores next to the former grocery store space) for a modern "power center" consisting of larger store spaces. What ultimately ended up happening was a slight development by the early 1990s. Part of the center was demolished and sold to Toys R Us, which built in 1993 (at 1306 Harvey Road), Grandy's was torn down for a new entrance (given that Grandy's was a part of the 1991 plan, Grandy's may have closed by itself), the main grocery store space was replaced with Hobby Lobby in 1993, and TJMaxx opened in 1994 in a corner space.

Going clockwise from the former Pier 1 Imports closest to the mall...

1402 - Mattress SleepCenters - Formerly Pier 1 Imports until the early 2000s when it moved to Texas Avenue Crossing at Texas Avenue and George Bush. This building was built in 1990 but is considered part of the shopping center.
1400 - demolished - Former Cavender's Boot City, moved out around 2006 and NEVER retenanted (it's the blank spot behind Mattress SleepCenters, and nearly impossible to see). Brazos CAD (had to go back in the archives to see) says this was built in 1986.
1306 - Ollie's Bargain Outlet opened in April 2020 following the closure of aforementioned Toys R Us.
1200 - Hobby Lobby was in the location for much of the 1990s (since 1994) and left for its current location as soon as the center at Texas and Holleman was built (around 2003). After it left, it was divided into two stores (1200 Harvey and 1210 Harvey), which at the time was a store called "The BOUNCE!" and the 99 Cents Store, which was expanding heavily during that time. The BOUNCE! (hereafter referred to "The Bounce") was a bit overlooked, though it had a colorful facade. According to a surviving ad I found, The Bounce was a "locally owned and operated 12,500 square foot party facility featuring your favorite inflatable castles, obstacle courses, huge slides, rock climbing walls and more, all in a safe, climate controlled environment" and featured "four private party rooms with a private jump arena are available" along with "diner seating with drinks, coffee and snacks plus WiFi access."

These things tend hinge their existence on birthday parties, and for whatever reason, it failed within a few years (maybe lasting from 2006 to 2009), and I think that it's the same reason why Putt-Putt and Gattitown declined and ultimately closed.

Eventually those two stores became different ones. Burke's Outlet is now the current holder of 1200 and the adjacent 1210 Harvey Road is Tuesday Morning. Later on (1993), a Toys R Us was built adjacent to the shopping center, but wasn't considered a part of it. This Toys R Us stayed up to the bitter end in 2018 but kept the logo until the last few years of the chain's existence.

1222 - Biosystem Fitness - Closest to Toys R Us, mostly recently housed Sleep Station (which moved)
1220 - Funky Cheveux Hair Studio - This used to (still does?) have a billboard at Villa Maria and College Avenue

Heading clockwise around the center, we have a mostly empty shopping center, however.

1140 - LifeWay Christian Stores - used to be Avenue, a plus-sized women's clothing store. Lifeway opened in spring 2014. It may have absorbed two smaller stores at some point in the past. The store announced closing in February 2019 shortly before the remainder of the chain one month later.
1128 - TJMaxx - Here since 1994, and early on, always had some budget educational software for the Mac on sale (for some reason, CD-based computer software was a big thing in the 1990s, every store had them).
1120 - Bea's Bridal - Closed down prior to 2013, vacant ever since. May or may not be the same as Bea's Alterations, possibly merged.
1112 - Bea's Alterations - There was also a branch of Wild Birds Unlimited here but it closed in 2004 (The Eagle archives, but I can't link to it right now). Later moved to former Merge Boutique space.
1108 - Q Beauty - In 1998 and 2001, this was Treasures Gift Shop. Later moved to the former Taste of China building.
1106 - Citifinancial - Currently I have no history on this. The tenant used to be shared with Weight Watchers (which moved in March 2015), and Weight Watchers used to be 1104-D. 1104-D turns up "Kristin Dungan", which appeared to be a photography-related store.

The current tenant since at least early 2019 is Once Upon a Child, moving from 2220 Texas Avenue.

1104A - Plato's Closet - This opened around 2009 and still remains open.
1102 - Gumby's Pizza - My records say that this was Imperial Chinese Restaurant from 1984 to 1994, related to the later Texas Avenue location but unrelated to the one on the bypass today). Ninfa's opened in January 1995, according to InSite Magazine. When Ninfa's moved around 2008 to a new spot on the bypass, the space was vacant for a few years before Houston-based Wolfies Restaurant (2012 to September 2016).

1100 is a strip in front of Gumby's with four tenants - Al's Formal Wear, Edward Jones, Bea's Alterations (Merge Boutique before it moved to Century Square), and Merle Norman. Papa John's was located here for a number of years, then closed (not moved) and was vacant for a number of years. I think it was Suite D (Merle Norman). This was actually built later (1987) according to Brazos CAD references.

1402 - Mattress SleepCenters - Formerly Pier 1 Imports until the early 2000s when it moved to Texas Avenue Crossing at Texas Avenue and George Bush. This building was built in 1990 but is considered part of the shopping center.
1400 - demolished - Former Cavender's Boot City, moved out around 2006 and NEVER retenanted (it's the blank spot behind Mattress SleepCenters, and nearly impossible to see). Brazos CAD (had to go back in the archives to see) says this was built in 1986.

Here's another reason why I don't buy the rumor that Grandy's was torn down for visibility issues: it did not seem to be stop current management from signing a genuine Krispy Kreme Doughnuts store to be built in the parking lot closest to Mattress SleepCenters. Previously, the closest College Station-Bryan had to Krispy Kreme was some products sold in Shell gas stations around 2003 and 2004, which were made in Houston (as it had a small handful of stores at the time). If you want to hear about the Krispy Kreme's first attempt in Houston, I suggest you visit Houston Historic Retail, which is not my site but I recommend it anyway.

Krispy Kreme opened in April 2019 at 1312 Harvey Road.

At some point in the 1980s or 1990s, Grandy's lost the "Country Cookin'" name.

UPDATE 03-20-2021: After a previous update in July 2020; changed bit about no store doing grocery delivery (at the time), man has that sentence aged poorly! Also a bit more precise on Mariel's arrival and death.
UPDATE 04-04-2021: A few minor touch-ups, including new date on T.J. Maxx.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Square One

Picture taken by author, 2013.

Square One Bistro (serving primarily Italian cuisine) originally opened in the summer of 1996 (as per Chamber of Commerce newspaper clipping, though I've also heard 1995 for the opening), and it was, to my knowledge, one of the first "better" establishments in downtown Bryan since its decline. It was purchased in early 2009 by local restauranteur Charles Stover as what he wanted, a small fine dining establishment.

However, as it turned out, the Square One Bistro building in horrible shape: wiring was antiquated (the building was built in the early 20th century, expansions to the building were powered with extension cords) and the plumbing was in poor shape (pipes went up before going down--which has all sorts of potential problems, including grease build-up and sewage backups), and Stover had to spend an astronomical amount to fix those problems.

Unfortunately, this renovation marked the beginning of the end. While Stover Boys and Square One were both profitable (Square One's wine list grew from 10 to 110, and offered class and variety like no other area restaurant did), the problems stemming from Square One's renovation caused the owner to go into debt and it just got worse. Instead of turning profits and fueling what could be a prosperous chain bound for great places, the profits were funneled into debt payoffs. According to an old The Eagle newspaper, in October, Square One closed down and converted to the lower-end but more profitable Stover Boys brand, but it was far too late. Stover Boys was crushed under debt by late 2010, and the Westgate and Downtown Bryan location shuttered.

After the shuttering of Square One Bistro, the building was reopened in Summer 2011 as "Square 1 Art Studio".

The historic name of the building is the Ward Building, and I also got this as a comment:
The historic name of the building was Hillier-Dansby funeral home, built in 1924. The upstairs has been an apartment since it was built, originally for the mortician and his family. It moved to another location on 26th St around 1940.

However, I can't verify that for sure.

211 West William Joel Bryan Parkway

Editor's Note: This received a major update in spring 2019.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Rise at Northgate

Not there yet...this view may be impossible in a few years when the apartments replacing BB&T get built.

I can still remember sitting on the "porch" of the A+ Tutoring and Fat Burger building (profiled here in this post, which is undergoing changes, but that's okay), looking out at the abandoned building that once held a BBVA Compass Bank (formerly Guaranty Bank until they were bought out) and United Realty. United Realty is now on Graham, and BBVA Compass moved out as well. I don't know when or where they took off too, but I'm pretty sure that BBVA Compass disappeared in 2010 or so.

They were to be torn down for a huge building known as 717 University. This was spring 2012. At first, I couldn't really comprehend a building being there. After all, the Plaza was coming down, and the Plaza occupied a much bigger footprint. I wondered if they would close off Church Avenue for additional space. Turns out they didn't. When they filed something in regards to the airport ordinance, I knew it could be good.

Initially, there was talk of a gourmet grocer (Whole Foods was the rumored choice, and supposedly they even signed a letter of intent), but that eventually fell through as the building was renamed The Rise at Northgate and ultimately CVS/pharmacy would take the place of the lower level tenant, which was just as well.

Early concept. It looks substantially different in real life. (snagged from local news site)

Over the fall semester, I watched from the Evans Library them build the large structure, adding a new floor every week or so before it was visible on the skyline.

Anyway, the bank was home Community Savings & Loan Association which surprisingly lasted from the 1970s until 1989. Later, it became Guaranty Bank and United Realty (sharing the bank), the former becoming BBVA Compass and moving out. By 2011, it was boarded up and vacant.

I know I had once parked my bike in the lot in the overgrown grass there, but didn't get any good ground pictures at the time.

Not too long before, this is what was there.

I don't live in the Rise, but a friend and I checked out the CVS and explored around. It's smaller than a real CVS...there's a selection of food that's generally better than a convenience store, and of course a full HBA (Health & Beauty Aids) department, something convenience stores don't have. The best thing, at least to Rise residents, is a little hallway in the back that links the elevator to the complex (and the parking garage) with the CVS, so in theory, you could make a midnight run for snacks...or at least, it would be midnight, if they didn't close at 12 (that might change in the future).

It's a bit of a bummer that they don't carry any fresh fruits or vegetables, as that would round out the neighborhood nicely. After all, just literally outside used to be the old Albertsons which did have not only a pharmacy since the early 1970s but all manners of produce as well. 24 hours, too. A sad day when it finally closed, as for the next 31 semesters, Northgate lacked a pharmacy (that's spring 1998 to spring 2013, for those keeping count).

A few more pictures that I took...

Due to the orientation of perhaps the parking garage ramps above, the CVS isn't flush with ground level, requiring going up a several steps or using a (rather narrow looking) ramp. Still, the potential is great: a huge (at least by College Station standards) apartment building, and streetside retail in a pedestrian area (something the Lofts lacked).

Around spring 2014, they replaced their bike racks with bike racks designed for the MaroonBikes rental bikes, requiring people to hook their bikes to trees or other things (way to screw over your main audience) but you could still hook it on a bench or a tree. As of 2016, they've posted signs not to park bikes in the vicinity but rather put them in bike racks in the upper levels of the parking garage, which made the CVS and its other tenants definitely less accessible.

The first tenant here was CVS/pharmacy (Ste. 101), the largest store, which opened September 29, 2013. It faces University and while it is a smaller CVS than most of its more suburban counterparts, it is merchandised to the neighborhood by having a mix of at least 50% food, though only has a very abbreviated mix consisting of a few dry foods, frozen foods, and a few other items, all priced higher than grocery stores. The best thing, at least to Rise residents, is a little hallway in the back that links the elevator to the complex (and the parking garage) with the CVS, so in theory, you could make a midnight run for snacks...or at least, it would be midnight, if they didn't close at midnight.

The second tenant is "YAKU Japanese Eatery" (Ste. 171), which replaced Great Wraps. Great Wraps opened in spring 2014 but didn't match up with its Houston counterparts. My quest for a good chicken caesar wrap on or near campus was foiled when the wrap was stuffed with croutons, and that was enough to put me off forever. By the end of 2014 it was gone, with YAKU taking its place next year. By the time YAKU opened, I was out of college, and while I was dubious of the sign offering chicken fingers and ramen (having put off by Happy Yogurt and their store-bought garbage), it has lasted until sometime around late 2017 when it was quickly replaced with Shun De Mom, another Asian restaurant.

The third tenant, located at the end, is the BB&T (Ste. 181), which opened August 2016. It has an ATM outside of it. The BB&T moved here after their old location was demolished. By late 2018, however, they moved back to their original address, this time occupying a ground level location.

July 27 2014 - Updated.
October 09 2016 - Updated a second time.
May 16 2019 - Updated a third time to account for new tenants and gone ones.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Shiloh Inn, Now the Days Inn on Texas Avenue

The architecture seems to be original. Taken August 2016, and modified to increase exposure.

We talked about Fort Shiloh, the restaurant, and in the early 1980s, a new two-story motel opened just adjacent to it: Shiloh Inn. Unfortunately, Shiloh Inn didn't actually last long under that name, switching to the nationally-known Quality Inn soon after:

Before Quality Inn switched to the "circle" logo, soon after the Shiloh Inn change

Sometime in the early 1990s, names changed again and it became Days Inn (the first and only Days Inn up until the middle of the 2010s). The motel still has 98 units as always.

Aerial view from Google Earth

By the way, the playground equipment mentioned in the old advertisement does in fact still exist as of summer 2020.

Last updated July 2020

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Westgate Center

Westgate Center: A Relic of the 1980s (from the lease plan below)

Westgate Center has long been a topic I considered before finally publishing it in October 2013. In the light of the more interesting and exciting things I was doing (at least to me), it just seemed boring, and was kind of hard of research. There's Holick's, which was forced to leave Northgate (heresy for sure), and a few other places, including a Pizza Hut take-out (check out the PDF). To make this integrate better with the city directory I'm building on my other site, this will be a directory of sorts...

4201 - Currently Kai's Doughnut Co., a gourmet (think specialty-type) doughnut shop. Sunny Food Mart as of 2012, but closed as of January 2014. The 2013 PDF said it was "Oaks Food Mart", indicating a Bryan convenience store owned it.
4207 - Pizza Hut (carry out/delivery only?) since at least 1998. In June 2018 it was still there, but as of 2020 has been reported permanently closed.
4223 - DCI Biologicals has been traditionally here at least since 2010, though I've heard reports it moved or changed names
4243 - Tiki Tan (hasn't changed since I wrote this post)
4245 - official offices for the shopping center

4309 - vacant
4315 - Holick's (moved here in the early 2000s)

4337 - See below

We take a break to explore 4337, a store that at least in the Eatology days was besides itself (all the spaces to the north were vacant, I'd have to make a return trip to see if that's changed). The reason we're talking about it here is it held a legacy of several places, and it was convenient to me since I could disassemble another Tales of Defunct Restaurants as well as re-activate part of the Stover story all in one.

Our story goes back to 2007 when Blimpie was there, but sometime around that time Blimpie "deflated" and the store closed. At the time, Stover Boys, a new burger eatery at the Exxon at FM 1179 and Boonville, was over capacity. Despite a rustic "menu on a chalkboard" theme, it needed space to expand (the parking lot would fill up and people couldn't get to either the restaurant nor the gas station). Stover Boys then opened in 2008 and would be the home base for a growing chain of successful burger joints, and it would be all local. Things were looking good.

A location at the intersection of Graham Road and Highway 6 was discussed, but was scuttled due to a complex and expensive side-mechanism that was due to some draconian CoCS ordinance about having no visible HVAC systems. Instead he went for Square One, which ended up wiping him out (see link below).

The original Stover Boys also featured a wall of comic book stuff. Daily Ruckus over at Northgate had a similar concept, but this was far more well-done...and they did it first. Debt occurred from an expensive renovation of Square One eventually caused Stover Boys to close in late 2010.

Soon after the demise of Stover Boys, "Burger Boy Café" moved into the spot. Burger Boy (no "Café" at that point), had been on Church Avenue for the last past 12-13 years (which had previously moved from 301 Patricia), and was sold from George & Tara Sopasakis (long time owners) to Ken Simmons of the "local daycare industry" (in early 2010). In or around October 2010 (about the time Stover Boys shuttered--but don't quote me on that), Burger Boy moved there and became "Burger Boy Café". Of course, this didn't last long, and Simmons closed Burger Boy forever in January 2013, after more than two decades and five different locations. Note that neither Stover Boys nor Burger Boy repainted the old Blimpie parking lot spaces. I wonder if they're still there.

After that, it became home to Eatology Paleo-Zone (though I don't think the "Paleo-Zone" was part of the name initially), which made meals that cater to the "Paleo" diet. Originally, back in 2013, I made a quip about how "we'll see what happens when the paleo diet goes out of fashion" after a pretentious quote on the website by the owner (something about paleo not being a diet but a lifestyle, or some such). Well, not sure if paleo's gone out of fashion, but as of August 2015, Eatology had its letters gone and locked up!

4351 - currently "Wes-Gate Hair Salon"
4345 - was a location of Texas Burger was there, but it closed down in the late 1990s or early 2000s. (Texas Burger is pretty rare--there was one in Madisonville, but it disconnected and became TX Burger). Later home to Home's Haven Catering
4353 - Current tenant is Knight Club. Circa 2015 it was Swamp Tails, a Cajun restaurant that sadly couldn't stay in business. Names that I can recall or otherwise researched included Barracuda Bar, Salty Dog, and X-Treme

In July 2020, some updates were made.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fort Shiloh

It would be fair to say that the contrived "fort in the wilderness" theme was played well. (See below for source)

Fort Shiloh was one of the things that I wanted to cover on the blog when I first started it (it was originally mentioned on this page back when it was called "Tales of Defunct Restaurants").

Until around 2005, the overgrown sign of this restaurant (Fort Shiloh Steakhouse, though some phone books listed it as the Fort Shiloh Grille) could be seen as well as some wooden teepees, with a (much older) building in the back. I don't know the exact history of the restaurant, but from this link, which shows the demolished restaurant, it says that it was opened as an agricultural co-op (Shiloh Club) in what was Shiloh, a (very small) community established in the late 1800s. I don't know when the building was built, but it was an era when the land was farmland (whether it was a considered a part of Shiloh or College Station, I don't know). Before opening as a restaurant in 1976, it had most recently been a dance hall (see link above). If I got my facts straight, the restaurant was owned by Ken Martin Restaurant Group (owning numerous restaurants) and shut down in or around 1996 (per the Eagle article).

The above picture is from Project HOLD, which have other photos in and around Fort Shiloh, though regrettably none of the teepees or the sign, though the sign looks like the advertisement below.

From what everything I've heard, it was a rather nice place in its heyday. Here's a comment from the original TODR thread, which I saved:

Back in high school, I washed dishes at the Fort Shiloh Steakhouse. At the time, it was one of the more fancy local restaurants (filet mignon, anyone?). Sorry that a local landmark closes and is replaced by a dozen chain restaurants from Dallas/Houston.

Additionally, soon after I originally posted this post in 2013, on November 4th I found a 1980s phone book ad that further backs up it being Steakhouse.

Note that despite the fancy surroundings, it was a dry establishment even though the county was wet.

UPDATE 02-17-2024: The article was last updated in June 2017, and there were a few things that I wanted to update and trim. (Specifically, the part about manager Joe Ruiz, as I was mostly working off memory having met him once as he was working for Sysco...but that information is more than a decade old and I'm not sure that's still case). I also somehow missed adding several categories to the post. Currently, Aggieland Express Car Wash & Lube is under construction here having finally begun work around late 2022/early 2023.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Best Little Creamery in Aggieland

During better days. Dairy Sales inside! (Cushing Memorial Archives)

The Meat Center, as discussed the other day, is a most definitely unique place on campus, where you can buy real cuts of meat (lamb, pork, and beef) as well as dried meat products (the jerky is famous, but do try the dried sausage). It's also good in the sense that it wasn't outsourced with the rest of the establishments (A meal plan never could be used at the meats center (and most certainly not today), but a long time ago, there was more than Aggie-butchered meat you could buy. It was also ice cream! The "Dairy Science" building (also dairy sales) was located on Spence Street between modern-day Heep Laboratory Building (not Heep Center, that's different) and the Pavilion. There was also an older "Creamery" (that physically looked a bit like the Pavilion) that was demolished on West Campus in the mid-1980s (right on the other side of the railroad, where Old Main is today...yes, it even remained after the semi-circle of Olsen was built, and all that). That is not the subject of this post.

Cushing Memorial Archives

The dairy manufacturing building (the Main Campus one, at least) was demolished in 1995 for what would eventually be the Central Campus Parking Garage (the facade was where the main entrance off of Spence is). Just a few years prior, the dairy had been featured in Southern Living as part of a small page on Texas A&M with a small picture of the dairy/creamery's inside. While this article is still framed at the Meats Center, it has faced the window for years (thus, becoming quite faded) and the picture was never very large anyway. If you know of any interior pictures of the building featured in this post, please tell us.

It wasn't a spiteful move that the dairy manufacturing building was demolished, though, as a new modern creamery building was built soon after on Discovery Drive, in West Campus. However, the facility was never actually used as a dairy manufacturing plant since another group needed it more and the dairy group lost funding. It's still a bitter issue to this day for many involved. This turned out to be the Electron Beam facility, a food irradiation facility that partnered with a private company called SureBeam. Unfortunately, food irradiation in general never took off because "consumer safety groups" (read: professional scaremongers) convinced the public with the false notion that food irradiation was bad ("it has radiation in the name! oh noes!") and SureBeam paid the price for it (going bankrupt in January 2004). After a second short-lived partnership with another food irradiation company and some internal shakeups that resulted in a lot of the TAMU employees leaving the facility, the electron beam facility was never utilized properly again. Hopefully we can get back to the electron beam facility another time, but the real end point was that A&M didn't have a creamery after the demo, and thus, no homemade ice cream. I don't even know if you can get Blue Bell on campus anymore: I haven't been inside Sbisa proper in at least a year, the two places that served Blue Bell: Common Grounds and Bernie's Café, have both closed.

The thing that burns the most is that LSU does still have a creamery and serves it at campus dining location (and yes, they too have Chartwells doing the dining). Are we going to let LSU make their own ice cream without having our superior version?

The answer is yes for the time being...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Former Fitzwilly's

Courtesy of Project HOLD, a black and white photo. While not nearly as ancient as this suggests, it does represent a time gone by. 803 University.

For most of my life, 303 University Drive was a restaurant named Fitzwilly's, a two-story bar and restaurant with decent burgers and wings. It closed mid-way through my college career, and I was saddened by the loss, not only because it was on my regular rotation but because it had been such a staple on Northgate, in an era where a decade might as well be eternity.

Of course, the building predated Fitzwilly's for years, with the building being built in 1930, hosting apartments. Titled "The Varsity" (a TexAgs mentions it was the "Alamo Apartments", which may or may not be the case). From second-hand stories on TexAgs and comments here, the building was dilapidated (at least in the later years), the manager was the same woman for 44 years, and the building had no air conditioning or central heating. It's worth noting, though a lot of dorms on campus didn't have air conditioning either (Walton Hall didn't get air conditioning until the late 1990s, at least). It also didn't have a phone line, which led it to be excluded from phone books in the 1970s.

The historic date and land use is backed up by city documents.

While the directory I have seen below is from 1939 (and a bit difficult to use since nearly every road name has changed, but the addresses have been renumbered).

Inspiring "Varsity II Apartments" on Wellborn, perhaps?

While I can't readily pull up an aerial from 1939 (they do exist, but not in a format I can readily use), the buildings on Northgate did retain the configuration until at least the early 1960s, and the buildings do align with the directory. In this picture, you can readily see where the Fitzwilly's building was.

This picture was taken directly from the Northgate Chevron post

- The private residence to the southwest (where that Citgo station was) is the private residence listed (two addresses, possibly because of the two buildings).
- The Varsity is the no-telephone building where Fitzwilly's later was.
- The vacancy is where Dry Bean Saloon is now.
- The next building is where the former "Miranda's" portion of modern day Dixie Chicken is. The "main" building (originally Aggie Den) was built later, which created Bottlecap Alley——notice that in this era, "Bottlecap Alley" is enough to fit two rows of cars comfortably. Try fitting one car into Bottlecap Alley today. This is the original "North Gate Cafe" (there was a Northgate Café in modern-day ICON in the 1990s, but they are unrelated)
- and finally, the building to the northeast is the famous Old Army "Charlie's Grocery", which finally disappeared in the 1980s after sub-dividing part of their store out to Texas Aggie Bookstore, which remains today (though in the 1990s had to make that "AggieLand").

In 1979, the building finally was converted into a two-story bar but I've been unable to secure the names of said businesses very easily (a 1985 city directory even listed "Edward Jones", which is at 303 EAST University Drive). Luckily, capn-mac has his own chronology (I've also learned "Bogie's" was there as there as the last bar to inhabit the building before the "renovation" mentioned). From what I have, in 1980, it was Alamo Bar & Grill, which probably (compared to the building layout today) a dump and far more obvious about its former status as a run-down apartment building it was before. There was also "Sebastian's Tavern" as well around 1982-1983, but Bogie's was in the 1983 phone book but not the 1984 one. It's possible that the building sat vacant for a bit before being renovated again (which would make since). The link posted above also mentions said "renovation" to the building, which is probably what made the building it is today: a skylight was added at about this point, and probably the interior was rebuilt to restaurant code. It was in this phase from the late 1980s (1987, perhaps?) that it was the Flying Tomato Pizza (the city directory lists it as "Flying Tomato & Pizza-N-A-Pan"). By other independent sources, they had a hot air balloon that dropped Frisbees and other prizes. I don't know how I came across this, but it wasn't from this location, as by the time my family moved here, Flying Tomato was now Two Pesos.


As for Flying Tomato, two comments I received (from "The Twice-Tasted Life" and James Durbin, respectively), mentioned a few things about it, namely the plants in the restaurant.

I remember the Flying Tomato very well. It was "Flying Tomato Pizza in a Pan" featuring square pizza slices in a variety of tasty flavors. I met my first wife there, and she was their "Flying Tomato" in parade marches of the day. They had a pool table or two upstairs and the mezzanine was lines with plants. The company started with a restaurant in Denton near the UNT campus. LOVE your blog, and I'd hate to see it go, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

The atmosphere was very nice when it was The Flying Tomato, with lots of plants, a fireplace if I am recalling correctly, and a big roomy space overall.

Flying Tomato closed in April 1991 and Two Pesos opened in its place in May. Two Pesos was basically a Taco Cabana knockoff (as briefly discussed here), which by all accounts was cheap and tasty. Unfortunately, Two Pesos had copied Taco Cabana a little too closely to the point that a case went all the way to the Supreme Court that affirmed that Two Pesos copied Taco Cabana's format too closely, and ultimately the restaurants ended up selling out to Taco Cabana, though there was already one there at the time, so it closed in 1993.

Two Pesos also had a turn at the building's facade: while we can't see what the building looked like in the days pre-Two Pesos, we do have this picture from a Northgate redevelopment plan...

Not in the Northgate color palette.

In 1994, it became what it would be known as for nearly the next 19 years: Fitzwilly's. Unfortunately, Fitz's, despite having good, cheap food (wings and burgers) fell out of favor with the Northgate crowd. Even when it wasn't crowded, service was slow (and also, food portions shrunk in the last year). It was still liked by an older crowd, but that's not what the Northgate landlords wanted, so the lease wasn't renewed and it went to Eccell Group, which has all but exited the Northgate area these days (Daisy Duke's has been sold, Café Eccell has moved, and La Bodega has closed as well).

While not in the gaudy "cotton candy" colors of Two Pesos, The Backyard seems a bit boring.

The Backyard is the name of the replacement (opened August 2013, Fitzwilly's closed in May of that year), which has a far darker interior than Fitzwilly's, more expensive food, and other changes I didn't particularly like, and due to aforementioned color restrictions, the new owners just painted it the same dark beige tone we've seen everywhere else. I didn't take a picture of the back area of the restaurant--while Fitzwilly's had a few tables and some delightfully dated blinking incandescent lights, the newer facility's back area was significantly rebuilt. If you crave more Fitzwilly's pictures that are in color, you can visit the Yelp page. Since leaving college, I've heard The Backyard has revised its menu to add more sandwiches (the old menu was burgers and tacos).

In 2018, the Backyard, like Café Eccell opened a "co-branded" La Bodega outlet inside.

UPDATE 01-04-2021: Removed previous update notes and added the actual months/years when Fitzwilly's and The Backyard opened. Somehow it wasn't added before.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Rosenthal Meat Science Center

This building was erected in 1981 and opened to classes in January 1983. A unique feature of Texas A&M, the Rosenthal Meat Center is a full-service meat processing plant and learning facility, slaughtering (and offering for sale) lamb, beef, pork, and derived sausage products. Unfortunately, I don't have interior pictures, including where the sausage is made (literally).

UPDATE 10-26-13: The loading dock is seen in the final picture (taken after the previous ones)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Alta Vista Christian Academy

The entire Class of '98. (picture from The Eagle)

The time is September 1997. Rock Prairie has just recently or is in the process of extending from the stub where it abruptly dead-ended at Victoria Avenue all the way to Wellborn Road. Using the rural back road of North Graham Road was about to end, and in February 1998, a railroad crossing connecting Gandy Road and Rock Prairie Road was approved. It was this time that Alta Vista opened at 3110 Gandy Road.

The Rock Prairie extension only had a street sign (Wellborn/Rock Prairie Road) and a stop sign (along with a new Exxon station that opened, which included an A&W). Beyond the railroad was a dusty road ending at a yield sign, and that was Gandy Road. Though a dusty, rural road, it included the Diamond T Stables (still with "3270 Gandy", which remained on the sign until it was eventually sold to developers and torn down), some sort of facility that looked like a fish farm or water retention (little ponds in the back), and Alta Vista Christian Academy.

My only experiences of Alta Vista came from exploring the new extension of Rock Prairie after it opened circa 2000-2001. The new extension was fascinating: there was a dip in the railroad crossing (as opposed to the "humps" in the others): this was taken out when they expanded Wellborn Road. In the early days of the crossing (circa 2001, I believe), there was a four-way stop at Old Wellborn, and several country-oriented places along the way: including aforementioned Diamond T Stables, the adjacent Diamond T Storage (now Tex Storage), and of course Alta Vista (a small private school). The new extension went all the way to North Dowling, and then, on the other side, Blue Ridge Drive, which went even further.

Of course, all that began to change as urbanization slowly crept west. Alta Vista struggled for years, even having to be saved from bankruptcy in the early 2000s thanks to donations, but by the mid-2000s, Alta Vista had folded up and disappeared, with no trace remaining. It's now the Williams Gate subdivision.

As an aside, I remember how the old railroad ROW looked in 2001 (now the intersection of Holleman and Rock Prairie): it was a sad, gated-off place that was kind of creepy-looking due to the overgrowth, with the (patchy) I&GN Road going the other way. That was the original ending of Gandy (it curved into I&GN). The rest of the way has the partially-undeveloped Great Oaks Estates, farmland, and another trailer park (substantially less attractive than the ones closer to the old ROW). Today, that intersection is a stoplight with concrete and four lanes in all directions.