Thursday, January 17, 2013

Former Ace of Aggieland

Picture from November 2019. That "NOW OPEN!" has been up there for over three years.

Navarro Drive was originally a road in the part of the Southwood Valley subdivision that had duplexes. It ran from Rio Grande to Welsh, with stop signs at Welsh and Pedernales Drive, neither of which had stopped cross traffic. It ended abruptly on the west edge of town, with no cul-de-sac. Meanwhile, over on Wellborn Road, there was a small private road called Elbrich Road, which was a dirt road that led to a small self-storage facility. It was a lonely little property with a few sodium-vapor lights (or mercury-vapor), and lacked a formal name. Just further up from the storage unit was a private dwelling, but it wasn't able to be seen from Wellborn. On the other side of Wellborn was Cain Road. But circa 2000, Elbrich and the house were destroyed and replaced with a large extension of Navarro, which included a very wide stretch with more duplexes. Still, while Navarro now connected to Wellborn, it felt lonely and empty at that corner.

Fast forward to 2007, when a sign announced that a small strip mall, anchored by Ace Hardware, would open. Over 2008, I saw it go from a foundation (March 2008, en route to Houston for Spring Break) to a full plaza. "Wellborn Shopping Center" opened in 2009 (I think the Ace may have opened in late 2008), though it originally opened as "Navarro West Plaza", which I think is a better name. Note that the tenants for the PDF have several errors.

It seemed so cool that "Ace of Aggieland" (at 11907 FM 2154) was a "small" hardware store so close to home -- it came in years after Doug's, Furrow, and Paint & More all closed. Ace was the place for my family, as it was the closest hardware store, and actually was a place where you could walk in and explore. Unfortunately, it didn't have the same feel as Furrow's, which I sorely missed: it had a lot of home decor and random kitchen junk, and was smaller. It did have a lot of the things that Lowe's and Home Depot had, which made it convenient for getting small but common components. And although it didn't have candy, it had free coffee and popcorn, which most (all?) Ace hardware stores had.

However, Ace did not ultimately last long. Not too long after it opened, Wellborn Road began a widening process that made access difficult, furthermore, Lowe's opened a superstore at William D. Fitch and Highway 6 in fall of 2010. Despite being about four miles away, it sapped Ace's customer base, and between these two factors, Ace folded in late January 2011, without even a going out of business sale. Liquidation came in March, whereupon it officially stopped being Ace Hardware.

The store remained largely vacant even as Wellborn Road concluded construction, though it saw a few interim uses before an Ashley HomeStore Clearance (later Ashley HomeStore Outlet) store opened in May 2016. Current stores (besides Ashley) are as follows:
Caminos Mexican Cafe - From 2009 to 2020, this restaurant was Fat Burger Grill and basically the same thing as Fat Burger in Bryan (and the former Northgate one). Despite having a near identical menu—even the old "Bevo Burger" was still there with a full pound of meat, I believe the restaurant was a franchise of the other locations. In late 2020 it was sold and reopened as Caminos Mexican Cafe (aka Caminos De Michoacan Mexican Cafe).

Note that the PDF above confuses Fat Burger Grill with the West Coast chain Fatburger.

Fatty's Smoke Shop - Fatty's Smoke Shop opened in August 2020 and for a few months following, had an inflatable Darth Vader on the roof.

Caminos replaced Fat Burger Grill, as mentioned above, and Fatty's replaced Mak's Liquor. Mak's Liquor was next to Fat Burger Grill and survived for over 10 years. It pulled out around the time not long after the new Twin Liquors opened at Jones Crossing (larger and easier access) and went to that shopping center between Rock Prairie and Graham (next to the Chicken Express). During that time they painted their signage blue but now that has mostly flaked off after a matter of months (back to red again). The PDF calls this "Max's Liquor" for some reason. Then there was "All Phone Toys" (opened in 2009, closed around 2013, vacant since) and finally Mpower Physical Fitness (operated from 2015 to around 2019). Some old PDFs mentioned "Shoe Bar" in this place (never opened, or maybe it was storage). After a while it got a real tenant (long after APT closed down), but it has also since closed (signage remains).

Another view of the shopping center.

UPDATE 01-24-2021: Updated Fat Burger's space and also changed something in relation to an unmarked summer 2020 update.

UPDATE 09-18-2021: After over five years, Ashley HomeStore Outlet (renamd from Clearance) FINALLY has permanent signage. Also made some changes to separate former and current tenants. Also, at some point in early 2021, the center received a repaint to white and a dark blue-green color.