Monday, May 12, 2014

Townshire Shopping Center

Bad sign when there's a "Now Open" sign nearly a year after actually opening. (May 2014)

Opening in 1958 (it advertised to even Hearne) with Safeway, Lester's, Hotard Cafeteria, Kelly's Toylane, Stacy's Furniture, Texas State Optical, Woolworth's, the "Laundromart", and Sears, Townshire was one of the first big shopping destinations that started to draw attention away from Downtown Bryan, arguably the first shopping center in Bryan.

The Sears was at a slightly different grade than the rest of Townshire. At only 21,800 square feet, which was rather small (a "B" class store) for Sears, especially since a "full size" Sears was 10 times that size at the time. After Sears moved out, it would become Central Texas Hardware for a while, and eventually facilities for Blinn (which happily vacated it after their new campus in Bryan was built, as by the time that happened, the building was in horrible condition).

Here's the 1964 tenant list from a document about Montgomery Ward's consideration of moving out of downtown:

Lester's pulled out before the downtown Bryan location did, in 1973 when it moved to a stand-alone location.

Safeway probably moved out in 1977 to its later home catty-corner to where Village Foods is now, and eventually to its current home, where it lasted less than 2 years (at best) before becoming AppleTree (and you know the rest), but by that time, Townshire was already beginning its decline, with Manor East Mall and newer strip centers, like Culpepper Plaza and Redmond Terrace. Finally, Post Oak Mall opened, putting all of the Bryan shopping centers in deep decline. By the early 1980s, Townshire was getting cleared out.

Townshire reopened in great fanfare in 2002 by the same developers that built the Rock Prairie Kroger center with a new facade and a completely rebuilt north anchor, when the ratty old Sears/Central Texas Hardware/Blinn building was torn down and replaced with the area's third Albertsons supermarket, joining the two in College Station (that would be the one next to Wal-Mart and the one on University Drive East, both of which I covered) and attempted to give the nearby Kroger and H-E-B Pantry Foods a run for the money. Despite seemingly solidifying the grocery race (at the time it was built, H-E-B, Kroger, and Albertsons all had three stores in the area each), it was an odd choice since at that time. Albertsons was retreating from Houston area (after a short run of less than a decade) and San Antonio, with Waco and Austin (and the breakup of Albertsons Inc.) not more than a few years away (the three stragglers, including the one in College Station, would all close by 2011). For all its fanfare, the new Albertsons at Townshire didn't even last five years, and closed in 2006, becoming one of the shortest-lived grocery stores in town, though not even close to unseating poor Weingarten near Post Oak Mall.

But the new Townshire didn't whither up, despite the loss of its largest tenant. CiCi's and a dollar store (now King Dollar, but not originally) kept trucking, and several service-oriented tenants came in.

Around 2012 or so, the Albertsons gas station reopened as a generic "Tigerland Express" (which also never took down its "now open" banner and remained as such after it closed a few years later), and in the summer of 2013, the new Walmart grocery store finally opened.

Of course, Walmart Neighborhood Market was much more downscale than the Albertsons it replaced, but it was much cheaper and closer to what the neighborhood needed. It didn't hurt H-E-B very much, and Village Foods was having its own problems thanks to some extensive road construction. However, it too had problems. While Village Foods was going through out of business sales, it abruptly shut down as part of a major purge Walmart did with underperforming/high shrink stores.

Even when Walmart injected some new life into the shopping center, the rest of the strip never really picked up traffic and largely remains vacant. A partial tenant list is below, with the address in parentheses.

Albertsons - Albertsons #2796 never lasted long at Townshire (only from 2002 to 2006), but it made a profound impact at it. The store featured the "Grocery Palace" ("Theme Park") decor of Albertsons (though missing the high-end features), an upscale d├ęcor package that featured specialty flooring for departments. Details of the store when it was at Townshire can be seen here. Check out my other site's section on Albertsons, though it's still under construction as of this writing. The Walmart kept much of the exterior features of the Albertsons but repainted it. (1901)

AlphaGraphics - Bought out Tops Printing, a local professional printing company that relocated here after the redevelopment (2023). May 2014 picture here. (2023)

Buddy's Home Furnishings - Opened sometime in 2014 or soon before. Can be seen in this picture. (2009)

Burdett & Son Outdoor Adventure Shop - Here in the early 1990s before eventually moving to Redmond Terrace Shopping Center. (2017)

CiCi's Pizza - This replaced the old shopping center's open-air arcade with smaller stores. Can be seen in this picture(2003)

Dollar Tree - A tenant after the re-do, here in 2005 but gone by 2014. (1915)

Domino's Pizza - Here as of 1993. (2015)

Goodwill - Was indeed here in the late 1990s. (1913)

Kelly's Toylane - Moved out in the early 1980s to 404 University Drive East, disappeared by 1989. At one time the only dedicated toy store in town. (2007)

King Dollar - This wasn't here in the big re-do, but the prices have crept upwards since 2014 since the header picture was taken, now up to $1.25 as of this writing. A similar thing was noticed at Houston's 290 store. (1903)

Safeway - You can see the original Safeway building here, though it's been heavily modified (it's on the right) and moved out in the 1970s to a comparatively larger store. The former H-E-B Pantry is behind it, but that's for another post!

Walmart Neighborhood Market - See the main post.

Woolworth - Closed at Townshire prior to 1980 (downtown Bryan one remained open).

World of Books - Here in 1980, the address is unknown (it also had a store at Culpepper Plaza at this time).

I realize that I left out a lot (I'll add others over time) but I wanted to mostly update Townshire as a consistent narrative in this March 2020 update.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Redmond Terrace Shopping Center / Texas Avenue Crossing

Author's picture from August 2019. The overcast makes the buildings appear shadowed.

Among the retail establishments off of Texas Avenue is Texas Avenue Crossing (a name not seen on signage, by the way) is also the only strip center for miles around with rooftop parking. If you have lived in College Station for more than six months, you've probably been here: it has (as of this writing) a Panda Express, Cold Stone, World Market, Bed Bath & Beyond, Jason's Deli, and DoubleDave's. Of course, it wasn't always like that, and prior to 2003 (roughly), it was a completely different center. Opening in the 1960s at Jersey and Texas Avenue on a dairy farm, Redmond Terrace Shopping Center was the first strip center in College Station and featured a variety of stores, including a Ben Franklin five and ten, Brookshire Brothers, a post office, and Gibson's. All of these were housed under a continuous "squiggly roof" (not unlike the defunct discount store The Treasury). Here's one of the few photos I have of the original configuration, from a photo of a photo.

Gibson's, of course, was the main anchor. When this article was originally published in 2014, no Wikpedia article existed, but now it does. The Dallas stores even included full supermarkets in theirs. While the Gibson's here never contained such a thing, it did include a garden center and pharmacy, the latter indicated by this December 1971 ad from our very own The Eagle. It may have even had a snack bar.

Get "Monoply" for the kids!

From what I've read, though, Gibson's was a dump (I've heard someone tell me it smelled like tires). If we fast-forward, things started to change at Redmond stores changed, the squiggly roof went away, but only partially, leaving the center very disjointed looking. Academy would demolish or extensively renovate the Gibson's space. The Brookshire Brothers space was replaced with Piggly Wiggly early on (it was not very large at all, much smaller than Navasota's or Hearne's Brookshire Brothers), though Brookshire Brothers did get another chance in College Station when it opened a new store on George Bush Drive West many years later. The post office was replaced with Joe's Used Books.

Compared to the top picture, this is how it's supposed to look color-wise. (Picture by author, 8/19)

Jason's Deli (a Stacy's Furniture for a time, by address) would be on the far right of the center. Other stores included Burdett & Son's and Loupot's, as well as a mattress/furniture liquidator. Here's a picture of Burdett & Son's, in which you can see the original figuration as well.

Burdett & Son was here from 1997 to 2002, as says their website. Copy Corner is off to the right.

At the corner of George Bush and Texas was a Shell gas station with a Zip'N convenience store, but it was extremely small (or am I just remembering this wrong?). This went first with little more than some remains in a raised section of concrete to show that something was here.

Here's the directory listings for what the center was like as Redmond Terrace.

1400 - Stand-alone Zip'N gas station (Shell) at the corner of George Bush (Jersey) and Texas Avenue. May have replaced an older gas station, only 1,000 square feet. This went first with little more than some remains in a raised section of concrete to show that something was here.
1710 George Bush Drive - Not part of the 1400 block, but Joe's Books in the late 1990s was the closest to the George Bush side.
1402 - Brown's Shoe Fit from sometime in the 1980s to the early 2000s
1404 - Copy Corner
1404A - Jason's Deli. I remember how Jason's Deli was one of the last buildings to be torn down, and the first to be rebuilt.
1406 - Piggly Wiggly in 1976, and later Burdett & Sons by 1997 (to 2002)
1408 - The directory for 1998 lists "Vincent AC" or something like that, but I only remember a mattress liquidator being here.
1410 - AR Photography
1418 - Gibson's Discount Center in 1976 and Academy by the mid-1980s. By the 1990s it was rebadged as 1420, possibly due to an expansion in the late 1980s.
1422 - Loupot's Book Store. This moved to the center at Holleman and Texas Avenue and is a Salata today. This appears to be originally part of Gibson's, and originally had a south entrance (unknown if it was re-sealed later) for a garden center.

In 2001, Redmond Terrace would lose its largest anchor when Academy announced it would move out to the bypass (the new store opened February 2002, a store now closed and replaced by an even larger one), and shortly thereafter it was announced that the entire shopping center would be wrecked for a new center: Texas Avenue Crossing. While one portion was saved and rehabbed (Mattress Giant and Pier One Imports, and I think this was where Jason's Deli originally was), the rest was demolished and built anew, featuring a mostly stable line-up of tenants.

On top of Bed Bath & Beyond to Jason's Deli is that rooftop parking area, but it's never been very full. An elevator takes you back near BB&B.

Over at the Shell spot, a new plaza was built with Panda Express (new to the market), Complete Nutrition (formerly "Bath Junkie"), James Avery Craftsman (originally something else?), and Cold Stone Creamery (new to the market).

TAC remains rather popular, having brought new retailers to the market and a popular lunch spot with inexpensive restaurants (Jason's Deli, particularly, remains a popular after-church spot).

Here's the current directory.

1400 - Panda Express in the strip center that replaced the Shell.
1404 - Formerly Bath Junkie from 2005 to 2009, later Complete Nutrition. Bath Junkie may or may not have been one of the first to go in here. (1402 not used)
1406 - James Avery jewelry store. May or may not have replaced another ~2005 tenant.
1408 - Cold Stone Creamery.
1410 - DoubleDave's Pizzaworks at the north end of the center.
1414 - European Wax Center (1412 not used), originally Urban Salon.
1416 - Charming Charlie. For some reason I remember this coming after the other stores, but I can't remember if it replaced anything. It was one of the first of that chain open (the chain launched in 2004, and this was only store #5 out of nearly 400). In August 2019, the store and the 260 other stores in the chain (at the time) announced it would go out of business.
1418 - Formerly Mattress Giant and later transformed into another MattressFirm location (it happened not long after they had built a store at the former Blockbuster at Holleman)
1424 - Pier 1 Imports, moved from space near the mall. This announced closing in early 2020 shortly before Pier 1 filed for bankruptcy protection. 1420 and 1422 not used.
1430 - Bed Bath & Beyond. 1424-1428 not used.
1440 - Pine Boutique. For years Ritz Camera & Image, closed in 2012, one of the last ones to close. 1432-1438 not used.
1446 - Palm Beach Tan (originally Darque Tan for years)
1450 - Total Wine & More opened in 2022. Formerly World Market. 1448 not used.
1460 - Jason's Deli. 1452-1458 not used.

UPDATE 09-15-2021: World Market began going out of business sales in December 2020, putting the screws to yet another business in the center. Also updated Bath Junkie's dates and implied that Brookshire Bros. would be covered in the future.
UPDATE 02-17-2023: Added Total Wine & More.
UPDATE 02-10-2024: Some updates to report that have not been integrated to the page. DoubleDave's announced on TexAgs that the George Bush/Texas location would close May 1, 2023. Also, in late July 2023 Bed Bath & Beyond closed with the bankruptcy of the chain and was replaced with Burlington (formerly known as Burlington Coat Factory, but like At Home the store opened too late for CS to see the "original" name). I still do have a few pictures of the strip center pre-remodel but that will have to wait.