Friday, May 31, 2019

Church Street Blues and BBQ

2014 picture by author

Church Avenue, another Northgate street, was always Church Avenue. It used to be when you could refer to this as "Church Street" and no one would care, but since the 2011 annexation of Wellborn, which has an actual Church Street, it forced the Church Avenue name into more common usage. Renaming either street would meet resistance, so we'll have to live with what we got.

The building at 100 Church Avenue was built in 2010 and opened before the "Great Church Street Mix-Up" and originally opened as "Church Street Blues and BBQ", which I personally never was able to eat at since it was not open for lunch and only in the evening and night of certain days (weekends and the days leading up to it). It was one of the first places to have New Republic Brewing Company beer on tap back in 2011, but in 2014, Church Street Blues closed.

In September 2015, the site became the home of "West End Elixir Company", which catered to an older crowd, with much of the staff being veterans. It also served wood-fired pizza. It closed in 2018 within a year of a new location opened in downtown Bryan.

UPDATE 02-10-2022: Removed note about being split from this post at press time. Added additional labels to post. Removed metapost about no longer doing a three-post-a-week schedule (wow!). Finally, a restaurant called "CALZ" opened here in July 2021.
UPDATE 03-26-2022: Whoops, CALZ isn't open yet; still, the owner vows to open despite having signed a lease and remaining closed for over a year. Some updates were made to the existing post.
UPDATE 05-10-2022: CALZ finally opened in late April 2022 but shut down less than two weeks allegedly due to a legal dispute. This may be the shortest-lived restaurant in the area ever.
UPDATE 04-22-2024: The building has since been demolished for another student housing development, Nova Northgate. It also replaces the failed food truck park at 102 Church Avenue. Additionally, the KBTX link has been fixed. [Demolished] added to post...this may be the only [2010s] building that has been [demolished].

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Former JJ's Liquor, Texas Avenue

In the pre-JJ's days, though all but the ball-looking thing at the top of the sign survived to the end.

Originally located at the now-defunct Texas Avenue page and later at this page, this former liquor store (1600 Texas Avenue South) has been near the corner of Harvey Road since the 1970s (original build date unknown, it was listed in the early 1970s phone books but did not exist in 1971 as per aerials), originally as Discount Liquor Store. J.J. Ruffino bought it in 1983 to complement a Bryan store, and it remained as such for decades. In late 2010, Ruffino exited the liquor store and sold the three stores to Spec's. Spec's converted the store on Rock Prairie and Longmire to their brand but kept the two stores as JJ's, eventually converting them to wholesale only. I went into the store only once in 2016, when I applied for a job in the chain, though for unknown reasons it fell through. (I can tell you that the inside of the store was dark and dingy). The location at Redmond and Texas Avenue closed in 2017 when Spec's built a new store at University and Highway 6 at the former Linens-N-Things that incorporated their wholesale operation.
Southbound on Texas Avenue, March 2014, from car.
Southbound on Texas Avenue, March 2014. Another view.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Rice Garden

The big black thing in the foreground is the menu board for Taco Cabana. Picture by author, May 2019.

Behind the Taco Cabana (currently the now-closed Las Palapas) was another restaurant at 102 Live Oak. It opened in late 1994 as La Barroneña Ranch Steakhouse when it opened (though was initially planned as "City Slickers Steakhouse").
This is from the Battalion archives circa 2000
The later tenant chronology includes College Station Seafood (operating from 2004 to January 2011), Oceans Bar & Grill (operated in the very early 2010s), Vy's Kitchen Asian Cuisine (opened July 2012, same ownership and menu of Vietnamese Taste), and finally Rice Garden (changed hands around 2018, despite Yelp treating it like the same business, it appears that it was a separate entity--a residual link from the now-defunct EatBCS mentions that it was under construction as of September 2018). Rice Garden closed around 2020, a victim of COVID-19, and is still vacant.

UPDATE 03-15-2021: Rice Garden is now closed permanently. It appears it was a victim of COVID-19 last year. Also, the Taco Cabana referred here has since closed and replaced with Las Palapas.
UPDATE 05-21-2021: Made a more extensive update that fixes a pressing formatting error but also adds dates to businesses.
UPDATE 04-25-2024: A third update to finally put in something for La Barroneña Ranch Steakhouse, and also to mention the passing of Las Palapas.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Layne's of College Station, Eastgate

Picture from author, May 2014. Note the former Sully's in the background.

Built in 1962 and home to Wilson Plumbing Company for many years, Layne's of College Station has been in operation at 106 Walton since 1994, serving little more than fried chicken strips, Texas Toast, and a spicy mustard-based dipping sauce. It is similar to the Raising Cane's chain, though actually predated the chain by two years, but unlike the 400+ locations of Raising Cane's, Layne's just has three, the original, Southwest Crossing in 2006, and a third location near Caprock Crossing opened in October 2015. (This post is split from this one).

It should be noted that Brazos CAD says the building was built in 1962, but Wilson's website suggests that they have been at Eastgate since 1945. It's entirely possible that they moved or rebuilt once while in Eastgate.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Schlotzsky's Near Walmart

Author's picture from 2013.

Built in 1998 as Schlotzsky's Deli (2210 Harvey Mitchell Parkway South) with indications it moved from Park Place Plaza, they started serving Cinnabon sometime around 2007 (I remember telling one of my friends this back in high school) and has undergone one other significant change, in 2009 or shortly after, they redecorated (with the "lotz better" décor instead of the "Silly Name, Serious Sandwich" décor) and officially dropped the "Deli" part of the name. (This post is split from this one). [Updated to account for the fact that the "lotz better" décor didn't happen until 2009].

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Northgate Shell

Taken by author in 2013.

For many years this was a Shell gas station (609 University Drive), dating back to the mid-1960s with renovations in the mid-1980s (a new canopy, and likely the start of the Zip'N name, as the Zip'N name does not appear in early 1980s phone books). The signage next to University was also the same for years, gaining few updates over the years, like when the Shell logo was updated in the early 2000s before being demolished in the 2010s when University Drive was reworked to be more pedestrian-friendly. An interesting feature of this store is that it has a decent selection of Indian food (Battalion link, archived version); when this began I don't know but it's been that way since at least 2012.
Its time as a Shell came to an end in late 2023 when it converted to Sunoco (similar to the downtown Bryan Zip'N). Gas is usually priced ten cents higher than elsewhere.
UPDATE 01-04-2024: Mild rewrite to account for new changes.

Friday, May 17, 2019

George Bush Drive McDonald's

Picture taken by author, May 2019

I couldn't bear to tear apart my original Marion Pugh article, so this is to replace it. Additionally, as of this writing, I'm in the middle of changing the colors and themes of the page, explaining it why it looks like it does. It's not final, and in need of some tweaks and QoL upgrades. I'm not even sure if it's the direction I want to go (such a change would also alter the US 290 page, and I like the blue and gray).

The "George Bush" McDonald's (111 George Bush Drive West) opened in 1997 with what I remember having a white roof alternating with maroon (mansard roof, similar to the common red or brown roof alternating with white or yellow), though I always felt it would've looked better with maroon and white. After all, it was next to Kyle Field, why was it using the away colors? It renovated sometime in 2003 or 2004 to the current form it is now. I think the reason McDonald's isn't in a hurry to upgrade the exteriors of this restaurant is that it will likely be demolished whenever they do the George Bush underpass project.

The parking lot to the south is owned by Callaway House. The properties were originally part of Marion Pugh Lumber Co. at 101 Jersey Street West (which dated to the 1940s, notably when the International & Great Northern railroad skewed southwest), which would eventually give way to J. Arnold Construction Co., as Marion Pugh (a former football player and class of '41) would pass away in 1976 at the age of 57. J. Arnold actually had a small railroad crossing just to the south of Jersey, which you can still see today (venture a bit south of the McDonald's and around that area).

Treehouse is the ONLY thing that hasn't changed much since this time (Courtesy Henry Mayo)

Marion Pugh Lumber Co. would eventually give way to J. Arnold Construction Co., as Marion Pugh (a former football player and class of '41) would pass away in 1976 at the age of 57. J. Arnold actually had a small railroad crossing just to the south of Jersey, which you can still see today (venture a bit south of the McDonald's and around that area). An Amtrak station had been built in that area, but the area at the corner of Marion Pugh (originally a dirt alleyway after the railroad was abandoned, and upgraded to a full road later) and George Bush (originally Jersey Street) was abandoned for several years before McDonald's filled in.

Apologies to whoever helped me with the Marion Pugh/J. Arnold Construction Co., as I lost the reference...

UPDATE 10-2-2023: As of around September 30 2023, the McDonald's is permanently closed, having relocated to 1011 Wellborn Road (the former Valero site--see here).

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Lone Star Pavilion and the Former Red Lobster

This view really hasn't changed all that much in two decades. (Picture by author, 3/2019)

The URL of this page refers to the original name of this post, "Lone Star Pavilion and Friends". It was in reference to the Lupe Tortilla (formerly a Red Lobster), which was grandfathered into a new development. The second version of this page attempts to reorganize this page while discussing the first-generation stores here.

From 1969 to 1973, Oakridge Smokehouse was located at 807 Texas Avenue South in a building that resembled their (still open) Schulenburg location. Later, Mama's Pizza opened in the spot in July 1977. At that location, Mama's even gave out little paper mustaches to promote their restaurant (courtesy the Project HOLD collection. By 1980 there was some sort of split, with a new Mama's Pizza opening at 1037 Texas Avenue and the existing restaurant renamed to Pasta's Pizza Spaghetti & Lasagna. It appears that this vacant for several years save for a 1986-1987 stint as Las Palmas Restaurant. In 1991, it became home to formalwear shop Ladies & Lords, which would close in 1997.

Directly behind it was 805 Texas Avenue, which was Aggieland Schwinn in the 1980s and later Computer Access from the late 1980s to demolition. Originally this was associated with Nelson Mobile Homes Inc., which was redeveloped in the early 1980s to hold Red Lobster. Red Lobster at 813 Texas Avenue South, Red Lobster opened under the General Mills restaurant group. The seafood restaurant was one of the first sit-down chain restaurants (other than Luby's Cafeteria and Western Sizzlin') in the area, and even then, neither of those were full-service.

It's difficult to get a front picture of the Red Lobster-turned-Lupe Tortilla. (Picture by author, 3/2019)

Around 1996-1997, the site was purchased to be redeveloped as a modern power center, with both Ladies & Lords and Computer Access getting evicted (Ladies & Lords never reopened). Computer Access relocated to 1418 Texas Avenue South. The Red Lobster site was kept and incorporated into the new development, with parking restriped. From north to south, the center contains several "big box stores". Barnes & Noble Booksellers opened first in 1997 at 711 Texas Avenue South. Remarkably, the facade hasn't seen much changes since 1997 with not much interior changes either...though the merchandise mix over the years has left much to be desired.

Office Depot next door (715 Texas Avenue S.) opened in 1998. 717 Texas Avenue #A opened as Card & Party Factory in 2001 (moving from Post Oak Village) and closed around 2016; this later became Five Below in 2018 with a new facade. Suite B was originally Golf Etc. (2001-2011) and later became Overlanders, a spin-off of The Bear Mountain of Waco. It became The Bear Mountain Outdoor Gear two years later, and after ownership changed in 2017 (still keeping the name, presumably licensed), it closed in 2018 as it was upgraded to an Ace Hardware at Park Place Plaza. Now it is home to The Cellar Wine & Spirits (since at least 2022). Next to it is "And Sew On" at 719, Aggie Nails & Spa at 721, Kung Fu Tea at 723, and Freezing Cow Rolling Ice Cream at 725. Best Buy at 801 Texas Avenue opened in 1999.

I should note that the in-line spaces might've been renumbered at one point: from 1998 to 2001 there was a Jamba Juice in the center (originally known as Zuka Juice, acquired and rebranded) but records show it having an address of "727 Texas Avenue # C5", though likely it is where Freezing Cow is today. Baskin-Robbins was there too briefly (at 723) and I believe it became KaleidoScoops around 2000 like the Parkway Square location (but closed soon after), becoming Hobbytown USA for several years. Best Buy (801 Texas) is at the end, and goes through mild remodels now and then, I remember it going from carpet to tile and back again (or was it the other way around?)

Best Buy has been here for a number of years (Picture by author, 3/19)
In addition to the new Five Below, Red Lobster moved out in 2008 to 1200 University Drive East and was and after a few years of vacancy it was reopened under Lupe Tortilla in spring 2012, which largely kept the exterior.

UPDATE 02-16-2024: Rewrite that incorporates pre-1997 tenants. Renamed to "Lone Star Pavilion and the Former Red Lobster". Added [1960s] to post.

Monday, May 6, 2019

"At Home" on the Boriskie Ranch

College Station never had a "Garden Ridge" store, but better late than never, right?

It's rare these days when Project HOLD actually helps contribute to an article and answers questions asked, but Project HOLD came through and delivered an article on Boriskie Ranch, located off of the Highway 6 bypass. I had actually wanted to publish this in 2017 before some unfortunate situations in my life derailed my plans on revitalizing the site (chronologically, this was supposed to be published after the former Café Eccell page before the site effectively went on a year and a half hiatus). I wanted to try to contact the author, but in my research of it when first writing this article, found that Burton Hermann had passed away two days prior to when I had looked it up [archive].

The ranch dates back to the 1800s and once covered an enormous part of land stretching to Texas Avenue to the west and what would be Southwest Parkway to the south, and includes a vast part of east College Station, including Post Oak Mall, Allen Honda, Wolf Pen Creek Park, a bunch of apartment complexes, Dairy Queen, a section of Earl Rudder Freeway, and others. Obviously, these will not be covered today (if ever), though some are already covered in some form.

There's not a lot I can say about the part that's already written (if Project HOLD changes links again, just search "boriskie ranch"), other than a few facts that Post Oak Mall was built in 1982, not 1989. Following the expansion the driving range was "College Station Golf Center" at 2301 East Bypass. In 1989, I can find a listing for "Brazos Valley Golf Driving Range" but the address (and number) listed is for 2400 East Bypass, the current Grand Station (the building was a former Lowe's, but the Lowe's listed in the 1989 phone book has a non-existent East Bypass address, because at some point the addresses were renumbered). But then again, there didn't seem to be a building for the golf center in 1995, which indicates that it didn't have a phone number, so it's one of those cases in which I don't know.

Regardless, Academy Sports + Outdoors (2351 Earl Rudder Freeway) was built and opened in February 2002, as the article says (see this article). The golf center, with its long poles and overgrown netting to prevent balls from going out into the highway, closed in the mid-2000s and was torn down for a shopping center. This would be the home of Gander Mountain (2301 Earl Rudder Freeway) and Dickey's Barbecue Pit (2297 Earl Rudder Freeway). Gander Mountain would open June 2007, giving another option for the local economy and another large store on Highway 6.

The closed Dickey's.

Dickey's Barbecue Pit was the last commercial development at Boriskie Ranch. This is covered in more detail at this article.

Around 2011, We Rent Storage at 2672 Horse Haven Lane opened, replacing an oil field.

In 2017, several shakeups changed the face of the former Boriskie Ranch. In addition to the aforementioned Dickey's Barbecue Pit, Academy moved less than a mile away closer to the intersection of Raintree and Highway 6, Gander Mountain closed in August following the parent company's bankruptcy, and Hunter's Creek Stables (now with an address of 2741 Horseback Drive, as opposed to the original address of 2401 East Bypass) eventually closed and was torn down to allow further development of Horse Haven Estates.

However, some life did come back when At Home Group Inc. announced that they would build a store in College Station. The new name of what used to be Garden Ridge, the Texas-based chain has had stores in Houston (often enormous, though they've scaled down in recent years), San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and parts beyond for years (even Syracuse, New York got a store before us). They tore down a covered outdoor annex of Gander Mountain to build an expansion (I think this had boats, I'm not sure).

UPDATE 09-15-2021: Slight cutting to officially spin off the Academy and Masfajitas (Dickey's) articles. Added [College Station] to the post.