Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Shipley Do-Nuts, Southwest Parkway

Do-Nut You Forget About Me. (Picture from author, 4/20)



If I had to describe "which road best represents my childhood", it would have to be Southwest Parkway. There was the Citgo there at the corner of Southwest Parkway and Wellborn, before Southwest Crossing was built, a common fuel and convenience stop (more will be discussed when the gas station is added), the Texaco station at Welsh Avenue, those weird townhome-style apartments catty-corner to that (Embassy Townhomes), South Knoll Elementary School (where I went to school, and was once covered on this site, though mostly I described its dark, pre-renovation corridors), and small streets where family friends lived.

Further down the road was Parkway Baptist Church and Bee Creek Park, where seasonally Adamson's Lagoon (which I also used to have a post on) would be a great spot to take the family. It's not nearly as good now, I haven't been to it for years (my siblings grew up and left home), but it did decline objectively, with the floating snake and frog eventually being chained to the pool floor (if they're even still there—and I do remember the incident as to WHY they're chained), the crowds increasing (with the price), and the removal of the diving board.

Parkway Baptist Church was where my Boy Scout troop was located (I never became an Eagle Scout) and, it's hard to notice from the street, but a few houses down you can see that there's a duplex with one side of the house having slightly different brick than the other. The reason for this is because around 2000 there was no fence from Southwest Parkway and it was used as a front yard (there's a small alley off Welsh). However, one night a drunk driver careened off of the road and crashed through the side of the house, killing a young girl in her sleep. I don't have the news story with me but that's how I remember it happening. As I passed the area pretty frequently I could see where the front of the house was boarded up, and although it happened gradually over the next 12 years, eventually all the houses between the church and Welsh had fences built along Southwest Parkway.

Finally, there was Parkway Square, featuring Kroger (of course), but also Baskin-Robbins, a video rental store, and a McDonald's that was often visited. I know I've covered Arby's and what I mostly remembered as a vacant building but there was one place I haven't covered yet, haven't even mentioned it as of this writing except for a throwaway line on the Post Oak Square article. That would be Shipley Do-Nuts, located at 1716 Southwest Parkway, originally built in 1984.

The "do-nut" shop is best known before its most recent facade update around 2017-2018, with its appearance which removed the message board as well as changed the main signage piece. The new remodel also removed the tiny marquee lightbulbs around the signage, which used to light up and dance around the sign. I don't know the specific reason they stopped, whether it being too expensive to maintain, machinery got broken down, or ordinances preventing it. (Probably both).

UPDATE 03-12-2022: As of this writing, I'm working on a full Southwest Parkway page on Carbon-izer.com, so check that out soon. One thing that I failed to mention in the original 2020 article is that a car apparently took drive-through a bit too literally and crashed through the front of it, so the brick in the center front is not original. It happened sometime in the 2000s and was the ol' "confused the gas pedal for the brake" problem. I also failed to mention the shop was opened in 1988.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Exxon Rock Prairie and Wellborn

There was another Exxon located on Rock Prairie's other end. More on that another time. (Picture by author, Apr. 2020)

Sometime around 1997 or 1998, Rock Prairie Road was extended from Victoria Avenue to Wellborn Road, eliminating the need to trek back on North Graham toward Victoria. Within a few years, an Exxon station was built and later, a stoplight (I'm pretty sure the stoplight came before the railroad crossing--which upgraded and extended Gandy Road into a full extension to North Dowling Road).

This Exxon station (at 12727 FM 2154) anchors the southeast corner of the intersection, with the Shell station coming in about 3-5 years afterward.

Brazos CAD isn't all that clear when everything was built, indicating the car wash was built a full two years before the convenience store was in 2000. In the first year or two, the Exxon featured an A&W restaurant, which had returned to College Station-Bryan after a 20+ year absence (there was a location near the modern-day intersection of University Drive and Texas Avenue, but that's for another post). A&W's attempt at what was then south College Station didn't last long at all, and I had to make sure of it through some digging on Project HOLD to make sure it wasn't just the power of suggestion getting to me, but by early 2001 A&W was gone, and a Sonic took its place in the summer of 2001. The addition of Sonic added the traditional Sonic canopies to about seven parking spaces, and evidence suggests these were functional carhop spaces.

In 2008, the Sonic moved to a new space next door and the space was abandoned. By early 2009, it was operating as Taco Casa, which reused a lot of Sonic's infrastructure by painting the red trim on the canopies orange to match Taco Casa's branding scheme. But it too closed after a few years (sometime in mid-2011). It didn't help Taco Casa's case that 2009 and 2010 were plagued with major construction. The Exxon actually lost about a dozen parking spaces in the front, with an entrance to Rock Prairie also closed (though that became three new spaces). Sometime within this same time frame, the signage updated to electronic numbering.

Finally, around early 2013, the space was filled with Little Caesars, which ditched the interior seating for a walk-up counter and the only Little Caesars in the area with a drive-through.

The main "Tigerland Express" food mart was there from the start, with a third tenant serving as a liquor/tobacco store (but is only accessed from the inside, despite the presence of an exterior door). Finally, the car wash is next to the convenience store.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Rock Prairie Crossing

The "Pharmacy" on the right originally held the "Signature" logo.


In the adventures of of this website thus far, we have covered all the former Albertsons and all the former AppleTree stores, but haven't gone too deep into the grocery stores currently in the area. That is about to change, as we are about to tackle Rock Prairie Crossing, a shopping center built in 2000.
The shopping center is anchored by Kroger (3535 Longmire) and had massive success, as it had (for about a decade) the distinction of being the farthest-south grocery store in town, and is usually still pretty crowded.

The Starbucks wasn't originally there, it appears that according to the map, it was an enclosed cart area (the carts were moved outside after Starbucks), but it did appear after a few years, either opening before or around the same time the Albertsons up the street did.

It features a prominent and open mezzanine; however just for offices seems a bit of a waste, it almost feels as if the upper level was meant to be used for additional seating or some other purpose, given the (original) presence of a daycare and all that. The Randalls store in downtown Houston (though given how much the chain continues to shrink, I don't know how long it will last) also has an upper level like Kroger's but is well-utilized. You can sit down with your items purchased from the Starbucks up there or other items (like the deli or the bakery) and eat them while having nearly a full view of the store below.

As for a basic description of the store, it's around 63,000 square feet, has a bakery, deli, produce department, meats and seafood toward the far back right of the store, then pharmacy to the right, with some space cut for the "curb-side pickup". I did not take any pictures of the store, partly because you can find it elsewhere. The decor on Yelp from 2010 is still the Kroger's design now and Google also has a few photos (but it's contaminated with stock photos that look nothing like this store).

The Kroger currently has "Fresh Fare" d├ęcor with tiles featuring orange and green accents ("Millennium Decor") but it may have the Neon Decor.

I actually did acquire a store directory back when the store first opened back when the store's moniker "Kroger Signature" actually meant something (the name was removed sometime last year as of this writing, to just Kroger). This can be seen at my main website, Carbon-izer. While this Kroger did have the day care area, it did not, to my knowledge, have the food court as the 1993 Houston store did.

Nearby is the 3505 Longmire building.

Suite A - This has been DoubleDave's PizzaWorks for years, pretty sure it was an original tenant (so no "suite B"). Originally, there used to be a big glass window where you could see pizza being prepared (with a step for the shorter people in attendance). At some point, it was re-arranged to have that be an open window and the area blocked by the buffet table.

Suite C - Formerly home to FabricCare Cleaners, which moved to a new strip center off Highway 6 (in Tower Point) around 2016-2017 (roughly around that time). In 2020, AnyLabTestNow took up the space.

Suite D - Currently home to a Jimmy John's, which opened around December 2013, after two other locations in town opened (the University Drive East location and the Texas Avenue/Holleman location). It used to be Blue Kangaroo Children's Boutique, which opened in 2004. It may have been something else before that.

Despite parking under trees being a danger, this shopping center is always crowded.

Suite E - Was the home of W.E. Gibson Insurance (possibly original), then became the home of Athena Learning Centers in 2013 but closed five years later (likely due to lease issues). It has since been absorbed into Spec's.

Suite F - The former location of Maggie Moo's. I don't know when it closed, probably late 2000s (Googling shows it was definitely open in 2006) then absorbed into Spec's. The franchisee later took to Southwest Crossing as "Harold's Hot Dogs & Ice Cream" until it eventually folded.

Suite G - Spec's Liquor is here, it used to be a modern location of JJ's Liquor. After Spec's bought the JJ's Liquor mini-chain, it renamed and expanded into the former Maggie Moo's space.

Moving clockwise, there's a CVS/pharmacy at 1800 Rock Prairie, which I didn't photograph but it (like almost every CVS in Texas prior to 2005) was an Eckerd originally. I didn't take a picture of it, but the Google Street View people did. A bank building, located at the corner of Longmire and Highway 6, isn't part of the shopping center.

You can see where it was repainted, as the pre-2009 Jack in the Box logo was tilted at an angle.


The next plot is a vacant space, an empty Jack in the Box. I think it was built a bit after the Kroger store, so maybe 2000 or 2001. It first temporarily closed in summer 2017 due to ownership transition (to corporate from franchisee, along with the other stores in the area). It briefly reopened around the fall of that year, but sadly, the reopening was short-lived and it closed soon after (probably a month or two). As the blacked-out Jack in the Box logo on the signage still shown through on the main shopping center (still never updated to the 2009 logo), it made me sad that I couldn't head down there after dark from my then-home at Longmire (I lived briefly at Longmire and Deacon) to pick up food, and only reminded of Jack in the Box's fairly wide and diverse menu from commercials nearly four decades old. It was one of my go-to places in spring 2017 when I didn't live at Longmire (but lived in the general area), going there for the late-night "Munchie Meals" after my shift ended at a call center near Highway 40, which is where I worked at the time. One of the drive-through windows looked bashed up; clearly someone had tried to force it open as part of a robbery attempt. I also think the access problems had something to do with it...

There's another building (3515) with the UPS Store (suite B) and then T. Jin China Diner (sit-down Chinese restaurant) and the UPS Store (in suite B), don't know when either opened, then another strip to the immediate left of Kroger (3525).

Suite A - Cotton Patch Cafe has been here since the early 2000s, and I ate here once or twice. Haven't been back in a number of years.

Suite D - Because Cotton Patch takes up so much space, there's not an A through C, and suite D is occupied by Freebirds World Burrito (always a good lunch option).

Suite F - Kolache Rolf's (a good breakfast option; suite E is skipped due to Freebirds' larger footprint).

Suite G - Facelogic BCS (some sort of "day spa", website)

Suite H - Angel Nails

Suite I - Balboa's Barber Studio currently, former home of Classic Cuts Plus

Suite J - Used to be GNC, now "American Shaman", selling CBD oil products. Pretty sure the former (original?) tenant GNC was shut down in the round of closings in 2019.

Suite K - Eye Trends as of this writing, though a sign at the corner of Longmire and Graham promises a new location.

Suite L - Witt's End, local woman's clothing shop

Suite N - Hallmark store (no suite M).

Wrapping up on this shopping center, what was mildly interesting is the fact that the center's first few years had NOTHING across the highway, with only a "two way dead end" sign at Rock Prairie's other side. There's also a large right of way between the highway frontage road and the frontage road; this was created when the frontage road was rebuilt around 2008.

UPDATE 04-24-2021: Minor rewrite for better flow. AnyLabTestNow opened.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

China Wok Express

This may be the start of a series of posts near Villa Maria Road and Texas Avenue, but I can't make any promises. (Picture by author, March 2020)


No fooling...today's post is on April 1st, and it's a brand new one. This building, 612 Villa Maria Road, was built in 1979 and first served as a Tinsley's Chicken 'n Rolls (and originally 512 Villa Maria Road West), a restaurant previously covered on this site. It served as Church's Chicken from 1985 to 1989 after Tinsley's sold out, and Cobblestone Quality Shoe Repair between 1992 and 1995. It returned to food service (and fried chicken) when it served as a Golden Fried Chicken (later Golden Chick) between 1996 and 2000. Sometime in the 2000s (possibly as early as 2002, which Brazos CAD seems to indicate), it became China Wok Express. I thought it was around 2005...notice the the building has a blue roof instead of the current gold-colored roof (which ironically, came after Golden Chick closed). The circle where the China Wok Express logo is used to be where Golden Chick's mascot used to roost...I'm guessing that when it returned to restaurant use from whatever it was previously, Golden Chick did some significant renovations.

View from the southwest. Not sure if I've ever seen that neon on top light up.

As you may know, the government warnings for COVID-19 have put the economy into a tailspin, with restaurants only offering carry-out or delivery, but China Wok Express is not among them, closing entirely and promising to return April 8th. However, the menu board, as you can see below, is so faded that one can barely see the letters, and one of the columns has a big hole knocked through it. I'm not in the neighborhood very often, so I'll have to see if China Wok Express will reopen or if this is their swan song.

Allegedly due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, China Wok Express is now closed, with promises it will reopen April 8th, but it's doubtful as the menu board (and general maintenance) are clearly in a state of visible decline.

The menu board is so faded it's almost completely illegible.

By the way, the article linked above (mentioning the former blue roof) is the old Villa Maria/Texas Avenue article that has been updated with revised information and new photos.

UPDATE 03-24-2021: More precise dates for Golden Chick. China Wok Express DID reopen.
UPDATE 04-08-2022: Update with additional tenants, which should patch the holes.