Saturday, July 18, 2020

Former Taco Villa

Let's taco 'bout this vacant building.

The former RadioShack at 614 East Villa Maria Road goes back over 40 years. In June 1977, the building first opened as a Taco Villa restaurant (notice the picture) and remained as such for nearly a decade following.

One directory edition from the mid-1980s lists it as a Del Taco, which was odd as while the Texas franchisee of Del Taco did buy Taco Villa but indications were that the owner at the time (a subsidiary of W.R. Grace) wanted to convert the Del Taco restaurants it owned to Taco Villa (to avoid licensing fees), not the other way around.

In 1988, W.R. Grace liquidated Del Taco and Taco Villa, with the restaurant closing with the Houston stores, including this one (indications that Taco Villa did live on, and today operates stores in West Texas and New Mexico, though I'm not 100% sure they are the same chain).

By the early 1990s, it became a Quick as a Flash (likely a facade re-do/repaint happened around this time) and in 1999, it was still a Quick as a Flash location (the directory for that year lists "Back in a Flash", which was a similarly-named operation focused on film processing located inside the AppleTree stores and the College Station Kroger). The directory error also lends credence to the fact that the restaurant was never branded as Del Taco.

At some point, like the sister store in College Station it went under the Ritz Camera name, though it was probably a Ritz Portrait Studio like the other store. I'm not sure when it closed, probably early 2000s.

The back of the store still has some original stucco, giving clues to what the original Taco Villa looked like.

RadioShack, the last known tenant, moved in after the redevelopment of Sul-Mar Center at Villa Maria and Briarcrest around 2006-2007, where it had been previously been homed there since 1971 (originally opened as "Allied Radio Shack", a short-lived branding of the chain when parent company Tandy Corporation owned Allied Electronics). In 2015, Tandy Corporation (renamed RadioShack Corp. in 2000 to focus on its core business) went bankrupt and most of the corporate-owned stores closed. The corporate stores that weren't closed were converted to Sprint/RadioShack co-branded stores under new company General Wireless. Unfortunately, the partnership with Sprint dissolved with the bankruptcy of General Wireless two years later, closing the Sprint/RadioShack stores (including this one). The closure of this meant that RadioShack officially exited the Bryan-College Station market, and today, the closest brick-and-mortar RadioShack store is in Brenham (which is a franchised store).

All pictures here are by the author, March 2020.

UPDATE 02-04-21: A revisit to the area shows that this has now reopened as Fred Loya Insurance. Two tags ([Series: Closed & Closing] and [defunct]) have been removed.