Thursday, December 23, 2021

Saenz Tamales

Extant Saenz Tamales sign.

It's the Christmas season here at Brazos Buildings & Businesses, and while it hasn't been a big tradition from my family, it's tamale time. What better way to mark the occasion with a walk-up shop known for tamales? Located at 1410 William Joel Bryan Parkway, the building today is a broken-down abandoned building.

The aforementioned sign is just off to the right out of view.

The building appears to have been built in the 1950s as Dairy Treat (also known as "Pat's Dairy Treat" in the late 1950s and "Bill's Dairy Treat" in the early 1970s). It wasn't the only Dairy Treat, there was "Buccaneer Dairy Treat" at 1400 S. College Avenue, but by the early 1970s, this was the only "Dairy Treat" in town, also known as "Bill's Dairy Treat". It was "Hargett's Family Smokehouse" in the early 1980s, and it's not known if anything else occupied the spot.

Saenz Tamales moved here in 1984 from 1418 Sandy Point Road (practically behind the later restaurant and also still has signage there), which still has a commercial building with a sign for Saenz Tamales along with a sign for Nesbitt's Orange soda and closed sometime in the early 2000s (when exactly, not sure). I remember a long time ago I went with my dad to get tamales here (back in the late 1990s), and they even had bumper stickers, a yellow one with red text reading "I ♥ Saenz Tamales", which was stuck on an outdoor trash can for years before sunlight and wear eventually ruined it. In its last days, this appears to have gone under the name of "Saenz Tamales & Bar-B-Q".

While the Saenz family still owns the land and building, it has been abandoned since its closure and is considered to be a "Dangerous Building" by the City of Bryan.
That whiteboard might not have been touched in well over a decade. Also note the "Wehrman's" sign, that's for another day.
"Unsafe Building" notices.
Located to the right side of the building, this appears to have been the interior dining room area.
Outside seating area. You can sort of see the original Saenz building from here.

Editor's Note: Check out "Defunct Madden Concepts", an older post recently refurbished as a full post. Just in case you missed it. Also the pictures in this post are by me, taken November 2021.

UPDATE 12-28-2021: Well, it turns out that I couldn't see the old Saenz Tamales building, because the building was actually demolished several years ago! Street View was very out of date.
UPDATE 01-13-2023: Sometime in 2022, the 1984 location of Saenz Tamales was also demolished. Nothing remains of it except the driveway outlets.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Downtown Bryan Shell

The restaurant section is the one on the left (picture by author, 9/21)

In what is possibly the newest (and last) Zip'N built (2010, replacing an older Zip'N Shell at 200 North Texas Avenue), this downtown gas station at 208 North Texas Avenue takes up three quarters of the block and is the main gas station/convenience store anchoring the downtown area (some older options take up the slack to the north and west).

At the northeast corner of the block (the original 208 N. Texas Avenue) was Shining Star Detail, which relocated. The rest of the lot (the part that Shell occupies) was a parking lot, presumably for the office building occupying the remainder of the block. Catty-corner to the Shell (at 24th Street) is a Shell Rapid Lube, likely associated with the gas station for years (it predates the new store, probably decades old).

Another look at a slightly different angle.

The tenant to the right of Zip'N appears to have always been empty, but to the left was originally a Krispy Krunchy Chicken very briefly in the mid-2010s, then the sign got modified when it became Bellon's Kung Pao Express (which operated for less than a year; it's supposed to look closer to this). Esmeralda's Taqueria has been here since late 2016.

Across the street is a Dairy Queen, which I photographed the exterior of but due to new site "rules", outlined in the Harmony Science Academy post, it can't make the cut, but perhaps you might see it on the City Directory pages of Carbon-izer soon. Zip'N qualifies because of the restaurant on site (and given that it has the same address, I assume it's connected to the store) has changed a few times.

UPDATE 04-16-2023: As of late April 2023, this gas station has converted to a Sunoco. The nearby lube station is now a Castrol.

Friday, November 5, 2021

H-E-B Pantry / Harmony Science Academy

Most of the architectural details from H-E-B Pantry are gone, except the peak in the roof and those windows to the right of the entrance.

Despite a heavy retail-based focus on this website, I still haven't covered all the former grocery stores in town yet (even the post-1980 ones), and of course, the Bryan section on this website is still pretty small, with a good fifth of the Bryan content coming from since January 2020, but, like most of the Bryan content that's already there, it's on Texas Avenue.

I don't believe I went inside the H-E-B Pantry there at 2031 South Texas Avenue, but it was in an area with other grocery stores. It competed with Kroger and (for a few years) the Albertsons at the remodeled Townshire Shopping Center next door. It also had excellent access, it in addition to entrances off of Texas Avenue, long driveways connected it to both Twin Boulevard and Bywood Street. The store opened around September 1991 and closed in December 2004 shortly before the new H-E-B at the redeveloped Manor East Mall (Tejas Center) opened.

Following the move, the former H-E-B Pantry was left abandoned for a few years before Harmony Science Academy took it over in fall 2007 (though Google Maps Street View still shows the empty store with no signage as of November 2007). Later on, Harmony made more renovations to the property, including modifying the exterior and adding an expansion. It has also repainted since. In the Townshire article linked above, the exterior of the store is tan with dark red trim, the facade today is bright red, white, and blue.

This sign near Twin Boulevard is from H-E-B Pantry, which had the rounded rectangular signs.

Harmony Science Academy is no stranger to converting grocery stores, over at you can see an overview of Valley Mills Road in Waco, where Harmony took over both an old Albertsons and an old H-E-B.

All pictures here were taken by the author in September 2021.

Editor's Note: As part of some minor changes, the only new posts will be either buildings that are demolished or otherwise closed, had tenant changeover, had some significant change themselves, or are part of a larger story. So for instance, Spice World Market would not qualify ordinarily under this policy had it not been for the bit on Old Arrington Road. Likewise, even "being historic" would not qualify; therefore, something like Pruitt's Fabrics would not be covered.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Spice World Market

There's a big Starbucks sign inside for what is essentially a Starbucks-branded Keurig machine inside. (Photo by author, 9/2021).

One more entry before I take a break for a little while (see Editor's Note at the bottom), Spice World Market opened in July 2021 at 1381 Old Arrington Road. It's an Indian grocery store at 9,000 square feet, which is much larger than any Indian food-focused store in town. Previously, the places that specialized in Indian food mostly just had some items crammed in the back of a convenience store, but this one is in a nice, new space with even a bakery that churns out fresh naan (which I have yet to see, it runs out by 5pm).

Spice World is located on 1381 Old Arrington Road, located behind the main Caprock Crossing development, and has been in planning for a long time. I first saw the signs for Spice World Market ("Coming Soon") in March 2019, en route to the Ground Shuttle terminal further down when picking up my cousin at the terminal for a wedding (the trip to the terminal was not as exciting as childhood trips all the way to downtown Bryan's old Greyhound station, but it was easier to get to). Funnily enough, the section of Old Arrington Road did not exist for a brief time in the 2000s. When Highway 40 opened, (Old) Arrington Road intersected with Highway 40 just before Highway 6 (complete with a left turn lane from Highway 40), with the newer section of Arrington Road accessible further down solely to provide access to Greens Prairie Road West. By 2008, the section closer to the highway was officially Old Arrington Road, while the intersection further west curled down to connect to the main road. A few years later, the pavement was removed on Old Arrington near the highway and closed off.

By fall 2014, the space was being redeveloped as Caprock Crossing, with Walgreens being built, and a Zaxby's later built on the right of way itself. Old Arrington was on its way to be forgotten and built over completely, like North Graham Road. However, unlike North Graham Road, in 2017 or 2018, the cul-de-sac at the end of Old Arrington (the truncation point), was removed, and a new concrete driveway connected it to the Caprock Crossing entryway, which provided access to Zaxby's, Walgreens, and others. It was on this rebuilt portion that Spice World opened.

Editor's Note: So the blog will be going a bit quiet again. Probably not "no posts until 2022" but likely not for another month or two until I can build some posts and content. Unlike in August 2020, when I ran aground, this is going to at least end on a high note. If you exclusively read this blog via Facebook (not recommended!) this notice may be out of date anyway, as I have more than enough Facebook stuff stored up to sail through this gap.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Pruitt's Fabrics

Picture from August 2018 by author.

Well, classes are back in session again, and I can tell from of early September, the most popular page of the month was the Memorial Student Center page.

Like Dixie Chicken on the other side of campus, Pruitt's Fabrics (it dropped the "Fabrics" on the main sign some years ago, probably as late as 2011 but no earlier than 2008) has just been "there" at 318 George Bush Drive (or 318 Jersey, originally) for years, with its coral-green tile giving away its age. Sadly, Pruitt's has all appearances of being on its last legs, whether that's actually true or not. The store is open by appointment only, the building is for lease, and the website has been offline for a few years now. Pruitt's Fabrics claims to be founded in 1946, but we know in 1956 it was a few spaces down. However, by 1959, Pruitt's Fabrics (or "Pruitt's Fabric Shoppe" or "Pruitt's Fabric & Beauty Shop" as it was also known) settled in its current location, and here we are sixty years later.

Brazos CAD says that the building was built in 1957, which aligns with advertising (no records for 318 Jersey before Pruitt's) and puts Pruitt's as the first and only building in the space.

The building is right next to what is currently Good Bull BBQ but from that post, it has changed hands multiple times, whereas Pruitt's has been constant.

Editor's Note: Check out some recent updates posted around the site! Former NAPA Auto Parts is getting a new tenant. Wolfe Nursery has a link to a history I wrote of the company. Did you know it was owned by Pier 1 Imports for a time? Speaking of Pier 1, Texas Avenue Crossing lost another tenant, World Market. Texas Avenue Crossing is rumored to get a Sprouts, and I do have some pictures of the pre-redevelopment center (after Academy closed). That will be added another time...Kettle got a minor update (it might just return to 24 hours again, someday...), and finally the At Home article got a minor update. All updates have been re-worked to be a little easier on the eyes, too.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Good Bull BBQ

You can see the remnants of where an awning once hung, last seen in the "Cocina" days. (Picture by author, 8/21)

When I did the post on the late Southgate Subway that closed after nearly 30 years, you could see the doors to Good Bull BBQ to the right of it. Unlike Subway, this spot (326 George Bush Drive, née 326 Jersey) has been a revolving door of restaurants over the years, but going back further hasn't always been restaurants.

The oldest record I can find is 1969 with the location being the Southside Barber Shop "under new management", with a legacy of hair cutting continuing into the early 1980s.

In 1978, it was the Mop Shop, and mentioned in the paper because someone had stolen their barber pole. It was here until the very early 1980s.

"How About Lurl's" was here in 1982-1983 according to tax records (a second location of a hair styling shop in Bryan). This is the last known hair cutting place at the spot before it transitioned to restaurant space.

In the spring of 1984, a new pizzeria called DoubleDave's Pizzaworks opened. A second location on Northgate soon followed. By the time DoubleDave's closed this particular location around 2000 (presumably relocating to Rock Prairie Road), DoubleDave's wasn't quite a small one-location operation anymore. DoubleDave's long stay at this storefront was the longest time that any single restaurant operated here and survived the 1990s name change to George Bush Drive.

Mi Cocina Restaurant (also known as Mi Cocina II, as their first restaurant was located in Bryan) opened in 2000 and was very popular for a time; by 2006 it had opened two additional locations in College Station. Unfortunately, at some point, it was sued by a similarly-named restaurant (which had no locations in College Station) and the restaurants became Polly's Cocina (except the original Bryan location, which went to different ownership). After the spring 2011 semester, the now-named Polly's Cocina Restaurant closed.

Coco Loco, which opened in summer 2011, I never actually went to, but I do remember my dad bringing home some leftover breakfast items including bacon and tortillas due to some work-related early morning meetings there, but in 2013 beef contaminated with the rare E. coli strain O157:H7 was undercooked and sent two young boys to the hospital. The restaurant was shut down by the health department for investigation and clean-up (and of course, the local news media followed it closely). During this saga, a health department official ate a taco at a televised press conference to demonstrate that the restaurant was safe to eat at, but that put off friends and families of the victims (especially as the family in question was facing a huge financial burden in hospital bills), and was forced to apologize. It would not have made much of a difference; the idea was to not throw Coco Loco under the bus, but it ended up closing in 2014.

La Botana moved in after Coco Loco's demise. This second location of a Bryan-based restaurant (still in operation as of this writing) opened in early 2015 but closed in 2017.

Good Bull BBQ opened in fall 2017 and closed in May 2021. Both TexAgs and Yelp attribute management issues to its closure. However, as of this writing, new management has reopened the restaurant.

Brazos CAD groups it with the same lot where Subway is, and therefore, like that building, I'll put that this building was built in the 1940s until new proof shows otherwise.

UPDATE 11-09-2021: The Good Bull BBQ revival ended up lasting just less than two months. Not too long after Good Bull BBQ reopened, their walk-in cooler failed, and the new owner did not fix it (allegedly believing it was the landlord's duty), leaving town soon after. Have the days of restaurants at 326 George Bush come to an end?
UPDATE 02-10-2024: In 2022 it became part of "FNL Nutrition", which didn't long and occupied the address of the former Subway next door.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Exxon at University Drive East and University Drive

This intersection used to have three gas stations, now just one. (Picture by author, 8/21)

Once last look at this certain corridor, here's what many web-based maps consider to be the epicenter of the College Station: University and Texas Avenue. At this prominent corner (425 Texas Avenue South) is an Exxon station, built in 1994.

The previous gas station was a Shell, likely built in the late 1970s, which replaced an even older gas station on the site (we'll have to find that one later). In the post for the Plaza Hotel, a video is linked that shows the intersection as it looked in the early 1980s, you can see a shot of the smaller Shell (logo) sign here (annotated version by "AggiePhil") as well as a black and white night picture of the sign from the Daily Texan (thanks to "Aggie Network" from TexAgs for tipping me off to this).

One Shell of a time.
The picture headlining the Plaza Hotel post also shows a better view of the Shell station. By 1993, it had been abandoned but not yet torn down (the convenience store is under the canopy). Can't say much for the modern Exxon here but for a brief time it was a Rattlers, though I can't confirm or deny it had the logo on the outside, and if it was, only a very brief time in the 2004-2005 range before it was sold off. It was already owned by Kolkhorst Petroleum prior to this, and actually was given the Rattlers #1 designation but they sold it off soon after.

In the picture above, you can see the Jimmy John's and the former Pizza Hut, both of which have been previously covered.

UPDATE 05-19-2023: I have finally (by myself, no one sent it) acquired a picture of what was previously only described (the date by the way is July 7, 1989). Minor other edits have been made.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Hampton Inn on Texas Avenue

I think this one came out surprisingly well. (Picture from author; 8/21)

Hampton Inn is the second generation hotel here, the first being the Sands Motel, built at 324 Texas Avenue South in the 1950s. In the early 1980s, Sands Motel was torn down for a new concept that Holiday Corporation (Holiday Inn) was marketing, a budget-oriented chain called Hampton Inn. (Holiday would break apart less than five years later; under new owners Bass plc, they later developed Holiday Inn Express after Hampton Inn and others were spun off into a new company, ultimately bought by Hilton).
A postcard I found on eBay (but didn't buy). Another, albeit black and white photo I've found, better shows that this was a "Best Western", back when that was a designation, not a brand.

In any case, while the Hampton Inn has been updated (official site) and College Station has gained a second Hampton Inn (a Hampton Inn & Suites, technically) on Earl Rudder Freeway, it retains its original exterior (though in the last few years work has been done to flatten the roof). It has 133 rooms, more than twice than its predecessor.
"The Sands offers 52 rooms, completely air-conditioned, room phones, cable TV, extra large swimming pool." Yes, cable TV did exist in 1960!

Today Hampton Inn has the address of 320 Texas Avenue. When this post was part of a larger post, I included an official picture, seen here. Notice the Applebee's in the background.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Fairfield Inn Bryan

Fairfield Inn in August 2021 (by author)

Fairfield Inn opened in 1994 (early plats read "Heritage Inn #1", there's no way to prove that it actually opened as such), which is a budget/economy chain launched by Marriott in the late 1980s to compete with lower-end motels and hotels like Days Inn and Hampton Inn, and has remained since. The hotel, at 4613 S. Texas Avenue, is the furthest south business on Texas Avenue in Bryan (even across the street is College Station).

Of course, the site it sites on has its own history, with two lots originally on the site, 4613 and 4611. 4613 was the first building on the site, opened in 1957 as "U-Pak-M", a small locally-based convenience store. Following a new schedule set forth by a Dallas based convenience store that made the schedule its own gimmick, the store was open from 7 am to 11pm, and had one other location, at 3800 S. College Avenue, which is now Mini Mart (or "Mini Mini Mini Mart"). In the mid-1960s, U-Pak-M closed and became a new restaurant in 1967, the Barbecue Barn. Barbecue Barn would soon become Arnold's Barbecue, and by 1971, was owned by Thomas Beltrand. In 1976, Beltrand changed the name to his own, despite advertising "New Name in New Location", Tom's Barbecue (no "Steakhouse" yet) was the new name of the restaurant. (It would move to 3610 South College Avenue in 1985...and later, open a College Station location).

In 1965, an A&W drive-in restaurant opened at 4611 South Texas Avenue. According to the Facebook group Bryan-College Station, Texas: Now and Then (friend of the blog), the last reference to A&W found in newspapers was November 1975 that mentioned the restaurant needed a new owner. Well, given what was happening to A&W's parent company United Brands at the time, it's no surprise that A&W closed up shop locally!

Wow, it had an eat-in area? That's better than Sonic ever had.

The good news was by that time, United Brands had started a subsidiary to sell bottles and cans of A&W root beer in stores (today owned by Keurig Dr Pepper after it changed hands several times) but the A&W restaurant (separated from the bottling side) would not return to the area until the late 1990s, and then, only briefly.

Unfortunately, at this time, information on what happened to the addresses after the departure of their respective tenants is unknown. This may be explored by a future update.

UPDATE 12-19-2023: In 2023, the hotel was converted to "SureStay by Best Western" (SureStay by Best Western Bryan College Station). No other changes have been made to the post other than removing the link to Marriott's website, which no longer works.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Former Applebee's

Applebee's is gone, but is it truly missed?

For our next few posts, we'll be covering more of the "North of University Drive but south of Bryan" businesses that used to be combined into one post but was cut out in recent years (well, some of them at least). What remained of that post was reassembled as the Econo Lodge post.

Late-night eats weren't that uncommon in the world that was.

As mentioned in the post title, today's post is on the old Applebee's at 200 Texas Avenue South. Applebee's is a chain and needs no further introduction and opened a College Station location in 1994. Applebee's still had the older logo a few years before its closure, and the parking lot connection to Home2 Suites (opened in 2015) gave Applebee's back access to the street formerly known as Meadowland, but I've never actually eaten there, so I have no words to say to about it. Like with the local Fuddruckers (previously covered on this blog), Applebee's was closed with numerous other Applebee's restaurants owned by the franchise during COVID-19, but this one never reopened. It's worth noting that despite some poor reviews of this location (even for Applebee's standards), it was always a bit isolated from the other restaurant clusters.

Hmm, looks like problems were brewing even before March 2020. (The paper on the door is a notice from the city regarding lawnmowing).

Applebee's was built itself on 200 Texas Avenue South, which was the site of Western Motel was there at 204 Texas Avenue. Western Motel was one of the area's earliest motels, built in the mid-1950s and demolished in the early 1990s (likely shutting in the 1980s). One advertisement I could find from a 1980 phone book indicated it was very low end, mentioning only air conditioning, color televisions, AM/FM radios, and of course, weekly rates. Slightly nicer motels of the same time frame were able to offer swimming pools, in-room phones, cable TV, or even a small restaurant/coffee shop (though the motel did have one in its early days in the 1950s and 1960s). Applebee's didn't build on all of the lot, however, and the remaining frontage will be discussed when we get around to Home2 Suites (unfortunately, not in the next few posts!).

Table for none?

All photos in this post were taken by the author, August 2021.

Monday, August 16, 2021


Masfajitas, menos Dickey's. (Picture by author, 8/2021)

Masfajitas (aka MasFajitas) has been listed in the local phone book for years, with (initially) a single location in Caldwell. Only very recently has it opened a native College Station facility, with this one opening in July 2020.

The building was built as Dickey's Barbecue Pit, a hot "barbecue as fast food" franchise that opened many Texas stores around the same time frame. The last commercial development at the old Boriskie Ranch site (see "'At Home' at the Boriskie Ranch", the post this one spun off of) and opening in May 2009 (another article), Dickey's never did particularly well and closed May 31, 2017 (though this website, which tracks closed stores, incorrectly lists it as "4/31/17").

After Dickey's closed, it sat vacant before MasFajitas, which by this time had locations in the Temple-Killeen and Austin areas, announced it would renovate the building and open a store. The renovation ultimately expanded out the building and left very little of the Dickey's facade (at least in front), only the brick part with the stars is original. You can see the original facade at Google Maps Street View and a side view of the building at the aforementioned At Home post.

UPDATE 10-03-2021: Forgot the address: it's 2297 Earl Rudder Freeway South.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Whisper Sister Shots

This picture was taken in April 2020 by the author, when not much was going on in the world.

Been a while since we covered Northgate, specifically the main drag (in fact, at of the time this was originally posted, from Chimy's we've covered from Wellborn to this bar, except for Duddley's Draw). 315 University is believed to have been built in the late 1940s, and trying to find the backstory of the building has been a bit difficult. The earliest I can find is 1971, when it was the original home of Budget Tapes & Records (a local store, not the chain as the University Square article, as of this writing, purports). In March 1981 the store moved out and while the owner tried to open an arcade in the spot, no information has been uncovered. In 1986, it became a restaurant known as Wing Joint, which was later bought and incorporated into the space of Cow Hop next door. In 1993, it too closed and moved out to University Square, leaving the combined space to a large bar called The Bullseye, which by 1995 closed and became two bars: "The Alley" (315) and "King of the Roadhouse" (317).

The Alley would soon give way to Coupe De Ville, which was sued in 1999 after a recently-turned 21 year old slammed a number of potent drinks between midnight (when he could legally buy alcohol) and 2 am when the bars closed. (Police found him dead with a blood alcohol content of .48, a lethal amount and four times the legal limit). Unfortunately I can't find the original articles in question (especially the Houston Press article which described some of the drinks and their contents...what do you expect from drinks like "DWI" or "Liquid Cocaine"?) but Coupe De Ville got sued and ended up selling out. In 2005 it became Bar 315, which closed in March 2012 and it remained empty up until Whisper Sister Shots opened in May 2017 after over five years of vacancy. Bar 315 did change the building facade significantly including removing the old awning and adding white brick to the outside, which Whisper Sisters continues to maintain.

UPDATE 09-17-2021: Deleted some redundant parts that were the result of carried over from an old post.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Jimmy John's on University Drive East

Might be a bit overcast but this is "Egg Roll House" looks today after an extensive re-do (June 2020 picture by author)

In perhaps a first for this site and sister site Carbon-izer, Carbon-izer was actually sourced on TexAgs for a bit on Egg Roll House, as opposed to the site's early days when TexAgs served as a primary resource for additional information beyond what I could remember or scrape from Project HOLD. While this restaurant was first covered on Carbon-izer, I can take some time to personalize the story about it.

Even back when I was younger, the University Drive East corridor was always one of the most interesting of the city (of College Station, anyway), a mishmash of suburbia both old and not quite as old, and going out to eat usually involved passing through the area. Of all the older buildings there, one building stuck out, an abandoned restaurant near the intersection of Texas Avenue and University Drive known as "Egg Roll House".

Egg Roll House actually started out as a location of Taco Torch in 1976 (not to be confused with Torchy's Tacos, a much more modern restaurant covered some years back), an early Mexican fast food option found in the Central Texas area, including Waco.

Taco Torch only ended up lasting a year (and had the address, at least to state tax records, 106 University Drive East as opposed to 200 University Drive East) before it was sold and became Egg Roll House. Egg Roll House was a strange-looking restaurant with hand-painted signage (may have had some sort of lighting on it) that operated from 1977 to around the late 1990s (as late as Christmas 2000), and sat vacant for close to a decade before around 2008 when it was gutted (a few walls were retained) and rebuilt for a Jimmy John's.

Speaking of the TexAgs post above, there were claims that Egg Roll House had a small apartment in it where the owners lived while it operated and several years afterward. If I had my 2005 phone book with me at press time, I might've verified that (or disproved that), but that will have to wait until a future update. The only fact that I did find in researching this for a full post is that former owner Yo-Fu Lee passed away in 2009.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Holiday Inn on Earl Rudder Freeway

This is indeed my photo from July 2020. It's a far cry from the glossy evening shot for the official website, but whatever.

Two posts in two days? You bet! If you haven't checked it out, visit the new Kyoto Sushi page. Last year, the the Four Points by Sheraton, at the old Holiday Inn on Texas Avenue, closed down. While it is up for redevelopment (no hard evidence of anything yet), let's turn to the last Holiday Inn in the city we need to cover (excluding the Holiday Inn Express locations on University Drive East).

The modern Holiday Inn & Suites College Station - Aggieland at 2500 Earl Rudder Freeway opened around 2006 (looks like it was still under construction in October 2005, but it might've opened in some capacity by the end of 2005) and contains about 116 rooms and 48 suites (per a 2005 directory, and based on my experience writing for The Houston Files, no room count is ever 100% correct), and briefly was branded with the 1980s-era Holiday Inn logo before receiving the modern 2007 one shortly after it was announced (unfortunately, I can't find a picture of the Holiday Inn before re-branding).

Kem's Restaurant & Bar, named after the hotel chain's founder is open for breakfast and dinner these days (lunch appears that it was cut even before March 2020). In talking about the old Holiday Inn this one replaced, I assumed that Holiday Inn's restaurants were only advertised due to a relative lack of other competition, but now I'm thinking it was a corporate decision at some point in the late 1990s to stop advertising their restaurants (or have unique concepts). I don't know if Kem's was the restaurant since day one, though.

As the hotel has gone through no new flags, nor has interesting restaurants documented, and of course, is still open, it makes it less interesting than the old Holiday Inn. Then again, there aren't many interesting motels/hotels in the area left worth writing about. We've already written about hotels in sixteen other entries, and covers 19 hotels in total, including the Hilton, both of the older Ramada hotels, Days Inn, and a few others. Well, 20 hotels, including this article you're reading right now.

The hotel has the address of 2500 Earl Rudder Freeway but its parking lot is at the intersection of Holiday Inn Lane (from Southwest Parkway) and Holiday Inn Drive (from the frontage road), and more recently, a large, multi-story storage center was built between the hotel and the highway.

UPDATE 06-17-2024: Kem's has some light snacks available in the evening but it does appear that dinner was permanently cut during COVID-19 and has not returned. I added [restaurants] to the post anyway.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Kyoto Sushi

Last days of the original "Kyoto Sushi", picture by author, 2014

Kyoto Sushi (at 113 College Main) doesn't exist anymore, it's now "Mama Sake", but when I entered Texas A&M University in the early 2010s, Kyoto Sushi not only was open but it had another sign facing south, visible from University Drive, that added to the atmosphere.

I had first written about Kyoto Sushi on a large Northgate post (since removed in site updates) and then on another post called 104-115 College Main which is still up as of this writing (albeit out of date) with new posts being split off of it (like this one). From what I had researched from that point, the building was originally the home of College Station's first police department.

From fall 1993 to mid-1994 it was ProTutors Incorporated, and following that, Disc-Go-Round, which it was as late as 2001. Kyoto Sushi came in for fall 2002, but I don't remember if I actually ate there (also sometime around 2010-2011, the front of the building was painted yellow). By night it served as a sake bar, and around 2012-2013 the sushi ceased entirely, and became the bar it is today (though the "Mama Sake" name didn't come in until later, I believe it was still officially "Kyoto Japanese"). Before ProTutors, my records mention a "Northgate Athletic" in 1985-1986 (not to be confused with Northgate Athletic Club where Logie's currently is) and the last spot of On the Double (from 1992-1993). I can't find anything beyond or before that.

I do remember in early 2014 the restaurant portion (guess it was operated by the bar) was called "The Bulgori" (which I had a menu of, and was Korean food, not Japanese) but by April that had already shuttered. The restaurant was okay, I guess. There was even a slice of blood orange with the meal. The upstairs portion was 115 College Main, accessed from a doorway to the right of what I knew as Kyoto Sushi.

Awkwardly-angled 2007 Google Street View with the unpainted bricks but no ugly facade

Until around 2013, 115 was "The Law Office of Drew Gibson & Associates". The lawyer office is still in Northgate and offers full services but I seem to remember them catering to the local area by helping students to get them out of trouble from drunken escapades. Probably as early as late 2014 (I mostly avoided Northgate by that time) it was a bar called One15, which it still is as of this writing. There's an almost-gone "Aggieland Studio" mural on the side of the building. As you can see in the shot below (when the building looked even worse), there's a sign that says "Paradise" above it. That was Paradise Scuba. It moved to Parkway Square in the mid 1990s (soon after that picture was taken, my 1993 phone book still has Paradise Scuba as being in Northgate) and eventually moving to the old Putt-Putt location.

A document written in 1995 dates this building back to 1935, but beyond the original police department building being here (their Texas Avenue building was built in 1978, and I have no idea if they stayed here long) I don't have information on the previous life of the building.

UPDATE 04-09-2022: One15 appears to have been closed sometime in early 2022. Also actually fit the address into the post.
UPDATE 04-24-2024: One15 didn't actually close, it moved to 106 College Main (the former Holik's, which as of this writing there's no post for). The space is now Johnny Manziel's Money Bar.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Under the Water Tower

From John Ellisor comes this picture of Bud Ward Volkswagen. I think I see the old Holiday Inn in the background.

The pad site where Hancock Whitney bank (at 1912 Texas Avenue South) is today has its own history that's set apart from the large H-E-B store behind it. The water tower that stands guard over the H-E-B replaced a smaller water tower almost directly at the corner of the intersection, where the H-E-B gas station is today.

Originally, it was a car dealership. Richard Barton Mazda-Volvo was here from around 1975 to 1976 for sure, and from 1977 to 1988, it was Bud Ward Volkswagen, pictured above. A 1978 article from The Eagle mentions that Ward added Porsche and Audi lines (but did not stock top-of-the-line Porsche cars) when the facility expanded.

From 1989 to 1992 it was University Mitsubishi, and after that, car dealership use of the space ended (I was previously told Allen Honda was once located here but that seems to be incorrect). After that, it very briefly became Charlie's ("Charlie's Under the Water Tower") in 1993. I'm not sure if Charlie's built a new building (later used for El Chico) or used the same building. I was previously told Allen Honda was once located here but that seems to be incorrect.

In 1994, it opened as what I remember the corner being, El Chico opened in 1994. El Chico is still around in some form and despite a logo and image update, there's only 7 locations left in Texas from what was once dozens.

El Chico survived the construction of H-E-B, and continued with the chunk of the old parking lot they once shared with 1801 Holleman now connected to H-E-B's parking lot. Unfortunately, El Chico ended up closing in late 2005, largely citing popularity and access reasons (by that time, construction on widening Texas Avenue had begun).

A few years later, the pad site was demolished entirely (including the old parking lot) for MidSouth Bank, which was rebranded as Hancock Whitney in late 2019.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

7-Eleven at Holleman and 2818

7-Eleven has returned to the area, but at what cost? (Picture by author, 7/21)
It's July 11th, or "7-11". So why not do a 7-Eleven focused post today? Two years ago (before, you know...) I remember getting a blueberry lemonade Slurpee at a Stripes in Waco (which now may or may not be a 7-Eleven for reals) that participated in "7-11 day" during my lunch break, though unfortunately 7-Eleven won't be doing the promotion this year, either.

The Exxon that holds this particular 7-Eleven has a bit of a history. 2111 Holleman Drive West was built in 2014 with two smaller vacant suites and shares a back entrance with Lakeridge Townhomes, built as part of a land swap. Unfortunately, the Exxon with its two smaller vacant suites (undeveloped to this day) and a convenience store called "A&M Xpress" never actually opened. In the fall of 2014, the interior was largely finished out and the sign fully lit up (with no actual gas prices) and eventually the gas station was sold. It wasn't until summer of 2015 when new owner Stripes finished construction, added a Laredo Taco Company inside, and hung the new sign in late July 2015 before opening less than a month later (I was the first customer there at soft opening, little known fact). About a year later, however, Stripes' parent Sunoco (the Exxon presumably carried over from a pre-existing condition, most of the new-build Stripes built around this time were all Sunoco stations) bought the Rattlers' chain, meaning it and the competing Shell across the street had common ownership.

Eventually, Sunoco sold its convenience store holdings to 7-Eleven. While the Rattlers' never converted to 7-Eleven, getting closed in fall 2020, the store became a 7-Eleven on March 3, 2021, while the main Exxon road sign was updated to the newer lowercase logo. There were other Stripes remnants inside (employee uniforms, etc.) but these all disappeared soon after.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Southwest Village Apartments

Looks pretty structural similar to today, but not so much on the other parts (Advertisement from The Eagle)

I typically do not cover any apartment buildings on this site, the few exceptions being mixed-use structures or other legacy articles.

Today will be one of those rare exceptions, with this 1974 advertisement giving a rare glance into what was a nice apartment complex at one time at 1101 Southwest Parkway, then known as Southwest Village Apartments.

The exteriors themselves look like they did in the 1990s save for different paint jobs, and I assume the original cedar shake roof as shown in the advertisement was changed after a massive apartment complex fire in Houston in 1979 that ended use of them.

The complex became The Colony Apartments sometime between 1989 and 1993, and remained up until the late 2000s (still The Colony as of 2007). In 2013 it was University Park Apartments (despite being nowhere near the street named as such), and around very late 2016/early 2017 became "The Vintage", stylized as "the|Vintage". There's a real disconnect between what is advertised and the actual state of the apartments. It painted the apartments dark gray with splashes of purple or blue trim, did some interior work, and replaced the basketball court (which was built over a creek) with something else.

Based on exteriors alone, it still has a crumbling parking lot and carpeted open-air hallways that are grungy and reek of cigarette smoke, so by all outside looks the Vintage is just another repaint, not a total revitalization of the property (I'll let actual reviews of the interiors and management speak for themselves), and indeed, most of the apartment complexes (which were already showing signs of age in the late 1990s) are in similar conditions. They can try new names (The Grove at Southwood is Brownstone's second name change) and updates but they'll continue to slide downhill until major changes in the corridor are made. It's a bit of a shame since Southwest Parkway really did mean a lot to me growing up, but what can you do?

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Cattlemen's Inn & Steak House

It's a rare color picture specifically advertising the restaurant, but that's about all we'll get from this elusive place.

24 hour establishments are a lot more rare these days thanks to you-know-what from last year, but one even rarer is a place without much 24 hour traffic, like North Texas Avenue, 1805 North Texas Avenue to be exact, north of Highway 21, just beyond the Old Hearne Road intersection.

The above photo is from a 1999 phone book, but nothing of remains of the motel and restaurant today. This is the current view of the property, the sign is still around but it's been gutted and used as an equipment lot.

As BCAD listings for the motel no longer exist (at least no longer publicly accessible), it appears that the lobby/restaurant building predates 1960, while the hotel was added on sometime in the late 1960s or very early 1970s ([1960s] is given as the address tag here). In fact, as late as 1978, the restaurant was called Buona Sera Restaurant (and was still open 24 hours, even back then), and a 1973 article refers to Buona Sera Motel & Steak House (but not does not give the address). It appears that the Cattlemen's Inn name for both appeared around the late 1970s.

The motel itself appeared to be very low end even in 1999, which probably contributed to its ultimate demise, and the poor location meant it was unable to be rehabilitated like others I've covered before, like the Villa Capri Motel in Waco. Villa Capri at least had a modest location at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Valley Mills, not near freeways, but near well-trafficked roads and a healthy commercial base. Not so much here, it was located across from Producers Co-Op.

Much like "Buona Sera Restaurant" and "Buona Sera Steak House" were used interchangeably, it looks the "Steak House" and "Diner" are one and the same, and it appears that the motel closed around the mid-2000s and was torn down in 2009.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Sodolak's on Highway 21

"Where the locals eat" is surprisingly on-point this time, as opposed to some obvious tourist trap. Picture by author, May 2021.

This opened in 1985 as The Red Bandana, a similar steakhouse (I have a late 1990s ad as simply "Red Bandana", as it was later officially known, but that didn't make it into the first edition of this post), but by 2004 it re-opened as Sodolak's Beefmasters.

I'm not sure of Sodolak's Beefmasters relation to Sodolak's Original Country Inn in Snook, but in any case, both operate today (Sodolak's Beefmasters also operated a location briefly in our part of FM 60, where Paolo's currently is, following the demise of T-Bone Jones). Between 2012 and 2016, the Beefmasters name was dropped.

Here is the Google Street View of the building at 3500 East Highway 21, while the photos below are mine from October 2019 presented without comment (though I think the Dallas Police Narcotics badge is pretty cool).

Editor's Note: You can see the Chevron in one of those shots here. Further west (past Bryan), you can see Smetana Grocery immortalized on the website.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Former NAPA Auto Parts, Harvey Mitchell Parkway

Taken by author, May 2021.

Taking a cue from Columbia Closings comes a minor post on NAPA Auto Parts, which moved earlier this year to a new location between Harvey Mitchell Parkway and Highway 6, leaving the former store vacant (and gutted at time of photography). Neither picture in this post is particularly good, but it was opened in 1997 with the original address of 1528 FM 2818 and later became 2144 Harvey Mitchell Parkway after the road changed names. It was also the first in the auto part trifecta near the intersection, of which AutoZone and O'Reilly Auto Parts are part of.

Another picture.

UPDATE 09-15-2021: As of this writing, the next tenant, "Glo by TFO", an auto detailing and finishing company, has modified the exterior (still not finished) and is preparing for a move-in. Removed [Defunct] from the post, as well as making an edit fix.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Smetana Grocery

Picture from May 2021. It's hard to capture this building in one shot.

Smetana Grocery is one of those old rural Exxon stores with the store name in a large red rectangle on the building, and originally opened back in 1972. It didn't become an idea for a post until I noticed an ad copy in a 1989 phone book. I didn't scan it (no logos, just text) but it is reproduced below:




2 1/2 Miles West of Loop 2818 W Hwy. 21.....775-9337
Well, I was intrigued. Who knew that some rural gas station was selling a bunch of organic health foods and products that regular groceries at the time wouldn't touch? And this gas station is still in business today at 7700 Highway 21? And it's a 12-sided building with two stories? I had to check it out.

With the relatively recent passing of Brazos Natural Foods (mentioned over at this post which is in need of a re-do one of these days), there's no dedicated store for "natural" and "upscale" foods, but even before the situation last year, those types of stores were dropping off, with Earth Fare and Lucky's Market both closing in high-profile bankruptcies.

Sadly, but expectedly, this is not the case here. The merchandise mix is very much ordinary convenience store fare. The few notable exceptions are some bulk items that I'm not sure were meant to be sold as retail, like frozen Hunt Brothers Pizza, but there's no gourmet items, no produce. It also is no longer an Exxon, transitioning to Citgo between 2012 and 2016.

It's dark and dusty up there. The big white glow is sunlight coming in from a window above.

The mysterious upper level only seems to include storage. It doesn't look like living space...or anything finished at all. The current building was built in 1986 and appears to have added the gas station. (The older building pre-dated 1972 and may have a different name originally as it still had a parking area). Oh, and one more thing--it's not great, but here's my attempt at stitching two photos together to make a more panoramic view.

UPDATE 10-05-2023: As for the older one, I believe I correctly ID'd it on Vintage Aerial.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

C.C. Creations + Red Oak Sportswear

I'm not fond using Google Earth aerials but this is the best way to show the buildings.

Moving down Holleman from the old Valero, which as of this writing is basically a crater, 112-114 Holleman is the subject of today's post, with C.C. Creations at the spot for 30 years, more or less, but it's a bit more complicated than that. This is the way I've best understood it so if there's any inaccuracy, be sure to tell me (my email's in the side column).

The earliest site plan I can find for the building is from 1988 (BCAD says the buildings were built in 1989) shows 112 Holleman as a stand-alone business to be occupied by C.C. Creations (at the time at 205 North Main in Bryan). By 1993, Red Oak Sportswear was built at 114 Holleman, a larger building directly next to 112 Holleman Drive.

Based on what resources I have and what I can put together, including listings from the sales taxpayer database, Red Oak Sportswear was founded as a subsidiary of C.C. Creations, and became a business proper in 1993 following the purchase of C.C. Creations by Clute, Texas-based Brazos Sportswear Inc. in 1992.

114 Holleman. (Picture by author, December 2020).

What I do know is that during most of the 1990s, 114 Holleman was occupied by both C.C. Creations and Red Oak Sportswear, leaving 112 Holleman "vacant" although all indications are C.C. Creations still used the building and its name was listed as the address.

In 1997, however, Brazos Sportswear was sold to Sun Sportswear out of Batavia, Ohio. Sun took Brazos' name (despite still based out of Ohio) but it had a much worse financial record, and within two years, filed for bankruptcy. By that time, C.C. Creations and Red Oak were back in local ownership.

After the ownership by Brazos Sportswear ended, C.C. Creations officially moved into 112 Holleman again while Red Oak Sportswear took over the 114 Holleman entirely, possibly preparing for the "divorce" of the two companies. In 2005, Red Oak was sold to Knights Apparel, while around early 2007, C.C. Creations moved out and to a smaller location at Southwest Crossing.

112 Holleman. (Picture by author, December 2020).

Both warehouses became empty when Knights Apparel shut down Red Oak in early 2008. However, by November 2012, C.C. Creations moved back to their old stomping grounds, this time in Red Oak's old space. Meanwhile, the 112 space was replaced by Maroon U, a new subsidiary of C.C. Creations, offering Aggie branded apparel with higher-priced labels, and between both warehouses, the The Warehouse at C.C. Creations, which functionally replaces outdoor tent sales C.C. Creations used to have.

This is the configuration that currently exists today. I should also mention that C.C. Creations had a trophy business at the strip mall at the northwest corner of Harvey Mitchell Parkway and Southwood which was merged back into the main business.