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?