Sunday, June 9, 2024

Normandy Square

April 2024 picture by author.
Ever since November 2021 I've adopted a new policy that all new posts going forward would "be demolished or otherwise closed, had tenant changeover, had some significant change themselves, or are part of a larger story." I wanted to model it a bit closer on Columbia Closings. Columbia Closings, however, does occasionally cover defunct apartment complexes and while many crumbling College Station apartments and duplexes still stand, Normandy Square (b. 1965) on 501 Nagle (with addresses up to 509 Nagle) seems to be not long for this world. Their Facebook page (archive) indicates that they were operational for the 2022-2023 season. However, in April 2024, the apartments were boarded up.

Given the transient nature of Facebook, I've attached a few of the pictures from said Facebook page that show the interior of it, as well as a publicity shot from better days. (Note the lack of a big apartment building behind it). There aren't many Google reviews of the complex but they don't seem good.

While it's Northgate, I do like the architecture. It's an improvement from most of the 1970s apartments that crowd Southwest Parkway.

Friday, May 10, 2024

The Current J. Cody's

Picture by author, 02-2024

As I've already somewhat covered Tom's Barbecue both on their College Station location (where you can see a picture of the Bryan location) and their pre-1985 original location (which started out as Barbecue Barn), there's not too much I can say about their 1985-2001 Bryan location at 3610 South College Avenue. They opened a location here in 1985 (built new) and following the closure of the restaurant in April 2001, reopened later in the year as different business J. Cody's Steaks & BBQ and despite its longevity (it has been located in the same place longer than Tom's had), there's not too much to say about it objectively.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Former Cycles Etc.

The building for Insomnia is quite old... (Picture by author, 4/24)
There's a lot of posts about Texas Avenue (74 and counting), but University Drive (not even counting University Drive East) takes a solid second place, and today the focus is on 505 University Drive, not to be confused with 505 University Drive East.

Located just to the east of what is now Aggieland Credit Union, this is currently home to Insomnia Cookies, which opened in 2021.

As usual, I try to focus on what used to be there.

Check out this 1954 advertisement from The Battalion!

The building started out as Student Co-op in 1931 as a bookstore with a radio repair shop inside. In 1944 Ed Garner took it over, added a sporting goods department, expanded the radio repair shop (which now serviced televisions). At some point it was retooled into Garner's Sporting Goods.

In 1972 purchased by Ted Wyatt, renaming to Wyatt's Sporting Goods. Wyatt's Sporting Goods was here until 1988 and had three stores in town at its peak (Culpepper Plaza, Manor East Mall, and here). It was a locally owned store and unrelated to the late Wyatt's Cafeteria.

After the nearly sixty-year old store closed, the next few decades would see it used as a bicycle shop. First was Cycle Spectrum from 1993 to 2002, then Bicycle Station was here from 2002 to 2003, with Cycles Etc. being here from 2003 to 2013 (moving from 104 College Main) and later moved to College Station Business Center in an attempt, I suppose, to get out of the student bicycle business (they closed in 2021). Before they moved I was a frequent shopper of Cycles Etc., but it was annoying that the sidewalk in front of the store was about a foot above the rest of the sidewalk, making it harder to even bring in a bicycle into the shop. (This was one objective improvement of the big University Drive pedestrian improvement re-do, I suppose).

After that it served as a leasing office for The Domain and in 2019, briefly served as Aggieland Phone Repair (already boarded up and for lease before the campus closure in March 2020). After that it became Insomnia Cookies.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Rooster's Bike & Coffee Shop

It's not closed and abandoned, but it did look that way.

With the old University Square post in desperate need of reorganization and having already spun off (the now former) IHOP in addition to the supermarket itself, I wanted to take a look at the restaurant on the northeast corner of the center, 317 College Avenue.

It was built a Bonanza Steakhouse as of 1974 (they ran a few ads) but only operated for a few years. Following it that it was a revolving door of restaurants: W.G. & Company Steaks & Seafood (1976-1977). It was briefly "The Texas Grubstake" (operated less than six months, if it actually did open) and briefly a location of Claim Jumper (one of the few Texas locations). From 1982 to 1985 it was "Hoffbrau Bar & Restaurant", of which I've attached an ad below.

From the 1984 GTE phonebook.
If it was anything in the late 1980s I can't find it. The Cow Hop, a popular Northgate eatery moved here in 1993 and closed in April 1996. (The name was later purchased and reopened in Northgate later that year). A full article on Cow Hop doesn't exist yet but it's mentioned here). From 1996 to 2002 it was Cruz's Crazy Cajun, a Cajun restaurant (renamed to Alicia's at some point with Mexican food added). Thai Taste moved here in 2002 from 4405 College Main though by that time it was in decline and closed in 2005.

Another view of the current building.

In 2007 it reopened as Crazy Cajuns' (not to be confused with Cruz's Crazy Cajun), created by Hurricane Rita evacuees from Lake Charles, Louisiana (this was mentioned in a KBTX article that is no longer available). It moved from its walk-up location in Wellborn at 14841 FM 2154 (indeed, the sign on the building side still read "Wellborn, Texas" up until its closure). While I first went to the location in Wellborn (I don't know what's there now), which included only a large covered area with picnic tables (December 2006 is when I went), this eventually did end up being a favorite of mine, as I went in March 2011 to this location and had a blast, with lots of food for a good price. It was still spicy, and had been in this place since somewhere about 2008-2009. It went through a few changes in ownership, and steadily declined, notably in service first, then food, and health ratings, before finally closing for good in summer 2012. It shut down the same week as Hebert's did (sad time for Cajun food lovers).

While wandering around around the 2012-2013 holidays, I found the canopy had some older names exposed...Alicia's AND Thai Taste!
BCS Bicycles & Repair moved into the space in early 2013 as that part of the shopping center was getting demolished. However, the space was still a restaurant at heart, so in January 2020 the bicycle shop became Rooster's Bike & Coffee Shop (not to be confused with the late Rooster's Country Dinner House). After the obvious hiccups from what happened in 2020, the bicycle shop successfully was able to "change gears".

All of the pictures were taken January 2024 by the author when it was still closed for the reason, hence the desolate appearance. Note that the University Square sign (as of this writing, seen on the University Square page with a permanent link here) is now just a skeleton.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Southwest Parkway East Shell

Evening shot by author, May 2021.

This was another post that I wanted to get to back in 2021-2022 but I decided to put off indefinitely because a good number of the posts I made in that time were gas station or convenience store posts and I didn't want yet another one. Including and between Christmas 2020 and Christmas 2021, there were 25 posts, 20% were on gas stations. Sure, some of them had restaurants inside, but it was just too much at one time. The gas station here, legally "Express Stop" at 450 Southwest Parkway East and built around 2000-2001 as a Texaco (converted to Shell in early 2003) has two sub-tenants. The one on the left (452 Southwest Parkway East) was, from 2004-2005, Cool Beans (legally "TC's Smoothies & More"), which left its sign up for a few years after it closed. From 2008 to 2011 it was Southwest Cleaners, and most recently, Salon Christiana which opened in 2012 but shut down due to COVID in March 2020 and never reopened. On the right side of the gas station was Casa Rodriguez Express from 2011 to 2014 and Master Donut since 2015). Before "Casa Rod" it was the fourth location of Mi Cocina (later Polly's Cocina). This was one of the "two additional locations in College Station" mentioned in this post.

One of the other reasons this never got posted was I had located on Flickr a picture of Cool Beans' facade. It was the side view and I even think it may have been in grayscale, but it got lost somewhere along the way, I think when new owner SmugMug purchased Flickr from Oath (Yahoo!) and cracked down on storage space. Here's the Street View for the site as of 2007. Less-blurry pictures are available but this one is the only one where you can make out the red-and-green Cool Beans facade.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Former Johnny Carino's

Not too many changes from the original restaurant.

Restaurants, restaurants, restaurants! As of this writing, more than half of the last dozen posts I created involve restaurants directly and on average, more than half of the posts in the entire blog. This is no exception. Today we'll do the former Johnny Carino's on Harvey Road, a long-missing part of the Harvey Road restaurant series.

Johnny Carino's opened its College Station location at 620 Harvey Road in 1999 (a bit of a weird placement, it's located down the street from even 701 Harvey). Part of the fast-growing chain under Fired Up Inc. and even gaining its sister concept Kona Ranch down the street, the restaurant was initially successful but the chain eventually crumbled (at some point it was rebranded to Carino's Italian--the name was reverted but I don't think the signage ever was).

After a long, slow decline of the chain (by the time the restaurant closed, only about 14 existed in Texas of around 40 nationally) with the restaurant chain changing names to Carino's Italian before reverting back (the Carino's Italian signage stayed), the restaurant closed in June 2022. As of this writing in April 2024, the chain is down to 30 locations nationally and just nine in Texas.

New York-based Anchor Bar, which claims to have been the birthplace for buffalo wings and started expanding in 2012, announced over year ago that they would move into the former Italian chain restaurant. Despite some exterior improvements (metal roof instead of terra cotta), it doesn't look like they'll open anytime soon (if ever? We'll let you know), with so many other restaurants long adopting wings as a main menu item (you know, like Wings 'N More), will it succeed? (All pictures taken by author, 2/21/2024).

This part of the restaurant was fully enclosed, but not anymore.
Carino's sign from the road. The lighting tubes inside glowed red and I think there was a green border as well.
Editor's Note: In the time since we last met, a few updates have been done. Some of the bigger ones include Lone Star Pavilion, Southwest Crossing, and Post Oak Square.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Amico Nave Ristorante

This one and the other photos were taken by author, February '24.

I had to pull the details of this one from my FM 1179 page, but this one came up for a post as the restaurant announced closing with the last day being February 24, 2024. So, with that in mind, we'll take another look at it.

Amico Nave Ristorante at 203 East Villa Maria Road was built in the late 1970s as a restaurant called "Pizza Planet" (many years before Toy Story, of course) and this lasted from 1979 to 1984. Because of spotty records, it later served (briefly) as Kelly-Moore Paint Company (according to taxpayer records) and a restaurant called Buffalo Joe's as late as 1994, but has been a beauty salon from 1996 to the very early 2010s (Shapers Hair Productions, though might've gone under a different name in the late 1990s). In spring 2013, it reopened as Amico Nave from the same owners (Wade and Mary Beckman) of Shipwreck Grill across the street. In its early years Amico Nave did very well: in summer 2013, when restaurants usually have slow business, the parking lot was packed out nightly. But I suppose all things have to come to an end. Enjoy the photos and check out the post for Shipwreck Grill.
Uh-oh, hours changed! Who could have seen this coming?
While the concrete base is old, this is one of the few new light fixtures for Amico Nave.
The building is visibly older.
Currently, plans are in the works to renovate the building to look more like a ship and move Shipwreck Grill into the space.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Sandstone Center

Initially this was out in the sticks, now it's just north of the Costco. (Ad from 1989 phone book)
This site rarely covers churches, and when it happens it's usually an extenuating circumstance, like it wasn't always a church. This is one such instance. Sandstone Psychiatry (at 4201 Highway 6 South, though the ad says differently) opened in the mid-to-late 1980s with inpatient and outpatient care. It was a hospital/long-term care in some form and even featured a swimming pool. In the early 1990s, The Sandstone Center changed hands to become the Desert Hills Center (a similar facility), but at some point in the 1990s closed. In the late 1990s, the space in front of the former clinic was purchased by Christ United Methodist Church and a new facility was built (likely around 1999, the old address according to a 1998 phone book revealed that the church body existed but had no permanent space, listed as 4719 Shoal Creek Drive). By 2004, a second building was built as the main building while the old Sandstone building was used as auxiliary classroom space. In 2008, a third building was built between them, while integrating the parking lots better and adding another entrance off of Highway 6. The three buildings were connected with covered walkways. This would remain the configuration for the next decade. By the late 2010s, new roads were developed around the church. The main south entrance was removed for the construction of a segment of Pebble Creek Parkway, which was (presumably) to extend to the main road off of Highway 40. A few spaces in the back were removed for access to the Lakeway Drive extension. A driveway built on the north side of the property was developed as Carroll Fancher Way. Within a year of the expansion, the orphaned segment of Pebble Creek Parkway was renamed as Corporate Parkway, and Lakeway Drive's extension (including the segment of Lakeway that had opened in 2010) as Midtown Drive.
The old drive-up of Sandstone/the church following the 2020s renovation.

Around 2021-2022, the "Sandstone" building was completely renovated, removing the pool and expanding the building to integrate with the 2008 building, as well as removing the concrete beneath the concrete drive-up. All during this time, it was renamed as Christ Church (disconnect from the Methodist church over theology). The circa '99 building does not connect to the main combined building and still retains its covered walkways.
(Former?) Desert Hills, 1995
Two buildings as of 2004.
Three buildings as of 2011.
Two buildings as of 2022.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Truck Stop Cafe

The drawing of the crazed cook (it's all in the eyes) seems to be stock art, notice the copyright symbol.
Around four years ago I embarked on an ambitious plan to do a series on Texas Avenue with a bunch of all-new content. I put the kibosh on that fairly early (nothing to do with COVID, just some poor choices of what I actually had. As far as COVID went, it was a productive year otherwise, over 40 entries were added, and while many were on Texas Avenue these were coincidental (it is very popular, you could spend at least an hour reading all 70+ posts—do it!).

Anyway, Truck Stop Cafe! This long-forgotten restaurant operated officially from 1970 (phone book scan from c. 1970) to 1973 as a 24/7 restaurant and what appears to be the first tenant in the spot of 2609 North Texas Avenue, and according to records, the building hasn't seen use as a restaurant (or commercial establishment, for that matter) since. However, a one-off crime report indicates Truck Stop Cafe was still open in 1976, and a phone book shows the restaurant was active since at least 1963.

Since then, although the building hasn't been used as a restaurant in years and has been modified since, the current tenant is Royal Priesthood Christian Fellowship, which it has been since at least the early 2010s.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

IHOP on Northgate

The IHOP at College Avenue and University Drive kept up with recent logos in its nearly fifty years of operation but has come to an end.

The IHOP at College Main and University (104 College Avenue) has now closed, closing at the end of December 2023, as reported by KBTX who most likely looked at the old University Square post (as it appeared as of this writing, same as the past few years).

First opened in 1974, the IHOP (International House of Pancakes back in the day) has mostly operated 24 hours a day for many decades, and I'm not sure why exactly it closed...KBTX parrots the 2019 stuff I previously posted but can't do any reporting on their own. Regardless, I personally only went there once around 1999 and all I can say is even if IHOP wasn't the greatest restaurant around (it wasn't), it's a shame to lose yet another 24 hour restaurant. You know...Kettle closed a few years ago, Taco Cabana closed as did follow-up tenant Las's a shame that we can't have nice things anymore or get a sit-down meal at 3 am in the morning. (Hey, I worked night shift.)
The two other stores were opened in more recent years.

Workers were on site dismantling the restaurant.

All pictures were taken by the author, January 2024.