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.