Welcome to Houston Historic Retail!

Welcome to Houston Historic Retail! If you’re here from the KPRC news article on Dying Malls let me introduce myself. My name is Mike, and I run this blog. If you’re interested in current going on’s in my research, and other modern retail topics I find interesting then scroll down this page. However, if you’re more interested in the history of Houston’s Retail Scene, click through the menus above.

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A convenience store by any other name…

Before we start, I now have a Facebook page in case you’re curious as to when I update the blog section of the website!

As any good Texan knows, there’s an unavoidable rodent population issue in our great state. The issue with these Castor canadensis initially sprung up around Lake Jackson where the creatures were first spotted in small herds during the 1980s. The outbreak was contained to this area until the early 2000s. One managed to make its way up near Luluing. It took up residence right off of I-10 and confronted travelers. Somehow this crafty animal managed to lure drivers into stopping midway between Houston and San Antonio. Maybe it was the huge selection of jerky, the sparkling clean restrooms, or the restriction of no tractor trailers, which drew the drivers in. So I thought it was about time we covered the convenience store chain which has had a bigger impact in recent years than any other!

That’s right, today we’re talking about Bucky’s…?

Bucky’s Convenience Stores like it’s homophonous cousin has it roots in the early 1980s. Unlike Bucc-ee’s the new transplant to Houston hails from Omaha, Nebraska. At present there are two Houston based locations out of about 90 total. We’re taking a look at the 3535 S Texas 6, Houston, TX 77082 location.

I stopped here to get gas, with no real idea of what to expect. While pumping gas, I noticed that rather than a cartoon beaver the used a photo of a dog named Bucky. Notice also that the car wash selections do not include a vacuum token.

The dog seemed to be on almost every piece of promotional material. From the outside, Bucky’s doesn’t particularly resemble any other convenience store. The building appears to be slightly smaller than the regional Bucc-ee’s like those in the Sugar Land, and Waller areas.

Walking inside you’re greeted by the checkout counter, which was continuously staffed meaning I couldn’t easily get pictures of it. This section of the store makes made to order pizzas, which it promises cooked in 5 Minutes.

For those in a time crunch Bucky’s offers warm soft pretzels, and pizza slices. I’m a sucker for soft pretzels, and ended up trying one. They weren’t exceedingly fresh, but definitely not solid yet.

Bucky’s had a larger selection of sodas, and drinks on sale than most normal convenience stores. I would say they were about on par with the selection Bucc-ee’s has.

The selection of products includes an end cap’s worth of Oma’s Choice products. Including much more variety than I had seen with this brand in the past.

Bucky’s uses two huge wings off to the edges of the building to hold their drink stations. This side included, ICEEs, Milkshakes, and “Smoothies”. There is a counter top for putting lids on your drink, or toppings on your milkshake. This also provided some counter space to sell snacks.

This is the drink station on the other side of the store. It has soda, iced tea, and coffee. I was unable to get a picture of the coffee and ice tea station, as it was the only part of the store that was busy. It wass somewhat less impressive than Bucc-ee’s.

Moving back outside, there is some limited picnic style seating in front of the store. Not much, but more than what Bucc-ee’s tends to have.

Going through the car wash, meant being forced to do some reflection. Unlike Buc-Ee’s the car wash is fully automated. No one to guide you in.

Reflecting on the experience of the store, I feel that it’s not really fair to directly compare Buc-ee’s and Bucky’s. The lack of any real fresh food options, outside of Pizza, limits the appeal of Bucky’s. The larger selections, and drink stations help to set it apart for your local Corner Store (Or is it a Circle K by now?), but people likely aren’t planning their commutes around Bucky’s.

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Former Big Kmart, Mercado 6

Around 2000 my family moved to the far west side of town. Getting from the loop area out to where we lived wasn’t an easy task. Your choices were basically either Westheimer or Richmond Avenue. Alternatively you could use highways like I-10 or 59. All of your options were linked by Highway 6. Driving up and down Highway 6 in the early 2000s was an incredible thing. One of the stores I would often pass was the Big Kmart at 7355 Highway 6.

Having a Big Kmart nearby was awesome, the variety of items they carried was incredible. At this point there were no Walmart locations on Highway 6 from I-10 to 90-A, save for a small non-super center location at Highway 6 and Beechnut.

Originally opening in 1992, this location closed in either 2001 or 2002. Likely due to a bankruptcy filing. I recall it sitting vacant only for a little while. It was almost immediately converted into its current use, a flea market.

Portions of the building have been converted to other uses. The indoor section of the garden center is a bookable event hall, and the out door portion is used as a patio for food trucks.

Aside from the front doors, all external access has been gated and locked. Including the loading bay.

Something interesting to note is that the Kmart sign is not used by Mercado 6, but rather an old billboard was purchased and converted to use as a sign.

As you may have noticed in the last photo the parking lot is quite lively in terms of new businesses. While the Flea Market looks dead in comparison, this is only due to the fact that it’s only open weekends. My next goal is to come back out and capture some interior shots.

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What’s Going on at the former Fuddrucker’s on Kirkwood

I moved recently! I relocated from the center of Houston, closer to my job on the west side of town. During one of my many trips moving things back and forth, I noticed a recently closed Fuddrucker’s at 2475 S. Kirkwood . I had been to this location a few times, when I was child. My parents had at that time also moved to the west side, and we would “meet in the middle” for lunch with my grandparents. We would sometimes go to Le Peep, often Luby’s, and every once and a while, this Fuddrucker’s.

Walking up to the building didn’t elicit any direct memories. I could make out that there was writing on the windows, but other than that the black paint did such a bad job of hiding the logo it looked like it was just faded out.

A close up of the awning shows that the logo still shines through. In addition to painting the awning, the sign on the building was removed, and the road sign was also painted over. Coming closer to the door revealed a Construction Permit.

This location was sold August 24th, and closed 4 days later. However, the permit still lists Luby’s Fuddrucker’s Restaurant as the occupant. The permit is for demolishing interior walls.

Upon looking into the restaurant, the interior walls had obviously been demolished, but many things were left behind. Including most of the kitchen equipment. This leads me to believe that this Fuddrucker’s may be coming back.

Even though looking at the building from afar didn’t bring back any memories, this rear dining room did. Specifically the awesome sloped roof! Along with the exposed HVAC equipment.

Coming to the back of the restaurant, it was obvious that people had been working. The lights and fans were all on. Also worth noticing is that not only were appliances and fixtures, like this sink were left behind. Things like flatware, prep containers, and even dish washing supplies stuck around.

This building was constructed in 1983, however Fuddrucker’s did not move in until 1988, or if they did I can’t find any mention of it. I’m relatively sure this back dining room replaced a patio. My indications were the door frames in the walls, the separate slabs, and the need for a separate A/C system as seen in the next photo.

Moving on from the wonderfully industrial HVAC equipment, some corner booths were left behind. I’m not sure if this location ever received the “full remodel” that many other Fuddrucker’s locations received. However, these round booths were generally the only thing left after one was finished. If Fuddrucker’s isn’t coming back it would be a little strange that these are still here.

Looking at the rear dining room, it makes the theory that this was an addition even stronger. Including the exterior A/C units. There was a relatively large rear parking lot. Also noticeable in the picture, is a rear door.

Taking one final look at the building, it really seems like this was a converted building. It’s a nice restaurant, and it doesn’t seem like Fuddrucker’s is leaving for good. Hopefully they either come back to this building or Luby’s tries out a new concept here.

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A Haunted H-E-B

I recently had the chance to stop by an H-E-B that I had heard from a friend might be, haunted. I’m not the biggest believer in ghost, ghouls, or goblins. However, I thought it would be fun to stop and take a look. This is the Royal Oaks location 11815 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77077. I wasn’t really expecting to find anything, but boy was I wrong.

I stopped by on a chilly night in late October. From the outside the store seemed pretty normal, if a bit dark. The store had obviously been there a while, you could by the huge trees which fill the parking lot.

Getting up to the doors, I noticed something strange. The entrances were blocked off! It was like someone was trying to keep me out of H-E-B. Someone or… something.

When I finally managed to make it into the store, I found a pretty normal looking H-E-B. It was a little dated, but it seemed nice for the most part.

I could tell that something was off though. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but knew I hadn’t ever seen a fresh cut fruit sign like this before.

Then I noticed something… the store was trying to communicate with me. At first the messages didn’t make any sense… “Fired Up Slice” of what?!

Suddenly it gave me a phrase which made sense, but I couldn’t figure out the context. Did it want me to contact Zack and Cody??

All of the sudden, the messages got really playful! It was lost on me though, I didn’t bring a deck of cards to the store.

“Nobody Does it Fresher” was this some kind of threat against me? I wasn’t sure, and I was about to run out of this H-E-B.

Until finally, I noticed this sign. The store wasn’t evil.. it was just hungry! Happy Halloween everyone! Normal serious posts will return soon.

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Checking out a former Cici’s Pizza in the shell of an old Burger King.

First off, welcome back loyal reader(s)! I’m sure there’s gotta be at least two of you. Sorry for the delay in updates, but I’ve been extremely busy lately. During my recent hiatus I continued to take photos, and I’m only now working through the backlog.

 

One of these photo sets was taken during a visit down S. Post Oak. I’m always interested in this part of town due to the history of the canceled Bay City Freeway. One of Houston’s few canceled freeways. On this trip, I found a former Cici’s Pizza which was obviously a reused fast food restaurant.

The Cici’s lineage was especially easy to make out thanks to the lablelscar at the top of the building. While, I could tell that something had been there before, I had trouble figured out what it was, mainly due to the addition of what looks like space for an indoor playground. Generally I can tell from something like a sign, but this sign proved to further the mystery.

Although a bit difficult to make out in the photo, the interior space was obviously part of the entire dining room by the point Cici’s vacated. They likely demolished the playground, and separating wall.

The next thing I noticed, was these half covered doors. The doors had obviously been welded shut, but the hinges were left on. Making this a bit harder to remove in the future.

The Drive-thru looked like it had possibly remained in service. This wouldn’t be the first Cici’s I know of to utilize a Drive-thru window for a pickup service.

From this angle, you can finally make out what restaurant used to be here. It was very obviously a 70s a Burger King. The single Drive-thru window with a canopy, the short mansard roof with the red ring, and what would have been the side entrance.

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Houston’s vegetarian friendly restaurants from 1995

Well after an impromptu hiatus I am glad to say I’m back. The post I’m bringing you this time is not picture based, but rather text based. Sometimes when researching things, you go off on a tangent. Most of the time this leads to two half written articles. However, this list what too interesting not to post. I found the following list, heavily heavily buried, while looking for On the Border Grill and Cantina’s original locations. I have decided to repost it, to help preserve it. The list looks to have been originated on Usenet, which was a group newsgroup which predates the modern internet. The full list can be viewed here. I have made some edits and additions to the content, which are represented in bold font.

Houston
——-

Vegetarian Restaurants:

Wonderful Vegetarian Restaurant, 7549 Westheimer (at Hillcroft),977-3137
– Vegan. Chinese Buddhist. Kosher. Very highly recommended. The only vegetarian restaurant in town. Many of the dishes may be too meat-like for some.
– Under new management in Summer of 1994. Menu is supposed to be revamped with an emphasis on healthier food.
-Closed some time after 1996

Anand Bhavan, 6662 SW Frwy, 977-0150
– Indian vegan. North and South Indian foods. Open 10am-9pm.
-Renamed “Shiv Sagar” in the 2000s

Quan Yin Vegetarian Restaurant, 10804-E Bellaire Blvd, 498-7890
– Lacto-vegetarian. Vegan-friendly. Run by a religious organization, The International Supreme Master Ching Hai Meditation Association.
-Still open as of 2018, not sure about the religious connection however.

Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants:

The Hobbit Hole Cafe was originally located at 1715 S Shepherd Dr
Photo Source: Keith Christensen YouTube Video

Hobbit Hole Cafe
– Rumored to be once all-vegetarian. Many dishes are lacto-vegetarian that can be easily made vegan. Also several vegan dishes. The black bean nachos are incredible. Special bonus is the Tolkien-related decor and recipe names.
-Still open, confirmed that the first 10 years of operation were with a completely vegetarian menu.

A Moveable Feast, 3827 Dunlavy (2202 W. Alabama?), 528-3585
– Macrobiotic restaurant. Casual, upscale. Innovative cuisine. Brunch on weekends.
-Was known as more of a Health Food Store, according to this article.
-Located at 2002 W. Alabama from 1989 until company’s bankruptcy in 2001. Was located at 3287 Dunlavy (now demolished former Weingartens) prior to that.
-Another location at 9341 Katy Fwy is still open as of 2018.

Whole Foods Market, 2 locations:
2900 S. Shepherd, 520-1937
11145 Westheimer Road, 784-7776
– Natural food store with small restaurant attached. Vegan friendly. Great salads and entrees. Highly recommended.
-2900 S. Shepherd was the first Houston Whole Foods, and the first outside of Austin. It was located here from 1984-2001, when it moved to its present location of 2955 Kirby.
-11145 Westheimer was the second Houston location to open, it operated from 1991 until 2016 at 11145.
-In 2016 the store moved across Wilcrest taking over the former Randalls at 11401 Westheimer.

Baba Yega
– Kinda like the Hobbit Hole but less veg. Serves a veggie burger.
-Still operating at the same location has continuously been in business since 1975.

Hungry‘s International, 2356 Rice Blvd, 523-8652
-Opened in 1975 as Hungry’s International Sandwhich Shop, has since renamed themselves to simply “Hungry’s”.
-The first location was in the Montrose Area, with the Rice Blvd. location opening sometime before 1995.
-Another location is open at 14714 Memorial Drive

The original hallway which Souper Salad replaced at Montclair Mall
Photo Source: Briscoe Center for American History


Souper Salad, 5460 Weslayan, 660-8950
-This chain slowly left the Houston City Limits, with only 2 left in the Metro area as of 2018.
-This location closed in the early 2000s.
-It filled in a what was originally a walkway in the Weslayan Plaza/Montclair Shopping Center

Star Pizza, 2111 Norfolk, 523-0800
– Have veggie pizzas.
-Still open (and popular) at the same location!

Macrobiotic Center, 2815 Garrott, 523-0171
– Not a restaurant, but caters vegetarian food.
-No longer in business, no details available online
-Was possibly run out of an apartment?

Seekers Natural Foods and Vitamins, 4004 Bellaire, 665-2595
– Natural foods store with 90-item salad bar. Includes organic produce. Vegan options on menu. *VRG
-Seekers went bankrupt in 1999.
-Location was purchased by and still operates as a Whole Foods.

On the Border, 2 locations:
9705 Westheimer, 977-9955
4608 Westheimer, 961-4494
– Mexican. Grilled vegetable fajitas. *VRG’;
-Both locations closed in the early 90’s. The company would try Houston again in the early 2000s.
– The 4608 location operated as Sullivan’s Steakhouse for a few years, and was demolished in 2018.
-The 9705 location 

Bombay Palace, 3901 Westheimer, 960-8472
– Indian. Daily buffet has vegetarian options. [Is it vegan-friendly?]
Open daily for lunch and dinner. *VRG
-Moved in 2000 when lot was cleared for Central Market.
-Relocated right across the railroad to 4100 Westheimer.
-Eventually closing in 2005, being replaced by Kiran’s.

Empress of China, 5419 A FM 1960, 583-8021
– Chinese. Vegan-friendly. Exquisite. It doubles as a routine Chinese restaurant for lunch and at night transforms to one of Houston’s most elegant, word of mouth, high cuisine restaurants with extensive wine selection. Scott and Mae Chen provide wonderful atmosphere. Mr. Wong’s kitchen staff are versatile and it’s far, far cleaner than my compulsive pathologist wife and I can keep our kitchen at home. Call in advance and arrange business meetings or banquets. Can match the appearance of continental east meets west flavored and decorated dishes so you can take non veggie guests for a gentle introduction to veggie food in a wonderful setting. Truly culinary ART! Does exquisite vegetarian banquets on request. I’ve studied Chinese food for 20 years and I can’t begin to touch the art of preparation I’ve seen this kitchen routinely turn out for the past two years. Open Mon-Fri from lunch to 10pm, Sat dinner. Closed Sun.
– I have an inkling this place may not have been as good as the original author claimed. It was out of business prior to any modern internet listings.

Red Pepper Restaurant, 5626 Westheimer, 622-7800
– Chinese. Many unusual vegetarian (vegan?) options. Open daily. *VRG
-Still open, still serving many vegetarian options.

Asian Restaurant, 3701 Weslayan, 850-0450
– Chinese/Vietnamese. Separate vegetarian menu. Vegan options. *VRG
-Can’t find any info on this one.

Guilin Chinese Cafe, 4005 H Bellaire, 661-1963
– Chinese. Some vegan options. Counter service. *VRG
-Can’t find much info online, other than the fact that it closed.

Thai Pepper, 2049 W. Alabama, 520-8225
– Thai. “Best Thai food in Houston.” Accommodating staff. *VRG
-Still there and highly regarded!

Paddy Thai, on Westheimer
– ‘Vegetarian’ in Thai means ‘substitute tofu for flesh’. Be sure to insist on no fish sauce or other animal products.
– Closed sometime between 2005 and 2009.

Health Food Express, Bayou Park Club, 4400 Memorial Drive, 861-2800
– Natural foods. Food delivery business supplies a week’s worth of food. Lunches at cafe itself Mon-Fri. *VRG
– So far as I can tell they changed names to Epicurean Lite and discontinued cafe service.

Natural Foods Stores:

Whole Foods Market
– An excellent chain of grocery stores. Not entirely vegetarian, but lots of good stuff veggies look for. Excellent selection of organic produce.

Seekers Natural Foods and Vitamins, 4004 Bellaire, 665-2595
– Natural foods store with 90-item salad bar. Includes organic produce. Vegan options on menu. *VRG

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Random Retail Photos

This week’s post is a bit late. However, it’s unique! It’s a collection of Random Retail Photos, I have taken over the summer. I’ll try to provide a bit of background for each photo, but there’s no overall theme. Let me know if you guys enjoyed this. I’ve always got tons of Random Retail Photos I never post.

Timmy Chan Restaurants
2606 Fannin Street | 3700 Buffalo Speedway

I snagged this photo of an old Timmy Chan’s Advertisement. Neither location is still operating. I believe the Mid-Town location is the original. These locations closed some time in the 70s or early 80s, and were definitely closed by 1984. The chain still survives, and is more infamous than famous due to the quality of their food. However, the taste is great!

The Wild Kitchen located at 8806 Stella Link Rd, Houston, TX 77025 is a very obvious former Pizza Hut.

This former Builder’s Square in San Antonio is now called “Texas Thrift”. 7500 IH 35 N #104, San Antonio, TX 78218

A former CVS which started life out as an Eckerd. I can’t find the exact location but this is near the La Porte area.

This converted Corner Store location gives an idea of what may come when Circle K remodels their Houston area stores. This one is located in San Antonio.

I also wanted to get a shot of the new design Valero is using on their gas pumps. Many of Valero’s older design features grew out of recolored Diamond Shamrock designs.

This was another location which was converted from a Corner Store. This spot also has a Subway Cafe, which still sells specialty coffee and pastries!

Finally, a long abandoned drive-thru menu. This McDonald’s on Richmond Ave. closed some years ago. It sat vacant for a while, until the mansard roof was covered. This was done by a new tenant “Chinese Cafe”. Chinese Cafe, who had a successful shop up the road near Post Oak for many years, lasted only a few years here.

 

If you enjoyed this random set of retail photos, please let me know! I’ll consider doing something like this again.

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The Incredible Shrinking A&P

Excuse the brief update. I have had quite the busy week! More content should be coming soon, including a small retrospective of pictures that don’t really fit anywhere else. For now though enjoy A&P.

 

A&P is not a well known grocer in the Houston area. They never had their own division, and were based out of Dallas. The number of stores I have seen varies somewhat. My estimation has it around 5, no more than 10. So far I have only been able to learn of one former A&P. It was at S. Post Oak, and W. Belfort. Across from the current Kroger store.

This location was recently the victim of some light demolition. The store originally opened in the early 1960s. I can’t find an exact date but know it was prior to or during 1962. The left and right sides were scaled back quite a bit.

The “wings” on the building were actually an addition. The original building plus a little bit of the left wing, which features Cue’s Burgers is all that’s left.

 

I’m not sure why the left side was demolished. The right side was to help accommodate a new gas station. However, both sides as this point feature open grass, as opposed to filled in parking lot.

With the front and sides remodeled, the building looks pretty nice. The back is mostly untouched, although things like loading docks were all filled in when A&P closed. I can’t find an exact date but I do know it was prior to the 1980s.

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Adiós to Casa Olé in Stafford

While out taking pictures for an upcoming blog post, I passed the Casa Ole on Murphy Road and saw only a single car in the parking lot. I thought that maybe it was just an extremely slow day, and gave them a call to see if they were open. I didn’t get an answer, so I decided to turn back around and snap some photos.

The neon sign is now turned off, the sky wasn’t very overcast but had tall clouds which blocked out the sun and muted the colors of the building. The address of this location was 12203 Murphy Rd, Stafford, TX 77477

The sign facing Murphy Road gives notice of the closing, however the thick bundle of cable and telephone wiring block the view of the sign to Northbound motorists.

Moving back from the sign to face the corner of the building, you can see the fountain was removed at some point. I’m not sure when the last time I stopped at this location was, but the fountain was still there.

Up at the front door, signs have been taped to the door which was written by the founder of Casa Ole, Larry Forehand. It also includes a map of other locations in the Houston area.

I believe this was the To-Go entrance at one point. However, it didn’t have any signs indicating what it was.

There is a used car lot located directly to the right of the building. To help preserve some of the charm of not looking at old cars while you eat, a fence was built and this area was styled with potted plants, and mulch.

Looking into the restaurant not much has been touched. Some of the lights are still even on.

You can see the lit accent lighting on the support beam to the far left, along with the Exit sign above the emergency door.

Moving further down the right side of the building we come to an “abandoned” window which has not seen any love in a while. There’s another phony abandoned window on the opposite side of the building, in much better shape. This was never seen by customers.

The back end of the building really goes to show how great of a theme job was done with the stucco, and building additions. Notice the window on this side, which includes the original awning.

This location had an extra grass lot, which I remember parking in quite a lot. Although, it looks like it hasn’t been used much lately.

A better look at the nicer window reveals that is is just building decor, also notice the outside of the emergency exit on the right.

This side of the restaurant looks the same, like it’s ready to open back up at any minute.

I couldn’t figure out exactly where this door led, but I’m thinking this was maybe a private room from the dining room?

These tables even had table cloths on them. Someone must have stopped mid-setup.

A final look back at Fort Bend County’s sole Casa Ole made me some what nostalgic. I remember Case Ole as being quite the celebratory place. The food was delicious, and reviews show this held true up until the end. If anything this restaurant has been effected by a demographic shift in the neighborhood. The Stafford area, which has shifted from established Upper Middle and Middle Class African American families, to newer immigrant families. Many of which are from African and Indian backgrounds, and are either lower-middle class or lower class. Only time will tell what will pop up in here, but Casa Ole will be missed.

Its final day of operation was July, 21 2018.

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