At the Old Ball Game

The Astrodome served as the first home for Houston’s one and only MLB team from 1965 to 1999. As far as baseball stadiums went, it was incredible at the time. The Astrodome was fully enclosed, air conditioned, and provided a ton of food options for hungry stadium goers. At the time of construction, the Astrodome helped set the standards for modern baseball stadiums.

In 2000 The Astros made the decision to move from the Astrodome to the newly built Enron Field. Just as the Astrodome had nearly 50 years earlier, Enron Field was full of innovation, including a retractable roof, outdoor A/C, and increased retail opportunities.

I recently had occasion to catch an Astros game. While I’ve been to Minute Maid Park a few times before, most of my memories the Astros are in the Astrodome. Making the trip up to our nosebleed seats provided many opportunities for surprise. As I learned that retail operations in baseball stadiums had changed from the simple Hot Dog, and Beer Stands I remembered as a child.

One of my first surprises was Shake Shack! A newcomer to the Houston area, the New York based chain has been beloved by many. Growing from a single Galleria location in 2016 to four by 2018. Constantly compared to In-N-Out Burger, who has yet begin any construction in Houston as of May 2019. The menu has most of the normal Shake Shack offerings, but is not complete.

Directly across from Shake Shack was a Pluckers. An Austin transplant, both Pluckers and Shake Shack are extremely popular with younger crowds. While the overall attendance at Minute Maid is mixed in age, the customers in this area skewed to the younger demographics. Pluckers was extremely busy which made it difficult to see the menu.

Located above Shake Shack and Pluckers was Torchys. While the sign might look incomplete the “T” on the left was so bright, that I couldn’t fully frame it in the photo. Located in a small corner the area is dark, this along with the bright signage help to match a typical Torchys.

I was able to catch a picture of the menu at Torchy’s. Showing that the menu is somewhat limited compared to the selections at a normal location. Although since it is a Torchy’s one has to wonder if they have any secret menu items.

 

One of the things I wasn’t expecting was the numerous carts around the stadium. I mostly remembered carts as selling only alcohol for those who didn’t want to wait in a food line. This is no longer the case, and in addition to selling alcohol many carts now sold food that was exclusive to the carts.

A great example is, Bahama Buck’s a familiar sight to anyone from Lubbock has been expanding their presence in the Houston area over the past five years. They had multiple stands around Minute Maid. All of which shaved their own ice. While the selection of flavors is limited compared to a normal Bahama Bucks, they have more than you’d expect!

Box Frites, Box Frites! Your parents cut you off!

This house brand sold fries, and for those like me who can only afford nosebleed seats, it’s one of your only options for fries on the top level. The name did remind me of Red Cow Entertainment’s BoxMac.

This was a big surprise to me. The La Michoacana Meat Market chain of stores, began in Houston. While they’re relatively well know for as a grocery store, I was unaware that they sold ready made food. This stand was located on the Concourse of the former Union Station.

Now with all the options available to a retail connoisseur such as myself, you might be surprised to learn that what I really wanted to eat was just a normal hot dog and some popcorn. Part of this is due to the enormous up charge all of these chain establishments take on when entering any kind of closed venue. Part of this was also nostalgia for Dome Dogs, which are not served at Minute Maid.

While some standard concession stands exist in the park, many have been updated. With half of the stalls being replaced by Order Kiosks and the other half a pickup stand. As far as I could tell there was little to no consistency between locations. Some of the hot dogs were Nolan Ryan Beef, some weren’t. It was just luck of the draw wherever you ended up.

One of the stands even used H-E-B Bake Shop Hot Dog Buns. I wasn’t expecting this and chose to buy my hot dog from this stand. Figuring that a store brand bun would be slightly better than whatever the default offering was. Unfortunately, my hot dog did not stand up to a Dome Dog. It could have been rose tinted glasses ruining my hot dog, but I’m guessing the quality just wasn’t that great.

 

Overall this proved to be a fun time, even though the ‘Stros lost, and the hot dog sucked. Going to a baseball game is fun because of the people you’re around. Not the food you eat! If you’ve liked my Facebook Page you had some idea that this post was coming. If you haven’t liked it, consider doing so. My Facebook page gets some extra content.

Memories of Highway 6

Growing up on the West Side of town meant when you wanted to go shopping you generally had to drive a bit. Around the time I entered Middle School my family moved from rural Richmond, to a suburb near Clodine. Driving in East on 1093, meant we would usually end up in one of the many shopping centers around Highway 6 and Westheimer. My family moved again shortly after I started college giving me little reason to visit the area. I took some time to visit the area, and see how things are going.

Originally an Eckerd later a CVS, the prime location helped attract a new tenant quickly.

 

This was one of the first Stripes locations in Houston. At one point Stripe’s owned the Ice Box brand as well. Notice the original atm sign.

 

Most of the decor in the store remains unchanged from this store’s days as a Stripes.

 

The former Laredo Taco Co. remains mostly unchanged although they now go by the name “Jack’s Taqueria”

Due to living in the city now, my journey began heading Westbound. I noticed the former Eckerd turned CVS at Westheimer and Eldridge has closed, and is in the process of being converted to La Michocana. I also got a chance to stop at what was one of the first Stripe’s locations I ever saw. It has since been converted into an Ice Box location, but still mostly resembles Stripes.

Once a Big Kmart, after a decent vacancy Burlington moved in. They closed in early 2019 moving to Eldridge.

 

The Builder’s Square was subdivided with Floor and Decor predating the Trampoline Park by at least 5 years.

 

These buildings were an Office Depot on the left, and a Service Merchandise on the right. The S.M. later became a Conn’s which moved across the street when Academy expanded.

Making it to Highway 6, we begin with the shopping center at the South East corner. This shopping center has seen major changes with no original anchor tenants from it’s late 90’s opening surviving past the mid-2000s. The three restaurants, and some smaller tenants are original. However, they recently lost Party City and Burlington to the newer center on Eldridge. With the Burlington replacing a Gander Mountain.

The label scar from Circuit City still remains to this day.

 

Across the street the Sears Auto Center sits abandoned.

 

This started life as a Pier One, later Goodwill moved in. They would stay here until Office Depot vacated.

Moving down Highway 6 a bit, vacant commercial space is abundant. Strangely for the most part the vacant spaces shown here are newer. Vacancy at most of these shopping centers hit its peak in the early 2000s. While it’s not at the level it was back then, things are noticeably light.

I spent many evenings at this Joe’s Crab Shack. It was a fun place for my parents to get cheap drinks, and feed us essentially for free.

 

The former James Coney Island, was recently vacated. Some time in late 2018.

The Northern side of these shopping centers has always been very food focused. With the exception of Chili’s, pretty much every food choice on the North side has changed. It was fun to go back and visit somewhere I had spent so much time at during my youth. Some aspects haven’t changed, but many have. For the most part the changes mark the changes in the neighborhood.

Please check out, Houston Historic Retail on Facebook. I post all of my updates there, including those which aren’t exclusive to the blog.

Where have YOU been?

Where have I been? Where have you been loyal reader? I’ve been out and about visiting Broken Chains, like House of Pies. In fact, I’d recommend visiting that link I left above. It has a direct connection to Houston, and me. In fact, here it is one more time. http://actionsdower.blogspot.com/

If you’re new to the site, let me welcome you. Please allow me to first plug my Facebook Page where most updates are posted. If you’re interested in the content here I recommend checking out:

Have a look around, it’s all free!

Resolving to have a Resolution

When the new year rolls around, it invites a certain amount of reflection. Unfortunately I’m a procrastinator. Which means I didn’t really think of a New Years resolution until the end of January.

This reflection led me to realize that this blog is no longer and un-monitored sub project of mine. Rather, I have at least a couple of regular readers linked via click-throughs from other blogs. So I wanted to extend a thanks to everyone who not only reads my blog, but especially to those who return to check for updates. I know they are somewhat sporadic, but I do can only work on this website as my schedule allows. If you’re looking for a slightly more modern way to check for updates, I ask that you give Houston Historic Retail a like on Facebook. I’m going to resolve to have more regular updates on Facebook to make up for the occasional downtime here.

In the mean time, please enjoy another addition of Random Retail!

Over Christmas, I was invited by a friend to visit Mobile, AL. I happened upon this Golden Arches McDonald’s by accident, while trying to visit a “Dirt Cheap” location across the street.

Most of the photos I took, were spur of the moment. Anything I hadn’t seen before that caught my attention. I’m not sure if the McDonalds was an original Golden Arches that was remodeled, but the building had the long layout most modern stores have.

Near our hotel was a Winn Dixie. While they never made it to Houston proper they maintained a few locations South of town.

I can’t ever recall having stepped foot inside a Winn Dixie. They had a measurable Texas presence, albeit focused more towards Dallas. This location was very near our Hotel, in a suburb of Mobile known as Tillman’s Corner. The area is quite low income. This particular store features a “Dollar Shop” Which was just an extremely wide aisle, with shelving removed selling this at a Dollar price point. Honestly, if I wasn’t in dire need of some ibuprofen I likely would not have bought anything there. Despite their location, and obvious target demographic with the Dollar Shop, most items were extremely expensive.

This Rite Aid was recently closed, due to the failed merger of Walgreens and Rite Aid.

Rite Aid is another chain that I have never been to. As far as I know, they never made it into Texas. There were many former Rite Aid locations in Mobile. I believe that all were purchased by Walgreens after their failed merger. Many locations are in the process of being remodeled. However, Walgreens already had a presence in Mobile. Meaning there were some duplicate locations which were closed.

Despite it’s updated Walgreens signage, this still looks very much like a Rite-Aid.

 

This staggered checkout, looks almost like a Walgreens out of the late 70’s or Early 80’s.

 

I do miss Krystal, they have been in and out of Houston a few times. Never really catching on here.

You better believe, I did stop and get some delicious steamed hams, pardon me steamed sliders. This proved to be a more difficult endeavor then you would think. Requiring a trip to a second location, as this one had run out of buns. Then arriving at the second location, only to find it highly understaffed to handle the rush caused by the bun shortage.

There are many former Stuckey’s locations throughout the South. They can be identified by their distinct architecture.

Trying to fit in a stop by Frostop on the way to Mobile meant that I wasn’t able to really make nay other retail based stops on the drive-in. On the way back, I decided I wanted to try and seek out a Stuckey’s I hadn’t been to before. I had the perfect spot in mind. A newly opened location, converted from an independent C-Store with Exxon gasoline. A while back I had a discussion of, What makes a Stuckey’s a Stuckey’s with my friend Zap Actiondowser. We found that new Stuckey’s locations were being built. I had noticed a billboard in Louisiana touting this location as Stuckey’s return to the state.

In reality this store was just an Exxon, which sold some Stuckey’s branded merchandise, hot “food”, and trashy souvenirs.

 

Gator Heads are common at places that sell souvenirs in Louisiana. The only other Stuckey’s I have a memory of going to was in East Texas, and they had them too.

 

For the most part the prepackaged Snacks looked like normal gas station fare. Not everything was Stuckey’s brand though.

 

I was tempted to buy a Stuckey’s Mug. I was split between the old fashioned one, and the billboard one. In the end my indecisiveness led me to not buying one.

 

Located in an unassuming strip center, the original Raising Cane’s is easy to miss.

One other stop I made we made was the original Raising Cane’s location. It’s located in a small strip center just outside the North Entrance to Louisiana State University. Reflecting its LSU heritage the outside of the building is adorned in Gold and Purple, and the interior features luxurious tiger skin seating.

I really liked this Chicken Fingers sign. I’m not much of a drinker, so I would totally hang this in a man cave as opposed to a Budweiser sign. Not pictured was a modern “Open” neon sign.

 

The old Wolf Bakery Sign sits out in the open. This is featured in modern Cane’s locations via a Cane’s mural in the same theme, and a small plaque explaining the inspiration.

To round it all out I wanted to include a picture of the North Main Sears from while it’s still around.

The Unusual History of the Brazos River Bridges

I was recently able to collaborate with Youtuber Scott Dailey who has made some interesting and unique videos around the Houston area. We made a trip out to Simonton where an old San Antonio and Aranssas Pass bridge still stands, providing a connection to a railroad which was abandoned nearly 20 years ago. I was able to provide some history, and got some footage using my drone.

The bridge, and rail line were purchased in 1992 by Metro with plans for commuter rail.

Tagged with: ,

My take on a “Broken Chain”

And Now For Something Completely Different

To kick off the new year, let’s try something new. We’re going to take a look at a Broken Chain. I was inspired to do this by my friend Zap Actiondowser who runs the blog Broken Chains, which I highly recommend all my readers go check out. A while back he featured a blog post on the Frostop Root Beer chain of restaurants. Admittedly I had never heard of the chain prior to Zap’s post. After reading his description of their root beer I was immediately hooked on the idea of getting my hands on some. I was able to try and love the bottled version sold at Rocket Fizz, I knew I had to get some from a fountain.

The Frostop in Baton Rouge

As luck would have it, my fiancee and I were invited to Mobile, Alabama to visit some friends over Christmas. The drive to Mobile required us to drive through Louisiana, and thus a stop at Frostop was in order! Checking Google Maps I found that there was Frostop was right off of I-10, in Baton Rouge. This would bode well as we had a deadline to meet for hotel check in. Approaching the building, I noticed that this particular location was still sporting their original mug sign. You could tell that the place had seen better days. While scouting out the location, pictures from earlier this year indicate the signage was in better shape earlier this year.

Maybe a bad storm dented the cup?

Making my way towards the building, I noticed something peculiar. Rather than an exact date the signage sports a “Since The 1950’s”. Frostop Root Beer has a history on its own website tracing the company back to 1926. While I understand that this location may have originated in the 50s, I still found it odd. Looking around the building, exterior features had been updated in a patch work fashion. Only giving attention to the spots that truly needed it. This would make it easy to believe to the casual passer by that Frostop was not a chain, but rather a single restaurant.

We made it to Frostop at around 4:30 PM. The inside was pretty quiet, with only a few diners. The menu features some curious additions to suit local tastes, namely the Po-Boys and Fried Fish dinners. Which I doubt showed up at the original Springfield, OH location. To keep things simple, I ordered a Chili Dog and my fiancee order a Chili Cheese Dog, we split an order of fries, and a large root beer. The order was taken and put into a modern POS system. Which printed a receipt at the grill for the cook to start. Despite the luddite-esque exterior the interior was jammed pack with technology, including multiple tablets for Uber Eats and the like. We were given our root beer told to have a seat, and that our number would be called shortly.

For Decoration Only

I tasted the root beer, which despite the photo above, was served out of a modern Coca-Cola Fountain. The root beer was served from a mostly unlabeled dispenser, which someone had cut a Barqs tag for leaving only “Root Beer” behind. I was immediately concerned about not being served the authentic Frostop Root Beer. There was something different about it from the bottled root beer. The flavor was still the same. However, it did not come across quite as strong as the bottled. I’m guessing this is down to someone not properly setting the syrup to carbonated water ratio.  After waiting for a few minutes, I got antsy and in the interest of time decided to take some quick pictures of the dining room, rather than waiting until after the meal.

This is called Terazzo flooring, and, I had to look the name up.

With plenty of time to wait, I found bits and pieces of the old restaurant starting to show through. There were many decorative root beer barrels, one of which was pictured above. However, none were original Frostop barrels. The laminate tiles were worn down in places like the front of the counter, and near the doorways. The seating was tired and torn up. Being just a few blocks North of LSU you would think that this was a popular college destination. However, for the most part we only saw small families or single diners throughout our time here. After about 20 minutes, a family who had ordered after us, received their food. Upon going to the front counter to find out where our two chili dogs were, I was told they had “completely forgotten about that”, and they’d get it out ASAP.

Well ten minutes later, our food finally emerged. Spending 30 minutes at Frostop was definitely something we did not plan for. Meaning I had to wolf this chili dog down. The Hot Dog, and the bun were delicious. The Hot Dog tasted like it may have been a full beef dog, and the bun was toasted on the griddle. The Chili however was another story. It tasted basically identical to any other fast food chili you could imagine. The closest analogue would be the hot dog chili served at fellow root beer based competitor A&W.  We ended up taking the fries to go, they were just standard kind of chunky fries. They could have absolutely used some salt.

Sitting in our booth in the back corner of the restaurant gave me some time to admire the view. The parking lot of Frostop literally backs up to these two houses. I also noticed that this location may have been possibly converted from a drive-in into a diner. My reasoning behind this is the distinctive slanted roof that Frostop used on their other drive-ins, and although I didn’t get a picture of it the bathrooms were very obviously originally outdoors as evident by the windows, and heavy doors.

Sadly the sign no longer rotates, although considering how often we get hurricanes in the Gulf Coast it’s surprising it’s still standing.

All in all, I enjoyed my experience chronicling a broken chain, and while I wouldn’t necessarily make a trip out to Baton Rouge, just for Frostop. I could see myself stopping to get some root beer. Once again, I would like to give a shout out to Zap Actiondowser and his blog Broken Chains. I really recommend checking it out, along with his Facebook page.

Tagged with:

December Update

Greetings loyal reader, I’m glad you’re back! It’s been too long since I’ve written an update for the blog section of Houston Historic Retail. Fear not, as more blog updates should be on the way soon. However, that isn’t to say that updated have not been made to Houston Historic Retail. Most of the updates made were located in the pages section. You can access them through the menu above.

The updated include, a new database system that allows you to search locations of various chains, updates to information on certain pages like Rice Epicurean, Incredible Universe.  The creation of three new pages, Souper Salad  Kip’s Big Boy, and H-E-B Pantry Foods. Along with numerous updates to the back-end software which runs the site.

Go ahead, and have a look around. These are not the only updates made, but are the most major. If you have something you’d like to see featured on Houston Historic Retail, or just want to pass on some words of encouragement I always appreciate a comment or two! Also keep an eye out for what’s coming up next.

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.

If you enjoyed this please leave a comment, or stop by our Facebook page!

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.

Tagged with: , ,

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.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Top