Random Retail: 4 Gas Stations, and Quite a bit more!

Welcome back to another post loyal reader! Oh man, it’s really been a while since we’ve done a Random Retail post. For anyone new here, Random Retail is essentially me going through my camera roll and posting anything I had a chance to take a photo of but have not had a chance to post. This quite often proves to be a reader favorite since, you never know what you’ll end up with! Well lets go ahead and dive in!

Well folks, it’s been a fun one this week. I hope you enjoyed the excess of photos, stay tuned and I’ll see you all on Sunday for the Demo post!



  1. The old Fiesta in Midtown which is now called Greentown Labs had their Grand Opening about 2 weeks ago. I believe some work still continues on the inside though.

  2. Such a drab makeover for what was a very fun façade at the Midtown Fiesta. The price of progress, I suppose… but I liked my drive on the freeway better with the running lights and carnival striped rooftop. Or to lament another former Houston freeway icon… I also liked looking to my left and seeing a giant neon cockroach.

    Audio/Video Plus was a retailer very near and dear to my heart even though I never lived anywhere near it (I did work near it for about 6 weeks). Until the mid-90s, my family had a Betamax VCR instead of a VHS, and Beta tapes became very hard to find when I was still quite young, but Audio/Video Plus could be counted on to stock new releases on Beta and blank Beta tapes well into the 90s. It was always a big deal when the latest Disney animated feature hit videocassette and my dad and I would journey into town to A/V+ and pick it up on Beta (with the tape awkwardly placed in an oversized VHS case with red “Beta” stickers over the VHS logo and a rectangular VHS label slapped over the square Beta label space). In its last few years I wound up there looking for the late 70s Gabe Kaplan basketball comedy Fast Break, which at that time was not available on DVD, and sure enough they had it on VHS! They still had shrinkwrapped blank Beta tapes for sale too…

    What a fun store to browse, especially with all of the old movie promo paraphernalia they left around. It is remarkable they survived on largely VHS inventory into and even through the height of the DVD era. I’m surprised the old location has not yet been redeveloped, or at least rehabbed into some trendy something or ‘nother that inner-loop folks dig these days.

    1. That’s some great Betamax memories there, billytheskink. I suppose I didn’t look in the 1990s, but renting Beta tapes in the 1990s must have been even more difficult than finding LaserDiscs for rent! I had not even heard of Audio/Video Plus before seeing these photos. I don’t think they operated in my part of town, but that’s neat that they still stocked Betamax tapes. I wonder if they were still being made in the 1990s or if they found some new old stock laying around somewhere. I think RadioShack may have sold Betamax cassettes well after Betamax’s prime ended. If nothing else, they continued to sell reel-to-reel tape after the format became less popular.

      As for Mike’s photos, I think the 290 & W. 34th Randall’s that was turned into an El Rancho still has a gas station, but it’s now branded as El Rancho. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s operating the same as it did as a Randall’s gas station given Albertsons’ involvement in El Rancho, but I don’t know. Maybe El Rancho has their own gas station operations.

      That Citgo C-store looks pretty nice. As mentioned elsewhere, I’m not a C-store expert, but some of these new C-stores actually look more impressive than some supermarkets. Citgo’s US operations are based in Houston, but yet it’s becoming harder and harder to find Citgo stations around here in modern times even though I do know that they exist. They were certainly one of the popular brands around here in the 1980s along with Gulf, Texaco, Shell, Diamond Shamrock, Conoco, Mobil, and a few others. Exxon’s were plentiful in Houston in the 1980s, but they oddly didn’t have too many stations in my neck of the woods. They’ve certainly corrected that issue in modern times!

      It does seem that Goodwill has closed some locations in the last 5-6 years. I know we’ve lost a couple of them in this area. Then again, they opened so many stores in the late 2000s/early 2010s that some of them were very close to other locations so some reduction in store count seemed inevitable.

      1. The new Tesla dealership actually began life as Houston Jewelry, back when it sold more than jewelry. Borders and Planet Music took over the location in the 1990s. When Planet Music closed, Borders expanded into their space.

        1. I still think of that building as the Houston Jewelry building, with it’s big sunburst sign and all the employees waving at the camera in their TV commercial.

      2. Some new releases came out on Betamax into the mid-90s, a lot were sold through mail order clubs and quirky video nerd-focused retailers like A/V+. Sony discontinued the non-professional Betamax VCRs in 1988 or so, but with a small but loyal user base that had been built up for over a decade and all formats of VCR costing well over 4 figures in today’s money back then, new Beta releases were viable for years after the discontinuation. Beta-specific labels and cases actually started disappearing even before the VCRs were discontinued, though, and did not exist at all in the 90s outside of what Sony provided with blank tapes. New release Beta tapes usually came with cardstock spacers so that they would fit snugly into the larger VHS cases, though in the Disney-style clamshell cases the tapes just sat without any spacer and rattled around. I do, however, own one example of a VHS tape that had a square Beta label placed on it for some inexplicable reason…

        And you are right, Goodwill has closed a lot of stores over the past few years, and renovated several others (their better performers, I guess). I know someone who dealt with Goodwill’s trash service over these past few years and keeping up with their store closings and renovations (and, thus, demand for dumpsters and trash service alterations) took up a lot of their time. There is a lot of action going on with them, though I’m not sure why exactly.

        1. I think Goodwill opened up too many stores in some parts of town. When I think of the 249 area, for example, they started with one location at 249 & Louetta. In 2013 or so, they opened a location about 5 minutes away at Louetta & Grant. I thought for sure that the 249 location was going to close when they opened that other store because they were so close together, but instead they actually opened another new store at 249 & FM 1960 W in the Fiesta shopping center! I couldn’t believe it!

          Well, it took until 2020, but the 249 & Louetta location finally did close. I can’t say that any of these three locations were lacking shoppers during my visits to them, but I suspect the people who shopped at these stores probably shopped at the other area stores as well and so closing one of the stores wouldn’t really mean losing any shoppers.

          In some areas like League City, I know Goodwill still has a lot of stores. Granted, in that area, they did have to close the Texas City store when the space was redeveloped into a Ross and Aldi. That Texas City Goodwill was always very busy so it’s a bit surprising that they didn’t find another location for it, but maybe they figured their over-representation in League City makes up for their lack of presence elsewhere in the area.

          Goodwill never seemed to be short on merchandise even before they started closing stores so I’m guessing that is not a big hindrance causing the closures.