Check out this “Shell” of a Luby’s that still sells fried chicken

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today, we’re taking a look at something unusual! A former Luby’s at 108 W Greens Rd, Houston, TX 77067 that is still selling Fried Chicken, but is also a Shell Station! This isn’t some kind of Krispy Krunchy situation, we’re talking a real Fried Chicken restaurant here. An actual Church’s operates out of the kitchen and to-go portion of this former Luby’s, while the Shell occupies the old serving line, and most of the former dining area. Let’s start off by talking about the history of this spot. Originally a Luby’s-Romana Cafeteria, the story behind the name is a long one, but basically, this version of Luby’s was the second to come to Houston, and legally had to use the Romana name in a few markets. Eventually the other Luby’s (owned by different family members) shutdown, and the Luby’s we know today came to be, dropping the Romana name of course. This location was #11 for Luby’s/Romana in Houston and opened in 1980. Oddly despite Greenspoint Mall opening in 1976, Luby’s opted not to build inside the mall but across the freeway nearby a power center. While prior to this it was the norm, to build your Luby’s inside of or on the property of a mall, this was one of the first locations to buck that trend. This store would feature a prototypical “portico entrance” that had a large awning covering the driveway in front of the entrance. At some point, the serving line was shortened to accommodate the addition of a Luby’s To-Go which also included a drive-thru.

Luby’s would successfully operate out of this location until the 2010s when dwindling demand for cafeteria-style food in the area led to a consistently empty restaurant. According to online reviews, there were also extreme problems with the freshness of food, which is understandable with such low traffic. Staff is also noted as being less than helpful, although Luby’s waitstaff hasn’t been a high point since the “cart lady days” ended nearly 20 years ago. It seems that this location closed at the end of 2017 or the very beginning of the next year. The closure was quiet, and the lot being sold relatively quickly for redevelopment by the middle of January of 2018. Although it was not completely clear at the time, this sale was likely a last minute attempt to infuse some cash into a slowly dying cafeteria chain. After the sale, the former Luby’s actually sat vacant awaiting redevelopment for over a year. Significant work would not begin on the building until late 2019. While a new Shell station was advertised using the old Luby’s rotating sign, this wouldn’t survive and has been replaced with digital gas price signage. The design of the new gas station was kept under wraps for quite some time, with the Houston Retail community’s underbelly unsure what exactly we were going to find. Personally, I think the new gas station doesn’t disappoint. It looks a little like Luby’s but the conversion was subtle enough to make it look like just about every modern gas station being built in Houston, with one exception. Despite the looks of the building being updated, the basic layout, was not changed. The serving counter, has been repurposed as a cashier station, the original restrooms are still in place, and some of the building has yet to be redeveloped.

While this gas station may not be the conversion that one would expect find from a Luby’s it does seem to be quite popular, bringing in more traffic that the cafeteria did. About one-third of the old dining room is still sitting untouched on the other side of the gas station. It seems likely that the intention here is to lease out this area as subdivided spaces. When I visited there wasn’t much direct evidence of Luby’s heritage other than a few key placements of facilities, and the old dining room. This is a spot I can’t really recommend visiting. Chances are by the time this post goes out, those spaces will be leased out, and nothing of Luby’s significance will really remain. Unless of course, you’re the kind of person who likes to check out bathroom door placement, and if you’re reading this… well enjoy the gas station!

One comment

  1. I was flabbergasted when I saw that this Luby’s was converted into a gas station of all things. As C-stores have become more elaborate, we’ve started to see some strange conversions into C-stores including a Walgreens that has been converted into a gas station on Louetta & Jones. All in all, I think this Luby’s conversion looks pretty good. I’m glad they were able to keep the structure mostly intact like that. I did eat at that Luby’s long ago and it’s nice to know I can still get fried okra from there if I’m ever in the area!