Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston HIstoric Retail! Today we’ll be taking a break from the norm for some Random Retail! In case you’re new here, not every photo I take is part of a post. However, I visit lots of places I visit are worth sharing but not enough to cover on their own. So today, we’re checking out a former Kmart turned Restuanrat Depot, a former Spaghetti Warehouse showing off its old colors, and finally ‘celebrating’ the return of Hartz’s buffet! So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride, or tense up and lay flat… I don’t care, it’s Random Retail!
Kmart Foods Depot
Our first stop is a former Kmart located at 1431 W 20th St Houston, TX 77008 While it has been a Restaurant Depot since 2005 (the first in Houston), the building has a very interesting history. Originally opening on November 16, 1967, this Kmart was either the 7th or 8th, as it was planned, and opened in conjunction with the store at Beechnut and the Southwest Freeway. Both locations contained a large Kmart Food store adjacent to the department store. I believe in the case of Restaurant Depot, the space they occupy is mostly the original Department store, with the Food Store portion being leased to other tenants. As a Kmart, this store did quite well. Managing to stay in operation all the way from its grand opening until Kmart’s 2003 bankruptcy and resulting exit of Houston. It was no doubt a high-volume store, being one of the only discount department stores inside the loop for many years. Unfortunately, while the store likely closed intact, Restaurant Depot gutted the building and undertook some expansions, as they tend to do. If you plan on visiting, please note that this is a business-oriented store, and you must have a membership to shop. Apparently day passes are available to everyone, but I’m not sure how exactly that works.
An old Spaghetti Warehouse Reappears
Did you know that the now-closed downtown Spaghetti Warehouse was not Houston’s only location? In a shocker to those only somewhat familiar with the chain, Spaghetti Warehouse has had tons of locations over the years. Starting in Dallas in 1972, they expanded to Houston next in 1973 and would begin to expand out of state only two years later. With the expansion of casual Italian chains like Olive Garden in the 90s, Spaghetti Warehouse decided to try its hand at building new locations rather than their sourdough bread and butter of rehabbing old warehouses. However, mediocre returns from these suburban locations prompted the company to rebrand as Spaghetti Warehouse Italian Grill while well the new menu items were well received, they were not enough to save the chain, which has quietly been abandoning locations for years. After Hurricane Harvey destroyed part of the Houston building, the restaurant closed for good, with the parent company instead trying out a new concept named Warehouse 72, located in the Mar-q-ee Center on the Katy Freeway. As for the suburban locations, Houston ended up with two both opening in 1994, one located on the outskirts of Willowbrook Mall at 7637 Farm to Market 1960 Rd W, Houston, TX 77070. This store would shut by 1999, now serving as a nightclub. The other location would be just outside city limits ending up at 12815 Southwest Fwy, Stafford, TX 77477, across from The Fountains Shopping Center. This location would fare a bit better, lasting until 2004 before becoming a buffet. Both exteriors have been highly modified from their iconic original look. However, with ongoing construction on the Southwest Freeway location, for an incoming Bombshell’s Sports Bar location, the old Spaghetti Warehouse decor is poking through!
Hartz’s Neon Extravaganza
Alright, so now we’ve hit the point of no return. Some of you are going to have decisive comments about Hartz’s, and while I encourage discourse, no name-calling! Personally, though, I love me some Hartz’s Chicken. Truly what really brings me in is the buffet, which, if fresh, is unmatched! If you’re old enough to remember KFC’s Buffet, this setup is, in my opinion, superior. The variety is wide, and they have awesome yeast rolls instead of thawed biscuits. However, the fare is quite similar, and oddly this has to do with the origin of Hartz’s as the local franchisee of the KFC recipe prior to the deployment of their own retail outlets. Hartz’s has a long and interesting history, originally starting under the Hart’s name, which is still used by the original franchise in Mobile, Alabama. When the Hartzog Family sold their Hart’s stores to KFC, the Hartzog family would reestablish their own chicken chain in Houston under the slightly modified name Hartz’s Fried Chicken, which was modeled after the original outlets in everything from offerings to building design. Today’s photos, however, are from 1301 Southmore Ave, Pasadena, TX 77501, a more updated location. As the chain has aged, uniformity has dropped, along with consistency in quality, which brings with it valid criticism. That being said, if you get a hankering for some Fried Chicken, I’d say check out Hartz’s if you never have. Although if you’re interested in the buffet go basically as soon as they open!
Hartz Chicken in Rosenberg is still in their original little building and busy busy. Corner of SH-36 & Ave I across from First Baptist Church.
Please do the abandoned Golden Corral off the 610 W Loop near the Chase building. So sad this location was not able to bounce back due the pandemic, I believe it closed early 2020. Do you know what is being built there now?
I actually tried to do this location back around Christmas, but was unable. The building had a massive amount of fire damage in the entryway, and a sizeable homeless population living in the parking lot. I checked to see if anything is being built, and I couldn’t find any information. I think it might just be being demolished for safety. The story behind the closure began is related to the fact that this location along with 20 others, were transferred to a new franchisee about a month before the pandemic. The owner did reopen their locations, but nearly all of them closed again after a few months, with only a few in DFW remaining.
If you hear anything about the old Golden Corral do keep me posted!
There’s still a classic Hartz buffet at 2563 North Gessner as well. Little bitty place.
Thankfully since prepping for this post many more buffet locations have reopened!
Oh, I ate at that Stafford Spaghetti Warehouse many times, my parents were really excited when it opened as they loved the downtown location but found it quite a haul with 2 kids to visit often. I always wanted to eat in the trolley of course.
Hartz is the very definition of guilty pleasure. Chicken is great, mashed potatoes and gravy are spot on even if you know it’s exactly made “fresh”. Good stuff.
Who in the world would cover up that awesome brick – that should be illegal.
Although it’s been a while since I’ve eaten at Hartz, I have a generally positive opinion about them. At one time, there were two locations very close to me and both were very retro, but one of them, the FM 1960 location near Jones Rd., closed and later re-opened in a nearby abandoned Taco Bell. The old Hartz location is now a Korean chicken place called Chimac. The other Hartz on Huffmeister is still a classic, retro Hartz. That Hartz has felt retro as far back as the mid-1990s back when Hartz had those strange Chevrolet Astro delivery vans. I consider a Hartz like that Huffmeister one to be part of the ‘classic’ Hartz experience.
That said, the Pasadena Hartz in your photos looks quite a bit newer and it also looks nice. Although it looks more contemporary, I’m glad it still has some neon!