I was interested in retail from an early age. While I didn’t start documenting it until recently, I witnessed a unique slice of Houston retail. My formative years in Richmond-Rosenberg provided a strange parallel to the nearby Houston market. Living in what was still “the country” at the time, old names that had mostly disappeared from Houston years earlier remained in the area. For example, Sutherland’s stayed in Rosenberg until 2002. Right across the street, Mr. Gatti’s was a regular birthday spot well into the early 2000s, when it was replaced by Dairy Queen (which kept the arcade and prize counter open for years). Rosenberg provided unique buildings to observe, such as the Price Lo in the former Weingarten’s or the Minimax turned Lucky 7. Most of these buildings were identified by friends and neighbors who had lived in the town for years. One building, however, which no one could ever identify for me, was (for most of my childhood) a Schlotzsky’s location. No one could recall what took the space before the sandwich shop, and having never seen another Schlotzsky’s for many years, I assumed it was simply how all the locations looked. For years, I assumed this was the case, and only recently was the Rosenberg building brought back to my attention. In a thread on HAIF, someone brought up the building and used access to some records, and I searched for the address. I was first able to trace it first to General Joe’s Chopstix of all companies. I also noticed it had two “sister locations.” One in Spring and the other here on Veterans Memorial. I then took this new information to a few Northwest Side retail fans, who confirmed they remembered the locations as General Joe’s and that it was the first tenant they could recall. The mystery seemed to be solved, but it was far from over.
Learning about these two new locations, I began to research them. Despite having driven Veterans Memorial a few times, I had never seen the buildings, although not observantly. While General Joe’s Chopstix story seemed like the most logical origin, there were some oddities. For example, why would these locations feature a drive-thru? A novelty not generally found in Chinese food of the 80s. Upon further research, I would stumble upon a failed attempt at a chain named Burger House. Based out of Spring, the Purtee family had big plans for Burger House. They intended to build small format restaurants with low franchise fees and planned to multiply. However, they entered an already crowded market, and with three stores complete and two open, they closed only a few months after opening. The two operating Burger House locations would be sold off to General Joe’s, and the third (Rosenberg), complete but never opened, would be sold to Frenchy’s. Although, for whatever reason, General Joe’s would operate for about a year in Rosenberg. It seems like this could have been a franchise issue with Frenchy’s, as after Gen Joe’s closed, it would become a Popeye for a few years. Frenchy’s would eventually have a quick turn in the planned but unused Rosenberg Burger House before Schlotzsky’s moved in during the 90s, eventually being ousted for Little Caesars, who remains there as of this blog post. It’s interesting to think that a childhood oddity was connected to a retail story, in my opinion, worth documenting.