Adiós to Casa Olé in Stafford

While out taking pictures for an upcoming blog post, I passed the Casa Ole on Murphy Road and saw only a single car in the parking lot. I thought that maybe it was just an extremely slow day, and gave them a call to see if they were open. I didn’t get an answer, so I decided to turn back around and snap some photos.

The neon sign is now turned off, the sky wasn’t very overcast but had tall clouds which blocked out the sun and muted the colors of the building. The address of this location was 12203 Murphy Rd, Stafford, TX 77477

The sign facing Murphy Road gives notice of the closing, however the thick bundle of cable and telephone wiring block the view of the sign to Northbound motorists.

Moving back from the sign to face the corner of the building, you can see the fountain was removed at some point. I’m not sure when the last time I stopped at this location was, but the fountain was still there.

Up at the front door, signs have been taped to the door which was written by the founder of Casa Ole, Larry Forehand. It also includes a map of other locations in the Houston area.

I believe this was the To-Go entrance at one point. However, it didn’t have any signs indicating what it was.

There is a used car lot located directly to the right of the building. To help preserve some of the charm of not looking at old cars while you eat, a fence was built and this area was styled with potted plants, and mulch.

Looking into the restaurant not much has been touched. Some of the lights are still even on.

You can see the lit accent lighting on the support beam to the far left, along with the Exit sign above the emergency door.

Moving further down the right side of the building we come to an “abandoned” window which has not seen any love in a while. There’s another phony abandoned window on the opposite side of the building, in much better shape. This was never seen by customers.

The back end of the building really goes to show how great of a theme job was done with the stucco, and building additions. Notice the window on this side, which includes the original awning.

This location had an extra grass lot, which I remember parking in quite a lot. Although, it looks like it hasn’t been used much lately.

A better look at the nicer window reveals that is is just building decor, also notice the outside of the emergency exit on the right.

This side of the restaurant looks the same, like it’s ready to open back up at any minute.

I couldn’t figure out exactly where this door led, but I’m thinking this was maybe a private room from the dining room?

These tables even had table cloths on them. Someone must have stopped mid-setup.

A final look back at Fort Bend County’s sole Casa Ole made me some what nostalgic. I remember Case Ole as being quite the celebratory place. The food was delicious, and reviews show this held true up until the end. If anything this restaurant has been effected by a demographic shift in the neighborhood. The Stafford area, which has shifted from established Upper Middle and Middle Class African American families, to newer immigrant families. Many of which are from African and Indian backgrounds, and are either lower-middle class or lower class. Only time will tell what will pop up in here, but Casa Ole will be missed.

Its final day of operation was July, 21 2018.

Two Closures in Galleria IV

Upon visiting the Galleria last week, I was surprised to learn of two recent closings. One of them I saw coming from a mile away which was of course Best Buy Mobile. The stores, which were more similar in fashion to a cell phone retailer, than a real Best Buy. I had tried shopping here a few times, and never had an exceedingly pleasantly experience. Best Buy announced the closure of all BB Mobile locations back in May of 2018. I did not see the store have a clearance or going out of business sale.

The exterior has been left untouched so far, although black covering was added to the doors and windows. It’s likely in this case, that there’s either not a tenant lined up just yet or Best Buy Mobile still has a lease which has yet to end.

The next closure in Galleria IV, came a more of a surprise. It was the former studio of KPRC-TV (Channel 2)’s “Houston Life”.  The show which is still on the air, has moved to another location, but that’s a story for Mike McGuff to tell.

I wanted to include one final shot to show where the studio was located. It was shoved under the escalators next to Nordstrom. It was directly sandwiched by the ebar.

The Closing of Luby’s

So Luby’s, like many other Cafeteria chains hailing from the 1950s has experienced many woes over the years. The largest was the bankruptcy that nearly killed the company. I came across a list of locations which closed during the 2003 bankruptcy proceedings. The close date for all Texas locations was March 31, 2003 all locations outside of Texas closed April 3, 2003. The list illustrates the breadth the chain once had reaching from Tennessee to Arizona.

A Luby’s in Nasvhille shortly after closing.
Photo Credit: http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/14079152/1501-Gallatin-Pike-North-Madis…/

 

City and State Address
Dallas, TX 2377 Stemmons Trail
Dallas, TX 12230 Forestgate Drive
Greenville, TX 7600 Wesley Street
Sherman, TX 3113 Highway 75 North
San Antonio, TX 4300 Thousand Oaks Drive
Grand Prairie, TX 980 West Pioneer Parkway
McKinney, TX 920 North Central Expressway
Irving, TX 2250 Walnut Hill Lane
Tyler, TX 2829 West Northwest Loop 323
Mesquite, TX 24315 L.B.J. Freeway
Garland, TX 3255 Broadway Boulevard
Arlington, TX 701 North Watson Street
Orange, TX 4040 IH-10 West
Houston, TX 6704 Highway 6 South
Lewisville, TX 2401 South Stemmons Freeway
Fort Smith, AR 6201-A Rogers Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 601 West Bell Road
Tucson, AZ 7140 East Rosewood Street
Mesa, AZ 1404 South Longmore Street
Glendale, AZ 5285 West Bell Road
Oklahoma City, OK 3800 North MacArthur Boulevard
Tulsa, OK 115 East 15th Street South
Tulsa, OK 3140 South Garnett Road
Memphis, TN 5240 Summer Avenue
Memphis, TN 6705 Winchester Road

 

In addition I also found a shorter list of locations that had closed prior to the March 31, 2003 date.

 

Amarillo, TX (closed first week of March) 2101 South Coulter Drive
El Paso, TX (closed first week of March) 7825 North Mesa Street
Fort Worth, TX (closed March 24) 7624 Grapevine Trail
Albuquerque, NM (closed first week of March) 4710 Montgomery Boulevard
Nashville, TN (closed first week of March) 1501 Gallatin Pike North

Northwest Mall June 2017 Update

Northwest Mall closed the interior of the mall March 31st, 2017. It was a sad and unexpected occasion. I made a final visit to the mall to try to talk to some of the shop owners. I found that everyone was unaware of the closure, until Mid-March, and for the most part lacked concrete plans of where to go or what to do next.

Once the mall closed, the interior sat untouched for a few months. During May the exterior doors were walled off and covered. With the exception of, The entrance near The Post Oak Club, which had a wall built further  back, and a door installed to accommodate entrance into the interior of the mall. The entrance near Chapa Club, the former movie theater, had a similar recessed wall built to accommodate the building’s interior emergency exit.

All stores with exterior access have remained open. The Antique Center of Texas, former JC Penny, closed their gate to the mall, and it has been walled off. Including a plastic covering to prevent dust getting into the store. Palais Royal, has not covered any of their windows or entrances.

The Food Court as viewed from Palais Royal

 

Zooming in on the doors, the original “Entrance A”.

 

A shot of the Macy’s Wing through the Palais Royal gate.

 

A view of the JC Penny’s Wing.

 

A Final Panoramic View of the mall.

 

As you can see little to nothing is going on. There are some construction dumpsters out front, which are loaded up. However only time will tell if Northwest Mall’s revitalization will actually be put into place. If interested you can find the rest of the album and higher resolution photos here.

Rice Epicurean, taking the term chain to the extremes

The chain, Rice Epicurean, is the result of many adaptions and “mutations” of a family owned grocery store originally named “Rice Boulevard Food Market”. You can read more about the history of the chain overall on my
Rice Epicurean Store Page. This post takes a brief look at the chain as it stands today, one store, and six former properties.


Rice Epicurean #201 | 2500 Rice Boulevard

The original Rice Boulevard Food Market opened in 1937. It took on its name from the street the store was originally located on, Rice Boulevard. It was at the heart of the shopping center now known as Rice Village. However, when the grocery store was built there was only one other store in all of Rice Village. Truly a different experience to the Rice Village of today. The location was expanded, and eventually moved in 1957 to the a building which still stands.

Rice Epicurean #201 | 2500 Rice Boulevard

This location managed to survived until 2003, its closure was mainly due to the small size of the building, along with the lack of parking. While it did have some dedicated, mainly older customers, the store had essentially hit its useful limit for the growing area. As it was was difficult leasing a grocery sized spot in Rice Village the building subdivided on multiple occasions as time has moved on. The building no longer resembles a Rice Epicurean location, but does fit in with the shopping center quite well.

Rice #202 | 5016 San Felipe

The next location to open is near what was at the time know as the far side of town. Located in the Tanglewood Shopping Center, this was the location that necessitated the chain’s first name change, dropping “Boulevard”. For the building’s entire life from 1957-2012 it housed Rice or other variations of the chain, upon closing this location was immediately flipped to The Fresh Market and has more recently begun transformation to Total Wine

Rice #202 | 5016 San Felipe

In its life this store has had the entrances moved around a few times, but for the most par maintains the original Rice foot print. The other tenants in the shopping center are located to the right of the store, and behind the area which Rice occupied. This was the first location to be converted to the Epicurean banner by Rice. It also served a large clientele. Prior to 2014, it was the only grocery chain in the Galleria area. With the next nearest store being a Randall’s down San Felipe.

Rice #203 | 3102 Kirby Drive

The next location on the list was acquired as part of a deal with “Lucky Stores of California”, who operated a chain in Houston known as Eagle Supermarkets. Rice purchased four locations from Lucky, and this location was the only store that managed to stick around to the Epicurean days.

Rice #203 | 3102 Kirby Drive

This store was the second location to be converted to Epicurean. It was over-sized as far as Rice Epicurean stores are concerned. The location was sold in 2001. Rice stated that this was due to the location being in close proximity with the Westhimer and Weslayan location, and not preforming as well. It has housed a Bed, Bath, and Beyond ever since.

Rice #204 | 12516 Memorial Drive

The store numbers used by the Epicurean chain don’t seem to directly correlate with anything, as seen in our next example. This store is part of the Lantern Lane shopping center, and was originally a Lewis and Croeker.

Rice #204 | 12516 Memorial Drive

This location was the most recent acquisition in 1997. The store is largely unchanged from when Rice owned it, and as of early 2017 was still sporting the Fresh Market lablescar, with the original Rice Epicurean paint underneath. This local will also become a Total Wine Superstore, a banner advertising the transformation was hanging above the door, but blew up unto the eve as I snapped my picture.

Rice #206 | 3745 Westheimer

We’ll come back to location #205 and move on to #206 for now. This location was another acquisition, this time it was from Apple Tree Market, the locally owned spin-off of Safeway in the Houston area. When Rice took over they operated the location similarly to how Safeway had operated, electing not to remodel much. Eventually with Rice Epicurean, the store was remodeled a bit, but still had some Safeway features, especially on the outside of the building.

Rice #206 | 3745 Westheimer

This location was extensively remodeled by The Fresh Market, who subdivided the building on the right side of the entrance, and removed what had been the center service desk, and replaced it with a straight through entrance. Once Walgreens moved in, the building was subdivided once again, with the farthest left side of the store, being vacant at the moment but available for leasing.

Rice #207 | 2617 West Holcombe

Rice #207 was another Apple Tree/Safeway acquisition. This store was much larger than #206 from the start. It was also hugely remodeled by The Fresh Market, who did not need as much space, and subdivided. They also did some exterior remodels including repainting, and adding plaster decor.

Rice #207 | 2617 West Holcombe

While retaining the distinctive Safeway columns of the time, many other distinctive pieces of Safeway architecture such as the texture rock surface have been covered or removed. The building also now has a large number of full length windows, as opposed to the half height walls Safeway was known to use. Most of these changes were done when the building was divided for new tenants.

Rice #205 | 2020 Fountainview

Finally, we tackle Rice Epicurean #205 this is the only location still in operation today. It is also the base of Rice’s grocery delivery service, and catering. The store has many features typical to other Rice Epicurean locations.

Rice #205 | 2020 Fountainview

I did manage to go inside this location and take a look around, but that’s a blog post for another day!

A look at one of Houston’s Former Food Lion Locations

First, I’d like to welcome you to a new feature of Houston Historic Retail, blog posts. I’m still experimenting with content styles, and want to explore this avenue. I may or may not stick with it, but for sure the content will remain. So with the possibility of this not sticking around for long, lets start by talking about a store that did not stick around for long, Food Lion.

Food Lion as mentioned elsewhere on the website Food Lion was a grocery retailer out of North Carolina, founded in 1957 they made their entry into the Houston market in 1992, with a plan to eventually open 40 stores. However due to the infamous Primetime Live Scandal Food Lion took a major hit in business. They managed to make it up to 13 stores in the Houston area, but decided to close the branch to help preserve the chain with the stores closing in 1994.

 

9520 Jones Rd, Houston, TX 77065

The location we’re looking at today is at the corner of Jones and West Roads in North West Houston. This location has a bit of a strange history, the plot that Food Town built on was originally owned by Safeway but was never developed. It was sold to Food Lion who finally built on it. It’s unclear if it was sold directly by Safeway or through Apple Tree, however as Safeway continued to own properties in the Houston area such as the Dairy Plant before selling it to HEB it’s possible that they held onto the property. The outside of the building still resembles a Food Lion for the most part. It has the basic rectangular shape, with little to no building adornments. The Mission Style Arch and new paint was added by Food Town.

Food Lion Style Entrance

Food Lion uses a very specific and easily identifiable entrance style. They have a single centered door which leads into the store, and a enclosed breezeway with doors on either side making a T shaped pathway from the doors. Food Lion for the most part kept the exact same entrance. The only difference I could find, was that the interior door was removed. The hardware was still bolted onto the door frame, but the doors themselves had been taken off. Based on the age of the radar motion detectors I would wager a guess that the doors broke, and were removed rather than replaced.

Deli Meats

Inside of the store, not much has seemingly changed. I don’t ever remember going into Food Lion when they operated in Houston so my knowledge of what has changed is based on pictures of the other Houston locations, and pictures of older Food Lion locations. I’m not sure how the store layout has changed, if at all, but there is a dedicated entrance and exit, one of the stranger things I did notice is the lack of a meat department. They do some butchering at the store, and the meat is solder out of a cooler in the front near the produce. I believe that Food Lion had an “exposed” meat department based on video I’ve seen from the Prime Time Live special. I’m not sure if Food Town closed up the meat department, or if Food Lion did it in response to the controversy.

Former Bakery

This was likely the former bakery in the Food Lion. The tiles had non-slip grips, and there were wash down drains in the center. The area is now being used to sell soda and beer, as Food Town doesn’t use on-site bakeries.  This area still had an exposed cloest, and electrical panels left over from the bakery. To the left of this was the manager’s “cage” it was slightly lifted up to provide a better vantage point. I’m not sure if that was added by Food Town, but it seems likely it was as all of their stores utilize the raised manager’s office.

Cheap Sign

All in all this grocery store provides a good service to the community. It’s cheap on produce and meat and allows for a no frills shopping experience, much like Food Lion. Hopefully it will stick around and the amount of traffic they received on a Sunday afternoon when I took these pictures supports that. However all other corners of this intersection have major stores, HEB, Kroger, and Aldi. So it’s a bit of a waiting game to see if Food Town can stick around.

 

The Full Album of Photos I took can be found here