A look into Houston's retail past

Welcome back Taco Bueno!

Welcome back readers, this week we find ourselves at a closed Carl’s Jr. Not for an update on the departed burger joint, but rather what will be taking its place. Back in April of 2019 Taco Bueno announced their intent to repurpose the building. For those unaware,  Taco Bueno is a mid size quick service “Tex-Mex” style restaurant. Take that categorization with a grain of salt, as their menu somewhat resembles Taco Bell’s.

Although a few advantages Taco Bueno has over Taco Bell would be, a higher reputation of quality, and a semi-local connection to Abilene, Texas. The company has had issues with ownership, and debt within the past few years and had emerged from bankruptcy only 2 months prior to the announcement of the Katy store.

The base of the Carl’s Jr. Sign remains in place, painted black. The top star section has been completely removed. Notice a Taco Bueno banner on the other side of the driveway.
Taco Bueno’s banner can be seen next to the door. The neon open 24 hour sign is a holdover from Carl’s Jr. Most of what has been done to the building has been an attempt to the cover up the previous tenant. The red canopies which hung above the windows have been removed.
Stone has been added to the entryway replacing brick. The stucco has also received a new coat of paint, the lighting and metal canopies were retained.
The interior is mostly untouched. Some table tops have been taken out, and the internal canopies/signage were removed as well.
The metal from the canopies along with the vinyl from them were sitting around the dumpster. The sign is the one of the aforementioned interior signs. This was the “Refreshments” one.
The Carl’s Jr. logo was covered as soon as the location permanently closed.
The menu board was left in this half removed state. Everything will likely be replaced by the new Taco Bueno.
This paint color is likely what the entire building will end up in. Plaster stars were removed from both sides of the building.

As implied in the title this is actually Taco Bueno’s second attempt in Houston. In the early 80’s the company expanded into Houston in a venture lasting only a couple of years. Let’s hope that this attempt lasts a little bit longer. Although honestly, I’m a bit more partial to the idea of expanding Taco Casa.

 

Laredo Taco Company Greensburg, PA

Laredo Taco Company, is a fast food concept owned by Stripes Convenience Stores. In 2015, Stripes was acquired by Sunoco. Some experimentation was undertaken by Sunoco to help improve their convenience store operations. Outside of Stripes switching to Sunoco brand gasoline there was little change for the  Texas based Stripes customer to notice. However, outside of Texas Sunoco chose to build a new store concept, including co-located Laredo Taco Company locations. Three stores were built throughout the Nashville, TN area. Another was also built in Greensburg, PA which is outside of Pittsburgh. This is the location I was able to get photos of.

This location operates under the A-Plus banner of stores. It is owned by Sunoco, and was completely torn down and rebuilt when the Laredo Taco Company was added. There is exterior signage both permanent featured here, and temporary glass cling advertisements for LTC. There’s also outdoor seating.

The menu has some differences from the Texas version, such as the addition of both bowls, salad bowls…

… including would you believe it “Nachos Grande”!

Taking a look around the inside, the store does not resemble a conventional Stripes location. It borrows more from A-Plus styling and themes. Overall I think it looks nice. A-Plus uses a very basic interpretation of the LTC branding and styling, which looks very modern.

The order kiosk system, while not new to the chain is still in a slow roll out mode. If a store was built more than 6 or 7 years ago, chances are they don’t have kiosks.

 

Now, you may be wondering how this relates to Houston? Well during the end of 2017 Sunoco sold all their convenience store businesses to 7-Eleven who will eventually convert all stores to their own brand. This likely means either a stoppage of new LTC locations or the overall removal of the brand. That’s unfortunate for the brand because it’s solid, and it has something that most other Taquerias lack which is consistency between locations. Everything is the same, and the quality is consistent. However, it’s not necessarily the final sign of death for the stores. As some Stripes locations approximately 200 were sold to a third party who has not indicated any plans to change to 7-Eleven as of yet. So for outside of the Southwest Laredo Taco Company locations, this is probably it for now.