The strip mall at the corner of Westheimer and Montrose now sports two “Mattress Firm” storefronts right next door to one another, operating independently. The western Mattress Firm, on the right in the photo above, has been converted from a Mattress Pro through the subtle but definitive application of a small banner, filling the gap left by the removal of the word “Pro”. All Mattress Pro stores had until November 6th to convert signage, following a mid-September announcement that Mattress Firm would be discontinuing the subsidiary brand.
What exactly has changed? Not the Mattress Pro logo, which still bounces along in contrast to Mattress Firm’s aggressive yellow swipe. The relabeled store, now styled as a Mattress Firm: Final Markdown facility, will sell Mattress Firm products at a bargain-bin discount, while the regular Mattress Firm next door will continue to sell those products at full price.
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MONEY, GUNS, AND WHATABURGER “We’ve had many customers and employees tell us they’re uncomfortable being around someone with a visible firearm who is not a member of law enforcement, and as a business, we have to listen and value that feedback in the same way we value yours. We have a responsibility to make sure everyone who walks into our restaurants feels comfortable. For that reason, we don’t restrict licensed concealed carry but do ask customers not to open carry in our restaurants.” [Whataburger, via Houston Chronicle] Photo of Whataburger at 5436 Hwy. 6 North: Jessica T.
IT’S BEDTIME AT AN ANNA’S LINENS NEAR YOU All 19 Houston-area Anna’s Linens stores — and the remaining 233 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, for good measure — will be selling off their sheets, towels, and draperies and shutting down. The company had filed bankruptcy on June 14th, but hoped to sell the stores before a deadline last Friday. Instead, some going-out-of-business-sale conductors will be taking over operations, selling off all inventory and fixtures, and turning out the lights. [Home & Textiles Today, via Real Estate Bisnow] Photo of Anna’s Linens at 8232-A Kirby Dr., across from NRG Stadium and the Astrodome: Edgar V.
COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: RETAIL CHAIN SLEEP SYNERGY “I wonder if Mattress Firm/Pro geographically correlate with CVS/Walgreens stores, i.e. the drug sellers who provide customers with the means (Ambien, Lunesta) to enjoy a full and long-lasting experience on their newly purchased mattresses.” [Larry, commenting on How and Where Mattress Firm Is Conquering Houston, One Sleepy Strip Center Storefront at a Time] Illustration: Lulu
Fresh off receiving a $300,000 settlement for the unauthorized removal of 6 oak trees in the city right-of-way from Ali Dhanani and Haza Foods, owner of the Wendy’s franchise at the corner of Kirby Dr. and North Blvd., the city of Houston’s legal staff has turned its attention to 2 other oak-tree-hacking incidents at neighboring Burger Kings — one a couple blocks to the south at 5115 Kirby Dr. at the corner of South Blvd., and the other at 2116 W. Holcombe Blvd. at Main St., next to the Medical Center. At each location, according to a report from the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris, landscapers pruned an oak tree on surrounding public property excessively, making it “likely to die.”
Both Burger Kings, it turns out, are owned by Dhanani’s brother, Shoukat Dhanani, whose company, Houston Foods, happens to be the second-largest Burger King franchisee in the country. (And with a just-announced purchase, his Dhanani Group is about to double the number of U.S. Burger Kings it owns, to more than 450.) But this latest scuffle with the city is not Shoukat Dhanani’s first experience with aggressive limb-cutting of city-owned oaks. Two and a half years ago, Swamplot readers reported on the mysterious beheadings of oak trees surrounding 2 other Burger Kings, both of which also happen to be owned by Houston Foods.
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What do the Smoothie King at the corner of S. Shepherd and West Alabama, the W Grill at 4825 Washington Ave. (pictured above), and the southern parking lot of the Taco Cabana at the corner of South Main and Old Spanish Trail have in common? They’re all shaped from former locations of Rally’s Hamburgers. After the burger chain’s exit from Houston in the mid-to-late nineties, the distinctive white structures with rounded corners and glass block were repurposed to a range of uses by subsequent tenants. Before its Smoothie King transformation, for example, the spot at 3007 S. Shepherd Dr. did time as a bank. A location of Checkers Drive-in (a rival chain that later merged with Rally’s) at the northwest corner of Antoine and West Tidwell was transformed into a Church’s Chicken — before, that is, being scraped for a drive-up retail box housing a payday lender and a wireless store.
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The Drive-Thru Burger Race
A JOLT TO STRIP CENTERS EVERYWHERE Radio Shack announced this morning that it plans to close up to one-fifth of its U.S. stores. News had leaked earlier this month that the
Dallas Fort Worth-based electronics chain had plans to close about 500 “underperforming” locations. This morning’s announcement brings that number up to 1,100, but no specific stores have been identified for shuttering. There are more than 80 Radio Shack locations in the greater Houston area. [Wall St. Journal] Photo: News92FM
If tracking the comings and goings of Bennigan’s in Houston has become a little confusing , that’s understandable. The Irish-stewish bankruptish restaurant chain suddenly shuttered all of its U.S. locations — including 20 in Houston — back in 2008; 3 years later, the chain’s new owners announced the impending arrival of as many as 10 new restaurants in Houston alone. The first of these new-concept franchises appeared under the tower sign of a strip-center endcap at Westheimer and Dunvale (above) in 2012. A second location opened just a couple of weeks ago in a former Aldo’s spot on the feeder road across I-45 from The Woodlands. And yesterday the company announced it had “nearly 100 restaurants under contract for development over the next several years worldwide,” including a new grand opening in Houston to be announced soon. Bennigan’s is also planning a comeback for its sister Steak & Ale chain, which had packed out of Houston with the Bennigan’s retreat in 2008. President and CEO Paul Mangiamele is planning a “big announcement” about Steak & Ale’s future on Friday.
But in the meantime, the comeback Bennigan’s at 8401 Westheimer has shut down, the always-checking-it-3-times staffers behind the b4-u-eat restaurant newsletter now report. A new location of smaller scale chain 59 Diner has already signed up to replace it.
Photo of Bennigan’s at Westheimer and Dunvale: Laina C.
Bennigan’s Begin Again
We hardly knew ye: The Sonic Drive-In at 7001 Harrisburg and 70th has quietly closed and covered its windows with solemn gray-painted plywood. The place had been situated among other chains and franchises and bus terminals near the recently installed big yellow bumper at the end of the forthcoming East End Line, catty-corner from the Magnolia Transit Center and a few blocks north of the Gus Wortham Golf Course (and perhaps the potential future Botanic Garden).
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The next Dunkin’ Donuts in Houston will be in Humble. Though this newest one, to open next Tuesday at 18315 West Lake Houston Pkwy., will have the all-important drive-thru window, it will also include some room for those who need to stay a bit longer: The standalone in Orleans Square will have 2 conference rooms geared up with projection equipment, each of which could hold about 20 people, give or take.
Additionally, Prime Property reports that there will be one more Dunkin’ Donuts to open in the area before the end of the year and as many as 60 in the next 5 years.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
That slow-to-develop retail district on the old prison farm in Sugar Land, rehabilitated into The Crossing at Telfair, appears to be locking up a new occupant. This sign, says the reader who snapped the photo, recently popped up behind the Whataburger and the H-E-B on Hwy. 6, just to the north along University Blvd. of the site where that new 6,500-seat performance hall is planned to be built. No opening date for the Austin Tex-Mex chain has been announced, though the Sugar Land Sun reports that the place should be good to go by the end of the year.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
Here come more billboard double entendres: The Baytown Sun reports that Buc-ee’s is building a big ’un on the I-10 feeder and John Martin Rd. later this year. And, apparently, the proposed 60,000-sq.-ft. convenience store, gas station, and jerky trafficker will get top billing: Part of the deal — a Chapter 380 Agreement — involves a waived height restriction for the store’s beaver beacon, so Buc-ee’s can raise one 100 ft. into the air. In return, Baytown will get a bit of room to put its own name up there too. (This will be the first time, the Sun reports, that Buc-ee’s will share its sign.) The store’s planned for about 18 acres on the southwest corner of John Martin Rd. and I-10 near the San Jacinto Mall. The Sun reports that it’s expected to open in 2014.
Photo of Lake Jackson Buc-ee’s: Judy Baxter [license]
It would seem that McDonald’s has resolved the steely staring contest between these 2 signs from 2 different eras, having gone ahead and ushered out the old restaurant here on Elgin and Cullen near the U of H campus to put up a brand-new one, a regional rep from the company confirms. No renderings of the next generation are available yet, but the rep says that it should be open in time for the fall semester.
Photo: Allyn West
FLESHING OUT WILLOWBROOK’S DINING OPTIONS Rivals in that niche sports-and-cleavage market Twin Peaks and Hooters will have a bit more competition starting today, reports Eater Houston, and this from the only restaurant that’s legally allowed to call itself a “breastaurant:” Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill — which in April trademarked the term — opened its first location last month in The Woodlands; this new one will be at the former Burger Girl at 17117 Tomball Pkwy. near the Willowbrook Mall. And what, you might wonder, sets Bikinis apart? It might be the food: “In addition to traditional American bar-and-grill fare and cocktails and microbrews,” reports the Houston Business Journal, “Bikinis offers its Big Bucking Burger. Customers can win a T-shirt if they finish the $24.95 five-pound burger on their own.” [Eater Houston; Houston Chronicle; Houston Business Journal] Photo: Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill
Dunkin’ Donuts announced yesterday where it’ll be sprinkling 4 new stores across Houston. This rendering shows the standalone planned for 18315 W. Lake Houston Pkwy. in Humble. There’ll also be a location inside IAH’s Terminal E, one at 4130 Fairmont Pkwy. in Pasadena, and another, as suspected, at the renovated former Arby’s at 2330 S. Shepherd and Fairview. Last month, the chain opened the first of a reported 24 stores planned for the Houston area at 10705 Westheimer in Westchase.
Rendering: Rogue Architects via Houston Business Journal