POLLO TROPICAL SUNSET Citing “limited awareness” of the brand, the corporate parent of Pollo Tropical has decided not to reopen the last 2 remaining Houston-area locations of the Caribbean chicken fast-food chain after they were both damaged by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey. Gone for good: the Pollo Tropical on Westheimer Rd. just west of Eldridge and the other at 11400 Broadway just east of Kirby Dr. in Pearland (pictured here). Three other Houston-area Pollo Tropicals closed in April. Fiesta Restaurant Group, which also owns the Taco Cabana chain, said in a release that it was also closing all 4 locations in San Antonio but might reopen as many as 2 of the shuttered restaurants in the region as Taco Cabanas. [BusinessWire; Houston Press] Photo: Fernando C.
How’s this image for establishing flood cred? The photo above — of the submerged Whataburger at 4545 Kingwood Dr. in Kingwood — accompanied the fast-food chain’s announcement yesterday of plans to spend a million bucks helping its own employees recover from Hurricane Harvey and donate half a million to local food banks and $150K to the Red Cross. If the water-waisted burger joint located near the intersection of the appropriately named W. Lake Houston Pkwy. otherwise looks kinda shiny and new in the pic (you can see more of its flooding experience here, here, and here), it’s because it is. Whataburger Unit 1125 at this location opened for the first time on July 31.
In and Out
The last pair of remaining Joe’s Crab Shack restaurants in Houston — at 2120 S. Hwy. 6, just north of the West Oaks Mall (pictured above), and at 20100 Hwy. 59 in Humble — closed this week, leaving the Seawall location in Galveston as the region’s sole outpost of the seafood chain. Three other Houston-area locations shut down earlier this month, ahead of the chain’s repurchase — approved in bankruptcy court last Thursday — by restaurant and entertainment giant Landry’s.
The original Joe’s Crab Shack opened in 1991 at 6218 Richmond Ave. (between Hillcroft and Fountain View); it was bought by Landry’s 3 years later and by 2006 had transformed into a 120-restaurant chain.
According to the Joe’s website, which for the most part appears to be keeping up with the latest unannounced closings, the chain is now down to 66 locations nationwide (14 in Texas) — though more may drop before Landry’s officially takes over early next week.
Photo of Joe’s Crab Shack at 2120 S. Hwy. 6: CREXi
Gone for Shore
With the newest location coming to the Pearland Pkwy. pad site shown at the center of the image above in the Centre at Pearland Parkway shopping center just behind the H-E-B fronting Broadway, the density of Chick-fil-A restaurants in an axis stretching from FM 518 in Pearland to I-45 in Webster is fast approaching Texas Medical Center–level concentration, and may soon exceed it. (There are 4 Chick-fil-As in the TMC area, 3 of them conveniently located inside hospitals — though no drive-thrus.)
Less than 2 miles to the west along Broadway from the pictured location (expected to open in January) is the Chick-fil-A at FM 518 and Dixie Farm Rd.; further to the east are the spots in the Baybrook Mall and along the Gulf Fwy. at El Dorado Blvd. Between them, and possibly on the horizon, looms the planned Chick Fil A location at the intersection of FM 518 and Leisure Ln. in Friendswood. The owners of that property withdrew a rezoning application that would have allowed restaurant uses on that site after residents complained before the Friendswood City Council in April that adding the Chick-fil-A would make the city too much like Pearland. But a new rezoning request for the same property is up for consideration with the council this week, and the owners tell the Chronicle‘s Dana Guthrie that Chick-fil-A is still very interested in building a restaurant there.
Site plan detail, Centre at Pearland Parkway: Stream Retail
FM 518, Chicken Alley
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