12/11/18 10:45am

A Swamplot reader writes in to report that the JCI Grill across I-45 from the Home Depot near Gulfgate Mall is now closed. No need to get too close in order to tell; the electronic sign fronting the feeder road gets the message across to highway drivers as shown above. Behind it, you can see the new ramp TxDOT’s been working on to connect 610 eastbound to I-45 northbound — as well as the shadow it’s cast on the restaurant’s parking lot.

A flyer posted on the building says the construction was in part what inspired the closure:

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The Dog Days Are Over
12/06/18 4:00pm

THE MARQUIS II IS GETTING ITS SECOND ENCORE Well, that was fast. After shutting down on Sunday without any timeline for a return, the Marquis II reopened at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a note posted on Facbeook by longtime bar employee Al Jara. According to the Chronicle’s Marcy de Luna, Jara is now the owner of the place, having purchased it from his boss during the 2-day timeout. The last time a Marquis employee pulled a stunt like this, it was a pair of devoted cocktail waitresses who bought the place after the owner, their boss at the time, died in the late ’60s. (Adding “II” to the name was their idea.) In this case the former owner is still alive, just sick of dealing with the sustained construction activity outside the bar on Bissonnet St., which Jara says has cost the business $1.2 to $1.5 million since it began in 2014. “They’ve broken up our parking lot and we are not getting business because people can’t access us,” he tells de Luna. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Marquis II

12/03/18 12:15pm

A flyer posted on the Marquis II at 2631 Bissonnet yesterday announces that the place is now closed indefinitely, leaving West University almost entirely devoid of bars (except for the one inside the Whole Foods on Bellaire Blvd.). The Marquis II’s predecessor, the Marquis, opened in the then-fledgling River Oaks Shopping Center in 1945. After the bar’s original owner died in the late 1960s, a pair of cocktail waitresses bought it and decamped to Bissonnet and Buffalo Spdwy., where the suffix became part of the venue’s name.

Following a stint at Bissonnet and Weslayan, the bar wound up in its current spot near Kirby in 1985. Houston architect Lars Bang had originally designed the building to house a branch of California donut chain The Big Donut, which it did until the 1970s when a gentleman’s lounge dubbed The Bunny Club blacked out the windows and took over. It left after a fire in the early ’80s, but not entirely: During the Marquis II’s last major remodel in 2011, workers uncovered a painting of a women wearing a low-cut outfit with a bushy tail that had been hiding behind one of the building’s walls, an unmistakable relic of the shuttered strip club. “Although badly charred,” according to the bar’s website, “the painting underwent a little restoration and still hangs proudly on our wall.

Photos: Marquis II

Last Last Call
11/28/18 11:45am

Note: We’ve appended a photo showing off Caffè Di Firenze’s espresso machine to the end of this story.

New signage is up in the windows of the Henry Brashear Building at 910 Prairie St. downtown on account of Caffè Di Firenze‘s recent move into the place. It’s now serving drinks and food inside and plans to do so on the outside, too, once the city signs off on permission for chairs and tables to go on the sidewalk. The photo at top shows the storefront pretty much the same as it’s been since going red in 2016. Except now some new tri-colored tiling peeks out from underneath the doors.

Inside, there’s this hashtagged wall of greenery:

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New Coffee Grounds
11/20/18 1:30pm

ESCAPE ROOM CHAIN NOW GETTING SETTLED IN MID MAIN LOFTS The latest tenant cropping up in the Mid Main Lofts’ Main-St. side: Project Panic, a 3,395-sq.-ft. escape room venue. Judging from the size and layout of the chain’s other Houston location at Fry Rd. and Park Row Dr. — home of zombie-apocalypse-, ski-resort-, abandoned-school-, and hospital-themed challenges — the new spot will probably house multiple rooms. It’s going in between Kura Revolving Sushi Bar’s corner restaurant off Holman St. and the recently-opened URBN Dental office a few doors south of it. [Previously on Swamplot] Map of Mid Main Lofts’ ground floor: LoopNet

10/30/18 11:45am

RANDALLS READY TO SLIP OUT OF SHEPHERD SQUARE A spokeswoman for the grocer tells the Chronicle’s Nancy Sarnoff this morning that the Shepherd Square Randalls Flagship store will be closing, but doesn’t say when. It’s been at Shepherd and Westheimer for about the past 2 decades, back before the brand got bought in 1999 by national chain Safeway — which itself was acquired by Albertsons in 2015. The 128,000-sq.-ft. shopping center housing the store went up in 1989. (It’s shown above before Randalls’ signage was flipped, elevating the “Flagship” branding to a spot above the retailer’s own name.) Over the past year, several Houston-area Randalls have already shut down: at the Coles Crossing shopping center in Cypress, on 34th St. in Oak Forest, and on W. Bellfort in Stafford. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Denise W.

10/29/18 10:30am

Here’s what the restaurant just west of the Meyer Park Shopping Center looks like in its afterlife. Signage came down the same day that the store closed, last Wednesday. It’s now listed for lease by the franchisee that owns the land at 4904 W. Bellfort as well as that beneath about 70 other Taco Bells, KFCs, and Pizza Huts in and around Houston: KorMex Foods.

KorMex grabbed this location along with 15 other existing stores when it went into business in 2000. By then, the building itself had been around for 7 years.

Photo: Jason Karwacki

W. Bellfort and S. Post Oak
10/23/18 5:15pm

Go ahead, name a few of Houston’s most heavily-Instagrammed hotspots. The Waterwall, North and South boulevards, maybe the “We Love Houston” sign that — until recently — sat along I-10. But who ever wanted to go pose next to the Katy Fwy. just to pick up a few new followers? If only there was a location where the photogenic offerings sat under a roof — preferably in one of those hip Houston retail-and-restaurant strips where the food might merit a few pics as well.

Enter Flower Vault, the budding brick-and-mortar Instagram destination shown at top that’s taken over half of Joybird Furniture‘s storefront at 1735 Westheimer, 2 blocks west of Dunlavy. For $20 per person (and $10 per pet), you can spend an hour taking pictures inside the studio’s blossoming interior spaces. The admissions fee won’t preclude other patrons from visiting at the same time, so you may have to take turns in front of the backdrops. But check out the results so far; it appears everyone’s been happy to share.

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Not Your Father’s Florist
10/23/18 2:30pm

  

Following “four or five 3-month lease extensions,” the landlord of 2318 Waugh Dr. dropped by Corazon last Friday to give the business its 30-days notice, reports store owner Chris Murphy. Its exit date is now set for November 20, a Tuesday, so final sales will take place the weekend before. Murphy says he’d been working to track down a new location for the store since learning it’d have to leave more than a year ago — but hasn’t had any luck. Barring any last-minute workable option, “we’ll reluctantly have to liquidate fixtures and retreat to various online platforms,” he says, in order to keep dealing guayaberas, Luca Libre masks, and other imports like the store has been doing since 1998. It’s shown around that year in the across-the-street photo above, which also gives a view of the landmark red dot on the building’s south side. (The taller building behind it occupies the same piece of land but was torn down in 2016.)

Next up for the 6,250-sq.-ft. parcel: a trio of townhomes. The landowner’s plan, says Murphy, “is to demolish the building immediately once we vacate,” and plant the new residences in a line like this along Fairview St.:

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Towhomes Imminent
10/22/18 2:45pm

A SATURDAY NIGHT SWAN SONG AT SPRUCE GOOSE: SOCIAL FLYERS CLUB This past weekend was the last one ever for the concert venue known as Spruce Goose: Social Flyers Club on the second floor of 809 Congress, across from Market Square Park and directly above Henke and Pillot. The 100- to 300-person club only opened up earlier this year, but managed to stay booked through the summer and all the way up until its finale on Saturday, which featured — among others — self-described “Punkish?” band Branagan, shown sending things off in the photo above. [Spruce Goose: Social Flyers Club] Photo: Branagan

10/16/18 4:00pm

A former employee of the chain says that September 30 was the staff’s last day at the restaurant in the Marq’E Entertainment Center, where its double-decker patio — pictured above — faces off from the Edwards Cinema movie theater (and its vertical water feature faces off from the shopping center’s plaza fountain).

All other Cafe Adobe locations have closed down as well; most recently, the one in terminal B of Bush Airport and the one across Hwy. 6 from Sugar Land‘s Market at Town Center shopping center — which featured this dramatic main entrance:

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Adobe a Goner
10/16/18 11:15am

CHASE BANK CLOSING IN THE TOWER THAT BEARS ITS NAME December 13 is the last business day at Chase’s Chase Tower branch. The bank — which a portion of the lobby shown beyond Joan Miró’s Personage and Birds sculpture in the photo above — is following in the footsteps of the upstairs Chase employees who left in 2006 when the corporation moved its offices out of the building and lost the naming rights to it, reports the Chronicle’s John C. Roper. The nearest branch: in the former Gulf Building at 712 Main St., on the block catty-corner southeast of the Chase Tower. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: 42 Floors

10/08/18 12:15pm

Twelve standard Mattress Firm locations (red) are going out of business, as well as 4 Final Markdowns (orange) and one Clearance-branded location (yellow). That’s 17 closures altogether, 2 shy of the number Mattress Firm announced would shutter across the rest of Texas when it filed for bankruptcy last week.

They are . . . on Westheimer near Hillcroft Ave., on I-10 in the Village Plaza at Bunker Hill shopping center, in Westgate Marketplace retail center off I-10 along N. Fry Rd., next-door to the other Mattress Firm in the Westmont Shopping Center at Westheimer and Montrose Blvd., on the W. Loop S. feeder road between Westheimer and Richmond, across Tomball Pkwy. from Willowbrook Mall, on Hwy. 6 north of Bissonnet, across from Baybrook Mall in Webster, in the Riverstone Shopping Center on Hwy. 6 in Missouri City, on 59 in Richmond near the beginning of the Grand Pkwy., in Sugar Land’s Market at Town Center shopping center next to First Colony Mall, at Pearland Town Center, across from the Mason Village shopping center in Katy, further south down S. Mason Rd. near Highland Knolls Dr. in Katy, on I-45 south of Robinson Rd. in Spring, at The Woodlands Mall, and on I-45 north of W. Davis St. in Conroe.

The Big Sleep
10/08/18 10:15am

Soon it appears there’ll be only one Mattress Firm again in the Westmont Shopping Center at Montrose Blvd. and Westheimer: The one on the right at 1005 Westheimer is set to close while the one on the left at 1003 Westheimer is sticking around — for now, at least; more closures are on the way according to the plan Mattress Firm announced in its bankruptcy filing last week to, among other things, thin out areas it thinks are too crowded with its own stores by closing 700 of them after an initial group of more than 200 get axed “within the next few days.”

In a court filing, the chain said no liquidation sales are planned at any of its ill-fated stores. But signage outside the former Mattress-Proturned-Mattress-Firm Final Markdown this morning indicates otherwise:

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Final Days of a Final Markdown
10/02/18 1:30pm

As advertised by the banner fronting Montrose Blvd., the wine bar and its outdoor drinking area are now open for business. Getting things ready inside the venue took a little longer than it did to set up fencing. After the bottles went up in late August, the front door of the former homeless shelter stayed closed to patrons for a little over a month.

Audubon Place