12/07/17 12:00pm

Sure, Houston Axe — just off 59 on Larkwood Dr. — is convenient to Sharpstown and Bellaire, but Houston’s soon-to-come second indoor axe-throwing venue will likely be better located. Ratchet Hatchet plans to take over the former Vue Nightclub space on the second floor of the strip center at the corner of Waugh Dr. and Allen Pkwy., across the street from Whole Foods and the America Tower. But that also puts it very close to the Marshall Back & Body Wellness Center, the Montrose Eye Care clinic, and a branch of Farmers Insurance in the same strip center. Also, both the Hand Care Center and Foot Surgery Specialists of Texas are located only a block south.

Permits filed with the City of Houston show that the facility at 524 Waugh Dr. will be 1,700 sq. ft. That address likely puts it right above Bayou Liquor in this photo:

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Ratchet Hatchet
11/06/17 4:45pm

Houston’s first board-game-themed cafe and bar is set to move into the long-mostly-vacant strip center near the White Oak hike-and-bike trail off T.C. Jester just east of Ella Blvd. next February. King’s Bierhaus (pictured above) took up residence last year on the opposite end of the same center (which is behind Restaurant Depot and SSQQ) — on the other side of the iCycle Bike Shop. The photo at top shows 2 businesses that have since left the strip; Tea & Victory and its lending library of 500 board games will go into the 3,300 sq.-ft. space formerly occupied by City Nails and Skincare. A first storefront for cake and cupcake vendor AshleyCakes will be moving in next to the game cafe.

$5 will cover an all-access pass for customers to play as many games as they want, including the ones shown in this photo snapped at a Tea & Victory pop-up event in May:

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Tea & Victory
10/26/17 10:30am

OCCASIONAL HAZARDS OF A FEEDER ROAD STRIP CENTER The Shogun Japanese Grill and Sushi Bar in a strip center fronting the northbound feeder of the Grand Parkway in Richmond opened its storefront involuntarily this morning to accept an oncoming 18-wheeler. The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s office has sent out the photo shown here of the restaurant at 7417 W. Grand Parkway South, showing the truck swallowed completely by the restaurant. The adjacent Gossip nail salon was also damaged after the truck broke through the interior wall separating the 2 businesses. According to the Sheriff’s office, the truck was carrying hazmat gasses; the words “nitrogen refrigerated liquid” are visible on the back of the trailer in the photo. The driver is in critical condition, and 3 people who were in the building suffered “minor injuries,” according to the report. The building has been evacuated. Update, 11:45 am: More from the Sheriff’s office: “The driver of the 18-wheeler has passed. We believe the crash was caused by a medical issue he was experiencing.” [FBCSO] Photo: Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.

10/20/17 4:45pm

Without providing too much detail on the scope of the accompanying construction (“a remodel the owner wants to do”), KHOU’s Marcelino Benito yesterday interviewed one of the proprietors of Oak Forest coffee house and occasional goat-yoga venue Slowpokes, who along with several customers and neighbors has been protesting landlord Naushad Momin’s apparent plans to chop down 2 large oak trees on site — to add more paving and parking spaces.

The oak trees sit at the southern end of the strip center at 1203 W. 34th St., which faces Alba St., and shade a lawn (pictured at top) adjacent to the Slowpokes patio deck. Chopping down trees to add more parking might appear to be a landlord’s prerogative, despite tenant opposition. Except possibly not in this case:

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Oak Deforesting
07/31/17 1:30pm

“We will not have a kitchen ourselves,” writes the proprietor of Cobble & Spoke, the new craft beer bar planned for space H, almost to the corner of the 1900 Blalock strip center at the northeast corner of Blalock St. and Campbell Rd., in response to a reader query earlier today on Facebook. “However there is a restaurant on site that you will be able to order with right at the bar & have the food delivered right to your table!” That restaurant is Simply Greek, just 6 storefronts down the L, past Precisions Research, a couple of vacant spaces, Ideal Furniture, Creatures of Yoga, and Senpai’s Cards.

At the opposite end of the center is the Stop n’ In convenience store paired with the pair of gas pumps that front the parking lot. Cobble & Spoke promises a selection of wines and craft ciders as well. Neighborhood riders who want to lock up their bicycles will be accommodated too, the bar’s owner notes: “We will have a bike rack out front & even some dedicated space inside.

Photo: Silvestri Investments

Craft Beer and Imported Food
07/27/17 2:30pm

Here’s a glance at how the now-redone North Shepherd strip center that used to house the Texas Cafeteria is looking this week, about a month before the second-ever location of sandwich joint Krisp Chicken & Batter opens up on the building’s south end. A raised bit of concrete slab seen on the near side of the building in the photo above will form the foundation of a planned dining patio. According to the building’s leasing flyer, a 1,825-sq.-ft. space in the building is still available for lease adjacent to Krisp; the rest of the building will become a Verizon store.

The center at 2400 N. Shepherd Dr. is immediately north of the former Fiesta lot where H-E-B plans to start construction on a new Heights market late this summer.

According to Culturemap’s Eric Sandler, the owners of Krisp are already planning to open additional locations in Memorial, Bellaire, and Downtown in the next few years — and possibly Pearland and Cinco Ranch after that.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Next Month
06/15/17 2:30pm

Just opened this week in Re:Vive Development’s new add-on strip center at 721 W. 19th St., just west of Shepherd Dr.: the first Houston outpost of Austin’s Tarka Indian Kitchen chain, a Chipotle-style “fast casual” restaurant serving curries, kabobs, and — yes — naaninis. Next door to diners in the 4,295-sq.-ft. steel-frame building, the new Benjamin Moore Paints store (seen here under construction last year) is also open, a reader reports.

In lieu of a parking-space-and-a-half on the side of the building facing past more parking onto the more sugary part of the center closer to Shepherd (home to Fat Cat Creamery, Hugs and Donuts, Smoothie King, and KA Sushi) is this dusty square, designated for a future patio:

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Tarka Indian Kitchen in the Heights
08/11/16 10:30am

On The Kirb, 5004 Kirby, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098 On The Kirb, 5004 Kirby, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098The former Kirby Dr. site of Chinese fast food outpost O’Yeah Cafe (which ousted General Joe’s Chopstix) appears to be getting ready to open again, this time as restaurant-sportsbar On The Kirb. Temporary signage beneath the venue’s more permanent marker (still framed within General Joe’s octagonal medallion) indicates that would-be recruits should apply inside. The restaurant will sit at the northernmost extreme of the 5000 Kirby strip center (located in the thick of Goode Company’s Inner Loop territory, just south of the North St. McDonald’s). The new spot will share the strip with long-time residents Upper Kirby Nails Salon and Joe Omar Hair & Makeup, as well as bisyllabic sister clubs Lumen and Crimson (protected by a few segments of low wall and hedge from the prying eyes of nextdoor neighbor Mr. Carwash).

Photos: Swamplot inbox

Off the Curb
06/14/16 11:00am

Jimmy Chew Asian Kitchen, 1609 Westheimer Rd., Lower Westheimer, Houston, 77006

Windows and wood are now covering much of the front of Vinoteca Poscól’s previous strip center location at 1609 Westheimer Rd. The spot is being prepped to open as Jimmy Chew Asian Kitchen, which touts a laundry list of east- and southeast-Asian countries as contributors to its particular fusion mix. About Online reports that the business is connected to Irwin Palchick of F Bar Nightclub, and will cater to the post-last-call crowd as well as to lemonade enthusiasts. 

The wooden addition, which appears to be establishing the restaurant’s patio territory, engulfs the space previously fenced off as such by Poscól, along with some former sidewalk acreage.  Here’s what the space used to look like, before the wine bar’s midsummer departure:

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Montrose Makeover
03/22/16 12:45pm

Ruggles Green Alabma, 2305 W. Alabama St., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

Here’s a peek at the new space of Ruggles Green, back open this week at 2305 W. Alabama St. next door to the restaurant’s original shopping center spot by Persona Medical Spa. Ruggles announced the move out of the westernmost suite of 2311 W. Alabama at the end of 2014, and the doors closed on New Year’s Day. The restaurant has now reopened in the street-facing ground floor retail space at the northeastern corner of the 5-story Gables Upper Kirby apartment midrise, which opened across W. Alabama from the less-dense Gables Waterford Square complex last year.

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Sprouting Next Door
02/16/16 4:17pm

Rendering of Slowpokes Coffee and Wine Bar, 1203 W. 34th St., Garden Oaks, Houston, 77018

Remodeling is underway at the former Primary Purpose Alcoholics Anonymous meeting space, as Suite D of the strip center at 1203 W. 34th St. is converted into Slowpokes wine, beer, and coffee bar. The new business is busy building its digital presence as it rehabs its physical space just south of the corner with Alba Rd.

The bar’s Instagram page shows the above photo of a screenshot of a rendering of the suite under renovation, which depicts a large patio spreading out into what is currently the strip center’s parking lot. Photos of carpet removal and wishful floor-taping have also been posted as interior construction begins:

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Repurposed in Garden Oaks
02/02/16 10:45am

1517 Blodgett St., Museum Park, Houston, 77004

The demo job on the strip center on Blodgett St. between Crawford and La Branch has finally been completed, following a multi-year pause. Until late last fall, the strip contained Sub-Saharan African art gallery Gallery Jatad (since departed to an Almeda Rd. location), while J Food Mart previously held down the fort on the opposite end of the row — but much of the middle of the complex (left, in the above photo) was gutted in 2013. Demo permits for the rest of the structure were issued on Thursday, and the building was down by late yesterday afternoon, a reader writes.

The land under the strip was bought by Trans Unity Partners in January 2015, with an eye toward developing the spot as the Chelsea at Museum District, an 18-story condo highrise. Back then, Trans Unity was uncertain about moving forward with the plan in light of predicted market conditions.

Specs for the Chelsea at Museum District (not to be confused with the highrise formerly known as Chelsea Montrose) mention 95-ish units atop 6 stories of parking. HAIF user urbannizer even dug up a draft rendering of the project, set artfully amid a field of flowers, last October:

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Now Off Display
01/25/16 10:15am

Former Johnny's Pizza House, 24437 Katy Fwy. Ste. 100, Katy, TX, 77494

East Coast Korean fried chicken chain Bonchon is planning a new location at 24437 Katy Fwy., between the Grand Parkway and Katy Mills Mall in the strip-center storefront previously occupied by Johnny’s Pizza House, which closed last year. The chain’s previous Dallas location, its first foray into Texas, opened to so much enthusiasm for its double-fried chicken that the location had to shut down for a week to regroup shortly after its December 2013 opening; half a year later, the location closed permanently. Bonchon’s second Texas trial will open next to Fix My Phone and Katy Peridontology and Oral Surgery.

Photo of former Johnny’s Pizza House location: Scott L. via Yelp

Fry, Fry Again
01/14/16 12:45pm

Focus Refined Eye Care, 515 Westheimer Rd., Avondale, Houston, 77006

Focus Refined Eye Care announced this week that the doors are open at 515 Westheimer Rd., at the far eastern end of the strip center also containing Osaka Japanese, BB’s Donuts, Nu Cuts Hair Salon, and e-cigarette shops The Vapor Lair. The storefront, next to the former home of lapsed-vegan Mexican restaurant Radical Eats, previously housed a Chartway Federal Credit Union branch.

A press release says the new shop will “eliminate the sterility of typical doctor’s visits”— the self-described ‘optometry spa’ will offer patrons alcohol in cocktail form as well as of the lens-cleaning variety, and eye-rubs will be thrown in for good measure at the start of each appointment. The spot will offer high-end tailored glasses (the combined product of new German diagnostic equipment and a fashion consultant).

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Wide Open on Westheimer
12/30/15 9:45am

Remodel of Heights Plaza, 420 E. 20th St., Heights, Houston, 77008

A makeover is underway at the Heights Plaza at 420 E. 20th St. between N. Main and Heights Blvd. Swamplot reader JerseyGirl sends photos of the strip center, once home to Sunny’s Washateria and J & R Boudin; the building is keeping some of its 1970s architectural details (such as those embedded cinderblocks) but is also getting some updates, including a total interior redo and a new white and bubblegum color scheme extending to the parking lot.

Workers on the site confirmed that one of the new tenants will be Birds Barbers, an Austin salon known for providing Shiner Bock as part of its customer experience — in addition to using it as a styling product, for “hair that is smooth and full of shine”. Steel City Pops will also move in — the Alabama-based popsicle chain, which the owner modeled off a Mexican paletas store encountered in Nashville, currently lists flavors including buttermilk, wassail, and spruce on the menu of their Dallas location.

Earlier renderings from Schaum & Shieh show the Heights Plaza strip center (to be rechristened The 420) as it may soon appear — give or take a high-gloss sheen, and those pink parking stops and bricks:

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Heights Gets the Birds