RADIOSHACK TO CLOSE A BUNCH MORE STORES NOW THAT IT’S BANKRUPT AGAIN The roster of planned store closings in the wake RadioShack’s déjà-vu declaration of bankruptcy last week now includes 11 Houston-ish addresses, according to the company’s handy filter map of inventory clearance sales. An initial list of this round’s Chapter 11 location casualties, filed in court and published on Friday by Consumerist, limited the roll call of the soon-to-shutter to just 4 strip centers ’round town: the RadioShack on Hillcroft Dr. near Richmond Ave. (between Galaly Furniture and Liberty Income Tax); the one in the Bellaire Triangle (where Best Optometrists used to be); the Rice Village-adjacent Kirby Dr. location, between Creative Blinds and Loan Star Title Loans; and the S. Gessner location near US-59, which shares a strip mall with LA Crawfish, Iglesia de Dios Shammah, and the dental office of Hanh Nguyen. Back in its heyday, RadioShack once sported some 80-plus Houston stores; the last time the company declared bankruptcy, back in 2015, some 32 of the area’s then-77 locations were initially marked for closure. The number of Houston-area stores remaining, prior to the announcement of this latest wave of goodbyes, was down to the high 20s — putting early estimates of the remaining Houston ‘Shack count down to the mid-teens. [Previously on Swamplot] Map of closing RadioShacks (in red): RadioShack
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE HIGH-SPEED RAIL BUBBA RESCUE SCENARIO “HSR going bankrupt isn’t the worst deal around. Consider: TCR takes a bunch of Japanese + hedge fund money, fails to pay off capital costs, goes into receivership, forfeits the right-of-way to the state for failure to pay back taxes, TxDOT leases right-of-way for 99 years to a consortium of investors led by Tilman Fertitta, after which all trains have cocktails and coconut shrimp served on board. I wouldn’t complain.” [Purple City, commenting on Land Purchases Beginning Along Proposed Houston-to-Dallas Bullet Train Route]
A few ominous tidbits from the website of John Speer’s latest building venture, Vestalia Homes, which makes no mention of Speer’s former company, Royce Builders — or the more than $17 million Royce still owes its creditors:
When it comes to homebuilding, we understand that it is not just about making the customer happy. As the expert, we are committed to doing the little things of which the customer may not even be aware. . . .
And on the “Build on Your Lot” page:
It’s about trust.
Trusting your land and your dream home to a builder is a major decision. Placing your trust in the right builder is more than just a matter of choosing a builder who intends to please you. . . .
Does the builder have a reputation for delivering results?
Vestalia’s partners and builders have decades of experience in delivering excellence in homebuilding. Our team has “seen it all” and we understand the importance of communication in building a custom home. Our team’s track record speaks volumes.
Photo of unfinished entry, 18522 Arlan Lake Dr., for sale: Vestalia Homes
THURSDAY IS ROYCE BUILDERS TURKEY DAY! “There are dozens of homeowners, contractors and other consumers who lost money when Royce closed its doors. If you are one of these people or businesses, November 26th is the deadline for filing a “proof of claim” in Royce’s bankruptcy. If you file, you may be reimbursed when any of Royce’s remaining assets are distributed among creditors. There’s no guarantee you will see any money. But it’s a sure bet you’ll never get a dime if you don’t file. If you had a warranty on your home, but you haven’t been able to get the work done because of the bankruptcy, there is a value on the warranty that you are owed. If you put earnest money down on a home that never closed, and you never got a refund, you should file. . . . For now, the Royce bankruptcy trustee says Royce owes more than $17 million; but he believes it’s much more… and that many people just haven’t filed.” [Ask Amy Blog]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHERE O WHERE HAS OUR SUBDIVISION’S BUILDER GONE? “Does anyone have any information of OBRA HOMES bankruptcy? I am also in TimberMeadows and a few of us are trying to organize a meeting this coming Sunday, Nov 15th at 6 pm to see about hiring an attorney to contact OBRA Homes. Any info will help. Thanks.” [Miguel, commenting on Obra Homes Secret Hiding Place Revealed!]
BANKRUPT HOUSTON RECYCLER AbitibiBowater, the Canadian paper company that runs Houston’s residential recycling operation — and which recently began a pilot single-stream program in a few Houston neighborhoods — declared bankruptcy earlier this month. “The central question is how this bankruptcy could impact the city’s already abysmal recycling rates, which city officials hoped would go up considerably after the implementation of single stream, a wood-waste program and an upcoming contract for recycling in city buildings. Gary Readore, the chief of staff for the Solid Waste Management Department, said he has spoken with Abitibi officials in Houston who said the bankruptcy would not impact their operations.” [Houston Politics]
Ready for the market: the site of the Great Tuscan Wedding Fantasy Crash of ’08! Listing agent Bill Burge says the sellers of the wedding venue in Garden Oaks once known as the Tuscany Gardens and Villa will be asking $4.5 million.
The Tuscany of Garden Oaks, at 835 W. 34th St., was built from the ashes of the famed Bill Mraz Ballroom, by Titus Inc. — operators of that other wedding stage set on Chimney Rock, Bella Terrazza. Titus of course is better known as the company that stranded all those brides and grooms without the $2 million in deposits they had paid for their weddings before Hurricane Ike hit. (Though maybe the company isn’t quite so well known: HCAD lists the property’s owner as “Tutus Inc.”)
We all know the ending: Rachael Ray swooped in and gave that big de-Tuscanized group wedding in the middle of the baseball field at Minute Maid Park — and 33 couples got to get married on teevee for free! Happily ever after, right? Well, almost.
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CIRCUIT CITY SHORTS OUT Last week Circuit City announced it would close 155 stores nationwide, including its Sharpstown and League City stores in Houston. But this morning the electronics retailer announced it is filing for bankruptcy too. “‘This is a major positive’ for Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Costco Wholesale Corp. and others, Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter said in a note. ‘We have not seen a consumer electronic retailer successfully reorganize in Chapter 11 in our 24 years in this space. Should (Circuit City) ultimately close all of its operations, we assume there’s roughly $10.5 billion of annual domestic sales up for grabs. Best Buy should take a disproportionate share of that business.’” [Marketwatch]
What’s a failed homebuilder to do when it hurriedly goes belly-up . . . but still has a huge chunk of inventory on hand?
Welcome to the Royce Builders Already-Gone-Out-of-Business Home Sale!
How’s it work? Well, if you’re a lucky real-estate agent, you receive a mysterious message with a couple of attachments listing the more than 300 homes in the Greater Houston area the . . . uh, former company still has available! In 49 different neighborhoods around town! And all at discount prices!
Included with the list: a map of the neighborhoods Royce graced (shown above), demonstrating the company’s vast exurban spread.
Of course, the email message doesn’t come from Royce Builders, because Royce is . . . no longer with us. (And, to judge from the comments coming into Swamplot from recent Royce buyers, employees, and vendors, it is sorely missed!) The list comes instead from an email address on the h-smith.com domain. That hyphen, of course, stands for “ammer.” Didn’t Hammersmith Financial, Royce’s sister mortgage company, also go out of business?
But the property list is so much more fun than a collection of random way-far-out addresses:
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DELINQUENT DEBT: WEST OAKS MALL SALE! Here’s another chance to clean up some of the wreckage left by mysterious investor Edward Okun: “West Oaks Mall in Houston . . . has $81.3 million in delinquent debt attached to it in the form of commercial mortgage-backed securities. Joseph Luzinski, the federally appointed bankruptcy trustee for West Oaks Mall, said he hopes to sell the mall by year’s end, though store closures continue to hamper its value. [The mall] . . . is about 80% occupied, having lost a J.C. Penney, Linens ‘n Things and Whitehall Jewelers. The mall recently cut a deal to keep its Steve & Barry’s LLC store open amid that retailer’s bankruptcy. The special servicer for the mall’s debt, LNR Partners Inc., attempted to foreclose in September 2007, but Mr. Okun forestalled the move by putting the mall into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection the next month. A federal grand jury indicted Mr. Okun on fraud charges last March after his 1031 Tax Group LLP, a company that helped facilitate tax-free real-estate deals for small investors, collapsed into bankruptcy and didn’t return $132 million of investors’ money.” [Wall St. Journal; previously]
Royce Builders has finally shut down. The company slipped out somewhere between gusts of Hurricane Ike, leaving only a note on its website.
Looking for an earnest money refund? Try Royce’s handy new sounds-like-spam Gmail address! But do it before October 1, because . . . well, just because.
Got a home warranty issue? Well then, just . . . read the warranty!
A reader comments:
My concern is for the people who closed on one of their poorly built homes in the last 365 days. Royce was the backer of the new home warranty for the first year of ownership and now they are gone. My friends who used to work for them tell me there are thousands of unfinished warranty requests that were never completed or even addressed. I wish all the home owners good luck on getting things fixed. At least they will have the Two to Ten Waranty beginning in the second year (if Royce paid the premium).
Royce’s happy farewell message is after the jump!
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