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
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
The pointy partially built retail shell spotted last August— empty, glassless, and seemingly left to fallow in the field at 4061 Spencer Hwy. — has since been covered over with the usual Krispy Kreme trappings, Lauren Meyers notes. Construction accessories were still parked on-site as recently as last week, and the grass growing freely beyond the Comerica Bank hedge was fully scraped away some time early this spring, presumably as part of the parking lot growth process. The site has yet to be added back to the company’s list of planned grand openings, however. And that other partially-baked location, just inside the South Loop west of Main St., was still wrapped in little more than its summer Tyvek as of Easter.
Photos: Lauren Meyers
Spencer Hwy. Dressup
CONN’S SLOWS GROWTH, LOOKS TO SQUEEZE MORE FROM DEBT COLLECTION, MATTRESSES Previously investigated home appliance and furniture retailer Conn’s is slowing down on plans to add new stores in the wake of the quarterly net losses announced yesterday, Mike D. Smith writes this afternoon. The Woodlands-based national chain (which has about 20 Houston area locations and 55 in Texas) has scaled back expansion plans to adding just 3 stores next fiscal year, despite grander talk last December. Among the initiatives in the works to boost profits: pushing the store’s mix of goods toward more higher-margin items like furniture and mattresses. Also on the list: boosting customers’ interest rates on in-house loans repayments and adding more months to payback plans. National retail consultant Howard Davidowitz tells Smith that both ideas look like steps toward a more sustainable business model for the company (which has been threatened with a class action lawsuit by its investors for allegedly hiding profit losses caused by targeting customers with lower credit scores): “The reality is, that’s how people live,” Davidowitz said. “The question is, ‘How much am I paying every month?’ And that’s going to determine in their minds whether they can afford it.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo of Conn’s at 11051 Hwy. 290 in Spring Branch: Conn’s
A field of rippling grass between the Denny’s and the Comerica Bank branch on Spencer Hwy. currently holds the half-finished form of one of the Krispy Kreme donut shops planned as part of the chain’s post-lawsuit re-emergence into the Houston market. The chain still has the location on its list of upcoming grand opening donut-campouts (labeled as down-the-street 4601 Spencer Hwy., though both Eater Houston and a look at neighboring addresses put the property number at or around 4061), but arch-ive-ist and daily demo reporter Lauren Meyers notes the overgrown site is pretty light on signs of active work.
Some of Fisher Elementary’s T-buildings can be seen loitering to the rightt, with the stadium lights of the McGuire baseball field and track facility rising distantly in the background on the right; on the west side of the building is a would-be drive-thru window:
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Cold Now on Spencer Hwy.
Work is underway for the Cane Rosso headed for 4306 Yoakum Blvd., in the low-lying side-attachment to the Hansen Partners’ 6-story office building at the corner with Richmond Ave. The office complex was wrapped up in 2014 following the 2012 clear-out of the apartments previously occupying the same site.
The opening of the Montrose Cane Rosso location will likely lag a few months behind that of the Dallas pizza chain’s first Houston location at 1835 N. Shepherd Dr., where a glittery gold-tiled oven is already decorating the former Houston Alternator space at 19th St. as it prepares to open later this spring. (The custom oven at the Montrose spot, shown above, will also only get gold accents, rather than the full Midas treatment.) But some blocky renderings of what the Yoakum space could look like, if all goes as planned, are already out for consumption — here’s an aerial view of the exterior from the corner of Yoakum and Richmond, with the office building making a ghostly appearance in transparent gray to the right of the frame:
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Kitchen Prep on Yoakum
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.
Blogger and amateur bedding-sales analyst Christopher Andrews has updated a few of his maps of mattress chain stores in the Houston area (including the one shown above) to include Mattress One (or Mattress1 One, or Mattress 1 One, as the company variously refers to itself). Altogether, that Florida-and-Texas chain, plus Mattress Firm and Mattress Pro (owned by Mattress Firm), operate 166 separate retail locations in the region.
Map: Christopher Andrews
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
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
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