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
That slow-to-develop retail district on the old prison farm in Sugar Land, rehabilitated into The Crossing at Telfair, appears to be locking up a new occupant. This sign, says the reader who snapped the photo, recently popped up behind the Whataburger and the H-E-B on Hwy. 6, just to the north along University Blvd. of the site where that new 6,500-seat performance hall is planned to be built. No opening date for the Austin Tex-Mex chain has been announced, though the Sugar Land Sun reports that the place should be good to go by the end of the year.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
A reader sends photo of the construction progress of the replacement McDonald’s near the corner of Elgin and Cullen on the University of Houston campus. The McDonald’s that used to stand here was torn down in early June. A regional rep says that this new one should be ready by the time classes resume.
Photos: Thomas Heinold
The 11-year run is coming to an end: According to a letter signed by franchise operator Charles Gibson and posted in the store’s window, June 14 will be the last day for this Webster Chick-Fil-A. The letter explains that TxDOT has purchased the property with plans to expand I-45. Across that freeway from the Baybrook Mall, this Chick-Fil-A is the northernmost chain of that cluster of ’em accessible via the feeder from Bay Area Blvd.
Photo: Panoramio user MrQuick
It would seem that McDonald’s has resolved the steely staring contest between these 2 signs from 2 different eras, having gone ahead and ushered out the old restaurant here on Elgin and Cullen near the U of H campus to put up a brand-new one, a regional rep from the company confirms. No renderings of the next generation are available yet, but the rep says that it should be open in time for the fall semester.
Photo: Allyn West
FLESHING OUT WILLOWBROOK’S DINING OPTIONS Rivals in that niche sports-and-cleavage market Twin Peaks and Hooters will have a bit more competition starting today, reports Eater Houston, and this from the only restaurant that’s legally allowed to call itself a “breastaurant:” Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill — which in April trademarked the term — opened its first location last month in The Woodlands; this new one will be at the former Burger Girl at 17117 Tomball Pkwy. near the Willowbrook Mall. And what, you might wonder, sets Bikinis apart? It might be the food: “In addition to traditional American bar-and-grill fare and cocktails and microbrews,” reports the Houston Business Journal, “Bikinis offers its Big Bucking Burger. Customers can win a T-shirt if they finish the $24.95 five-pound burger on their own.” [Eater Houston; Houston Chronicle; Houston Business Journal] Photo: Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill