07/17/18 10:00am

HPD HAS NORTH HOUSTON MATTRESS STORE MURDERER IN CUSTODY The manhunt for alleged mattress store killer Jose Gilberto Rodriguez came to an end at N. Eldridge Pkwy. and Wortham Landing Dr. earlier this morning after a brief police chase, reports abc13. Just last night, Chief Art Acevedo identified Rodriguez — a 46-year-old parolee who was released from prison last September — as a suspect in 3 homicides over the last several days. He was believed to be driving a dark Nissan Sentra — Acevedo explained — that he took from his latest victim, an employee of the Mattress1One pictured above at I-45 and Crosstimbers found shot to death in the store yesterday afternoon. Previously on Saturday night, the manager of a Mattress Firm across from the Willowbrook Mall walked into that location’s back office and found a 28-year-old female employee lying dead between 2 mattresses. Between the 2 retail slayings, Rodriguez also allegedly shot and robbed a METRO Lift driver (who’s expected to recover), and earlier last week, killed a 62-year-old woman after breaking into her house on Bent Pine Dr. in Cypress. [abc13] Photo of Mattress1One at 4400 N. Fwy.: Jessica Willey

07/09/18 3:00pm

Since longtime Times Blvd. tenant G&G Model Shop left its storefront last August, the space has been whitened, renovated and snapped up by ArtMix Creative Learning Center — a children’s art school that relocated from 3701 W. Alabama St. earlier this year. But the model shop — located at 2522 Times for over 60 yearsremains attached to the space. A G&G representative told Swamplot previously that the metal sign would follow the business over to its new spot in the strip center at the corner of 59 and Shepherd (home to a few more elderly Rice Village expats as well).

But just last Thursday, a poster on HAIF noted that address is still crowned by a temporary vinyl banner:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Rice Village Relics
07/09/18 10:00am

The lights are on but no one’s home anymore at the Toys R Us on OST, shuttered along with the rest of the chain’s 18 Houston locations (including Babies R Us stores) since the end of last month. Flyers advertising everything-must-go-style sales have come down from the building’s front windows — and they weren’t exaggerating: restroom signs, cash registers, and other normally priceless appointments were pawned off during the store’s last days, reported KHOU’s Jessica Borg.

But not all of them. A few extra glances through the glass fronting the parking lot reveals a good deal of hardware that last-minute shoppers didn’t manage or didn’t care to get their hands on:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

No More Fun and Games
06/29/18 2:45pm

Pacific Poke is the latest newcomer to Houston’s booming raw fish restaurant scene, and it’s taking over the empty 1,802-sq.-ft. spot on Richmond once occupied by Starbucks, next to what’s now Roostar Vietnamese Grill. The Starbucks location — shown above —  closed down shortly before a brand-new Starbucks showed up across the street from it, just east of Chimney Rock in early 2016.

That left the building briefly vacant before Roostar arrived the following year in the spot next door to the abandoned coffee shop — now slated for a redo. Its Vietnamese restaurant space is shown below, done up with the 2-location chain’s abstract poultry-like logo:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Raw Seafood Chaser
06/27/18 12:00pm

Buc-ee’s scored a sweeping victory in Texas federal court last month when a judge found rival rest stop chain Choke Canyon guilty of 4 wrongs: trademark infringement, dilution, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment. But the battle might not be over: “Choke Canyon is expected to appeal,” reports Law360, “and Texas intellectual property experts say the store has a strong case that it was wrongly barred at trial from presenting key defense evidence.

Among the facts unheard during the 4-day trial: findings from an expert Choke Canyon commissioned to ask 300 people what they thought of the logos’ similarity. 99 percent of them “said there was no likelihood of confusion,” between the two.

Then there are the images that went unseen during the jury’s deliberation. Within that 6-hour period, jurors’ first question to Judge Keith P. Ellison was whether they should compare the set of logos pictured above — which includes the brands’ names — or picture-only versions, like the ones shown below:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Anatomy of the Case
06/21/18 1:00pm

The east side of the building that fronts McDuffie St. — next door to the River Oaks Theatre — has been quiet since an early Monday morning blaze torched Nail-Tique salon, doing some damage to the Steinway Piano Gallery in the process. It all started when an air conditioner on the roof overheated and caught fire, shorting the connection to an electrical box on the building that then ignited as well, reports the Chronicle.

No pianos caught fire — according to an employee at Epicure Cafe around the corner on W. Gray — but there was smoke damage in the music store, and firefighters busted out some of its windows to access the flaming salon next door. Nail-Tique is now closed indefinitely, while the adjacent piano store plans to reopen next month, as decreed by the sign now posted in its window. Unharmed by the blaze: the building’s movie theater anchor, reports one of its employees.

Photos: Swamplox inbox

McDuffie St.
06/21/18 10:30am

The shaggy customer base seeking a trim at the 1415 Richmond strip between Mandell and Yupon should see some increased biodiversity once The Pet Barber moves in 2-doors down from Henry’s Barber Shop. At nearly double the size of the neighboring human hair care facility, it’s ready to start transforming the space that once housed D&S Washateria (pictured at top) into a Castle Court companion to its existing Spring Branch grooming location.

The laundromat left sometime after Pepino’s gave way to Ms. Saigon Cafe and Michael’s Outpost on the west side of the building. Since then, The C Store also took off; its still-vacant Suite A — shown below in blue at the strip’s east end — is now the only hole left in the building:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Well-Groomed
06/15/18 1:00pm

The middle structure in the row of 3 warehouses on McFarland St. just north of Navigation is seeing some new action since former NASA flight controller Caroline Kostak turned it into RePurpose Depot, a material reuse retail space selling cheap lumber, siding, flooring, fixtures, and other supplies and furnishings. Before opening the retail operation last December, she’d worked on salvaging materials from soon-to-be demolished houses. The space at 305 McFarland now draws its inventory from those kinds of deconstruction missions as well as donations.

That makes it a hub for homeowners looking for building supplies after Harvey, along with thrifters seeking more ornamental, DIY-ish trinkets. A grand opening is planned for next Saturday, June 23.

Photos: Swamplox inbox

Off Navigation
06/13/18 10:45am

Almost all the metal siding that covered up the Midtown Sears building at 4201 Main has now been taken down, leaving behind rows of metal brackets used to mount the outer shell. Mayor Turner announced 2 months ago that the building would be turned into a startup incubation headquarters, and work to pull down the cladding began shortly after.

A few decorative details are now visible from the street, as shown below from Fannin:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

2401 Main
06/05/18 10:30am

A new eatery is on its way to the Montrose shop called Montrose at 1723 Westheimer, a block west of Dunlavy. The toponymic women’s clothing boutique had about a 3-year run in the space before it went out of business, leaving the building vacant. Just last week, the developers behind the coming Eastern European restaurant filed plans with the city to remodel the 1,830-sq.-ft. structure into something more Turkish and culinary: Cafe Bosphorus. A banner hung up on the left storefront window store heralds its arrival.

Photos: Hipster Hotspots (Montrose Shop); Cafe Bosphorus (sign)

Cafe Bosphorus
06/04/18 1:00pm

Engineering firm The Interfield Group is hoping to score a trio of variances that will allow it to swap out its existing dingbat office building (above) at the Heights landing point of the Studemont St. bridge for a much larger mixed-use development (depicted at top) dubbed Heights Gateway. The new 8-story complex rests on the stealth-bomber-shaped parcel at 401 Studewood outlined in the aerial above. It’s split between a residential portion (shown beneath the lettering in the rendering) and a glass curtain-walled office section to the north — all of which rests atop a floodable 2-story parking garage plinth.

Its lowest parking level — indicated in the site plan below — includes a main entrance off Studewood that runs between the work and live sections of the complex:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Heights Gateway
06/01/18 1:00pm

NO HOUSTON SEARS AXED TODAY Each and every Houston Sears location has survived this year’s second round of cuts — announced by the retailer’s parent company yesterday. 48 locations total will shutter, as well as 15 Kmarts — which are no longer native to Houston. Over the past 15 months, Sears Holding Company has closed 530 stores between both brands. In that same time frame, Houston lost 4 Sears: at 9570 Southwest Fwy., West Oaks Mall, Friendswood’s Baybrook Mall — and the oldest of the bunch — in Midtown. Three locations beyond Beltway 8 — in Baytown’s San Jacinto Mall and Humble’s Deebrook Mall, and the Pasadena Town Square — went up for auction in April, but all remain open for business. [USA Today; closures; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Sears at 4000 N. Shepherd Dr.: Eric B.

05/29/18 4:00pm

Now gunning for Fast Traffic Auto Workshop’s garage and adjoining apartment on Austin St.: Next Level, Houston’s second planned but not-yet-open eSports venue. Following the auto shop owner’s retirement, the competitive videogaming hub has plans to stock the place with virtual reality gaming rigs, 40 PC setups, and a dozen or more gaming consoles — all of which will plug in somewhere between a planned competition stage, full bar, and “custom tabletop gaming tables” for lower-tech games.

The photo at top views the corner of the garage from McIlhenny St. It occupies the northeast spot on the Austin St. block where a foursome of bars plans to move in, next to the strip building at 2404 that CORE Church Midtown recently departed:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Press Start
05/23/18 4:00pm

Longtime Gulfton activist Tammy Rodriguez’s likeness is now fully rendered in the mural above, as well as that of Pastor Alejandro Montes, to her right. The pair makes up one third of the population now flanking the Salvation Army store’s west side along Ashcroft Dr. off Bissonnet, a block east of Hillcroft Ave. Chicago-based artist Rahmaan Statik (who got some design inspiration from students at Braeburn Elementary School) plans to have the work complete for an unveiling ceremony this Saturday.

It’s one in a set of 3 murals that public art organization UP Art Studio has planned for each side of the thrift store building — except for the south face, pictured above — as part of a project dubbed “Growing a Brighter Tomorrow in Gulfton.”

Work on the east side began with this preparatory whitewashing:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Bissonnet and Ashcroft
05/18/18 12:15pm

BUC-EE’S VS. CHOKE CANYON: BATTLE OF THE ROADSIDE MASCOTS The jury trial began yesterday in a federal lawsuit Buc-ee’s filed 3 years ago against Choke Canyon, a rival, San Antonio rest-stop chain with a cartoon alligator mascot Buc-ee’s claims is too similar to its own trademark grinning beaver. Buc-ee’s’s lawyer Tracy Richardson (who’s also on the legal team for the chain’s other ongoing infringement suit against Nebraska-based Bucky’s), reports the Chronicle’s Gabrielle Banks, kicked things off with a digital slideshow that chronicled the evolution of Choke Canyon’s gator species over time: “‘They put a human hat on the alligator,’ he said, ‘they opened his mouth. Then they made him stand, which — I’ve never seen an alligator stand.'” Couple that with the animals’ big eyes, red tongue, yellow background, and associated aquatic environs — said Richardson — and the likeness is confusing. (“You’re driving down the road at 80 miles per hour and you see a sign,” he said. “Did you really see what the logo was?”) Also at issue: Choke Canyon’s use of Buc-ee’s-like design elements in its stores, including a vaguely Alamo-like parapet front, stone siding, khaki-colored paint, and oversized bathrooms. (“We have large, clean bathrooms,” said Choke Canyon’s lawyer. “The last time I looked that’s not illegal.”) The jurors will be asked to decide “whether Choke Canyon set out to or actually did confuse customers with the overlap.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Logos: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas