Shock of the Redo: The Garden Oaks Strip Center Miracle on 34th St.

Swamplot advertiser Robert Searcy typically knows his way around southeast Houston, but finds himself a bit disoriented on a recent venture north to Garden Oaks. An encounter with the former strip-center home of Binswanger Glass at North Shepherd and 34th St. has him stumped:

Someone renovated it and anyone who takes a center like this and DOESN’T slather it in stucco with the obligatory strip of crown molding on the top, well, in my book they deserve kudos just for that. They seemed to have brought it back to its original design. There is one tenant in there now and a sign on the corner slot saying an application to sell liquor has been filed. It says it is for some kind of a coffee shop named Octane, (but apparently one that sells booze too). At any rate, a sensitive renovation and then a tenant mix that isn’t a combo of a check cashing place, a nail salon & a subway sandwich shop? I don’t know how to act.

Oh, but part of it’s already gone to the dogs:


Hi, Octane!

Update: Renovation architect Phil Schawe and Venture Commercial take credit.

Photos: Robert Searcy

27 Comment

  • I wish they would do this to the strip center on Ella between 34th and 43rd!

  • mstark- I agree! That strip center looks so sad!

  • “but apparently one that sells booze too”

    Similar to Onion Creek Cafe on White Oak Drive.

  • We should all go to the dogs in such style – Molly’s Mutt House is the best!

  • Thanks! I was the architect on that renovation and Venture Commercial is the owner. We also worked on the renovation of the art deco center at 11th and Yale.

  • Thank you Phil for the wonderful work that you do! Kudos!!!

  • It is so easy (and so common) for these type of centers to go down a very different path. I hope they are able to do more like this. Great job!

  • Thank you Phil, that is quite lovely and in keeping with what the neighborhood was about.

  • Nice work in both places, Phil!

  • WOW Phil, your renovation is amazing! I wish that Swamplot would include the architects name when such a stunning renovation occurs! Keep up the good work around the neighborhood.

  • Love the 11th at Yale reno too. Thanks Phil!

  • Its is a great job and this seemed to only take a few weeks/month to pull off. Now if they could PLEASE turn their attention to the horror show that is the half assed renovation of the appartments down the street on 34th this little slice of my neighborhood will be perfect.

  • @SuMac Washington: Swamplot hopes architects who do interesting projects will send us pix and credits themselves!

  • I’ll echo the above – a big thanks to Phil and the work done on both retail centers. Two less eyesores for Houston in my opinion!

  • Congrats to Phil Schawe, the center looks great.

    I’ve been talking to the proprietors of Octane and can’t wait for their coffee, baked goods, sandwiches and alcoholic beverages – whenever the interior build out gets out of permit hell, that is. Bring on the gentrification!

  • Is Octane at all related to the owners of Petrol Station in the same neighborhood? Just a guess…

    Also, kudos to Phil for his part in the renovation–it looks fantastic!

  • Great, just great. Now where do I buy my vacuum cleaner bags? (you’d have to be a local…)

    It is fabu. If there is anything we Swamp Rats can do to see more like this, be in touch.

  • I recently moved to the area and hope more things like this get fixed- and niced-up a bit, but certainly retain their identity. I specifically did *not* want to move to cheap stucco and faux-marble cornice land.

    Kudos to Phil *and* Venture Commercial!

  • It seems to me that you cannot lose when you renovate such a structure in an approprite way. I am a realtor in the Heights, and I constantly hear comments about the amazing renovation at Yale & 11th.

  • To Finness

    I grew up a local. I agree the redo is very well done and I can remember my mother going to the vacuum and sewing machine store. Now if only the right hand corner would be reoccupied by Binswanger which was in that location at least 50 years. I can remember in 1956 going there with my dad to get glass after I broke my first window at our house with a baseball. Unfortunately it took me a few more trips over the years to learn my lesson.

  • Great to see a nice period reno rather than a generic strip mall. Nicely done from the pics. Would love more well done places like this in the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest with quality localy owned service stores and eateries/drinkeries (e.g. Petrol, Plonk, Doyles, Mytiburger etc…).

  • Would love to see more work go into fixing up some of the places on Ella between the loop and 43rd. The old fiesta would be a great place for a roller rink!

  • Does anyone have the lowdown on the old Fiesta? I had heard it contained asbestos. In any event mowing it down and growing grass there would be a great alternative to seeing that delapidated building every time I drive home. Oh yeah. And kudos to the builder who took it on himself to landscape the median and add a sprinkler system between Judiway and 43rd.

  • It’s not likely the builder did the landscape in the median. Much of the 43rd landscaping is from local residents and community groups in the area.

  • The sign for Octane has been up for a few weeks now. Does anyone (else) know what type of place this will be? There’s not a whole LOT of parking available for this strip center, so drawing a big crowd for food & drink could be a challenge.

  • To Venture Commercial, first of all THANK YOU for Octane, Pink’s and Molly’s Mutt House. Second, please please please no check cashing, cell phone, mattress or pawn shops. Garden Oaks residents routinely drive to the Heights and Washington Avenue to dine out. How about a Smashburger, Cafe Express, Shade / Canopy or a pub? I live 2 blocks away and am thrilled with what’s happened so far.