Roy Rogers in Corpus Christi

The Corpus Christi location (shown from Google Street View), later became part of Whataburger's former headquarters

Many restaurant chains have come and gone over the years in South Texas but one of the ones that I found recently and one I didn't know that even had a presence in Texas was Roy Rogers.

Roy Rogers originally started in 1967 as a spinoff of Azar's Big Boy called RoBee's House Of Beef in Ft Wayne, Indiana and would later be acquired by the Marriott Corporation in 1968 along with the Big Boy chain itself. However, during the acquisition in January 1968, Arby's sued RoBee's for trademark infringement (the name sounded similar to Arby's) and unfair competition, Big Boy founder Bob Wian who was sitting on the board of directors of Marriott was friends with the agent of actor Roy Rogers and suggested Marriott approach Rogers for the use of his name on the restaurants. Rogers agreed and the restaurants would now be called "Roy Rogers Roast Beef" with the first location opening in Virginia in April 1968 along with another in Maryland. Both of these locations were conversions of an existing fast food chain that Marriott had called Jr Hot Shoppes.

A 1971 ad for the Corpus Christi location. Source: newspapers.com

After the success of the first two restaurants, Marriott began to aggressively push for a huge expansion for the chain in other states and one of them was Texas. The Texas franchisee, Ram-Hart Systems opened stores in Houston, Irving, Bryan, and Corpus Christi with Houston having the most locations at 8. The Corpus location had opened around 1969 in the now long gone Parkdale Square which was a smaller shopping center across from the much larger Parkdale Plaza. Unfortunately, the Corpus location wouldn't last long as Ram-Hart Systems would file for bankruptcy in 1971 due to financial problems with the chain itself and would end up terminating the lease for the Corpus Christi store as it was unprofitable. After Roy Rogers closed, the Corpus location would later become a German restaurant called Fritz Dinkelbender until 1979 when Whataburger purchased the land for their then corporate headquarters and incorporated the restaurant into their headquarters for some reason or another. The former restaurant building stayed like this for years until Physicians Premier bought Whataburger's old headquarters and renovated the section where the restaurant once stood. As for the Roy Rogers chain itself, it had left Texas before the 70's ended and has yet to return back.

Introducing the all new STR Retail Database!

 


I apologize for the lack of content recently but I want to present you all with an all new website that I just started - The STR Retail Database! Here you'll be able to access all the lists that I've created of former retail and restaurants in South Texas. These lists will focus on retail and restaurant chains that are no longer in the area or have gone out of business. Unlike this site, there won't be any regular posting but I will announce when I update a new database. For more information on how it works, head on over there


Until next time,

South Texas Retail

Red Line Burgers: Corpus Christi's other burger chain

 

The Calallen Red Line Burgers location. Source: Loopnet.com

When mentioning Corpus Christi and chain restaurants, the first name that comes to mind is Whataburger. Since 1950, this burger chain has become a household name across Texas and a few other states as well. And while it might not be based in Corpus or even family owned and operated anymore, it's still beloved among Texans today. But back in the 80's and 90's, there was another burger chain out of Corpus Christi that challenged Whataburger's popularity. One that, until recently was thought to be a distant memory. That chain is Red Line Burgers.

Back in the mid-late 80's, many new restaurant chains started to pop up across the US that offered a "back to basics" approach to fast food. These places were small footprint buildings which focused only on drive thru and walk up service with no indoor seating to save on costs. One of the first of these chains was Hot N Now which opened it's first restaurant in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1984. Following in the success of Hot N Now, more restaurant chains with the similar concept started to open up such as Central Park, Burger Time, Rally's, and Checkers (the later 2 would enter Texas around this time). Even national chains like Chick-Fil-A would also try their hand at the concept. Not wanting to be outdone by the competition, Texas responded with chains of it's own such as Short Stop, Fajita Junction, Puffin Billy's, Burger Street, and Red Line Burgers. 


The Ayers location under construction in the early 90's. Source: caller.com

Red Line was founded in 1986 with their first location at 4839 S Staples St across from Padre Staples Mall and it was an instant hit from the start due to their great food and fast service which reflected in their slogan "Great Hamburgers & Fries, Fast Service". The buildings had a very retro feel to them with chromed facades, neon, and red tiles which made them stand out from other competitors. The original Staples location was followed up with locations at 3920 S Padre Island Dr, 2621 Port Ave, 4989 Ayers St, 3505 Leopard St, and FM 624 near Calallen.



By the late 80's and early 90's, the chain had started to expand into other Texas cities. In 1994, Red Line would acquire Short Stop and convert most of their locations to Red Line Burgers. At the time, Red Line had 55 restaurants with 36 of those under franchise agreements with Rally's. Unfortunately, the expansion wouldn't be enough to save the chain and by the early 2000's, most of the restaurants had closed with the final location in Dallas closing in 2015 (I've also been told that the competition was why they went under). But it was still far from the end of the chain....

In 2018, the name would return on a food truck in Corpus Christi and everyone thought that it would be the return of the Red Line name but it turned out to be far removed from the original that was so beloved long ago. Then in 2020, the original Red Line Burgers announced their return via Facebook with a website and a temporary location in Portland, TX and plans to add more locations in Texas very soon.

Cullen Mall: Corpus Christi's first indoor shopping mall

Cullen Mall in 1993. Source: caller.com

If you've lived in Corpus Christi for a long time, you might think Padre Staples Mall (now La Palmera) might've been the city's first indoor shopping mall when it opened in 1970. But go back a decade and you'll see that Cullen Mall held the honor of being the first indoor shopping mall in Corpus.

 

An architect's sketch of Cullen Mall. Source: caller.com

Plans were announced on April 1963 for the 92,000 square feet mall to be built at the Airline and Alameda intersection. Those plans would include a lease for a 22.000 square-foot H-E-B grocery store along with other tenants. Construction would start in July of that year. Since indoor shopping malls were relatively new at the time, the city's building codes lacked previsions to get the mall approved. The city board of building approvals had to call a meeting in order to get the developers to make changes and get the required approvals to build the mall.


The mall interior in 1997. Source: caller.com

This caused a slight delay in the build process of the mall. The H-E-B opened in December 1963 while work began on the other sections of the mall in March 1964. By the end of the year, Kress & Co Variety Store, Bayview Pharmacy, Peerless Cleaners, and a couple of other tenants had opened. The official grand opening of the mall was in July 1965. Other tenants the mall has had over the years are Mr Gatti's Pizza, The Needle Nook, Ballyhoo's Sports Bar & Eatery, Rainbow Book & Learning Center, Gallery Of Fine Arts, Encore Restaurant, The Spy Shack, and a box office. Here's an ad for the grand opening of the mall and one from 1975 showing their then current businesses.


Detail of one of the walls in the mall. Source: caller.com

Although an indoor mall was a relief in the South Texas heat, the mall would face major competition from the larger Padre Staples and Sunrise Mall in the 70's and 80's. It was around this time that the mall would start to decline and lose tenants. Kress would close in the mid 70's and H-E-B closed in 1984 when it was replaced with a new store on Robert and Alameda. Bob's Market took over the old H-E-B in 1988 but wouldn't last long. A few businesses would open in the outdoor facing storefronts but they too wouldn't survive.


The mall entrance in 1997. Source: caller.com 

The last indoor tenant would close in 1995 along with the mall itself. Around this time, a freestanding Eckerd (now CVS) pharmacy was built on a portion of the mall's site. In 1999, the mall was demolished with the only remnant being Ritter Laundry and Cleaning Service as a stand-alone business. The site would sit vacant until the mid-late 2000's when a Navy Army credit union and a strip mall was built on it. Ritter (now Peerless Cleaners) would close around this time and would be demolished around the early 2010's, marking the true final end to the mall. The site is now being re-developed into a car wash.

The high's and low's of Sunrise Mall

 

Sunrise Mall in 2002. Source: caller.com

With the recent closure of Sears and the mall interior, I'd thought it'd be a good time to look back on the history of Sunrise Mall and why it got to where it is now.


Joske's was one of the original anchors when the mall opened in 1981. Source: caller.com

Ground was broken for the mall on November 1, 1979 with the build process spanning over 15 months. The grand opening was February 4, 1981 with Joske's, Frost Bros, and Sears (which had pre-dated the mall by seven years) as the malls anchor tenants. There was also an HEB grocery store on the site that also opened around the same time as Sears did.


The Foot Locker store in 2003. Source: sunrise-mall.net via Internet Archive 

Other tenants the mall had over the years are The Peanut Shack, Casual Corner, Gap, Contempo Casuals, Whataburger, B Dalton Bookseller, Benjamin's Surf & Skate, Susann's Jewelers, Banana Republic, Benetton, James Avery Craftsman, Ray's Mexican Restaurant, Carlyle & Co. Jewelers, 5-7-9, J. Rigging's, Cristine's, Buster Brown Shoes, Your Fathers Mustache, Sanborn International Travel, Florsheim Shoes, Sweeney's Jewelers, The Strawberry Patch, Holograms Unlimited, The General Store, and The Limited. Here's an archived version of the mall's website from 2001 that showed their then current tenant list.


Inside of the mall from the 1981 grand opening. Source: SoTex via Flickr

In the early 80's the mall competed very well with neighboring Padre Staples Mall with retailers choosing to duplicate locations at Sunrise rather than leaving Padre Staples. As some longtime residents have stated, "Sunrise Mall was THE place to be in the 80's". The mall's popularity would hit it's peak in 1984 when the mall was used for filming several scenes including a chase scene down the escalators for the movie The Legend Of Billie Jean which would be released the following year. Although the movie wasn't a huge box office hit when it first came out, it is now a cult classic today and helped raise awareness of the mall in recent years due to the fact that it still looks the same as it did back then.


Mervyn's (shown in 2005) was added as a fourth mall anchor in 1987. Source: caller.com

Not wanting to rest on it's Hollywood stardom and to keep up with the renovations and expansion Padre Staples made in 1985, Sunrise would also follow suit and make their own renovations and expansion in 1987. One of them was to add Mervyn's as a fourth mall anchor which, unlike Foley's would have a second floor that opened up to the upper level of the mall.


The food court Chick-Fil-A in 2003. Source: sunrise-mall.net via Internet Archive

The other changes mirrored that of Padre Staples' updates. Two multi story parking garages were added to replace the older rooftop parking, while a nautical themed food court and a Dollar Cinema were added to the upper level of the mall. Unfortunately, these changes would be what sealed the mall's fate.

In 1987, Joske's was purchased by Dillard's who elected to keep the Padre Staples store open and closed the one at Sunrise. Montgomery Ward however, stepped in and took over the location in November of that year. After the renovations were completed in 1988, Frost Bros would close their store in April of that year due to financial issues. This would mark the end of the upscale feel the mall had and many of the national retailers would ether close or retreat to Padre Staples Mall.


Sunrise Mall in 1993. Photo credit: caller.com

In the 90's, the mall started to become more discount orientated. The now closed HEB store was connected to the mall by a long corridor and became Stein Mart in 1990. Frost Bros would become Burlington Coat Factory in 1992. The only other national tenants the mall would get around this time were Oshman's SuperSports USA and Wendy's.


The mural in the passageway between Stein Mart and the mall. Source: caller.com 

One of the more interesting things the mall got during this time was a huge 11x130 foot mural done by Eric Penn of Vrigina Beach in the passageway between Stein Mart and the mall. The wall depicted the sea with various marine life as a reference to Corpus Christi nature as a "city by the sea" while the top depicted the sky. This and the food court were one of my favorite parts of the mall.


The Montgomery Ward in 1996. Source: caller.com

In the 2000's, things kept getting worse for the mall. Montgomery Ward would file for bankruptcy in 2000 and close all of their stores while Mervyn's would close their store in 2006 due to budget cuts. Wilcox Furniture would end up occupying a part of the former Wards store. By this time, most of the mall was vacant with a lot of non traditional tenants occupying it. GNC, the last original non-anchor tenant, would close in 2008. That same year, the mall owners would file for chapter 11 bankruptcy. It would be purchased in September of that year by IBC Bank.

The 2010's would mark the final years of operation for the mall. Planet Fitness would occupy the lower level of the former Mervyn's store in 2011. Stein Mart would also close that year and later become a church. By this time the mall had become nearly empty with only one tenant in the food court. In January 2018, the Dollar Theaters would cease operation while 2019 would see both the mall interior and Sears close. As of August 2020, the only businesses operating outside of the mall are Planet Fitness, Freedom Fitness, Burlington Coat Factory, Wilcox Furniture, and Workforce Solutions. Even though I never got a chance to see the mall in it's heyday, I'm grateful to have gone to it when I lived in Corpus.

Moore Plaza: from sorghum field to shopping center

The Target store under construction in 1989. Source: caller.com

Originally, I wasn't planning on doing this post since I had plans to make a post on another shopping center as a follow up to my
Padre Staples Mall post but recently, more info came up on this shopping center so I figured that a post on Moore Plaza would be appropriate since it was also a big part of my childhood in Corpus Christi.

The H-E-B grocery store under construction in 1989. Source: caller.com

The tract of land that would eventually become the busiest shopping area in Corpus Christi was once a  sorghum field owned by Allan Lovelace "Dinty" and his wife Blanche Moore in 1944. Moore didn't know why her husband wanted the property but he predicted that one day it would be in the center of Corpus Christi. They eventually bought and sold other properties, farmed them, and donated a portion to the Sundeen school district for an elementary school, which was appropriately named Blanche Moore Elementary.


The Children's Palace toy store under construction. Source: caller.com

Dinty would pass away in 1954 and Moore in 1983. Throughout the 80's, the property was surveyed by real estate developers in hopes of acquiring one of the best undeveloped property in the state of Texas. In 1988, Dallas-based Trammell Crow Company purchased 50 acres of the land and by January 1989, work began on the shopping center with the first tenants opening in the fall of that year.

Marshall's (shown above) was one of the first tenants to open with the shopping center in 1989. Source: caller.com

Those tenants were H-E-B (with a adjacent H-E-B Video Center store ), Target, Marshall's, Children's Palace, Builders Square, and Phar-Mor. Today, only three of those six original tenants still remain. Other tenants over the years were Pier 1 Imports, Circuit City, Chief Auto Parts, Compu-Net, Hollywood Video, Craig's Record Factory, Bookstop, Taco Cabana, Shoney's, Sirloin Stockade, EZ's Brick Oven & Grill, Souper Salad, Manhattan Sandwich Shop, China Coast, Blimpie, and El Chico.


Moore Plaza in 1998. Source: caller.com

Over the years, the shopping center has lost a couple of tenants both major and minor. Children's Palace closed in 1992 and would become part of Builders Square, Phar-Mor closed in 1993 and became Hobby Lobby while the old Marshall's became Old Navy in 1997 (Marshall's would later move to Hobby Lobby's old site). Builders Square closed in 1999 and would later be divided between Linens And Things (now a Christian bookstore), Hobby Lobby (which moved from the former Phar-Mor location), and smaller tenants. World Market (now Total Wine & More) would be built on a section of the former garden center. Finally, Circuit City closed in 2009 and would be later be divided between Stein Mart (which is now beginning it's liquidation sale at the time of this post) and Kirklands.

Today, the shopping center looks the same as it did in 1989 and for good reason. With it being in the center of Corpus Christi as Dinty predicted and having a wide array of national tenants like Target, there really isn't that much to change about this shopping center. Not bad considering it started as a sorghum field many years ago. 

Before La Palmera Mall, there was Padre Staples Mall

Padre Staples Mall in 1996. Source: caller.com

Welcome to the first post on this blog. I thought I'd start it off with a post on my childhood mall in Corpus Christi, La Palmera Mall which most long time locals know as Padre Staples mall.


Arial of Padre Staples Mall in 1970. Source: caller.com

Initial zoning plans for the mall took place around 1965-66 and one of the proposed names was Lexington Plaza Mall. That changed when Lexington Boulevard became Padre Island Drive in 1966. When the permit for the mall was issued in 1968, it was the largest ever issued by the city. Ground broke in 1967 with the first stages of construction being completed the following year.


Bealls and Penney's were tenants when the mall opened in 1970. Source: caller.com 

The main anchor tenants when the mall opened in 1970 were JC Penney and Dillards. Other tenants from around that time were Woolworth, Bealls, Zales, Luby's Cafeteria, and Chick-Fil-A which according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times, was the first ever Chick-Fil-A location in Texas and the eighth location overall for the chain. Other tenants the mall had over the years are KB Toys, Gadzooks, Sanrio Surprises, County Seat, The Disney Store, Casa Ole, My Favorite Muffin, Mr Gatti's Pizza, and Rich's. Here's the original 1970 mall directory and another from it's final days as Padre Staples in 2007.


The upstairs food court. Source: trademarkproperties.com

In the early 80's Padre Staples was facing competition from neighboring Sunrise Mall so in 1985, plans were put in place to expand the mall. The updates included adding a second level to the mall with a parking garage on the McArdle Road side of the mall, a new anchor location for Dillard's, an upstairs food court, and a 3-story Foley's as a third anchor to the mall. None of the Foley's upper levels were actually opened up to the mall which means you would have to use ether the food court or the Dillard's entrance on top of the parking garage to access the upper level of the mall from Foley's. Palais Royal would take the downstairs portion of the old Dillard's location while a six-screen United Artists movie theater took the upstairs portion. 


The mall carousel in 1988. Source: caller.com

In 1988, the double decker Carousel Carnavale was installed in the mall's center court and became an instant hit with mall patrons young and old. A planned 2007 renovation of the mall was going to include the carousel but that changed once the mall was sold to a new company the following year. January 31st, 2009 marked the final day of operation for the carousel before it was decommissioned.


The Woolworth inside Padre Staples Mall in 1997. Source: caller.com

From the late 90's to the mid 2000's, the mall started to lose a couple of it's tenants. Woolworth closed in 1997, the movie theater closed in 2000 and Palais Royal closed the following year. Foley's became Macy's in 2005 due to the Federated May department store merger and Luby's would also close that year marking the end of a four decade run that began in 1970.

Despite losing a couple of tenants, the mall still continued to do very well. In 2007, renovations begin to the mall which hadn't been updated since the 80's. The following year, Trademark Properties out of Dallas purchased the mall with plans to take it even further. Those plans included a complete remodel and an new name for the mall, La Palmera. Sadly the carousel wouldn't be included due to the fact that it was to big and heavy to relocate to another part of the mall. 2011 marked the completion on the major renovations to the mall and it continues to add new tenants today. While I do like the mall the way it is now, my fondest memories will always be when it was Padre Staples. 

Special thanks to Aaron of carbon-izer.com for the 2007 tenant list

Welcome to South Texas Retail


I've established this blog to showcase retail and restaurant history in the South Texas area. All information here is supported by news articles or my own personal experiences.

I am by no means a retail expert, just a causal enthusiast who wants to document the South Texas area. I do my best to make sure that the information in these posts are correct and if there's any incorrect or missing information, please don't hesitate to leave a comment.

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