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Rice Village history

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Does anyone have a good idea of what Rice Village used to be like before its current incarnation as a more upscale place with chains and quirky boutiques? 

 

The closest I've found is a long-standing bead shop that closed a few years back (along with the late Variety Fair, and a head shop called "The Rat Hole"). Was it more of a counter-cultural store collection, or more of just a ramshackle bunch of businesses that congregate around universities and aim for the college student demographic? Or both?

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Ramshackle bunch of businesses probably best applies to the old Village. There certainly wasn't a lot of upscale shops.  I don't believe it ever catered to the University crowd as much as the area's residents. It had grocery stores, good restaurants and a nice theater. The Village struggled in the 60's and 70's when indoor malls were the big thing. The cracker jack multi-screen movie houses of the 80's killed the old Village theater. 

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a ramshackle bunch of businesses that congregate around universities and aim for the college student demographic? 

 

Closer to this, but although there were certainly some that thrived off the college student demographic (in the era before email and the web were commonplace, Kinko's used to do a land-office business providing copy sets of course materials assigned by professors), there were as many or more that catered to nearby neighborhoods. Prior to the late 80s, a significant chunk of West University Place (as well as the area bounded by University, Greenbriar, Holcombe, and Kirby) was comprised of modest post-WW2 housing stock that had gone to seed in varying degrees. 

 

Off the top of my head, some of the older (pre-redevelopment) businesses that used to be there besides the Bead Shop, Variety Fair, and the Village Theater:

 

World Toy and Gift Shop

University Men's and Boy's Shop (clothing store)

Jones Apothecary (pharmacy)

Rice Food Market

Weingarten's

Henke & Pillot (grocery)

Swiss Haus (restaurant)

Alfred's (deli)

Charlie's Hamburger Joint

Burger-Ville #2

BF Goodrich (tire shop, across the street from the Gingerman)

Dromgoole's (still there, refocused from a typewriter shop to high-end writing instruments)

Edited by mkultra25
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A nice theater? When i came to Houston in 1976, it was already a porn palace. There were a bunch of what we would now call quirky shops, with a Weingartens for groceries, and a bunch of hobby type places. At the time, West U had not really started its transformation to upscale living, and was mostly a bunch of older, small houses. I much preferred the pre-renovation Village, but can't say I blame the owners for trying to maximize their income.

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and a bunch of hobby type places. 

 

I forgot about G&G Model Shop. That place has been there for what seems like forever. 

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IIRC, I think The Village Theatre was still nice at least into the early 60s.  As a kid (in the 50s-60s) I went there several times.   However, I do remember that later on there was a porn theatre in Rice Village ... its certainly possible that it operated in the same building, but I can't recall that with certainty.  If so, it wasn't the only formerly nice Houston theatre to go porn for a few years before shutting down for good.

 

I also remember The Jones Apothecary which had a number of locations in Houston.  On their signs, the letters "ONE" in Jones were made larger, such that at first glance they appeared to read "The ONE Apothecary"

 

Alfred's had really good deli meats and luscious, thick sandwiches.  To this day, my mouth waters at the thought of them.  While in grad school, I bought beads at The Bead Shop for experimental use.  And, of course, there was Weingarten's.     

 

In the 50's, my parents rented a house on Darcus Street in Southside Place (adjacent to and just west of West U).  The owner offered sell it to them for $5000.  I wonder what that lot would sell for now!  :-)

 

 

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I don't have a lot to add to David Kaplan's wonderful article except to note that now many of the remaining funky old spots that he mentioned are gone nearly twenty years later.  The Village Theater was a porn house back before video and there was also a little one called Art Cinema that was right next to where Le Peep is (was?) on a cross street.   The building that became Hungry's was a mom-n-pop owned Dairy Queen in the early 1980s.   Before Caribana, that was a country bar called Cowboy on Rice Boulevard.   Caribana later became notorious for its 3 for 1 happy hour.   The Village Theater was indeed quite nice in its day; it was a MacKie and Kamrath project.  I don't remember the name but Half Price Books on University was originally a fancy department store with a terrazzo sidewalk and large grand staircase up to a mezzanine level.  There were a small handful of businesses that tried to cater to the University student body: Collegiate Cleaners and Ed Nirken's University Men and Boys Shop for a couple.  I remember having a map of the Village listing all the businesses when I started at Rice in 1980; it's possible that I might still have it but it would be hard to find.   It might not really count, but Hamburgers by Gourmet was right across Kirby.

 

Parking was not particularly an issue in the Village until it became yuppified.  Back in 1980 it was actually a little scary at night in some places.

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I forgot about G&G Model Shop. That place has been there for what seems like forever. 

 

Is the G and G model shop still there? I used to shop in there in the 50's. It was probably one of the best if not the best model show in the city of Houston.

 

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There were 3 up scale ladies wear stores in the 60s Schep's on the south east corner of Kirby & University. Also on University was Craig's. & Palais Royal. Back in the 50s and 60s these stores were considered upscale stores. There also was a huge Oshman's sporting goods store. 

 

There was a Le Que pool hall on the north east corner of Times Blvd. & Kelvin Dr. in the 60s & 70s that I played at all the time, it was open 24 hours so me & my friends would go there after midnight and play till early in the morning.

 

 

Edited by blue92

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There was also a bakery about two streets over from University Blvd in the Village. At the moment, I cannot recall the name. I believe it stayed in business until the 90's? They made really good cakes.

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There was a menswear store on Times Blvd in what I think is not the Beautique Spa.  Was it Herman's?  Anyway they had some nice stuff.

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There was a menswear store on Times Blvd in what I think is not the Beautique Spa.  Was it Herman's?  Anyway they had some nice stuff.

 

Rodney's was in that location in the 50's-60's.  I went there many times.  Also went to Harris' Men and Boy's Wear on University.

Edited by 57Tbird

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There was also a bakery about two streets over from University Blvd in the Village. At the moment, I cannot recall the name. I believe it stayed in business until the 90's? They made really good cakes.

 

That was Moeller's.  There was also a candy shop.  See's?  Kegg's?  Don't remember.

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There were 3 up scale ladies wear stores in the 60s Schep's on the south east corner of Kirby & University. Also on University was Craig's. & Palais Royal. Back in the 50s and 60s these stores were considered upscale stores. There also was a huge Oshman's sporting goods store. 

 

There was a Le Que pool hall on the north east corner of Times Blvd. & Kelvin Dr. in the 60s & 70s that I played at all the time, it was open 24 hours so me & my friends would go there after midnight and play till early in the morning.

Flashback! I had forgotten the upstairs billiard hall Le Que. Used to go to the Catacombs (later called Of Our Own) and then go to Le Que for some late night/early morning pool. Who knows. We may have shot a game together. 

 

Rodney's was in that location in the 50's-60's.  I went there many times.  Also went to Harris' Men and Boy's Wear on University.

My Mom worked at Rodney's in the early 60's. It was an upscale store. 

 

I remember seeing the Exorcist when it first came out at the Village theater. Scared the crap out of me. 

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Rodney's was in that location in the 50's-60's.  I went there many times.  Also went to Harris' Men and Boy's Wear on University.

 

 

That was it!  Thanks for the memory jog.

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IIRC, I think The Village Theatre was still nice at least into the early 60s.  As a kid (in the 50s-60s) I went there several times.   However, I do remember that later on there was a porn theatre in Rice Village ... its certainly possible that it operated in the same building, but I can't recall that with certainty.  If so, it wasn't the only formerly nice Houston theatre to go porn for a few years before shutting down for good.

 

I think this may be the one you're thinking about.  I believe it was across the street from Rodney's on the west side.

 

post-873-0-03689500-1413215818.jpg

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According to IMDB that was released in December 1968, presumably so it would be eligible for the 1968 Academy Awards.

 

 

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According to IMDB that was released in December 1968, presumably so it would be eligible for the 1968 Academy Awards.

As I guessed, it's a lesbian porn flick. From what I've read on IMDB, it actually isn't that good of a movie though.

 

 

Getting back on topic, what was the south part of the complex like, pre-Arcade? I know there was a Jack in the Box there (or some other fast food, maybe KFC) but it just seemed a lot less dense than the essentially-outdoor mall we have now.

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Art Cinema was, as I said, more or less where Cafe Chino was.  Next door to what became Le Peep.   I believe there was Jack in the Box at the corner of Kirby and Times or something like that.  Maybe Kirby and Rice.   University Boulevard, north side, was University Men and Boys Shop, World Toy and Gift, Village Theatre, and Eckerd Drugs.  Next block was Weingarten's grocery store.  South side, other than replacing Poor Man's Country Club with some dumb bank, is basically the same set of buildings, just different tenants in some of them.

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Hamburgers by Gourmet was at the corner of Kirby and University.  Wagner Hardware on Kirby a little north of Times I believe.  On the NW corner of Kirby and Rice Blvd there was - and may still be - a fenced-off area that looked like it might have had a gas station at some point.  

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Wagner Hardware only recently became its current incarnation (I want to say "At Home", but that's Garden Ridge's game) about five years ago.

JBX became Village Flowery, now River Oaks Plant House.

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That was Moeller's.  There was also a candy shop.  See's?  Kegg's?  Don't remember.

 

Moeller's is still in business. They moved to a location on Bellaire Blvd. close to the RR tracks.

 

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My wife used to take lessons and do ceramic work at Mo-Lee's Ceramic Studio in the late 60's/early 70's. She turn this experience into a nice business when we later lived in New Jersey and California in the later 70's.

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Used to go to a place called the "Diamondhead" club?? I believe it was.. Back in the mid-late 70's..

I think that was in the village or nearby.. We used to go there on cheap pitcher night and

drink mass quantities of golden beverage while watching bands like Allan Haynes, and such..

Didn't really spend much time in the village area other than that.. I do recall seeing Eric Johnson at

the old Tower theater back in the mid-late 80's or thereabouts.

 

 

 

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There was a half-priced books in an old bldg. I used to frequent in West U. I loved walking through, checking out the details of the place, 1990's, I think it was. I think it would be west of the tapas restaurant, now. Had old display windows & a back loft, balcony, staircase, and a tiny smaller room to the left. Reminded me of those '50's ladies clothing stores at Gulfgate. 

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I believe that was Meyer Brothers.  Women’s and children’s clothing, no men’s?  Then it was an antique store before being taken over by Half Price.

The Jones Apothecary was right at Rice and Morningside as I recall, NW corner.  They also had a location on Montrose, between Richmond and 59.  Prescriptions and OTC drugs only, I think, no sundries, cosmetics, soda fountain, etc.

The original location of House of Coffee Beans, 1973, was on Rice, between Rice Food and Kirby. Two store fronts, one housed the shop, the other their huge roaster in a picture window.  That was the first Houston boutique coffee roastery, I think.  The roasting facilities were moved to 610 S decades ago, the store about 15 years ago to a downsized space on Bissonnet.  I think they cited rising rents as the reason for the latter move.  I’ve been buying beans and coffee paraphernalia there since the mid 70s and still like some of their blends.  A price list from the 70 shows the address as 2520 Rice.

There was a meat locker on Kelvin, south of Rice, east side of the street, about where Evoke is now.  A co-worker and I bought a side of beef there ca. 71, had it cut and wrapped to our specifications and rented a locker.  I ate a lot of beef that year, got sick and tired of it.  After we ate it all up, neither one of us wanted to do it again.

KAUM had a screening at the Village Theatre, ca. 1971 I can’t remember the film for sure but it either had something to do with being shot in Houston or aimed at our audience.  IIRC, the Houston premier of The Exorcist was at the Village, December, 1973.

There was a hippie clothing store, SE corner of Kelvin and Times - bell bottom pants, tie-dye, high heel shoes for men, that sort of stuff.  I want to say it was an original location of the Gap when it was just starting out before they yuppified but I’m not sure; maybe it just that they were put out of business by the Gap.  There was a bead shop in that block of Times, too.

 

ETA:  It comes to me out of the haze that the name of the clothing store was Warp and Woof.  The first Gap was in the Galleria and was a quite different store.

It will always be just The Village to me, not Rice Village.  That’s the way it was advertised, on radio and in print.

Edited by brucesw
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From the mid 50s thru the 70s the University Bicycle Shop on the 2400 block of Times Blvd.they sold new/used and fixed bicycles and lawn mowers. I bought lots of bicycle parts from those guys back in the day.

Edited by blue92

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What was the name of the Mexican restaurant on University?

 

 

I think you mean El Meson.  It's still there, and still good.

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Yes the  HP Books is in the old Meyer Bros store.  Evans Music was in a small frame building on Rice in the 60s then moved across the street to the strip center along Rice.  American Legion Post 77  was in the area for years, University State Bank was next door to Moeller's, then moved further North. 

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I believe that was Meyer Brothers.  Women’s and children’s clothing, no men’s?  Then it was an antique store before being taken over by Half Price.

There was a meat locker on Kelvin, south of Rice, east side of the street, about where Evoke is now.  A co-worker and I bought a side of beef there ca. 71, had it cut and wrapped to our specifications and rented a locker.  I ate a lot of beef that year, got sick and tired of it.  After we ate it all up, neither one of us wanted to do it again.

It will always be just The Village to me, not Rice Village.  That’s the way it was advertised, on radio and in print.

 

The old Meyer Bros. store was the last incarnation for The Catacombs Club in 1969, it didn't last very long before it was closed down due to the crowds. (I suspect West U. PD tagged a lot of people when they left the Catacombs)

 

The meat locker was Martin & Klix, I remember the name from my days of wandering through The Village as a kiddo.

 

I miss the old Village Cafeteria/Vittorio's, my Mom and I ate there all the time. Onetime we stopped by, and all of Vittorio's family was excited that Frank Sinatra came by the Italian restaurant side, the night before. They had autographed menus from Sinatra, and his party, I wish we had gone in the night before. That must have been a sight to see in the old Village.

Edited by Absinthe_1900

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The old Meyer Bros. store was the last incarnation for The Catacombs Club in 1969, it didn't last very long before it was closed down due to the crowds. (I suspect West U. PD tagged a lot of people when they left the Catacombs)

 

The meat locker was Martin & Klix, I remember the name from my days of wandering through The Village as a kiddo.

 

I miss the old Village Cafeteria/Vittorio's, my Mom and I ate there all the time. Onetime we stopped by, and all of Vittorio's family was excited that Frank Sinatra came by the Italian restaurant side, the night before. They had autographed menus from Sinatra, and his party, I wish we had gone in the night before. That must have been a sight to see in the old Village.

 

Here's Vittorio's for you:

Vittorios.jpg

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From the mid 50s thru the 70s the University Bicycle Shop on the 2400 block of Times Blvd.they sold new/used and fixed bicycles and lawn mowers. I bought lots of bicycle parts from those guys back in the day.

 

What was the big bike store that was on Kirby near Times?  Loved that place.

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Here's Vittorio's for you:

Vittorios.jpg

 

Thanks,

 

I wonder if any pictures survive when Vittorio just had the little Village Diner, before he built that location. (He had an ancient diner/cafeteria before then)

 

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IIRC, the Houston premier of The Exorcist was at the Village, December, 1973.

 

Yep.  

 

Smoking was still allowed in theaters at the time (and airplanes, and elevators, and often the automobiles of non smokers).  Every time something particularly eeky happened, the light level would go up from all the lighters going off together.

 

I think you mean El Meson.  It's still there, and still good.

 

Not to pick nits, but El Meson is Cuban.  It is good.

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Yep.  

 

Smoking was still allowed in theaters at the time (and airplanes, and elevators, and often the automobiles of non smokers).  Every time something particularly eeky happened, the light level would go up from all the lighters going off together.

 

 

Not to pick nits, but El Meson is Cuban.  It is good.

 

 

You are absolutely right about El Meson, of course, and for many years it was the only place to get Cuban specialties like plantains and black beans.  As the Village has moved upscale (and the Cold War has faded) they have played up their Cuban offerings and heritage.   In the early 80's when I first started going there it was really just known as the closest "Mexican" restaurant to Rice.

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I started going to the Village in the 1970s when I could drive. I remember the Village Theater (though I never saw a movie there) and the crazy toy store that was next door. We used to eat hamburgers at Miller's Café, anyone remember that place? Loved to park on the roof. Did Miller's Café move to Clear Lake (Bay Area Blvd. and Space Center)? I remember the American Legion Post. Back in the 1980s there was a great dance club on Kirby just around the corner from the Half Price Books where my wife and I used to go. It had Go-Go dancers in cages (what was the name of that place?). For awhile there was a theater next door to the hobby shop where I saw a few plays. They had a good group of actors.

 

The Village has really gone upscale since I used to knock around down there. I kinda miss the old place.

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There is a Miller's Cafe on Shepherd in the center South of Sears. Great burgers.

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I don't remember the Miller's in the Village but there was one on Main, south of Dryden, in that old 2 story strip that also included the Briar Shoppe and a scrubs emporium.  There's one in one of the medical offices towers now; I think I remember it in Scurlock Tower.  Yelp lists four around town, including Clear Lake.  I've been to the South Main and Shepherd ones.

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It could be that what you are calling Miller's (which, like brucesw I remember on Main) was actually Charlie's Hamburger Joint (over 2 dozen sold!)  Collina's was there later.

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It could be that what you are calling Miller's (which, like brucesw I remember on Main) was actually Charlie's Hamburger Joint (over 2 dozen sold!)  Collina's was there later.

 

Yeah, I think you're right about that, I think it was Charlie's. We used to go there before going to football games at Rice Stadium. Thanks for the correction. For some reason, the names of places I used to go to escape me.

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It could be that what you are calling Miller's (which, like brucesw I remember on Main) was actually Charlie's Hamburger Joint (over 2 dozen sold!)

 

One of my drinking buddies back in the day always maintained that slogan should've been "over 2 dozen sold, over 1 dozen digested". I always suspected they were being unfairly blamed for his intemperance in other areas.  :P

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To go waaay back in the history of the Village:

 

Someone posted some 1940s photos of University Blvd in this thread back in 2007:

http://www.houstonarchitecture.com/haif/topic/13210-village-theater/?hl=%2Bvillage+%2Btheater

 

The building that houses Pier One on Rice Blvd & Kelvin was built as the original Rice Food Market, which later became a local chain.

 

Somewhere on YouTube, there is a home movie that someone took in the mid 1950s while driving around the Rice University area.  It has some great footage of University Blvd.  Unfortunately, I can't find it right now...

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