Tom Linehan [Email address: %20allandalereporter #AT# yahoo.com - replace #AT# with @ ]
My memory of the stores that have come and gone in Allandale Village over the last 25 years is sparse. H-E-B has always been there. I remember a number of restaurants in the spot where Hangtown Grill now is, including Romeo’s, an Asian buffet restaurant, and, more recently, Dry Dock. These, of course, all came after the longstanding Pancho’s Mexican Buffet, which closed in the early 1980s. I miss the Radio Shack that moved out about a year or so ago. I remember getting haircuts at a barbershop on the side of the Allandale Village that faces Northland Drive. I was told the barbershop was originally on the front side of the shopping center facing Burnet Rd., but I don’t remember the name of the place. (It pre-dated Supercuts.)
According to Robert Knight, partial owner and property manager of Allandale Village, a number of small independent businesses have been a part of the shopping center since the late 1940s, when it was first built. Five buddies originally purchased Allandale Village as an investment, and Robert’s dad was one of them. All 5 of those friends lived and raised their families in Austin. They have since died, but Allandale Village remains an investment for their offspring. Robert became manager when his dad died in the 1970s. Managing Allandale Village is part of he and his son Jamie’s business, Knight Real Estate. Their office is downtown in an old house just across from the Austin Convention Center.
Robert gave me an old photo of the center to scan for this article, which he estimates was taken in the late 1950s. I compared it with a couple of older photos of the center taken by Neal Douglas, a photographer for the Austin American-Statesman back in the 1940s and 1950s. Neal Douglas’s photos are part of The Portal to Texas History, which is hosted and maintained by The University of North Texas Libraries (http://texashistory.unt.edu). The big difference between the photo you see in this article and one taken in 1951 is the Allandale Department Store seen in the older photo, which was located where Whites is in the more recent photo. There is no telling how long the Allandale Department Store lasted. A photo taken in 1954 shows a Mosely’s Cafeteria where Hangtown now stands, and, next to that, a Ben Franklin dime store.
According to Robert, at the time Allandale Village was built it was only one of three suburban shopping centers in Austin. The other two were the Delwood Shopping Center just east of I-35 at 38th St. and the Twin Oaks Shopping Center on south Congress.
The layout of the shopping center has pretty much stayed the same over the years, and the vacancy rate has held more or less at 10%. Probably the biggest change to the Village was when H-E-B moved from where the Antique Marketplace is today to where Whites appears in the photo. As far as Robert knows, H-E-B has always been the anchor tenant in Allandale Village. When he was a teenager, Robert had a job mowing the then-vacant lot behind the shopping center. North Austin State Bank later built a bank there and added a drive-thru. The bank later moved to the Northcross area when the mall was built back in the 1970s.
I asked Robert if could recall any stories about the tenants he’s had while managing the property. He said that like any other business, there are ups and downs. Working with independent businesses as opposed to the national stores is always a little more of challenge. He recalls an incident with a bridal shop where the owner was taking money on orders for wedding dresses and putting it in his pocket. He was also not paying his rent. Robert started pressing him for rent in December of that year and eventually got a court order and padlocked the store. That was, unfortunately, in April. “We had a lot of brides and their mothers demanding their dresses,” he said. “Of course, there were a number of lawsuits, and the incident made the papers. It was difficult at the time but comical in hindsight.”
A more recent example of the challenges of managing the Village was Dry Dock. The business owner wanted to open a sports bar, but he didn’t tell Robert that was his intention. He said the business was going to be seafood restaurant and that he was going to apply for late night permit to serve liquor. He ended up not getting the permit because of neighborhood opposition. The restaurant lasted less than a year. He moved out in the middle of the night.
Texas Gold Stamps was one of the longstanding tenants at Allandale Village. It is shown in the 1954 photo of the shopping center. Robert says there used to be a library where the Antique Marketplace is now. He also recalls there was a cleaners on the southeast corner of the shopping center for a long time. Gem’s Fabric and Sewing Center was there for a number of years as well, and shows up in the 1954 photo. According Barbara Frock, longtime Allandale resident, “On the corner was White’s – sort of an everything store…hardware, some furniture, lawn things, etc. There was the Fashion Shop and then the small H-E-B.”
I asked Robert if he anticipated any major changes or new tenants for the shopping center. The biggest potential change for the Allandale Village, he said, would be expansion of the H-E-B. He acknowledged that he is in discussions with H-E-B regarding an expansion that would extend the store over to Blockbuster, but is too early to discuss the details. Other than that, he anticipates the Washington Mutual Bank in Allandale Village will be closing at some point, given that it has filed for bankruptcy.
“We’ve always tried to have a good mix of tenants that included both national and local tenants.” Robert told me. “We’ve turned down some national tenants to preserve that mix and keep it local.” As he sees it, Allandale Village is a community center. With H-E-B as the anchor, people go there to take care of their daily needs. That is the way I see it, I am usually in the Allandale Village shopping center two or three times a week.