Carbon-izer Presents Waco, Texas
Version 3.0 bulks up the page by updating Valero (now Exxon!), fixing a formatting error regarding the former Ryan's, fixing the Katie's Frozen Custard entry (for some reason, it was actually never added last update, it was just commented out!), fixing the H-E-B/Harmony entry, and adding AutoZone, Taco Bueno, Arby's, EZPawn, and AMC Galaxy, for a total of 21 entries. And it fixes the I-35 connection! (How did I forget that?!)

WACO CIRCLE


Magnolia Table / 2132 South Valley Mills Drive
This restaurant was built and opened as the Elite Cafe in 1941 (as its second location, the original was in downtown Waco and closed sometime by the late 1950s) and operated (though not continuously) until around 1999 when it was closed for renovations.

It reopened as the Elite Circle Grille in 2003 (which I seem to remember opening before 2003, but I'm going off of Waco History's version), which I remember also giving it a new tannish-red exterior from the pale blue color it used to be painted. Also gone was a mural on the outside depicting diners on the inside eating dinner.

Before closing permanently in February 2016, it had one more name change to "The Elite". In February 2018, it renovated and reopened as Magnolia Table, owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines of "Fixer Upper" fame, and before restaurants were ordered closed due to COVID-19 was often packed out, requiring patrons to use the newly-built auxiliary parking off of Circle Road.

INTERSTATE 35

A large ramp causes Valley Mills going westbound to go from two lanes to four lanes. Eastbound, Valley Mills loses its fourth lane when it splits off as a yield ramp to a southbound frontage road, and its third lane when it becomes a left hand turn lane to the northbound frontage road. Check out our I-35 page!

H-E-B Plus! / 1821 S. Valley Mills Dr.
This modern H-E-B Plus! store opened August 24, 2013 at 120,000 square feet. The store and its auxiliary features (a small strip center and the H-E-B gas station) replaces a few other buildings, including the old University Middle School site (closed in 2010 and demolished in 2011, 1820 Irving Lee Street) and the Mardi Gras Motel at 1901 S. Valley Mills, as well as Morgan Buildings and Spas (2825 Jack Kultgen Expy.)


BAGBY AVENUE

The Valley Mills stoplight is the last major junction of Bagby. An eastern section exists near Baylor, but it is separated by I-35. However, this section goes all the way to Hewitt and beyond.

Jack in the Box / 1724 S. Valley Mills Drive
I vaguely recall when this Jack in the Box was brand new (1999) but I don't remember anything before it. It's worth noting that I never actually purchased anything from here until nearly 20 years after it was built.


SPEIGHT AVENUE


Catfish King / 1201 South Valley Mills Drive
This was covered at a separate page previously, in which I explained my childhood intrigue with it and the disappointing reality.

Exxon / 1101 South Valley Mills Drive
Growing up, this Valero was a Diamond Shamrock gas station (though I can't remember if "Corner Store" was used in the DS days). It switched to Valero after 2005 when the Diamond Shamrock name was phased out, but as of November 2019, the station still had the Corner Store branding, an interesting anamoly since the other Valeros by summer had switched to Circle K. By January '21, it had become Exxon (but STILL with the Corner Store branding!)

Harmony School of Innovation / 1110 S. Valley Mills Drive
Charter school that opened in a former H-E-B. See the Carbon-izer page: H-E-B on Valley Mills Drive


MEMORIAL DRIVE / DUTTON AVENUE


EZPAWN / 1000 S. Valley Mills Drive
The building was much smaller back then, but back in 1989 this was Circle K (before they sold out and years before Circle K reappeared in a new form catty-corner). Today this is EZPawn with a much larger building.

AutoZone / 905 S. Valley Mills Drive
An old AutoZone location, here longer since I've been alive. It replaced a Piggly Wiggly, which had relocated from this building (from an older building in the center of the lot). Piggly Wiggly's address was 3407 Memorial, and the modern MCAD entry for AutoZone still has it. The earliest reference I can find for Piggly Wiggly is 1953 (it was Piggly Wiggly No. 3 locally) and the store was rebuilt in 1978. I'm not sure when Piggly Wiggly went away in favor of AutoZone, but the Pig was still here in 1983. McLennan CAD indicates that the AutoZone opened as Auto Shack (former name), and Wikipedia says that Auto Shack became AutoZone in 1987, indicating that sometime in the 1980s Piggly Wiggly closed for the modern AutoZone.

Katie's Frozen Custard / 602 S. Valley Mills Drive
The previous gas station last operated as "Gasman" and personally padlocked by the State Comptroller herself, following the owner's tax evasion.

In June 2002 (according to their website), Katie's Frozen Custard opened. It has no interior seating (seating was available under the old gas canopy, but is currently closed).

According to a late 1980s directory, this was a Bell gas station.


CLAY AVENUE

West of Clay Avenue, the westbound fourth lane of Valley Mills merges in with the other three before the overpass, while the eastbound fourth lane is created from the entrance ramp from the Franklin Avenue overpass.

Sunoco / 603 South Valley Mills Drive
The Stripes (#2427) here connects to the stoplight. When the Stripes originally opened here in 2013 it was a self-branded store (gas canopy being Stripes) but after Sunoco took over the chain, it switched to a Sunoco brand. It has a Laredo Taco Company inside.

301 South Valley Mills Drive

Ryan's Family Steakhouse operated here from 1992 until November 2008, when it closed due to the poor economy. The economy has had ups and downs since then, but Ryan's (as a chain) never recovered...in 2006, when it was acquired by Buffets, Inc., it had about 260 restaurants, but by November 2019 (before the pandemic took hold), the entire chain was down to 67 restaurants, with Ryan's composing about 16 locations.

In the meantime, the former Ryan's soon reopened as A-1 Buffet & Grill (a Chinese buffet) and later renamed/reopened as Ace Buffet & Grill, but it closed in fall 2016 and hasn't reopened as anything else since.

AMC Classic Galaxy 16 / 333 South Valley Mills Drive
Formerly the Starplex Galaxy 16 (until Jan. 2016), this movie theater has 16 screens and was built in 1998. In 1989, this was the home of Precision International Co. (plating), which was demolished in the mid to late 1990s prior to construction. This lives on in the form of Precision Drive to the southwest of the theater (which Precision had access to) but the theater has no access to Precision Drive.


FRANKLIN AVENUE

Franklin serves as the "dividing line" between North and South Valley Mills Road. It is the only interchange on Valley Mills where Valley Mills goes over Franklin like a highway overpass.

300 North Valley Mills Drive
This building was originally a Wal-Mart and today is divided into three spaces, Planet Fitness, Dirt Cheap, and Tractor Supply Company. Tractor Supply looks like it's been there since not long after Wal-Mart moved out in the early 2000s to its location at New Road and Franklin, while Planet Fitness (occupying the main entrance) moved in by January 2014, replacing nothing. The east end of the store was originally Frugal's Outlet, which operated in the early 2010s before closing by late 2014. Though planned to be "Supermercado Guanajuato" according to a late 2015 announcement, it would reopen as deep discounter Dirt Cheap in July 2016. I actually ventured into Dirt Cheap in 2019, and while it was interesting from a retail establishment, I don't think I've ever seen anything as dirty or disorganized. I agree with what Mike from Houston Historic Retail has said, more "dirt" than "cheap"...


WEST WACO AVENUE


Westview Village / 501-581 North Valley Mills Drive
I need to dig up my Westview Village photos and make a dedicated page for it sometime, but this shopping center has been around since the late 1950s. If you're into old retail, it's a real treat, with the semi-enclosed arcade being the best feature.


NORTH NEW ROAD


Schlotzsky's / 621 North Valley Mills Drive
This was built as a Krispy Kreme donut shop that opened in February 2004 but unfortunately closed down less than two years later (September 2005) and later Dickey's Barbecue Pit (closed 2008) before becoming a Schlotzsky's, which opened in 2009. A bit of trivia is that it opened as the very first "lotz better" prototype store before the "Austin Eatery" theme started to sweep the chain around a decade later.

Arby's / 723 N. Valley Mills Drive
This Arby's (#300) is a very old store, complete with a huge "Arby's Roast Beef Sandwich Is Delicious" sign at last check, built in 1967, and perhaps one of the first Arby's stores in Texas. The earliest ad I can find of this location is from 1971 advertising an eggnog milkshake.


SANGER AVENUE


Taco Bueno / 815 N. Valley Mills Drive
The oldest and now only remaining Taco Bueno in Waco, here since around 1987 but has seen little changes other than a newer menu (and corresponding increasing prices!)

Valle's Mexican Food / 900 North Valley Mills Drive
This location has bounced between sandwiches and Mexican. In 1968, this opened as Saxons Sandwich Shoppe but by 1973 was fast-food Mexican food, Taco Torch (one of the first "Mexican fast food" stores of Waco) and actually Store #17 of the chain (which predominantly was in Central Texas). The last reference I can currently find for it is 1989, and by the late 2000s it was Schlotzsky's, before it moved in 2009. It is now Valle's Mexican Food.


LAKE AIR DRIVE


McDonald's / 1225 N. Valley Mills Dr.



Waco's first McDonald's restaurant opened back in 1972 with a basement and no drive-through (it was added in later), and looked very much like how McDonald's stores used to look before the mid-2000s when many of the restaurants changed to red roofs and white buildings (before they were renovated on the outside or torn down). In May 2013, this store also met its end when it was torn down and rebuilt as a modern prototype. Based on the picture in the article it looks like the interior was upgraded in the last 10 years as McDonald's had wanted (before they were wrecked entirely).


WOODED ACRES DRIVE


ALDI / 1220 N. Valley Mills Dr.
My first trip to an Aldi (solo visit, at least) in October 2016 was a few months shy of an opening of a store locally, but this store opened in February 2013. My 2016 visit included a jar of pumpkin butter, which was used on toast before it was eventually depleted. Since then, most of my Aldi visits have been to the local store (the layouts are almost completely identical).


BOSQUE BLVD.


Harmony Science Academy / 1900 N. Valley Mills Drive
This used to be an Albertsons supermarket. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Albertsons had stores all over Texas (and indeed, much of the southern United States, stretching from California to Florida). However, Albertsons never had a good time in Waco nor made much headway against H-E-B. Their second store on the northern part of town (they only had two) bombed hard and never expanded further. The first Albertsons in town wasn't even theirs: the the store opened as Skaggs Supercenter in 1978, a brand used by Skaggs Companies after their split from Albertsons, which they opened "Skaggs Albertsons" with. By the early 1980s it was renamed to Skaggs Alpha Beta (the name based out of a chain out of California), and in 1991, Jewel-Osco (with the rest of their stores, this time the chain out of Chicago). In 1992, Albertsons bought the southern Jewel-Osco stores (including some Florida stores opened under the name) from Skaggs Cos. (by now American Stores) and reopened them as Albertsons.

In any case, Albertsons closed their lone Waco store (and with it, officially exiting the Waco-Temple-Killeen area) in mid-2006 shortly after the company was divided up between the SuperValu-led Albertsons ("New Albertsons") and the investor-led company ("Albertsons LLC"). In 2007, the closed supermarket was renovated and reopened as Harmony Science Academy, a charter school chain with pre-K through 5th grade.


COBBS DRIVE


From Cobbs Drive on (where Valley Mills loses/gains its third lane), there's not much more of Valley Mills as commercial goes, and around Koehne Park, ceases being Valley Mills entirely (the highway no longer goes to Valley Mills, as it was flooded out for the Lake Waco expansion). Well, technically, Valley Mills Drive does go to Valley Mills, if you took Lake Shore Drive (as N. Valley Mills Drive is known north of the park) clockwise around Waco, you'd end up at Loop 340, and then you can go on to Valley Mills that way.
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