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Out of Left Field

Call it a second helping: Weingarten Realty, once again, is politely escorting one of its longtime tenants out of his space in the River Oaks Shopping Center to make room for someone else. A recent deal has been worked out to move ALLRECORDS [soon to be at 1955 West Gray, (713)524-4900] across the street so that Tony Mandola's Gulf Coast Kitchen [1962 West Gray, (713)528-3474] can expand.

Fred Allred, owner of the music store specializing in jazz, doesn't want to make waves with his landlord or really talk about the situation; he's happy to have been given someplace to go. Bibas One's a Meal wasn't so lucky a few years ago. The venerable greasy spoon was booted out -- with no place to turn -- so that Weingarten could lease the space to Talbots Kids. At least in this case, the new tenant, Tony Mandola, is also an old one. In fact, he and Allred are River Oaks Shopping Center veterans who have occupied their spaces for 11 and 20 years, respectively.

That will soon change for Allred. He now will run his business from the south side of West Gray, which in the weird mojo of the shopping center doesn't seem to fare as well as the north side. Several tenants of the large anchor spot formerly occupied by Crown Books and Travel Fest have packed up and moved on, as have a couple of shops in the smaller spaces near the new ALLRECORDS. Some wonder if parking is an issue, since the south side's small lot forces overflow vehicles onto side streets.

Freddye Kelly, director of corporate communications for Weingarten, says she doesn't know anything about one side outperforming the other. "I just know we stay pretty much saturated with the entire center being 98 to 99 percent leased," she says.

With the shuffle, Allred's loss is Mandola's gain. Mandola says Weingarten has approached him to take over the ALLRECORDS spot every other year for the last six years. "But we stayed small and tight, and maybe even lost business because we couldn't accommodate groups of 20 or 30 people," says Mandola. But he finally acquiesced, and by May his place will jump from 3,500 square feet to more than 4,700.

"I'm excited," Mandola says. "We're really upgrading the image, if you will, but we'll still be fun and casual." The owner plans to install darker woods -- even in the restrooms, which will become "water closets" -- and change the wall colors to terra-cotta and the upholstery to a wine color. Mandola will also intersperse new light fixtures with the existing ones and replace the ceilings in both spaces. The only thing that won't change, it seems, is the food.

Out of Left Field

In what has to be the shortest season on record, The Field House Restaurant & Barclosed its doors less than one month after kickoff. Ward Communications, owner Perry Thomson's PR firm, was forced to field calls about the closing. "It was a shock to everyone; the investor who financed the restaurant pulled out at the last minute," says Ward's Tracy Warren, though she couldn't name the investor.

Thomson, who also owns Timberwolf Pub, did not return calls by press time. The timing of the close is curious. The buildout of the former Scottsdale's took months of planning and preparation. The game plan included moving the front entrance, parking and the main signage to the Southwest Freeway side of the building. In the interior, everything but the kitchen sink, literally, was shuffled around to make room for 40 televisions, a massive bar, a billiard room and a dance floor.

With such an impressive roster, not to mention mostly favorable press, you have to question why The Field House's investor would throw in the towel so soon. Could it be poor on-the-field performance? The restaurant appeared to be in a sales slump right off the bat. On two separate Saturdays, prime sports days, the place stood virtually vacant, save for a couple of tables.

Clearly The Field House failed to score points right away, but you can't win if you don't play. Seems like a lot of time and trouble, not to mention expense, for such a sudden death.

 
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