Shepherd Park Plaza residents Robert and Sylvia Torres are business owners who have chosen to invest where they live.
In the summer of 2017, the couple purchased Del-Mar Lanes at 3020 Mangum Rd. and renovated the bowling alley to rave reviews. They also own Soap Suds Coin Laundry on North Main Street in the Heights.
But it’s their newest acquisition that is sure to get the most buzz as they recently purchased the former Tradewinds Skating Rink, located at 5006 W. 34th St., with the intent to develop it for retail.
For those new to the area, the long and unused white barn-like building might not mean much, but to those who grew up in the neighborhood, it was a rite of passage. Tradewinds was opened in 1957 by Walter Louis Gordon and Marie Gordon. Thousands of youngsters over the next 45 years, including late entertainer Patrick Swayze and his family, got their skate on at Tradewinds.
“So much of my youth was all about going there every Friday and Saturday night,” Brandy Shirley-Cochran said. “I had to really behave (and) do my chores or I wasn’t going. You can bet I was a good girl. Met my first love there and some of the best friends I’ve ever had. The music was awesome. The skate ramps were amazing and the dances were a blast.”
But since its closing, the rink has sat unused for more than 20 years.
“The property deserves more,” Robert Torres said. “It has so much more potential and merits going back to the drawing board. We have big plans.”
Proposed renderings for the former rink show a structure that retains the look of the original building, yet modernizes it. Torres said the interior will be divided up into seven or eight spaces which will be a mix of retail and restaurants. Torres will be one of his own tenants as he plans to open a donut and coffee shop at the back end of the building, which he is calling the Tradewinds Shopping Center for now.
The transformation of the old rink will be Phase 1 of the renovation, while the other six buildings on the 3-acre property will be reimagined in future revamps. Meanwhile, the tenants in those buildings will remain on property.
As a longtime resident of the area – and a retired Houston police officer with 30 years on the force – Torres knows of people’s affection for the rink. He said the Gordon family is providing old photographs, which Torres wants to incorporate into the aesthetics of the new building. Torres said even the roller skates are still in the structure and they’re looking at ways to use those, too, as well as the wooden flooring.
Torres considered reviving the rink but said it is a different time and property values have changed.
“It didn’t make economic sense,” he said.
In 2015, business owner Janett Ogola told The Leader she was looking at ways to finance a resurrection of the rink. A Kickstarter campaign was one idea to raise funds, but Ogola allowed in 2015 that it “might not put a dent in what it would take to get it open.”
A 2019 assessment by the Harris County Appraisal District listed the property’s total value at $953,208.
Torres said the Gordon family wasn’t actively marketing the property, but he made them an offer, which began the negotiations.
“It’s going to be nice,” Torres said. “Something really functional with carefully selected businesses.”
Pre-leasing starts this week. Call 713-688-8844 for more information.