Mike Copeland: Restaurant developments; Claire’s bankruptcy; Construction roundup; Toys R Us liquidation starts

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March 24, 2018 8:51 pm Published by

News abounds on the food front, with a line that wrapped around the building greeting the new Schlotzsky’s sandwich shop on Hewitt Drive that opened Thursday. It helped that the restaurant was rewarding the first 100 guests who bought a six-pack of Cinnabon rolls with free sandwiches for a year.

Chills360, which specializes in rolled ice cream inspired by shops “on the streets of Thailand,” continues its grand opening at 1508 Speight Ave., near Baylor University. It uses a cooling process that produces smaller ice crystals and a smoother finished product, according to a press release.

Everyone visiting the shop over the weekend qualifies for an array of prizes, including treats from Chills360 for a year, the press release states.

Guess Family Barbecue, which has operated out of a trailer typically parked at 324 S. Sixth Street, announced earlier this month it would be opening a brick-and-mortar location downtown this year. It gave few details, but a “coming soon” sign for Guess recently went up on a building being redeveloped at Sixth Street and Columbus Avenue. The building will also serve as the home to the newly opened Nexus Esports and the Waco Work co-working space.

P.F. Chang’s confirmed a few months ago it would open a restaurant on the small lake that anchors Legends Crossing, the mixed-use development at Interstate 35 and State Highway 6. The site is cleared, and construction will start in earnest as a building permit has been issued. It estimates the cost at $925,000, likely a bare-bones figure excluding equipment.

Also at Legends Crossing, Houston-based Los Cucos Mexican Cafe is poised to complete renovation of the former Heitmiller’s Steakhouse. A sign outside says Cucos is hiring, and the chain’s website says a Waco location is “coming soon.” Cucos operates about 20 cafes, mostly in Texas.

A Tex-Mex chain called El Paso Mexican Restaurant has secured a lease on the 6,700-square-foot former Buffalo Wild Wings structure at 4225 Franklin Ave. A regional chain with a heavy presence in the southeastern U.S., El Paso should open locally “in the summertime,” real estate agent Gregg Glime said. Glime worked the deal for building owner Sammy Citrano, who owns George’s Restaurant and Catering.

Also in a food-related move, grocery giant H-E-B secured a building permit to make “alterations” to its “Meal Simple” department at its newest store in Greater Waco at 1821 S. Valley Mills Drive. The permit estimates the cost at $46,000.

Claire’s bankruptcy

Word that Claire’s has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection was a shock to this father of two grown daughters, both of whom received their first brush with ear piercing at the Claire’s in Richland Mall.

Neither the mall location nor the Claire’s in Central Texas Marketplace is among the 92 targeted to close because of the restructuring, spokeswoman Tisha Kresler said.

Claire’s, which also operates Icing-branded locations, sells its products in more than 7,500 locations in 45 countries through company-owned, franchised and so-called “store-in-store” locations, according to a press release.

Claire’s has pierced more than 100 million ears worldwide since it launched in 1961 and has a presence in 95 percent of the malls in the U.S., Kresler wrote in an email response to questions.

Westview Village

Westview Village occupies a visible intersection at Waco at Valley Mills drives. It has an interesting history, having been anchored for decades by the iconic Cox’s department store, with its high-end merchandise and escalator, and later by notable stores including Leon’s Cinderella, Olga’s and MJDesigns.

Major tenants today include Pep Boys, Vegas Buffet and a Michael’s craft store. But vacancies are mounting, with the departure in recent years of Cavender’s Boot City, Amish Oak furniture store, the WiseGuys restaurant that featured mobster memorabilia and Italian dishes, and Broncs, which served down-home dishes and huge biscuits made from scratch.

Loopnet.com, a commercial real estate site, shows several available spaces ranging in size from 16,575 square feet to 490 square feet. Hoppenstein Properties owns Westview Village, and longtime office manager Vivian Griffith said there is no shortage of effort to get it filled.

“We do hear remarks about the center being dated, but we replaced the entire roof a couple of years ago. I don’t agree with that assessment, that it is looking old,” she said with a sigh. “But to each his own.”

Construction roundup

Several construction-related projects are making progress, according to permits issued and visits to the sites around Greater Waco.

  • Land clearing has started for a 14,000-square-foot retail strip near Lake Air and Valley Mills drives, behind a Whataburger restaurant. A 9,000-square-foot Pet Supermarket, a growing Florida-based chain, will anchor the strip.
  • The Mars candymaking plant in Waco, maker of Snickers, Skittles and Starburst brands, has secured a $12 million permit to expand the facility. The work is part of a $33 million project that includes installing new equipment.
  • Brazos River Partnership Two secured a permit to place a Rush Cycle exercise center at 300 S. Second Street in downtown Waco. Visitors to Rush Cycle reportedly work out on stationary bicycles.
  • K-Twelve Ltd. received a permit to remodel the fourth floor of American Plaza, 200 W. State Highway 6, at an estimated cost of $400,000.
  • Local land developer Kam Parker will place 10 duplexes, ranging in price from $140,000 to $160,000, in the 2300 block of Century Drive, according to permits issued by the city of Waco’s inspection services department.

Toys R Us liquidation

The Toys R Us store on West Waco Drive joined more than 700 locations nationwide in launching liquidation sales Friday.

The Toys R Us website says customers can expect “deep discounts,” but does not say how long the sales would last or when stores would close. Employees answering the phone at Waco’s store since Toys R Us announced it was quitting business have consistently said they know few details.

Several news outlets suggest Toys R Us is pursuing a potential buyer for 200 or more of the company’s more profitable stores.

Warehouse space

Brad Davis, a commercial and industrial sales specialist in Waco, said he is seeing a lot of interest in warehouse and distribution space locally.

A 67,500-square-foot building off Schroeder Drive, near West Loop 340, recently filled with its fourth and final tenant needing distribution space. Lessees include Shearer Supply, Plainsman Tire, Preferred Medical and Robert Madden Industries, Davis said.

“And I just closed a deal to put one other company in a 45,000-square-foot building next door,” Davis said. “These are not small buildings, not large ones, but the inventory is getting slim right now.”


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