It was a year of major business openings, closings and a hurricane that slowed down, but didn’t stop, commerce on the upper Texas coast. Here are just some of the top Biz Buzz items of the year.
• In a project decades in the making, crews completed the first model house at Lago Mar, a Texas City community that will be home to 4,000 families. Houston-based Land Tejas is the developer of the 2,033-acre community off Interstate 45. The first phase of Land Tejas’ Lago Mar development — the two main entrances are at Exit 16/Holland Road and at Lago Mar Boulevard, a mile south of there — will include 520 homes. Land Tejas controls 2,000 acres on the west side of I-45. Unaffiliated owners control the land on the east side of I-45.
• Beaumont-based Jason’s Deli crossed the county line and opened a restaurant at 2765 I-45 in League City.
• With sales short-circuited, Dallas-based RadioShack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced it would close 200 stores while evaluating its options for the remaining 1,300. Of those remaining locations, Sprint Corp. said it would turn “several hundred” into Sprint-only stores. Local RadioShack casualties included the 4714 Seawall Blvd. store in Galveston; the 2920 I-45 store in League City; and the 3533 Palmer Highway store in Texas City, which was transformed into a Sprint store.
• Clear Creek Independent School District won in bidding against AMOCO Federal Credit Union to buy the 30,750-square-foot ITT Technical Institute building left vacant in 2016 after the U.S. Department of Education demanded a steep increase in security the company would have to post to guarantee federal student aid. The school district wanted the building, 1001 Magnolia St., to replace its Clear Path Alternative School, 400 S. Kansas Ave. AMOCO wanted the building to accommodate its fast-growing electronics services division.
• League City officials announced that Wichita, Kan.-based Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers would open at Bay Colony Town Center, 2795 S. I-45. Look for an early 2018 opening.
• Honda Clear Lake confirmed it would move to 27.5 acres it acquired in League City near American Fence & Supply Co. The property is south of state Highway 96, east of Calder Road and west of I-45. Honda Clear Lake has had a dealership at 20233 I-45 in Webster since 1990. Managers said the dealership needed more room.
• After more than a year of construction, Keith and Holly Lilley, who own the popular Dickinson Barbecue & Steakhouse, 2111 FM 517, opened Marais at 2015 FM 517. Marais, which means bayou in Cajun, is a multi-venue waterfront restaurant featuring French Quarter inspired architecture. Along with the Gulf Coast and Cajun inspired dishes, Marais serves some fusion dishes. (Hurricane Harvey in late August badly flooded Dickinson Bayou, so the Lilleys are offering the barbecue menu at Marais until crews repair the restaurant.)
• Crews began clearing the way for fast-food concept Panda Express to open in front of Wal-Mart near the Coastal Community Credit Union in La Marque.
• Fairfield Inn and Suites announced plans for a 110-room hotel in Pinnacle Park, a 100-acre mixed-use town center at I-45 and Big League Dreams Parkway in League City. The five-story, 64,000-square-foot property will feature such amenities as an outdoor pool and an adjoining swim-up bar.
• Brentwood, Tenn.-based Tractor Supply Co. opened a 21,700-square-foot-store at 13404 FM 1764 in Santa Fe.
• GBT Realty Corp. acquired an 11.7-acre center along Deke Slayton Highway, west of state Highway 146 from Kemah Marketplace with plans to open The Shoppes of Kemah and subsequently announced a tenant lineup of major retailers, including Petco, Marshalls, Ross Dress for Less, Ulta Beauty and Rack Room Shoes.
• Brother-and-sister team Juan and Denise Vargas submitted plans to the city of Galveston for Vargas Cut & Catch in the space at 2102 Postoffice St. where bar 21 had long operated. Vargas Cut & Catch will serve steaks and seafood. The new venture will mark a second restaurant for the Vargas family in the island’s downtown. Juan and Denise’s father is Paco Vargas, who owns the highly successful Rudy & Paco, 2028 Postoffice St.
• After more than two years of planning, designing and construction, McRee Ford, which this year marked its 70th anniversary, celebrated the opening of its new showroom and repair facility, 2800 I-45, in Dickinson. (Flooding from Hurricane Harvey badly damaged the showroom, which is under repair.)
• Houston-based Ignite Restaurant Group, which owns Brick House Tavern + Tap chain and Joe’s Crab Shack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as it sought to reorganize. Ignite operates a Joe’s Crab Shack and a Brick House Tavern + Tap on Seawall Boulevard in Galveston.
• Friendswood attorney and developer Jerome Karam opened the 55,000-square-foot Altitude Trampoline Park franchise at the Mall of the Mainland, 10000 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway. It’s the largest trampoline park in the United States.
• June was a major milestone month for John White, who marked the 10-year anniversary of his business, John’s Shutters and Repair, and the completion of a new, 4,800-square-foot office and manufacturing plant at 10511 state Highway 6 in Hitchcock. White also finalized the acquisition of Aramco Storm Protection in Galveston.
• Members of the island’s Sullivan family confirmed they had acquired the 73,801-square-foot Del Papa Distributing Co. complex, 6702 Broadway, in Galveston. The building had been vacant since 2012, when Del Papa moved to Texas City. The Sullivan brothers are consolidating several of their various island offices at the site, including SLS Co. and Callan Marine.
• The Galveston Historical Foundation confirmed it acquired the venerable building at 3304 Market St., occupied for decades by the Gately Paper Co., which closed this year. Gately had for decades supplied businesses, restaurants and consumers with food packaging, cleaning supplies, small wares, office products and more. Galveston Historical Foundation has not divulged what it plans to do with the 33,0000-square-foot building built in 1904.
• North County sushi lovers were mourning the closure of 20-year-old Kemah eatery Ichibon Japanese Seafood, 406 Texas Ave. Jim H. Wang, managing partner and owner, blamed the closure on lease negotiations and the Texas Department of Transportation‘s ambitious state Highway 146 expansion.
• Readers were wondering about a building rising on stilts along FM 2004, not far from Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque. The building is for a clubhouse at what will be the Big Spot RV Resort, 4313 FM 2004. The development will include 150 RV sites and a pool.
• A bankruptcy judge approved the agreement for Houston-based Landry’s Inc., led by island-born billionaire Tilman Fertitta, to acquire the assets of Houston-based Ignite Restaurant Group.
The Aug. 17 hearing followed an auction on Aug. 7 in which Landry’s emerged as the highest bidder with a $57 million offer. Through the deal, Landry’s acquired Joe’s Crab Shack — which it previously owned — and Brick House Tavern + Tap.
• Mike and Kathy Bouvier opened Hey Mikey’s Ice Cream at 613 Sixth St. in Texas City. The Bouviers also own the popular Hey Mikey’s in Galveston’s downtown.
• Whether it was by flooding, displaced employees, power, fuel and supply disruptions or curfews, Hurricane Harvey affected businesses across the county, some of which are still trying to recover.
• After months of construction that resulted in a very hard-to-miss giant head of a shark appearing on Seawall Boulevard, Landry’s Inc. unveiled its newest island attraction — Shark Attack The Mysterious Underworld 5D at 2424 Seawall Blvd, packing in two attractions in a building formerly occupied by Domino’s Pizza.
• Multiple tracts and lots that were part of Bayside at Waterman’s, a luxury waterfront development on Galveston’s West End, were posted for foreclosure sale. According to a Notice of Substitute Trustee’s Sale, Icon Bank made a loan of $1.02 million in March 2016 to mortgagers Lafitte’s Harbor Development II LP, Lafitte Holdings LP, Roy E. Oswalt and Todd Edwards. And the posting for foreclosure sale also showed four other Bayside at Waterman’s parcels with original loan amounts totaling $9.7 million. Icon Bank has not responded to inquiries about the results of the foreclosure sale.
• After much negotiation, Legend Communities was able to ward off a foreclosure sale of many parcels and properties in Harborwalk, a luxury waterfront development on West Galveston Bay. Legend Communities said it hoped to reverse fortunes of the development, which includes 380 residential lots, a 150-slip marina and yacht club 2.4 miles west of I-45 on state Highway 6 in Hitchcock.
After five years of searching for the right spot, brothers Larry and Tikie Kriticos confirmed they had signed a lease for 10,000 square feet at Pinnacle Park, a 100-acre mixed-use development at I-45 and Big League Dreams Parkway. The exact address for what will be the third Olympia Grill in the county is 2535 I-45 S. The Kriticos brothers own and operate Olympia Grill at 4908 Seawall Blvd. and Olympia Grill at Pier 21, both on the island.
Just a little more than a year after announcing plans for an island return, Hooters officially opened at 9,822-square-foot building at 6028 Heards Lane on English Bayou.
After four long years and a protracted legal fight, Houston restaurateur Domenic Laurenzo opened Laurenzo’s El Tiempo Cantina, 20237 I-45, in Webster.
The highly visible building, formerly occupied by Big Ben Tavern, had for years sat empty as parties sparred in a breach of contract lawsuit that had delayed construction and opening of the 15,000-square-foot building.
• Crews began moving dirt and working on sewers and streets at what will be Highland Bayou RV Park, 2351 Maxwell St., in La Marque.
The development, on 48.36 acres, will feature 313 RV slips, a boat launch, covered pool, laundry, restroom and shower facilities, city officials confirm. Amenities also include a fishing pier and a freshwater pond. Highland Bayou RV Park is adjacent to Mac McGaffey Highland Bayou Park off Getty Road, the site of La Marque Bayou Fest.
• After five years, Nonno Tony’s Seafood Kitchen on Pier 21 in Galveston closed its doors.
“Nonno’s was born to help create a richer destination on Pier 21 and we believe we accomplished that,” Galveston Restaurant Group said in a statement. “However, business is business and difficult decisions must be made.” Nonno Tony’s was named for Anthony “Tony” Smecca, patriarch of the Smecca Family.
• Confirming months of speculation, the Port of Galveston‘s governing board approved a contract that would allow Katie’s Seafood Market to open a restaurant at Pier 19.