Wok this way: Inquiring readers want to know about all that dirt turning in front of Wal-Mart near the new Coastal Community Credit Union in La Marque.

Crews are clearing the way for fast-food concept Panda Express. For the uninitiated, Panda Express is famous for its orange chicken and chow mein, among other fare. Its parent company is Panda Restaurant Group, which operates more than 1,800 eateries and is one of the largest privately held restaurant chains in the nation. The Rosemead, Calif.-based operation also happens to be the largest American-Chinese fast-food chain, with restaurants in League City and the Clear Lake area.

Retail detail: La Marque lately has been a center of retail activity. The new Valero fueling station, 5291 FM 2004, is expected to open within the next month or so. And word has it that a doughnut shop and another eatery plan to open in the Valero development, but no one has pulled permits yet, city officials report.

Bottom Dollar: And while dollars don’t grow on trees, Dollar Trees are growing everywhere. Dollar Tree on Thursday opened at Gulfway Plaza, 11025 Delany Road in La Marque. Chesapeake, Va.-based Dollar Tree is a chain of discount variety stores that sells items for $1 or less.

Complex deal: Look in late June for construction to begin on a sizable development in the island’s downtown that will save a historic building from complete ruin, deliver more apartments and provide much-needed parking. Port Arthur-based The ITEX Group plans to begin construction of a six-story parking garage as part of its development of a 230-plus unit Class A apartment complex at 302 21st St. at the site of the Medical Arts Building. The ITEX Group last year finalized the acquisition of the long-vacant building and has for many months been in discussions with American National Insurance Co. about partnering to develop the parking garage that would benefit residents of the apartment complex and also hundreds of American National employees.

The ITEX Group will develop the parking garage and American National will manage it, said Bobken Simonians, senior vice president of The ITEX Group.

The ITEX Group will lease 100 spaces at the parking garage from American National for the apartment residents, Simonians said. Financial terms of the parking lot partnership weren’t immediately available nor were they guaranteed to be divulged.

Construction will begin on the parking garage in late June, followed by rehabilitation of the Medical Arts Building, which will yield 73 apartment units, and then new construction, which will yield about another 190 units, Simonians said.

Plans call for a skybridge that connect the parking garage to the American National skyscraper, 1902 Market St.

Another proposed component of the development is a deal allowing the city to build stormwater storage under the new construction to help reduce street flooding, Simonians said.

“When it rains and the streets get flooded, there’s no way for employees to get to their cars,” Simonians said.

Stay tuned.

Tea time: As promised, Peter and Tammy Heim on Friday opened The Spice & Tea Exchange, 2309 Strand in the island’s downtown. The shop carries more than 140 herbs and spices, 75 hand-mixed blends, naturally flavored sugars, exotic sea and mineral salts, loose-leaf teas, gourmet gifts and accessories. It was Galveston’s Victorian architecture and beaches that drew the franchisees to the island, the Heims said. The couple also owns a The Spice & Tea Exchange location in New Orleans.

Eatery hatching: In other franchise news, Travis Powell on May 4 will open Chick-fil-A at state Highway 96 and South Shore Boulevard. The 5,000-square-foot restaurant will boast what Chick-fil-A corporate offices refer to as a “heritage” design, which showcases handmade, authentic materials for a vintage-inspired interior featuring subway tiles and large windows. The restaurant also will include a two-story interactive indoor play area for children and free Wi-Fi. The dining room seats 136 patrons and there are also 12 outdoor patio seats. The restaurant will create more than 100 jobs, officials say.

It’s no small feat to become a Chick-fil-A franchise owner. The company receives about 24,000 applications for about 100 franchise opportunities, corporate officials said. Powell’s mother raved about Chick-fil-A since he was a young child. While working at a Chick-fil-A in college, he realized he wanted to become an operator, he said. He used a Chick-fil-A scholarship to help offset college expenses at the University of Texas, where he graduated with a degree in Computer Science; he immediately went into a Chick-fil-A’s corporate interim manager program. The rest is history.

The 2805 state Highway 96 restaurant is one of 30 Chick-fil-A has scheduled to open in Texas this year.

Correction and clucking: Meanwhile, there’s freshly plucked news about an April 8 Buzz item involving a zoning flap and Chick-fil-A. The item should have reported that Chick-fil-A was hatching plans for a Friendswood eatery near the Leisure Lane/Eagles Point neighborhood.

And a reader emailed this observation: “For all the public statements made without any basis, developers (both on city council and those working on this project) are using the cachet that this particular restaurant has with the public to win votes for the rezoning.” But other reports have the Chick-fil-A planning a Pearland restaurant instead, the reader said.

The reader went on to report the Eagles Point subdivision was able to obtain enough signatures — 90 percent — to require six of seven council votes to pass the zoning change. Stay tuned.

Coming soon: What does Landry’s have in store for the building formerly occupied by Domino’s Pizza just east of the Chick-fil-A, 2428 Seawall Blvd.? What’s the status of the residential development on 58 acres along FM 517 that previously was home to Dickinson Country Club? And what bar and cafe is planning a site at Mall of the Mainland in Texas City? Is Golden Corral still planning a Texas City site? Find out the answers to these questions and more in next week’s Biz Buzz.

Laura Elder: 409-683-5248; laura.elder@galvnews.com

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