Covert operation: For all those readers hungry for opening-date status of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in La Marque, there’s news.

Franchise owners Dave and Lesa Covert plan a Jan. 24 grand opening of the 2,165-square-foot eatery restaurant in the La Marque Crossing shopping center at the corner of Interstate 45 and FM 1764 near Panda Express.

A very rainy September and October slowed the buildout, including the installation of a grease trap, Dave Covert said. But crews are “sprinting for the finish line” and the eatery is in good shape for opening day, he said.

In 1941 Travis Dickey, who was known for his gift of gab and slow-smoked barbecue, opened the first Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Dallas. Dickey was also a World War II vet. The company began franchising the concept in 1994 and today has more than 500 restaurants in 44 states.

Retail detail: Those rumors were true. Furniture, mattress, electronics and appliance store Conn’s HomePlus is planning a store in part of the Marathon Galveston Bay Refinery business office building, 3401 Palmer Highway in Texas City, city officials confirm. It’s the same building where Planet Fitness recently opened a gym.

Meanwhile, there’s still room at the building, and owners are considering dividing the remaining space into smaller storefronts facing Palmer Highway, city officials confirm. Information about square-footage wasn’t immediately available.

Conn’s Inc. earlier this year broke ground on a 656,658-square-foot distribution center in north Houston. In 2008, the year the company posted nearly $1 billion in revenues, it initiated a new concept it called HomePlus, upgrading existing stores and adding new ones. The larger format was meant to showcase furniture and mattresses and the latest technologies in home appliances and consumer electronics, officials said.

Smooth move: It seems fitting that an enterprise called The MarketPlace at the Peanut Butter Warehouse would stock peanut butter. The name, after all, always stirs questions from visitors wondering about peanut butter.

Keith Neubauer, his wife, Shari, and Glynis Orr decided to bring back peanut butter at the building and have opened Go Nuts and Beans at the downtown Galveston building, 102 20th St.

Go Nuts and Beans specializes in freshly ground peanut butter — varieties include honey roasted, salted caramel — and there’s also a butter of the month, which in January is Sweet and Spicy Jalapeño Butter. The shop also sells coffee by the cup or by the pound and half pound.

“We serve two flavors a day and generally it is Texas Pecan and our House Blend,” Keith Neubauer said.

In 2015, Alma Zepeda and business partner Tommy Wade opened The MarketPlace at Peanut Butter Warehouse, 102 20th St. The market includes vendors selling antiques, art and more. The Peanut Butter Warehouse Building, which is home to luxury lofts with harbor views, was for years home to a large antiques cooperative where a vendor also sold peanut butter-flavored treats, including fudge cookies and yogurt. Hurricane Ike in 2008 wiped out the venue.

The 1895 building originally housed a wholesale grocer. But from 1914 to 1920, it was home to Coffee Roasters Manufacturers. While that business didn’t manufacture the peanut butter, it warehoused what came to the island through the port.

Slow going: Meanwhile, readers are inquiring about the status of another historic downtown island building.

In April, developers predicted work on a much-awaited downtown island parking garage and apartment complex would begin by summer, but nothing happened at the Medical Arts Building, 301 21st St..

That, however, doesn’t mean something won’t happen, American National Insurance Co. CEO James E. Pozzi said this week.

Developers plan a six-story parking garage and an apartment complex in a project that will save what remains of the historic Medical Arts Building and ease parking woes in the island’s downtown.

Negotiations and planning for the development have been long and complicated with “many moving parts,” officials with Port Arthur-based development firm The ITEX Group said last year. Those officials this week could not be reached for comment.

The ITEX Group caused much buzz in September 2016 when it confirmed plans to build a 232-unit apartment complex at the site of the Medical Arts Building. The ITEX Group earlier that year had finalized acquisition of the long-vacant building. The firm also confirmed at the time it was partnering with American National Insurance Co. to build the six-story parking garage.

In April, Bobken Simonians, senior vice president of The ITEX Group, said the company was negotiating with equity investors to secure a loan and when that was finalized, construction could begin in June, he said.

The project will have three components — restoration of the historic building, new residential construction and parking. The historic building will contain 72 units. The remaining units will be in a newly constructed addition adjacent to the historical building.

The ITEX Group will build the parking garage with financing from American National, Simonians said. When construction is complete, The ITEX Group will turn the parking garage over to American National, Simonians has said.

American National, which employs hundreds of people in its downtown tower, has long sought to increase parking options for employees, officials have said. The ITEX Group will enter into an agreement with American National to lease 100 spaces for apartment residents, Simonians said. The ITEX Group likely will lease more spaces when the new apartment construction is complete, he said.

The Medical Arts Building, designed by architect Andrew Fraser, was an annex to the American National Insurance Co. building of 1913, which was demolished in 1972 after the company moved into its 20-story downtown tower in 1971. The building later housed medical offices, hence the name.

The ITEX Group is best known on the island for buying the 10-story Jean Lafitte Hotel in 2009, changing the name to 2101 Church Street and turning that former eyesore into an 83-unit apartment complex.

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

Managing Editor

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