Circle around: Some readers are wondering about Circle K signs at Valero Corner Stores. Those are signs of big changes.

As previously buzzed, San Antonio-based Valero, the largest U.S. refiner by processing capacity, said in 2012 it planned to sell or spin off its network of fuel stations.

Canada-based convenience store giant Alimentation Couche-Tard, which owns the Circle K brand, in 2016 announced it would, in a $4.4 billion buyout, pay cash to acquire Valero’s CST Brands, which controls 2,000 convenience stores, including 200 with the Valero Corner Store brand. The deal closed last year.

Officials at Alimentation Couche-Tard’s Quebec headquarters did not immediately respond to emailed questions, including about whether Valero patrons would be able to continue using their credit cards and whether all the Valero Corner Stores would get makeovers. But, in other Texas markets, there are reports that Valero stores would indeed be rebranded under Circle K with a color scheme of red, white and orange.

Circle K was founded in 1951 in El Paso. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 1990 and went through several owners before being acquired by Alimentation Couche-Tard in 2003. The Circle K brand is present in most of the 50 U.S. states, and is franchised in Asia and Latin America. Alimentation Couche-Tard is the leader in the Canadian convenience store industry, with a worldwide total network of more than 16,000 stores.

Valero operates Corner Stores throughout the county. Stay tuned.

Sailing ahead: After some delays, there’s progress to report at Mariner Inn, 1602 Seawall Blvd. on the island. Crews are removing all the old cast-iron pipe that was deteriorating and also demolishing some of the concrete blocks, which were “more patches than it was wall,” said Michael Gaertner, architect for the development.

Jalaram Enterprise, which owns the property, closed the hotel in January 2017 to prepare for major renovations. But before renovations could begin, crews would have to remove asbestos, which they began to do. But then Hurricane Harvey hit in late August last year, stalling progress.

Andy Gandhi, a principal at Jalaram Enterprise, began concentrating on repairing his flooded Dickinson home before refocusing on the 60-room Mariner Inn project, Gaertner said earlier this year.

Harvey also brought with it a tight labor market, which drove up prices. Jalaram Enterprises was waiting for prices and market conditions to change before commencing a “down-to-the-bare structure makeover with new electrical and plumbing,” Gaertner said.

Plans call for demolishing the office building, pool and three of the rooms. Crews will convert three rooms on the building’s east side into an office and lobby. Mariner Inn opened in 1965.

So, when will the made-over Mariner Inn reopen? “We will know more once all the demo is complete,” Gaertner said. “I would imagine the goal is to be ready for the season next year, so maybe March.”

Hut update: There’s a bit more buzz about The Beach Hut, a long-awaited venue at 731 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston. Owner Sidhartha Sen emailed to say: “We are still in our soft open, we are racing toward being fully open.” The Beach Hut’s patio so far is open for concerts Friday and Saturday and the venue is available for private events,” Sen said.

Sidhartha Sen and a business partner bought the building in 2015. The Beach Hut is the only island restaurant/bar venue with beach access.

Learning things: First-time franchisees Fatoumata Sininta and El Hadji Toure have opened The Learning Experience, 2351 FM 646 W., in Dickinson. The center offers child care, enrichment programs and early education for children from ages 6 weeks to 6 years. Curriculum and programs include phonics, mathematics, science, foreign language, yoga and a philanthropy program that focuses on kindness and generosity, owners said. The franchise will employ more than 30 teachers and staff members to serve about 200 children in Dickinson and surrounding communities.

Buzz therapy: The island’s Abadie Integrative Therapy, 8610 Seawall Blvd., is expanding. J. Paul Abadie, a physical therapist, last week announced the addition of Ann Charness, a physical therapist who has been practicing and teaching physical therapy on the island since 2004. Charness offers her independent clinical practice — Advances in Rehabilitation at Abadie Integrative Therapy.

Charness has a clinical focus on Parkinson’s disease, stroke recovery, falls prevention and joint replacement rehabilitation. Abadie Integrative Therapy offers acupuncture, physical therapy and herbal medicine.

Laura Elder: 409-683-5248;

Managing Editor

(4) comments

David Smith

The VLO store in Hitchcock and Santa Fe have both been covcerted

Connie Reilly

Is there any news on DIBellos and what will happen there?

Gary Miller

Valero and Circle K are both Texas energy companies.'

Tommy Gober

Too bad you didn't read the article. It specifically points out how Circle K is owned by a Canadian company. Sure, it started in El Paso, but times change.

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