Roll blocks: North county sushi lovers are mourning the closure of 20-year-old Kemah eatery Ichibon Japanese Seafood, 406 Texas Ave.

On Facebook, Jim H. Wang, managing partner and owner, blamed the July 30 closure on lease negotiations and the Texas Department of Transportation‘s ambitious state Highway 146 expansion. That expansion, which will widen 146 from six lanes to 12 and include a new expressway bridge west of and parallel to the Seabrook-Kemah Bridge, is causing a reshuffling and closure of many restaurants. Ichibon at 18206 Egret Bay Blvd. and another in Pasadena will remain open.

“With my deepest and sincerest gratitude, I thank you for the years of patronage you have shown to Ichibon Kemah,” Wang said.

Spicy dish: Meanwhile, a popular Friendswood eatery is growing. Rancho Mexican Restaurant, 146 W. Parkwood Ave., is building a 5,000-square-foot restaurant with an outdoor patio overlooking a 7-acre fountain at Friendswood Fountains Commercial Park, 2111 W. Parkwood Ave.

Rancho is leasing its existing space, but will move into Friendswood Fountains early in the summer of next year, city officials report.

Rancho will join Center Court Pizza & Brew, which was the first tenant signing into the 19,000-square-foot retail center. Rancho’s story is one of perseverance.

Antonio Nunez had since 1974 dreamed of owning his own restaurant, while working as a dishwasher at a Houston restaurant, while learning to cook and waiting tables. In 2004, he opened Rancho in Friendswood, according to the restaurant’s history.

Rumors gone Wild: An unconfirmed but savory rumor is making the rounds that Buffalo Wild Wings is planning a Texas City site, possibly in front of Kroger, 3541 Palmer Highway.

Details, however, were elusive last week. Officials at Buffalo Wild Wings’ corporate headquarters in Minneapolis did not immediately respond to inquiries. The nearest Buffalo Wild Wings is 528 Bay Area Blvd. in the Clear Lake area.

The casual dining chain and sports bar franchise specializes in chicken wings with 21 signature sauces and seasonings and is known for its multi-media system for showing sporting events. Stay tuned.

Red alert: As promised, Red Wing Shoe Co. has stepped into League City with a market focus on the oil, gas and petrochemical industry in Texas City and the surrounding area.

Red Wing, which opened its League City store at 2451 S. Interstate 45 in Pinnacle Park, is known for “purpose-built” footwear along with flame resistant workwear, safety glasses, gloves and other personal protective equipment.

Tony Arevalo, who has spent more than a decade in the industrial footwear industry, is managing the League City store. Pinnacle Park is a 110-acre mixed-use development that includes office, medical, dining, leisure, retail and multi-family/residential uses.

The grapevine: Wine drinkers have reason to raise their glasses in a toast. David and Holli Baze have opened The Wine Next Door, 418 21st St., in downtown Galveston.

The wine bar offers 120 labels and 30 wines by the glass daily. Holli Baze is an attorney and David Baze was a stay-at-home dad. They had always enjoyed good wine, but this is their first such business venture.

“When the kids got old enough and I could actually talk to adults, I decided to do something different,” he said. The Wine Next Door has been open a little more than two weeks and so far is doing well, he said.

Building bought: The rumor that Galveston Historical Foundation had acquired the venerable building formerly occupied by Gately Paper Co. is true. The acquisition closed last week, Louis Gately confirmed. Gately and family owned the 33,000-square-foot building and business, 3304 Market St., which had for decades supplied businesses, restaurants and consumers with food packaging, cleaning supplies, small wares, office products and more. What Galveston Historical Foundation plans to do with the 1904 building wasn’t immediately clear.

Paper chase: Gately Paper Co. had operated on the island since the 1950s and its closure took many longtime clients by surprise. Now, two companies are working to fill the market void.

First, Houston-based Stewart’s Packaging is opening a retail and warehouse facility at 23rd Street and Avenue M in Galveston.

Stewart’s Packaging has been in business in Houston since 1957 and its principals have known Louis Gately for years. The companies were friendly competitors and, although Stewart Packaging has supplied such items as printed bags, bows, ribbons and tissues to Galveston’s Strand merchants for some time, it never tried to compete for Gately’s business on the island.

But with Gately gone, Stewart Packaging is moving in, supplying restaurants and businesses with such items as, foam cups/containers, foam/clear hinged lid containers, aluminum foil, butcher supplies, napkins, portion cups, tissue, towels, plates, bowls, restaurant, warehouse supplies and more.

“They left a huge hole here,” said Cliff Bailey, who with his wife, Lisa, manage Stewart Packaging, which her family owns.

Patrick Henry, who worked for Gately, is now with Stewart Packaging, which is already supplying former Gately customers.

Kleen break: Second, Kleen Supply Co., 2428 Church St., on the island, has in the past few weeks seen an influx of Gately’s former customers, owners report. The businesses were similar, but Gately concentrated more on restaurant supplies than did Kleen, which also is known for janitorial supplies. Now, Kleen Supply Co. is closing the gap by expanding its wholesale foods and other lines to supply more restaurants, said Carlos Pena, whose family opened Kleen Supply Co. in 1971.

Something ventured: Meanwhile, Louis Gately has joined a new venture called Next Level Capital Group.

“We actually started about seven years ago as a very informal group that would make private money loans to commercial real estate borrowers who had limited access to traditional financing for various reasons,” said Gately, the firm’s chief operating officer.

That group has formalized into a boutique finance firm that makes all types of bridge loans secured by commercial real estate, Gately said. The firm packages the loans into a fund for income-seeking investors. Next Level Capital Group has leased space at 2200 Market St. in downtown Galveston.

“There is a lot of momentum with us and I feel very lucky to be a part of this,” Gately said.

Nationwide: All the national reality TV exposure Galveston is getting is boosting the city, tourism trackers agree. But it’s also helping small businesses that are featured in the TV shows. One such business is Woven Inspiration, which offers upholstery, fabrics, wallpaper and design services. Woven Inspiration, 2228 Broadway, recently was featured on the HGTV pilot “Saving Galveston.”

That show is about islanders Ashley and Michael Cordray, who own a real estate and renovation company specializing in restoring island homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Such exposure was good for the island and for Woven Inspiration, owner Christine Becker said.

Screen time: Meanwhile, readers last week were buzzing about a crew from the Travel Channel filming at downtown island restaurant Gypsy Joynt, 2711 Market St. Look soon for details about that airing.

Laura Elder: 409-683-5248;

Managing Editor

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