J.C. Penney

Hundreds of shoppers line up outside J.C. Penney at Richland Mall, waiting for holiday sales to start on Thanksgiving Day. Despite the company's recent struggles, it reported an increase holiday sales between 2016 and last year.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte, file

To the dismay of her loyal fans, Karyn Miller Brooks has decided to close her Gourmet Gallery shop at 502 Austin Ave., but she said she is not abandoning downtown and sees a bright future for it.

Brooks said family obligations prompted her decision to shutter Gourmet Gallery, a haven for those with a passion for food and its preparation, sometime this month, after about a year on Austin Avenue. She launched Gourmet Gallery elsewhere in Waco 10 years ago, then joined the move to the inner city, where she hoped to continue nourishing “a passion for good food and creating a culinary culture,” she said online.

“It’s been a good ride, and I leave with mixed feelings. … Downtown is fantastic, and I would have loved to stick it out longer, but it was just time,” Brooks said.

Her lease was about to expire, and she has started a liquidation sale that includes fixtures, cookbooks, equipment and appliances, and will last until the store closes.

Brooks has agreed to oversee a wine gallery planned at 712 Austin Ave., home to the Cultivate 7twelve art gallery. It is her understanding that the wine section will open in a few months, Brooks said.

She will continue to conduct cooking classes at the Young Chefs Academy corporate headquarters “for the foreseeable future.”

1102 Bubble

Tea & Bites

Elsewhere downtown, 1102 Bubble Tea & Bites is poised to open at 800 S. Seventh St. in a strip center devoted to retail and restaurants being filled by developer Shane Turner.

The 1102 Bubble Tea & Bites website states its lofty goal, saying, “We strive to construct an establishment of tranquility and clarity that helps to invoke a creative and focused mindset within our customers.”

It has another location on Cooper Street in Arlington.

J.C. Penney, Sears

Much has been written about the future of iconic retailers J.C. Penney and Sears, both of which have faced trying times in recent years.

Sears Holdings announced last week it will close another 100 Sears and Kmart locations between March and April, though the Sears store in Waco remains safe for now. The company closed hundreds of locations in 2017, and the value of Sears shares dropped by 60 percent.

On the flip side, J.C. Penney enjoyed an unexpected 3.4 percent increase in holiday sales, according to Reuters.

Yellow Cab closing

in Waco

Bill Kemp came to Waco in January 1978, joined a friend in running Diamond Taxi for a time and then launched his own taxi service, Yellow Cab, “and we ran Diamond out of business in 90 days,” Kemp said Saturday, a day after he pulled the plug on Yellow Cab.

Kemp, 79, said he once worked as a banker and bank examiner, which came in handy when he wanted to borrow $25,000 to start his business. He once had 16 vehicles roving the streets of Greater Waco and generated between 400 and 500 calls daily.

“At the end, I had four taxis, and we were getting fewer than 100 calls a day,” Kemp said. “I was literally paying taxes out of my own pocket.”

He said the city of Waco’s policy of charging him $100 per vehicle annually to provide taxi service aggravated his financial woes. He said entities such as Lyft and Uber are not subject to similar fees.

A handful of dispatchers and 10 to 15 drivers are impacted by his decision, but he is continuing to operate Yellow Cab in Temple, Kemp said.

“I’ll be 80 years old in June, though I don’t think I look like it or act like it,” he said with a laugh. “It’s been a good run of 40 years, so maybe I do need to retire. I believe I ran a good show.”

Scotty’s Brewhouse

Remodeling continues at the former Twin Peaks building in Central Texas Marketplace, where a shootout claimed the lives of nine people in May 2015.

Indiana-based Scotty’s Brewhouse plans to open a restaurant and sports bar there early this year. Representatives of Scotty’s have not returned numerous phone calls seeking comment on whether it has bought or is leasing the almost 8,000-square-foot structure.

A notice on the door states Scotty’s is seeking a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to serve mixed drinks. Scotty’s also is hiring, according to a sign on the property.

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