The longtime home of a Whataburger restaurant at 420 N. Valley Mills Drive will become a Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen chicken restaurant, the third in Greater Waco.

A building permit valued at $75,000 has been issued to allow the building, which is owned by the Carl’s Jr. hamburger chain, to be remodeled for Popeye’s.

The structure became vacant last year when Whataburger opened a new restaurant at Valley Mills and Lake Air drives.

The wooden frame of another new Whataburger has gone up at South Seventh Street and Interstate 35, where an older Whataburger was demolished. The San Antonio-based chain acquired land previously owned by the Waco Independent School District on which to build a larger location in an area teeming with new eateries.

Whataburger spokeswoman Amanda Blease said the leveled restaurant was built in 1975, and the new one will feature state-of-the-art kitchen equipment and two drive-thru lanes to serve more customers during peak hours. Dr Pepper-related memorabilia in the old restaurant has been donated to the Dr Pepper Museum.

Blease said during construction, which likely will be completed in the fall, employees have been given the opportunity to transfer to other local Whataburger locations.

In other restaurant news, construction of the Dunkin’ Donuts location at 1200 N. Valley Mills Drive has progressed to the point the chain is soliciting job applicants. For more information on applying, visit dunkindonuts.com/careers.

Nicole Shepard, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts-based chain, said the shop likely will hire 40 to 50 people.

Mark Nelson, of Woodway, is the local franchisee for Dunkin’ Donuts. Nelson has said he is pursuing sites for two other Dunkin’ Donuts locations.

Elsewhere, passers-by may have noticed remodeling taking place at 2300 N. 18th St., where the Hickory Stick restaurant for decades served steaks, chicken and barbecue. It has been closed for several years, and Alex Rodriguez, owner of Pure Home Renovation, is replacing or repairing the plumbing and electrical wiring, adding a touch of paint here and there and installing accessible bathrooms.

Rodriguez, who helped create the new 1950s diner look for the Kim’s restaurant at North 26th Street and Waco Drive, said a small congregation soon will hold church services in the old Hickory Stick. He said he’s been working at the place about two months, “and a lot of people have been stopping by and asking what I’m doing.”

Waco credit unions honored

Three Waco-based credit unions have been named to the 2016 edition of the Top 200 Healthiest Credit Unions in America released by DepositAccounts.com.

GENCO Federal Credit Union, Educators Credit Union and Members Choice Credit Union made the list.

Each credit union “stood out in all of the primary evaluation categories,” including deposit growth and capitalization.

DepositAccounts.com tracks more than 275,000 deposit rates and provides health ratings for all federally insured banks and credit unions.

Members Choice placed sixth in the nation and was the highest-ranking credit union in the state of Texas. Educators came in at No. 25 nationally, placing it third in the state, and GENCO wound up at No. 86 in the national rankings.

The H-E-B grocery chain’s credit union based in San Antonio hit No. 9 on the national list. It has 15,748 members.

A Temple-based credit union, Texell Credit Union, placed No. 121 on the national ranking, which includes 25 Texas-based institutions.

New Hampshire Federal Credit Union, based in Concord, New Hampshire, took the No. 1 ranking in the country.

The Real Co. at H-E-B

The Real Co., which touts itself as a wholesaler of organically grown foods, is placing its products in H-E-B stores around the state.

“The Real Co. assures that their food products are totally transparent, directly sourcing their products from farm or mine with the highest integrity, helping family farmers get the fair wages they deserve and, of course, always offering clean labels and great tastes,” the company said in a press release.

Products distributed by The Real Co. include Himalayan Pink Rock Salt, Organic Raw Cane Sugar and White Basmati Rice.

Packing for the foods is done at My Cup Counts, which the company calls “a revolutionary 60,000-square-foot American workshop where over 750 special-needs adults have gainful employment. The product lines packaged at My Cup Counts come straight from farms in Costa Rica, Pakistan and the Himalayan Mountains.”

Interesting was a news release devoted to The Real Co’s. newest offering, which it calls the Raw Pink Rock Salt Slab.

“Sourced directly from the Khewra Mines in the Lower Himalayas and handled with utmost care, this incredibly versatile salt slab can be used to cook, grill or serve on, adding exceptional flavor, an abundance of nutrients and healing qualities to every meal,” the company stated.

Based in Wilmington, Delaware, the company provides more information about its products and philosophy at www.thereal.co.

National Park Service centennial

The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary next month, and AAA Texas is using the occasion to bring attention to national parks.

It reported that 307 million people visited parks in 2015, an all-time record, and more than 3 in 4 Americans polled said they likely will visit a national park in the next 12 months, “building on the momentum of this year’s centennial celebrations,” according to a AAA auto club press release.

“The demand for national parks is off the charts this year, and it’s exciting to see that Americans are poised to take even more national park vacations in the years to come,” said Bryan Shilling, managing director of AAA Travel Products and Services. “In times of global uncertainty, many people are turning to domestic vacations.”

According to the National Park Service, the most visited national parks in 2015 were Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain. The survey revealed that the national parks that top most Americans’ bucket lists for future travels include Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon.

Waco is home to the Waco Mammoth National Monument, which is managed by the National Park Service, Baylor University and the city of Waco.

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