If the curve has been flattened, and the coronavirus is on the run, one might wonder if Waco is poised to resume the brisk economic pace it was setting.
Local real estate agent Gregg Glime agreed to weigh in.
“I am very bullish on Waco’s position for a quick turnaround as we approach normalcy,” Glime said by email. “I am constantly around many local and regional business owners and operators. In general everyone remains very optimistic. We have some key projects on the calendar for later this year, very timely and a major shot in the arm for Waco’s sales tax revenue.”
Glime’s list includes launch of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ virus-delayed Magnolia Network, a $10.4 million addition to Magnolia Market at the Silos; a $100 million Riverfront development; an entertainment venue bringing Cinemark and Topgolf near New Road and Interstate 35, and Baylor University students returning to campus.
Magnolia spokesman John Marsicano said via email an expanded Magnolia Market featuring ballfields, shops, gardens, an old Waco church and a furniture showroom remains scheduled for completion in September.
Glime, a cog in multiple downtown ventures and property enhancements, added in his email: “The timing of many concepts I’ve been working with the past few months has them opening when these restrictions are being lifted. I believe the timing is great, as Wacoans are ready to get back out with even more determination to support local business.”
Grants and microloans up to $2,500 will become available to minority owned small businesses under a program started by the Center of Business Excellence and the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, said Rachel Pate, the chamber’s vice president of economic development.
A capital campaign with a goal of raising $100,000 is running through May 30, and donors who give $10,000 or more will receive special recognition.
TFNB Your Bank for Life will serve as custodian for the tax-deductible contributions, Pate said in a press release. The chamber will create an online portal for its Cen-Tex Minority Business Equity Fund late next month.
“There are currently federal and local funding opportunities still available for small businesses,” Pate said by email. “This fund is designed to ensure that businesses who have fallen through the cracks have an opportunity to receive relief funding during these times and moving forward. … The opportunity for fund donations has just begun, and we are excited to touch base with all of our community partners who have been waiting for the launch. Donations can be made by public or private entities, community grants, foundations, small business investors and local citizens.”
A committee that includes representatives of the chamber, the East Waco Business League and the community will consider the requests. The final decision on allocations rests with the chamber executive committee.
Diamondback’s, an upscale restaurant in River Square Center at Franklin and Mary avenues, is offering curbside family dinners at lower prices during the continued COVID-19 pandemic, according to an email.
The meals are priced at $28 to $35 per person, said Michael Kornman, managing partner of NCK Capital LLC in Dallas, which owns the space.
Kornman said the restaurant also is selling prime meats to cook at home. It is offering a 30% discount on any takeout wine.
Waco Tours relaunch
Waco Tours last week resumed its river cruise on Lake Brazos and on Monday will relaunch its classic tour downtown that includes stops near Magnolia Market at the Silos, Sixth Street and Webster Avenue. It is welcoming locals to sample the service with a buy-one, get-one-free deal, according to a press release.
“We have sought wisdom, and we are prepared with very specific and thought-through safety procedures as we open up our tours,” co-owner Luke Whyte said in the press release. “We will be limiting our guest capacity on our tours as the safety of our guests and staff is our highest priority.”
To promote its resumption of service, Waco Tours is sponsoring a social media campaign to recognize “Hometown Heroes” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nominations can be made through Wednesday on the Waco Tours Instagram account, and the winner chosen by Waco Tours staffers will be announced Friday. The grand prize is a private river cruise catered by Cheddar Box and Andy’s Lemonade valued at $1,500, according to the press release.
Raising Cane’s hires
Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, the chain with three locations in Waco, announced it has stared hiring 5,000 new employees at its 500 locations. It also has distributed $2 million to staffers “to show its appreciation for their extraordinary work and sacrifice during the pandemic.”
The $2 million payout is meant to make up for hours crewmembers agreed to forgo early on as the virus gathered steam, according to the press release. Raising Cane’s will open three new restaurants in Texas this month.
Stop the presses. Gasoline prices are rising.
Falling demand and other geopolitical dynamics had caused oil and gasoline prices to tank. But numbers at the pump rose 4 cents per gallon for regular unleaded statewide last week, marking the first increase in more than two months, according to a AAA Texas report Thursday.
The statewide average settled at $1.54, according to AAA. That remains $1.03 less than the statewide norm in early May last year.
Of the major metropolitan areas surveyed, drivers in Midland were paying the most on average at $1.73, while drivers in McAllen were paying the least at $1.40 per gallon. Waco found itself in middle ground at $1.55.
A shudder went through the browse-and-buy industry Friday, when the Commerce Department reported retail sales plummeted 16.4% from March to April. The monthly decline nearly doubled the previous record drop of 8.3%, occurring just a month earlier, according to an Associated Press report.
Declines spread across all sectors: automobiles, 13%; furniture stores, 59%; electronics and appliance stores, more than 60%; clothing stores, 79%; department stores, 29%; and restaurants, 30%, despite efforts to soften the blow to the bottom line by pushing takeout and delivery.
Holding their own were retailers of building materials, which saw a meager decline of about 3%, which is not surprising if weekend crowds at Lowe’s on New Road and Home Depot on Waco Drive reflect national trends.
Struggling iconic retailer J.C. Penney filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday and hinted at permanent store closings.
Locally, Pat Farrar, who tracks retail trends locally as a commercial real estate agent, said he is noticing a subtle shift from despair to optimism.
He continues to work with a prospect interested in taking 50,000 square feet of commercial space locally, though he held off on revealing specifics.