The Tribune-Herald last week ran a story about Koko Ramen completing its transition from food truck to brick-and-mortar by opening in the still-filling Union Hall food hall at Eighth Street and Franklin Avenue downtown.

It joins Captain Billy Whizzbang’s, a popular hometown burger joint, as well as a relative newcomer to the local foodie scene, Unshakeable Milkshakes.

Local real estate agent Jonathan Garza, who is working with colleague Clay Fuller to book space in Union Hall, said those commitments represent only the tip of the iceberg, that other announcements would be forthcoming. Some whose commitments the Tribune-Herald has reported have continued to prepare their stall space in anticipation of an unveiling sooner or later, Garza said.

Building permits issued the past week or so bear out what Garza said. They reveal Around The World Bakery, Huaco Eatery and Ceviche Del Mar have secured city permission to complete their stall preparation. Sam Castillo, a partner in the La Fiesta Tex-Mex restaurant, also has visited the venue recently. His family secured the contract to provide alcohol services at Union Hall, with a main bar and a satellite. He also will open a gourmet taco shop in the hall, which is a product of Shane Turner and Todd Behringer.

Other permits of note recorded by the local office of Associated General Contractors of America include a $250,000 issuance to remodel the building at 300 S. Valley Mills Drive, where the Train Waco CrossFit and training center will take space, having announced it would leave Elm Avenue.

A permit also has been issued to finish out space at 130 N. New Road for a Vietnamese restaurant carrying the name Pho! Etc., according to the Associated General Contractors.

Also on the restaurant scene, a national chain, Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse, is clearing land near Interstate 35 and Valley Mills Drive, near the Bubba’s 33 restaurant and sports bar, where it plans to open a location, though an opening date has not been announced to the Tribune-Herald. Judging by the sizable land-skinning, the place is going to be large, popular or both, requiring ample parking.

BU family business awards

Baylor University again this year passed out its family business awards, with ventures around the state taking home awards.

Locally, Cen-Tex Roof Systems won the Stewardship Award. It was founded in 1987 and is headquartered at 4800 W. Waco Drive.

Focus Behavioral Associates of Robinson was named to the Texas Family Business Hall of Fame, according to a post by the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor. Induction “recognizes those rare businesses that show such consistent commitment to business, family and community that they are selected for the third time among the top Family Businesses in Texas.”

Focus Behavioral Associates uses what it calls Applied Behavior Analysis to improve the lives of young people and adults with autism, attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, according to its website.

In a few other categories of note, G.W. Mitchell Construction of San Antonio was named Small Business Family of the Year; The First State Bank of Louise won Medium Family Business of the Year; and First State Bank, with headquarters in Gainesville, was named Large Family Business of the Year.

Feedstore BBQ of Southlake received the Well-Managed Award, while Russell Feed & Supply of Fort Worth won the Community Commitment Award. Legacy Protection & Preservation of Round Rock received the Family Values Award.

Fastest Growing Award went to Casita Enterprises of Rice; the Heritage Award to Metallic Products of Houston; and the Founders Award to Water District Management of Houston.

Renfro Foods of Fort Worth joined Focus Behavioral Associates in being named to the Hall of Fame.

Hotel auction

Want to buy a hotel for Christmas from the comfort of your home?

The five-story Holiday Inn & Suites Waco Northwest in Bellmead, next to Home Depot, is being auctioned off at 2 p.m. Dec. 12, according to a bid solicitation from CBRE, which touts itself as the largest commercial real estate services company in the world, the initials short for Coldwell Banker/Richard Ellis. Dennis Drake, with CBRE, will provide tours of the hotel for those interested in bidding online. His number is 713-577-1600.

A participation deposit of $50,000 is required, according to a CBRE statement. will host the site on which bidding takes place.

Built in 2008, the Holiday Inn & Suites Waco Northwest features 122 rooms, including 42 suites, and offers an indoor pool, whirlpool spa, business center, high-speed internet service, fitness center and 24-hour check-in.

Of note is the increasing value of the property at 1801 N. Development Boulevard. It originally was appraised for tax purposes at $5.9 million, but the McLennan County Appraisal District last year valued it at $12 million.

Hundreds of new hotel rooms are planned or have been placed under construction as Greater Waco is enjoying a boom in tourism and convention visits. Local officials say Magnolia Market at the Silos and Baylor University’s now 5-year-old McLane Stadium on Lake Brazos contribute mightily to the phenomenon. Waco continues to rank high, even No. 1 in some calendar quarters, in hotel occupancy rates statewide, according to reporting by Carla Pendergraft, who markets the city and Waco Convention Center.

Flores talk

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, whose district includes Waco, will be featured speaker at the “State of the Nation, State of the State” lunch Dec. 2, at McLane Stadium’s Baylor Club, an event hosted by the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Texas State Technical College.

The program will last from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Others to speak include State Demographer Lloyd Potter and Commissioner Julian Alvarez, with the Texas Workforce Commission, as well as State Sen. Brian Bidwell, State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson and State Rep. Kyle Kacal. Also on hand will be Waco-based economist Ray Perryman, who will discuss opportunities and challenges facing the local economy and beyond.

Call the chamber’s Jessica Attas with questions at 757-5631. For ticket information, visit

I-35 progress

Fret not motorists already weary of the construction along Interstate 35 through Waco. The project is more than one-fourth complete, at least from a financial standpoint, according to a Texas Department of Transportation report to the Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization.

General contractor Webber LLC has polished off an estimated $88 million of the $341 million project that involves widening, installing new exit and entrance ramps, bridges and overpasses along the highway between North Loop 340 in Bellmead and South 12th Street near downtown.

Meanwhile, TxDOT spokesman Ken Roberts, who attended the meeting, said in an interview that Thanksgiving travelers will face no lane closings on the interstate through Waco, but they should continue watching for work crews. Webber has financial incentives to keep the project moving.

The AAA Texas-New Mexico auto club predicts that 4.1 million Texans will travel more than 50 miles from home over the holiday weekend.

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