Tourism (copy)

Visitors look down the artesian well in the Dr Pepper Museum that was once put to use in soda production. The museum is offering free drinks with admission for the first time.

Bucks generated by big ideas, even small ones, drive free enterprise. And the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute in Waco had a brainstorm it hopes will bring in visits to the historic place on South Fifth Street.

Paying visitors to the museum now will get a free handcrafted Dr Pepper drink from the museum’s soda fountain, which is, surprisingly to some, a first for the attraction that chronicles the evolution of the Waco-born soft drink.

The museum staff will give printed tickets to visitors redeemable at the soda fountain on the date of their arrival.

Pogo Passes and free admission for children 4 years old and younger do not include free drinks, but drink vouchers are available for $1 to be paired with free admission promotions, museum spokeswoman Mary Beth Farrell said.

Admission prices are $10 for adults; $8 for seniors 65 and older and active military, military veterans or family members with ID; and $6 for college students.

Farrell, who provided the Tribune-Herald with a fact sheet in response to questions, said remnants of the artesian water well used decades ago is the most popular attraction.

“People love the history of the building, and that is such a dramatic window into the operations that happened in the building for so long,” Farrell said.

The museum is a nonprofit not owned by corporate giant Keurig Dr Pepper, but Dr Pepper ownership, including Keurig’s predecessor, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, has pledged money to the museum since 2010, Dr Pepper’s 125th anniversary. It has promised to match other fundraising efforts dollar-for-dollar, and since 2013, the annual fundraising goal has been $100,000, Farrell said in her report.

“We are happy to report we have met and exceeded our goal every year,” she said.

Not being corporately tied to Keurig, the museum stays afloat through admissions and sales at the gift shop and soda fountain, she said.

A recent Saturday visit to the museum revealed a paint crew on the premises. Farrell said the former gift shop space is being transformed into a permanent exhibit called Healing Waters, which “will explore the role of carbonated water and artesian wells in the rise of the soft drink industry.”

Interest in the museum, and other downtown attractions, continues to grow in the Magnolia Market era.

Visits in January totaled 8,840, up considerably from the 6,784 who took the tour in January last year, Farrell said.

10-2-4 swap meet

Speaking of Dr Pepper, the public is invited to the Dr Pepper collectors swap meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 9 at the Waco Hilton.

The event culminates three days of activities by the Dr Pepper 10-2-4 club, which is gathering in Waco for the 35th time. During the swap meet, visitors are invited to stop by to have their Dr Pepper memorabilia appraised, and to possibly make a deal or two.

For more information, call membership chairman Tia Leos at 214-520-5781.

Charlotte Russe closing

Teen clothing retailer Charlotte Russe will close its Waco location in Richland Mall as part of a cost-cutting move related to its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

The Waco store is among 94 to be shuttered of the chain’s 512 U.S. locations .

Other Texas stores scheduled to close operate in Fort Worth, Cedar Hill, Victoria and New Braunfels.

The Delaware company listed assets between $500 million and $1 billion with liabilities ranging from $100 million to $500 million, according to reports.

Taqueria reopens

Shuttered Wednesday for failure to pay $283,000 in back liquor taxes, Mexicano Taqueria Grill & Bar on China Spring Road has reopened after paying about $140,000 of that debt and setting up a payment plan with the Texas Comptroller’s Office, agency spokesman Kevin Lyons said Friday.

The Comptroller’s Office reportedly seized the Tex-Mex restaurant for nonpayment of mixed-drink taxes between mid-2014 and late 2017.

Lyons said the agency’s action was a last-ditch effort to settle the account.

Lyons said ownership made a commitment to paying off the balance that the agency found satisfactory, though he did not release the timetable. Had ownership failed to act, the Comptroller’s Office could have proceeded with liquidating on-site assets, though the McLennan County tax office set the value of the contents at only $50,000.

The restaurant leases space from Waco businessman Mike Priest.

Musk in McGregor

Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX and the Tesla electric car company, apparently has a sweet tooth and a taste for chocolate.

In McGregor last Sunday to view rocket testing at the local SpaceX facility, Musk and several others reportedly stopped by the Coffee Shop Cafe on Highway 84 for pie and coffee.

His visit took place about 15 minutes before the 2 p.m. Sunday closing time, said staffer MacKenzie Prater, who was working in the restaurant at the time but did not actually wait on the Musk party. She said key lime and chocolate pies were available at that hour, as was hot coffee.

If history is any indication, Musk chose the chocolate pie, Prater said.

“My understanding is that he calls ahead when he’s going to visit and gets Valerie to make him a chocolate cream pie,” Prater said, referring to Valerie Citrano, who runs the place with her husband, Donald Citrano.

The SpaceX plant just outside McGregor has been putting its rockets through their paces in recent days.

The rumble can be heard along the Highway 84 corridor, and even in North Waco.

“You can definitely tell they’re testing the new Raptor,” Prater said.

DuPuy honor

Former Waco Mayor Virginia DuPuy will be honored with the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce’s Legacy Award during a “celebration reception” ceremony from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 28 in the Waco Convention Center, the chamber has announced.

Tickets are $100 per person, $800 for tables of eight, and Feb. 21 is the deadline to register.

For more information, email Ralston@ wacochamber.com.

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