Cactus Rose

You can’t miss Cactus Rose, as faux cacti have assembled on the roof of the Lone Star State-themed women’s boutique on Austin Avenue.

Guess Family Barbecue, which has become a darling of Texas Monthly magazine’s barbecue-centric features, even landing an invitation to its namesake BBQ Fest in Austin, will open next month in the former Michna’s Bar-B-Que place at 28th Street and Franklin Avenue, says a spokesman.

Remodeling has been extensive, said Gene Vinnykov, a Chicagoan who relocated to Central Texas, joined forces with Reid Guess and now also co-owns a food truck called Little Brisket parked at Magnolia Market at the Silos, Sixth Street and Webster Avenue. He and Guess plan a brick-and-mortar address at Michna’s, which closed in 2017 after 31 years in business.

“What aren’t we changing?” asked Vinnykov, responding to a question about the extent of the makeover. “Everything is coming along great. We’ll open sometime in September, which is about as definitive as I can be.”

Guess Family Barbecue will have seating for 200 and a bar.

A popular conversation starter at Michna’s was a Texas-sized replica of a handgun parked on the front lawn. It’s long gone, but safe and sound.

“It’s at Billy Michna’s house,” said Vinnykov, mentioning a member of the founding family. “He stops by and wishes us luck, tells us to keep moving.”

Guess Family Barbecue once said it would place a permanent location at Sixth Street and Columbus Avenue, joining Nexus Esports and WacoWork there.

Real estate agent Gregg Glime has successfully found replacements, landing William Hoyt Bagel & Brew, Glory Bell Church and BodyHack fitness center.

New businesses

Several permits were issued for building projects of note, including two related to finish-out work at the Union Hall “urban eatery” food hall taking shape for a summer opening at Eighth Street and Franklin Avenue.

Capt. Billy Whizzbang’s, a local family-owned and operated burger place, has begun personalizing its stall at Union Hall, though the permit does not reveal an estimated cost. La Fiesta, a family owned Tex-Mex restaurant, took out a $60,000 permit to carve out bar space. It will have three venues — a taco shop, main bar and satellite location — spokesman Sam Castillo said.

Meanwhile, Central National Bank, one of Waco’s many independent banks, will spend $1.2 million remodeling space at its 8320 West Highway 84 location. Whataburger Real Estate secured a $750,000 permit to remodel its store at 950 North Loop 340, an area where traffic counts are increasing as motorists dodge the widening of Interstate 35 through Waco.

Paleteria Azteca Ice Cream will spend an estimated $7,000 to complete space at 15th Street and Colcord Avenue, where a retail center is opening in a renovated former liquor store. It is near the Mission Waco complex and Jubilee Food Market, a non-profit grocery store.

A Dallas television station visited Jubilee Food Market two weeks ago, profiling its work to eliminate a North Waco food desert. A DFW-based group hoping to take lessons learned in Waco back to South Oak Cliff toured Jubilee, as have contingents from non-profits in Austin and Houston, said Jimmy Dorrell, co-founder of Mission Waco, who promotes the food store.

Women’s boutique

A Lone Star State-themed women’s boutique called Cactus Rose has bloomed at 930-A Austin Ave., next door to what will become home to Stumpy’s Hatchet House. You can’t miss it, as faux cacti have assembled on the roof.

Owner Martha Speer has used lighting to create silhouettes of western-themed displays in her front window, including “Branding the Brazos,” a collection of bronze sculptures at Indian Spring Park depicting a cattle drive.

“I wanted to bring the history of Waco into my shop — and, of course, show my beautiful styles,” said Speer of her clothing shop in a news release.

Speer hails from Centennial, Colorado, but knows her way around Central Texas. Her husband, Tom Speer, a staffer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He was assigned to the L3 defense plant in Waco when it retrofitted a Boeing 747 more than a decade ago, installing a telescope to capture images above the Earth’s atmosphere. The finished product was called Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.

SOFIA generated a lot of headlines locally during that period.

Speer said her husband commuted between Waco and their home in Colorado. Now he spends a lot of time in California, where SOFIA is based.

“I checked out downtowns from Nashville to Houston, and I ended up here. It’s booming,” said Speer, speaking by phone.

Local H-E-B winner

H-E-B, the dominant local grocery chain, annually sponsors a contest in which it solicits recipes and dishes from everyday folks who may qualify for prize money or, better yet, a place on H-E-B shelves statewide.

It announced last week that Derrick Newball, of Woodway, is a second-place winner, having scored highly with his EVOKE Collagen Drink. The narrative included in H-E-B’s announcement says Newball’s quest to create a company capable of producing healthy drinks from coconuts “began seven years ago and 1,769 miles away,” adding that Newball “bottled raw coconut water, handcrafted coconut milk soaps from the coconut pulp, and composted the coconut shells to create fertilizer for his coconut farm.”

It goes on to say that Newball spent four years exploring consumer taste preferences and trying new ingredients “to leverage their original coconut water.” The result was EVOKE. The H-E-B release says the beverage tastes good but has benefits for skin, hair, joints and bones.

It comes in three flavors: coconut, mandarin and pineapple coconut.

H-E-B’s 2019 Quest for Texas Best competition drew more than 800 entries from nearly 140 cities. The promotion has yielded nearly nearly 500 new products placed on H-E-B’s grocery, bakery, deli and market shelves.

Newball will receive a $15,000 cash prize for his efforts.

Other winners included grand-prize winner 3 Sons Foods, Houston, with its Diablo Verde Sauce; Grain4Grain, low-carb flour mix, San Antonio; Uncle Ray’s Peanut Brittle, Austin; and Nutty-Carrot Spread, To the Moon Family Foods, Atlanta, Texas, according to the H-E-B news release.

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