Hobbs Bonded Fibers

Hobbs Bonded Fibers is featured on the Science Channel series "How It's Made."

Bales of bison hair bound for Waco’s Hobbs Bonded Fibers captured the fancy of the Science Channel and its feature series titled “How It’s Made.”

Fifteen months ago, a TV crew arrived at the Hobbs plant on South Commerce Drive to offer a step-by-step account of how that hair becomes insulation for clothing, particularly that produced by green-centric retailer United by Blue, an upscale, trendy, Philadelphia-based company with 400 outlets.

United by Blue places this cold-resistant padding in products including its “Bison Puffer Vest,” for women, priced online at $112.80, down from $188, according to a Thursday visit to the company website, which also states United by Blue specializes in “responsible durable goods,” and that it removes 1 pound of trash from the world’s waterways and oceans for every product sold.

Working with United by Blue, and having the process shown to a viewing audience, “was a great opportunity,” said Larry Hobbs, president and CEO of Hobbs operations in Waco and in Tennessee and Virginia. He and business partners bought Hobbs from his father, Carey Hobbs, in 2015.

Hobbs said bison hair remains a “niche business, but a good one” for the company that employs 175 locally. He said he is learning much about the beasts that once ruled the plains, at least from a hair perspective. Fibers from the belly are different in thickness and texture from those found on the shoulder, for example, which is something the balers must keep in mind.

Hobbs said creating noise-muffling products for the automobile industry remains Hobbs Bonded Fibers’ bread-and-butter business.

Hobbs publicist John Fletcher said the biggest challenge The Science Channel faces is finding unique products not already featured over 30 seasons. Companies sometimes have non-disclosure agreements on trade secrets they protect.

He said Hobbs received no monetary compensation, but lots of exposure.

The episode originally aired Thursday evening as part of a segment titled “DeLorean Restoration; Bison Fibre; Shuffleboard Tables; and Friction Forged Knives.” Yes, fiber was given the French spelling, Fletcher said.

Those wanting to research the topic can visit the Science Channel website, click on “How It’s Made,” and search for Season 31, Episode 12, Fletcher said.

A re-run of the Hobbs segment is scheduled to air at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Gaines book launch

Joanna Gaines, the Magnolia mogul with co-star and husband Chip, will host a book launch March 14 and 15 at Magnolia Market at the Silos, Sixth Street and Webster Avenue.

It will celebrate the release of her upcoming children’s work titled “We Are the Gardeners,” which features vignettes of Joanna and her children sewing seeds and making memories while toiling in the soil around home.

The two-night ticketed event will feature Joanna Gaines in conversation with ESPN reporter Samantha Ponder. Gaines reportedly will talk about her inspiration for the book, and her experiences writing it.

Tickets are available exclusively at www.magnolia.com. Kids tickets are $5, and each admission includes a pot and seeds, while adults pay $45, which includes a signed copy of Gaines’ new book, according to a press release.

Horseback tours

City slickers in Waco to visit Magnolia Market, Cameron Park Zoo or the Dr Pepper Museum, among other attractions, may go horseback riding on a 300-acre ranch starting Monday courtesy of Waco Tours.

The “Texas Experience” gives riders paying $119, $99 for youngsters, a three-hour visit to the rugged bluffs near the Brazos River, according to a press release. Guides and wranglers will accompany riders, who will stop to sit a spell and enjoy cowboy-style activities including roping a hay-bale steer, cracking a stock whip, hammering out leather goods and eating trail-riding grub, the press release states. Guests who cannot ride horses can opt for a guided ranch tour in a top-of-the-line utility vehicle.

Waco Tours co-founder Luke Whyte said hosting 38,000 people on tours of downtown and Lake Brazos in Mercedes Sprinter vans and a boat revealed many have included riding a horse on their bucket lists. Waco Tours obliged, securing the services of Brazos Bluff Stables on Gholson Road.

Waco Tours co-founder David Ridley said tourists are great, but he thinks the horseback rides could prove popular with locals craving a day of fun.

More details are available at waco-tours.com, or by calling 300-8725.

Leading Waco Women

Women difference makers in Waco will speak Thursday at The Phoenix Ballroom, 401 S. Third St., and the public is invited to attend.

The Leading Waco Women Summit will start with networking at 10:30 a.m., followed by a program with nine panelists at 11 a.m. Lunch will be served at noon, according to the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

Panelists include Ashley Futris, Bolt Boutique; Kim Stevens, Blue Scout Media; Camille Johnson, Camille Johnson, Realtors; Susan Sadler, Green Life Interiors; Tabetha Koerth, KHT Electronics; Summer Shine, Luna Juice Bar; and Catherine Ballas, Angela Beeler and Emily Field, REFIT Studio.

Tickets are $75 for individuals and $700 for a table of eight. For more information, visit wacochamber.com.

Retirement affordability

Waco is the 10th most affordable place in the United States for retirees, according to a survey published by 55places.com, which describes itself in a release as “the number one resource for active adult communities.”

Calculations used to arrive at a Top 20 included overall cost of living, median home prices, state tax laws, local health care options, availability of 55-plus communities, and public transportation, among other variables.

Topping the list was Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and at No. 20 was Indianapolis, Indiana. Other Texas cities making the grade were Wichita Falls and San Antonio. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Sunshine State of Florida placed nine locales on the list, including Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, Gainesville, Tampa, Fort Myers, Melbourne, Orlando, Ocala and Lakeland.

Higginbotham Funeral Homes

Waco-based Higginbotham Funeral Homes of Texas has acquired Marshall & Marshall Funeral Directors, which can trace its founding to 1923 and has locations in Hillsboro and Whitney in Hill County and Clifton Funeral Home in Bosque County. Higginbotham, which operates OakCrest, Grace Gardens and Pecan Grove funeral homes in Waco, also acquired the Hillcrest Garden of Memory cemetery in Hill County, according to a press release.

Higginbotham now owns 12 funeral homes in Central Texas.

Ryan Ramsower, a fifth-generation Higginbotham family member, serves as the new funeral-director-in-charge at the Marshall & Marshall locations.

Marshall & Marshall staffers Joni Boman, Levin Ainsworth, James Fine and Freddie Odom will continue with the company, according to the press release.

Business roundup

In other developments on the local business scene:

  • A regional chain, Shaking Seafood & Wings, has opened a Waco location in the former Casa Ole building at 414 N. Valley Mills Drive.
  • Allergan, local maker of eyecare products, received two building permits worth a combined $2 million to convert a warehouse into a production facility at its Waco location at 8301 Mars Drive, according to the city of Waco.
  • Wally’s Party Factory, longtime local retailer of balloons, Halloween costumes and party decorations, has closed its Waco location on Richland Drive. Its website encourages local shoppers to visit the Temple store.
  • Open about a year, the Bella Luna Italian Bistro at Bosque Boulevard and Valley Mills Drive has closed. It operated in the former Chili’s location at the Parkdale shopping center and had undergone a management change.

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