The Sam’s Club store on Bellmead Drive survived the sudden closure of 63 locations on Thursday and Friday, a move that reportedly startled even employees of the targeted sites “who were not informed of the closures ahead of time,” according to a story by

Sam’s Club, as most people know, is affiliated with Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, which announced last week it is raising hourly pay to new employees from $9 to $11 an hour as a result of the recently approved overhaul of U.S. tax law, according to several news outlets.

Walmart Stores Inc. also announced it is offering employees a one-time cash bonus of up to $1,000, expanded maternity and parental-leave benefits, and assistance with adoption expenses, said the company website.

Greater Waco is home to four Wal-Mart stores, the latest to arrive being the Wal-Mart at Sun Valley Boulevard and Interstate 35 in Hewitt.

Local residents often inquire about the possibility of another bulk-centric retailer such as Costco entering the local market, considering Sam’s Club’s presence here. Sources, including a local real estate agent, have said Costco has looked at Waco, but first wants to get a reading on how Costco performs in Lubbock, another mid-size city in Texas.

Food truck showdown

Foodies may want to circle the date March 17, the new date for the Texas Food Truck Showdown in downtown Waco, which could attract up to 25,000 people, according to the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

The showdown will feature food trucks, of course, but also beer and wine gardens, live entertainment, a petting zoo and a KidsZone.

Those wanting to help sponsor the showdown may call the Waco chamber’s Amanda Haygood at 757-5611 or Amber Greenwood at 757-5602. The deadline to make a commitment is Friday.

The chamber reports that sponsorships start at $750.

Young Chefs Academy

Waco-based Young Chefs Academy, which describes itself as “the nation’s leading children’s cooking franchise,” has announced it will open franchises in four new markets. They are Bel Air, Maryland; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Sunnyvale, California; and Wesley Chapel, Florida.

Founded by Julie Burleson, Young Chefs Academy focuses on teaching cooking skills to children and encouraging them to have a love for the culinary arts, according to a company news release.

The first Young Chefs Academy opened in 2003, and the concept has grown to include 30 locations in seven countries. It reportedly hopes to award franchises for an additional 20 sites over the next year.

The initial investment for Young Chefs Academy, which includes the franchise fee, ranges between $106,450 and $134,800, depending on size and location, according to a news release.

Homebuyer names

Something called ATTOM Data Solutions has released what it calls the first-ever analysis of homebuyer first names. Its news release says it pinpoints the most popular first names of those who bought homes in 2017, and also “sheds light” on which generation is becoming more active in the homebuying market. It says millenials fit that description.

The biggest increase in homes acquired in 2017 were by those with the first names of Dylan, Chelsea, Austin, Alexandra and Taylor, “all of which spiked in popularity as baby names between 1992 and 1995.”

Falling by the wayside were homes purchased by those with the first names Gerald, Kristin, Stanley, Kurt and Jaime, the report says.

The breakdown by state revealed that “Dylan” carried the day in Pennsylvania and Texas, while “Caleb” raced to the top in California, “Austin” won big in Georgia, “Cameron” hit the big time in Florida, and “Omar” made himself at home in Illinois, according to a news release.

Restaurant news

Elsewhere in food news, Happy Harvest, whose motto is “Locally Grown, Chef Prepared,” has relocated to 112 N. 25th St., between Austin and Washington avenues, according to a Facebook post.

Also, Margaret Smelser and Heath Collard have opened Tesla’s Cafe & Coffee Pub in the historic Sturgis home at 1316 Washington Ave., where they will serve coffee from Chaney Brothers of Crawford, craft beers from Bare Arms Brewing in Waco and wine from Valley Mills Vineyards, according to a news release.

The Southwest-style eatery also will entrees that include Belgian waffles, stuffed pita bread, bratwurst, boneless rib sandwiches, and pozole, which is a stew of hominy, pork and New Mexico chiles.

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