Waco Tours, which continues to add staffers and services, will open a company headquarters and retail store called Waco Tours Mercantile at 215 S. University Parks Drive, in space it is leasing from Trent Weaver.

Renovations have concluded, and the company hopes to start conducting business out of the 2,400-square-foot space near Fuzzy’s Taco Shop on May 1, Waco Tours part-owner David Ridley said.

Staffers will start scheduling tours there May 6, and a come-and-go grand opening is set for May 14.

Until then, Waco Tours will continue to function in temporary space next to Indigo Hotel, in the 200 block of Clay Avenue, Ridley said.

“We’ve always wanted to have a place where we could host locals and out-of-town guests, tell them what there is to do in Waco,” Ridley said. “We also will have a training room for our guides, a conference room for meetings that we may make available to the public and work space for employees.”

The retail shop planned will offer handmade items and Waco Tours-themed merchandise, he said. His team has come up with a historic Waco image that will appear on an 11-by-8-foot mural conducive to photo opportunities in the establishment, Ridley said.

“I’d like to create a place where visitors can lounge, shop or watch TV before they leave on their van tour, cruise or Texas Experience,” Ridley said, listing the Waco Tours’ lineup of services: a Classic Waco trip around the city, with a focus on downtown; a relaxing River Cruise tour on Lake Brazos and beyond; and a three-hour Texas Experience tour that features horseback riding.

Ridley said he employs 65-part-time and eight full-time staff members. The customer count ranges from 80 to 150 daily, depending on the day and season.

Stone’s Throw tenants

Waco Tours’ arrival is a slice of what is happening on Weaver’s site, which has been dubbed the Stone’s Throw Development. Real estate agent Hunter Harrell, who put Waco Tours at the venue, said a lease also has been signed with Mamaka Bowls, a California-based chain serving fruit cups and smoothies that include exotic ingredients. The Bean, for example, includes coffee, almond milk, peanut butter, banana, cacao nibs and agave, according to an online menu.

“We are also in talks with a prospective tenant about doing a multi-vendor retail space on the second floor of the 115-119 Mary Avenue building,” Harrell said via email. “More details on this to come soon.”

Weaver also has extended the popular patio deck fronting Fuzzy’s.

Grocery store ratings

San Antonio-based H-E-B, which rules the grocery shopping roost in Waco, fares well in Consumer Reports’ recent rankings of food stores.

In fact, the H-E-B-created Central Market, with locations in major cities around the state, received the highest score in the survey, a 91, according to results the magazine provided the Tribune-Herald.

Ratings are based on responses to the Consumer Reports’ 2018 Supermarkets Survey. Respondents “told us about their experiences at one or two stores between July 2017 and September 2018,” the magazine wrote in an explainer. It said the survey reflects the opinions of readers and not necessarily the general public. A score of 100 meant all respondents were completely satisfied, 80 meant they were very satisfied, and 60 somewhat satisfied.

They weighed in topics including cleanliness, price, freshness, checkout speed, meats and produce quality, store-brand quality, variety of international products and selection of healthy options.

Falling behind Central Market in the scoring were regional heavyweights Wegmans and Crest Foods, while national companies Trader Joe’s, Costco and Publix performed very well among national companies, all scoring 85 or higher. The H-E-B chain besides Central Market received an 85, according to the list.

“H-E-B actually did pretty well across the board,” Consumer Reports spokesman James McQueen wrote in an email. It bested several chains that readers of the Tribune-Herald may know, including Aldi-84, Brookshire’s-80, Sam’s Club-79, Whole Foods Market-79, Kroger-77, IGA-77, Albertsons-76, Target-76, Winn-Dixie-73, Randalls-73, Safeway-72 and Walmart Supercenter-70.

Free comic books

For the 18th year, Brent Bankston, the proprietor of Bankston’s Sports Memorabilia, Comics & Collectibles at 1321 S. Valley Mills Drive will celebrate Free Comic Book Day, a revered occasion in the industry. Thousands of participating stores give away more than 5 million comic books to fans and would-be fans “to introduce them to the wonders of comics,” according to a press release from Bankston.

“Bringing everyone together, finding books for everyone to enjoy, and seeing people of all ages — children, teens and adults — sharing our passion for comics is incredible,” Bankston’s manager Jeremy Root wrote in the press release.

The big day is May 4, and Bankston’s will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Bankston’s will stockpile titles such as Avengers, Tokyo Pop Disney, Riverdale, TMNT, Pokemon and others. The event will include bouncy houses, Free Comic Book Day patches, bands and DeeJay Versatile.

Wright at home

Local contractor Tom Wright is returning to his old stomping grounds, as the saying goes. He grew up in Waco, graduated from Connally High School, studied welding at Texas State Technical College and honed his construction skills building carports. His family owned Wimpy’s Hamburgers in Lacy Lakeview. Uncles Bill and Bob Waller, meanwhile, ran Bill & Bob’s on North 19th Street, a combination meat market and popular burger joint that sold pre-ordered smoked turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Wright has seen his career skyrocket. He formed Built Wright Construction in 1998, and it has blossomed as a general contracting and construction company, with tasks throughout the state and in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. He employs almost 50, and his resume includes erecting steel or completing construction for a diverse range of venues, including fire houses in College Station and Plano, Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Globe Life Park in Arlington, where the Texas Rangers play baseball, The Waco Humane Society, Cameron Park Zoo and the Dwyer Group-turned-Neighborly campus between the zoo and downtown.

The list continues, but Wright said he finds most satisfying his participation in Restoration Gateway, a Waco-based ministry that builds churches and provides relief services in the African country of Uganda.

“I have been blessed,” Wright said of his life and business.

Wright also enjoys dabbling in real estate. He bought a lot in the 3500 block of North 19th Street, near the Waco Center For Youth and has started work for Domino’s Pizza, Golden Chick and Hagan’s Handcrafted, a burger place.

Passersby can’t miss it. A Built Wright trailer is parked there.

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