Major business news broke across the county during 2016 in every sector from supermarkets to sporting goods to restaurants to residential real estate to major industrial developments, including one that could add billions of dollars to the tax base.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, known for giant stores, opened its smaller Neighborhood Market at 2625 W. Main St. in League City. The strategy is to offer a broad assortment of groceries — produce, meat, pantry staples — at what officials bill as affordable prices. While Wal-Mart Supercenters average 182,000 square feet, the Neighborhood Market in League City is 41,000 square feet.
- Nicolas Gaido, at age 29, was named president of Gaido’s Inc., making him overseer of an island company that owns the historic Gaido’s Restaurant and Pelican Club and Nick’s Kitchen & Beach Bar, all at 3828 Seawall Blvd.
- Port Arthur-based development firm The ITEX Group finalized the acquisition of the long vacant Medical Arts Building, 302 21st St. in the island’s downtown, with plans to transform the badly deteriorating property into a 232-unit Class A apartment complex with a six-story parking garage.
- After 15 years in Texas City, steakhouse and buffet restaurant Ryan’s served its last meal.
“The restaurant was not performing financially in a manner that allows us to remain open for business,” according a statement by Greer, S.C.-based Ovation Brands, which in August was bought out by San Antonio-based Food Management Partners.
The Searcy family, which owns the Golden Corral franchise rights from Galveston to League City, is considering buying the property.
- Hunting, fishing and camping retailer Cabela’s opened a 72,000-square-foot store at 2421 Interstate 45 in League City’s Pinnacle Park. Plans for Cabela’s had generated anticipation among outdoor enthusiasts ever since the Sidney, Neb.-based company announced in 2014 it was planning a site in the northern county.
- The reality TV series “Billion Dollar Buyer” debuted starring island-born billionaire Tilman Fertitta. In the show, Fertitta imparts some of the wisdom he’s gained in building a $3.2 billion conglomerate from a single investment in a seafood house. “Billion Dollar Buyer” is in its second season.
Friendswood attorney and developer Jerome Karam closed on the acquisition of 58 acres along FM 517 that previously was home to Dickinson Country Club and golf course. He said he planned to develop 53 residential lots for a gated community. Karam bought the property from John Hill.
After a brief closure and dismay among fans, popular downtown island restaurant EATcetera reopened with a new owner. Ann O’Brien, who had worked for EATcetera for seven years, leased the restaurant, 408 25th St., from Andrea Hunting, who opened it in the fall of 2007.
- Supermarket chain Kroger opened a 124,000-square-foot Marketplace concept, reported to be the second largest Kroger in Texas. The League City Marketplace, state Highway 96 and Hobbs Road in League City, is a supersized Kroger that also sells clothing and other merchandise.
- In the latest proof technology is shaping the retail landscape, the Houston division of Kroger launched an online grocery ordering service called ClickList at its 5730 Seawall Blvd. supermarket in Galveston. Two stores in League City were expected to launch the ClickList service this year.
- Galveston Restaurant Group opened Taquilo’s Tex-Mex Cantina, 2101 Postoffice St. downtown. Taquilo’s serves up Tex-Mex fare, a first for the fast-growing Galveston Restaurant Group enterprise of which Johnny Smecca, his brother Joey Smecca and business partner Danny Hart are principals. Taquilo’s is among four other Galveston Restaurant Group concepts in the downtown area — Sky Bar Steak & Sushi; Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar; Nonno Tony’s World Kitchen; and Saltwater Grill. Galveston Restaurant Group also owns Mario’s Seawall Italian Restaurant; The Gumbo Diner; and Papa’s Pizza on the island; and Little Daddy’s Gumbo Bar in League City.
- League City officials confirmed Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A planned an eatery next to supermarket H-E-B at the intersection of South Shore Boulevard and state Highway 96.
- In the same month, League City officials confirmed Beaumont-based chain Jason’s Deli, known for sandwiches, salads and more, planned a 4,850-square-foot deli with 900 square feet of outdoor seating on the frontage road in front of 24 Hour Fitness, which is at 2765 I-45.
- The Tremont House, seeking to reap the long-term benefits of the short-term rental market, announced it had planned to convert a loft building across the street from its renowned hotel property into a luxury extended-stay development. Mitchell Historic Properties early next year plans to convert the 14-unit loft apartments in the Berlocher Building, 2311-2313 Mechanic St., to extended-stay guest suites with one or two king-size bedrooms, fully furnished kitchens and high-end furnishings. Mitchell Historic Properties owns The Tremont House, 2300 Mechanic St. and the Berlocher Building, which it converted to lofts for lease in 1993.
- Gilhooley’s, the iconic San Leon restaurant famous for oysters, got a new owner — the man who for years has supplied the business with the bivalves for which it is famous. Misho Ivic, owner of Misho’s Oyster Co., one of the largest oyster processors in San Leon, acquired Gilhooley’s, 222 Ninth St. in San Leon, from Phil Duke. Duke opened Gilhooley’s in 1987.
- 2-Row Distributing, a division of Texas City-based Del Papa Distributing, began making Galveston Island Brewing Company beers available on premises in restaurants, bars and taverns across its 17-county Texas market. Del Papa was established on the island in 1910 and is widely known for distributing national brands, particularly Anheuser-Busch products. In 2014, Mark Dell’Osso established Galveston Island Brewing, a burgeoning company working to introduce the world to its craft beers. It was a big year for Galveston Island Brewing, which also began canning its Tiki Wheat and expanding facilities.
- Texas City commissioners cleared the way for Friendswood attorney and developer Jerome Karam and business partner Robin Parsley to transform a vacant J.C. Penney building into an indoor self-storage facility and a business center offering such services as printing and photocopies. About 76,000 square feet of the 84,000-square-foot J.C. Penney shell at Mall of the Mainland, 10000 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway, will be redeveloped as a climate-controlled storage facility, with the remaining space devoted to the business center, Karam said.
- The sudden departure of McAlister’s Deli, 6600 Seawall Blvd., took islanders by surprise. By all accounts, the shop known for sandwiches, spuds, salads and signature sweet tea was a popular and thriving venture. Tracy Whiting was the franchise owner. Officials at the Ridgeland, Miss., corporate headquarters of the McAlister’s chain said the island closure came down to terms of a lease. The lease required a longer term than Whiting was willing to sign on for, officials said.
- Santa Fe City Council authorized the city’s Economic Development Corp. to reimburse a contractor in an amount not to exceed $34,500 for construction and non-construction costs for installing a sewer line extension to serve a Tractor Supply Co. store planned for 13404 FM 1764. Work has since begun on the 21,700-square-foot Tractor Supply.
- La Marque-based A&A Machine & Fabrication completed an order of more than 100 high-pressure tubes in record time, a feat that likely will lead to more projects, as the mainland company breaks into a market recently dominated by European suppliers. In November last year, A&A, which operates an 80,000-square-foot facility at 3101 Texas Ave., announced it had signed an agreement with Canton, Ohio-based TimkenSteel that would allow buyers and users of the high-pressure tubing to tap into a U.S. supply.
- Houston-based development firm Land Tejas announced builders Westin Homes and Gehan Homes had begun presales and model home construction in Lago Mar, a 2,033-acre development along Interstate 45 in Texas City. The residential component of Lago Mar promises to eventually be home to about 4,400 families. Lago Mar is one of the largest mixed-use projects ever to be planned in the county. Its developer projects 1 million square feet of houses, restaurants, hotels and offices to eventually surface at the site. The development is also expected to shift a major share of Texas City’s mass west across Interstate 45.
- Hooters, a chain known for chicken wings and sexy waitresses in orange short-shorts, confirmed it would return to the island eight years after Hurricane Ike smashed to pieces its popular Seawall restaurant that operated on a pier over the Gulf of Mexico. But beyond that, officials declined to divulge details, including about where Hooters would reopen on the island. Officials declined to confirm rampant rumors that the Atlanta-based chain had chosen a highly visible building at 6028 Heards Lane for its Galveston return.
Port of Galveston officials celebrated the completion of an expansion at Cruise Terminal No. 2. The project to expand the cruise terminal cost an initial $13.2 million and was beset by design issues and delays. When the project began, the original Cruise Terminal No. 2 building was about 90,000 square feet. It now measures somewhere in the range of 150,000 square feet.
- Carnival Cruise Line said it would replace its passenger ship Liberty with sister ship Valor for Galveston sailings. Carnival Liberty had been plagued by technical problems. Carnival has repositioned the ship to Port Canaveral, Fla.
- The U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas granted a nationwide preliminary injunction that prevented the Department of Labor from implementing the changes to federal overtime rules until the legality could be further examined. The order came after 21 states sued to block the rule before it took effect on Dec. 1. The new regulation would have required employers to pay time-and-a-half overtime to most salaried workers earning up to $47,476 when they work more than 40 hours during a week, doubling the threshold. The previous cutoff for overtime pay was $23,660. Overtime pay is at least one-and-half times a worker’s usual pay rate. The Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce earlier this year had joined other business organizations and trade groups in a lawsuit challenging the overtime rule.
- The Woodlands-based NextDecade entered into agreements with Texas City and the Texas General Land Office to lease 1,000 acres on Shoal Point in Texas City, which is just east of Texas City’s major petrochemical complex and only about six miles from where the Houston Ship Channel opens to the Gulf of Mexico. NextDecade plans to develop a liquefied natural gas export plant on the site. Under terms of the agreement, Next Decade won’t have to make lease payments on the Shoal Point parcel if the facility it plans to build at the site reaches $2 billion in taxable value, Texas City officials said. Officials cautioned the permitting and financing of the development could take several years.
- Germany-based grocery store chain Lidl submitted plans to League City for a 35,000-square-foot grocery store at state Highway 96 and Tuscan Lakes Boulevard. Lidl — pronounced leedle — operates about 10,000 stores in 27 countries throughout Europe and bills itself as a low-cost grocer. The chain offers deep discounts on groceries, household appliances, clothes and more.
Reach reporter Laura Elder at 409-683-5248 or [email protected]