Hair Studio 84 is new to Sagewood Mall. Owners are Seneca Hernandez, left, and Erica Flores. BRENDA POE
Anthony Ruiz & Brenda Poe
Alice is growing - that is evident in the expansion of businesses, the opening of new ones and the coming groundbreaking of the multi-use complex on the west side. Economic Development Director Warren Ketteman said Friday that in the short time he has been in Alice, the excitement about growth here has been evident.
"We understand, as a city and leaders, that the opportunity for growth is here, from the Eagle Ford Shale to the general business," Ketteman said. "There is a window of opportunity that we have to rise with, like the tides of the ocean lifting a ship."
City Manager Ray De Los Santos, Jr. said the City of Alice has plans in the next seven to 10 days to announce the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Multi-Use facility on the west side of town.
"Forward progress is being made. The EDA funding is still coming in and we are getting ready to go out for bids on the first stages," De Los Santos said. "The west side has been growing, if you go out and look around you will see that. But without the infrastructure we are proposing for that area, only certain businesses will open new shops there." Businesses are currently awaiting the installation of sewer lines, he said.
"Alice is continuing to grow and the best indicator of that growth is the number of permits being pulled for remodeling and growth," De Los Santos said.
Some of those new faces and remodels include new businesses at Sagewood Mall, H-E-B and TexBest on the west side.
Go West Swerving around a barrier blocking the entryway, a silver truck makes its way around work crews and empty gas pumps to a parking space right in front of the TexBest Travel Center at the intersection of highways 281 and 44. Three men exit the vehicle and head towards the door.
"Sorry guys, we'll be opening next week," Store Manager Roland Alvarez tells the men. "We're almost ready."
Alvarez said it has been a common occurrence throughout the week as the finishing touches are put in place at the new 7,100 square-foot convenience center. "We're aiming for Thursday," he said.
The TexBest Travel Center is a $3.5 million project that is located next to a Whataburger restaurant and only a few hundred yards away from the site for the City of Alice's planned 35-acre multi-use complex.
It will be open 24 hours a day and features 20 gas pumps as well as six additional pumps for diesel trucks. "Some of the gas pumps also have diesel pumps for cars," Alvarez said.
The convenience center also has a large open-view kitchen that will cook fresh deli and breakfast foods and pastries. "All of our tortillas are made here," Alvarez said. "Our customers, they want to see them making the tortillas." Alvarez said there will be six full-time cooks when they open, but that number could increase depending on the traffic. "We'll have cashiers that have experience, so we'll be able to adjust if we need to," he said.
Alvarez said the location will not only benefit the store, but also the people living on the west side of Alice as well as neighboring towns such as San Diego. "It's going to be like their own little mini-mall," he said. "A lot of people are already telling me, this is where they are going to get their breakfast, this is where we're going to get everything we need."
Whataburger store manager Rosanna Mendiola said that her store has been seeing plenty of business since the restaurant opened at its location in 2004, but anticipates plenty of growth as new businesses continue to open along the west side of Alice.
"Once we start getting more things out here, I think traffic out here will grow a lot more," she said. The Whataburger restaurant is one of only two locations in Jim Wells County, the other along Highway 44 on the east side of Alice.
"Our business is going strong," she said. "Come summer months or busy times when there's no school, our travel business is insane." Mendiola said one thing she wants to see in the future is more advertising along Highway 281.
"I think the more development they have out here, the more it will help Jim Wells County," she said. "Whenever you come into Alice, you'll see signs for the Day's Inn and stuff like that at the exit to Business 281. So everybody exits off there because there's nothing out here.
"I think if they start advertising the developments that are coming out here, then business will pick up a lot."
New faces The Sagewood Mall is owned by an Italian company that hired Joe Adame and Associates of Corpus Christi to manage the property. In recent months, several new businesses have moved into the mall - breathing new life into a building of which some may not take much notice of these days.
One new business is Hair Studio 84, a full-service salon that is 80's themed with bright colors and checkered floors. Owners Erica Flores and Seneca Hernandez have a combined 16 years experience in hair styling. "We opened on Sept. 18 here in the mall," Flores said. "We just decided to do our own thing with different, fresh colors. We had the same taste and vision so it worked out great."
Flores said the salon is an accomplishment that took hard work, sweat and time to convert to their style.
"It was well worth it," Hernandez said. "A true labor of love. We love what we do and there is no stress here. We have had our clients coming and new ones walking in." Flores and Hernandez are committed to their new location in Sagewood Mall, having signed a lengthy lease.
"The price was reasonable for us because we are just starting out," Flores said. "But all well worth it for us."
Another business opening their doors soon in Sagewood Mall is Freedom House Ministries' Hebrews Cafe. The cafe will feature a full coffee shop, with European style coffees made fresh one cup at a time, Pastor Hector Perez said.
"We hope to open by the end of the month," Perez said. "We are still remodeling some things, including the Wifi lounge that will be next to the coffee shop."
Perez said the cafe will offer bagels, croissants, fruits, salads, soups and sandwiches. The coffee will come in classic coffee house styles of espresso, latte and so on. "We will also have Thai teas, which are very powerful," Perez said. "The cafe is something Alice has been needing for some time."
The ministry has already launched its online bookstore, Grace Christian Bookstore, which will eventually include in-store inventory at the cafe. A counseling center will also be opened through the ministry.
"I grew up in Alice, so I know the need," Perez said. "We are focusing more on the faith-based program for children's court mostly."
Another new storefront is Love Faith and Bling and Polly's Bowtique. Owner Rachel Ramirez said business has been great compared to her other location.
"Polly was just out of her house, so now I let her be with me here at Sagewood Mall and she has been more than happy," Ramirez said.
"Today, we actually got a customer in that said our store was so great and overwhelming. They were surprised we had lots to offer and that we are very well priced." Ramirez said the mall is her new home for good.
Out with the old The grand reopening of H-E-B in Alice was full of community and heart as department managers with more than 400 years of combined experience cut the red ribbon in honor of the event.
"It is a great day in Alice, Texas," store manager Sylvia Campos said. "We have been serving the community for over 74 years. We are very proud to be here today."
Campos explained how the store went from 5,200 feet to 8,100 feet. She said there are more than 5,000 new items on the shelves of the store with several new departments. "I know it took a lot of work. The last six months meant driving around bulldozers, but we had one goal in mind to better serve you, the customer," Campos said. "It is because you have supported us."
Meliton Gomez started working for H-E-B when he was only 16 years old. He has seen the growth of the store over the last 35 years.
"The growth is a miracle," Gomez said. "We never thought it would happen. It is exciting."
Gomez began his career at H-E-B as a sacker before moving to overnight stocking. He then moved up to frozen food lead manager before moving to receiving, where he has been for three years. Manager-in-Charge Estella Gonzalez said the growth of the Alice H-E-B was needed for the community. Gonzalez is a 19-year veteran H-E-B employee.
"I was really surprised with the patience the community had while we were changing," Gonzalez said. "We continue to get compliments and the customer's patience with us means a lot to us."
Ketteman said he expects to see continued growth in Alice, if the balance is found in the housing market.
"There is not much available for lease or sale for a business to grow and relocate in," Ketteman said. "That is a mark of how busy Alice is. With that growth comes residence. That is why I am pleased to say there are some housing options coming to Alice soon." Ketteman said homes are not the only housing being discussed. He said apartments are also being discussed in the time of need.
"Most people don't know this, but there are three van loads of people being bused to Alice from Corpus Christi to work," Ketteman said. "The jobs are here. Look around and you will see the help wanted signs."