Walgreens, what will you think of next? Plus, Hi.
A few years back, when the Walgreens company initiated the purchase of a tract of land in the 2500 block of South Lamar, they ran into a buzz saw of neighborhood-association opposition and concern over the fate of a definitively funky South Austin taqueria. The company was eventually able to negotiate the neighborhood issues to most everyone's satisfaction. They also saw the wisdom of demonstrating what a good corporate neighbor they'd be by factoring a new home for the popular eatery into their building plans. Well, just as the new Taco Xpress (2529 S. Lamar, 444-0261) is being prepared for its late-summer debut, we've heard from concerned readers about Walgreens and the potential relocation or demise of another beloved neighborhood restaurant. A heartbroken reader named Martha e-mailed this week bemoaning the fact that she'd heard Walgreens had purchased land in the 5800 block of Burnet and that the iconic Frisco Shop (5819 Burnet, 459-6279) would disappear. She wished there was something that could be done to keep that from happening. Open since 1953, the Frisco Shop really is a throwback to a bygone era, and it's the last remaining outlet of a restaurant dynasty created by legendary local restaurateur and former mayor Harry Akin. The popular restaurant has been owned for years by longtime manager Lawrence Baker and the husband-and-wife team of Julia and R. Harry Akin. "The outpouring of concern from our customers is really touching, but the truth is, nothing is definite yet," Julia Akin told me last week. "Walgreens has had their eye on this property for years, but it wasn't available for sale until this spring. This tract of land is the original homestead of two sisters who now live in Seguin. They've finally decided to sell, but the owner of the property on the corner just north of us has not." This means Walgreens currently has one portion of the tract under contract and is negotiating with multiple property owners and business tenants with existing leases. The sale of the property is by no means complete. At the moment, all Baker and the Akins can do is wait to see what happens, but for the time being, the Frisco Shop lives! Who knows, if the sale of the property is ultimately accomplished, perhaps the Walgreens folks will follow their own fine example and find a way to include saving the Frisco in their final plans... As I was writing this morning, riders in the Tour de France were approaching Carcassonne in southwestern France, and I couldn't help but wonder if Chronicle contributor MM Pack watched them pass. Pack, who is an accomplished private chef in addition to being a fine food writer, is spending the month of July near Carcassonne, cooking for a group of writers and artists at a retreat called the La Muse Inn (www.lamuseinn.com). La Muse is owned by an American couple and is available for rent by the week or month to writers and artists, though chefs like Pack aren't regularly part of the package. While she's there, Pack will be preparing meals based on seasonal, local produce, meats, and cheeses paired with wines of the region. I am jealous beyond belief and expect a fascinating story when she returns... Home Slice Pizza (1415 S. Congress, 444-7437) owners Jen and Joseph Strickland recently welcomed a new member to their family. Tiny Highsmith Curcio Strickland (4.5 lbs.) bears the maiden names of two of his parents' beloved grandmothers and will be known as "Hi."
The International Cake Exploration Societé (www.ices.org) holds their annual convention at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center (1501 Gaylord Trail, 817/778-1000) in Grapevine this weekend. Exhibitors and decorating professionals from around the world will be on hand to demonstrate their wares and techniques to other pros and passionate amateurs. Though the advance registration deadline has passed, it's not too late to get a $50 one-day shopper's pass, which includes entry to the Exhibitor's Hall and Cake Corral. A contingent of Austinites from the Capitol Confectioners and All in One Bake Shop (8566 Research Blvd., 371-3401, www.allinonebakeshop.com) will be attending and have plenty of information; July 20-23.
Event Menu: July 20-27
Celebrity hen Aunt Penny (right) invites anyone interested in learning about raising chickens to the Backyard Chicken Flock Seminar to be moderated by her humans at Boggy Creek Farm (3414 Lyons, 926-4650, www.boggycreekfarm.com). Topics will include: benefits of a backyard flock and recommended size; breeds of laying hens and their attributes; starting new chicks, hatching, and adoption; organic feed sources; hen-house design; chickens and composting; chickens and pest control; predators; roosters; and more. Among the speakers will be India Rassner-Donovan, Dominique Lowe, Ruth Noel, Linda Daniel, Paula Middleton, and Carol Ann Sayle. Admission is free. Check online for more information; Sunday, July 23, 10am.
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