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Domino’s debuts robotic delivery By Adam Zuvanich azuvanich@theleadernews.com

One of the world’s largest pizza chains and a growing robotics company are on the cutting edge of food delivery. Their path to the future is starting in Woodland Heights. Domino’s announced that its location at 3209 Houston Ave. is launching a pilot program this week in which select customers in the neighborhood store’s delivery zone can choose to have pizza brought

to their homes by an autonomous vehicle developed by Nuro, a California-based robotics company that began operating in Houston two years ago. Its self-driving, electricpowered R2 model, which has storage compartments, a touchscreen interface and a top speed of 25 mph, will be deployed for curbside deliveries along with traditional human drivers. “We’re very excited about this,” said Dani Bulger, a corporate spokesperson for

Domino’s. “I believe we’re the first pizza company that has launched self-driving delivery.” Bulger said the pilot program would last for an unspecified period and declined to provide specifics when asked about the geographic area eligible for autonomous delivery, the number of robotic vehicles being used as well as the times and dates when the new service would be available to customers. She said Tuesday See Delivery P. 5A

by Adam Zuvanich A self-driving robotic vehicle developed by Nuro is parked outside the Domino’s at 3209 Houston Ave. on Tuesday. The Woodland Heights store is offering autonomous pizza delivery as part of a pilot program.

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Too much trash. Illegal dumping is an ongoing problem in the area. Residents want answers.

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By Betsy Denson betsy@theleadernews.com


Lonely together. Peter Healy and Matt Messinger have a joint art exhibit this weekend.

Heights’ Word retires after 48 years in banking

Photo by Adam Zuvanich Houston firefighters from Station 13 on West 43rd Street sit in the back of a fire truck with the casket for Capt. William Gunderson, who took his “last ride” through the Garden Oaks and Oak Forest communities on Tuesday morning. Gunderson, who died of cancer April 2, spent most of his firefighting career serving the neighborhoods.

Community salutes fallen firefighter

Heights native Marilyn Word started her career in the banking industry at age 17. This week, she will retire after almost 50 years in the business — during which time she started a bank, First Choice, that is now a branch of Prosperity Bank. The journey has been one of learning and success. After attending the now-closed Alamo Elementary on 27th Street, Word went to Hamilton Middle School and Reagan High School, where she was in the DE, or Distributive Education program. “It was a work program,” Word said. “You could learn about retail or finance and I was interested in finance. Students would leave school early to go work. I was 17 years old and got a job at Merchant’s Bank.” Word worked there for the next 27 years, attending college at night at the University of Houston. “(The bank) paid for classes if you did marketing or banking and they also paid you $50 for every A or B in those classes,” she said. At Merchants, Word did a little bit of everything. She worked as a teller and a lending assistant as well as in the bookkeeping, accounting and loan departments. Her first significant promotion was in 1979, when Word became the marketing officer in charge of advertising and public relations. Word later became an assistant vice president, a vice president and then a senior vice president. The bank was acquired by Union Planters and is now a Regions Bank.

By Adam Zuvanich azuvanich@theleadernews.com

Pasta time. This week’s Food & Drink section focus on pasta in all its forms.

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See Word P. 4A

Paul Bivens wanted to take a night off a couple months ago so he could attend one of his children’s sporting events. He did not want his fellow station captain to find out. Bivens said he knew William Gunderson would insist on covering for him at their longtime place of work – Houston Fire Department Station 13 at 2215 W. 43rd St. in Oak Forest – and he also knew it would be better for Gunderson to stay home, rest and spend time with his family. Gunderson, who died April 2 at age 49 after a two-year battle with cancer, was still undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the time. So Bivens did not even consider asking him and See Gunderson P. 5A

Big swings. The St. Pius X softball team displayed its offensive firepower last week.

Contributed photo Heights native Marilyn Word is retiring from Prosperity Bank this week after 48 years in the banking industry.

Local distillery ready to serve after unique start By Adam Zuvanich azuvanich@theleadernews.com

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THE INDEX. Church....................................................... 4A Classifieds.............................................. 5A Coupons. ................................................. 3B Food/Drink............................................. 1B Obituaries.............................................. 4A Opinion. ................................................... 3A Public Information......................... 8A Puzzles...................................................... 3A Sports. ....................................................... 4B

Contributed photo Late Houston Fire Department Capt. William Gunderson, right, is pictured with his wife, Stephanie.

Photo by Adam Zuvanich William Price Distilling co-owners Bryan Clary, left, and Zack Hiller display some of their spirits while standing behind the bar in their tasting room at 970 Wakefield Dr.

The plan for William Price Distilling Company was to open by Christmastime in 2020. Then the world was turned upside down by COVID-19, which also upended the business plan created by William Price co-owners Bryan Clary and Zack Hiller. The former college roommates and rugby teammates already had secured the property at 970 Wakefield Dr. in Garden Oaks, where a transformation was underway to convert the site from a diesel engine mechanic shop to a distillery with a tasting room.

They also had applied for their federal distilling permit shortly before the pandemic reached the United States a couple months into the year. Then came a callout from the federal government, which asked spirits makers across the county to consider producing hand sanitizer, which also contains alcohol and can be manufactured through a similar process. By the end of April 2020, Clary and Hiller had opened their business but were not making whiskey, gin, vodka and rum. “Helping people is what we’re all about, helping the community,” Clary said. “If there’s no

one around, there’s no one to sell booze to. If there’s no bars, there’s no bars to sell booze to. So we decided to make hand sanitizer.” It turns out Clary and Hiller were good at doing that, because their product was purchased by Texas grocery giant H-E-B, Sprouts Farmers Market and other retailers that sell hand sanitizer. William Price even secured a government contract to supply their product to Harris County, according to Clary. That helped William Price build brand awareness, name See William Price P. 7A

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Page 2A • Saturday, April 17, 2021 • The Leader

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THE TOPICS. The Leader • Saturday, April 17, 2021 • Page 3A

Bayou trash is everyone’s problem By Betsy Denson betsy@theleadernews.com


he bluebonnets are in bloom, the grass is lush again after Snowmageddon and the bayous have never looked better, except for the dang trash. I know there are a lot of problems in the world, but this is one that particularly grates because it is so visible. And assuming we all cared more, so preventable. In the defense of everyone whose job it is to clean up Houston’s trash, it is a massive undertaking. The Houston Parks Board told me its Bayou Greenways Conservation and Maintenance Team is responsible for the management and care of approximately 2,600 acres of green space and almost 100 miles of trail. This includes mowing, cleaning up litter, clearing paths, removing debris, clearing off graffiti, restoring amenities and cleaning after floods. As far as litter collection goes, they collect trash and debris along the Bayou Greenway bayous, including on the slopes and 2 feet into the water, once a week. The day of the week varies for each bayou. Guess how many dump-truck loads they have gotten since 2014? It does not surprise me to know it is more than 2,000. But what about those pesky shopping carts hanging out in the middle

Trash sits near the banks of White Oak Bayou in the area.

Betsy Denson

of the bayou? Some heavy items are collected during Houston Parks Board’s normal de-littering cycle. And the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) is tasked with collecting the trash further out than the 2 feet. HCFCD said it is responsible for the maintenance and operation of over 2,500 miles of channels throughout Harris County, including channels within the City of Houston. However, its focus is on the collection of debris and trash that impede the movement of storm water. This includes fallen trees, shopping carts, sofas and illegal dumping. They also utilize 90 floatable collection screens that collect trash and get picked up routinely, although they do not collect other trash or debris on a normal collection schedule.

Each year the collection and disposal of this trash and debris costs the HCFCD about $1 million. Even so, during a Monday bike ride along White Oak Bayou, I saw a beautiful egret perched on a branch near a plastic egg carton. A long plastic bag floating a little further down looked like an alligator skimming the water. And at the little island near the White Oak Shopping Center there was a snaggle of shopping carts that looked like they’d be pretty hard to remove at this point. Closer to home I walk the paths in the bayou behind my house. There was a lot more trash there than I saw on the bike ride. And when I crossed the bayou to walk back by the retention areas built to accommodate all the new growth, there was a recliner, the remains of what might have been

a television set and a lot of other junk in an illegal dumping ground. I wrote a story in this week’s edition about one neighbor’s 311 calls to get the City of Houston to come clean it up. I also talked to another neighbor who fished a shopping cart out of the water near there. He said it looks like some items get picked up but that more get added. There are undoubtedly many similar dumping sites around the city and only so many city employees who can make the rounds to clean them up. And while the standing trash on dry land is bad enough, it is the continual inflow of trash, both wind-blown and through the storm sewer system that makes it so difficult to get ahead of the problem – and is so deadly to wildlife that can be entangled in trash or digest dangerous chemicals.

A ploy named Sue File this under, “Don’t do me no more favors,” or maybe, “With lawyers like these, who needs prosecutors?” Right-winger Sidney Powell is being sued for $1.3 billion in a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems. You may recall that Powell went on Fox News, and any other outlet she could find, to charge that Dominion rigged the election against former President Donald Trump to elect Joe Biden. This included statements that “up to 7 million votes were switched from President Donald Trump to Biden via rigged election software,” and she said Dominion is tied to former Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013. Dominion charged that Powell knew her accusations were false, and that harmed the company to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Dominion also filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, alleging the network “sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process.” Here’s the kicker. Lawyers for Powell told a federal court that “no reasonable person” would conclude her claims were statements of fact. Her lawyers stated, “It was clear to reasonable persons” her statements were her own opinions and legal theories.” What a defense. “Your Honor, our client is so looney that only dimwits and other paranoid conspiracists would believe her.” The judge probably called a recess to mull that over. Powell’s claims were so outrageous she was dropped from the Trump campaign. Her lawyers also wrote that the complaint, filed in Washington, D.C., does not have enough connection to the area and should be transferred to a district court in Texas, Powell’s home state. Yes, she’s one of us. Powell is originally from North Carolina, but looked all over America to find a home with likeminded patriots – and chose Texas. This is standard. The same moving experience happened to conspiracy loonies like Glenn Beck (Dallas) and Alex Jones (Austin). Hey, we tout all those folks and firms like Elon Musk and Hewlett Packard Enterprise who move here, but maybe the Border Patrol is watching the wrong river. We now turn to another right-winger who’s not always right. Former Playboy model Karen McDougal filed a defamation lawsuit against Tucker Carlson and Fox News. Lawyers for Fox News requested the case be dismissed, arguing that Carlson’s show serves as “opinion commentary” that is “not reasonably understood as being factual.” Not factual? Like alternative facts? Lies? A

Lynn Ashby Columnist

federal judge agreed, because “reasonable” viewers watch Carlson’s show “with an appropriate amount of skepticism.” That’s rather insulting to his loyal viewers who have now been found legally unreasonable. And if you don’t take Carlson’s show with a grain of salt, why watch it? Why do some media types and Trumpsters become snake oil salesmen and demagogues? In the immortal words of Deep Throat, “Follow the money.” Hate sells, as does fear and pandering to paranoia. Us-against-them is hot. Take Glenn Beck (please). He makes a salary of about $90 million per year, with an estimated worth of $250 million from the “Glenn Beck Radio Program,” books and speeches. His fellow Texan, Alex Jones, has revenue from his radio broadcast, “The Alex Jones Show,” that reaches more than 90 stations. On his programs he constantly hawks toothpaste, bulletproof vests and dietary supplements, which makes him worth about $10 million. A mere pittance compared to some others. As of 2020, Tucker Carlson was earning $10 million a year from Fox News. (This was a bargain. Carlson replaced the ousted Bill O’Reilly who was getting $20 million a year.) Carlson’s net worth is approximately $30 million. According to iSpot.TV, an advertising metrics firm, Tucker Carlson Tonight sold $108.3 million worth of commercials in 2020. However, that was a 45 percent decline from the previous year. iSpot TV figures that Tucker Carlson Tonight generates about 16 percent of Fox News’ total ad revenue estimated at more than $1 billion. Another Fox host, Sean Hannity, earns $40 million at the broadcast network, and has an estimated net worth of $250 million. All of these millionaires are on the far right wing of the media. On the left, it’s not so prosperous. Rachel Maddow, the star of MSNBC, earns $7 million annually, and has an estimated net worth of $20 million. The biggest talk show host by far was Rush Limbaugh. In 2008, Limbaugh signed an eight-year contract with what was then Clear Channel Communications for $400 million. When the contract came to an end in August 2016, Limbaugh signed a four-year extension to the original contract. By 2018, Limbaugh had become the world’s second-highest-

paid radio host (after Howard Stern), earning an annual salary of $84.5 million. His net worth was estimated at between $590 million and $600 million. Unfortunately, both Stern and Limbaugh are dead, but can you imagine the load of tapes sent to Limbaugh’s network by wannabe Rushes who hope to get those earnings? I’ll bet a few hundred. Why are so many millions of dollars being paid to these hatemongers? Fox News is a cash cow for the Murdochs, generally beating competitors, sometimes two-to-one. There must be a whole lot of listeners and viewers who like alternative facts and believe the unreasonable. They probably voted for Hugo Chavez. But even Rupert Murdoch has his limits. Lou Dobbs

Photo by Betsy Denson

(born in Childress, Texas) got bounced by Fox. Roger Ailes, credited with the whole Fox brand of good looking ladies with long legs and long blonde hair, got axed. Bill O’Reilly is toast. In most cases it was for sexual harassment. Apparently they also liked good looking ladies with long legs and long blonde hair. Across the political aisle, Chris Matthews got fired from MSNBC for, among other sins, making inappropriate comments to a woman while she was in his show’s makeup room in 2016. But if you can hang on spreading fear and demagoguery, you can make a fortune, or even get elected lieutenant governor of Texas.

Although the challenge may seem insurmountable, we should keep chipping away at it. It probably won’t help to put a sign up at dumping sites to educate rule breakers on the city’s junk waste program and the danger of trash in the drainage systems. But who knows? A more sure-fire solution? Residents organizing their own pickups along the bayou. While the Houston Park Board’s volunteer opportunities largely focus on conservation efforts, such as plantings and invasive species removal, the HCFCD invites communities who want to organize volunteer clean-up events to contact them through their online service request form or by calling the Citizen Service Center at 346-286-4197. For the heavy items in the bayou, keep reporting them to the HCFCD through the same channels. They coordinate with various city agencies to address illegal dumping. If the trash is along a bayou with a path, the parks board recommends reporting it to 311. A 311 report can never hurt in most cases, and you will get a case number that allows you to follow up. The end of this month marks the celebration of Earth Day. And to celebrate, I’ve got the right numbers programmed into the phone and a recent Amazon delivery of rubber gloves and a 36-inch grabber tool. Will you join me?

THE READER. Someburger serves up no-frills patties

Dear Editor: Ms. Parker nailed the Someburger review. When Hurricane Ike seriously damaged The Heights, and schools were closed, it was uplifting to see tons of children on their bikes pile into the Someburger for a little relief after all the damage. The Someburger did more to bring the community together than all the clowns in Austin claiming they had plans to help out (they didn’t). The people in the various Heights neighborhoods handled the clean-up on their own; and hopefully all the kids had the rare chance to bond. B.W.

These food and drink trends are overrated

Dear Editor: Food/drink “trends” are ridiculous! Who the heck needs a trend to tell them how/what to ingest?! Lee Raymond

Battle brewing over proposed city charter amendment

Dear Editor: The mayor has always controlled the agenda in Houston. It is from where their power arises. Kim Hogstrom

Ashby fears at ashby2@comcast.net

Email us your letters: news@theleadernews.com

the leader Puzzlers. Answers found in this week’s Classified section


aCrOss 1. Engine additive 4. Soluble ribonucleic acid 8. Subdue 10. One long, three short 11. Morally bad 12. With collapsible shelter 13. Central church parts 15. Summer shoes 16. Intestinal 17. Transgressors 18. Meeting expectations 21. Clutch 22. Autonomic nervous system 23. What you can repeat immediately after perceiving it 24. Favorite summer sandwich 25. An accountant certified by the state 26. Cologne 27. Norma Jean Baker

34. Galaxies 35. Bluish greens 36. Detected 37. Having 3 dimensions 38. Made level 39. The destroyer (Hindu) 40. Uncovered 41. Ooze slowly 42. Aerie 43. Point midway between S and SE

dOwn 1. Having beautiful natural views 2. Fanafuti is the capital 3. Shrub used for hedges 4. Polishing tools 5. Slow down 6. Christmas carols 7. & & & 9. Sound of sheep or goat 10. A long flag, often tapering 12. Atomic #73 14. Schilling (abbr.) 15. Female sibling

17. Long sandwich 19. In a way, necessitated 20. Mayan people of SW Guatemala 23. Cleaned up 24. Prohibit 25. Upright cupboard 26. Cyclone center 27. Metric linear units 28. Young male 29. Securities market 30. City across from Dusseldorf 31. Animal disease 32. Mount of __ east of Jerusalem 33. Get free 34. Variable stars 36. One point N of NE


Page 4A • Saturday, April 17, 2021 • The Leader

Time could be right for price increase By Robb Reeves For The Leader

Back in the early 2000s I worked for a company that was owned by a private equity firm. The private equity firm had lots of businesses in America and the owners hoped they all would flourish and make money. The private equity folks were located in New York City and they had a building full of experts that they would send into the hinterlands to teach us how to be better at business. One day they sent down some experts on pricing. These guys came from the best schools and made a presentation on how price affects your profitability. Back at that time, Walmart was like Apple is today. Walmart was revered and looked up to as a model company. Walmart marketed itself as offering low prices because it did so much volume. That thinking was permeating into the business world. You would hear small business owners say, “We are going to cut prices and make it up on volume.” Price increase is your pay Even though their presenta-

tion was nearly 20 years ago, I still remember a good deal of what those price experts said. To condense it, they said few companies could do what Walmart was doing. They said small businesses that went down that road often failed. They had slides and graphs to show the carnage. Later I left that company and went out on my own. I have bought, operated, and sold several businesses over the years and I own businesses today. What those experts said that day still sticks with me. I have never been a big fan of cutting prices because I know my costs often cannot be cut at the same percentage that I lowered the price. So that means I get a pay cut. I am not working six days week to get a reduction in pay. And you shouldn’t be either. Your biggest lever to move your business is price. We know that prices too low and prices too high both get you to the same spot, bankruptcy. Prices just right get you success and allow you to reinvest profits into your business and give your employees increases. But what is right? It is often more than what you are charg-

In discussing how the increase might go over, one of the partners in the firm noted that an additional service was now being provided but had not been explained very well to the customer. So when there were conversations about the increase, the new service (which cost the company raising prices very little) was better explained and promoted. Point out your value if you have a price increase discussion. The other day I was paying a bill at my chiropractor’s office and I noticed the price was higher than before. I asked about it and the lady at the front counter said there had been a price increase. She seemed almost ashamed. I said, “That’s fine. Just checking. I would rather pay $5 more today than not have you here next year.” If you are running your business well, I expect many of your customers might feel the same way.


ing or think you can charge. Rarely is the right direction to reduce your current prices unless you have greatly altered your cost structure. Keep in mind when you increase prices, there are no expenses associated with it. There could be a reduction in revenue if not done right, but your expenses don’t go up. In our recent business survey, where McElvy Partners surveyed 124 small businesses, 52 percent of those businesses expect their vendors to charge more this year. Fortytwo percent expect prices to remain the same. This, along with the talk of inflation coming (fuel prices have surged since November), should make all of us look at

Stock photo Customers may not like price increases, but many will understand if a business continues providing a valuable service.

our prices. If you have not increased prices in the last couple of years, 2021 might be the year you need to do so. If your suppliers increase their prices, you will have to follow suit, or earn less. We also think our survey indicates that as businesses begin to fully reopen, ultimately there will be price increases as demand picks up. If you order parts or go into hardware stores, you are probably noticing empty shelves or parts that used to take a week to get in are now taking twice as long or longer to reach your door. Supply chains are still

crippled from the pandemic. Combine this the federal government “air-dropping” money into people’s bank accounts and there are more people wanting buy things. So we have more buyers and less things to buy. That usually means prices go up. If you decide to increase prices, the best advice is to be low-key about it. Does Amazon or Walmart contact you when prices go up? In some cases, key customers may need to be contacted and an explanation of the increase given. I know of a company that increased prices early in 2021.

Robb Reeves is the vice president of McElvy Partners, a company that specializes in print and digital marketing solutions for small businesses.

Illegal dumping has neighbors seeking answers By Betsy Denson betsy@theleadernews.com

Like many people in the area, Candlelight Place resident Shaun Benesch likes to walk his dog along the bayou that runs parallel to his neighborhood into White Oak Bayou. Along the route, he passes two detention ponds bordered by the bayou and a dead-end road with access off Pinemont Drive. The strip between the ponds and the road is where the landscape is a lot less picturesque, due to illegal trash dumping, which Benesch has been trying to get cleaned up over the past eight months. “There continues to be new dumping, most recently of some clothing,” Benesch said. “In addition to that, the area is getting worse and continues being used as a party pit with a recent fire pit dug on the lot. Aside from being unsightly, it is a fire hazard, too.” The two ponds are owned by separate entities – the larger one is the City of Houston’s, and a cylindrical one closest to Candlelight Place is property of the Candlelight homeowners assocition. The ponds have been mostly clean, although a concrete ditch in the city’s pond appears to be a graffiti-covered hangout. Most of the trash has been at the edge of the ponds and in the ditch closest to the road. Candlelight Place builder Chris Franz, who is a member of the HOA, said they have reached out to the city on multiple occasions about the dumping as well as about trucks and motorcycles that use the drainage areas as a place to ride. “The ruts they make impact the drainage, so that’s an issue, too,” Franz said. “The city did block access to the bayou path from the entrance of our neighborhood.”

Because the address closest to the dump sites – 0 Del Norte St. – is the property of the city, Benesch said he started making 311 requests last September. He said he sent pictures and asked if it was possible for the city to do something to prevent dumping and asked if heavy trash could come pick up the larger items. After an email back from the city to clarify the location, Benesch said there was no action taken, which prompted Benesch to send another email in late October with additional photos. “It doesn’t look like anything has been done about the dumping happening over here and seems to be getting worse now that they know they can get away with it,” he wrote. This led to the city citing itself on Dec. 2, requiring cleanup by Dec. 9, according to a violation notice posted on the property. When there was no action, Benesch said he reached out yet again about the fact the dumping was now bringing other problems. “I have sent in multiple requests for this,” he wrote. “Now we have a fire pit dug on a city of Houston property. ... There has been dumping in this area for a long time which I have continuously reported.” A return email informed him there was an open investigation with the city’s Department of Neighborhoods and the appropriate city officials had been contacted. City response Evangelina Vigil, spokesperson for the Department of Neighborhoods, said the area is a city property managed by the Houston Public Works and Transportation & Drainage Operations departments. “It is their responsibility to clean

and maintain the property, and there is a maintenance schedule for their city inventory,” Vigil said. “If violations occur in between their maintenance schedule, the Department of Neighborhoods notifies them, and the violation is corrected as requested.” Vigil said Transportation & Drainage Operations planned to investigate the property this week and determine the appropriate actions for maintenance, removal of debris and an ongoing maintenance strategy. That will be good news for Benesch, who said that while a new city citation sign showed a resolution deadline of July 2021, he also has an email saying the case was closed April 9. Benesch said there have been no improvements in the area. “This whole area is neatly tucked away and ripe for abuse,” Benesch said. “It really is a beautiful area and ideally it would be nice if it could double as a detention pond and a dog park, community garden or something to that effect. I’m not an expert, though, so perhaps that’s not feasible, but we need something different to increase positive citizen activity and reduce negative citizen activity.” He also questioned the nearby bayou, which has its fair share of tires and bottles. “I think the bayou is owned by (the) Harris County Flood Control (District), so do they also need to be issued a citation?” he wondered. Representatives with the flood control district said they do not collect trash or debris on a normal collection schedule. “The flood control district’s primary focus is on the collection of debris and trash that impede the conveyance of storm water,” a spokesperson said. “Flood control maintenance crews routinely address items such as fallen trees, shopping carts, sofas and

Photo by Betsy Denson A recliner was recently discarded in a green space near White Oak Bayou.

illegal dumping.” Residents who see debris or heavy trash items in the bayou can report it through the flood control district’s online service request form or by calling the Citizen Service Center at 346-286-4197. Oak Forest’s Matt Dowiak has taken things one step further. He and his family, who also enjoy the green space, noticed a shopping cart and a tire in the small creek that intersects the bayou and runs parallel to the city’s detention pond. “We cleaned and bagged a lot of trash,” Dowiak said. “There was a shopping cart and a tire.” He said he put the shopping cart with other heavy trash he saw near the road because he did not know

what else to do with it and that it was picked up. “There is (heavy trash) that has been there and is now gone, but now some new stuff,” he said. Vigil said residents are encouraged to report illegal dumping violations to 311 as they can also ask for updates on their service requests. She said there is a division of the Department of Neighborhoods, the Mayor’s Citizens Assistance Office, that can assist citizens in resolving concerns. For now, Benesch said he will wait and see. “I would happily volunteer and encourage interested constituents to help clean this up and raise awareness,” he said.

Word, from P. 1A In 1998, Word resigned. She and longtime banking executive Don Harding, whom she worked with at Merchants, wanted to do something different. “Branch banking was really coming into Texas,” she said. “The smaller independent banks were getting gobbled up. Some of them could not service customers like they used to. Our thing was that we wanted to help customers and stay true to our community.” It took Word and Harding about six months to get First Choice off the ground. And they spent that time in a trailer across the street from 2310 Yale St., where the bank was under construction. “Before we started, we did a lot of research and made a lot of phone calls,” Word said. “Back in those days, you needed to raise $6 million before you could start a bank. We raised the money by looking for shareholders to invest. People believed in us. It worked out really well.” Joyce Minter, whose family owned Connie’s TV on Yale for many years, was one of those shareholders. “Marilyn is the epitome of the hometown girl and is so trustworthy,” Minter said. “She has such rapport with people, and you can’t fake that. Marilyn is the heart of the bank.”

Former Heights grocer Tom Snyder followed Word and Harding from Merchants to First Choice because of his relationship with both bankers. He also complimented her professionalism. “She always had a smile on her face no matter the circumstance,” Snyder said. “She could talk to anybody.” Word said the business plan for her and Harding had always been to do things independently for 10 years and then step back to evaluate. After a decade, the advances in banking technology and the investment required spurred them to partner with another bank that shared their values. Enter Prosperity. “The partnership benefited employees and it benefitted the shareholders,” Word said. That has not changed the personal touch the Heights branch delivers. “We know our customers by name, and we know what they need to succeed,” Word said. At Merchants, Word started a travel program for seniors that had been popular. At First Choice she expanded on that with the GO Club, which now has about 800 members. “I thought our seniors were a group that had been ignored,” Word said. “We

keep them connected.” In the community room upstairs at the bank, Word has offered seminars on financial issues including scams and fraud and how to keep their resources safe. There is also a travel arm. “They’ve been all over the U.S. and the world,” Word said. She may soon join them on some of those trips. Next week, the senior vice president and banking center manager will be at home gardening and attending more of her grandchildren’s events. Word’s husband, Bobby, who retired more than a year ago, is excited to have more time with his wife. She married him the same year she began her career in banking. “It is a new chapter,” Word said. “I’m excited.” Word said as a woman in the banking business, things have changed a lot since the 1970s. “Women were not promoted as often,” she said. Word said she is grateful to Harding, who died in 2019 after retiring from the bank. “Our partnership was a big step for me,” she said. “He was so well-known in the community and so loved. I would not be where I am today without him.”



St. James Lutheran Church, ELCA

Bible Studies For All Ages ... 9:30am

Morning Worship ............... 10:45am In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, please check with each •church below..... for Worship (English) 10:00 updated am - 11:00am Wednesday Bible Studies For Youth, Children • Learning Hour........... 11:00am - 12:00pm MANNA information about services and events. are temporarily restricted. • Worship (Spanish) .... 12:30 pm - 1:30pm and Adults............................ 6:15pm In-person services Sponsor

1822 W. 18th • 713-864-1470

1602 West 43rd St. • Houston, Tx 77018 • 713-686-1577

Gethsemane Lutheran Church

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1700 West 43 rd at Rosslyn 713-682-4942 Pastor – Dr. Richard Walters

Sunday School ........9:15 am Sunday Worship......10:30am Candlelight Church of Christ Wednesday Bible Study 8FTUSE4Ut)PVTUPO 5Yt Join us for Services & Prayer Service 6:00pm in English or Spanish Sunday Morning Worship 8:30 and 11:00


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Ministries for All Ages Home of Johnson Memorial School for Little Children Please visit our website at: Sund Rev. Nathan Lonsdale Bledsoe, Pastor

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1822 W. 18th

Wed Sunday Services: In-person @ 9 AM and 11 AM (Live stream during 11 AM service)  Bible Studies: From Homepage, click on • 713-864-1470 Connect/Small Groups

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We invite you to worship with us! Weekly Worship Services 9:00a.m. Online services can be reached through the website below at 9:00 am. www.gethsemanelutheran.org

Houston, TX 77092

Say a Prayer Today


t goes with made mist err is hum this the next must learn fr to repeat them it can be hard can sometime We sometime we’ve done, for years, or addition, som our past. And them, we mu we should for the coming da as well as our them; that is, repeatedly m the phrase “fo the only way more divine, i the offense. vindictive, sh it! Corrie ten prison camp s to realize that

Judge not, not, and

The Leader • Saturday, April 17, 2021 • Page 5A

Gunderson, from P. 1A even asked his fellow firefighters to refrain from mentioning his plans to Gunderson, who found out anyway and confronted his longtime friend and co-worker. According to Bivens, Gunderson said he was going to show up that day and work for Bivens whether he liked it or not. “That tells you how strong of a man he was,” Bivens said. “He’s going through all these treatments, all this stuff, and still wanting to be there for his fire family, his guys, and still work. He loved being a fireman.” More specifically, Gunderson loved being a fireman in Oak Forest. And the community loved him for his years of service to the neighborhood. Many residents of the Garden Oaks and Oak Forest areas stepped outside and paid tribute to Gunderson on Tuesday morning, when he made his “last ride” through the neighborhood on the way to his funeral service in Tomball. He worked at Station 13 for the final 16 years of his career with the Houston Fire Department, after starting in the mid-1990s at nearby Station 31, which is located at 222 Crosstimbers St. just east of Garden Oaks. Gunderson was a thirdgeneration Houston firefight-

er and, according to Oak Forest resident Mary Margaret Carroll-Faltisek, did his job with kindness, compassion and respect for the neighborhood and its citizens. She said Gunderson was known to go above and beyond the typical duties of a firefighter, such as participating in community events, checking on residents’ homes when they were out of town or, in her case, reaching out to ask how her husband, Paul, was doing while both were in the midst of coping with cancer. “He’s a true hero,” CarrollFaltisek said. “The community loved him.” His fellow firefighters at Station 13 said Gunderson, who reported to work until entering hospice care about one month before his death, stressed the importance of serving the community and fulfilling its requests, no matter how big or small. Longtime crew member Ismael Alvarez said Gunderson enjoyed speaking to kids at school and church events and encouraged his team to save as much property as possible when responding to fires, because they never knew whether the impacted residents would be in a position to replace what could be lost. Alvarez said Gunderson took great care of Oak For-

est in part because neighborhood residents took great care of him, such as regularly bringing food to the station and leading a push to have it renovated by the City of Houston in 2015. Gunderson repaid the community with selfless acts such as helping to save children from a burning home and rescuing a woman who had driven her truck into White Oak Bayou near the intersection of East T.C. Jester Boulevard and West 34th Street. The woman fell under water during the rescue, Alvarez said, but Gunderson immediately pulled her up and helped her to safety. Gunderson’s acumen, leadership and easy-going, down-to-earth personality made him a well-liked and well-respected captain, according to Alvarez, who said the stability and continuity on the station’s “C” shift is rare in the firefighting profession. Four of Gunderson’s five crew members had been with him for at least 10 years. “We always said to each other that we would never go anywhere because we had it so good,” Alvarez said. “We had pretty much one of the best officers the city had, one of the best the fire department has ever had, so it was very important for us to stay together.”

Family man Alvarez and Bivens both said family was important to Gunderson, who went by Will and is survived by his wife, Stephanie, teenage son, Alan, and adult daughters, Shelby Winters and Kalee Winford. Helping Alan become an Eagle Scout was a passion of Gunderson’s, according to Alvarez, who said the proud father was able to attend his son’s Eagle Scout award ceremony in the weeks leading up to his death. Gunderson also fostered a family atmosphere at the fire station, starting a tradition in which the firefighters who worked on Christmas and Thanksgiving brought their spouses and children to the station for a celebratory meal. The firefighters also started having annual crawfish boils several years ago, with the events expanding to include some neighborhood residents. Alvarez said Gunderson helped to create that culture from the beginning of their tenure together more than a decade ago. Alvarez suggested a group golf outing, and Gunderson gladly participated even though he was not a golfer and was more interested in hunting and fishing than sports. “He did it to show me and

Within the last month, when Gunderson’s health was declining, his station mates organized a crawfish boil in his honor. The event was akin to a retirement party, with Gunderson receiving a personalized shadow box that included photos, his badge and other mementos from his career. Bivens said at least 50 people attended. The group included current and former firefighters from Station 13 as well as those Gunderson had trained or worked under, both there and at the Crosstimbers station several years ago. They all had bonded with Gunderson, just like Alvarez and Bivens and even community residents like Carroll-Faltisek had done. Perhaps the fellow firefighters in attendance also follow Gunderson’s example by showing up for every shift, no matter the circumstances. “To see the circle that he was the center of, the guys who passed the torch to him and him passing the torch to these guys that are standing right behind him, it was a beautiful moment,” Bivens said. “He might be gone from us, but his legacy and his memory will live on through his firefighters and his family.”

show the rest of us that he was going to do whatever it took to make sure we all had this cohesiveness,” Alvarez said. “I thought that was really nice of him to do. A lot of other guys wouldn’t have have bothered, wouldn’t have made that effort.” Gunderson had a lighter side as well, with Bivens saying he nicknamed him “Igotta,” because Bivens often has got ideas to share. Bivens said Gunderson called a former station captain “Ineeda” because of frequent requests he made for assistance. Alvarez said Gunderson allowed his crew members to play pranks on department rookies, and even participated from time to time, and did not get upset if he was the butt of a joke. Gunderson also engaged his fellow firefighters in an ongoing competition at the local Kroger, where they liked to use the automated blood pressure machine at the pharmacy to see whose was the lowest. Alvarez said Gunderson – even though he did not work out and had a sweet tooth he liked to indulge at the nearby sweetFrog location as well as Flying Saucer Pie Company – always had the lowest blood pressure. “I guess he was stress free,” Alvarez said. “That’s what helped him out.”

Delivery, from P. 1A morning that the Nuro service was “now live,” but it did not appear to be operational during the lunch hour. Two Nuro employees stationed outside the store early Tuesday afternoon said the self-driving vehicle in the parking lot was in demo mode. Shortly before that, The Leader arranged for a Woodland Heights resident who is a regular Domino’s customer and lives a few blocks from the store to place an autonomous-delivery order using instructions provided by Bulger. But the resident did not have the option to select autonomous delivery while placing the online order at dominos.com. Dan Mitchell, Nuro’s city and community engagement manager, said no autonomous deliveries had been made as of Wednesday morning. He said no deliveries were made on Tuesday because of unfavorable weather early in the day. “Safety is really, really important to

Nuro and our deployment,” Mitchell said. “Depending on weather, road conditions, if school’s in session at Travis Elementary and there’s lines of cars going ahead or waiting to drop off kids, we don’t need to have it running all the time.” When the autonomous delivery option is available to customers who place prepaid online orders, Bulger said the service will come with the same fee charged for traditional delivery and that the vehicle’s progress can be tracked using GPS. She said customers will receive text messages with a pin number that can be used to open the storage compartment once the vehicle arrives at their home, and to alert them when the car has left the store as well as when it is two minutes away. Once the Nuro vehicle has arrived at the curb, Bulger said customers will receive another text notification if they have not retrieved their order within two minutes. If another two

minutes pass without the order being retrieved, she said the vehicle will return to the store. Bulger said customers should call the store at 713-868-3030 if that happens, or if there is some sort of problem or mistake. Each R2 deployment will be for one order at a time, she said. “This is a test that we’re doing,” she said. “We’re hoping to see how customers interact with the robot. We look forward to learning about different data. Do customers prefer autonomous delivery or do they prefer regular delivery?” Mitchell said Nuro also is excited about the launch of the pilot program with Domino’s and receiving feedback from customers. The robotics company is about 5 years old and operates in California, Arizona and Houston, where Nuro has partnered with Kroger, CVS and the Houston Food Bank to make home deliveries during the last two years, mostly in

the southwest part of town. “The idea of commercial service is to offer better-quality service at a lower price point,” Mitchell said. Bulger and Mitchell both said their companies’ goal is to extend automated delivery, and Mitchell said that would not necessarily result in the elimination of jobs for delivery drivers. He said Nuro’s grocery-delivery service in Arizona has promoted job growth, because automated delivery orders increased and there was a greater need for employees who could fill those orders and load the robotic vehicles. In the case of Domino’s, Mitchell said the autonomous delivery service aims to eliminate the need for customers to drive to the store and pick up their orders, and not the need for human drivers. Mitchell said the use of the R2 model also comes with benefits for the environment, since the vehicle is electric and not powered by gasoline,

and for the safety of neighborhood residents and families. The robotic car is narrower and more compact than a traditional vehicle, which Mitchell said creates more space on the road for other vehicles as well as cyclists and pedestrians. He also said the Nuro vehicles are equipped with 360-degree cameras and a series of sensors that can recognize people and their pets and react accordingly, including veering in one direction or another, slowing down or coming to a complete stop. “Even if you’re not getting the delivery service, you’re hopefully still benefitting from Nuro in Houston,” Mitchell said. “The delivery driver is not texting and not rushing to get the delivery to the neighborhood. Your neighbor who may be older and shouldn’t be driving anymore is not taking a big Cadillac out on the roadway. Instead, a smaller, safer electric vehicle is bringing them an item they need.”

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The Leader • Saturday, April 17, 2021 • Page 7A

Art Valet: Closely connected artists exhibit solitude together Mitch Cohen Art Columnist

This weekend, Hardy & Nance Studios present “Solitude in Bloom,” a collection of sculptures and paintings by resident artists Peter Healy and Matt Messinger. The showing is over three days to observe COVID-19 protocols. The Friday preview is from 6-9 p.m., followed by showings from 5-10 p.m. Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday, all in the gallery space inside Hardy & Nance Studios, 902 Hardy St. Staring at a blank computer screen, with a print deadline hovering over me, my head feeling like a stuffed melon from the first onset of allergies in a long while, I decided to turn to Facebook events to see what I could write about this week. Messinger’s name stood out immediately. No apologies for my methods of discovery this week, because these two artists are phenomenal and if I hadn’t lost my allergy battle to the oak trees, I

Contributed photo Pictured is Matt Messinger’s painting called “Parasols 2.”

Contributed photo Pictured is Peter Healy’s piece called “Balancing Act.”

may have missed this. So, you are welcome! I recall seeing Messinger’s work for many years at Antidote Coffee at 729 Studewood St. Messinger and I have many mutual friends, and when I found this event, I realized I haven’t seen him in a while either. The irony here is in the

lived, seemingly overnight,” she wrote. “We found ourselves less connected to the art world and the world at large, turning inward to our families and our lives at home. “A lot of what you see in our pieces speaks to what we were seeking for ourselves during this time; escape, joy, levity, a respite from the dramatic

name of the show. Messinger and Healy share studio space at Hardy & Nance, and they are neighbors and brothers-in-law. How wild is that? Healy’s wife, Sara, wrote their combined statement for the exhibit. “The pandemic really changed the way everyone

situation unfolding around the world.” Like many artists, Messinger and Peter Healy had to find new ways to stay connected to their audience. “We had to figure out, as many have, how to adjust and think differently about how to exist as an artist and create work that resonates with oth-

Blue Bloom

ers while being physically disconnected from almost everyone,” Sara Healy wrote. Like the rest of us, they’re excited to finally move on but still find the positive side to solitude in their work. “Having fewer distractions or obligations provided the opportunity to focus more on the work and where each of us wanted to take it,” the two artists said. “We were lucky in that we not only share workspace, but we’re neighbors, too, so we could gather as a family and drag our canvases outside and tack them up on the fence or wherever, working through projects and talking about our next moves while planting gardens and trying new beers and other such pandemic cliches. “Now, after what’s seemed like the longest and shortest year, it’s spring again, and after postponing a handful of times, we are excited to be showing soon.” Follow both artists on Instagram (@mattmessinger9 and @peterhealypaintings) as well as the studios (@hardyandnancestudios). Cohen is an artist and founder of the First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com for additional highlights and artist’s stories.


Oak Forest-area residents can enjoy a field full of bluebonnets and other wildflowers near the intersection of West T.C. Jester Boulevard and West 34th Street. (Photos by Adam Zuvanich)

William Price, from P. 1A recognition and a reputation for spreading good will, and so did using its purification system to provide drinking water to victims of Hurricane Laura last August and Winter Storm Uri in February. The company also hired out-of-work bartenders to execute its hand sanitizer operation and used the proceeds to create a foundation that donated money to local bars impacted by the pandemic. Now William Price is finally doing what it set out to do – making spirits to serve to residents of the Garden Oaks and Oak Forest areas. The distillery had a soft opening in February and is holding an opening party from noon-10 p.m. Saturday, when new rye whiskeys and a coffee liqueur will be available and a Houston pitmaster will be on hand to sell barbecue. Clary, who named the distillery after his great-great-greatgreat grandfather, the first member of his family to settle in Texas in the mid-1800s, said William Price has so far gotten a good response from local customers. Its regular tasting room hours are from 4-10 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, noon10 p.m. Saturday and noon-8 p.m. Sunday, and the distillery also is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday for bottle purchases. “We would have much rather there not have been a pandemic,” Hiller said. “Having hand sanitizer and meeting the people we did over the course of the last year I think has put this company in a position we would not have been in otherwise.” Clary said the relationships they forged with bars and bar employees have helped them to get their products into the broader Houston market. It also has helped the distillery refine the flavors of its spirits, with Poison Girl owner Bryan Wayne and Two Headed Dog

owner Lindsay Rae Burleson serving as tasting panelists for William Price. The Garden Oaks company is not yet making its own liquor from scratch, because Clary said it is waiting on handmade brewing and distilling equipment to be delivered from Scotland. Instead, William Price is purchasing spirits from distributors and then creating its own unique products by adding flavor agents or blending barreled batches together. Hiller said William Price eventually will make its own spirits, including whiskey, rum, gin and other liquors. He said the distillery also plans to sell beer and wine at some point. Clary said he and Hiller also want to partner with local artists to display their work in the tasting room on a rotating basis. “A little bit of something for everyone,” Hiller said. William Price is no longer making hand sanitizer, mostly because it has plenty in stock. Clary said the company could supply Harris County with about five years’ worth of hand sanitizer before needing to produce any more. Perhaps Clary and Hiller will end up keeping a few bottles of hand sanitizer as souvenirs of sorts. They could at some point use them to tell friends and family the remarkable story about how they started their business sooner than expected and in a manner they never would have imagined – in the midst of pandemic. It also would remind them about their ability to adapt and prosper no matter what comes their way. “We have plenty of space back here as you can obviously see,” Clary while standing in the property’s parking lot. “We have water, we have barbed wire fence, we’ve got booze and hand sanitizer. We’re ready for a zombie apocalypse.”

Special Section Spring has finally sprung!

The Leader will publish a special section on Spring Cleaning in May. This is an opportunity to highlight your business and how you can help our community tidy up this season.

Ad deadline: May 18th @ 5PM Publishes May 22nd Pricing: Full page ............. $1,500 Half page ................ $800 1/4 page ................. $450 3 x 5 ....................... $275 3 x 3 ....................... $150 2 x 4 ....................... $110 2 x 2 ......................... $85



The Leader • Saturday, April 17, 2021 • Page 8A

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Suspect sketch released in entertainment center shooting By Landan Kuhlmann landan@theleadernews.com

Police have released a composite sketch of a man suspected to be involved in the fatal shooting of a father in front of his daughter at a local entertainment complex earlier this month. The suspect is described only as an adult Black male with a skinny build. The victim, 37-year-old

Miguel Vasquez, was pronounced dead at an area hospital, according to the Houston Police Department. Vasquez’s 10-year-old daughter was uninjured, police said. According to HPD, Vasquez and his daughter were walking to their car in the Marq-E parking lot at 7620 Katy Fwy. just before 10 p.m. April 4 when a male approached and attempted to rob Vasquez at gunpoint.

North Shepherd murder suspect still at large landan@theleadernews.com

Houston police are searching for a suspect wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of a man outside a motel on North Shepherd Drive last weekend. The Houston Police Department said 32-year-old Jamarcus Toliver has been charged with murder in the shooting


of 38-year-old Joseph Lewis. Toliver was not in police custody as of Monday afternoon, according to HPD. According to HPD, Lewis and Toliver were in a car together when they got into a confrontation in the parking lot of the Tropical Motel at 4831 N. Shepherd Dr. Police say Toliver allegedly fired multiple shots toward Lewis, hitting him as he sat in the pas-

HPD investigating fatal crash in Inwood By Landan Kuhlmann landan@theleadernews.com

Houston police said they are looking into a single-car crash near the area that left the driver dead earlier this month. The driver, 56-year-old Norberto Pina, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Houston Police Department.

HPD said a passerby saw Pina’s Volkswagen Jetta on fire and crashed into a tree at 7500 T.C. Jester Blvd. in the Inwood Pines neighborhood around 1:15 a.m. April 7. According to police, it remains unclear what direction Pina was going when the crash occurred. Anyone with information on this incident is urged to contact HPD’s Vehicular Crimes division at 713-247-4072.  

senger seat. HPD said Toliver then allegedly pushed Lewis out of the car and drove away, running over him as he fled the scene. Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Anyone with information on Toliver’s potential whereabouts is encouraged to contact HPD’s Homicide division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477.


Houston police say they are looking into a shooting that left a young woman dead outside a local apartment complex last weekend. The 19-year-old victim was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the Houston Police Department.

HPD said officers responded to the Asbury Park Condos apartment complex at 6200 W. Tidwell Rd. in Forrest Lake around 3:30 p.m. last Saturday, April 10 to find the victim dead in the parking lot of the complex. According to police, eyewitnesses told investigators there was an altercation in the parking lot that escalated to gun-

fire being exchanged, during which police said the victim was caught in the middle and struck. There are no suspects in the case, according to HPD. Anyone with information in this case is encouraged to contact HPD’s Homicide division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-8477.

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Teenager killed in Inwood apartment shooting By Landan Kuhlmann

2001 Karbach Suite F

Police said the suspect then shot at Vasquez during the course of the robbery, striking him, before fleeing the scene in a vehicle of an unknown make and model. Anyone with information on the identity of the suspect or the getaway vehicle is urged to contact HPD’s Homicide Division at 713308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713222-8477.   From Houston Police Department

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The Leader • Saturday, April 17, 2021 • Page 1B

Explore world of pasta at local restaurants By Zarah Parker

always think in terms of season.” Coltivare also will add seasonal pastas for the warmer months that include in-season vegetables. “We try to cook on the lighter side in the summer, so things don’t weigh a person down,” Pera said. While pasta dishes may not always follow the trend of season, there are also other emerging trends. Harissa, a Tunisian hot chili pepper paste, is becoming popular with pasta. Godoy describes it like a pesto, but denser and made with tomatoes and similar to Mexican mole. “It’s so flavorful that just that with the noodles is good,” Godoy said. “You don’t even need anything else.” Another trend breaching Houston, which you can find at places like Mastrantos, are some of those pasta shapes that aren’t yet mainstream, like spaghetti, penne or rigatoni. Along with new shapes in pasta is colored pasta, which can be made naturally with carrot or beet juice for orange or purple color.


Houstonians will eat ice cream in the winter and soup in the summer. Some people eat their vegetables and fruits seasonally, but with pretty much anything readily available whether it’s in season or not, we have the ability to eat what we want when we want. According to owner Xavier Godoy of Mastrantos, 927 Studewood St., the way Houstonians eat pasta is much the same. Having lived in Italy, Godoy has seen firsthand some of the differences with the way pasta is eaten and made in Italy versus America. “In the south of Italy, or the coastal side of the country, they are very seasonal,” Godoy said. “So pesto pastas are highlighted in the summer time because basil grows in the heat. You also get more citrusy, herbal sauces rather than buttery.” In America, Godoy said it’s different. In a place like Houston, he said the Italian culture is more influenced by American Italians rather than Italian Americans, by which he meant most people are used to eating at Italian restaurant chains, where the menu doesn’t change seasonally. Ryan Pera, chef and owner at Coltivare Pizza & Garden, 3320 White Oak Dr., said the differences in Italy and America really depends on what restaurant you’re walking into in either country. “There tends to be smaller portions in Italy and less ingredients,” Pera said. “Pasta tends to be simple in nature. You also see more pasta shapes in Italy that haven’t gained popularity here.” Mastrantos will be tweaking its menu a bit as we roll into warmer weather, but will also keep a few of its heavier pasta dishes like the Ragu Bolognese. The additions will include a red pesto pasta dish with fresh vegetables. “Even though we’re bring a few light dishes, we are keeping our heavier dishes as well because of the culture,” Godoy said. “People order (Ragu Bolognese) in the summer with the sun out and not care. People here don’t

See Pasta, P. 2B

Contributed photos Above, a young girl enjoys a pasta dish on a patio. At right, homemade pasta is made in the kitchen of Mastrantos, located at 927 Studewood St. The Heights restaurant is one of many area locales that serve a variety of pasta dishes.

Review: Porta’Vino hits home with pasta, soup By Zarah Parker zarah@theleadernews.com

The patio and dining room were both good options during my recent visit to Porta’Vino on Washington Avenue. The airy atmosphere bid me to choose to sit inside, and with windows letting plenty of natural light in, the space felt open and welcoming. As I was looking over the menu, the server set down a small bowl of roasted chickpeas. It was an interesting change from the customary bread given at most Italian places. The chickpeas were seasoned and crunchy like a roasted nut. They induced my mouth to dry out, but with water already readily available on the table, I didn’t mind. It was a nice touch to begin the meal. Not that I didn’t also have bread, because if it’s on the menu, I knew I had to get some for the table. There are two bread options, focaccia or “Balloon Bread.” I went with

Photo by Zarah Parker The Wild Boar Bolognese at Porta’Vino comes with mushrooms and pappardelle pasta. Zarah Parker found it to be big on pork flavor with a somewhat nutty taste.

the latter, which was an herbseasoned puffed loaf. When it came out, it was like a fresh hot balloon that deflated upon my ripping into it. The herbs seasoned the bread just enough for the flavor to be there but not overwhelm the bread. The outer edges were soft and doughier, while the middle was crispy. I also could not resist trying out Nonna’s Chicken & Vegetable Soup, made with fresh vegetables, grilled chicken, Arborio rice and fresh herbs. It was delicious from the first sip. The broth, which seemed to have a light tomato base, was a little spicy, the vegetables were cooked thoroughly and the chicken tasted fresh. The vegetables were zucchini, carrots, onions and cauliflower. It’s the type of soup I’d eat anytime just because of how good it was. At the recommendation of the server, I ordered the Wild Boar Bolognese, made with mushrooms and pappardelle,

Freshly made pasta beats store-bought Zarah Parker

I enjoyed both pastas, but I favored the spaghetti. The coconut cream pie was also heralded as a must-try item, so I complied. The cream filling was mixed with coconut and topped with a huge layer of whipped cream and topped with toasted coconut. It may have been a coconut pie, but I was glad to find there wasn’t too much coconut. There was a good balance of cream and coconut. The crust was soft -- less of a crust and more of a light bread. I look forward to my next visit, and my next plate of spaghetti. Porta’Vino Address: 7800 Washington Ave. Hours: 5-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday Pricing: $13-$28 Alcohol: Yes Kid-friendly: Yes Healthy options: Yes Star of the show: Spaghetti & Meatballs

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It didn’t take long for me to decide I preferred freshly made pasta over the storebought variety. After literally one bite of the good stuff, I was hooked. There was a time in my teenage years when I decided I hated spaghetti noodles. When my parents made spaghetti, I made my own side of penne. This phase didn’t last long, but after I had my first try of fresh noodles, just a few years ago, I realized my teenage self wasn’t all that wrong. My personal preference has become homemade pasta because it tends to be a little thicker and smoother, whereas after cooking store-bought pasta, there’s a little bit of a stickiness that isn’t really present after mixing it with sauce. But it does have a different texture. When I compare the two myself, fresh pasta comes out the winner, but is that really the case or am I just biased? Xavier Godoy, owner of Mastrantos, 927 Studewood St., told me the key difference is dried pasta that’s bought at the grocery store has additives and preservatives. With Mastrantos having a dough lab that produces freshly-made pasta daily, Godoy is familiar with the pasta-making experience. He said if you’re comparing homemade

which are noodles that are long, flat and about an inch wide. I’ve never seen wild boar as part of a pasta dish, so I was immediately intrigued. The Bolognese sauce was a muted brown atop the pappardelle. The wild boar didn’t actually taste all that different to me than regular beef, it just had more of a pork flavor. It was also ground up pretty small, so I never got a huge chunk of wild boar, but within the sauce it added a strong, somewhat nutty taste. I also sampled some of the Spaghetti & Meatballs, made with beef meatballs, garlic, red sauce and parmesan. Garlic here is really the main ingredient, and I’m not mad about it. It was like the whole dish was infused with garlic and I realized this is what I want my spaghetti to always taste like. The meatballs were also impressive. The meat was savory and a perfect addition to the top of the noodles.


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Stock photo There are noble uses for dried pasta purchased from a supermarket, but freshly made pasta is more tender and ideal for dishes with creamy sauces.

versus store-bought, you’re really comparing an experience. At home you control the process, from how the pasta tastes to what it looks like. Yet, something store-bought pasta has that homemade doesn’t is consistency. When you buy spaghetti off the shelf, you know exactly what you’re getting. Fresh pasta is usually made of flour, egg and water and dried pasta is made of semolina flour, salt and water. The latter is made without egg so it will last for much longer. Dried pasta can sit on your pantry shelf for quite a long time. The texture of dried pasta after its cooked works with the sauces and causes the sauce to cling to the noodles. And most of the time when cooking, it grows in size. Fresh pasta is more tender and cooks in half the time or less than dried pasta. Its texture makes it ideal for creamy sauces,

and it’s healthier to eat. In a way, the two can be seen as different products. They have different ingredients and they’re made differently. If that’s the case, there’s a time and place for both kinds of pastas. If it’s a dish with a creamy or dairy-based sauce, fresh pasta is the way to go. If it’s a dish with hearty or oil-based sauce, go with dried. Except with a Bolognese ragu. Even though it’s hearty, it’s best with fresh pasta. If you’re new to making pasta, Godoy said it’s easy, but you have to make it a few times to get used to doing it and not be distracted with following a recipe. But if you get home late from work and your family is crying for dinner, throw in the closest pack of store-bought spaghetti you can find in a pot of boiling water on the stove.

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Page 2B • Saturday, April 17, 2021 • The Leader

Food Briefs: Cantina to take over Shepherd Park Draught House space By Zarah Parker zarah@theleadernews.com

Delicious Concepts Restaurant Group recently announced the opening of Tres Amigos Cafe y Cantina, a Tex-Mex restaurant that will replace the brewpub Shepherd Park Draught House at 3402 N. Shepherd Dr. Ken Bridge, CEO of Delicious Concepts, approached Stewart Skloss, founder of Pura Vida Tequila, and Billy Gibbons, the ZZ Top frontman, seven years ago with the idea of finding a space to showcase his extensive ZZ Top memorabilia. “The three of us have tinkered with the idea of doing a ‘hole in the wall’ Tex-Mex cantina that could house some of my and Billy’s favorite pieces in a casual atmosphere that serves classic Tex-Mex, while benefitting the St. Jude Foundation,” Bridge said in a news release. In honor of the three friends, 75 percent of the proceeds of the restaurant will go to the foundation. The restaurant is expected to debut April 22. Garden Oaks ‘craft kitchen’ opens this summer The space at 3715 Alba Rd. has been vacant since the Liberty Kitchen that operated there closed a few years ago. A new restaurant, d’Alba Craft Kitchen & Cocktails, has moved into the space and will open this summer, according to its website, dalbahtx.com. The d’Alba menu will be influenced by modern Italian cuisine. Houston Cider Co. reopens taproom Houston Cider Co., 1125 W. Cavalcade St., has reopened its taproom for operation on Fridays from 3-7 p.m. and Saturdays from noon-5 p.m. The taproom menu includes the cidery’s latest small-batch releases, four core ciders and a cider maker’s reserve, which is a specialty small-batch cider made by their head or assistant cider maker. Plus, the menu offers a cider flight option and three snack options. The to-go menu will have options in can form that are available by the single can, as a six-pack, or you can customize a mixed six-pack.

Contributed photo Tex-Mex restaurant Tres Amigos Cafe y Cantina is expected to debut April 22 in the old Shepherd Park Draught House Space at 3402 N. Shepherd Dr..

Pasta, from P. 1B “Using different grains is a trend,” Pera said. “Whole wheat, buck wheat and also gluten-free. We have a corn pasta on our menu that is gluten-free. Customers ask for (gluten-free) often.” Is pasta otherwise healthy? “In my opinion, we get confused that pasta is not a healthy dish, and it is as long as you don’t add a bunch of sugar and keep it under 100 grams (4 ounces) of noodles, don’t add a bunch of butter,” Godoy said. Pasta dishes can be wellbalanced if they are made with raw ingredients and not too much is piled onto the plate. Pasta can also be intentionally made healthier by using different flours, like chickpea flour or black bean flour, which have more nutrients. There are alternatives as well for the noodles, like zucchini or squash spaghetti. “Using those different grains is one way to make a pasta healthier,” Pera said. “Using whole grain, using veggies, using less fat, simply using olive oil instead of pasta, not using as much fat in the sauce.” There are different ways to change the sauce based on health needs as well. One example Godoy gave was with the ragu. The ground beef in the sauce can be substituted with chickpeas and mushrooms.

Local business is our business. Photo by Christina Martinez On the left and right are salami and prosciutto “jar-cuterie” snacks available at Houston Cider Company.

Photo by Rebekah Flores Houston Cider Company has reopened its taproom at 1125 W. Cavalcade St. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Send your story of interest news@theleadernews.com

The Leader • Saturday, April 17, 2021 • Page 3B

Here are quick, easy ways to clean pet toys

Dear Tabby, We have some dog toys that have gotten really dirty! I hate to throw them out, but I was hoping that you had some tips for how to safely clean them? Grossed out by Gunky Toys in Garden Oaks Dear Grossed Out, To love a dog is to also accept his love and adoration for his toys -- even when they get totally gross and dirty. Unless you have a subscription to a monthly dog toy box, there’s a chance that you don’t have a constant stream of new toys coming your way, so it’s important to preserve your dog’s beloved toys so they last longer and don’t harbor bacteria that can make anyone in your home sick. Here are some quick and easy methods for cleaning your pooch’s nasty toys:

Nylon and plastic toys Hand washing chew toys made from plastic, rubber or nylon is typically recommended. Use dish soap and scrub them with hot water. Unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise, do not attempt to wash these toys in the dishwasher. Your dishwasher uses very hot water that can cause chemicals to be released in the materials. Dishwashers can also melt the toys, compromising the integrity of their construction. Plush toys There is nary a dog who doesn’t have a beloved plush toy. These plush toys often serve as a pacifier and a sleep buddy, so they can get really gross really quickly. The best way to clean plush toys is in the washing machine. If the plush is already well-loved and maybe a bit frayed, consider washing it in a mesh bag on a gentle cycle, in case the beloved lovey falls apart in the wash. It’s typically best to air dry plush toys, but a quick tumble with little to low heat in the dryer can speed up drying time a bit.

Rope toys A fan favorite for epic games of tug-o-war, rope toys are tons of fun, but can also harbor tons of bacteria. Their absorbent fibers hold on to saliva and all other manners of moisture, which can be a breeding ground for germs. Experts recommend putting a rope toy (that is free from any metal or plastic) in the microwave to disinfect. The microwave will get rid of the gunk that you can’t see, but a quick wash in the washing machine will get rid of the dirt that you can see. Lastly, use your judgement when evaluating your dog’s toys. Sometimes, as hard as it might be, it’s simply best to toss a toy that has become so gross that it’s beyond repair or chewed into oblivion. Consider taking your dog with you to pick out a new toy and see what he gravitates to. Additionally, monthly subscription boxes are a fun way to introduce new and exciting toys to your pet and also a good excuse to toss the ones that are past their prime. Do you have a question for Tabby? Email her at deartabby questions@gmail.com.

Crawfish boil benefitting Sinclair PTO set for Sunday By Landan Kuhlmann

event, community members will be able to pick up pre-ordered meals such as crawfish ($8 per pound), red beans and rice ($5), and white chocolate bread pudding ($5). There will also be a virtual raffle with prizes worth more than $2,000. Raffle tickets can be purchased for $5 apiece or three


The Sinclair Elementary PTO will host its inaugural crawfish boil fundraising event from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday at the school, located at 6410 Grovewood Ln. in the Timbergrove neighborhood. During the drive-through

Waltrip PTA hosting fundraiser at MytiBurger By Landan Kuhlmann landan@theleadernews.com

Community members can enjoy a hamburger and entertainment next Monday evening while giving back to a local high school. The Waltrip High School PTA will host a fundraiser at MytiBurger, located at 2211 W. 43rd

This 6-year-old boy lost his beloved owner and was rehomed with a family member who had many other pets. Long story short, it turns out that Oscar would prefer to live in a home with quiet, more independent pets. Oscar has warmed up considerably while in the shelter and will be your new best friend after a just a treat and a chin scratch. Don’t you have space in your home and your heart for this handsome sweetheart? To learn more, go to www.friends4life.org.

St., from 5-9 p.m. Monday, April 19. Rammie the Ram mascot as well as the school’s cheerleaders and renowned marching band will be there for the festivities. If customers mention Waltrip or say “Go Rams!” while placing an order, MytiBurger will provide 15 percent of the proceeds from those sales to the Waltrip PTA.

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for $12. The goal is to raise at least $5,500 from the event, and all proceeds will go toward purchasing a new school audio system for Sinclair. For more information on the crawfish boil, to register for the event or to buy raffle tickets, visit the event website at sinclairpto.square.site/.

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Page 4B • Saturday, April 17, 2021 • The Leader


Lady Panthers bust out big bats in district win By Landan Kuhlmann landan@theleadernews.com

Runs have come in abundance for the St. Pius X Lady Panthers on the softball diamond so far this season as their lineup is averaging 8.4 runs per game. The potent lineup, which had a 1.032 team OPS entering play Tuesday, kept it rolling last week with another big win to stay perfect in TAPPS District 4 play. SPX beat Incarnate Word Academy 11-1 on April 8, improving to 13-9 overall and 5-0 in district competition. It was the fourth time in six games the Lady Panthers reached double digits on the scoreboard and the eighth time this season. Five players – Emily Dear, Samantha Fox, Brooke Landry, Olivia McGee and Jennifer Schmalz – had at least two hits for SPX, while McGee and Dear drove in three runs apiece. Dear was also strong in the circle for SPX, throwing a six-inning complete game while striking out 11 batters. It was the second double-digit strikeout game of the season for Dear, who has

a 1.51 ERA in 83.2 innings pitched in addition to a .650 batting average at the plate. SPX was slated to face St. Agnes Academy on Tuesday night. Elsewhere on the private-school circuit, the Lutheran High North Lady Lions were scheduled to take on Baytown Christian on Tuesday afternoon. In public-school action, the Heights Lady Bulldogs pounded out 17 hits in a 21-0 win over Westbury on April 9, improving their record to 12-5 overall and 9-1 in District 18-6A ahead of Tuesday’s game against Lamar. Bethany Davila, Janis Montano, Miranda Palacios, Sarah Peyrani and Ylana Santos had multiple hits against Westbury, while Casiana Quintanilla hit a grand slam. Waltrip dropped an 8-7 decision to Milby on April 9, falling to 7-2 on the season. Baseball The Waltrip Rams used a four-run fifth inning to come from behind and defeat Milby 6-4 on April 10, improving to 8-6-2 overall and 4-0 in District 23-5A.

Scarborough bounced back from a 6-3 loss to Northside on April 6 with a 14-3 victory over North Forest on April 10. The Spartans were 8-8 on the season and 7-1 in District 23-4A entering Wednesday’s game against Booker T. Washington. Heights dropped two games to Lamar last week, falling 12-0 on April 9 and 13-5 on April 10. Washington dropped a 24-11 decision against Wheatley on April 10, leaving the Eagles at 0-6 for the season. In private-school action, St. Pius X split a pair of games with Katy St. John XXIII last week, winning 6-5 on April 8 before dropping a 7-2 decision on April 10. Casan Evans had two RBIs for the Panthers in the April 8 win, while Jack Herzog pitched seven shutout innings. SPX was 13-9 overall and 3-4 in district play entering Wednesday’s game against Bellaire Episcopal. Lutheran High North was looking to snap a five-game losing streak entering Tuesday’s scheduled game against Beaumont Legacy Christian.

Photo by Wayne Donnelly Jennifer Schmalz puts the ball in play on April 6 against Concordia Lutheran. Schmalz had four hits in two SPX wins last week.

Photo by Wayne Donnelly Victoria Hunter prepares to swing against Concordia Lutheran. Hunter leads the Lady Panthers with 39 RBIs so far this season.

LHN track team wins district championship By Landan Kuhlmann landan@theleadernews.com

The Lutheran High North boys track and field team took home the TAPPS District 5-3A team championship Monday with a series of strong individual performances, continuing what has been a fruitful school year for the Lions’ athletic programs. The district team championship adds to a year that already had seen the football program’s first playoff win in more than a decade, a boys soccer district title and a girls basketball state championship. Junior Xavier Neal led the Lions, who edged Rosehill Christian by four points for the team title. He won the individual district championship in the 200 meters with a time of 23.55 seconds, the triple jump with a leap of 42 feet and also anchored the 400 and 800 relay teams that won their races. Marvin Robinson Jr. added another win for Lutheran High North, claiming the district title in the high jump by clearing 6 feet, 2 inches. The Lutheran High North girls team placed sixth at the district meet. Lady Lions junior Hailey Wilson won the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 18.18, while Sydney Cassens won the shot put with a throw of 32 feet, 2.25 inches.

Photo from Lutheran High North Athletics Twitter The Lutheran High North track and field team celebrates after the boys team won the TAPPS District 5-3A team championship on Monday.

Scarborough wins Touchdown Club sportsmanship award By Landan Kuhlmann landan@theleadernews.com

The Scarborough High School football team was among Houston-area schools recognized for their on-field sportsmanship during the Touchdown Club of Houston’s 16th annual Sportsmanship Luncheon on April 7. Scarborough was the Class 4A sportsmanship winner as one of five Houston ISD

schools to take home awards, which were selected by referees who called high school games in 2020 in Classes 4A, 5A and 6A. Fellow 4A competitor Booker T. Washington as well as 5A Waltrip were the other local schools nominated for the honor. A news release from HISD said referees used a point system to rank each team during each week of the 2020 football season. Scarborough finished


with a 0-5 record in a season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, while Waltrip and Washington recorded one win apiece. “I am so proud of all the teams recognized for this outstanding award,” HISD Athletic Director Andre’ Walker said. “Winning on the scoreboard is great, but winning beyond the game sets our student-athletes up for success in life.”


P Contributed photo Scarborough’s Fredy Velasquez (second from right) and other Houston ISD honorees accept their football teams’ sportsmanship awards from the Touchdown Club of Houston on April 7.

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