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Toyota is pumping $391 million into a major tech upgrade at its San Antonio truck manufacturing plant, officials said September 17. This project will push the Japanese automaker's overall investment in San Antonio past $3 billion.

“What a huge win for San Antonio,” San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg says in a release. “This is exactly the kind of project our city has strategically been preparing for — it shows we’re a competitive region ready for big investment from large manufacturers.”

Melissa Sparks, a Toyota spokeswoman in San Antonio, says the $391 million project won’t create more jobs. Rather, she says, the investment will focus on installing advanced technology that’ll boost “flexibility,” enabling the automaker to keep up with strong customer demand for pickup trucks. The plant will continue to manufacture about 208,000 Tundra and Tacoma trucks per year.

The Toyota factory employs more than 3,200 people. Including 23 on-site suppliers, employment at the South Side complex surpasses 7,200.

Separately, Japan-based Aisin AW Co. Ltd., a supplier of transmissions, drivetrains, and navigation systems to Toyota and other automakers, said September 17 that it’ll invest $400 million to build a plant in Cibolo. The facility, about 25 miles northeast of San Antonio, will bring 900 new jobs. Toyota owns a stake in Aisin AW.

The nearly $800 million in combined investments were announced during a news conference at the Toyota plant.

“The Lone Star State continues to build on its reputation as a manufacturing powerhouse, thanks to investments from innovative companies like Toyota and Aisin AW,” Gov. Greg Abbott says in a release. “Their combined new investment of nearly $800 million in the San Antonio area is a testament to Texas’ unrivaled workforce and commitment to creating an environment where businesses can thrive free from the heavy hand of government regulation and over-taxation.”

According to a study commissioned by the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, the total economic impact of the Toyota and Aisin AW investments will exceed $10 billion, generating more than 40,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region over the next 10 years.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas Inc. opened the San Antonio plant in 2006. It’s the only one of the company's 10 U.S. plants that makes trucks. The factory initially manufactured Tundra pickups. In 2010, the plant gained about 1,000 jobs through the $100 million addition of Tacoma production.

The Tundra and Tacoma are among the 10 best-selling pickup trucks in the U.S.

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris for Getty Images

Heidi Klum causes stir in faux leather at New York Fashion Week celebration

Klum Causes Stir

Heidi Klum proved you don't have to spend a lot to look good. At a party on the opening night of New York Fashion Week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Macy's INC International Concepts collection, the model and Project Runway host drew admiring glances in a form-fitting, sleeveless faux leather dress from the collection, which retails for less than $120.

"It's very affordable, which is great," she told reporters. Of course it helps to have a killer figure and good genes. (She's 42, but she looks a decade younger.)

Klum, who appeared in some of the first ads for the Macy's private label 18 years ago, returned for the current ad campaign with 40-year-old model Gabriel Aubry (Halle Berry's ex and father of the couple's 7-year-old daughter). Aubry was on hand for the celebration, along with actress Christina Milian and models Karolina Kurkova, Candice Huffine, and Shaun Ross.

A limited-edition men's and women's capsule collection in honor of the brand's anniversary, available at Macy's stores this month, was on display. Women's apparel ranges from $35 to $200; men's goods range from $15 to $175. The INC brand also includes shoes, handbags, jewelry, and home goods. The latter launched last year.

Heidi Klum wore a faux leather dress ($119.50) from the Macy's INC collection.

Heidi Klum at Macy'c INC party at New York Fashion Week
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris for Getty Images
Heidi Klum wore a faux leather dress ($119.50) from the Macy's INC collection.
Courtesy photo

David Yurman breaks the Midnight Ice with dramatic new jewelry collection

Fab Find

Jewelry designer David Yurman has hit black gold. We’re not talking about oil — but the new Midnight Ice Collection, a dramatic mix of rings, cuffs, bracelets, and earrings in darkened silver with gold, as well as intricate beaded stone necklaces in onyx, pyrite, and citrine that reflect fall's folkloric influence.

The collection, which retails from $650 to $3,850, features some of Yurman's most iconic silhouettes — Renaissance, Albion, and Chatelaine —in the new darker look, with black diamonds and volcanic rock. The collection’s showstopper belt buckle features 21 carats of black diamonds.

Yurman recently unveiled the brand at the Neiman Marcus NorthPark store in Dallas with Vogue market stylist Cara Crowley. “We don’t make stuff. We make pieces that meet our desires,” he told the crowd.

The collection is available exclusively at all Neiman Marcus stores through the end of the month and then at David Yurman boutiques and other stores that carry the brand.

David Yurman Midnight Ice Osetra bracelet with black onyx, garnet, and 18-karat yellow gold in darkened sterling silver, $2,750.

Courtesy photo

New high-tech smartshirt senses your best workout plan

High-tech Fashion

We've heard of smartphones and smartwatches. How about a smartshirt?

Ralph Lauren has unveiled the PoloTech smartshirt, the latest in wearable technology. The black T-shirt with the yellow Polo pony trademark is made of a “second-skin” compression fabric with silver fibers woven directly into the fabric that track biometric stats like steps taken, heart rate, and calories burned. A sensor-filled black box that snaps into the shirt at the rib cage streams information to an app on your iPhone, iWatch or iPod touch to create customized workout programs with more than 10,000 combinations in the areas of cardio, strength, and agility.

Now, if it only it could exercise for you.

"This is a bridge between technology, fitness, and style that approaches wellness and well-being in comprehensive and complementary ways," Executive Vice President David Lauren said in a statement. "It will touch many parts of your life."

The washable PoloTech shirt, developed in partnership with Canadian-based OMSignal, retails for $295 and is available at RalphLauren.com, the Polo Ralph Lauren flagship store in New York, and at the U.S. Open tennis championships that run through September 13.

The technology was tested at the last year's U.S. Open, where some ball boys and a top-ranked college player Marcos Giron wore the smartshirts during practice.

The PoloTech shirt signals the relaunch of the Ralph Lauren Polo Sport line, which was discontinued in 2000. David Lauren told the Wall Street Journal that the technology could show up in ties, polo shirts, and suits in the future.

Lily Tomlin is brash and unforgettable in Oscar-worthy turn as Grandma
Photo by Aaron Epstein, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Lily Tomlin is brash and unforgettable in Oscar-worthy turn as Grandma

Tour de Force Performance

As the old saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Even though Lily Tomlin has continued to have a presence on television, including her new Netflix show Grace and Frankie, her days of being anything more than a supporting actor in movies seemed to be long gone.

But it only takes one filmmaker and a special role to make people realize what they've been missing, and for Tomlin, writer/director Paul Weitz and her starring turn as Elle Reid in Grandma are it. Elle is an aging poet whose granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), comes to her for help when she gets pregnant.

Sage needs money to have an abortion, but since both she and Elle are near broke, they must call in favors far and wide to scrounge up the necessary funds. It's a day-long journey that forces Elle to confront many of her personal demons, including a recently ended relationship with the much younger Olivia (Judy Greer), her testy bond with her daughter Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), and other things she thought she had left in the past.

To say that Tomlin's performance is a tour de force is putting it mildly. Weitz has gifted her with a role that plays to all of her strengths, but more importantly, one that never reduces her to a pile of clichés. Elle is brash and foul-mouthed, smokes pot, and has a checkered romantic history, but she is never defined by any one of those things.

Instead, they all add up to a perfectly complex character, a person who more often than not leads with her heart instead of her head. But she's far from unintelligent, and the decisions she makes throughout her day with Sage are ones designed to get them to their goal, even if it costs Elle some temporary pain.

Tomlin is as funny as she's ever been in the role, but it's her level of dramatic emotion in the film that carries the day. Whether it's Elle's reaction to her break-up with Olivia, the way she interacts with Sage, or her confrontation of old wounds, Tomlin never fails to impress with her range. She was nominated for an Oscar nearly 40 years ago, and she wholeheartedly deserves another nod for this part.

The supporting actors are mostly strong, though none match Tomlin's power. Garner is a rising star who only stands to get better. Greer and Harden are great in limited roles, as is Sam Elliott in an extended cameo. Laverne Cox and Nat Wolff are fine in their small roles, but they don't make much of an impression.

Grandma is the Lily Tomlin show through and through. After bearing witness to a performance like this, anybody who ever doubted Tomlin's talent should bow their head in shame.

Julia Garner and Lily Tomlin in Grandma.

Photo courtesy of AMC

Iconic author of best Texas novel ever wins National Humanities Medal

Big Honor for McMurtry

Acclaimed novelist Larry McMurtry, whose many works are predominantly set in the old West or in contemporary Texas, will receive a 2014 National Humanities Medal for outstanding achievement at the White House next week.

President Obama will present the award to the 79-year-old author and nine other noted Americans, including food writer and activist Alice Waters, and architect/preservationist Everett L. Fly, during a ceremony on September 10. "Mr. McMurtry's work evokes the character and drama of the American West with stories that examine quintessentially American lives," the White House citation announcing his selection stated.

McMurtry is the prolific author of 29 novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove and The Last Picture Show; three memoirs; two collections of essays; and more than 30 screenplays, among them the Academy Award-winning adapted screenplay for Brokeback Mountain.

"I don’t remember either of my parents ever reading me a story — perhaps that’s why I’ve made up so many,” he wrote in his first memoir, Books.

The current issue of Entertainment Weekly picks the one work of fiction that best defines each state in the union, and for Texas, it's Lonesome Dove. "Everything is bigger in Texas, including this novel's ambition," the writers state, adding the "cattle-drive epic features some of the most beautifully descriptive prose put to paper."

McMurtry, who received a master's degree from Rice University in 1961 and was a lecturer of freshman English and creative writing, set several of his best-selling books, including Terms of Endearment, in Houston. The novel, which was made into an Academy Award-winning movie, was part of a trilogy that includes Moving On and All My Friends Are Going to be Strangers.

McMurtry also set three other books in modern-day Houston: Somebody's Darling, Some Can Whistle, andThe Evening Star.

He was one of the country’s most accomplished book collectors, with stores in his hometown of Archer City; Houston; and Washington, D.C. at various points in his life, until he sold most of his prized books in 2012.

The award honors an individual or organization whose work has “deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history and literature or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources,” according to the National Endowment for the Humanities. Previous recipients include authors Joan Didion, Frank Deford, Phillip Roth, Joyce Carol Oats, and playwright Anna Deavere Smith.

“No other author has captured the spirit and imagination of his home state and the American West than Larry McMurtry,” Rice President David Leebron said in a statement. “His work speaks to people and their challenges everywhere. We are proud of Larry’s extraordinary body of work and join President Obama in celebrating his remarkable legacy.”

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Online home searching platform Compass buys top San Antonio-based brokerage

real estate news

National residential real estate agency Compass has acquired Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio, in a move that will expand its position as the leading national firm and its growth in Texas by more than 600 agents.

Although the sale price was not disclosed in Compass' announcement, the local brokerages completed $5.24 billion sales just in 2022 alone.

Compass added that the Austin and San Antonio leadership will have direct oversight of daily operations as part of the terms of the acquisition. Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio co-founder Yvette Flores maintains that she and her leadership team will strive for a "seamless transition" into the national firm that respects the home-grown culture they have created.

Realty Austin was founded in 2004 by Flores and Jonathan Boatwright, and has grown through the years to become one of the most innovative brokerages in Central Texas and beyond. The company expanded its operations to San Antonio in 2021.

Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio CEO Gabe Richter said in the release that Compass' leading-edge technology will help his agents foster greater successes, particularly in one blossoming San Antonio category: luxury real estate.

"Our agents have consistently set records with remarkable achievements," Richter said in the release. "Now, by aligning with Compass, they gain access to a transformative technology platform that enhances efficiency and elevated resources that empower them to secure even more luxury listings."

Compass was founded in 2012 as the largest real estate brokerage in the U.S., and preserves its stronghold as the No. 1 brokerage in Texas thanks to its milestone acquisition. The national brokerage has already surpassed $10 billion in sales in Texas in 2023, according to the release.

“With this acquisition, we've positioned ourselves as Austin's leading brokerage — our commitment to setting new standards and inspiring innovation for all our exceptional agents remains the top priority while honoring what Realty Austin and Realty San Antonio has built," said Compass Texas President Rachel Hocevar.

Fantastic visuals and original story make The Creator a must-see sci-fi film

Movie Review

In the relatively risk-averse world that is modern Hollywood, getting an original story is a rarity. The vast majority of potentially blockbuster movies these days are ones that have a connection to some kind of existing intellectual property that already has a well-established track record. So anytime something interesting arrives that’s not a sequel/reboot/remake/commercial for a product, it deserves to be celebrated.

And that goes double when it’s done as well as the new sci-fi film, The Creator. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world in 2065, 30 years after a sentient artificial intelligence detonated a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. Joshua (John David Washington) is an American soldier who for years worked undercover alongside A.I.-enhanced robots, many of which are fitted with clones of human faces, to try to find their reclusive leader, Nirmata, in a part of the world now called New Asia.

A personal tragedy sends him into exile, but he’s recruited back into service by Colonel Howell (Allison Janney) to seek out and destroy a weapon that may turn the tide in the war for good. Turns out the weapon is a robot in the form of a child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), and when Joshua discovers that fact, he finds it impossible to carry out the mission. Instead, he does everything he can to protect the girl he calls Alphie, with the military hot on his tail all the while.

Written and directed by Gareth Edwards (Rogue One) and co-written by Chris Weitz, the film is astonishing in a number of ways, but mostly for its ability to draw the viewer in visually. The CGI is amazingly believable, making it easy to immerse yourself in the storytelling. From a foreboding super-weapon in the sky called NOMAD to the futuristic landscapes to the whirring metal cylinders that appear to be the brains of the robots, the film is full of fantastic details that make it a feast for the eyes.

The concept of A.I. is increasingly being used as a storytelling tool, and here the filmmakers seem to try to play both sides of the fence. Many people in the film fear its capabilities, especially given the nuclear event. But by literally putting human faces on many of the robots, it becomes more difficult to see them as pure evil, a dilemma that’s at the core of the problem for both Joshua and the audience.

Washington, who’s fast becoming as reliably good as his father, Denzel, is the star of the film, and he does a great job in that role. But stealing the show every second she’s on screen is Voyles, who delivers a debut performance the likes of which hasn’t been seen in many years. She is utterly convincing and heartbreaking as Alphie; while the story may have worked with a lesser actor, she helps take it to completely different level.

Also putting in great work are Janney, who proves herself as badass and fearsome a military leader as any man; Mark Menchaca as her No. 2; Ken Watanabe as an A.I. robot; singer-turned-actor Sturgill Simpson as a friend of Joshua; and Gemma Chan, redeeming herself after the misfire of Eternals.

John David Washington in The Creator
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

John David Washington in The Creator.

The Creator could’ve earned praise simply by giving us an original sci-fi story. But by accompanying it with awe-inspiring imagery and performances that elevate the story immeasurably, Edwards and his team have made a film that will likely be remembered for years to come.


The Creator opens in theaters on September 29.

Nola breaks new ground and a Hill Country eatery heads to City Hall in San Antonio food news


Editor's note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of San Antonio's restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our weekly roundup of essential food news.


The long lines at Nola Brunch & Beignets may soon double. According to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation Records, the brunch behemoth is opening a location at 1101 Broadway. The restaurant did not return a request for comment by publication time, but Nola executive chef Melissa Villanueva is listed as the tenant. It's unclear if this is a relocation or a second outpost, but the project is set to wrap up in March 2024. CultureMap will update as we hear more information.

New Braunfels will have a new dining destination when an ambitious redevelopment is completed. According to state filings, Wiggins Hospitality Group — the folks behind McAdoo's Seafood Co. — will renovate the town's former City Hall into a mixed-use building incorporating offices on the ground floor. New Braunfels Historic Landmark Commission records give more details about the unnamed eatery, including plans for a bar and courtyard. Construction is set to wrap up in May 2024.

Other news and notes

San Antonio standout The Jerk Shack will be featured in a new book from national food site Eater. The restaurant — an Eater darling since being named one of the best new restaurants in the country by Hillary Dixler Canavan in 2029 — appropriately contributed a chicken dish.

Favor gave some insight into San Antonio's ordering habits via its first-ever dining report, released September 19. Alamo City requested more orders for barbecue than any other city in the state but surprisingly fell behind Austin in overall taco orders. The delivery app also shared a few tidbits about how San Antonians customize their meals. Locals favor lean brisket, flour tortillas, chorizo, and — controversially — chili with beans. Read all the findings at favordelivery.com.

Not content at only being a Food Network personality, chef Braunda Smith is now set to break the internet. The owner of Lucy Cooper's Ice House will soon be featured on the popular web series America's Best Restaurants. The restaurant confirmed the filming via a Facebook post but did not share when the segment will be aired.