MINDING OUR BUSYNESS .


Heart of Tyler is busy at work for downtown’s stakeholders just as they’re all striving for the sake of their own businesses, employees, customers and families. Whether in a store, an office, or restaurant, the people behind each of these operations chose Downtown Tyler as the place they wanted to plant their flag and get to work. They are the core of the community Heart of Tyler has been serving for 33 years, and they are the frontline voices who can tell the story of downtown Tyler and show the evidence of its energy.

MONTHLY PROFILE:

True Vine Brewing Company


For Ryan and Traci Dixon, True Vine Brewing Company is a unique, comfortable experience – whether patrons visit the main location on Earl Campbell Parkway or try out the still-new True Vine on the Square in downtown Tyler.

Wherever they choose to go, “The majority of the people that come out here, they really love the vibe,” Ryan said, “and I think that’s one of the things that sets True Vine brewing apart.”

The idea began fermenting about a decade ago, and True Vine was officially founded in 2011.

“We started seriously brewing beer out of my garage with big dreams,” Ryan said, “and from there developed the company and the plan, all of that. It was literally a start-up garage venture.”

Part of the moniker was inspired by nearby Vine Avenue.

“We’re inspired by a lot of heroes,” Ryan said. “One of our biggest heroes in life is Jesus. He said He is the true vine, and we are the branches, and apart from him we can accomplish nothing. We believe that as a family and as business owners.

“We named it True Vine for a myriad of reasons, and it’s worked out really well because it’s unique.”

The fledgling company also found direction in the biography “The Search for God & Guinness” about the history of the famous brewery.

“They utilized their position in their community to make it better than they found it,” Ryan said. “That was one of the finer points for us making a brewery.

“We also love horticulture and growth, everything that goes into the organic side of brewing.”

The first home for True Vine was off Englewood Avenue in Tyler. With all their licensing and other necessities in place, the brewery had its grand opening in March 2013.

“We had three very unique and bold beers at that particular event,” Ryan said.

They couldn’t have handled much more, Traci jokes.

“It was a 2,000 square-foot site,” she said. “The whole facility was the size of our current taproom now. It was a tiny space.”

The company remained there for several years.

“There were a lot of challenges there,” Ryan said. “We eventually stumbled on a new location for the future of True Vine, off of Earl Campbell Parkway,” staging a grand re-opening on True Vine’s five-year anniversary in March 2018.

2020 included another grand opening, in partnership with Plaza Tower: True Vine on the Square officially debuted in mid-February at 110 N. College Ave. #102.

A month later, unfortunately, the rise of COVID-19 forced a shutdown, a shared reality across the area, country and world. Finally open for business again, the Dixons and their team are excited for the future of the new location in addition to the prime HQ.

“We’ve always loved the downtown, Ryan said. “True Vine has always wanted to be a part of that, we just had to wait until the time was right and the opportunity was right. We’re excited to be a part of that life down there.”

“Our brewing philosophy is, honestly, taking an artist twist on traditional beers. Everything has to have some reason for going into the beer. There has to be some sort of purpose behind it.”

According to Ryan, there are about two dozen beers on draft at the main location on Earl Campbell Parkway.

“There’s a lot of them, which is exciting,” he said. “They’re all unique, and they all fit a specific style of what people are into these days,” in addition to presenting patrons with new options, “something you haven’t had before or something with a different twist.”

Ryan was a home brewing enthusiast long before the True Vine concept began to formulate.

“I’ve been involved in cooking and art and beer and wine for many years,” he said. “That kind of love for those things created a desire to learn how to brew beer and to get into the craft beer scene here in East Texas. Craft beer really started to hit here in Texas. It just created a love for trying to create it myself. I’m a little obsessive compulsive as a human being, so when I get involved in something I kind of go crazy with it.

After researching and reading, experimenting with recipes and brews, there was still some early trepidation about jumping into the business side of the craft.

“We had some concern in the very beginning just because no one had ever done a small craft brewery in a very traditional city in East Texas and Tyler,” Ryan admitted. “We were nervous about the success of it. Could it be successful?”

Yes.

“We were blown away,” he says now, almost a decade later. Canning their brews was an essential next step, and True Vine launched that venture in 2016: “That’s been very good for us and for our community as well. It’s been really very well-received.”

Culture and community are big parts of the enterprise.

“We love, love, love having people at our taproom and the events we host, our weekly hang time and live music,” Ryan said. “It appears as though people like it.”

Traci agrees: “One of our core values here at True Vine is community,” she said. “Everything we do here is to strive to create community, to bring people together around craft beer.”

From the early days, hundreds of people would pack into the small yard of True Vine’s warehouse space. Years later, that atmosphere persists.

“It’s just neat to see Tyler come together and sit around a table and have a conversation and make memories,” Traci said. “To create a product that allows that to happen is very humbling.

“Tyler is a unique community. We have a lot of great, supportive, awesome people here in this town. Whenever there is a new business that comes out, people are willing to try it out, support it, go and see what it’s all about.”

It’s a community with a great potential for success, she added, especially to entrepreneurs, especially in the heart of Tyler.

“There’s been a lot of things happening in Tyler over the past several years. It took us a little while to find our place,” Traci noted. Years later, “We’ve seen so much growth and potential in downtown and beyond with art and craft goods and music.

“As a brewery business, it definitely has its ups and downs just like any business, but I think Tyler is a great place to start a business right now.”

It’s also a great place to grow a business, Ryan says.

“Plans for the future are just to keep increasing our production capacity here at True Vine Earl Campbell as well as opening additional taprooms throughout our area, similar to what we did downtown, then to continue to make Tyler proud,” he said. “That’s one of our big goals: to be that hometown hero that people can be excited it started in their community and take a six-pack to friends out of town when they go visit.

“We want to be part of Tyler’s history.”

PEOPLE ARE THE HEART OF TYLER


    • “Creativity blooms out of the box.”

      It’s one of the guiding principles at Lightbox Collective, according to co-owner Shadai Perez, still getting used to his new workspace alongside partner-photographers Samuel Richman and Daniel Poe at 110-A West Erwin on the square in the heart of Tyler.

      “We just recently moved to this location,” he said, shifting deeper into Tyler’s downtown from their previous digs on Broadway. It’s a prime location to help local (and far-flung) businesses and individuals tell their stories: “The only thing we have left in life are stories. Stories are what drives the world. It preserves our history. It allows our youth to grow. That visual element, where people are able to be immersed, it’s just a lot more powerful, more tangible for everybody.

      “It’s easier for people to understand. That’s our passion, to create compelling and emotional stories, to make people laugh or cry, to have a connection. When we do photography, we capture those emotions.”

      The trio launched their joint business venture five years ago.

      “It started out with a dream and a goal, and now it’s fully fleshed-out into a reality as a full marketing and video production agency,” Shadai said. “We’ve worked with local and nationwide companies… the full scope of marketing other than print – everything is digital.”

      Whether photography, filmmaking or social media marketing, everything’s possible in the trio’s downtown studio.

      Daniel is a native Tylerite. Samuel arrived here from Flagstaff, Arizona. Shadai moved to Tyler from an agency in Florida.

      “Each of us was working in town as a photographer,” Shadai explained, making a living with wedding shoots, travel photography and more. He got his start in the hospitality industry before moving into digital marketing. “I was doing advertisements and commercials, the same field. They were doing production by themselves, doing their own thing. Now, it’s a family here together.”

      Their family is thriving, he added, with help from the local economy.

      “Tyler is a really good community – booming,” Shadai said. “There are a lot of opportunities here.”

      The typical client profile at Lightbox Collective is a company that’s looking for high-end video production and marketing. It’s the standards, style and flavor clients would associate with larger markets – New York, California, or Miami, Shadai said.

      “It’s us being able to provide a comprehensive assessment tailored to each business,” he added. “We strive for quality and consistency in that quality.”

      They’re ready to serve any local, national or international client, he noted, and they are right now – international clients find marketing solutions at Lightbox Collective.

      “We generally go above and beyond for our clients. We become friends with our clients, and we have that sense where they could call us anytime, and we’re there for them.”

      What motivates the trio?

      “It’s a combination of things,” Shadai said. “We want to spread the light of God and goodness to others. It’s just an all-encompassing mantra of goodwill to others and the company that we serve.

      “We’re here to serve the community in any way possible.”

      For example, last year Lightbox invited the community at-large to drop by for a complimentary professional portrait, complete with hair and makeup prep.

      “We also partner up with a lot of nonprofits here in the community. We offer quality that brands pay a lot of money for, but we offer discounts to (nonprofits) as an incentive. We want to give back to the community, and nonprofits are very near and dear to our hearts.”

      Among Lightbox Collective’s nonprofit partners, Shadai says the trio has found value in their relationship with Heart of Tyler.

      “We just wanted to be a part of the community and part of any outreach,” he said. “We know that Heart of Tyler is very special here. It’s a program incentivizing and helping businesses and awareness.”

      More community mentorships, programs and incentives will be coming through Lightbox, he added.

      “We just want to help the community, at an affordable rate, and allow people to develop their skills. We’ll include equipment and all of that as well.”

    • “There’s only so much you can get from a screen.”

      It’s a truth Chris Rasure takes to heart. As a child, he gained so much from going out and experiencing nature and science in the outdoors, from camping and participating in hands-on activities. Today, he’s Executive Director of Discovery Science Place, where hands-on learning is core to the museum’s mission, and Rasure and his team are always brainstorming strategies to pull people of all ages, especially kids, away from their gadgets.

      “What we’ve found is nothing beats a hands-on experience,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how many YouTube videos you watch or how much virtual reality is on your phone, nothing beats a hands-on experience. Nothing beats the real thing.”

      Founded in 1993 in Downtown Tyler, Discovery Science Place still stands at its 308 N. Broadway Ave. home, but it’s evolved a lot inside over the past 27 years. It continues to grow and change along with its audience (any young mind, whatever the age, is welcome) including bringing on a new director a few years back.

      “There have always been two threads throughout my life: science and education,” Rasure said. For him, Discovery Science Place is a combination of both threads. Admittedly, he took a fairly circuitous route to reach the museum off the square, but the “avowed geek and lover of science” made it eventually.

      “I’ve been a lover of science since I was a little kid,” Rasure said. What did he want to be when he grew up? “All of my answers had to do with animals and nature and science. It’s just always been a part of my life.”

      After working as an educator at Tyler ISD’s Moore MST Magnet School (Rasure: “Go Mustangs!”) he took up a post with the University of Texas at Tyler before ultimately making his way to Discovery Science Place, initially filling in on an interim basis.

      “The position just fit me so well, and it aligns with my personal mission,” Rasure said. “I really liked the mission of the museum, so I applied for the job and here I am.”

      That mission, according to DiscoverySciencePlace.org: Igniting curiosity in young minds through fun, hands-on exploration.

      Young minds, Rasure emphasizes. It doesn’t matter how many years-old the person may be.

      “That doesn’t tell you the age of the body. As long as you’re young in mind, it doesn’t matter if your body is age 3 or age 93,” he said, “not if you’re curious and want to learn how things work.”

      The museum puts particular emphasis on hands-on. It’s what visitors want and, as Rasure says, what they need.

      “That’s what gets the kids’ attention and gets the adults’ attention as well,” Rasure added, the opportunity to interact, to put knowledge to work – by hand: “What you learn in the classroom is important, but so much of what you learn about the world and what stokes your curiosity happens outside the classroom.

      “Every kindergartener I’ve ever met is a born-scientist. Why do some people stop being curious like that?”

      One task for Discovery Science Place and facilities like it, he added, is to work to keep that curiosity from fading.

      “There’s no way you can’t do that all the way through adulthood. There’s nothing that says you have to be an adult who isn’t curious. We’re trying to keep that curiosity alive. Keep figuring out the world.”

      Yes, naturally the museum caters to children, but it’s never at the expense of the larger audience.

      “Our main focus tends to be on that younger age group,” Rasure said, particularly children in the 3- to 10-year-old age bracket. “Over the years we have worked really hard to expand that range. We do a lot of educational offerings that go beyond that elementary age.”

      Ongoing exhibits and activities fill the museum, from the facility’s train set to the Hometown Veterinary Clinic, Imagination Playground, One World Bistro, the Dino Dig Pit and more. Temporary and traveling exhibits help keep offerings fresh – for example, DSP’s ‘The Art and Science of Arachnids’ exhibit opened in July and continues through Nov. 15 in the museum’s annex.

      “More than 100 live specimens of scorpions and spiders from around the world. Some of them are as large as your hand,” Rasure said gleefully. “You don’t have to have a kid to enjoy that exhibit. You learn all sorts of things.”

      At work and at play in the heart of Tyler, Discovery Science Place has benefited from downtown’s revitalization and from its energy.

      “We love being downtown,” Rasure said. “We have been here since the very day we opened. You’re talking well over 25 years of service to the City of Tyler, and it’s always been at this location. We love our location, and we’re happy to be a part of the downtown community.”

      “We love being downtown,” Rasure said. “We have been here since the very day we opened. You’re talking well over 25 years of service to the City of Tyler, and it’s always been at this location. We love our location, and we’re happy to be a part of the downtown community.”

      “We’re really thrilled, especially over the last dozen years, how downtown has grown,” and how the excitement around it has brought new visitors to the museum’s doors: “It gives them a reason to come up here. We love downtown, we support downtown, and we like being part of that community feel.”

      A large part of that community element is proven by the continued existence of the museum: “It is our community supporters and our donors that allow us to continue on. We want to be an integral part of the community, and for us to continue like we’re doing – especially in a year like 2020 that’s been devastating – we can’t do it by ourselves.”

      At least a small element of the museum’s educational focus is educating the public about the museum’s needs.

      “I do think people are unaware that we are a nonprofit institution,” Rasure noted. “Because there is an admission charge, people see it as entertainment. The admission that we charge does not pay all the bills.

      “We have to have that community support. We’re a nonprofit. We’re a charity. For us to continue doing what we’ve been doing for the past 27 years, we have to continue to have that support.”

      The museum is a living thing, changing with the times while staying true to its core mission of education infused with entertainment.

      “We have adapted, of course,” adding more digital content and interactive displays. They all feed the primary mission, though: “The truth of the matter is, kids crave an opportunity to have fun, to play, to touch. Those types of activities are irreplaceable.

      “As we move more and more into this digital age, I think we’ll find they need that even more, and they’ll appreciate it even more – because they don’t get it as often as we did growing up.”

    • Back when Jose Lucio got started in shoe and boot repair, it was just a job. It was 1983, and he was just looking for some work. The teenager had no idea he’d turn that first job into career; he didn’t imagine he’d end up owning the business or that one day it would bear his name.

      It’s also become a calling: the craft is on the decline as the shoe industry evolves, and Jose’s skill set gets a bit more rare with each passing year.

      “I’ve been doing this most of my life, since I was a teenager,” he said, glad for the work and the apprenticeship he received at Beckham Shoe Repair. “I learned the business. I learned the process of doing repairs.”

      At that time, there were five departments within the operation, and Jose was trained in each specialization. He ultimately acquired the business more than two decades ago – by that time, Jose had been trained in each part of the process at 519 S. Beckham St.

      After 22 years helming the store, he relocated the operation to its 305 W. Front St. location in Spring 2019.

      “The old location was small, so we moved to a bigger location,” he said. “We never did close, we just moved.”

      He did give it a new moniker: Lucio’s continues to offer the same essential craftsmanship in its niche.

      “The industry, how they’re making shoes, it’s changing things,” he explained. “They’re making shoes that might not be repairable. Nevertheless, there’s a percentage of people who have shoes and boots that are repairable,” and they’re sometimes hard-pressed to find someone who can handle the task.

      “Our goal has always been to provide the community with service and be there for the community. In this case, since shoe repair is very rare, hopefully we can contribute.”

      Jose’s glad to be able to bring the techniques to Downtown Tyler, and he’s grateful to have been embraced by the community since relocating closer to the square.

      “The downtown community has been very supportive of us,” he said. “Some people that we didn’t even know, they kind of took us in. It’s been a very good welcome for us.”

      The business is usually two or three people at work – Jose has trained his son, Gabriel, in the craft. They bring on extra help as needed.

      “As you know, this kind of trade is rare. Man, there are some challenges,” Jose added. “We get some shoes that have a lot of wear on them. We have to do extra stuff to bring them back to presentable, things our customers don’t see, behind the scenes. Most of our customers are happy when they see the result of it.”

      Importantly, the business is more than shoe and boot repair, its narrow wheelhouse when it was located on Beckham.

      “As my son came on board, we incorporated boots, belts, hats, shirts, wallets… We try to sell something unique, something you might not see all around,” Jose said. “That’s where our goal is.”

      Work boots, too, were a new addition to the inventory, and they’ve helped to expand Lucio’s customer base.

      It’s all part of staying in business, Jose said, ensuring the doors stay open for the customers.

      “It’s a lot to it. It’s a lot to keep a business moving,” he explained. “You have to do a lot of work. You have to do late hours when you need to. You have to take care of your finances. You have to do that customer service to keep your customers coming back.

      “That’s our goal, to keep the community happy. We get paid for it, but we also want our customers to be happy. As a result, we do have a lot of repeat customers.”

      The first one that springs to mind is a former Tyler-area pastor who’s since moved out of the community.

      “He’s been here since we’ve been doing business,” Jose said. Even though the preacher is no longer in Tyler, he still brings his shoes to the people who have kept them in good repair for years. “That’s our goal.”

      Yes, the industry has changed.

      For example, the operation used to have a lot of single-stitch business.

      “Now, the young generation, they like the square toe with the double-stitch,” Jose said. It’s another language to someone who’s not part of the trade; it’s what the latest batch of customers want: “Those are the ones who have gotten the shoe repair business back in gear. One time, it was even slowing down because less people were wearing boots.”

      For their part, the team at Lucio’s is doing what they can to reverse that trend – while they keep locals’ kicks in the best shape possible.

      “We hope the Tyler community has what they need in Tyler.”

    • “Once historic structures are torn down, they’re gone forever.”

      It’s a truth Ashley Washmon keeps close to heart, whether she’s reminding herself or explaining the mission of Historic Tyler, Inc. to someone encountering the historic preservation organization for the first time.

      “Personally, I think the older historic structures give a town its own unique character and charm and personality,” she says. “All of these places have a story,” and it’s fun, gratifying to uncover them and to tell them.

      Preserving those stories, “It helps Tyler connect the present community with the past. You see the story of the town and what played a part in creating the community that we live in.”

      Closing in on the end of her first year as executive director of Historic Tyler, Washmon also keeps a firm grasp on the bigger picture of historic preservation, the tangible impact of reinvesting in a community’s revitalization.

      Similarly, “You’re not wasting resources,” she said. “I think it’s environmentally-friendly if you can take an old building and repurpose it for an office or a store.”

      At Historic Tyler, a nonprofit established in 1977, “Our mission is we advocate, educate and raise funds for the preservation of our town’s historic buildings, sites and structures,” Washmon said. “We have funded, over the years, really impressive preservation projects around the city.

      For example, “We’re responsible for the historic designation of the Azalea District, the Charnwood District – there are six historic districts in town that give notoriety and documentation for these historic homes. We’re working on an additional district. We’ve worked closely with the city in the past on these projects.”

      Washmon took the reins as executive director in October 2019.

      “It’s been an unusual 10 months,” she quipped. That said, “It was surprising to me to see how many different arms, facets of historical preservation exist in our city.”

      Every year, Historic Tyler embarks on a couple of preservation projects, varying in size and complexity. At Oakwood Cemetery, the organization funded the use of ground-penetrating radar to help locate lost graves and then went on to fund historical markers for them.

      “We find different projects like that so we can invest in our community,” Washmon said. “We’ve worked in conjunction with the city on different projects.”

      Part of that collaboration intersects with the mission of Heart of Tyler.

      “Their mission is to improve downtown, and we kind of overlap in some areas. We just support each other as organizations,” Washmon said. “We all have different functions, but we’re all working for the preservation of historic Tyler and to make our city function.”

      Historic preservation can also bolster tourism efforts, Washmon added.

      Think Charleston, South Carolina, she says: beautifully-preserved, charming unlike any other city.

      Drawing on that example and others, “If Tyler can maintain our historic sites and structures, I think we can maintain part of the appeal of our city,” she said. “It grounds people. In an ever-changing world, it’s important to know where you come from, and it also influences where you’re going.

      “I do think it’s really important, especially in today’s age when everyone’s so busy and technology-driven… I think people have this pull, or connection, to their city. I think it improves satisfaction with where you live – quality of life – when you feel connected to your community.”

      Learning the histories and personal stories of particular places plays a part in that, Washmon added. So does repurposing those places and creating opportunities for new stories to be born.

      Look, she says, to the energy that’s been crafted in downtown Tyler and what that momentum is accomplishing for the broader community.

      “That historic area is one of the more walkable places in Tyler,” Washmon praised. It’s an asset, “when you have a space in your town that you can enjoy and gather with people there.”

      Partnering with Heart of Tyler and other organizations where common interests align, Washmon hopes to build on past years’ successes, moving the community forward, not backtracking.

      “If you get rid of the historic structures and sites, you kind of sterilize the city. I think that’s tragic. Once it’s gone, you can’t get it back,” Washmon repeated. Fortunately, Historic Tyler, working with Heart of Tyler and other stakeholders, is at work. “The majority of the overlap is in downtown. We have some remaining original downtown storefronts on the square,” some of which can be preserved, fueling economic development to benefit the present, future, and the past, too, not at its expense.

      Parallel interests make for shared success, a strong working relationship between the two organizations.

      “I think it’s mutually-beneficial. Heart of Tyler wants revitalization of downtown, Historic Tyler wants to see those historic storefronts maintained.”

      For more information about Historic Tyler, Inc. contact Executive Director Ashley Washmon at ashley@historictyler.org. On social media, follow progress via @historictyler on Facebook and Instagram. Log on to historictyler.org for more resources.

    • It’s the feeling of having a neighborhood pub to go to, Matt Gilstrap says, a place to hang out after work, to meet with friends, to have a pint and talk about the day, to talk about the future. Whatever ails you, “Nothing helps that better than sitting around with close friends and having a pint.” It’s a feeling that’s definitely on tap at East Texas Brewing Co.

      “We’ve invested our lives, our livelihoods,” says brother, fellow brewer and business partner Brian Gilstrap. “We’ve put everything we own on the line – we’ve taken savings out to be successful. We’re glad that we have a city that has our back and is willing to put forth the same, to put forth their heart and soul into helping us be successful.”

      That success has been hard-earned, agrees Annie Gilstrap, rounding out the trio at the Broadway Avenue alehouse and eatery. Brian’s wife and Matt’s sister-in-law, she’s the dynamo in the mix.

      “I’m not part of the brew process. I’m here for the tasting,” Annie quips. “I like being able to come up with really fun, creative ideas and bring it to the guys.”

      Those kinds of ventures find fertile soil in downtown Tyler, she added, and ETX Brewing Co. is all about opportunities. “We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a lot of room to grow.”

      There are a lot of ingredients that go into making a community thrive, and there’s a lot of the same that goes into a good brew. Put things together in different ways, new ways, Brian says, and any number of possibilities await.

      “It’s like cooking. Every recipe, a little bit of love goes into it,” he explained. “For me, it’s all about the creativity, just the love and passion behind the beer itself, being able to appreciate it for what it is.

      “You take basically the same ingredients for every beer, and you can have them taste completely different. Being able to do that, it’s basically magical.”

      The Gilstrap brothers began home-brewing in 2002. Annie was happy to give them an extra push, when necessary, to turn the hobby into a business.

      “They’d gotten really good at making beer,” she recalls, telling the brothers, “I’m tired of hearing you dish about your jobs. Why don’t you do something you want to do, something you love doing?” Fair enough, the pair thought.

      “We both worked in the corporate world, got tired of our jobs,” Matt said. “We’d always talked about opening a brewery.”

      When they discovered the potential of 221 S. Broadway and re-imagined the former tire shop as a restaurant, they knew the venture was moving forward.

      “Ultimately, it was just the search to find a great building that would align with our core values: community, giving back,” Brian said. “This building was old and dilapidated for a long time. We never really paid attention to it until we were looking to open the brewery up.

      “We immediately fell in love, and this is where we wanted to be. What better place to do it than downtown Tyler?”

      They did their due diligence, he added, looking into other areas, like South Tyler, putting some consideration toward warehouse spaces and industrial districts.

      There were buildings available, but none that spoke to the Gilstraps. It was hard to find one that was the right fit, especially considering the brewery is categorized as a ‘manufacturing facility,’ limited to specific zoning.

      Finally finding the perfect spot on Broadway, they were eager to plug-in to downtown’s business and arts culture.

      Among other boons, it’s a centralized location, Annie said, much better than ending up off the beaten path where similar operations are relegated in other communities – “You kind of have to hunt for some of these breweries.”

      The warm welcome the brewery received from the community was more than the founders anticipated. “We thought the original taproom was big,” Annie said. “We learned from the first night of opening that it was too small. We knew from that point that we wanted to expand.”

      There’s plenty on tap at ETX Brewing Co. Though she’s not plugged in to the brewing process directly, “Once a great recipe has been developed and brewed,” Annie said, “I have to be able to present it to the general public so they’re aware of what’s in it, what’s gone into it, and to also come up with an appealing label, a design.

      “You’re going to pick something up for what it looks like before you know what it tastes like.” There’s a similar, wide variety on the roads around the square as well, and people don’t really know everything that’s at hand until they plug in to experience it:

      “I didn’t realize how much tourism there is in Tyler,” Annie said. “I didn’t realize how many people come regularly, just to visit Tyler.”

      For Brian, “Tyler’s just far enough from Dallas/Fort Worth that we still get a lot of that influence,” he said. “Tyler is a growing community. With that comes diversity and a lot of different lines of thinking. That’s ultimately what fosters growth in any environment. That’s ultimately what we’re after, to bring as many people here as possible, to bring that community aspect.”

      All the various stakeholders seem to be on board, he added. “Everybody wants to see downtown be successful. The people that are around downtown and are in downtown, they want the same thing that we want,” Brian said. It’s a genuine sense of community, he added, that keeps the district pulsing and helps businesses like East Texas Brewing Co. thrive, “just the sheer, amazing support that we saw from the get-go.”

      The trio wants to feed downtown Tyler’s progress as much as they want to benefit from it. “A lot of cool local businesses have been going in downtown,” Annie said. “Everybody just wants the best for Tyler and wants to see downtown grow. Downtown really is the heart of the city.

      The trio wants to feed downtown Tyler’s progress as much as they want to benefit from it. “A lot of cool local businesses have been going in downtown,” Annie said. “Everybody just wants the best for Tyler and wants to see downtown grow. Downtown really is the heart of the city.

      In addition to the community support, Brian said, the business and others like it receive healthy, practical support from the City of Tyler and organizations within it.

      In addition to the community support, Brian said, the business and others like it receive healthy, practical support from the City of Tyler and organizations within it.

      “We see a lot more city support just because of the same goals of growth and building more awareness of what Tyler has to offer. We’ve got the same goals as the city; we’ve got the same goals as the businesses. It brings that support community together,” and it’s not to be found elsewhere.”

      Growth is part of the brewery’s future and the present, too.

      There’s been a lot happening, despite the challenging circumstances of COVID-19 – there were some specific plans in place prior to the shutdown, Matt said, plans that are still going to move forward as soon as the opportunity arises, especially since they could help the business weather the new reality of a post-pandemic economy.

      For example, “We’d like to put a covered patio out front, making it more welcoming throughout the day,” he said, whether it’s breaking the heat, fending off the rain or helping people social distance. They’ve considered putting down Astroturf as well, “to bring in a backyard-feel to the downtown. “When we don’t have to social distance so much, bigger and better events.”

      Opportunities are rife throughout the nearby area, Annie added. “I think we’re seeing that downtown is growing. There are more new things every month coming in. Our plan is to continue to grow with that.”

      The brewery will continue to give people, residents and visitors, more options and things to do in Downtown Tyler, Brian agreed.

      “Keeping it fresh,” Annie said. For example, “We’re constantly coming up with new and very different beer” in addition to new menu items and specials: “It’s not the same thing every time you come in. Whether you haven’t been here in a year or whether you come in every week, there’s something new.”

      “What gives me the chills is when I look out there at night, all those picnic tables are full.” They’re 16-foot tables, Brian said, but they’re filled with all manner of diners – some come for the beer, some for the food, some for the atmosphere, some for the camaraderie. Whatever brings them in, the brewers have a warm welcome waiting.

      “Every single table is full and you’ve got nothing but smiles from people that don’t even know each other, sitting next to each other,” Brian said. “We really pride ourselves on just being a cool place to hang out, to provide a cool atmosphere.”

      “So many people from so many backgrounds, so many different ages and races and genders, sitting next to each other with a big ol’ pint of beer Matt and I created with smiles on their faces. That’s what gives me the most satisfaction out of making beer: They’re happy about it.”

  • Name Company Website
    Allen Bell Allen Bell Property Services Company Website
    Patty Steelman Austin Bank Company Website
    Robert Bailes Bailes & Co., P.C. Company Website
    Andy Bergfeld Bergfeld Realty Company Website
    Mechele Mills Better Business Bureau Company Website
    Bob Matush Bob Matush Surveying Company Website
    Michael Bosworth Bosworth & Associates Company Website
    Rickey Chambers Chambers Electrical Contractors, LLC Company Website
    Randy Grooms Citizens 1st Bank Company Website
    Allen Bell Crest Properties, Ltd.
    Ron Stafford cue:creative Company Website
    Kay Latta Henry & Peters P.C. Company Website
    Ginger Haberle Historic Tyler, Inc. Company Website
    Randy Key Key Data Systems, Inc. Company Website
    Peyton Lake Lake Ronel Oil Company
    Don Warren Lomoco, Inc. Company Website
    Fred Haberle Orion Pipeline, LLC Company Website
    John O’Sullivan O’Sullivan Management and Construction
    Russell Patterson Patterson Commercial Property Group Company Website
    Paul Latta Paul N. Latta DDS, P.C. Company Website
    Garnett Brookshire People’s Petroleum Building LLC Company Website
    Robert Peveto Peveto and Associates, Inc Company Website
    Bob Garrett R.W. Fair Foundation
    Chad Cargile Regions Bank Company Website
    Rick Eltife Rick’s on the Square Company Website
    Steve Roosth Roosth Production Company Company Website
    John Musselman Southwest Operating, Inc.
    Melissa Combs Squyres, Johnson, Squyres & Co., LLP Company Website
    Drs. Cory & Marvin Stephens Stephens and Stephens Orthodontics Company Website
    Cathy Hirt T. A. & T. Finance Corp. Company Website
    Jon Honea Texas Bank and Trust Company Website
    Ray McKinney The Genecov Group, Inc. Company Website
    Henry Bell Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Company Website
    B.J. Hornbostel United Heritage Credit Union Company Website
    Allen Bell Wadel Connally Building
    Mark Whatley Whatley Holdings/Burns Commercial Properties LLC Company Website
    • Business Name Category
      A&B Brake & Alignment Automotive
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      Bud Jones Garage Automotive
      Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts Automotive
      Butler Alignment & Brake Automotive
      C&B Carwash Automotive
      Classic Detail Automotive
      Cuvelier Used Cars Inc. Automotive
      Delatrinidad Auto Body Shop Automotive
      Dunn Transmission Automotive
      East Texas Alternator Automotive
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      Trico Enterprises Commercial Services
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      808 Cellphone Repairs Computers & Electronics
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      East Texas Alarm Inc. Computers & Electronics
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      Affordable & Cheap Construction
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      Texas Wide Insurance Consulting
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      Adams Design Service Creative
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      Building Blocks Education
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      Caldwell Auditorium Entertainment
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      Albright Furniture Repair Home Service
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      Aaxion, Inc. Industrial/Manufacturing
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      Schaumburg & Polk Industrial/Manufacturing
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      Arrow Credit, Inc. Investment/Finance
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      Barri Office Investment/Finance
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      DolEx Dollar Express Investment/Finance
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      Hauk WC CPA Investment/Finance
      L&L Trading Group Ltd. Investment/Finance
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      Rose Point Capital Advisors Investment/Finance
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      Beddingfield Bail Bonds Legal
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    • Business Name Category
      BCFS Health & Human Services Medical
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      KLTV News
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      Abundant Life Ministries of Shabach Non-Profit/Church
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      Centro Cristiano Restaurcion Non-Profit/Church
      Child Evangelism Fellowship Non-Profit/Church
      Christ Episcopal Church Non-Profit/Church
      Church Under the Bridge Non-Profit/Church
      East Texas Communities Foundation Non-Profit/Church
      First Baptist Church Non-Profit/Church
      Goodwill Administration Non-Profit/Church
      Gospel Warehouse Non-Profit/Church
      Highway 80 Rescue Mission Non-Profit/Church
      Horizon Industries Non-Profit/Church
      Iglesia Nueva Vida Asamblea Non-Profit/Church
      Lighthouse for the Blind Non-Profit/Church
      Marvin Methodist Church Non-Profit/Church
      Mitchell Chapel COGIC Non-Profit/Church
      Neighborhood Services Non-Profit/Church
      New Birth Tyler Church – The Living Non-Profit/Church
      New Generation Baptist Church Non-Profit/Church
      Next Step Community Non-Profit/Church
      The Gospel of Jesus Christ International Ministries Non-Profit/Church
      The King’s Storehouse Food Bank Non-Profit/Church
      True Vine Baptist Church Non-Profit/Church
      United Health Church Non-Profit/Church
      West Erwin Church of Christ Non-Profit/Church
      West Fellowship Hall Church Non-Profit/Church
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      D&N Grocery Oil & Gas
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      Lake Ronel Oil Co. Oil & Gas
      Legacy Royalties Oil & Gas
      Penco Oil Co. Oil & Gas
      Petroleum Data Library Oil & Gas
      Pitt Stop 2 Oil & Gas
      Richard Griffin Petroleum Oil & Gas
      Texaco Tyler Oil & Gas
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      Backbone Hair Personal Care Service
      Brooks Sterling & Garrett Funeral Service Personal Care Service
      Cuttin’ Up Barbershop Personal Care Service
      Estetica Irma Personal Care Service
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      Front & Beckham Barber Shop Personal Care Service
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      Sankofa Natural Hair Personal Care Service
      Star College of Cosmetology Personal Care Service
      The Press Personal Care Service
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      Vivana Cleaning Service Personal Care Service
      Yasel Beauty Salon Personal Care Service
      Backbone Hair Personal Care Service
    • Business Name Category
      D&R Properties Real Estate
      Griffin Real Estate Group Real Estate
      Maddox Residential and Commercial Services Real Estate
      Martin Heines Properties Real Estate
      Moore Grocery Lofts Real Estate
      Tyler Affordable Properties Real Estate
    • Business Name Category
      Bakery Outlet Restaurant
      Cafe 1948 Restaurant
      Catalina’s Authentic Mexican Cuisine Restaurant
      Chick-Fil-A Restaurant
      Church’s Chicken Restaurant
      Culture ETX Restaurant
      DoeBoy’s Taste of Chicago Restaurant
      Don Juan’s Restaurant
      El Puente Restaurant
      ETX Brewing Restaurant
      Flowers Baking Co. Restaurant
      Fruteria Abarrotes Ruby Restaurant
      Gentry Donuts Restaurant
      Janie’s Cakes Restaurant
      Little Caesar’s Pizza Restaurant
      Mexico Lindo Restaurant
      Moocho Burrito Restaurant
      Palace Seafood Restaurant
      Paleteria Y Nuverua Polar Restaurant
      Pots N’ Pans Restaurant
      Rhea’s Hot Links Restaurant
      Rick’s on the Square Restaurant
      Tapatio’s Restaurant
      Taqueria El Lugar Restaurant
      Taqueria Palacios Tortilleria Restaurant
      The Foundry Coffee House Restaurant
      The Porch Restaurant
      The Same Good Donuts Restaurant
      The Staby Taco Joint Restaurant
      Tyler Tortilla Factory Restaurant
      Wendy’s Restaurant
      Williams Fried Chicken Restaurant
    • Business Name Category
      8th Street Boutique Retail
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      Citi Trends Retail
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      Harris Finance Furniture Retail
      Hixson Ellis Inc. Retail
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      Lucio’s Boot Repair & Western Wear Retail
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      Mi Young’s Bride Retail
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      Transportes San Miguel Transportation
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    • Business Name Category
      The Woldert-Spence Manor Travel/Hospitality
    • Business Name Category
      AAA Sanitation, Inc. Utilities
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      Locksmith Express Utilities
      Pegasi Energy Resources Utilities
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      Tyler Recycling Collection Utilities
      Tylex, Inc. Utilities
  • Heart of Tyler presents the annual Brick Award to a person, organization or business that has demonstrated outstanding support of Downtown Tyler Revitalization. The award is presented at Heart of Tyler’s annual meeting.

    A nominee’s tenure, level of participation, support and other factors go into selection of the recipient among the nominees.

    Nominations

    Know a person, organization or business that has demonstrated outstanding support of Downtown Tyler Revitalization? Feel free to submit a nomination!

    Past Winners

    • Mike Allen
    • J.D. Osborn
    • Steve Roosth
    • Dr. Keith McCoy
    • City of Tyler Parks and Recreation Department
    • General Obligations Bond Projects Task Force
    • Sheriff J. B. Smith
    • Karen Hampton
    • Claire Squibb
    • Debbie Roosth
    • Tyler City Council
    • Janet Drake Fair, George Hall
    • Judge Judith Guthrie
    • James Fair
    • Rick Eltife
    • Joyce Buford
    • Dr. Dana Adams
    • Henry Bell III
    • John O’Sullivan
    • Ingrid Young
    • Tom Mullins
    • Junior League of Tyler, Inc.
    • East Texas Symphony Orchestra
    • Travis Booher

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