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It will be owned and operated by Bret and Sherrie Holbert, former owners of the 24th Street Cafe.
The building — long vacant and at one time a candidate for demolition — has been under extensive renovation in recent weeks.
Cheri Bedford, Paris Main Street Coordinator, cheered the news.
“A building that has been an eyesore for downtown is welcoming a new business,” she exclaimed.
The name of the beer and wine garden will be simply “107″ — for its address, 107 Grand Ave.
“We hope to be open in time for downtown Christmas festivities,” Bret Holbert told eParisExtra.
“We’ll have a food menu along with that which will feature small plates, upscale bar food, things like that. Also, we have a proprietary blend of coffee that will be sold there that will be made just for us,” Holbert said.
“We’ll have a selection of beer and wine. And of course, we’ll offer soft drinks and tea and things like that.”
“Included in the business is another business — custom fire glazed hams. We’ll take orders for custom glazed hams, and in fact, we’re already taking orders for them,” Holbert said.
Anyone interested may place an order at 903.517.1245.
“When we bought the building, the roof had caved in, and we gutted the building,” Holbert said.
“We did an engineering study and secured the exterior walls with metal trusses, things like that,” Holbert said, to assure that the building can withstand any kind of weather problems, even without a roof.
Along with the roof, a portion of the back wall was also removed, and steel beams were installed recently to insure the integrity of the building.
Without a roof the building will remain, except that there will be a cover over the kitchen, serving area and restrooms. There will be some covered seating areas, but everything outside the kitchen and serving area will be open air.
“We’ll have umbrella tables and things like that. We’re fully aware that we’ll be subject to the weather, but that’s OK. When we talk about open air, that’s all within the building still.”
The beer and wine garden will have a seating capacity of somewhere between 60 and 80 people, Holbert said, which is approximately what the 24th Street Cafe accommodated.
A structural assessment on the building was ordered in 2011 to determine the status of the property and make sure it was not a danger to the public, Bedford said.
The funds to pay for the assessment were from a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation secured by the City of Paris and Main Street program.
“The current owners who purchased this property were given a copy of this report and they were very aware of the back wall’s structural integrity,” Bedford said.
“The new owners are extremely excited about their business, love the historic district,” she added.
“They have taken advantage of façade renderings from the Texas Main Street Program, received a façade grant from the Historic Preservation Commission, and are glad to be a part of all the exciting things that are happening in downtown.”
Bedford called “107″ a success story that has taken many partnerships to accomplish.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra
In a talk to the Rotary Club of Paris, James Skinner Baking plant manager Rodger Coan said company officials in Omaha, Neb., feel the biggest asset they acquired in buying the old Sara Lee Bakery last December was the people of Paris themselves.
“I’m going to speak as well as I can for chief executive officer Audie Keeton, because I myself am from Paris and have been for 30 years,” said Coan, 51, a guest speaker at Friday’s meeting of the club.
“Mr. Keeton has made the comment on many occasions that the biggest asset of coming to Paris, the biggest benefit, is the people of Paris,” said Coan (pronounced Koen).
“The relationship that has developed between Skinner and Paris is one of great cooperation — something the company considers a great benefit,” he said.
The company began operations last June in the old 375,000-square-foot Sara Lee facility that was shut down at Loop 286 and Northwest 19th Street in November of 2011.
Skinner plans to make the 89-acre Paris plant into the crown prince of its operations, Coan said.
The company has announced a schedule of improvements to increase the company’s investment in the plant to $25 million, with most of the additional commitment planned over the next four years.
“You know, there was a time that the Sara Lee plant here employed around 1,100 or 1,200 employees. I would like to see it right back in that same position within the next five or six years,” said Coan, who also managed the plant when it was under Sara Lee ownership.
The company now has 120 employees, plus a few temporary employees, working in two 10-hour shifts, four days a week, manufacturing Skinner’s family pack sweet roll — which is a cinnamon roll, a strawberry roll, a raspberry roll, and a raspberry and cheese roll.
“The line that we now have running has 31 people per shift — a total of 62 people on the line. The rest of the employees are support group, such as maintenance, sanitation, and so forth,” Coan said.
Within the next 30 days, manufacture of croissants will be added to the Paris plant, which will mean another full shift of 40 employees, building up by mid-year 2014 to two full shifts, he said.
“By the end of 2014, we should have three lines running full shifts. I would like to see us, within the next two years, get to 450 employees,” Coan said.
Coan showed on a projector some slides of operations at the James Skinner manufacturing process in Paris, then took questions from Rotary members.
Coan said the conversion of the Sara Lee facility to a James Skinner facility has gone “very smoothly” — considerably faster than most start-up operations.
“Bringing the production line up as quickly as this line came up is generally not done this quickly. It’s taken a lot of work and dedication from our employees, though,” he said.
When asked how many employees James Skinner brought to Paris from Omaha, Coan said: “None.”
“Of the employees now employed here, 82 percent are former Sara Lee employees. That means we hired people that were experts in their field — sheeter employees that already knew how to run the sheeting lines,” he said.
This meant a tremendous savings to Skinner in training costs “because we brought people back to machines they were already familiar with running. It was their own piece of equipment,” Coan said.
“All these people already knew everything about their equipment — the ovens, the mixers, the deep panners, all the other equipment — and were comfortable running them.”
Maintenance men were so familiar with the equipment they had kept running for years they could tell just by the sound whether it was running right, he said.
Asked whether Skinner’s employees are union or non-union, Coan said the Omaha plant is a union operation, but the Paris plant is non-union, and we plan on keeping it that way.”
“Good,” responded the Rotary member who asked the question.
In response to another question, Coan said no preservatives are used in making Skinner’s line of pastries.
The company’s pastries have a shelf life of one week, he said, but added: “If you freeze them, they’re good for a year, and then they have a shelf life of a week.”
Competing products with a shelf life of longer than one week “have preservatives in them,” Coan said.
In 2012, months after the Sara Lee plant was shut down, an affiliate of New Mill Capital bought it for an undisclosed sum and began to market it .
Coan said Keeton had been looking for a couple of years to expand to another city “so he came to Paris and took a look at it. He saw the potential of the plant and visited with some of the people in the plant.”
“The plant was actually going to go up for auction — piecemeal — four days after that. After four hours of looking at the plant, Audie made an offer and told them he had to leave in 20 minutes to get on a plane,” Coan said.
“Ten or 15 minutes after he made the offer, it was accepted, and we’ve been rolling ever since then,” Coan added.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra
Impressive, especially considering a family business typically lasts about 25 years, Chief Executive Officer Chip Harper said.
“I’m a steward of a 125-year-old company,” Harper said. “My job and my goal is to celebrate 200 years. For that to happen, I have to plan for it to outlive my kids and grandkids.”
The event took place at HWH corporate headquarters at 2510 S. Church St. Signs around the floor showed off the various business units that make up the company, including Paris Texas Pecan Company, We Pack, We Stow, Rodgers Wade and HWH Protective Structures.
Harrison Walker & Harper is the oldest general contractor in Texas, according to the company’s website. It was founded in 1887 with J.W. Harrison‘s employment as a contractor. Harrison and his partners spent the next three decades mostly building large homes for civic and business leaders. Harrison & Son grew through the 1920s and survived the Great Depression mostly on repair work. HWH constructed its first aircraft hangar at Paris’ Legion field in 1932 – a precursor to a $10 million hangar constructed for E-Systems in Greenville five decades later.
The housing market picked up with the introduction of Federal Housing Authority loans in 1936, and the company Harrison & Son passed to Barney Harrison after the death of J.W. Harrison.
The company continued to diversify in the economic boom that followed World War II. Barney Harrison’s son J.W. Harrison II became a partner after serving in the war and the sole owner after his father died in 1954.
Charlie Walker joined as an engineer and partner five years later. He developed the site layout for a Campbell Soup production facility and other industrial and institutional projects into the 1960s.
HWH moved into its fourth generation when Harper, J.W. Harrison II’s stepson, joined the company in 1970. He took over the Delta Steel Building operation three years later, and the construction and building systems companies merged to form Harrison Walker & Harper in 1979.
We Pack Logistics got its start in 1984. The company offers warehousing, transportation and packaging to clients. It has about two million square feet of warehouse space in Texas and North Carolina, according to Vice President of Client Services Jeff Edwards.
As a third-party logistics provider, We Pack can save growing companies a lot of money, Edwards said.
“We give customers the ability to grow without having to spend money on warehouse space,” he said, pointing to Campbell Soup as an example. “The Paris plant has been able to add multiple lines and invest in new lines without having to spend that money on warehousing.”
The packaging side can take care of packing that the manufacturer cannot or does not want to, such as promotional boxes and one-time bundles.
“We give them the ability to try things out,” Edwards said. “It may be something they’ll have us do forever because it doesn’t meet their manufacturing, or it may be a one-off thing they’ll never do again.”
In 1989, Harper took over as sole owner of HWH after the other partners retired, and his sons Holland and Jordan joined the company as the fifth generation.
The company continued to grow and develop through the next decade, and tackled its biggest project to date in 2000 with the 766,000 square-foot Sterilite manufacturing facility in Ennis.
HWH bought Rodgers Wade in 2009. The company has built wooden products since 1856. Darren Hamner, vice president of client services, said in addition to cabinets and casework for retail, hospitality and schools, the company also works in historical restorations. Some of the national accounts include Charming Charlie, Starbucks and Ulta Cosmetics.
“There’s been a lot of growth in the last four years,” Hamner said. “We’re looking to grow in 2014.”
Paris Texas Pecan Company also started that same year, beginning as an idea two years earlier in Iraq with Army Capt. Holland Harper noticing date palms everywhere around Baghdad.
“We buy pecans from the public. We custom crack pecans for people who want to keep their own,” said Lisa Walker, retail coordinator and manager for Paris Pecans. “If someone brings in pecans to crack, we’ve implemented a sanitation process to eliminate salmonella and e. coli before they’re returned to the customer. That’s an added value to the customer.”
The pecan company has a retail store at 1920 S. Church St. that sells everything from honey butter to pecan pie in a jar. It’s a seasonal business, with operations from October through January. The store is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
In 2012, Paris Pecan bought a 400-tree orchard and established an online market.
Two years ago, the firm launched the HWH Group, a full-service site selection company. In addition to helping companies find a new site, the firm provides consulting on new market tax credits and location optimization based on needs such as access to ports and rail service.
HWH Group recently helped a company bring jobs back from China to a plant in Tennessee. Locally, the company has helped with efforts such as J. Skinner and Turner Pipe.
Most site selection businesses are focused on just that, Cayton said. As part of Harrison Walker & Harper, HWH Group can deliver everything from design to construction if need be, he said; there are few companies with that kind of capability.
Last year, HWH consolidated its leadership and staff in the renovated office facilities at 2510 S. Church St. It had served as home to We Pack, and before that, the building housed Vassarette, which made women’s clothing – and it was constructed by Harrison Walker & Harper.
“Each one of these companies had their own accounting, their own IT,” Harper said.
Corporate functions started consolidating at HWH’s offices about eight years ago. The company had to add trailers for staff, which made communication difficult at times, said Marvin Gorley, HWH’s head of graphic communications. The layout of HWH’s new office made that easier.
“Chip always wanted an open office where we could communicate,” he said.
Harper brought one of those small job trailers with him and put it back in the corner into the new office.
One of HWH’s newest ventures is HWH Protective Structures, which manufactures a wall system used for hazard mitigation.
“That means we’re able to put structures inside schools, petroleum factories – any place that has a hazard, whether it’s wind, blast, ballistic,” President Brian Williams said.
The structure spent about two years in research and development and has been on the market about two months. Two types are sold. One is a modular design similar to a mobile home that is built and shipped to a constructed site. The other is built into a hallway. Schools are a big market, Williams said. The hallway becomes a safe area in case of hurricane, tornado or other inclement weather, and the wall’s construction also provides protection in the case of a shooter in the building.
“I don’t want to be safe just from tornadoes,” he said. “I want to be safe from everything.”
Ventures such as Protective Structures and acquisitions like Rodgers Wade are important for a company to thrive and grow, but Harper said he wants to keep HWH’s roots right here.
“We’re going to work globally, but we’re going to run it right here,” Harper said. “There’s plenty of bright talent here. There have got to be jobs here for them, good jobs. With our engineering and manufacturing, we’re creating a platform.”
John House has purchased the building at the corner of Grand Avenue and West Plaza and plans to renovate and convert it into a restaurant with the help of the original Cajun Moon’s owner.
“Maggie Broussard will be the food consultant at Cajun Moon Bar and Grill,” he said. “Her grandparents operated a Cajun restaurant in the 1940s in Louisiana, so she grew up in the Cajun restaurant business and uses her family recipes.”
House expects his downtown eatery to open in the first quarter of 2014. The Cajun Moon should seat around 80 as they dine and listen to live entertainment.
The restaurant-to-be is next door 107 Grand Ave., where Bret and Sherrie Holbert are in the process of converting a long-vacant and dilapidated building into a beer and wine garden.
The location, 101 Grand Ave, previously housed Living Your Life Photography studio and Outlaw Music Movies and Games.
House wants to keep as much of the building original as possible.
“It’s convenient downtown. It overlooks the Plaza and fountain, and it should have a good dining atmosphere,” he said. “The building downtown housed the old Odd Fellows meeting room on the top floor, and it still has their old neon sign attached to the building. The bottom floor was the old Palace Drug No. 2 in the early days and still has the mirrors in the wall from the original soda fountain.”
The original Cajun Moon was located on Highway 271 in Powderly. After a fire, the business moved to the old Airport Drive-in building near Highway 271 South and Airport Road.
Broussard is also consultant for Maggie’s Southern Kitchen at 3965 Bonham, which opened in early October. House said that restaurant plans to move next door to 4015 Bonham in about two months to a new, renovated site with more parking.
By Jeff Parish, eParisExtra
An action item by PEDC board member David Turner “for the search and hiring of a deputy director” of the Paris Economic Development Corporation turned out to be not nearly as exciting as some expected.
Shannon Barrentine, who is No. 2 to Executive Director Steve Gilbert, said the day before Tuesday’s 3 p.m. meeting that she didn’t know what was up.
“I’m not leaving, as far as I know,” she told a reporter. “They haven’t told me anything.”
And Turner hadn’t returned inquiring reporters’ calls.
The two words “deputy director” were never uttered at any point in Turner’s half-hour pitch to his PEDC colleagues for hiring someone — maybe part time, maybe full time — to coax governmental agencies into bringing projects to Lamar County.
When the meeting concluded after two and a half hours, Turner said he hadn’t meant to suggest either replacing Barrentine or creating a new second-in-command position of deputy director.
“Oh, no-no-no-no-no-no!” Turner said, then added: “The government’s got more money than anybody else, and I want some of it for this community, and some bright, new, low-level staffer full of (energy) to call around the different agencies and find it. You’ve got to have a name for it (the position).”
He said, “Shannon called me all in an uproar,” and he explained to her he merely wanted to talk about hiring a new employ to facilitate finding prospects for learning about and landing projects funded by state or federal government.
One cost of landing such companies as Skinner Baking to Paris, and in keeping Campbell Soup and Kimberly Clark is that the PEDC will have less money available to use as incentives to attract other industries for awhile, board chairwoman Rebecca Clifford says.
The PEDC’s operating budget for the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, is $75,000.
Board member Bruce Carr complimented Turner on his creativity and vision. Clifford added, “I agree,” saying it’s not something that can or should be done immediately but it would be helpful to look into the possibility. She appointed a committee of Turner and Carr and, at Turner’s request, Wright.
“With what we’re already committed to, we’re not going to be able to offer cash incentives of any significance to bring industry to Paris any time in the foreseeable future, as I see it,” Turner told the board.
“As I thought about that, it occurred to me that where we might do very well is on projects that are being funded by the government, whether it be state, federal or whatever,” Turner said.
“And as I thought about it, I thought we have a wealth of people in this community who are really very well connected politically,” he continued.
Turner said he was talking to City Councilman and former PEDC director John Wright a couple of months ago, and that Wright confided to him that he is well acquainted with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
“I said, ‘Really?’ and he said yes, that he can pick up the phone and call Hagel and talk to him if he needed to. And there are other people that know the governor, people in the governor’s office, state representatives, state senators, our congressman and other congressmen,” Turner said.
“Judge Bill Harris told me he knows Congressman Sessions very well, and I could go on and on. And of course, our mayor was recently a guest at the White House. I’m thinking we need to find someone who is very knowledgeable about political connections, someone who perhaps has been working for some politician and understands how to work in these realms and is able to figure out what different government agencies are going to be looking for, programs they are going to have on line. The person I’m thinking about is not a lobbyist,” Turner said.
The federal government is spending trillions of dollars a year and the state government is spending “many, many millions” and the PEDC could use an employee who is attuned “with what is being proposed and talked about.”
In particular, Turner said, he has been thinking about the war in Iraq now being over, and the war in Afghanistan is winding down.
“Well, they’re going to leave a bunch of that equipment over there. It’s too costly to bring home, but they will be bringing home a bunch of it, and they’re going to need a place to store it,” Turner said.
“We’ve got land. Let’s say we find out that they’re going to be bringing all this equipment home and they need a place to store it. They’re going to need 500 acres; I don’t know how much, I’m making that part of it up. So we ask John Wright, will you please call Chuck Hagel and see if that can be placed in Lamar County?”
But to do that, Turner said, the PEDC is going to have to have someone “who knows politics, who knows who to talk to, who knows the ins and outs of federal and state agencies, and knows specifically how these agencies work, who can talk to whoever they need to talk to — the politicians.”
Clifford said she doesn’t see the position Turner wants as a fulltime job.
Turner said he wouldn’t rule that out, “but I don’t know whether part-time would work because potentially, if they’re working for more than one person, more than one entity, potentially there could be divided loyalty.”
The person he is envisioning for the job, he said, “is young, bright, bushy-tailed and aggressive.”
Actually, the job is one that would be worth paying someone half a million dollars a year, Turner said.
“We can’t do that, but maybe we could hire somebody that wants to get into that half a million dollar a year category — somebody that would be aggressive and show us what they can do. Then they would be gone. But if they got us one or two government projects, then they were worth the money,” Turner said.
“Now, that’s what I’m thinking about, someone who is young and very aggressive. It’s not going to be their last stop. It’s going to be their first stop. They come in here, they do this for us, they are successful, we recognize them. That person is going to be here for two or three years, and then they’re going to move on to Frisco. But we give them that opportunity to show what they can do.”
Turner said he has a good friend whose daughter is graduating “from one of the fine schools in Virginia.”
She is working for a congressman, he said, and she’s a little too young. We need someone a little more seasoned than that, but it probably wouldn’t have to be much more seasoned than that. Somebody who can kick the tires, find out what’s going on in the Department of Agriculture, in the Department of Defense, with the Highway Department — you pick the agency. And while they’re kicking it around, looking for these things, you know, it doesn’t preclude them from running onto something in the private sector that we can afford.”
He concluded: “Again, we’re not going to be able, with all that we’re already committed to, to offer cash incentives of any significance to bring industry any time in the forseeable future, as I see it. But with all these political contacts, that if we found something that fits here, I would think we would have a better than average chance of getting that, whatever it is.”
At one point, Clifford asked Stephen Grubbs, chief executive officer of the Paris Regional Medical Center — sworn in by City Clerk Janice Ellis at the start of the meeting as the fifth member of the PEDC board — his feelings about Turner’s plan.
Grubbs hesitated, then said, “Well, as you know, I’m fairly new to the board.”
That drew some laughter because Clifford has been on the board only since May, and Harris and Vicki Ballard have been on the board only four months.
“Just so you know, that’s how it is around here,” Ballard said to laughter.
Grubbs said he noted that the PEDC no longer has a grant writer.
“This needs to be explored a little more,” he said.
Grubbs asked for some input from Gilbert about a position like the one Turner envisions.
“I don’t want to beat a dead horse, and I have kind of gotten my head around moving past that, but you have to look at what your assets are. you have to look at what differentiates your community from the competition,” Gilbert said.
He said that cultivating state and federal governmental relationships require a lot of time and money, and under the purview of past boards “we made a lot of trips and met with a lot of interesting people.”
Gilbert added: “The last thing I’ll say is I think as we approach projects related to the federal government, I’m real sensitive about primary jobs. We’ve got to make sure that whatever we do, the result of that is primary jobs.”
Carr reiterated that he thinks Turner’s proposal is worth pursuing but pointed out:
“We’ve got a program of work that we pretty well agreed to in our planning session. I think we’re going to adopt that, and we can’t be lopping more stuff on top of if if we’re going to accomplish anything. At this point, however, we have nothing binding us going forward. We can begin data mining and do the research and what not to determine what’s at stake and how much it would cost.”
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra