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Bret Holbert and his wife, Sherrie, are back in the food business as proprietors of “107″ — an open air beer and wine garden at 107 Grand Ave., just off the southwest corner of the Plaza in historic downtown Paris.
The Holberts, who for 12 years owned and operated 24th Street Cafe, took a historic building whose roof had collapsed and was slated for demolition — and turned it into something unique for Paris.
They left it without a roof — on purpose — and made it into something like Paris had never seen before, something akin to the family-atmosphere, open air beer gardens of Central and Southwest Texas.
“What a great thing to do, to salvage some of Paris’ early history and turn it into something real cool and progressive,” said Ray Trotter, who owns a gallery on the Plaza and was one of the establishment’s first customers at last week’s opening.
“I used to get my hair cut here for free in this building. It was a beauty college,” said Trotter, who was born and raised in Paris and recently returned to the city after being gone for more than 40 years. “They took something beautiful and made it more beautiful.”
Joining Trotter at a table at the grand opening were Koa Hawn and Julia Trigg Crawford.
“It’s beautiful. Somebody just told me today it was Opening Day, and I didn’t know what to expect. I’m blown away. It’s great,” said Hawn, a native of Hawaii who moved to Paris a year ago.
“I’ve been waiting for it to open for months, so I’m tickled to see the doors open,” said Crawford, who like Trotter was born and raised in Paris.
“This is my first glass of wine here. it’s great. I love the concept. When I first saw it months ago, it was raining, and I looked in and saw how this could work even in inclement weather, so it will be fun — rain or shine,” Crawford said.
Hours are from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., “or later, as needed,” on Friday and Saturday.
“Plus, we just decided to open for lunch on Saturday,” Bret said Friday. It’s a no-smoking establishment, in keeping with the new smoking ban that just went into effect city-wide for public places.
The official opening on April 11 came two days after an informal run-through two days earlier — a “soft opening” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night “so we can get our system down.”
It was anything but soft, Bret said.
“We had a huge turnout. We were slammed. We turned out a ridiculous amount of food,” he added. “But that’s OK. That’s why you have nights like that. You work out your kinks. You find out what works good and what doesn’t, and you start to formulate a system. People are coming in for the food in addition to the wide selection of beers and wines that we have.”
Capacity is 99 people. There’s seating for 80.
In a question-and-answer interview with eParisExtra, the Holberts talked about how “107″ came about.
Question: “What gave you the idea for this?”
Bret: “I’ve been looking for something to do after I retire from the fire department in November after 30 years, so Sherrie and I began to brainstorm. We knew we wanted to do something in food, but something different from 24th Street. Last summer, we took a swing down through south and central Texas — San Antonio, Comfort, Fredericksburg, places like that — and there are these little beer gardens on every corner in that part of the state. People come in, and it’s a real family atmosphere. We stopped in San Antonio, and there was this place on probably a half acre of land, a building where the bar was. It had a playground where kids could play, and families came in the afternoon and sat down under the big oak trees and relaxed and had something to eat and had something to drink if they desired. As we traveled, we kept seeing these and thought, you know, this would be a good idea. So we began to consider that.”
Q: “How did you decide on this building, which just a couple of years ago the city was putting barricades in front of to mark as unsafe?”
Bret: “We knew we wanted to do something downtown, but there wasn’t really an open spot like you would think of a garden, and so we weren’t sure if we would be able to. Well, Sherrie saw this building one day, and she said, you know, we could probably get that building for a good price, and we could gut it and put a beer garden in there. And so we began to ask around as to owned it, found out and approached that person. He said, sure, I’ll sell it. and so he did. The rest is as you see it now. It came from a building whose roof had collapsed onto the second floor — that was rotting away, and there were discussions about demolishing it — to this. Everybody seems to be excited about it. because it’s so different than anything else. That’s the word that we keep hearing — different. And we think that’s a good thing.”
Q: “So you came up with the open air idea rather than putting a new roof on it?”
Bret: “Right. We knew we wanted open air, something that was at least similar to the open air beer gardens that we had seen down in San Antonio and Austin and Fredericksburg and places like that. We knew that we didn’t want to move inside and just have a place where you can have a beer and a burger. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. We had a great living doing that for 12 years, and that’s great, but we wanted to do basically something that Paris had never seen — not in my lifetime anyway. So we came up with this concept. We understand there are going to be days where the weather is too bad to open, and we’re OK with that.”
Q: “It’s open air, but at the same time, you have umbrellas over some tables, and other parts are covered by a partial roof. So you can still stay open for business, even when it’s raining?”
Sherrie: “We preserved what the building was. We wanted everybody to see how cool a building it was. We wanted it to feel you were in a different city, like Austin or San Antonio or Fort Worth or Fredericksburg, sitting in open air. Basically, when it rains, we’ll have a day off. If it’s just a light rain, a light summer rain, it’s not a problem at all, you’ll stay completely dry. we have areas free to sit under that are dry, and three of our tables have umbrellas. The kitchen and the serving area is completely enclosed, as are the bathrooms.”
Q: “So, are you looking forward to this?”
Sherrie: “I am. I’m anxious and excited and a little nervous. We’re out of our realm here, but we’ll do it. Our soft opening went really well. It was just friends and family, people who would tell us the truth about what we needed to change. We fixed a few things. We are starting out with five employees. We are a little over-hired for the first couple of weeks until we can see. I don’t want to be short-handed. We aren’t opening until 4 in the afternoon. I’ll probably be coming in at 5, but I have hired a manager, Mindy Wilson, who will be here at 4. She’s got a lot of experience, so we’re well covered. We have two cooks who cooked for us for years and years at 24th Street — Bret’s old team back together and we’re comfortable with them.”
Q: “What are you hearing from your customers?”
Sherrie: “They love the feel. They haven’t experienced anything like this in Paris, and that was our goal. They also like that we’re preparing different products that they’ve not seen. We’ll try to do something different than everyone else is doing. It’s a casual, laid-back place. We don’t want it be a bar. The beer companies and wine companies said they would give us neon signs and all that, but we’re not going to do any of that. We want it to be more of a place where you can spend time with friends and relax. We want to have good food, but not turn into a bar-type thing.”
Bret: “The only thing alcoholic we sell is wine and beer. We don’t sell any spirits at all. I talked to some of the people who owned beer gardens that I talked about earlier. Some of them had been in the business of a full-on bar business before and chose to get out of it because they just preferred a different atmosphere. A guy in San Antonio said he had a bar for quite a few years on Sixth Street in Austin, and he said there were things going on there all of the time. I don’t want to give bars a bad name, but it’s just a different crowd and we just decided we weren’t going to sell spirits. We have a selection of beers all the way from light beers to dark beers, and then we have wine from inexpensive wines all the way up to better higher-dollar wines.”
Q: “What are the ‘different’ food offerings you are offering?”
Bret: “We have a selection of three tacos — pulled pork, brisket tacos, and fish tacos. We have quesadillas, garlic fries, cheese tray with fries, a selection of cheeses, and a selection of fresh fruits.
We have various sauces that we’ll drizzle on the slate that if they care to they can drag their cheese through or their sausage or something like that.
“We have pulled pork sliders – traditional southern pulled pork sandwiches with pulled pork barbecue sauce and cole slaw. We have brisket sliders with sauteed onions and horse radish, and we have our flatbreads, which were really popular on our soft opening. We have beef fajita, which is similar to the ingredients for our regular fajita — beef fajita meat with grilled onions and bell peppers and avocadoes. And we have what has really been popular — grilled chopped sirloin, not hamburger meat, but thinly sliced sirloin with roasted red peppers, cucumbers, artichoke hearts and a greek yogurt-based sauce. And then there’s our fish and chips, which have turned out to be the “dark horse.” They were crazy popular at our soft opening. We serve three nice filets of fish with a nice generous helping of french fries. We make our own jalapena tartar sauce in house.
“Our nachos also are real popular. We have regular nachos with cheese and peppers, and then we have pulled pork and brisket and chicken. Our wings — we have three different wing sauces.
“We have a traditional, what you would call a buffalo sauce; a sweet chili pepper sauce; and a pepper sauce called Chef Perry sauce, a gift from chef Michael Perry at Bois d’Arc.
“And then one of our things we’re really excited about — a black and bluebell float. It’s Blue Bell vanilla ice cream, and then over that we pour Shiner Bohemian black beer. If you’ve never had it, it sounds kind of strange, but if you ever taste it, you’ll love it and you’ll have it again. It’s really, really good.
“On our kids’ menu, we have chicken strips, grilled cheese sandwiches, things like that.”
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra
It’s that time of year once again! Step away from your calendar, you didn’t forget a holiday (though, just in case you did, Easter is on Sunday!). Rather, it’s time to get up, get dressed and help make Lamar County a little more beautiful. How, you may ask? This Saturday, April 19th, “Keep Paris Beautiful-Make Lamar County Shine” will once again sponsor its annual Spring Trash-Off. Everyone is invited to participate.
The event (held in the spring and fall) has been a part of Lamar County for over a decade, but many may still not be aware of its existence or even its purpose. To explain, let’s briefly go back a few years, to 1985. Seeking to combat littering on Texas roadways, the Texas Department of Transportation launched a statewide anti-litter campaign known as “Don’t mess with Texas.” This slogan has become well-known in Texas throughout the years, appearing on bumper stickers, highway signs, and even in celebrity-endorsed television ads. Since its inception, the campaign has helped to significantly reduce the amount of litter and debris on Texas roadways.
Each year, as part of this campaign, TxDOT hosts the “Don’t mess with Texas Trash-Off.” Anyone and everyone who is willing and able can participate in this program. The official date for this spring’s event was April 4th, but the dates vary across the state, depending on the individual communities.
Jimmy Don Nicholson is the Community Service Coordinator for the Adult Probation Office. According to him, each year, the office receives a letter signed by all four Lamar County judiciaries. This letter requests that all probationers ordered to perform community supervision restitution be required to report to the Trash-Off. As an incentive, they are offered double community service hours’ credit- “two for one,” Nicholson said.
Court-ordered community service workers will sign in at 7 a.m. and will work either until noon or until all of the assignments are completed in a satisfactory manner. Everyone involved will leave with a feeling of accomplishment.
“It has been my experience that probationers leave feeling that they had made a difference in the appearance of our roadsides and community trails,” Nicholson said. “This is a service that we are glad to provide for the entire county.”
“However, even though the majority of those cleaning up the roads and streets will be probationers, everyone can play their part in this cleanup event. Volunteers are still needed and very much appreciated!
“Everyone is invited to come and participate. Some civic volunteers may want to carry a group of probationers out to a roadside cleanup site and this assistance is welcomed,” Nicholson said. “Roadside cleanup locations are not limited to those being offered by [‘Keep Paris Beautiful-Make Lamar County Shine’].”
Those wishing to participate and volunteer their assistance can’t expect to sleep in. Volunteers can arrive and sign in at 7:30 a.m. at the KPB/MLCS table, in the Home Depot parking lot. Here, they will receive assignment folders and trash bags. They may be picking up trash, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun doing it.
“Persons should pick a trashy roadside and come to [a] gathering point and team up with a group and go have fun cleaning it up!” Nicholson said.
Naturally, safety is a top priority to everyone involved, so safety meetings for both probationers and crew members will occur prior to departure.
“Everyone is urged to bring and wear gloves and to wear long legged pants and closed-toed shoes,” Nicholson said. “Be prepared for inclement weather and follow safety instructions.”
From 8 a.m. until noon, the collected trash can be brought back to the Home Depot parking lot for disposal. Here, soft drinks, hot dogs and water will also be available to the volunteers.
“…As the volunteers come back from cleaning up their assigned roadside they can stop by the refreshment stand,” Nicholson said.
According to Nicholson, there will also be an electronic recycling event for those who wish to discard used or unwanted electronic devices that cannot be collected during the Trash-Off. This event, known as “E-Cycle,” will take place from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds.
Although there has been a slight decline in civic leadership since previous years, Nicholson does not anticipate an end in the near future.
“The civil leaders from our county know the importance of trash abatement. We will be there to help out with the event regardless,” he said. “It would really help out if more civic minded citizens would come out to help with the event. I think it’s a matter of getting the word out to the public about the event.”
So, whether you wish to help clean up the streets with the Spring Trash-Off or simply recycle your old computer or monitor, any assistance, no matter the capacity, is invaluable.
“’Keep Paris Beautiful-Make Lamar County Shine’ encourages all citizens of the county to get involved in a beautification project on the 19th and help make a difference where they live,” Nicholson said.
Keeping Paris beautiful: a reward in itself.
According to Nicholson, the timeline for the Trash-Off will be as follows:
7 a.m. – Court-ordered community service worker sign-in
7:30 a.m. – Safety meeting for probationers
7:45 a.m. – Safety meeting for crew leaders
8 a.m. – Assignment folders and trash bags are handed out to volunteers
8 a.m. to noon- Bagged and loose debris are brought back to the Home Depot and put into the collection container
Noon – Court-ordered community service workers can sign out after gaining permission to do so.
For more information about anything listed in this article, contact Jimmy Don Nicholson at 903.517.2394, Edwin Pickle at 903.785.6320 or the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce.
For more information about E-Cycle, contact Robert Talley at Paris Code Enforcement at 903.784.9219.
For more information about “Don’t mess with Texas” and its efforts statewide, visit www.dontmesswithtexas.org/.
By Courtney McNeal, eParisExtra
With a Louisiana company already three months overdue on a water line replacement project, the Paris City Council has decided to make the company wait another two weeks before getting the last of its money.
“There are several issues, and one of them is the poor quality of work by the contractor, and also the fact that they are late,” city manager John Godwin told the council Monday night.
City attorney Kent McIlyer said the city has no choice but to pay the money, which is for materials and work that was not originally called for but proved necessary as work proceeded.
“We’ve got their money, we know we owe it to them, and we’re going to have to give it to them eventually, but they were in no hurry to fix my town so I’m in no hurry to give ‘em my money,” he said.
The council agreed, voting unanimously to delay until the next meeting on April 28 to OK the $18,383.02 that McInnis Brothers Construction, Inc., of Minden, La., requested above and beyond its $1.8 million contract.
The company began the project last July and was due to finish in January. Work still continues, mostly because of a 20-inch cast iron water line that nobody has found a way to cut off.
But the council’s unhappiness with the project has more to do with the streets — especially on Church Street and East 3rd Street — that were nowhere as good after the work was done as when work started.
A local asphalt contractor was hired last week to re-do the street work.
“I’m not too sympathetic with giving them $18,000 — Because of the problems they’ve caused. Anybody who’s driven Church Street knows what I’m talking about,” District 3 councilman John Wright said.
“I feel pretty much the same way,” District 2 councilwoman Sue Lancaster said. “We’re still going to have to address how it looks and how to fix it, and that cost has to come from somewhere.”
Godwin said as the council proceeds on its $45 million bond issue to replace deteriorating water and sewer lines, it may need to revisit “how much of the bond money you want to use for roads and how much you want to use for actual utilities.”
Godwin reminded the council that last summer KSA Engineers — in recommending a $45 million program of work — submitted an estimate for $15 million to replace water and sewer lines and $30 million for new streets afterward.
In particular, Mayor AJ Hashmi objected at the time, saying residents were promised that $45 million would be spent on replacing old water and sewer lines. He said new streets were not necessary, and whatever was spent on them should come from other funds.
“So you’ll know what’s coming, when you take out a road, it costs a lot of money to put it back the way it was,” Godwin said.
“Now, I’m not going to say they’d look like this (on streets replaced by McInnis). This was horrible. This was unacceptable, and everybody knows that,” Godwin said.
Hashmi cut off discussion on how much money should be spent on roads, saying it was not on the agenda.
At a late penalty of $150 per day, McInnis Brothers Construction now would owe $12,600 in penalties as of Monday for its 84 days behind schedule.
McInnis asked that 57.5 of the late days be excused because of delays beyond the company’s control, such as the December ice storm.
“After reviewing the list, staff can only recommend 45 additional days be added to the contract,” city engineer Shawn Napier said.
That still leaves the company still 39 days late, which would cost the company about $6,000 in penalties. Any resulting late penalty will be deducted from the money due on the change order request, Napier said.
The major outstanding problem with the project is an old 20-inch cast iron pipe that neither the contractor nor city crews have figured out how to take out of service, Napier said.
The project is not part of the city’s infrastructure bond package. McInnis was awarded the Phase I work on water replacement work financed by a low-interest loan from the Texas Water Development Board Drinking Water State Revolving Fund in the amount of $3.4 million.
“The past few weeks have been spent trying to find a way to turn off valves or find the unmarked lines that are preventing this line from being taken out of service,” Napier said.
“We’ve gone back and even talked to 25- and 30-year employees in the water and sewer department — people working with the city back in the 70s — and they said they couldn’t kill that pipe in the 70s either,” he said.
Napier said he would like to end the contract with McInnis and use city staff to continue working on the mystery of what to do about the 20-inch water line that has proved so problematical.
“It may take us into the summer to get that done, but I don’t see a need for us to hold onto this contract,” Napier said.
McInnis was the low bidder in April 2013 on the replacement of water lines along East Third Street from Henderson Street to Sherman Street; along Church Street from Washington Street to Hearon Street: and on Deshong, Lewis and Stone streets west of Paris Regional Medical Center.
The company underbid Barney Bray Construction and Harrison Walker & Harper, both of Paris.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra
About a dozen Webelos Scouts — typically fifth-graders — gathered after dark at Camp Kiwanis on the banks of Pat Mayse Lake last weekend to observe the boys’ passage from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts.
The scouts came from six troops from the Paris-based NeTseO Trails Council — made up of scouting organizations throughout Northeast Texas and Southeast Oklahoma.
The “Bridging Ceremony” symbolizes a shift from mostly adult leadership in Cub Scouts to the imparting of leadership by the boys themselves in Boy Scouts.
Friday night’s half-hour ceremony was in darkness, lit only by a full moon peeking through the clouds and by torches carried by Scouts dressed as tribal Indian leaders.
Dozens of people — family and friends — sat in the sand on lawn chairs and applauded the young scouts making the transition.
At the end of the ceremony, the Cub Scout neckerchief was taken from each boy and replaced by the Boy Scout neckerchief.
Mike Taylor of Paris, scoutmaster of Troop 2, whose members conducted the ceremony, opened the ceremony with prayer and with remarks to explain what was to happen.
“We seek to instill virtuous characteristics in each of these young men by teaching them to live the Scout Oath and the Scout Law in their everyday lives,” he said.
Adult Scout leaders “walk through this experience with them, teaching them about hiking and camping and canoeing and all the things that go with it — mountain climbing, rock climbing, and so many other things I can’t even start to name them all,” he said.
“It’s a tremendous experience, and this is a new adventure they’re going into tonight.”
A principal purpose of Scouting is to guide young men “to become fit, not just physically but mentally, emotionally, socially and most of all spiritually,” Taylor said, “and to become “effective, working citizens” in their community, their nation, and their world.
Hopefully, one day some of the pre-teens transitioning from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts will achieve the ultimate Scouting goal of becoming Eagle Scouts, Taylor said.
That’s an accomplishment that marks the individual as a leader, he said.
“It represents an accomplishment that will take them through life and open unbelievable opportunities for them. I cannot tell you how many businessmen I talk to, when they do interviews and see Eagle Scout on the resume, that candidate goes to the very top of the list,” Taylor said.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra
The Big Sandy Creek Bridge over County Road 16590 will soon receive a new name. On the afternoon of Tuesday, April 15th, the bridge will be officially renamed and dedicated in honor of country music artist and Taylortown native, Duane Allen.
The ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. at the bridge, where a plaque detailing the location’s significance will be permanently placed and unveiled. The cast aluminum plaque is 20″ wide and 18″ tall, with a black leatherette background and will read as follows:
Award winning singer-songwriter-producer Duane Allen was born April 29, 1943, a few hundred yards from this bridge. Big Sandy Creek ran through the middle of the Allen family farm, where Duane picked cotton as a young boy. He learned to fish and swim in Big Sandy Creek. He rode over this bridge each day on his way to school.
It was in this area that Duane dreamed the dreams that began a long and acclaimed musical journey. He learned to sing in this community. He graduated from Cunningham High School, Paris Junior College, and Texas A & M at Commerce.
Duane joined The Oak Ridge Boys in 1966, and the group went on to break musical barriers, not only across formats, from gospel to country to pop, but across borders, touring and winning awards internationally.
Allen is currently the lead singer of the Oak Ridge Boys. Founded in the 1940s (originally named The Oak Ridge Quartet), it is one of the longest-running groups in country music history. The band has lost and gained members, but it has held its current lineup for over 40 years. William Lee Golden, Duane Allen, Richard Sterban and Joe Bonsall have been together since the latter joined the group in 1973. Allen himself has been with the band since 1966, the same year he graduated from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University) in Commerce.
Ronnie Nutt, Preneed Counselor for Fry-Gibbs Funeral Home and retired Regional Director of The Texas Department of Human Resources, is a longtime friend of Allen’s, and it was he who brought the bridge dedication idea forward to Lamar County’s Commissioners Court. Since then, he said, Commissioner Lawrence Malone and County Judge M.C. “Chuck” Superville have worked hard to make his idea a reality.
“[I] just thought it was the right time to find a permanent way to memorialize his success in the music industry,” Nutt said. “…He still is introduced as Duane Allen from Taylortown, Texas and [he] always treasured the life and music values learned and taught by his family and friends of this area.”
The band has certainly had its share of well-deserved success over the years, including several ACM and American Music awards, and a Grammy award; it also had the honor of being inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2011
“[Allen] is being inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame this summer and has already been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame,” Nutt said. “We anticipate [the group's] introduction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in a year or so…”
Still, despite all the success Allen and the band have had over the years, he remains the picture of humility. Nutt shared quotes from direct conversations he had with Allen himself concerning the bridge dedication. These correspondences prove that, no matter if you move away or how far you may travel, you never truly forget your roots.
“Ronnie, thank you so much for this huge honor. There is a wonderful feeling about a small-town boy being honored with a small bridge being named for me,” Allen said. “That just humbles me to the core. My family had its heart and soul in that community, just as all of the people in that area.”
Allen always retains his modesty, even when speaking with a close friend, as evidenced in another conversation between Nutt and himself:
“…I don’t really seek applause or honors. However, when it is done the way you have done it, I have done it, I have to tell you that it humbles this old country boy’s heart and soul.”
Commissioner Malone and Judge Superville, along with other county commissioners will be present for the dedication ceremony. Of course, what kind of dedication would it be without the man of the hour?
“He is bringing his entire ten-person family of kids, grand-kids, and son-in-law from Tennessee for this,” Nutt said. “Yes, Duane will be there in his Oak Ridge Boys tour bus.”
Before the official bridge dedication, the day will begin at 11 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial, where Allen and family will take a private tour.
“I have been sharing with him the progress on the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial since it started,” Nutt said. “…He and his family want to tour it and honor their relatives who served by making a contribution and encouraging others to continue to support this project.”
From 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., the Allen family will present a bench and markers for the memorial, and will then be available to the media for questions and conversations.
Directions to the bridge from US Hwy 82 coming into Paris: take a left on Loop 286 South as you go under Loop 286 turning on access road to the left of Burger King. Proceed on Loop 286 South for approx. 2 mile or so turning left onto Farm Road 905 as you pass a big green roof Covenant Christian Church on your right. Stay on 905 until you come to stop sign then take a left on FM 905 and travel approx. 14 miles on FM 905 until you come to County Road 16590 (green sign) take a right and the Duane Allen Memorial Bridge Dedication is at Sandy Creek about 1/2 to 3/4 miles after you take the right turn off FM 905.
For more information about the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial Public Event, contact George Wood at 903.905.2711.
For more information about the Duane Allen Memorial Bridge and Road dedication, contact Commissioner Lawrence Malone at 903.782.6557.
For more information about the Oak Ridge Boys or Duane Allen, visit the band’s website at http://www.oakridgeboys.com/.
By Courtney McNeal, eParisExtra