Welcome... To Historic Downtown Bryan

Downtowns across the nation went through a period of abandonment in the 1980s and 1990s, for the most part, as businesses and people fled to other areas. A movement has been ongoing for more than a decade now as community leaders work to revive what some call their heartbeat.

  • Words by John Ingle, Photos by Torin Halsey
Historic downtown Bryan went through a transition period in the 1980s when the area became dilapidated, streets unkempt and several buildings were in a state of disrepair.
The once busiest stop between Dallas and Houston became avoided if possible, but that changed in 2005 when residents of the town in the Brazos Valley decided to clean it up and bring the old buildings back to life.

A variety of businesses have chosen the charm and foot traffic of downtown Bryan to set up shop such as The Chocolate Gallery, Burr's Unfinished Furniture and Bird's Nest Gifts & Antiques, all locally owned and operated.

Ciana Neubauer (right) and her husband Joshua, both classically trained chefs, opened The Chocolate Gallery in October 2012. Ciana grew up in Bryan and has seen the once less-desirable area become one that has very few vacant buildings, one that has daily foot traffic and one that is growing.

After moving back to Bryan following graduation from the Culinary Institute of America, the Neubauer's wanted to open a small shop to showcase Ciana's pastries and Joshua's chocolate.

What they found, instead, was 7,500 square-feet space they occupy at 211 N. Main St. built in 1898. The building has enough room for an executive kitchen where visitors can see Ciana and Joshua at work, a retail section for utensils and more and a small classroom where Ciana teaches baking classes.

"Being downtown, having such a large space is unique here ... People walk in and are like, "Wow!" It's nice when they have stretching room in the downtown area." - Ciana Neubauer

Cindy Roberts owns Burr's Unfinished Furniture, a store opened by her parents, Rollie and Kay Burr in the 1980s. The furniture store still sits in its original location at 314 N. Main Street, serving as one of few stores that stayed downtown even when other businesses started leaving.

"I had a vision that (downtown) would come back, and it did ... It's amazing what you can do in downtown. It's all walking distance and very friendly." - Cindy Roberts

Robin Kenney, the owner of Bird's Nest Gifts & Antiques, remembers a downtown Bryan in the 1970s where people came for the finest clothing and other goods.

That experience led to Kenney and her family deciding to move her business to a 130-year-building in downtown to house her antiques and help draw up a buzz for each weekend event happening in the area.

"This revitalization of downtown has really been exciting because it's bringing stores back to the downtown. I think people are ready for this, where they like to come downtown (and) park right in front of the store. They like to browse. They like to visit the little bit different type of shops that can open up down here." - Robin Kenney

Some of the best features of downtown Bryan are the unique facades of its buildings, whether its lighted by the daytime sun, or neon lights at night.

Sandy Farris, executive director of the Downtown Bryan Association, said a partnership with city leaders like Councilman Al Saenz (pictured here) has made the revitalization of the heart of the city successful with public improvement projects such as streetscaping.
"I feel like we're still on the cusp of something even bigger ... It's come such a long way in the last 10 years ... I think we'll see even greater things in the future." - Sandy Farris, executive director of Downtown Bryan Association
"We're very pleased to be a part of something that's very positive. This town has had a really wonderful African-American history associated with the development of the area." - Wayne Sadberry, Brazos Valley African-American Museum curator
"It's like a family down here. You can walk and go to lunch, or stay late and have friends come in to go to dinner. It's more the way it used to be before malls kicked in ..." - Sharon Barnes, downtown Bryan business owner

Thank you for visiting Bryan! Come back and see us soon.

Created By
Orlando Flores Jr.
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Credits:

Torin Halsey

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