Downtown Wichita Falls was once the heartbeat of the city. But that changed Feb. 25, 1984, when Zales, which opened its doors at Eighth & Ohio streets in 1924, closed to move business to Sikes Senter Mall.
Cynthia Laney, executive director of Downtown Wichita Falls Development, said when she arrived in the city in 2006, she heard people say they hadn't been downtown in 15-20 years because there wasn't anything to do.
"I had so many people say, 'Gosh, I haven't been downtown in 15, 20 years,' and that really struck a chord with me. I thought, 'OK, why?'" - Cynthia Laney
Now, through concentrated efforts from Downtown Wichita Falls Development, the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce and Industry and local business owners and entrepreneurs, people can't use that excuse, as there are restaurants, antique shops, food trucks and other events to draw suburban dwellers and out-of-towners.
The corner of Eighth and Ohio streets has become a center of activity for several events in the downtown area, including the Krispy Kreme Pop-up Experience that Wichita Falls was awarded after convincing the company to let Wichita Falls celebrate its birthday here. The location includes the Downtown Farmers Market, The Holt apartment complex, the Zales Building, the Wichita Falls Railroad Museum and the Magnolia Building, among others.
The 8th Street Coffee House is an example of successfully repurposing a downtown space. Formerly the lobby of an office building, the space is now a popular sandwich and coffee shop that also exhibits the work of local artists.
Several businesses have moved to downtown Wichita Falls in recent years to take advantage of lower lease rates, greater square footage value and to be part of the revitalization.
Antique shops along the stretch of Indiana Street bring a few of their vintage wares out onto the sidewalk to catch the attention of people passing by.
A stretch of Indiana Street has become a haven for antiques, vintage collectibles and quirky reuse.
The Wichita Falls Art Association Gallery occupies a section of the first floor of The Holt apartment complex, and features work by local artists working in paint, photography, sculpture and jewelry making.
Mike Wilson (left) and Dick Wilson own Wilson's Office Supply, a business that has operated in downtown Wichita Falls for more than 70 years. Their father, Don Wilson, started the business in 1943, and built the current location at Eighth and Lamar streets in 1958.
"I see this now as maybe being just as positive as it was back then with all the retail, and a few years ago I didn't really think that. The last few years, I've gotten a lot more positive vibe." - Dick Wilson
Terry McKee (left) and Mike Wilson look over office supply orders at Wilson Office Supply.
The Yard, a new food truck park in downtown Wichita Falls behind Gidget's and near the Littlest Skyscraper opened in May. Patrons enjoy food from a variety of vendors with food trucks and trailers rotating through. A schedule of trucks at The Yard is posted on its Facebook page - The Yard, Wichita Falls Food Park.
Tara Henry munches down on a slice of Stone Oven Pizza at The Yard's grand opening in May.
The Yard food truck park also features a full bar with a variety of domestic and craft beers, soft drinks and spirits.
The Farmers Market at Eighth and Ohio streets is becoming a gathering place for people looking for fresh, area produce as well as other items from a variety of vendors.
"(Downtown's) beginning to come back. What we want is more of our citizens to come down and see what's really happening." - Cynthia Laney
Staff members of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce and Industry take a photo at the Krispy Kreme Pop-up Experience next to the Downtown Farmers Market.
The Holt began life in 1910 as the Kemp and Kell Building with the City National Bank occupying the ground floor and office spaces on the other floors.
In 1926, it was convertd to a hotel and two floors were added. The building closed fifty years later and sat derilict for almost thirty more years until a huge effort to raise $7 Million saved the grand structure from demolition. In August 2005, the renovated building reopened as a luxury apartment building, and today enjoys 100 percent occupancy.
In August 2005, the renovated building reopened as a luxury apartment building, and today enjoys 100 percent occupancy.
New lighting shows off the architectural details of The Holt.
The lobby of The Holt viewed from the second floor common area. The complex houses 41 apartment spaces.
A hallway in The Holt apartment building downtown retains the charm of yesteryear with the mosaic tile and period architecture.
The original mosaic tile was saved when The Holt was renovated and the building retains the charm and character from when it was built in 1910.
Residential living is key to the revival of a city's downtown area. Wichita Falls currently has more than 100 apartment units in the area, with plans for more in the works.
"Wichita Falls downtown living is is the best-kept secret." - Christy Graham, downtown property investor