Athens Review, Athens, Texas

September 21, 2012

New and expanded businesses are changing Athens’ look

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — Since I moved to Henderson County in 1995, Athens has been a city in a constant state of change.

Those of us who are here every day probably don’t notice much, but if someone was in a time warp, and returned to the city after a long absence, they would be amazed at some of the new businesses and buildings now in the city. I get the same feeling when I go to my hometown of Mesquite.

What once was a pasture is now a sea of concrete. The old swimming hole is now a shopping mall. The meadow, where we used to play with tickle bees and fireflies, now has a highway running through it.

Changes in Athens haven’t been that drastic, but a trip to Bruce Field, the county jail, Walmart and other places would testify to the march of progress.

And after a visit to the Athens City Council meeting, Wednesday, it’s evident that more changes are on the way.

On the west side of town, we’re going to get E.T. Crude, a business that manufactures bullets. No, not the shell casings or the gun powder, but that part inside that flies through the air, and sticks in whatever it’s aimed at. The head man says the bullets aren’t for Afghanistan or deer hunting, but to be used in shooting sports.

On Athens’ east side, a longstanding business is moving out to the loop. Ag-Power will make it’s new home on Loop 7,  There’ll be plenty of green John Deere tractors on display at the expanded dealership.

There are also plans to build a Pizza Hut on East Tyler Street near the Walmart store. It seems eating is still popular in town, as restaurants and rumors of restaurants are rampant.

Changes are coming on South Palestine Street where the old Crisis Center building, the old Dr. Ayers Medical Center,  and the Athens Car Audio House have given way for a Mooyah burger restaurant. Right now, there’s just a whole lot of dirt, but construction is not far way.

At a time when the national news is full of economic woes, and the county is reeling in expenses, it’s good to hear some positive news.

Hopefully, the next few years will see a booming economy for the city, and an abundance of jobs for anyone seeking employment.

Locals can remember when the opposite was true. When I was a kid, I remember seeing those beautiful Curtis Mathis television consoles, and hearing the commercials about the workmanship involved in manufacturing them. I knew they were cranking them out in Athens, and even passed the plant a couple of times when we were down here to visit relatives.

Eventually, Harvey Industries closed, and shut down one of the cities biggest industries.

The old plant became an eyesore, and was even designated as an environmental hazard. There’s something depressing about seeing big buildings that once were bustling  with activity now empty and decaying.

I remember how the old K-Mart store sat vacant for years until the owners spruced it up, in hopes that someone would move in. Sure enough, the Maximus call center came to town, and revitalized the area.

On the same end of town, Cade Building Supply has been out of business for years. I remember lumber there to build a deck, and was sad to see it go.

That’s where E.T. Crude is going to be located. The company plans to put its manufacturing plant there, and also clean out the wooded area behind the building that backs up to the East Texas Arboretum.

That’s good news, because the area has been used as a place to dump trash, and for  mischief makers to congregate and set fires. Sometimes those woods have been used to gain access to the Arboretum, and wreak havoc there.

In my view, the Wednesday council workshop was filled with positive news. It doesn’t mean we’ve seen the end of disappointments and bad times, but for now, I’m optimistic about what we’re going to see happening in the city over the next few months.

Rich Flowers is News Editor of the Athens Daily Review.