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Downtown Drive-Inn celebrates five decades in the business

WICHITA FALLS – Pat’s Drive-Inn celebrated 50 years this weekend, a milestone anniversary for a popular Wichita Falls restaurant.

Birthday cake, golden balloons and guests filled the popular burger restaurant.

But no rest for staff and Pat Wogram, Drive-Inn owner, said herself as they were serving food from open to close Saturday, May 5.

Pat said she’s grateful for all the support she, her family and employees have received over the years, and though she said it’s been a lot of hard work., she also said she knows why people love the burgers and keep coming back.

“You can’t rush the cook,” Pat said. “The burgers have to be toasted. We do not use a bun warmer. They are put on the grill. Most people went to a bun warmers, but we don’t do that.”

Pat said her three daughters have been helping ever since they were little and continue to do so.  Pat said she only works when she’s asked to do so.

But she adds: “I’m not ready to quit, and I’m still healthy.”

Pat’s Drive-Inn is located at 400 Scott Ave, Wichita Falls, TX 76301. They are opened from 10:30 a.m. — 7 p.m.

Dexter Learning in downtown Wichita Falls aims to make tech skills fun, affordable

Imagine a place where kids think learning is fun, where students as young as eight are programming computers and creating designs on 3D printers.

At Dexter Learning, this world is a reality – right here in downtown Wichita Falls.

Michael Olaya, founder of Dexter said after some trial and error, he found his passion in making technical education relevant, engaging and affordable to kids and adults.

Olaya was born and raised in Wichita Falls after his South American parents moved here for his father’s work.

He said after graduating from Wichita Falls High School, he – like most kids around here – only wanted to “get the heck out” of the city.

Olaya went to the University of North Texas, majoring in Philosophy. He left UNT after two and a half years and moved to Austin to form a start-up called Capital Factory.

The space was an epicenter of entrepreneurship, he said.

People gathered in the area to share ideas, learn from each other and dream big.

Several new businesses were formed – some failed, some succeeded.

One entrepreneur that began at Capital, Olaya said, began a business alone and within a short time had 40 employees.

Things move so quickly these days that it is possible that the next largest employer in Wichita Falls, he said, has not even started their business yet.

The venture Olaya started there ultimately did not work out.

After working for a summer in San Francisco teaching 3D printing to young students, he discovered what a difference it made to the learning process to have an instructor with experience in a skill.

“Kids are always asking why am I learning this?” Olaya said.

Learning a skill, like programming or 3D printing, students get a chance to see how the knowledge is directly related to a future career.

When he moved back to Wichita Falls, Olaya earned degrees from Midwestern State University in Physics and Mechanical Engineering .

He held several workshops around town including some at MSU.

Olaya spent a month in China teaching students their technical skills.

“If we want to improve things, the way we are teaching (in most public schools) is not working,” he said.

Project-based learning is an approach, like how they teach at Dexter, that is beginning to catch on in many school districts.

Students apply their knowledge to completing a project, usually in small groups.

Schools focused on skills, like the WFISD’s new Career Education Center, he said are a glimpse of the future.

Someday, he thinks, students will graduate with a portfolio of work and a list of acquired skills, rather than a degree

During a Hack-a-thon at Dexter offices in Big Blue April 28-29, about 30 college students will be working night and day on group projects such as applications, robots and websites.

During the creative process, the students will have access to all of Dexter’s equipment such as 3D printers, micro-controllers, Oculus Rift headsets and Amazon Echoes

 At the end of the weekend, the projects will be judged and prizes awarded.

Olaya calls the whole learning turnaround “abnormally normal.”

It is normal for people to want to learn a practical skill, to work on something and see results.

In an increasingly digital world where you can work from just about anywhere, people do not have to congregate to big cities for the jobs anymore, he said.

People can choose to move to places like Wichita Falls – just like Dexter’s newest recruit Bryant Vergara, a software engineer moving here from Michigan.

Olaya said when Vergara visited Wichita Falls, he showing him some of the best parts of the city – the Circle Trail, Lake Wichita, downtown coffee shops, breweries and restaurants.

He reports Vergara was most impressed by the community-feel of the downtown area and how friendly everyone seemed.

When he lived in Wichita Falls growing up, Olaya said he never felt like it was a cohesive community.

“In downtown, there is a bias toward interpersonal communication,” he said.

It’s that community building, he said, that reminded him of Denton and Austin.

Olaya said in the city, there are few free, public places where people are encouraged to congregate.

He aims to create more of these spaces, at Dexter’s offices and the Park Central across from Big Blue, which Dexter will soon outfit with free WiFi.

“Wichita Falls could become one of those communities. We could have a cool culture, safe area, downtown, new companies, the weather is good, taxes are low. It is a pretty compelling case,” he said.

Dexter offers a series of classes for kids and adults in technical skills

Courses are between $125 and $295.

Classes for children/teenagers include:

Introduction to computer programming

  • 3D printing and design thinking
  • Minecraft adventure
  • Drone programming
  • Adult courses include:
  • Python programming
  • 3D printing and product design

The maker space at Dexter will allow workers and employers to connect and be an area for co-learning and creativity.

Dexter also offers a complete system of educator training and curriculum for teachers to become expert practitioners of technical tools. The teachers then bring the skills back to the classroom using Dexter’s student-tested curriculum (which meet TEKS requirements).

For more information or to sign up for classes, visit Dexter Learning’s website at   or call 940-257-5254. Their offices are located at 719 Scott Avenue.

Claire Kowalick, Times Record NewsPublished 11:10 p.m. CT April 29, 2018

Downtown After Hours Artwalk springs into action in Wichita Falls

Richard Carter, For the Times Record News Published 10:20 a.m. CT May 1, 2018

AHA! The After Hours Artwalk in beautiful downtown Wichita Falls is in full spring this Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. and will continue the first Thursday of each month through October.

The artwalk commences at 6 p.m. Thursday May 3 with artists, musicians and nine downtown coffee shops, bars and restaurants; 13 shops and services businesses; and 12 galleries and museums.

“You can really start anywhere,” said Becky Raeke, owner of 9th Street Studios and member of Downtown Wichita Falls Development Inc. “There is no central start spot, but a lot of people begin their trek at the Downtown Farmer’s Market because of the spotlight event there from 6 to 6:30 p.m.”

In March, the spotlight event featured the Wichita Falls Community Orchestra. This Thursday there will be gymnasts performing in the Market. Directly west of the Market are galleries including The Lily Pad and Wichita Falls Art Association Gallery, and Seventh St. Studio is just a block away on Ohio St.

A trolley regularly checks in at the Farmer’s Market and takes people all over downtown including the Kell House and the Kemp Center for the Arts. The Kemp Center does a Sculpture Garden After Dark event from 7 to 9 p.m. that includes live music.

Area band City Creeps will play at 9thStreet StudiosBuy Photo
Area band City Creeps will play at 9thStreet Studios at 6 p.m. Thursday as part of the After Hours Artwalk that runs downtown until 9 p.m. (Photo: Richard Carter/For the Times Record News)

In addition to the art featured in the downtown galleries and museums, Raeke said there were 51 artists who set up art in April. “Most are from the area but some came in from Lawton.

“We use the Farmer’s Market for artisans and artists who want to set up tables. People also set up their art wares on the streets. Ohio Street between 7th and 9th is a popular location.

“We encourage artists to link up with the business they want to set up in front, so it’s not just a one night deal. We hope it becomes a regular thing.”

Raeke got involved with the downtown art walk in 2017, after she opened 9th Street Studios alongside her insurance business in October 2016. She worked with Downtown Development to get businesses to commit to participating on a regular basis and to also develop fun events within the artwalk.

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Downtown After Hours Artwalk a stroll among shops, artists, musicians
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Larry Roderick fires up scrap metal that he turned into 36-inch samurai swords at the After Hours Artwalk May 4. The next Artwalk is June 1. Head downtown, where art galleries, restaurants and other businesses are open late and the Downtown Farmers Market filled with artists. Times Record News file
Larry Roderick fires up scrap metal that he turned into 36-inch samurai swords at the After Hours Artwalk May 4. The next Artwalk is June 1. Head downtown, where art galleries, restaurants and other businesses are open late and the Downtown Farmers Market filled with artists. Times Record News file
Volunteers and business owners hand out maps, which show all the organizations that are involved.

The Artwalk should be really fun this Thursday, she said. Her studio will be open with artist Mark McDowell’s show, and will feature live music by City Creeps and the Wichita Falls Community Orchestra, under the patio.

Two new downtown businesses, Golden Bee Consignment and the next door Pecan Creek Artists Studio & Gallery (911 Indiana) will celebrate grand openings Thursday with live music, food and wine.

Although The Yard will do its grand Re-Opening on May 12, the food truck park will also be open Thursday night live music and artists. The 6th Street Winery will set up inside The Yard, she said.

The Artwalk have added two new regular events in 2017 to the Thursday night affair. From 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, a teaching artist and local artist will give kids a free lesson for the Young at Art program. This month is caricature/portraiture.

There is no age limit for Young at Art, and it’s free. The event changes location each month and will be in front of the Oil and Gas building in May.

The other new monthly happening is Alleyway Activations. “Last month it was by Park Central, and this month it’s the alley between Oil and Gas and the City National Building. We light up the alley and set up musicians and artists in the alleyway. It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

Raeke said she looks to the continued growth of the event. “It gives people the opportunity to come down and see what Wichita Falls can be.”

Wichita Falls downtown resurrection helping increase property values

Claire Kowalick, Times Record News Published 2:45 p.m. CT April 30, 2018

A resurrection of downtown Wichita Falls is not just visible on the streets – it is also visible in the numbers.

The Wichita County Appraisal District reports 19 properties in downtown have increasing in value by more than $2 million in the past year.

Chief Appraiser Lisa Stephens-Musick said when considering property values, they pull from a variety of information.

“Once the permits are pulled, we start following it,” she said.

The district notes when renovation began on structures, condition of the building and possible use of the property when complete.

Many spots in downtown are listed with the appraisal district as a “dead property.” This means the structure has not been occupied or remodeled in several years.

Dead properties tend to have very low value.

More: Wichita Falls Chamber on bond election: ‘We can be as great as we want to be’

Properties in some state of remodeling hold relatively little additional value until the renovation is complete.

For instance, the “Big Blue” building at 719 Scott Street is in a state of remodel.

While it has a couple tenants, the 12-story structure still needs some work before reaching its full value.

In this file photograph, Beau Dameron points out antique ceiling tiles that he and his partners will restore at their downtown retail store, 922 Indiana Ave. The partners said putting in the grocery store is their top priority to serve residents and downtown business employees alike. Times Record News file
Stephens-Musick said Big Blue’s current value is just $156,260.

Properties with the most value tend to be those that are occupied with an active business, office or residential use.

The five complete, or mostly complete, downtown projects added $1,443,969 in property value in just one year (2017 to 2018).

These properties include:

The Half Pint Taproom and Restoration Hall, 817 Ohio Ave. (plus a city-leased patio added $27,087 in lease-hold interest) – Increased in value by more than $460,000. The property was under renovation for more than five years and more than tripled in value once they opened their doors in 2017.

The Karat/Ganache Cakery, 800 Ohio Ave. – Increased in value by nearly $260,000 after the former Zale’s Jewelry building was turned into a fine-dining restaurant and bakery.

When Matt Bitsche brought the Wichita Falls Brewing Company to the former Hub building at Seventh and Indiana, its value went up close to $300,000.

The Warehouse, an entertainment rental venue owned by P2, The Deuce, at 1401 Lamar, added more than $400,000 in value in the past year. The spot is now the largest, privately owned event center in the city.

Hundreds of people eat and mingle during the 2017 Texoma’sBuy Photo
Hundreds of people eat and mingle during the 2017 Texoma’s Best Awards banquet Tuesday night at The Warehouse next door to the Times Record News as the area’s best businesses, people and organizations were recognized. (Photo: Patrick Johnston/Times Record News)

“Watching it (downtown revitalization) is exiting. From where it started, and now all the people that are interesting in doing things downtown,” Stephens-Musick said.

A point of interest – like an active downtown area – could be a draw for future businesses to come to Wichita Falls.

Stephens-Musick said Texas can be an excellent value for businesses or individuals coming from out of state because it does not have income tax.

Looking only at property taxes, it may seem like Wichita Falls’ taxes are high, but compared to states with income and other taxes, Texas is nearly rock bottom.

Per a study by the Tax Foundation looking at total tax burden, Texas ranks 46th for total tax burden.

Editorial: Say ‘yes’ to potential, possibilities in Wichita Falls, ‘yes’ to bond issues

Wichita Falls Deputy City Manager Jim Dockery said increased property values is great news for a municipality’s economy.

“It is one indicator that the economic engine is running well. Even though higher values can mean higher taxes, it more importantly means that the citizens’ and businesses’ properties are worth move as an investment,” he said Monday.

In the downtown area, Dockery said when appraised values increase, the additional tax goes into a Tax Increment Financing Fund (TIF).

“This means that the additional taxes can only be used in the downtown zone in the form of public and sometimes private improvements,” he said.

Downtown projects still under renovation vary in value, depending on what is completed, if some of the structure is open to business and other factors.

In this file photo, the Crescent Plaza Hotel at theBuy Photo
In this file photo, the Crescent Plaza Hotel at the corner of 8th and Scott Street, also known as the Petroleum Building is seen when it sold in 2016, after sitting vacant for years. The new owner, Will Kelty, was approved for up to $800,000 for a fire suppression system through the city’s 4B Board. (Photo: Times Record News file photo)

Of these 14 properties under construction, the one that made the most gains in property value this past year was Petroleum Building at 726 Scott.

Housing the Highlander Public House restaurant on the first floor, this building will soon have several floors of dormitory-style apartments. Owner Will Kelty is investing about $8 million in the housing project. The property value in 2017 was $170,910 and jumped to $451,223 in 2018.
Other downtown properties under construction include:

A building across from the Farmers Market owned by Tucker Resources – unknown renovation, possibly artistic studios.
City Center (two projects – first floor coffee shop/retail, additional floors will be apartments.) – more than doubled in value.
Brown Building, 901 Ninth – Renovation started for upscale apartments
1100 Lamar – Set to be affordable senior-living apartments in former Shriner building. Construction set to begin in 2018.
Hook & Ladder Coffee and Wine Co. – Firefighter-owned coffee roaster and wine tasting set to move into refurbished building at 616 Seventh.
822 Indiana, owner Ryan Hager Construction
922 Indiana, owner Legacy 922
914 Indiana, owner Vectra No. 3
814 Indiana – recently purchased by Proximity Solutions
614 Seventh – recently purchased by John Dickinson and Danny Ahern.
823 Travis – property has increased in value about $70,000 in past year.
Broken Tap bar, at 811 Indiana – remodeled in 2015. Value increased about $10,000 in the past year.
Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Henry Florsheim said downtown revitalization is a top priority for the city in both the strategic plan and new community-wide growth plan.

“If we ever expect to be a great city, we have to create an amazing historic district,” he said.

More: Early voting for Wichita Falls bond election begins

In the May 5 bond election, most of the propositions would have some effect on downtown, Florsheim said, with Props D and G having the most effect.

“A new downtown municipal center would revitalize an area that looks extremely run down and add 400 or more people to the downtown mix nearly every day of the year –people who currently aren’t walking to the downtown core to buy lunch or go shopping,” he said.

“Proposition G would rebuild our streets and sidewalks in a nine-block area while adding lighting, bike lanes and trees that don’t tear up the sidewalks – creating a welcoming, safe environment that would attract more locals and visitors, encourage more private investment downtown and give us an amazing environment which would help us attract people to move here. It’s what people want in a city today,” Florsheim said.

NEW AND EXCITING BUSINESS COMES TO DOWNTOWN

This week on the Voice of Wichita Falls, Henry Florsheim and myself are joined by Michael Olaya, CEO of Dexter Learning. Dexter Learning is a new tech company that is calling downtown Wichita Falls home.

The discussion centers around how we can create, attract and retain a workforce with the digital and technical skills we need right here in Wichita Falls.

Also joining us is Bryant Vergara, a software engineer who just joined the team at Dexter as the Chief Technology Officer and lead software developer. Bryant explains why what’s happening in Wichita Falls helped him decide this is the city for him.