ETX View Jan/Feb 2022

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LO N GV I E W | T Y L E R | K I LG O R E


Longview Regional because I wanted to make more memories with the love of my life. – Lynn G. l Cardiac Ablation With a nationally recognized Heart and Vascular Institute, a certified Stroke and Chest Pain Center, and an innovative Vein Center, it’s easy to see why people choose Longview Regional. • 903-308-3566

January/February 2022 | 2 If you are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 and get to the nearest emergency room.

January/February 2022 |



Shining a spotlight on professionals

Christina Cavazos

Dear Readers, irst of all, Happy New Year! This year marks a beautiful, bright beginning in our wonderful East Texas community. We’re looking forward to seeing all of the growth and amazing things to come in the community in the coming year. As we embark on our second year of ETX View, we wanted to take a moment to shine a spotlight on professionals in the community. The individuals featured in these pages balance work, family life and community involvement as they do their part to play a role in the transformation and revitalization happening across the area. In our cover story, you’ll learn about three “power couples” who thrive individually and as a unit. Amid all the hustle and bustle of life, they make time for their professions, for their families and for their communities. We found their stories inspiring and we hope you will, too. In our ever popular Food feature, we’re carrying on the couples trend by introducing you to three husbands and wives who own restaurants together. These couples work together, have a home life together, raise families together and are making their mark on the community – together. We thought Valentine’s Day was a great time to shine a spotlight on Love and Food, and we hope you get some ideas for a Valentine’s Day date night from this feature. In our Community Leaders section, you’ll continue to read about people who inspire us. Felecia Herndon of Tyler and Kristen Ishihara of Longview are two









PRESIDENT Stephen McHaney PUBLISHER Justin Wilcox ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Alyssa Purselley-Hankins 903-596-6295 EDITOR Tim Thorsen ETX VIEW EDITOR Christina Cavazos 4

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leaders who have played key roles in transforming their respective communities through economic development, nonprofit development and by giving back. Meanwhile, in recognition of American Heart Month in February, we chose to spotlight four East Texas cardiologists in our Making a Difference feature. These cardiologists are doing their part to care for the hearts of East Texas. We hope you enjoy learning about them. Elsewhere in the magazine, we’ll take you on a travel trip to the Fort Worth Stockyards where the Old West is still alive. For fashion, we’ll give you some ideas for professional attire. In our Calendar and Culture section, you’ll read about up and coming artists and musicians and get a glimpse at upcoming events across the area. We look forward to starting our second year at ETX View as we continue to celebrate the best of East Texas life, arts and culture. Thank you for making our first year a success and we look forward to all the great things to come across our amazing community. Enjoy!

DESIGNER Ted Townsend WRITERS Christina Cavazos Jo Lee Ferguson Maleri McHam Courtney Stern Raquel Torres Zak Wellerman PHOTOGRAPHERS Michael Cavazos Les Hassell

C H R I S T I N A C AVA Z O S c c a v a z o s @ m ro b e r t s m e d i a . c o m

THE COVER Tyler residents Zoe and Tab Lawhorn enjoy being active in the community while also balancing work and life. They are featured as part of the Power Couples story in this edition. COVER PHOTOGRAPHY BY Les Hassell COVER DESIGN BY Ted Townsend © 2022, M. ROBERTS MEDIA 100 E. Ferguson, Suite 501, Tyler, TX 75702

Move Better Get fast, effective care for orthopedic issues with specialists and onsite imaging. Walk-ins welcome. Monday - Friday 8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M Get back out there sooner. Tell us about your pain or review the list below to start your conversation with an orthopedic provider. Call now to find out how we can help you move better. (903) 295-6678

Back and Neck Pain Joint Pain Sport Injuries Sprains and Strains Tendon and Ligament Damage Sports Physicals Shoulder Pain

925 W. Loop 281 Longview, TX 75604 (903) 295-6678 Photography may include models or actors and may not represent actual patients. Physicians provide clinical services as members of the medical staff at one of Baylor Scott & White Health’s subsidiary, community or affiliated medical centers and do not provide clinical services as employees or agents of those medical centers or Baylor Scott & White Health. ©2020 Baylor Scott & White Health. BSWTSJH_04_2021 ORM

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24 8 East Texas Power Couples


Three East Texas couples talk about work, life, community service and how they balance it all. Learn more about Jennifer and Trey Hattaway of Kilgore, Libby and Brent Bryson of Longview, and Zoe and Tab Lawhorn of Tyler.

24 Matters of the Heart

Across East Texas, local cardiologists are working to care for those with heart disease and educate the community about awareness.

37 A Marathon to Success

Felecia Herndon is helping Tyler grow through her role with the Tyler Economic Development Council.

40 A Legacy of Generosity

Kristen Ishihara is committed to leaving a positive mark and making a difference in the City of Longview.

46 The American West

Peters Autosports travel takes you on a journey to Cowtown in an exploration of the Fort Worth Stockyards. 6

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86 60 Sugar, Sugar!

A new beauty haus is offering salon services and more in downtown Longview.

66 Peters Fashion

Our models showcase professional attire that is lavish and luxe.

76 In Love and Food

Three East Texas couples share passion and love through restaurant industry.

86 My Peoples

Learn about Longview artist, Alex Mack, who has been creating “My Peoples” artwork since she was 2.

90 Inspire and Create

Learn about Henderson musician, Tevin Billz, who sees music as a canvas for creativity.

94 Calendar

A listing of events in East Texas in January and February.

Make sure your heart is in the right place.

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Chest Pain – MI Registry 21-1476

January/February 2022 |




January/February 2022 |

You know them when you see them.


heir relationship is perfect. Each person is thriving individually in their own respective profession, but they make time for each other and their family. They push each other to be the best possible version of themselves. They’re a power couple. What makes a power couple? It’s about two people who empower each other and who prioritize teamwork. Each person is strong individually but the couple thrives as a unit. They communicate, they don’t take each other for granted and they prioritize quality time. They seamlessly take turns and feel secure with each other, even during the most difficult of times. They respect each other at all times and share in all of the ups and downs of life. This is a look at a few couples in East Texas who thrive individually and together, who balance work, community and family time, and who give us major #RelationshipGoals. | CONT. ON PG. 10 STORIES BY C H R I S T I N A C AVA Z O S AND ZAK WELLERMAN PHOTOGRAPHY BY M I C H A E L C AVA Z O S AND LES HASSELL

Three East Texas couples who thrive individually & together January/February 2022 |


Structure & flexibility key for Kilgore couple

Jennifer and Trey Hattaway | CONT. FROM PG. 9


or two people who enjoy structure, Trey and Jennifer Hattaway also embrace the spontaneity of life and have found flexibility, a sense of humor and community support to have played a role in their lives. The parents of twins, Trey and Jennifer have found a supportive network in both their family and their community in the City of Kilgore over the years. “We are blessed to live in this community,” Trey said. “We’ve had people who have taken a great interest in our children and their wellbeing. They want them to be good people and, I think, to be proud of Kilgore as well. I think the people we have surrounded ourselves with are those kind of people. They love Kilgore, just as we do and I think it’s good for our kids to see that kind of passion from others. We are blessed to live where we live.” Trey grew up in Kilgore while Jennifer grew up nearby in Carthage. After graduating high school, Trey attended Texas Tech University for his undergraduate. He did a short stent in journalism in San Antonio before moving back to Lubbock, where he went to work for Texas Tech as a student recruiter. Jennifer, meanwhile, attended Panola College and then Texas A&M University at Commerce where she studied education. While at Texas A&M, she visited Texas Tech for a conference at which Trey was serving as the local arrangements chair. “He has a hidden talent that he knows all of the mascots in Texas,” Jennifer said with a laugh. When they first met, Trey asked Jennifer where she was from. She told him that he’d never know it. He asked her to give him a try. “She said, ‘I’m from Carthage,’” Trey recalled. “I said, ‘Home of the bulldogs.’ She said,


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‘You’ve heard of that?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I’m from Kilgore.’” So a Carthage Bulldog met a Kilgore Bulldog, but it wasn’t until five years later that their paths would cross again and they began dating. A year later, they married. At the time, they were living in Stephenville and Trey was working at Tarleton State University. When they married and decided they wanted to have children, they chose to move back to East Texas to be closer to their families. Trey took a job at Tyler Junior College and Jennifer went to work as a teacher in Pine Tree ISD in Longview. Kilgore was in between Tyler and Longview, so they decided to live there. “When we found out we were having twins, having grandparents close by became very handy,” Trey said. “We’re very fortunate,” Jennifer added. “My parents are only 45 minutes away, so that’s not too far but his parents live across the street from us. That’s been really nice.” When their children, Abby and Thomas, were infants, Jennifer and Trey found themselves naturally developing a routine. With the twins, each parent would naturally step up to take care of a particular child. Over time, they have continued to divide things up – whether that be running errands, household chores and the like. “We just divide things up. Now, we don’t even talk about. We just know our role and we do it,” Jennifer said. Over the years, jobs have changed. Jennifer transferred from Pine Tree to Kilgore schools after two years. In Kilgore, she taught social studies for a while. In 2012, she moved into counseling. Today, she serves as a counselor at Kilgore High School, where she primarily works with 11th- and 12th-grade students. “This time of year, with the seniors especially, | CONT. ON PG. 12

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Trey Hattaway

Jennifer Hattaway

it’s really exciting because they’re getting their (college) acceptance letters and they’re sending me messages,” she said. “They’re really excited and that’s fun to see their excitement every year. That’s definitely the thing that I love the most about it.” Trey, meanwhile, transferred from Tyler Junior College to Kilgore College after five years. He spent a total of 28 years working in higher education before he retired and decided to run for public office. Today, he serves as the Gregg County district clerk. Trey’s interest in public office began at a young age. He recalled his father’s cousin, who formerly served as the Harrison County district attorney, taking him on a tour of the courthouse when he was a child. “Every floor that he went to and showed me had a story,” Trey said. “So in the back of my mind, the courthouse was always an interesting place and a cool place.” Jennifer grew up with a father in public office. Her father, Danny Buck Davidson, has served as Panola County’s district attorney for decades. With a high-profile, public position, Jennifer was familiar with the spotlight such a role can put on a family. But, Trey explained, the district clerk’s office is much different than the district attorney’s office with the clerk being “more of a job than it is a political position.” “As time went by, she warmed to the idea and was a great support for me to jump out there and do it,” he said. “We prayed about all of this before we stepped out there. We felt that God was pushing us in that direction.”


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Trey, who is running for re-election this year, said they plan each week with a schedule noting everyone in the family’s activities and meal prepping for the week ahead. Their daughter, Abby, is a senior Hi-Stepper who hopes to become a Rangerette soon. Their son, Thomas, is also a senior who’s active in sports, such as basketball and baseball. Having a schedule helps keep track of where everyone is. But within that structure, they’re also flexible and can bend to all of life’s unpredictable moments. “We plan our week in advance but with all that said, you know that something is going to happen that you’re going to have to alter that,” Trey said. “I think that’s the key, that you can’t be so structured that you can’t absorb an unexpected hit.” Outside of work, Trey is active in the Longview-Greggton Rotary Club and also assists the Kilgore Rotary Club with putting out flags as part of the flag program. The couple is active in the Kilgore Education Foundation and the family attends First Presbyterian Church of Kilgore, where Trey serves as an elder. He’s previously held other positions, such as being a former Kilgore ISD school board member and former president of the East Texas Treatment Center. In terms of public service, Trey is generally the one to step into a position to attend meetings while Jennifer helps with projects the organization needs. “It’s a team effort. She prefers to work behind the scenes,” Trey said. “It’s almost like if one of us gets involved in one thing, the other one kind of is the underlying backup and support.” When thinking about their future, Jennifer admitted they don’t know what the next year looks like. As their children graduate high school in May and move on to college – whether that be at Kilgore College or elsewhere – their routines will change. For them, the most important thing is that they want to see their children succeed. “We’re invested in them,” Trey said. “But I love the fact that my kids are not just being raised by us, but they’re being raised by other parents and other members of this community. They’re invested in the future of Kilgore. That’s a really nice feeling that people care about your kids that much. The underlying reason is that they care about our city and they want our city to thrive for generations to come.” | CONT. ON PG. 15

“We are blessed to live in this community. . . . We’ve had people who have taken a great interest in our children and their wellbeing. They want them to be good people and, I think, to be proud of Kilgore as well. I think the people we have surrounded ourselves with are those kind of people. They love Kilgore, just as we do and I think it’s good for our kids to see that kind of passion from others. We are blessed to live where we live.” Trey Hattaway

January/February 2022 |


Libby and Brent Bryson Pictured: Brent and Libby Bryson with their children Worth and Amelia. 14

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Focusing on

Faith & Family

key to work-life balance for Longview couple | CONT. FROM PG. 12


ith a focus on faith and family, East Texas natives Libby and Brent Bryson strive to support each other individually while growing together as a family. “There are challenges that present themselves in keeping a good work/family/life balance,” Libby said. “However, it can and should be done by focusing on what is most important and that is faith and family.” Both Libby and Brent’s families have deep roots in East Texas. Libby was raised on her family’s ranch, Griffin Ranch. The ranch, which her family established in 1849, is the oldest, operating ranch in Gregg County. “Growing up and seeing my family work together really shaped my work ethic,” she said. “Aside from seeing their hard work, they showed what could never be taught, and that is unconditional love.” In 2003, Libby graduated from Trinity School of Texas. She then attended Texas A&M University, majoring in Agricultural Communications and Journalism (a journalism degree with an agricultural emphasis). Meanwhile, Brent was born and raised in Longview. He graduated from Longview High School in 2004 and went on to attend the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history. While attending UT, Brent worked for the Senate at the Texas State Capitol for three years. While working in the Capitol, Brent’s passion for the judicial and legal system flourished. Upon graduating from UT, Brent pursued a law degree and attended law school at Texas Wesleyan School of Law, now known as the Texas A&M School of Law, in Fort Worth.

It was when Libby was in college and came home for spring break that she met Brent. “We met during spring break of 2004 at the Longview Lanes bowling alley. Fancy — we know,” Libby said with a laugh. At the time Libby was home on break from Texas A&M and Brent was a Longview High School senior. “Somehow, we never met until that day and it makes it fun— both from Longview and our paths hadn’t crossed until the bowling alley.” Today, they’ve been married for 10 years and have been together for 17 years total. During those years, they’ve supported each other in their career endeavors, such as Brent’s decision to pursue law school, and throughout different career paths. Brent, for example, began his legal career working as an in-house attorney for a company in Fort Worth that managed a diverse set of privately held family companies including a biomass energy company, an oil and gas technology development company, a real estate holdings company, and an oil and gas asset management company. Libby, meanwhile, started her career working in the marketing department at D Magazine in Dallas. She then began her fundraising and public relations career in the nonprofit industry, working with several nonprofit organizations in a variety of full-time and consulting roles. “While I lived in Dallas, I really learned people skills. It was so humbling to live somewhere that I wasn’t from. You learn to grow; you learn to build your character; you cultivate relationships,” Libby said. After Libby and Brent married, they decided to return home to East Texas. Brent took a position in 2012 as an associate with | CONT. ON PG. 16

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| CONT. FROM PG. 15 the Longview law firm, West Allen Bryson. In 2018, Brent became an owner and partner with fellow attorney/partner, Jarred Allen. Together, they formed what is now Allen Bryson, PLLC. The law firm has two office locations, one in downtown Longview and the other in Dallas. As an attorney, Brent’s practice focuses on oil and gas, collections, entity formation and compliance, real estate, probate and estate planning. He represents individuals and businesses in various areas of the law. Brent said he values his work as an attorney. “It’s very rewarding work, helping others,” he said. Meanwhile, Libby accepted a position in 2012 as the marketing director for Longview Regional Medical Center. She continues to hold that position 10 years later, noting that she enjoys serving others and telling the behind-the-scenes stories of the hospital. “Although I’m on the non-clinical side of things, what I enjoy most is simply helping others and that can look like a lot of different things when you are working in the marketing world,” she said. “For me, it’s my love for telling the stories that go on behind the scenes internally

“There are challenges that present themselves in keeping a good work/ family/life balance. . . . However, it can and should be done by focusing on what is most important and that is faith and family.” Libby Bryson


January/February 2022 |

and externally and helping patients have the best experience. I enjoy creatively telling people about all of the amazing healthcare opportunities right here in Longview.” In addition to their careers, Libby and Brent balance family time with their two children, Amelia, 8, and Worth, 5. They enjoy watching their children grow as they explore new hobbies, such as playing instruments, sports and fishing. “Amelia and Worth are in the season of life where they are excited and engaged in just about everything and all they put their minds to,” Libby said. “We cherish each month and have a lot of fun watching them grow. From playing sports to musical instruments and going fishing, we celebrate all the things and memories we make along the way. No milestone is too small to celebrate when you’re raising kiddos. We cherish it all.” With busy careers and community involvement, Libby and Brent said they have a strong support system in their families whom they credit with “always being willing to step in and help with the balance of truly, all the things.” “You often hear throughout life, the saying ‘it takes a village.’ Well, when you become a parent, you quickly learn the value of the saying, and it’s one I say with endearment,” Libby said.

“As I continue to grow in my legal career, I often reflect upon those who have helped me and served as my mentors throughout my career. . . . Naturally, the future for Allen Bryson remains focused on growth and how we plan to accomplish that is through serving as the leaders and mentors that have shaped our careers for others — most importantly, aspiring lawyers.” Brent Bryson

In addition to balancing work and family time, the Brysons also are active in the community. The family attends First United Methodist Church of Longview, where Brent attended church when he was growing up. Libby enjoys volunteering in the church’s youth ministry as she teaches Sunday School. Additionally, Libby has served on various committees and community civic organizations, including Junior League of Longview, ArtsView Children’s Theatre, East Texas Angel Network, Junior Achievement, American Heart Association and the March of Dimes, to name a few. Brent, mostly recently, has served on the ethics board and the internal review board at Longview Regional Medical Center. When looking toward the future, Brent said he hopes to continue to grow professionally and wants to be a mentor to up and coming law students, just as others served as a mentor to him. “As I continue to grow in my legal career, I often reflect upon those who have helped me and served as my mentors throughout my career,” Brent said. “Naturally, the future for Allen Bryson remains focused on growth and how we plan to accomplish that is through serving as the leaders and mentors that have shaped our careers for others — most

importantly, aspiring lawyers.” Each year, Allen Bryson offers legal internships for law students aimed at giving young professionals a chance to grow. “Our goal in offering internship opportunities is to show real world experience through giving the chance to work in the law specialty he or she plans on practicing,” he said. “Oftentimes it is the law student’s first chance to utilize the skills they have been learning in the first year of school. Over the years, we have hired interns to join our team, and to date that is something we take great pride in.” For Libby, her future remains in marketing. She enjoys cultivating innovative ideas and enjoys helping create memorable, special moments. As someone who considers herself “marketing-minded,” Libby often finds herself naturally wanting to hop right in with a brainstorming session, laying out the marketing plan for sharing the story of others. “When you like the work you do daily, I feel like there are little boundaries,” Libby said. “It’s using your God-given skills and talents and I look forward to continuing to help others with their marketing landscape, wherever I may be.” | CONT. ON PG. 18 January/February 2022 |


Tyler couple

Completes Each Other in unison and in love

Zoe and Tab Lawhorn | CONT. FROM PG. 17


f Zoe Lawhorn had it her way she would wear a black turtleneck and do the same thing daily, but because of her husband Tab, she thinks about life with more imagination. In unison, they simply complete one another. She leads the Women’s Fund of Smith County while attorney Tab is a principal partner at Lawhorn & Malouf in Tyler. Zoe and Tab Lawhorn, the wife and husband of 12 years and parents to 5-year-old Brady, are each other’s biggest cheerleaders, overcoming challenges and serving as a balancing force to their individual personalities. Tab provides a good support system that builds people up, Zoe said. “He works really hard, specifically with me and Brady, to just always create an environment where we can experience joy and a lot of fun and life,” she said. Both have found there’s significant overlap in their personalities and work ethic. “Zoe is a very successful person and she is a very intelligent and driven person,” he said. “She’s incredibly selfless and probably one of the hardest workers I know. The warm glow that comes off her shine, I warm up to that.” The inception of that teamwork had a unique beginning in 2007 — a week-long cruise as their first official date. Zoe had just moved back to Tyler and Tab was a lawyer in Houston visiting family in Tyler on the weekends. They started hanging out as friends for quite a while. Tab tried to have a one-on-one date with Zoe, but every time he came into town, she had a friend with her. Tab didn’t think they were dating because Zoe always brought a friend, but Zoe thought they were. Eventually they began talking less and Zoe asked if they were going to break up.


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“And Tab’s like ‘break up? We’re not even dating,’” she recalled. In an effort to find alone time, Tab planned to fit two years worth of dating into one week on a cruise ship. He said they would either be completely in love or simply say goodbye at the end. “It was a risk with a very high reward,” he said. Over that week, they experienced relationship milestones at an accelerated pace and it “fasttracked us straight into a serious relationship,” Zoe said. After the jam-packed week, they dated for another year before Tab decided to propose. His proposal began with a scavenger hunt leading Zoe from Dallas to New York City where he proposed at the top of Rockefeller Center. One year after their engagement, they married in a New York church after rain curved their plans for a Central Park ceremony. For her, Tab is the only person who can say she needs to slow down and the only person she would listen to. While he admits being pretty is one of her best attributes, Tab said their connection is much deeper. “There’s never a goal attained of where I’m in love because I think she always redefines the definition of love for me,” he said. He said one of the greatest things is during times of uncertainty or stress, together they’re able to grind it out. The past year or so presented significant changes for the Lawhorns, including Zoe becoming president of the Women’s Fund and Tab leaving Findlay Craft to set up his own law firm. Just before COVID-19 hit, Zoe planned to take a break after working at the Literacy Council of Tyler for a year. She thought there would be | CONT. ON PG. 20

January/February 2022 |



Tab Lawhorn

Zoe Lawhorn

time for career brainstorming, but the pandemic made her “break” look different. After learning the former Women’s Fund president was leaving her position, Zoe inquired about a replacement and a friend asked her if she’d be interested. She was unsure but Tab encouraged her to go for it. Since becoming president in 2020, she’s fallen in love with the organization’s dedication to collective giving. “It’s very complimentary to me and my personality,” she said. Zoe became interested in the nonprofit sector while writing stories at Tyler Today. Afterward, she was Tyler Museum of Art’s public relations and marketing coordinator. Three years later, Meals on Wheels of East Texas called her about a fundraising role — something she had never really done before. Just like with the Women’s Fund, Tab gave her a push to talk to them. She got the job and her career was solidified. For Tab, his career was like an arrow he shot toward at age 15. After graduating from Baylor University, he was a commercial real estate broker in Houston before law school. He was an associate in criminal defense at a law firm and later started his own practice in Houston. When he arrived in Tyler, Tab said he found


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a great resource in local lawyers. He eventually took a partnership at Findlay Craft. “Those friendships really blossomed and gave me respect for the community,” he said, noting it was bittersweet to step out on his own. “Thanks to some colleagues that opened their arms early on, I was able to accelerate the vision I had of having my own practice.” Outside of their work lives, they enjoy spending time together as a family with Brady and time with their dogs, Gus and Lulu. “I basically don’t have any hobbies other than my son. My son and I spend an above-average amount of time together,” Tab said. “I try so hard to make up for my busy schedule during the week.” Tab and Brady go camping together often, and he coached Brady’s T-ball team of 4- and 5-year-olds this past fall. “I really encourage him to be outside as much as possible, and because he doesn’t have any siblings the onus usually falls on me,” he said. “Oftentimes, even before T-ball season, you would find me and him on a deserted baseball field out in Faulkner Park playing catch or letting him hit the ball.” As someone who loves structure, Zoe said parenthood is the most challenging thing she’s ever done. “This is the only time we’re just winging it and we do our best. I’m not even letting go. I don’t even control to begin with,” she said. “Parenting is awesome. It’s just weird; I look at him and I think why does he say a word that way and I realize it’s because I do or Tab does.” As a couple, the most important advice Zoe and Tab agreed on is to share everything, let your significant other be themselves and don’t keep score. “Share what you’re thinking, share your fears, share the happiness, share your personal success,” Tab said. “Share your time.” While in a relationship, each person should learn to accept each other’s flaws and let them grow on their own, Tab explained. “We’re on this planet for only so long. They’ve got to walk their path, too. They chose to be with you; that should be enough in my opinion,” he said. For Zoe, Tab is the only person who knows her entirely, and there’s never a moment she thinks he’s hiding something. “You just keep building this life together, and you’re sharing it with someone and that’s part of what the really special thing is,” she said.

As a couple, the most important advice Zoe and Tab agreed on is to share everything, let your significant other be themselves and don’t keep score. “Share what you’re thinking, share your fears, share the happiness, share your personal success. . . . Share your time.” Tab Lawhorn Pictured: Zoe, Tab and Brady Lawhorn January/February 2022 |


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January/February 2022 |


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____________________ January/February 2022 |



Cardiologist Dr. Jonathan Greifenkamp performs an angioplasty of the leg at Longview Regional Medical Center.


January/February 2022 |

Matters of the Heart



n the month of February, many people use hearts as they decorate for Valentine’s Day but those hearts also hold another meaning during the winter month. February serves as American Heart Month, a time to focus on cardiovascular health. Throughout the month, the American Heart Association and local cardiovascular health professionals work to raise awareness of heart disease and how to prevent it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States

and more than 600,000 Americans die of heart disease each year. Fortunately, there are also many things people can do to lower their risk of heart disease. Eating a healthy diet, being physically active, watching one’s weight and managing stress are just a few ways to build a powerful prevention plan against heart disease. Across East Texas, local cardiologists are working to care for those with heart disease in the area and to help educate others about how to reduce their risk for disease. This is a look at a few cardiologists who are making a difference in the lives of East Texans. | CONT. ON PG. 26

East Texas

Cardiologists Cardio logists impact patients’ lives January/February 2022 |


Longview Regional Medical Center

Dr. Jonathan Greifenkamp | CONT. FROM PG. 25


s a boy, Jonathan Greifenkamp wasn’t interested in medicine or being a doctor. His mother was a physical therapist and his father was an internal medicine physician. He witnessed the sacrifices they made each day, and he said he wasn’t the “least bit interested” in the profession. This all changed when he began to visit his father’s patients in hospitals and nursing homes as he saw the difference his father was making in the lives of other people. It was then that Greifenkamp, of Longview, considered following in his father’s footsteps. Visiting nursing homes was a part of his father’s job, but visiting them at their homes was something he did as a convenience to the patients. It wasn’t until college that Greifenkamp realized he wanted to be a physician, and it wasn’t until his

Cardiologist Cardio logist 26

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Dr. Jonathan Greifenkamp at Longview Regional Medical Center.

third year of medical school that he was certain he wanted to become an interventional cardiologist. He had the sudden epiphany that interventional cardiology was what he was meant to do one day as he followed one of his patients to the cardiac cath lab. He was a medical student at the time, and the patient suffered from a heart attack and required a cardiac catheterization and a coronary stent placement, Greifenkamp said. “It was like an epiphany … I knew right away, without a doubt, that I would become an interventional cardiologist,” said Greifenkamp. Throughout his medical training at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Greifenkamp had the privilege of caring for many patients of diverse walks of life, including Texas Department of Correction inmates, people experiencing homelessness and his own colleagues. During his time as an

interventional cardiology fellow at the Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center in Houston, Greifenkamp also cared for leaders from other countries. There were two things Greifenkamp learned from his father that always stuck with him while caring for patients. “One, always do what is right no matter what, and two, treat everyone as you would want your family treated,” Greifenkamp said. He and his wife decided it was important to keep the kids near their parents, so it was an easy decision for the family to return to Longview after Greifenkamp’s 16 years of medical training. “It allowed me to care for the community that helped raise me for 18 years,” he said. In Longview, he joined a group of cardiologists that were forward thinking. “They weren’t satisfied with the status quo. We continue to advance

cardiovascular care in East Texas and lead the area in innovation and top quality cardiac and vascular care,” he said. “We are nationally recognized for this care. I believe we provide this level of care because of a team approach. Every person our patients encounter is a part of a team of compassionate, caring individuals.” Griefenkamp now serves as the director of The Vein Center at Longview Regional Medical Center and is also director of the carotid stent program. He specializes in treatment of peripheral arterial disease along with coronary artery disease. “I am a firm believer in quality of life and have learned that, as physicians, we are not always here to prevent death but instead to improve quality of life and maintain patients’ dignity until death,” he said. “I am honored to get to care for my community.” | CONT. ON PG. 28 January/February 2022 |


CHRISTUS Good Shepherd Heart & Vascular Institute

Dr. Chris McClish | CONT. FROM PG. 27


hris McClish was a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin studying philosophy when suddenly his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 40 at the time and had gone in for her first mammogram. His entire world changed. Though she eventually recovered, the journey there was a shock to the entire family. It was then that McClish was heavily impacted by his mother’s doctors, surgeons and healthcare staff who cared for her. McClish recalls riding in an elevator to visit his mother’s hospital room, along with his brother and other doctors. He took a moment to examine the way the doctors carried themselves, how they presented themselves to his family, how they sat with his mother and took care of her throughout that time.

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Dr. Chris McClish at the CHRISTUS Good Shepherd Heart and Vascular Institute.

He decided right there he would go to medical school to become a doctor. “I switched my major right on the spot from philosophy to biology pre-med,” McClish said. “I remember being frightened for her and it’s that feeling of being vulnerable and being helpless and needing someone else’s help and that is something that led me toward medicine was because I wanted to be able to help people who were in those kinds of situations also.” Initially, the plan was to be a cancer doctor, but after doing cardiology rotations in medical school with a certain professor, he knew cardiology was what he wanted to pursue. He went on to graduate from the University of Texas and entered medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. There, McClish met Dr. Marschall Runge, who then was director of the

Division of Cardiology and the Sealy Center for Molecular Cardiology. Runge significantly impacted McClish’s career and mentored him. The two went on rounds one-onone together every day and McClish observed the way Runge treated patients. “He was very big on talking directly to the patient and examining them real carefully. He would go over physical exam findings with us and push us to be real good at that sort of thing,” McClish said. “I do believe that the most important part of being a physician is hands-on interaction with people, good eye contact and trying to be actually in the moment and paying attention to what you’re doing, and the answer of the problem is usually right there in front of you, you just have to take a minute to talk to people and listen to them and they will oftentimes tell you what’s wrong.”

From 1998 to 2004, McClish studied internal medicine and cardiology at the University of Virginia then moved to San Antonio for an extra fellowship to study interventional cardiology. There, he learned how to perform angioplasties and how to place stents. McClish graduated from there in 2006 and has been a cardiologist for 15 years now. McClish is now chief of cardiology at the Christus Good Shepherd Heart and Vascular Institute. He officially joined Christus in May and said he is especially happy there because the hospital values physician input. McClish specializes in interventional cardiology, offering heart issue treatment with nonsurgical procedures and cardiac catheterization. He also specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the heart and blood vessels, such as congestive heart failure. | CONT. ON PG. 30 January/February 2022 |


UT Health East Texas

Dr. Brent Davis



rowing up, Brent Davis’ parents worked in the medical field so he was accustomed to late night calls and time after hours at the hospital. His father was an anesthesiologist and his mother was a nurse.

The medical field is what he was exposed to and that’s what he went into. It was just expected, he said. He enjoyed studying biology and decided to attend Texas A&M University. By the time he began college, Davis said he knew he wanted to go into medical school. “I liked the anatomy, physiology and chemistry behind it and decided that that was the way that I wanted to go and I liked it,” he said. He entered medical school at Texas A&M and got the opportunity to match with a local College Station physician, Dr. James Rohack, who would become a mentor. Davis got an inside look at what cardiology was like. In medical school, students

Cardiologist Cardio logist


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Dr. Brent Davis at UT Health East Texas.

decide whether they want to go into surgery, internal medicine or other practices like family practice. Davis liked internal medicine, but wanted to do a specialty within internal medicine. What he liked most about cardiology was that he would get to do general cardiology but also medical procedures. “In addition to treating patients’ chronic medical problems, you also get to take care of other things in the hospital. That’s why I went on from cardiology to interventional cardiology,” he said. Interventional cardiology focuses on minimally invasive procedures with a faster recovery time and good outcomes, Davis said. From his father, he learned compassion and helping other people. He explained that’s why he went into medicine. “You always do the right thing. You always treat somebody like you would treat a family member, and

those are things I learned from him when it comes to taking care of your patients and doing your job,” Davis said. After medical school, he studied internal medicine for three years at the University of Oklahoma. He rotated into various specialties then made his decision to pursue interventional cardiology. Davis went on to his fellowship in North Carolina and eventually entered his career in Tyler at the Center for Tyler Cardiovascular Consultants of UT Health. He found Tyler had a strong medical community and offered him a work-life balance he knew would be important. “I liked Tyler, I liked the climate. It reminded us a little bit of North Carolina, the trees, leaves changed color in the fall, flowers in the spring, and the nice thing about Tyler is that I could do the things I would want to do in Dallas or

Houston as far as procedures, but I could live 10 minutes from the hospital and I wouldn’t be stuck in traffic for an hour when I got done and I could get to my kids’ soccer game or their basketball game,” Davis said. American Heart Month to Davis means a chance to spread awareness and educate about the leading cause of death in the United States. “That awareness has to be out there, and there are a lot of things we can do with medications and procedures, but for a lot of people, their risk of heart disease depends on what they do at home; what they’re eating, whether they’re going to the gym, whether they’re treating other medical conditions, things like that,” he said. “That 28 days is an opportunity to put that at the forefront, we need to be doing that every day.” | CONT. ON PG. 32 January/February 2022 |


CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Hospital

Dr. James Hoff



t the age of 3, James Hoff felt called to be doctor and never thought about being anything else. At 16, his destiny came true when he fell in love with the heart in a CPR class. Since then, cardiology has been his focus. “I just knew,” he said. Something about the heart intrigued him as the important organ is so vital to people’s lives. The function, he said, made sense. He could understand it physically and the problems it was having. Hoff was born in Chicago and raised in New Jersey from the age of 3. He always had the idea that John Hopkins was the best medical institution in the world, so he went to college there. He later pursued his medical education at Columbia University and practiced internal medicine training at the New York Hospital at Cornell University Medical Center. Hoff graduated in 1990 and did

Cardiologist Cardio logist


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“To what we as professionals think is a minor heart problem, is still a major heart problem to the person being affected by it. . . . I take very personal care of my patients and listen to them and develop plans with their input to get them to feel better.” Dr. James Hoff

a cardiology fellowship at Emory University. There, he met Dr. John Douglas who was performing 2,500 angioplasties a year when the routine was for doctors to do about 20 a year, Hoff said. Hoff said when Douglas walked into the catheterization lab, everything was shut out except for the patient in front of him. “I thought that was just amazing talent, so that’s what I try to do,” he said. “When I walk through the door in the clinic, when I walk into the cath lab, when I walk in through the door at the hospital, I just try to shut everything out and there’s only the patient and family in front of me.” Hoff started his family and he soon began his career in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Several years later, it was time for Hoff to look for his next opportunity.

Dr. James Hoff at CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Hospital.

His wife searched the web for “best places in America for doctors to practice,” Hoff said, and Tyler came up as No. 1 on five different lists. Hoff and his family moved to Tyler after he took on a role as cardiologist for Christus Trinity Mother Frances Hospital. Today, he serves as chief of cardiology at the hospital. “Since I’ve been chief of cardiology, we’ve developed a very robust, structural heart disease program, just started an advanced cardiac imaging program, we’ve recruited some amazing doctors, we’re developing relationships with our sister cardiologists in all of northeast Texas, like Longview, Sulphur Springs and Texarkana,” Hoff said. As a cardiologist, Hoff said he believes there are no minor heart issues.

“To what we as professionals think is a minor heart problem, is still a major heart problem to the person being affected by it,” he said. “I take very personal care of my patients and listen to them and develop plans with their input to get them to feel better.” As chief of cardiology, Hoff said he makes a difference by improving everybody’s ability to deliver the care they expect at Christus Trinity Mother Frances. “We expect a very high level of care, we want the patient to be front and center, what’s called patientcentered experience, we want to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ,” he said. He added that he ensures everybody in the cardiology division, including nurses, doctors, staff and administrators, all have the ability to do that. January/February 2022 |



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January/February 2022 |


Felecia Herndon, executive vice president of finance and operations of the Tyler Economic Development Council.


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Felecia Herndon

A marathon to success S T O RY B Y M A L E R I M C H A M P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y M I C H A E L C AVA Z O S


elecia Herndon is proof that success is a marathon – not a sprint. From executive assistant to executive vice president of finance and operations at the Tyler Economic Development Council, Herndon has taken a mindful approach to her career while enjoying the journey along the way. When Herndon started at the Tyler Economic Development Council in 1992, that career path wasn’t in her future plans as she had little knowledge of economic development at the time. “I came to this profession totally by accident,” she said. “When I began to see and understand how what we do has such a positive effect on the community, I wanted to be a part of that.” Today Herndon has worked for the TEDC for seven years. She said she’s proud to be a part of a company whose mission is to grow and diversify the economy by helping new businesses establish themselves and helping existing companies expand. As the executive vice president of finance and operations, Herndon works to manage TEDC’s revolving loan fund program, tax abatement and tax increment financing programs, state designated enterprise projects | CONT. ON PG. 38

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| CONT. FROM PG. 37 and other financial incentives offered by TEDC for businesses that are locating and expanding in the Tyler/Smith County area. One of the most exciting things to her is getting to work with many different industries and individuals and see projects come together that will make more investments and bring more jobs to the Tyler and Smith County area. “That speaks to our ability to be able to sustain our community, broaden wealth into the community and provide opportunities for these individuals here to have a better life or quality of life,” Herndon said. In her time working for TEDC Herndon has realized the lack of knowledge toward economic development and has strived to spread knowledge. From 1992 to 1997 Herndon worked as an executive assistant for Tom Mullins, past CEO of the TEDC. During her time as an executive assistant, Herndon worked on economic development projects between other duties. Doing so, she had the opportunity to work with different people and companies and see how stakeholders in the community came together. It was this time that made her realize economic development was something she wanted to pursue, she said. Herndon changed paths after this time with TEDC to continue her education. She worked in both human resources and as an academic dean in Longview. After exploring other career paths, Hendon had the opportunity to come back to the TEDC in 2014 as the executive vice president of finance and operations. Her chance to be a part of TEDC again came as a surprise when she attended the council’s 25th anniversary celebration and was approached by her former boss, Mullins. Herndon learned Phyllis Schneider, who was the TEDC vice president of finance and operations at the time, was retiring. She was later asked if she would be interested in rejoining TEDC as the vice president of finance and operations. After being gone for 17 years, she said, the offer took her by surprise. 38

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Being involved in the community is also important to her. Herndon is a graduate of Leadership Tyler, was elected for the board of directors for Greater Texas Capital Corporation in 2020, serves as chairwoman of the Greater Texas Capital Community Finance board, has participated as a mentor in the Mayor’s Mentorship Achievement Program and has worked with the Tyler Business Education Council and the Education Sector.

Felecia Herndon “If I can impart any instinct to anybody who is embarking on a career path or trying to determine what they want to do, that’s what I would say, just approach it as a long-term goal that you can accomplish, a reachable goal.”


After some thought, she was excited to rejoin a company that makes a difference in the City of Tyler. “It kind of came full circle,” Herndon said. “Having the opportunity to come back after I had gone away and done some different things has been great.” She added that she was excited to be more involved and have more of a “direct responsibility with our economic development activities.” On her path to this career Herndon said that she learned that it’s OK if it takes time to reach your goals because it is not going to happen overnight. In the end, it’s not about racing to the end, but about taking your time and running that marathon until you reach the finish line, she said. “If I can impart any instinct to anybody who is embarking on a career path or trying to determine what they want to do, that’s what I would say, just approach it as a long-term goal that you can accomplish, a reachable goal,” Herndon said. There will always be setbacks, but if you persevere you can reach your goals, she said. One of the biggest setbacks for her was finding a work-life balance between having a full-time job, school and life,. Having plenty of time to spend with her daughter and two grandsons is an important factor of Herndon’s life. She said it was also important to find time for the things she enjoys, such as harness racing and her six standardbred racehorses. “Life continues, that’s the thing,” she said. “Life is going to keep going on around you no matter what you’re doing so the biggest challenge is figuring out how to have that balance in your life where you can accomplish the things you need to accomplish.” Herndon grew up in Troup. After high school, she attended Tyler Junior College where she received her associate’s degree. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s in business management and finance from LeTourneau University in Longview and recently received her doctorate in finance from Capella University. In addition to her educational background, Herndon is also a certified Economic Development Finance Professional and a Professional Community and Economic developer.

Felecia Herndon

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Kristen Ishihara

A legacy of


Longview attorney focuses on giving back to community S T O RY B Y J O L E E F E R G U S O N P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y M I C H A E L C AVA Z O S


risten Ishihara knows what her priorities are. The seven-year Longview City Council member has had a hand in starting a handful of nonprofit organizations in Longview and helped more than two dozen other organizations get their nonprofit status. She also played a large role in helping Longview build its new, no-kill animal shelter and has served on the boards of several nonprofit groups. She’s an attorney, a wife, a mom, an animal lover and an active volunteer. Balancing all of that is a matter of setting priorities. “We are all busy. I’m no busier than anyone else. We all make time for the things that are a priority


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and it is just a matter of setting those priorities,” she said. “I have learned how to say no and I do that when appropriate and without apology. I am a Christian, a wife, a mother, an attorney and a civil servant, and I manage my time based on that order of priorities so that I can be the very best Christian, wife, mother, attorney and civil servant that I can be.” Ishihara is a native of Midland, Michigan. She graduated from Western Michigan University and then came to Texas to attend law school at Baylor University. Her father, who was a chemical engineer for Dow Chemical, had transferred to Lake Jackson, | CONT. ON PG. 42

Kristen Ishihara, Longview City Councilwoman.

January/February 2022 |


| CONT. FROM PG. 40 Texas, and she wanted to be in the same state as her parents. She moved to Longview after graduating from law school in 2006 and landing a job at Nix, Patterson & Roach in Daingerfield. While she’s changed jobs a few times in the following years – she’s now an elder law attorney with Ross & Shoalmire in Longview – her family has remained in Longview “because it’s our home.” She and her husband have two children. Brianna and Lucas Ishihara are both 10 and Teeny is their 5-yearold Blue Heeler. “The best thing about Longview, hands down, is the people that live here,” Ishihara said. Her active role in the community began to grow several years after moving to the city, when she attended Leadership Longview, a program by the Longview Chamber of Commerce that teaches people about government operations and community organizations. Ishihara said she enjoyed learning about “all the great things in our community” and the people who make those things happen. “I met Jennifer Ware at Leadership Longview, and heard a presentation from Laura Hill about ‘public-private partnerships’ and when asked, Laura suggested that this would be the fastest way to bring a dog park to Longview, which was something I was interested in doing at that time,” Ishihara said. Hill is now the city’s community services director. She and Ware formed the nonprofit Longview Dog Park and worked with Hill and the parks department to create the two dog parks along the Paul G. Boorman Trail. The parks were built with private donations on land the city provided. Through the dog park project she met other people interested in animal welfare. She volunteered to serve on a task force established by former Mayor Jay Dean to explore the idea of a building a new animal shelter. At that time, the shelter that served the city was small and had a high euthanasia rate. The task force recommended building a new shelter, a dream that became a reality in the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center. The original dog park nonprofit eventually shifted to what is now the nonprofit Longview PAWS (Pets are Worth Saving), which works to support the operations of the animal shelter. Ishihara, who said she’s always loved animals, is a founding member of the organization. Serving on the animal shelter task force led her to become interested in serving on the City Council. She was first elected in 2014. She said her involvement with the Junior League of Longview helped prepare her for that role. She recalls being a “shy child” who had to become more comfortable with public speaking in law school. 42

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The organization also will build “I think leadership is a skill that anyone interested in can cultivate a “community fund” to “provide and serve in that capacity,” she said, grants to fund big ideas in the crediting the Junior League with Longview community.” helping her hone those skills. “For example, the Waco “I joined the League in 2007, and in Foundation has $80 million in their addition to introducing me to a lot of community fund from which they give the women I still know and serve with out $2 million a year through their today, it provided me an opportunity grant process. Imagine if there were to learn and train on how to be a good $2 million in annual funds for ideas to volunteer, a good board member and make Longview better,” Ishihara said. a good public speaker,” said Ishihara, “This is a lifetime project for me, but it who also is a past president of the is important for us to get started and group. “I couldn’t say enough positive get the framework in place.” things about my service with the For Ishihara, her volunteer work in League.” the community is really about her life As a city council member she serves as a Christian. as liaison to various city committees, including the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, which developed a vision that is guiding the city’s plans for growth and development and helping to form projects to improve the city. The next year will see the city update that plan, looking at what projects should be tackled now. “The beauty of the comprehensive plan is that we will be going back to the citizens of Longview through public meetings and other opportunities for input to get community-wide input on what those priorities should be,” she said. “So residents of Longview should be on the lookout for the opportunities to give their input.” The first nonprofit board she served on was East Texas CASA (Court Appointed Kristen Ishihara Special Advocates). But she didn’t stop there. Ishihara is a founding board member of the East “As a Christian, I know that it is Texas Alzheimer’s Alliance and of the my job to love God and love Greater Longview Estate Planning people,” she said, adding that her Council, a new nonprofit that’s part of a parents are strong Christians and national organization of estate planning her role models. attorneys, financial advisors and others. Ishihara said God has blessed her Ishihara also is a founding member and her family, and she’s thankful that of the recently created nonprofit, the she can in turn “work to be a blessing Longview Foundation. in the community and to others.” “We will be encouraging “I want my legacy to be one of philanthropy of individuals through generosity – generosity with my time, donor-advised funds, or field of interest my talents and my resources, because funds where they can support their own they aren’t mine to give at all,” she said. personal charitable causes or interests “They belong to God and I am just a but doing so in a way that benefits them tax-wise,” Ishihara said. steward of those blessings.”

January/February 2022 |


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January/February 2022 |

The American West


very day a crowd gathers in the Fort Worth Stockyards to witness a longtime tradition that’s an essential part of Texas’ history. A cattle drive. The Old West comes to life before one’s eyes during the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive presented by the Fort Worth Herd. The daily crowd

With roots that date back to 1866, the Fort Worth Stockyards are a celebration of western heritage. An estimated 3 million people from across the world visit the Stockyards each year for a taste of Texas’ history. Of those visitors, an estimated 800,000 people come simply to see the Fort Worth Herd on its daily cattle drive, according to information provided by Stockyards Heritage Development Company. Rich with western history and charm, the Fort Worth Stockyards are currently in the midst of a $175 million renovation that is bringing changes and new life to the neighborhood. The Stockyards Heritage Development Company, which is a partnership between Majestic Realty Co. and The Hickman Companies, is leading the redevelopment, which started in 2018.

Stockyards invite visitors to experience the Old West watches as modern-day drovers drive a herd of Texas Longhorns down East Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards National Historic District of Fort Worth. Children wearing cowboy and cowgirl hats as they stand on street corners or rest atop their parents’ shoulders tingle with anticipation as they watch the Longhorns walk down the middle of a modern-day street.

| CONT. ON PG. 49


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January ushers in the legendary Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, which will bring some of the greatest rodeo action in the nation to Texas for 23 days between Jan. 14 and Feb. 5. 48

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| CONT. FROM PG. 47 “We knew from the moment we first visited the district over 20 years ago that this was a rare gem … a place people from all over the world visit for a taste of Texas and the West,” Craig Cavileer, executive vice president of Majestic Realty Co./Stockyards Heritage Development Company, said in a news release. “Not just the animals and the buildings, although they’re a huge part of it, but the freedom, spirit and character of the cowboys, cowgirls and cattle culture that shaped Texas into what it is today. That’s a tall order as a developer, but also an inspirational one. We have never taken it lightly.” The project, which is a publicprivate partnership with the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, already has brought new life to the Stockyards with the addition of Mule Alley. The businesses, including the iconic Hotel Drover, in Mule Alley serve to complement the existing Stockyards but bring

new energy to the historic district. From the homage to the American West to the modern-day renovations at Mule Alley, it’s the perfect time to visit Fort Worth. Meanwhile, January ushers in the legendary Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, which will bring some of the greatest rodeo action in the nation to Texas for 23 days between Jan. 14 and Feb. 5. History of the Stockyards The history of the Stockyards dates back to 1866 when drovers trailed more than 4 million head of cattle through Fort Worth up the Chisholm Trail, according to information provided by the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. The Chisholm Trail was a trail used in the post-Civil War era to drive cattle from ranches in Texas to Kansas, where they were sold. At the time, in 1866, cattle in Texas were only worth about $4 per head; meanwhile, to the North and the East, cattle sold for $40 per head. In 1867, Joseph McCoy built

stockyards in Abilene, Kansas, and encouraged Texas cattlemen to drive their herds to his stockyards. “They drove about 4 million head of cattle right through Fort Worth — right where you’re standing — on the Chisholm Trail,” an announcer said during the twice-daily Fort Worth Herd walk. “It was one of the most famous trails in the cattle drive era.” Fort Worth was about halfway along the Chisholm Trail and the city became known as “Cowtown” for the vast amount of cattle that were herded through it. In 1876, the railroad arrived in Fort Worth and the city became a major shipping point for livestock, according to information provided by the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. In 1887, the city built the Union Stockyards but the Union Stockyards Company lacked funding to buy enough cattle to attract local ranchers so then-President Mike | CONT. ON PG. 53


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One of the most popular attractions of the Stockyards is the Fort Worth Herd. The twice-daily cattle drive features real Texas cowhands driving a herd of Texas Longhorns down East Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards National Historic District. 52

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| CONT. FROM PG. 49 C. Hurley began looking for an investor. In 1893, Boston capitalist Greenleif Simpson bought the Union Stockyards and changed the name to the Fort Worth Stockyards Company. He invited other investors to join him. Together, they decided to work to attract individuals to build meat packing plants nearby to keep business in the city instead of shipping cattle to other markets to be processed. By about 1900, plants were being built near the Stockyards. In 1902, construction began on pens, barns and the Livestock Exchange Building and by 1907, due to the success of the Stockyards, construction began on a grand coliseum. Today that coliseum is the renowned Cowtown Coliseum, which became the home of the world’s first indoor rodeo. Today, Cowtown Coliseum hosts a weekly rodeo every Friday and Saturday night.

For more than a century, the Stockyards have stood the test of time, prospering throughout droughts, floods and wars. In 1976, the North Fort Worth Historical Society was founded to help preserve Fort Worth’s livestock heritage. That venture helped establish the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District, which continues to be the home to the twice-daily cattle drive, weekly rodeo, shopping, dining and entertainment venues.

Things to Do

One of the most popular attractions in Texas, there’s no shortage of Old West entertainment in the Stockyards. One of the most popular attractions of the Stockyards is the Fort Worth Herd. The twice-daily cattle drive features real Texas cowhands driving a herd of Texas Longhorns down East Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards National Historic District. Free to watch, the

cattle drive happens at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day. The Fort Worth Herd was created as part of the city’s sesquicentennial celebration. A herd of 17 Texas Longhorns and a diverse team of drovers who wear authentic western clothing were acquired to create the Fort Worth Herd. “The average Longhorn weighs about 1,500 pounds and their horn spans about 6 feet tip to tip,” an announcer said during the daily cattle drive. “Our biggest Longhorn weighs 2,200 pounds and his horns are 8 feet tip to tip.” Throughout the day, there is typically at least one Longhorn steer on the street available to pet and take pictures with. A small fee is charged to interact with the steer. The Old West streets of the Stockyard District are filled with shops, where visitors can buy cowboy boots, cowboy hats, | CONT. ON PG. 54


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| CONT. FROM PG. 53 western wear and more. While walking through the district to shop, be sure to check out the stars on the ground below. The Texas Trail of Fame, which is similar to the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, features bronze markers laid into the ground to pay homage to Western heroes. Visit the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze for a dose of family fun. Spanning 5,400 square feet, the labyrinth of wooden pathways offers a challenge for those who choose to partake in the fun. Visit the Livestock Exchange Building to tour the Stockyards Museum to learn about the history of the district. To learn more about the men and women who have excelled in the rodeo or the western lifestyle, visit the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame. With more than 150 inductees, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame features exhibits that allow visitors to learn more about


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those who have made an impact on the industry. For example, there is an exhibit on the legendary East Texas native Martha Josey and her husband, R.E. Josey. Martha Josey, who was born in Gregg County, is a World Barrel Racing Champion who continues to own and operate Josey Ranch in Karnack. During Martha Josey’s 60year career as a professional barrel racer, she won nearly every championship possible. In 1988, she earned an Olympic bronze medal in barrel racing and helped her team win the gold medal. In 2021, she was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. She also is a member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame and the Ark-La-Tex Sports Museum Hall of Fame. In the Fort Worth Stockyards, country music can often be heard

playing and there are often pop up performances. But Billy Bob’s Texas welcomes renowned and up-and-coming musicians nearly every week. Billy Bob’s opened in 1981 and over the last 40 years has become known as the World’s Largest Honky Tonk. From bull riding to line dancing, Billy Bob’s offers a variety of activities for its patrons. Another highlight of the area is the Stockyards Championship Rodeo, which offers a weekly rodeo at Cowtown Coliseum. The weekly rodeo offers visitors a chance to learn about the competitive sport, regardless of what time of year they visit. The Stockyards Championship Rodeo lasts about two hours and features a variety of events, including bull riding, bronc riding, bareback and ranch saddle bronc riding.

Places to Eat

In true Texas style, the Fort Worth Stockyards offer an excellent selection of restaurants that are

certain to please the appetite. From steaks and barbecue to Tex-Mex, visitors shouldn’t leave the Stockyards without grabbing a meal. For barbecue, Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que serves up tender meat that falls off the bones. Cooper’s opened in Fort Worth in January of 2010. The restaurant operates another location in Llano, where it has served patrons since 1962. When visiting Cooper’s, patrons walk inside the building and will immediately stop at the main pit by the entrance to select their cut (or cuts) of meat. Meat is cooked over mesquite coals and served right off the pit. Patrons will receive a tray containing the meats and will take that try inside to go through the service line where the meat can be sliced. Choose from a selection of sides, including potato salad, mac and cheese, coleslaw and more. Stop at the cash register to pay for the meal then head into

the dining hall where picnic style seating is available. Cooper’s also offers an outdoor patio area with seating for those nice weather days. Other barbecue options in the Stockyards include Riscky’s Barbeque and Billy Bob’s. For steakhouses, patrons should try Cattlemen’s Steak House or Riscky’s Steakhouse. Internationally famous, Cattlemen’s Steak House has been serving quality cuts of meat and other menu items to patrons since 1947. The restaurant’s signature Heart O’ Texas rib-eye is a popular choice. Patrons can watch as the steaks are cooked and seared over an open fire that serves as a focal point in the dining room. For other elegant dining options, consider Lonesome Dove Western Bistro. The restaurant opened in 2000 and quickly became one of the premiere dining establishments in Fort Worth. With a dinner menu that features everything from steak

to gnocchi pasta to chile relleno, there is something for everyone at Lonesome Dove. For Tex-Mex, Los Vaqueros is a popular option in the Stockyards but the renowned Joe T. Garcia’s is just a couple blocks away from the Stockyards District proper. A Fort Worth icon since 1935, Joe T. Garcia’s is among the most popular restaurants in the city. The restaurant opened in 1935 with a seating capacity of just 16. It’s expanded over the years to offer a variety of indoor and patio options and the capacity can now seat more than 1,000 people. Despite the plethora of seating, be prepared to wait in line for a table at the popular establishment. Lines are divided among those who want to sit indoors and outdoors, but there will likely be a wait for either option. Once seated, it’s easy to understand why the restaurant is so popular as the freshly prepared | CONT. ON PG. 57


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The newest addition to the Stockyards, Mule Alley is a beautifully restored destination within the historic district. The area features a carefully curated collection of restaurants, entertainment venues, shops and more. 56

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| CONT. FROM PG. 55 Tex-Mex is among the best around. Joe T. Garcia’s keeps it simple when it comes to options on its dinner menu. At dinner, guests can choose from either beef fajitas, chicken fajitas or a family style dinner that features two cheese nachos as appetizers, two cheese enchiladas, rice, beans, two beef tacos, guacamole and corn tortillas. At lunchtime, the restaurant features more options, including tortilla soup, tamales, chile rellenos and chicken flautas. The restaurant is cash-only with an ATM on-site.

Exploring Mule Alley

The newest addition to the Stockyards, Mule Alley is a beautifully restored destination within the historic district.

The area features a carefully curated collection of restaurants, entertainment venues, shops and more. The beautiful, rustic Hotel Drover serves as the anchor of Mule Alley. Hotel Drover, which is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection of hotels, is a 4-star hotel that features 200 rooms and suites. Hotel Drover has an elegant barn that can be reserved for weddings or other social events. The hotel also offers what it describes as a western glam lobby bar to enjoy cocktails and two in-house boutiques, Lucchese Custom Collection and Wide Brim. The American Paint Horse Association, which says it is the world’s second largest international equine breed association, also has

moved its offices to Mule Alley. But the association’s building is more than simply an office. It’s a place for visitors to come to learn more about the equestrian breed. To relax with a drink or to dine on a quick bite, visit Second Rodeo Brewing. The sprawling brewhouse is more than simply a brewery. It’s a destination for people to gather and enjoy live music, food and brew. The brewery has a large, dog-friendly patio with colorful Adirondack chairs and picnic style tables that make for a nice spot to relax. The growing selection of restaurants and shops in Mule Alley is helping bring renewed life and new audiences to the Fort Worth Stockyards to experience the city’s western heritage.


January/February 2022 |


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Sugar, Sugar! Beauty Haus offers salon services in downtown Longview


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ongview’s Sugar Sugar Beauty Haus started out as a joke between two friends while taking in a few drinks at Judd’s Downtown. Owners Brittni Pierson and Danielle Aiken noticed the space next to the bar and restaurant was vacant and began talking about starting a trendy salon business.

But more than a salon. A Beauty Haus. “There’s a room called the XOXO Room in Dallas and we just love their aesthetic and their vibe,” Pierson said. “We wanted a cool place for people to come downtown and take photos, do little photo shoots.” That night, the two put together a Pinterest board for decor, vibe and overall what they wanted their beauty haus brand to look like. They wanted lots of pinks, photo stations with ring lights and a place for people to gather. “This was a Saturday and we called about the place and signed papers on Monday,” Aiken said. Aiken is a certified cosmetologist while Pierson has experience running and operating businesses as an entrepreneur. The two first met about five years ago through their husbands who were already friends. “Danielle and I are like polar opposites on a lot but we’re really similar on a lot, too,” Pierson said. “It’s funny,” Aiken added. “She’s a lot like my husband and I’m a lot like her husband so we know how to work with each other.” Aiken likes to move things around and rearrange to keep things fresh for customers. Sugar Sugar Beauty Haus officially opened in March 2021. “It’s super girly but it’s Instagrammable, and we wanted a really cool place for people to be able to come and feel beautiful,” Pierson said. “A place for everyone.” Throughout the space there are little photo areas, such as neon signs, a ball pit, a dance pole and more, for that perfect Instagram photo. “We don’t charge anything for that,” Aiken said. “We just want people to come in and have a good time.” | CONT. ON PG. 62

Brittni Pierson, left, and Danielle Aiken.

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Less than a year after opening their doors, the beauty haus is offering services ranging from standard haircuts to tattoos and more. Stylists and others rent stations to work. Sugar Sugar offers all standard salon services in addition to hair braiding, tattoos, spray tanning, a boutique, tooth gems, hair extensions, makeup services, lash extensions, waxing, brow shaping and more. “Eventually, we want to offer more services,” Pierson said. “We’re kind of taking it slowly because it’s more about quality than quantity.” Sugar Sugar has hosted birthday parties, bridal showers, princess parties for little girls and sweet 16s. One group has expressed interest in using the space for a drag show; another person wants to host a speed dating event. “I was very shocked in the first few months with how many people come through,” Aiken said. “There was one Friday night where there were like 40 people in here.” “Yeah, they were coming here to chill before their table was ready at Judd’s,” Pierson added. 62

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Aiken and Pierson decided to use the bar top that was already installed when they signed the lease as a complimentary coffee bar and snack station. “We want everyone to feel good,” Aiken said. “It’s girly but we have just as many men walk in here as we do women.” Aiken said she thought she would eventually open a salon but did not expect it to happen so soon. “This was a joke right up until it wasn’t,” Aiken said, laughing. “The coolest story that we have is about this,” Pierson said, pointing to the large, pink telephone. “Before we even signed our lease on anything, we were still praying to make sure we should follow through with going to look at this place on Monday.” On the Pinterest board the two created for the salon, there was a pink photo booth with a bubblegum pink phone. “We love it so we pinned it and we were like, this is our favorite picture right now; like this is it, this is so cute,” Pierson said. “Well, the next morning I woke up early and I was scrolling through Facebook marketplace, and I found that pink phone that’s hanging right there.”


It was the exact same phone from the Pinterest board. At first the phone was promised to someone else but if that sale fell through, the seller said she would sell it to Pierson. “Literally like 10 minutes later she said, ‘You know what, I’m tired of getting stood up on marketplace, you can have it if you have the money now,’” Pierson said. The seller brought the phone to work for Pierson and Aiken to pick up. The pick-up location was just across the street from where Aiken was working at the time. “We had been praying for a sign that what we were doing was the right set because this is a huge deal to invest all of this money into something,” Pierson said. “That’s the biggest scare of being business owners, investing all of your time and money and seeing if it’s going to work or not. And that was our sign. It was right after we were freaking out and praying over it. I know it sounds silly to other people but for us it was like a goosebump moment.” Being downtown has helped the business find a strong sense of community. “We’re just enjoying being a part of downtown Longview because it’s a really tight knit community,” Pierson said. “All the local business owners are amazing. They’re all super supportive.” For more information, visit sugarsugarbeautyhaus.

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Longview native sisters specialize in luxury real estate & interior design | CONT. ON PG. 68 66

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hen real estate broker Meredith Roel has a client who wants to do some remodeling in a home, she looks no further than her sister. And when interior designer Whitney Gretzinger works on a build out for a new home for a client who needs a Realtor to sell the home, it’s an easy choice when giving a referral.

| CONT. FROM PG. 66 Roel and Gretzinger are sisters who complement each other in their skill sets when it comes to all things related to homes. Roel is a luxury real estate broker with Meredith Roel Realty Group, which is brokered by Keller Williams. Gretzinger is an interior design expert who opened her own business, WG Interiors, about two years ago. Together, they’re a dynamic duo. “I love working with her,” Roel said of her sister. “She’s great to work with. She works with my clients. I refer her to clients all the time. … I can trust her and I can recommend her to my people and know that she’s going to take care of them.” The sisters grew up in Longview, graduating from Pine Tree High School. After college, Roel began working in property management and then moved into sales. She also owned some residential property that she managed herself. “When I was doing that, it made me decide to go get my real estate license,” she said. “It was just a really good fit.” Meanwhile, Gretzinger said she has always enjoyed interior design. It began as a hobby for her

| CONT. ON PG. 72 Meredith Roel wears a white Antonio Melani blouse with black Joe’s Jeans and Whitney Gretzinger wears a black Karen Kane blouse with Hue Jeans, all from Dillard’s in Longview. They both are wearing jewelry provided by Jim Bartlett Fine Jewelry of Longview.



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| CONT. FROM PG. 68 as she would help friends and family with projects. Two years ago she decided to turn it into a full-time career. She began working with Scott Newland, who owns Newland Properties in Longview. Newland asked Gretzinger to help him finish out some new homes he was building. The pairing was a success and most recently Gretzinger has worked with Newland to finish out some homes in a new section of the Hillcrest Trails subdivision in North Longview. At a home at 191 Ella Kate Drive, for which Roel is serving as the real estate agent, Gretzinger completed a variety of elements including the kitchen. That particular kitchen, she said, was inspired by a trip to New Orleans. “I had been to New Orleans and stayed at this hotel and I loved it so much. It kind of gave me inspiration for this house,” she said. “I just wanted it to have that darker feel with the stained cabinets, the darker colored cabinets.” The kitchen cabinets are a beautiful blue, a shade called Mount Etna by Sherwin Williams. “I actually saw these light fixtures in the bar (in New Orleans),” Gretzinger said of light fixtures that hang above an island in the kitchen. “They were way bigger, but I found a cheaper version and put them in here. But it was all based off a trip to New Orleans. I just paid attention to everything there.” That home and others built by Newland and finished by Gretzinger are currently for sale with Roel serving as the broker. At Roel’s realty group, she has two other agents on her team – Cara Jordan and Tanya Blundell. “We like to help buyers and sellers. Tanya’s very familiar in land sales. Cara’s more on the admin side but she will assist with buyers and sellers. We make

| CONT. ON PG. 74 Meredith Roel wears a black Sanctuary blouse with Joe’s Jeans and Gianni Bini boots and Whitney Gretzinger wears a Gibson Latimer blouse with Spanx denim, all from Dillard’s in Longview. They both are wearing jewelry provided by Jim Bartlett Fine Jewelry of Longview. S T O RY B Y C H R I S T I N A C AVA Z O S PHOTOGRAPHY BY M I C H A E L C AVA Z O S



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| CONT. FROM PG. 72 a really good team,” she said. “We’re always looking for referrals from both buyers and sellers.” Roel specializes in luxury real estate, but she enjoys selling all types of property of all price ranges. She’s consistently a top producer in her company. Outside of work, both sisters have children. Roel has two children in Longview ISD; her son is a sophomore at Longview High School and her daughter is an eighth-grader at Foster Middle School. Gretzinger’s two children attend Hallsville schools. To learn more about Roel’s real estate group, visit To learn more about Gretzinger’s interior design studio, find WG Interiors on Facebook or Instagram.

Special Thanks




January/February 2022 |

n each issue of ETX View, we are proud to partner with a variety of businesses for our fashion shoots. Thank you to Meredith Roel, of Meredith Roel Realty Group, and Whitney Gretzinger, of WG Interiors, for serving as models for this month’s fashion shoot. Thank you to Dillard’s of Longview for providing clothing and to Jim Bartlett Fine Jewelry of Longview for providing beautiful jewelry, including fine necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings, for the shoot. Thank you to Scott Newland of Longviewbased Newland Properties for generously opening the doors to a newly built home at 191 Ella Kate Drive in Longview for this shoot. To learn more about Newland’s work, visit And thank you, as always, to Peters Chevrolet of Longview for sponsoring the bi-monthly fashion shoots and partnering with us for coverage. Visit www.facebook. com/PetersLongview to see a behind-thescenesvideo of this fashion shoot.

Celebrating Love, Celebrating Life



2002 Judson RD • 903-758-4367 • • Like us on Facebook 75 January/February 2022 |



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couples to know in the East Texas restaurant industry

Brigitta Gyorfi and Michael Chubboy


L Sabrina and Gino Salihu

Pat and Will Ruegg

ove can be simple, but it’s often complicated. Just like running a business. Couples who embark on a business venture, such as running a restaurant, together get to spend a lot of time with each other, communicate on a different wavelength and share in each other’s successes. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we visited with three East Texas couples who own restaurants together. These couples welcome patrons through their restaurant doors as if they were greeting guests at their own homes. Their patrons are like an extended part of their family and as such they put all their love and passion into the meals they serve. From different backgrounds and with a focus on different types of food, these three couples share a common thread of respect, compromise and a giant dose of love. | CONT. ON PG. 78 January/February 2022 |




t Brigitta’s Hungarian Restaurant in Kilgore, the ingredients are simple and familiar. But they’re layered and combined to give an explosion of flavor and balance that is uniquely Hungarian.

Brigitta Gyorfi and Michael Chubboy Owners Michael Chubboy and Brigitta Gyorfi opened the restaurant’s doors in 2017. With their friendly, hospitable service paired with top quality dishes, they’ve quickly become a popular East Texas restaurant destination. “The simplicity of the menu items and of the recipes is really mind boggling,” Chubboy said. “You think of Hungarian food and you think somehow it’s going to be exotic, but it’s really very simplistic and the 78

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balance of the taste is huge.” Gyorfi was born and raised in Hungary. Chubboy was born and raised in America but his family’s roots go back to Hungary. The recipes in the restaurant are passed down from family. Chubboy credits his mother, Joanne Wallace Chubboy, with teaching him how to prepare most of the meals after she learned them from his grandparents and great-grandparents. Chubboy and Gyorfi moved to

East Texas several years ago from Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Initially they came to the area to start an LED sign business, under the guidance of Chubboy’s brother who had been in the business throughout his life. However, after six months they decided to change directions. They chose the restaurant industry against the advice of nearly everyone they knew, but today, they’re a true destination. People – especially those of Hungarian

BRIGITTA’S HUNGARIAN RESTAURANT descent – visit from near and far for a taste of the food. All of the food at Brigitta’s is Hungarian. Chubboy said onions, garlic and paprika make up the base of Hungarian food. Few dishes are made without those key ingredients. Two of the most popular items on the menu are Chicken Paprikas and Stuffed Cabbage. The Chicken Paprikas feature a rich paprika taste. Chubboy uses chicken thigh meat in the dish as the dark meat retains tenderness better

dish is served atop homemade mashed potatoes. It’s cozy and comforting but also rich and flavorful. “Taste is everything,” Chubboy said. “You’re meeting us. This is who we are.” While guests come for the food, they also visit for the friendly, welcoming atmosphere. While Chubboy does the cooking, Gyorfi tends to run the front of the restaurant where she interacts with guests. She makes them feel

well-versed in other foods that they don’t already serve. That might allow him to focus on other areas of the business, such as working to grow the sale and shipment of its frozen meals. He’s already getting requests to ship outside the U.S., and he said he sees a lot of growth potential in the industry. “If frozen food took off, maybe we could open a second location near Chicago and begin serving the middle third of the United States with frozen food,” he said.

than breast meat. The Spaetzle noodles in the dish are handmade. The juicy chicken, noodles and flavorful, creamy paprika-infused sauce are combined to meld into a harmony of flavors. The Stuffed Cabbage features hand-made, simmered cabbage leaves filled with a mixture of beef, pork and rice mixed with spices. A thin, tomato-based sauce is drizzled over the cabbage and the

welcome, just as if they were in her home. “This is our house and we welcome people in,” Chubboy said. As the restaurant’s popularity has grown, it now offers catering and ships some of its meals (frozen) out across the country. When thinking about the future, Chubboy said they would like to bring on another Hungarian family to help with the restaurant. Perhaps a family that is

But in the meantime, the focus will continue to be on serving the restaurant’s loyal customers by focusing on top-quality, flavorful, Hungarian dishes. Brigitta’s Hungarian Restaurant is located at 202 Texas 31 East in Kilgore. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. To learn more about Brigitta’s Hungarian Restaurant, visit January/February 2022 |




or a decade, Gino and Sabrina Salihu have been serving up homemade Italian food that East Texans love.

The husband and wife team, along with their children, operated a Longview Italian restaurant for nine years before it was destroyed in a devastating fire two days before Christmas in 2019. They reopened in the fall of 2020 in Hallsville under the name Gino’s Italian Kitchen and they’ve been delighting their loyal customers since. “To all of our customers in Longview and Hallsville, I want to say thank you and I appreciate you

for supporting us for nine years in Longview and one year here. We appreciate all of the support,” Sabrina Salihu said. “Our customers are like our family.” The Salihus have roots in Albania and Kosovo. They moved to the U.S. about 25 years ago and lived in New Jersey for a while before moving to Texas. They operated restaurants in the Fort Worth and Beaumont areas before moving to East Texas. The restaurant business has long been a family affair and Gino Salihu’s brothers also operate restaurants. In fact, it was a family tie that brought them to East Texas in the first place. They got a call from Gino’s relative, the namesake of the former Longview Italian restaurant called Joe’s Pizza and Pasta. Joe’s sister is

married to Gino’s brother, so they had family ties. After Joe closed his restaurant, he’d learned that Gino and Sabrina were looking to move some place where they could open a restaurant and be surrounded by a welcoming community. “Joe said, you need to move to Longview. The people are nice,” Sabrina recalled. “I wanted to be surrounded by nice people and be in a place that felt like home. We wanted our kids to be able to make friends.” So they moved to Longview and opened the restaurant. They called it Uncle Joe’s, named after their relative. Sabrina recalled her children calling Joe, “Uncle Joe,” and the name just seemed right. In their kitchen, they make all of

Sabrina and Gino Salihu 80

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GINO’S ITALIAN KITCHEN the sauces and dough from scratch. Food is cooked to order and the restaurant attracted a large fan base over the years with customers traveling from surrounding communities for a taste of the food. Everything went well until 2019, Sabrina recalled, as the family dealt with many tragedies. First, she broke her foot then she had a wreck that totaled their car. Then, she broke her other foot and their son had a wreck. On Dec. 23, Gino took Sabrina to Shreveport-Bossier City for an evening out to take their minds off of everything that had happened. But that night, they received a call from a friend who delivered devastating news. Their beloved restaurant was on fire. They immediately left Shreveport and

began driving back to Longview. Sabrina recalled the shock and the hope that maybe the fire was small and the building could be repaired. “When we got into town and when we got close to the hospital, to Good Shepherd, we saw all the smoke and we just knew,” she recalled. “We started crying and screaming. When we got there, we saw a couple of our customers. They said, Sabrina, we’re so sorry.” Their customers kept them going. Longtime friends setup a GoFundMe for the family, to which their loyal customers made donations. Originally, they wanted to rebuild on the land of the former restaurant but then Mike Kittner, owner of El Sombrero, contacted them about a different possibly.

Kittner had operated an El Sombrero location in Hallsville and that building was available. He encouraged the family to try that location, telling them that customers would drive to Hallsville for their food. And he was right. When they reopened, they changed the name to Gino’s Italian Kitchen and their fans found them. The menu is the same as the former Uncle Joe’s with Gino taking lead in the kitchen and Sabrina managing the front of the restaurant. Gino’s Italian Kitchen is located at 704 W. Main St. in Hallsville. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. To learn more about Gino’s Italian Kitchen, visit UncleJoesLongview/.

January/February 2022 |




t their small restaurant in downtown Longview, Will and Pat Ruegg are focused on community.

Freya, Pat and Will Ruegg For nearly 14 years, Lil Thai House has served as a small, tucked away sanctuary where people come to talk while enjoying a warm meal amid the restaurant’s walls which are adorned with eclectic artwork. “We’ve made it through all kinds of challenges over the years, I think, because of the community. We really get to know our customers and they get to know us,” Pat Ruegg said. “They support us and we support them.” When Lil Thai House opened in 2008, it wasn’t originally intended for the focus to be on the restaurant. Both Will and Pat – and now their 82

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10-year-old daughter, Freya – are artists themselves. The building originally was meant to be a place for people to come to talk and create. Pat wanted to have a kitchen so she could cook food for artists as they gathered to create. “That was the dream, but the first day we opened, people were lined up for the food,” she said. Originally, she had thought they’d serve maybe 10 or 15 people per day; instead, there are routinely 10 or 15 people lined up at the door as soon as Lil Thai House opens. “We just went with the flow,” she

recalled as they adapted to what customers wanted. The menu is what people love. The authentic cuisine is prepared fresh each day and nothing is pre-made. Pat prepares the fanfavorite eggrolls each day, making them by hand – just as she does the restaurant’s dishes. Among the main dishes, Drunken Noodles and Drunken Fried Rice are both spicy, fan favorites. Guests also love the Pad Thai. The food isn’t what they would describe as “professional.” Rather, Pat uses whatever ingredients are available on hand to cook – kind of

LIL THAI HOUSE like soul food, but with Thai flavors. But for Will and Pat, the focus is on the people. Over the years, many people have suggested they expand but they prefer the small restaurant because they can get to know their customers better. “One story that touched me years ago was there was a girl who stopped by. She had just gotten fired and she came by. She was really down. She didn’t know what to do or where to go,” Pat recalled. “We gave her tea and we gave her food and she felt better. She just needed

As downtown Longview has revitalized, they’ve seen more people come through their doors. Will’s always there to chat with customers. A self-described talker who has deep roots in East Texas, Will enjoys sharing much of his knowledge of the area, of the Thai cuisine, of ingredients, of art, of anything really with customers. It’s part of how they create community. Over the years, they’ve still been dedicated to the local arts scene as well. They’ve even played host to small art gatherings at the restaurant

a place to stop by to process. After that, she figured out what she was going to do. I think we’ve become that place for people. To us, it brings us closer to people. They get to know us and we get to know them. They share what they go through – whether it’s good news or bad news.” They have countless other stories like that, too. Once, there was a customer who’s wife had passed away and they prepared a basket for him. “We don’t have much but we share what we can,” she said.

and now participate in the quarterly ArtWalks. Both artists themselves, they display some of their own creations at the restaurant. When thinking about the future, they said they want to continue doing what they’ve been doing. They like their small restaurant and they love their customers. That’s what keeps them going. Lil Thai House is located at 212 N. Fredonia St. in Longview. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. To learn more about Lil Thai House, visit January/February 2022 |



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M y

Pe op les

Longview artist creates drawings with stories behind them



January/February 2022 |


s Alex Mack picked up a Sharpie to transform a canvas into a work of art, she began to talk. As she drew, Alex told a story that wove back and forth between two characters having a conversation with each other. Her voice changed depending on which character was speaking at the time. As the story concluded and Alex stepped back from the canvas, there was a row of figures that she calls “My Peoples” left upon it. “‘My Peoples’ is kind of a creation that I started when I was 2 years old. I’ve been drawing in journals and magazines a lot, and I like drawing these people,” Alex said. “It’s very inspirational.” Alex, who is a college student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, is a Longview native who has been creating her “My Peoples” art since the age of 2. Born with Down syndrome, Alex never enjoyed drawing “typical” figures and instead drew the same figures over and over again. The figures — her “peoples” — may look the same but each piece of abstract art tells a different, fictional story from Alex’s imagination. Alex started out by drawing “My Peoples” artwork in nursery books, old magazines and later spiral notebooks, but today she creates her art on canvases – large and small. The canvases start out white, but Alex’s mother, Lisha Mack, paints the background typically in a neutral color. Then Alex will come in and add her peoples to the canvas. Lisha later comes back and adds a bit of color to some of the paintings as part of the motherdaughter collaboration. “What I do is just ordinary,” Lisha said. “Alex adds what I call ‘the magic’ to it. Nobody else does what she does.” Each “My Peoples” painting has a story behind the figures. As Alex flips through old spiral notebooks, which she | CONT. ON PG. 88 January/February 2022 |


Artist Alex Mack tells a story as she works on a painting.

| CONT. FROM PG. 87 calls “journals,” or looks at canvasses that have been completed, she can recall the stories behind each figure. “This is about a proposal, when someone is getting married and someone is getting ready to get married,” Alex said as she pointed to one of her creations. “It’s one of my good friends that I grew up with. She finally got married.” In the painting, Alex had added figures to represent the couple as well as their hopes and dreams, including a future child and future pets. One of her favorite paintings is called “The Hot Tub.” With shades of blue and figures on it, “The Hot Tub” shows people relaxing in a hot tub at a spa. Meanwhile, the very first large scale painting she created went to her aunt. Each canvas is given a number and a name, such as “The Hot Tub” or “I Do.” Since beginning to paint “My Peoples” on canvases, Alex and Lisha have created more than 80 works of art. Many are smaller canvases that they often sell during Longview’s quarterly ArtWalk events downtown. Others are large-scale and carry a higher price tag; those often are commissioned. Alex and Lisha also sometimes create artwork to donate to various organizations, such as a piece called “Sisterhood of Hope” that was dedicated in 88

January/February 2022 |

October to Texas Oncology-Longview Cancer Center as part of breast cancer awareness month. As she creates each piece of art, Alex often talks and tells a story. She’s done that her whole life as she draws her “peoples,” Lisha explained. “People with Down syndrome often do a form of selftalking,” Lisha said. “This was her version of it.” Self-talk is a form of private speech. Many children with Down syndrome are not that verbal, Lisha explained, but self-talk is an often private way for them to express themselves. Oftentimes parents will overhear their children self-talking as they recount their day. With Alex, her form of self-talk has always been with fictionalized stories of her “peoples.” Lisha gave an example that in one of Alex’s stories, a band auditions and gets to go to Hollywood and they may appear on “The Ellen (DeGeneres) Show.” “It’s her imagination using these peoples over and over that she draws and it becomes this story,” Lisha said. The vision for “My Peoples” Art was to allow Alex to take her passion and use it in a way that could be beneficial to her. “People really ended up liking it. They liked the art but they loved the story behind it,” Lisha said. “People are really supportive of her. They always have been throughout her life. This just became a way of me

thinking what would be something she could do in her future to earn a living.” That’s also part of the reason Alex’s parents wanted her to attend college. Throughout her life, they have pushed her to never let Down syndrome hold her back from anything she wants to accomplish. A graduate of Longview High School, Alex was the first student with Down syndrome in Longview ISD to graduate with a regular high school diploma and who completed kindergarten through 12th grade in totally inclusive education. In high school, she was a cheerleader for four years and involved in numerous service organizations. Now at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Alex is studying communication. She is a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority and is in the UL LIFE (Learning Is For Everyone) program. “We want her to be a productive member of society, to be independent and to have an independent income,” Lisha said. At “My Peoples” Art, Alex has her own business with an employer identification number and she’ll be paying taxes. “It’s set up for her future,” Lisha said. Alex said she enjoys creating the artwork and doing it with her mom. Alex said she already knows the story she wants to convey before she begins drawing, and she’s got plenty more that she plans to tell.

Artists Alex Mack and her mother Lisha Mack donate My Peoples No. 21 “Sisterhood of Hope” to Dr. Bill Taylor and Dr. Larry Frase of Texas Oncology Longview Cancer Center.

January/February 2022 |



Henderson native sees music as blank canvas for creativity | CONT. ON PG. 92


January/February 2022 |

Trap and Soul R&B Singer, Tevin Billz January/February 2022 |




inger, songwriter and music engineer, Henderson native Tevin Billz is proving himself to be a one-man band. Billz is a Trap and Soul R&B singer who considers music as a free space and a blank canvas for creativity.


January/February 2022 |

With the help of local East Texas churches and his mom’s pots and pans, Billz realized his love for music at a young age. “I started playing drums at 4 years old, but before it was my mom’s pots and pans,” he jokingly said. “They bought me a drum set and I started playing for different local churches. That’s when I really figured out I liked music.” Billz said it all started with church music and considers that genre to be different. “It’s a bunch of feelings being expressed in church music. You get sad, happy, joyful and it’s all at the same time. It takes you for a ride, especially playing live instruments at church,” he said. Playing drums in church eventually led Billz to learn how to play piano. He also performed in the Henderson Middle School and Henderson High School bands, where he played percussion. After high school, Billz drifted away from playing instruments and started music engineering where he collaborated with another Henderson artist. That experience pushed him to learn how to make music. Growing up in Henderson, Billz learned everything on his own.

With the help of YouTube, he would search for plug-ins, textures and mixing techniques. Billz considers his music very detailed. He fell in love with music engineering and the full control he has with beats and the creation of the music he produces. Just as he learned how to produce his own music, Billz also taught himself how to sing with constant practice. After improving his vocal cords, he decided to come out as an artist and see how people would react. That’s when Billz came to life. Billz considers his music as an open canvas. “I create just to create. I am not looking for anything specific when I am making music. It’s an open canvas and I am seeing what sounds and feels good; that’s why I shoot for,” he said. “I can wake up and do this every day. I just never get tired of it.” Billz also said when he creates songs, he is open minded and tries to obtain every detail that is placed in his music. He said he often finds himself getting lost in the music and incorporating anything he feels or has a vision for. “I don’t know where I am going with it most of the time. It’s not a

Addressing the Moment: The Artist’s Voice


JAN. 15 - MAR 5

definite no or a yes when it comes to creating,” he said. “I don’t have a set stone of how I am creating.” When making his latest project, “Bleu’s Room” which was released in August 2020, Billz said he was making up to 20 beats per day. “When I was working on my past album, I was making 10 to 20 beats per day then I would work on that song that night,” he said. “Some songs took me a day to make and some songs took me three weeks.” Billz considers himself a perfectionist when it comes to his music and is inspired by a lot of things, but doesn’t consider himself to be a replica of a particular artist as he creates music through a variety of inspirations. Billz mentioned there are times when he adds his own touch of playing an instrument by hand or sampling certain sounds. The singer’s storytelling consists of topics such as life experiences, trauma, family issues and breakups. Billz recently moved to Dallas and has been in and out of his home studio in Henderson. Even with that challenge, Billz said he is always writing songs and bouncing off inspirations from his daily life. The home studio has been a building process for six years and

he recently updated his equipment. Billz said he built it from the ground up and that creating it hasn’t been easy because of the expense of materials. “I built it from the ground up. I didn’t have money, I bought everything one thing at a time,” he said. The home studio consists of a digital setup with a digital piano, universal audio interfaces, mood lights, a closet with foam padded walls, microphone booth and acoustic panels hanging from the walls that were built by hand and took three weeks to make. As he transfers his equipment to his new home, his future plan is to rent an office space and open a studio where he can continue to work with local artists. Billz said even though he is branching out as an independent artist and drifting away from solely being a music engineer, he finds happiness in helping others create music, especially those who want to make it big in the music industry as much as him. Billz latest project “Bleu’s Room” is available on such music platforms as Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Amazon Music, Google Play and Tidal.


JAN 22 - MAY 21


Admission is Free for Members, $5 for Guests. Visit the website for exhibit details.

January/February 2022 |



JANUARY/FEB. Items on the calendar are subject to change because of COVID-19 considerations. Verify activities with event organizers.

CANTON CANTON HALF MARATHON 7:30 A.M. JAN. 15 First Monday Grounds Parking at 390 W. Dallas St.


First Monday Grounds 800 First Monday Lane


Rusk County Youth Expo Center 3303 FM 13 West

HENDERSON CIVIC THEATRE’S “MOON OVER BUFFALO” FEB. 25-27 AND MARCH 4-6 Henderson Civic Theatre 122 E. Main St.

JEFFERSON CHOCOLATE SUNDAY 2 P.M. FEB. 13 Historic Jefferson Hotel 124 W. Austin St.

Mardi Gras Upriver in downtown Jefferson MARDI GRAS UPRIVER FEB. 25-27

Downtown Jefferson


St. Paul’s Episcopal Church 314 N. Henderson Blvd. 94

January/February 2022 |


Hidden Timbers Lakeside Venue 13384 County Road 293

KILGORE CRUISE NIGHT 3 P.M. TO 6 P.M. JAN. 29 AND FEB. 26 Downtown Kilgore

Kilgore Cruise Night RC COMICS MODEL MANIA 2 P.M. TO 4 P.M. FEB. 12 Geektopia 207 E. Main St. rccomicshop

BLUEGRASS & BLUE BELL ACOUSTIC JAM 4 P.M. TO 9 P.M. FEB. 12 Kilgore Mercantile & Music 105 N. Kilgore St.

LONGVIEW THE MUSIC OF SAM COOKE 7 P.M. JAN. 15 Belcher Center 2100 S. Mobberly Ave.


Longview Museum of Fine Arts 215 E. Tyler St.

RAHAB’S RETREAT AND RANCH ANNUAL DINNER FUNDRAISER 6 P.M. TO 8 P.M. JAN. 21 Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center 100 Grand Blvd.

HERPS EXOTIC REPTILES AND PETS SHOW JAN. 22-23 Longview Exhibit Center 1123 Jaycee Drive


Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center 100 Grand Blvd.


Longview Museum of Fine Arts 215 E. Tyler St.

LONGVIEW CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ANNUAL BANQUET 5 P.M. TO 8 P.M. JAN. 25 Longview Exhibit Center 1123 Jaycee Drive


Belcher Center 2100 S. Mobberly Ave.


Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center 100 Grand Blvd.

THEOLOGY ON TAP 6 P.M. TO 8 P.M. FEB. 1 Oil Horse Brewing Co. 101 W. Tyler St. Oilhorsebrewing

| CONT. ON PG. 96 January/February 2022 |





Longview Exhibit Center 1123 Jaycee Drive Trade_Days

The Summit Club 3700 Judson Road


UDOG UKG DOG SHOW FEB. 4-6 Longview Exhibit Center 1123 Jaycee Drive

Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center 100 Grand Blvd.


Johnston-McQueen School 422 FM 2751


Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center 100 Grand Blvd.


HANNAH HOUSE CHERISH CELEBRATION 6 P.M. TO 9 P.M. FEB. 12 Holiday Inn Longview - North 300 Tuttle Circle

PINE TREE ISD DISTRICT SHOWCASE 6 P.M. TO 8 P.M. FEB. 17 Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center 100 Grand Blvd.

Belcher Center 2100 S. Mobberly Ave.

Bourbon and Bowties 96

January/February 2022 |


Belcher Center 2100 S. Mobberly Ave.

ZONTA PROM DRESS BOUTIQUE 8 A.M. TO 3 P.M. FEB. 26 Longview Exhibit Center 1123 Jaycee Drive


Memorial City Hall 110 E. Houston St.


Memorial City Hall 110 E. Houston St.

East Texas Symphony Orchestra


Lake Bob Sandlin State Park 341 State Park Road 2117 lake-bob-sandlin




The Foundry Coffeehouse 202 S. Broadway Ave. (972) 704-5001



TYLER CIVIC THEATRE’S “THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG” FEB. 17-20, FEB. 24-27, MARCH 3-6 Tyler Civic Theatre 400 Rose Park Drive



UT Tyler Cowan Center 2835 Old Omen Road

UT Tyler Cowan Center 2835 Old Omen Road

NATURALLY 7 7:30 P.M. FEB. 17

Have an event you’d like to submit for our calendar? Email us at with information. Submissions for March/April are due by Jan. 20. Submissions for May/June are due by March 21.

UT Tyler Cowan Center 2835 Old Omen Road

January/February 2022 |



January/February 2022 |

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