Strong support for Alpine business
Volunteer groups encourage growth
Business is good in Alpine, thanks to the support of 100% volunteer-based organizations like the Alpine Chamber of Commerce, Alpine Downtown Association, and Alpine Ambassadors Club. These three exemplary groups work hand in hand to support the everyday small-town hustle and bustle of local business.
Alpine Chamber of Commerce extends itself to the entire Big Bend region with its mission of promoting and supporting thriving commerce and encouraging new start-ups. Alpine Downtown Association has a similar mission, with a focus on the preservation and promotion of the historic downtown region in the town’s center. The Ambassadors, in affiliation with the Chamber, are Alpine’s business cheerleaders, hosting ribbon-cutting ceremonies whenever a new shop opens or has an anniversary to celebrate.
Members from each group are often found attending each other’s events and meetings, and more than ever, they are working together to make big town events seamless and delightful. The increasing level of interconnectedness between groups is an indication of how much locals care about the kind of experience people have in Alpine, whether visiting for the first time, or as multiple-generation locals. It’s a reflection of the special, small-town charm business leaders are eager to foster and maintain.
The Chamber of Commerce has a full, robust board. Its arrangement of sharing leadership positions between two board members means there will always be an elected board member at numerous events and functions. Co-Presidents Aaron Rodriguez and Ruth Hucke; Secretary Heidi Wassermann; Co-Treasurers Chris Ellerbee and Christopher Herrera; and board members Jim Westermann, Mark Chandler, Yvonne Realivasquez, Jessica Lundeby, Jimmy Tallent, and Jim Street hold together multiple sub-committees and welcome current and new member input.
The group draws from a diverse intersection of Alpine, including Realivasquez, Director of Administration Office of the President of Sul Ross State University, bringing added coordination of campus events to town events; Heidi Wassermann, owner of Wassermann Wranch petting zoo; and Christopher Herrera, Doctor of Physical Education and co-organizer of Trans-Pecos Ultra race event.
Chamber members recently attended a mini-retreat and returned energized and focused on a few key initiatives: to reestablish membership and city-wide relationships, and to create ways to promote excellent customer service, region-wide.
One new program raises the bar of service standards across town – and it’s already seeing fruits.
Each month, every board member has one voucher to award to someone employed in the customer service industry who has gone above and beyond the usual expectations. The board member keeps a matching copy of the voucher, and at the monthly chamber board meeting, all voucher copies are put in a bag and a winner is randomly drawn. The winner receives $100 as a reward for their extra graciousness, kindness, helpfulness, patience, or other attributes that set them apart.
One recent winner was a cashier at Dollar General. “She ran my card eleven times before it took, and the whole time was friendly and engaging,” said chamber co-president Ruth Hucke.
It’s little things like that which make routine transactions special, and those little things that set Alpine apart as a great place to shop, live, and visit. The chamber recognizes this and is eager to encourage locals to get on board with that vision, too.
The chamber’s biggest event each year is its award banquet, where “best of” categories recognize great citizens of Alpine. It’s a special event to honor locals for doing their personal best to ensure Alpine has the biggest heart any small town could – that’s what makes locals proud. Learn more on page 36.
Speaking of heart, the Alpine Downtown Association continues to host Heart of Alpine events in the downtown center, with a notably successful Valentine’s weekend-long event called the Heart of the Arts. Live music, including Dallas-based jazz guitarist Gerhard Kraus and Trio and strolling mariachis, enlivened an evening of culture in downtown galleries and boutiques. The event was so well-received that another, similar evening is planned for the weekend of September 21-23, 2018.
“We’re going to celebrate the end of a hot summer with a full moon festival,” said Alpine Downtown Association board member Dave Busey. The Harvest Moon festival brings back Gerhard Kraus and Trio, for a romantic evening concert in the historic patio of Holland Hotel.
Although it is a small event, there will be other musical acts staged across downtown, including a Presidio-based mariachi band called Mariachi Santa Cruz. “It’s a fabulous group with 7-piece trumpet,” emphasized Busey.
The Harvest Moon Festival will give the Alpine Ambassadors a chance to sharpen their giant-sized ribbon-cutting scissors for the great unveiling of a new mural, at what is being dubbed “Rally in the Alley,” as local ceramicist and muralist Pauline Hernandez finishes up a mural depicting Chihuahuan desert scenes. Her mural adds to a growing number of mountain-inspired, nature- and Western- themed wall art dotting the alleys and streets. “It will be a romantic evening under moonlight,” Busey envisioned.
Thanks to hardworking businesses and volunteers, Alpine’s businesses and business district, are leading the way for positive growth.
Other Alpine Business News
• The Ritchey Wine Saloon and Beer Garden restoration was completed this year, thanks in part to a community-backed effort. The historic structure, on the corner of 5th Street and Murphy Avenue, was formally known as Hotel Ritchey and City Hotel and was built in 1886 as a working man’s saloon near the railroad stop and crew change station. After almost 50 years of being shuttered, the historic building was re-opened March 30, 2018. The new establishment has become a popular sunset viewing spot thanks to a sprawling outdoor porch on the second story. Music Sundays keep the live music scene strumming starting at 7:30 p.m. each Sunday. Saloon doors stay open Monday through Thursday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight, and Sunday 5:00 p.m. – 10 p.m. One of Alpine’s newest hangouts, The Ritchey Wine Saloon and Beer Garden is fast becoming a community meeting ground and will host live music during the Harvest Moon Festival.
• Alpine’s own Big Bend Brewing Company's Taproom is open five days a week, year-round, featuring a rotating selection of seasonal and specialty brews, including one of the best beers in the world, the 2018 World Beer Cup Gold Medal winner, the National Park Hefeweizen. Taster flights and pints are available, as well as a broad selection of merchandise, including tee shirts, hats, stickers, koozies, and glassware. The taproom has outdoor seating and is child and dog-friendly- and you're welcome to bring your own food. Come drink delicious beer, relax, and meet folks from all over the world. The taproom is open Thursday, Friday and Monday from 4-8pm and Saturday and Sunday from 1-8pm.
• Front Street Books, an Alpine institution for almost 25 years, is under new ownership and direction by Anne Calaway, who bought the bookstore from its original owner in July. She has already remodeled it to be more of an open space, with a dedicated kids’ room, where parents can see what’s going on while they shop.
“I want it to be just a top notch regional, Texas and Southwestern bookstore, along with award-winning fiction and nonfiction,” Anne said.
The first big book signing goes to Big Bend resident and historian Lonn Taylor, scheduled for Oct. 19. Anne wants to see a book signing about once a month, with a focus on Big Bend regional talent. The store is located in downtown Alpine at 121 E Holland Ave., and is open Mon. – Friday 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., or online at www.fsbooks.com.
• Taste and See Bakery - Filled with artisanal breads and pastries, this new kid on the block is right in the middle of downtown Alpine, at 116 N. 5th. It isn’t just a great place to eat – it’s a fine art gallery, too. Breakfast consists of muffins, cinnamon toast, Nutella toast, frittata of the day, coffee, tea, and other options. Lunch choices include soup, grilled cheese sandwich, salad, and more. Slices of Bundt cake or whole cakes, cookies and cupcakes round out the treats. The website at tasteandseebakery.org/menu/ lists the bread and pastry schedule, with delicious choices like Italian peasant bread, grainier seedier milk and honey, and spelt rye pumpernickel. Open Thurs. 8 a.m. – 3 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.