Whitney businesses unite in effort to promote community

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

July 28, 2021

The Whitney Business Alliance chooses a different business as its meeting location each month, with the owner providing a tour of their location. The alliance’s last meeting was Thursday, July 22, at Buckshot Rustic Furniture and Gifts. The attendees pictured above are Jason Ince, Gordon Rogers, Terry Boyer, Charles Boyer, Allyson Vought, Tami Gardner, Chamber of Commerce President Adam Bain, Mayor Brad Slaten, Teresa Wyatt, Gina Rogers, Konni Spitzer, Anne Chastaine and Carol Eubank.

To draw more traffic to local business, better the community, and promote town spirit, business owners in Whitney decided to come together by creating a Whitney Business Alliance. The alliance was founded in December 2020, and participation has remained consistent ever since.

The mission statement of the organization states, “The Whitney Business Alliance’s purpose is to enhance the shopping, eating, living, entertaining and community experience to make Whitney a preferred destination for vacations, staycations, and locals to come back time after time. We commit to nurturing growth through mentoring small businesses, working together to overcome challenges that may arise while building and maintaining strong alliance with businesses, government agencies and educational systems.”

A resource for both up-and-coming businesses and Whitney’s trademark establishments, the Whitney Business Alliance is recruiting business owners within the 76692 zip code who would like to join in on this networking opportunity. There is no membership fee, and the alliance would like to represent as many local businesses as possible.

After noticing that business owners’ problems were going unaddressed, Carol Eubank, owner of Whitney Family Eyecare and newly elected president of the Whitney Business Alliance, met with other local business owners and decided that creating a strong, unified, collective voice would get more accomplished. Eubank said as someone who has been running a business for more than 20 years, she is aware of the challenges involved with starting a business, and she hopes the alliance can help newcomers in the area who need guidance.

Eubank said, “Our goals are to be mentors to other business owners who are new, to improve storefronts, streets and neighborhoods and to encourage growth in restaurants and entertainment so that there is more for our local families to do.”

To achieve these goals, the alliance’s first order of business is to create a business directory so that all the businesses can stay in contact with each other. Another item on the to do list includes improving the buildings downtown. The alliance has discussed encouraging every business to have a personalized bench. Personalized benches would create a photo opportunity for tourists, and it would also honor Whitney’s history with The Battle of the Benches.

Eubank said, “We will be working really hard on relationships with our leaders with the city council and the chamber, having a representative at each meeting from both parts so that we can encourage the two groups to work together because they’re the most important bodies. We will hopefully be starting a cleanup and improvement effort, starting with downtown. Downtown is where we want to start so that people want to come and just hang out. We believe if the downtown area looks like it is growing, people will just naturally want to open businesses.”

Eubank said she hopes the alliance will improve the longevity of businesses by providing a place store owners can go to when they want to vent or work through their issues.

“We would witness a business opening up and then a year later closing down, then another business going into that same building, opening up for about a year, and then closing down, just over and over again,” she said.

“Maybe these businesses wouldn’t come in and just close in a year if they had people to go to and talk about the challenges and know where to be guided,” she explained.

Eubank is hopeful that the alliance could encourage people to start businesses that supply a wider variety of food and entertainment for the area so that when tourists visit Lake Whitney, there will be a plethora of options for recreation.

Anne Chastaine, owner of Juniper Cove Winery and newly elected vice president of the Whitney Business Alliance, said, “We want to be a destination, whether or not the lake is closed. We love having the lake, but when the lake is closed, does that hurt our businesses? We need to draw traffic so people can come to Whitney and spend the day.”

Chastaine added that supporting neighboring businesses can help her own business too because as one business has an increase in sales, the store next door also gets noticed. Business owners will use a Facebook page called Whitney Connection to promote their business and others in the community.

“As the tide rises, all the boats float. The more people we can get downtown shopping and looking, the greater potential for each one of the stores to make more sales,” Chastaine said.

Another reason to improve the downtown area is to prevent locals from resorting to traveling to larger cities like Waco when they want to enjoy a night out. Shopping local benefits the Whitney business owners, and the tax dollars that residents pay when they shop local go toward bettering their own community.

The officers for this term, elected Thursday, July 23 are: Crystal Stewart, director of marketing, Allyson Vought, sergeant at arms, Carol Eubank, president, Anne Chastaine, vice president, Terry Boyer, secretary and Tami Gardner, treasurer. Chastaine said, “She’s got so many of the talents that have been part of this since day one, and that’s why I nominate Carol as president.”

Eubank said, “The money that is spent here, the taxes stay here. That’s what fixes our roads. That’s what helps with infrastructure on the internet, trash cleanup, all of those things our tax dollars pay for. When you buy in Waco, the tax dollars go to improve Waco, and when you buy in Bosque County it goes to help Bosque County. People don’t realize that tax you pay when you shop local, that stays here and goes straight into our schools and our infrastructure.”

Eubank said she has noticed lots of rapid growth in the Whitney area and wants to uplift the local businesses so that chains and franchises don’t take over the town.

“We would like to see our local businesses grow so fast and so strong that if chains come in, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a bonus. It’s not killing local businesses,” Eubank said.

The members of the Whitney Business Alliance have a diverse range of knowledge and skills, and they use their different experiences to help each other. Current members who are active leaders in the organization include: Carol Eubank of Whitney Family Eyecare, Anne Chastaine of Juniper Cove Winery, Terry and Charles Boyer of home-based business Thrive, Konni Spitzer of Buckshot Furniture, Denise Callaway of Bosque Real Estate, Crystal Stewart of Farmhouse Store, Jay Caldwell of Lake Whitney Liquidation, Teresa Wyatt of A Daughter’s Dream, Ayushi Agarwala of Whitney Urgent Care, Benji’s and Work@Hill, Gordon and Gina Rogers of a home-based business and Julia Eubanks of Project Sanctuary.

Chastaine said, “We’re trying to help the mayor and the city council bring some spirit and pride back into the town. One of the things that we’ve learned is that everyone had different experiences before they started their businesses. What can we leverage from a past life? I used to do event planning, and I did conference planning for AT&T. I’ve done contract negotiations. What can I leverage to help someone else who is having a problem or an issue?”

Chastaine said she can apply what she’s learned while owning a winery to other businesses as well.

“The biggest thing is creating relationships. In a winery, it’s a very personal experience for the winemaker to make wine, and all the winemakers are different,” Chastaine said. “It’s all those different experiences and how you create something that isn’t a one-time shopper but customer loyalty. There’s a lot of stuff you do in a winery to create loyalty that we’d like to transfer over to the business alliance so that all of our businesses can create loyalty, driving new customers and keeping them.”

Eubank was inspired by a town square she saw in Montana. String lights lit up the night and twinkled over tidy buildings. Locals and tourists alike visited to shop, dine and stroll on the sidewalk. She said this image was her vision for Whitney’s future.

“Their buildings weren’t fancy. They were just well kept, and people were traveling in and supporting them. When people are coming into Whitney, I don’t know where they’re going, but they’re not coming downtown. If our downtown is strong, then the rest of the businesses will just grow like crazy. We’re starting here and then branching out,” Eubank said.

The Whitney Business Alliance meets every third Thursday of the month and is looking forward to growing its reach.

Descendants of town’s bench sitters sought for celebration

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

July 28, 2021

A celebration based on Whitney’s 1949 claim to fame dubbed “The Battle of the Benches” has been planned for August, and the organizer is looking for descendants of the “bench sitters” of that time to participate.

Whitney was featured in the August 15, 1949, edition of Life Magazine after a special election was called to determine whether the elderly men in town would be able to keep their downtown bench, which had been removed at the request of a group of ladies in Whitney.

The men were victorious in their bid to keep their favorite spot for “whittling, spitting and passing judgment on everything that passed” (as one of the opposing ladies described the situation).

A bench and historical marker can still be found in the same location, at the corner of Brazos Street and Washington Avenue in downtown Whitney.

Anne Chastain, who now operates Juniper Cove Winery out of the building at that location, decided to celebrate the town’s history with a special event on Saturday, August 14.

More details about the event, and historical information about The Battle of the Benches for those who may not know the story, will be featured in upcoming editions of The Lakelander. For now, the focus is on finding descendants of the bench sitters who were featured in the 1949 Life Magazine article.

The descendants will be invited to attend the dedication of the refurbished bench at the site and have their picture taken on the bench.

Those who would like to participate are invited to contact Chastain at info@battleofthe bench.com or 254-266-5351.

Businesses located in the 76692 zip code are also being invited to enter the Battle of the Bench challenge and decorate their own bench to reflect Whitney’s spirit, history and the personality of their business. Deadline to enter the contest is 5 p.m. Wednesday, August 11.

More information will be released in The Lakelander and at http://battleofthebench.com in the coming weeks. See page 5 for historical reporting from The Whitney Messenger on The Battle of the Benches.

Tickets available for LWA’s Hansel And Gretel

Lake Whitney Arts is heading into final rehearsals for Hansel and Gretel by Vera Morris, directed by Whitney Gant. This show features a cast of very talented youngsters and will run for one weekend only, Friday, August 6, through Sunday, August 8. This wonderfully entertaining version of the classic tale is guaranteed to delight young audiences. For tickets or more information, visit http://www.lakewhitneyarts.org.

LW Senior Center offers fun & fellowship

The list of activities offered at Lake Whitney Senior Center continues to grow as more seniors join in the weekly fun. Whitney area residents gather each Tuesday for games, food, crafts, exercise, dancing, Bible study and other special programs. Pictured are attendees enjoying a recent game of dominoes at the center, which is located at 503 North Colorado in Whitney and is open each Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For transportation or to reserve lunch, call Lynda Bomar at 254-332-0041. A complete list of August activities is printed on page 7 of this edition to clip and save.

Summer Activities Continue At The Library

The Lake Whitney Public Library has worked to keep the area’s young people occupied and learning throughout the summer with a number of virtual activities, including Zoom classes. The next opportunity will be a Zoom class on computer programming set for Friday, July 23, and Friday, August 20, at 3 p.m. In this class, instructor John (pictured above) will provide resources on computer coding apps and demonstrations on their use. Registration is required. Stop by the library at 602 East Jefferson Avenue or call 254-694-4639 to register. Future classes will cover science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities and cooking lessons. A complete list of all upcoming activities for children and adults is available at www.whitneylibrary.org.