Ed Thompson wants to bring north Tyler back to being a destination.
After about three years of work, he completed renovations to his second retail center in north Tyler.
Thompson, 51, took two unnamed centers — both built more than 40 years ago and in disrepair — and refurbished them. He is renovating the buildings, which had several vacant spaces, to bring in new small businesses to the area and encourage other businesses to make improvements to beautify the community.
“I’m going above and beyond to make it nice,” he said.
He bought the centers on Bow Street and Gentry Parkway in 2007 after losing his job at Goodyear, where he worked for more than 16 years. He named the two centers, Bow Plaza and Meadow Plaza, because he wants them to be a destination, he said, adding that a lot of centers in the area are unnamed.
“Rather than having this center on Bow Street, it’s Bow Plaza,” he said.
When he bought both Bow Plaza and Meadow Plaza, they were so dilapidated that every time it rained, the tenants had to catch water with buckets. Replacing their roofs was the first thing Thompson did.
He also replaced all of the brickwork and windows, giving them a more modern look and making them more energy efficient and bringing them up to code.
He redid the bathrooms and added a kitchenette to each one, and several of the spaces were customized for tenants.
“No matter who puts a business here, I want it to be when you walk in, you don’t know what side of town you’re on,” he said.
Dr. Dorothy Jackson, 58, opened her family medicine clinic, Phoenix Health Center, at Bow Plaza on Feb. 1. She was raised in north Tyler and served in the U.S. Army for 17 years. She returned to Tyler in 2008 and worked for Total Healthcare from 2011 until 2013. After it closed down, she was concerned about her patients.
She decided she wanted to be in north Tyler to take care of the patients she knew. She sees newborns through geriatrics —well child checks, diabetes, thyroid disease — she can pretty much do it all in primary care, she said.
Dr. Jackson decided to open her clinic in Bow Plaza because it is accessible to many of her patients who live in the surrounding neighborhoods and who don’t have transportation. She and her medical assistant also speak Spanish to serve their high amount of Hispanic patients, she added.
She said Thompson did a wonderful job renovating the center.
“People, when they walk in, they’re very impressed,” she said.
In 2012, the now defunct M&M Record Shop, where Dr. Jackson’s clinic now is, burned. Thompson planned to renovate the center, but the fire moved it up by about a year, he said.
Thompson said he is trying to promote health in north Tyler and two of the new businesses in Bow Plaza, including Dr. Jackson’s clinic, will help with that. Jose Molina will open Jose Fit Club Nutrition at 1116 Bow on May 1. Free Style Barber Shop has been in the center since 1989 and remains at 1118 Bow.
Thompson is ecstatic to have health and fitness clinics side by side. Being next to a barber and beauty salon, “On this corner, we’ll be known for feeling good and looking good,” he said laughing.
Thompson plans to demolish the old blue structure next to the center, which housed a car wash and is beyond repair, and build a space for a hair salon. It will adjoin the tire shop behind the center, Dominguez Tires, which will be expanded. The new construction should be completed in about two months.
Thompson said he closed down the car wash because there was more going on than washing cars.
“That is no longer going to be tolerated in any facility,” he said of selling drugs. “If I have to buy every building in north Tyler to do away with it, I will.”
The building he plans to tear down in the next few weeks does have historical significance. It was once Harvey’s, one of Tyler’s first service stations.
“I try to preserve every building I can and preserve that history and heritage,” he said. “But those I can’t, it makes more sense to start over from the ground up.”
Thompson also is building two parking lots next to and across the street from the center and is planting trees in the area.
Last year, Thompson completed renovations to Meadow Plaza, off Gentry Parkway. Two of its longtime businesses remain open there while several new businesses have also moved in.
Malissa’s Beauty Shop has been in Meadow Plaza for 19 years while Cuttin Up Barber Shop has been there for about 20 years. One of its new tenants is BCFS Health & Human Services Tyler Transition Center.
Carla Sash, 40, is program director for the nonprofit organization that serves more than 400 kids at risk. They include youth that are in or have been in foster care. The center helps them with anything they might need, from providing a safe place to hang out, eat or clean up, or the resources to look for a job.
She said Thompson was instrumental in helping them with their new facility after the landlord for the tiny building they were in on North Beckham Avenue told them they were no longer a good fit. She said Thompson was their angel and built the new facility to fit their needs.
“I love it,” she said of the center. “It has been a blessing beyond belief.”
Thompson said at Meadow Plaza, they all work together. The barber and hair salon there give free haircuts to the kids looking for jobs through the Tyler Transition Center. Meadow Plaza also houses Mustard Seed Learning Academy and Boutique; Young at Heart Accessories Boutique and Gentry Donuts; and soon will see a new salon come in.