Lancaster Mayor Clyde Hairston is darn near poetic about the city he’s called home for more than three decades, and he’s not shy at all about telling people how great the city is.
“Neighbors know each other,” he said at a recent gathering of local business leaders, city leaders, and press. “It’s a special place that I’ve called home for more than 30 years.”
“We are the shining star in Texas, located in a golden box, and there are golden opportunities here in Lancaster.”
That “golden box” Hairston is referring to is Lancaster’s geographic location — bordered by I-20, I-45, I-35, and Loop 9, the city is geographically primed to be a key location for businesses and homebuyers looking for a shorter commute to downtown alike.
And with that location, community leaders are ready to tout the 15-minute commute to downtown, the good schools, and the affordable real estate, as well as its family-friendly parks and recreation, which includes a 170-acre community park with a 6-acre pond and fishing pier, walking trails, waterside amphitheater, youth football and soccer fields, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, and the Royce Clayton/Texas Rangers Youth Ballpark with a covered grandstand for 500 spectators.
And that’s not even counting the indoor water park with lazy river, lap pool, party area, double loop water slide, and more.
Why move to Lancaster? Hairston names off the community’s accolades — its been recognized by Scenic City, Tree City USA, and Playful City USA. And in 2019, Lancaster was named an “All-American City” by the National Civic League, joining only 29 communities in Texas that have gotten the nod since the award was first doled out in 1949.
And the heart of Lancaster remains — despite a tornado in 1994 that wrought so much destruction — its historic downtown square, dotted with city offices and businesses new and old (including Lovin’ Oven Bakery, which has been around for 40 years).
Hairston also took the opportunity to crow about Lancaster ISD’s Texas Education Agency rankings, which were released just last week. The district earned a B grade, but even better, Hairston said, was the phone call he got the night before.
“The superintendent told me that Lancaster was the most improved school district in all of Dallas County,” he said, beaming. “That’s just awesome.”
According to Zillow, the average home sales price in Lancaster is $176,300 as of June.
The city showcased some of its best and brightest local businesses, including Casserole Soul, a two-year-old restaurant located downtown — one that enjoys the affection of just about everyone in Lancaster, it seems.
“I have a customer in Corsicana that makes excuses to come to the bike shop so he can go to Casserole Soul,” said John Paulus, who owns John’s Trikes & Bikes.
Owner Stephen Cobb said that while his restaurant might be relatively new, he learned the secrets of soul food at the side of his grandmother.
“Your wife might not always stay with you,” he said (to chuckles from the audience) his grandmother admonished as she taught him the family recipes.
Hairston said that Cobb’s cuisine — a mix of African, Native American, and European influences applied to local ingredients — is extremely popular in the city.
“Every time I’m there, there is a crowd,” he said.
One of Lancaster’s hallmarks is its interest in green initiatives, and Dale Crownover, CEO of Texas Nameplate, is a prime example of how a company that has been less than eco-friendly in the past can clean up its act and be a good neighbor.
Crownover said his company used to be located in Dallas, but moved to Lancaster two years ago. That move aided the company considerably in its desire to become greener, despite the fact that nameplate manufacturing (nameplates are the small plaques you see on engines, boilers, and the like) can be a high-waste generator.
His company’s initiatives have saved 1,200 gallons of solvent waste, 6,000 gallons of acid waste, 450,000 gallons of water, and more.
“We used to haul off 42 barrels of acid waste every 90 days,” Crownover said. “Now we haul off around 11.”
They also created a means of scrubbing their smog emissions and reduced their emissions by 90 percent. The company also recycles the water it uses in the manufacturing process. The new building also uses less electricity, he said. A move to a paperless office saved the company money in paper and toner also saved money and was better for the environment.
Crownover said it cost the company $412,000 to implement all the environmentally friendly measures, but that they’ve recouped that money in cost savings in the first two years of being in Lancaster.
“This is really non-debatable subject matter,” he said. “We’re a small business, and we were able to do it.”
Paulus told those gathered that his bike and trike shop is actually his second location — he has another near his second home in Colorado. Unsure of how well a bike shop would go in Lancaster at first, friendly rent terms for a downtown location and clever decision making has turned Paulus’s shop into a destination bike shop, with customers coming from all over the state, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and even Canada.
“We kind of stumbled into being a destination bike and trike shop,” Paulus said. The shop now hosts regular rides, and carries more than 30 models of recumbent trikes for people to test drive.
“People told us we were nuts. People thought nobody biked, and wouldn’t pay for repairs,” he said of the shop’s beginning in Lancaster.
A Lancaster institution, Rich Trevino’s Trevino Gymnastics has been in business since 1983. Trevino and his wife, Marilyn, have coached champion gymnasts and have even shepherded talented students to spots on college teams. They also host several state and regional meets a year, usually bringing in upwards of 600 or more competitors.
Trevino coached for several years, including a stint with Bela Karolyi, before settling down in Lancaster with his wife and opening up shop. Trevino said their start was small — nine kids on the competition team, and 50 students overall.
“But the next year, Mary Lou Retton won gold,” Trevino said, and suddenly the studio had a waitlist because of his Karolyi connection.
Nowadays, Trevino can point out coaches in his promotional videos and tell you when he coached them. “That one there,” he said, “I coached her mom, then I coached her.”
Trevino said he plans on expanding his studio once again, hopefully, to include an indoor soccer facility.
The fact that Lancaster is already this “hidden” destination for so many gives Hairston something to crow about — but he said the city isn’t done, not by a longshot.
“This is just the beginning of something great,” he said.