Low-Hanging Fruit

By Kevin Tankersley

Austin Meek talks about potential in Downtown Waco

Austin Meek never thought that making ice cream sandwiches in a truck would ever be a viable career option. But he and his wife, Julia, opened a Pokey O’s Cookies and Ice Cream truck three years ago, and here he is. They’ve recently opened a permanent location inside Waco’s Hilton hotel as well. And Meek also keeps busy with “Downtown Depot,” his twice-monthly show on KWBU-FM. He interviews business owners and fellow entrepreneurs about what’s happening in his adopted hometown. He also runs WacoBusinessNews.com.

Meek grew up in Dallas and graduated from Texas A&M. Julia is also from Dallas and graduated from Baylor. They have one daughter, 5-month-old Stevie Dan Meek. The family attends Sunday morning church at St. Alban’s Episcopal and are part of a lifegroup through Antioch Community Church.

Meek and Wacoan writer Kevin Tankersley met recently at the KWBU offices to talk about what Downtown Waco needs, old hangouts like J.T. McCord’s and Water Works, and how it might not be a great idea to give away $13,000 worth of ice cream sandwiches on your first day in business.

WACOAN: So how’d you get to Waco?

Meek: I graduated from A&M in 2012 and lived in Austin a couple of years afterward. I was making films with some of my buddies but moved to Waco because my wife is a Baylor grad.

We got married in January 2015, and the plan at the time was that she was going to start this ice cream sandwich truck while I was in law school for three years. Baylor was one of the schools that I’d been accepted to, and Waco seemed like the easiest place for her to do the business while I was in school.

So we moved here in January, literally five days after we got married. In April, we started the Pokey O’s truck. By the time the fall rolled around, it was popular enough, and in conjunction with not getting as much financial aid as I really needed from the school to make it work, it just became clear that this is a pretty fun little small business. Let’s just keep building together and see where we end up.

WACOAN: What did you study at A&M before you ended up making films?

Meek: I was a creative writing major when I was at A&M, but the summer before I enrolled, I made a documentary with three of my other buddies. It was called ‘One Nation Under God.’ [It] is a Christian documentary about four almost-college guys who realized that their Christian relationship was based a lot more on routine than it was on any sort of true relationship with Christ.

We just wanted to go out and essentially take a temperature of America’s spiritual climate, and we made a documentary for about five weeks and took a road trip all around the edge of the country. The resulting film was called ‘One Nation Under God.’ We premiered it in the spring of 2009, showed it here at the Hippodrome, permitted at the Lakewood Theater in Dallas.

But I just always had a media bend, and I’ve availed myself to whatever media was in front of me. When I was in high school, I wrote for the newspaper. Before college, made that documentary. While I was in school at A&M, I wrote for The Battalion, which is our student newspaper, and also worked for a company called TexAgs, which covers recruiting and sports. I hosted a couple of different radio shows on the student radio station, KANM, and so whether it’s radio or TV or film or hard news journalism, I’ve just loved communicating in general, I would say. That’s kind of what led me on the path.

Then after graduation I stuck around working for TexAgs a bit, but my buddies who I had made this documentary with, they were working on a feature film in Austin. And I don’t have a ton of skills. I would say my best skill is that I’m a really good glue guy. They didn’t hire me for my editing capabilities. I did the marketing for the film and a lot of copywriting that we needed to do. But I think I’m just the type of person that people like having around because I’m pretty capable at a lot of things, so you can throw up on my plate and I can typically swallow it, but I wouldn’t say that I have one defining skill. So they were making this movie and wanted somebody like me, so they asked me to come to Austin.

I lived in Austin for two years, working on a film called ‘Believe Me,’ which is about four fraternity brothers who started a fake Christian charity to embezzle money for tuition. It’s kind of a heist movie, kind of comedy. And it was so much fun. Nick Offerman from ‘Parks and Recreation’ plays a small part in it. Shooter McGavin, the bad guy from ‘Happy Gilmore,’ he is one of the antagonists. He’s the head of the charity organization, kind of a dark character. It was a really interesting film. It was written and directed by Will Bakke, who is a Baylor graduate, and he’s the one who directed that documentary ‘One Nation Under God’ that we did together.

WACOAN: How did you meet your wife?

Meek: Julia was a sorority sister of my sister Rachel. They were Pi Phis at Baylor, class of 2010. And my dad developed a cottage project [near campus] that’s called Twenty Twenty. Julia and some of her roommates lived in one house, and my sister Rachel and some of her roommates lived in another house. My freshman year at A&M, I would come in town and hit on Julia. It never culminated, but we did establish a really great rapport and were always great friends.

We reconnected because at the time that I was in Austin working on that film, Julia was in LA. She was a working comic in Los Angeles for two years. She knew the guys that were making the film. She came down while we were filming ‘Believe Me’ in September ’13. And I made myself look much more integral to the production than I actually was and sufficiently wooed her.

Then she went back to Los Angeles, and it was one of those deals where I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend and she wasn’t looking for a boyfriend, particularly someone 2,000 miles away. But I called her and she called me back and then I called her back and she called me back. And then we got married nine months later.

WACOAN: Did you have to talk her into giving up her life as a comic in LA to move to Waco?

Meek: I didn’t have to sell her. She had been in LA for two years. And in LA you’re never just a stand-up comic. You’re never just an actor. You’re also a nanny or you’re a waiter or you’re a delivery driver. She had been [a nanny] the entire time she was there, but her life really was go hang out with these kids for six to eight hours a day. Then at about 5 or 6 p.m., start writing, get to the clubs at 8 or 9, then stay at the clubs until 2 or 3 in the morning and do that again.

And her life became so insulated within the comedy world that she started to feel like she didn’t have anything to write about. You get to this point where you’re just making jokes for other jokers. It’s a joke that’s hilarious for comedians, but maybe the public doesn’t have the ability to latch onto it. Julia felt like she was getting into a little bit of a rut, so she did a grand finale, a one-woman show at the [Hollywood] Fringe Festival and then decided to move back to Texas.

She’s a very family-oriented girl. She’s one of five kids. I think she also was dealing with the fact that she had this life in Texas and then you moved to Los Angeles and nobody knows you. Nobody understands your worldview, and I think she was starting to feel a little bit alone.

Being someone who was raised in the church and still loves Jesus, it was atypical for the people who were in her comedy circle. And she’s so good at engaging with people who aren’t exactly like her that she could survive and thrive in that environment. But I think after a while it just gets wearing, so she just wanted to have a little bit more connection to her heritage. And honestly, if you live in Texas long enough, it just gets buried so deep in your skin that it’s really tough to ever fully leave Texas and not want to come back. She’s a good Texas girl.

WACOAN: And you have a baby?

Meek: We have a baby girl named Stevie Dan Meek. She just turned 5 months. We named her after both of our dads. OK, Stevie, like Nicks [vocalist for Fleetwood Mac]. My dad is Michael Steven Meek, and Julia’s dad is Harold Dan Farell. We took their names and made a name for her. Of course, we’re both big Stevie Nicks fans and Steely Dan fans and Stevie Ray Vaughan. So there’s a lot of connections.

WACOAN: What sparked your interest in Downtown Waco?

Meek: We moved into the Praetorian building at Sixth [Street] and Franklin [Avenue] right when we moved here in January of 2015. Julia and I would walk around downtown often, and before knowing the history of downtown, I’m walking around with my new urbanist spectacles on and just seeing — Why is there an empty parking lot here? Why is there a vacant building there? Is there not something better we can be doing with that space?

The more I began to know Waco, the more I understood that there’s a parking lot there because there was a two-story building and it was taken down by a tornado, or there was a new business there, but it went bankrupt because this guy was a money launderer or there wasn’t enough community support for the idea, whatever it might be.

I fell in love with Waco simply by walking around downtown and seeing all these possibilities, some of which there were good reasons this block hasn’t been developed or why that building is still closed, but other things I would see and it’s just like there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be something there. What ways can we, just as citizens, activate this sidewalk? Can we put a little coffee shop inside of this building just to bring a little bit more traffic to the street?

So that’s what got me interested in downtown, was simply living there and seeing all this low-hanging fruit and just realizing that there are things that I noticed in Waco that I didn’t like and that I wanted to change. And I came to the understanding that I could either 1) keep complaining about it, 2) I could wait for somebody to come in and change the thing I don’t like — and I’d probably find fault with the way they change it — or 3) I can try to do it myself.

So Waco has been so empowering for me personally because it is a city where not everything has been done and there is so much visible need. There’s just a ton of low-hanging fruit here, and I’ve spent the last three years trying to just pluck the fruit that I can with the gifts that I’ve been given and the position I’m in, and one of those was having a forum for conversations about what’s happening in downtown and the way the city is developing.

WACOAN: And that’s ‘Downtown Depot,’ right?

Meek: Yes.

WACOAN: So you’re walking around and what did you see that bothered you, this low-hanging fruit?

Meek: For instance, we lived in the Praetorian building, and the first floor of the Praetorian building at one point had housed The Olive Branch [Bakery & Cafe]. Since The Olive Branch moved, the kitchen area had been used essentially for garbage, and it had been that way before we moved into the building. When we first started Pokey O’s, we moved into the Praetorian building because the building owner told us that the basement kitchen would be usable for us as a commissary. So we moved into the Praetorian thinking that we were going to be able to use that basement kitchen and the building owner was never able, to get the oven working and get the kitchen up to code.

So when we realized just a few weeks before Pokey O’s was supposed to open that we weren’t going to be able to bake at the Praetorian, we started hunting around for other restaurant space. We rented space for a little while from Austin Avenue United Methodist Church, but then after we lived in the [Praetorian] a couple of months, I realized that there was this first-floor area that was a smaller project than getting the entire basement finished out. So I asked the building owner if I could finish out this first floor as a kitchen.

I spent three months in the summer of 2015 doing things that are way outside of my typical skill set: staining and scoring concrete floors, some light plumbing. And that’s just one example where I saw something that was literally a garbage heap and was able to turn it into an income-producing asset for the building owner and something that made our lives so much easier because we now have a kitchen that we can access all the time. Just finding little things like that, ways in downtown that you can insert yourself and become a part of the community that’s already there.

Similarly in that building, where the Bru coffee shop is now, it’s inside of this old elevator, but when we first moved there, the elevator was locked up on the fourth floor where they have their offices. They would sometimes have concerts there, but it wasn’t used daily. So when we were looking for a storefront for Pokey O’s after we had already been using the commissary and the first floor of the Praetorian, I talked to the building owner about pulling the elevator down to the ground floor and putting a Pokey O’s inside of there. And he was really excited about it for a couple of weeks. And then it ended up at some point he wasn’t as excited about it and then put in his coffee shop in there. But that was another example of seeing a potential for an area that’s just not being utilized for some reason or another.

So even though it wasn’t Pokey O’s that ended up going in there, I was really happy to see that this building owner wanted to activate the space, understood the benefits of taking something that was literally just a hole in the middle of your lobby that now is bringing tons of people into your building. And it’s creating connections for people who live in the building as well as passersby off the street. They get a ton of traffic from Magnolia because it’s just a few blocks away, and it’s showcasing a really cool part of Waco. I can’t imagine there are many coffee shops located inside an antique elevator. That’s just another one of those things that keep Waco in the conversation.

For me, marketing a brand, I think of things in term of Instagrammability.

So having a craft coffee shop inside of an antique elevator is an Instagrammable moment for somebody. You’re much more prone if you’re visiting from Des Moines, Iowa, to go take a picture there than you are simply just with the back of the building or standing in front of a cheeseburger. Let’s do what we can as a tourist bureau, as citizens downtown, to create places where people want to be photographed and they want to remember that they were at that place specifically.

WACOAN: So even though Pokey O’s didn’t go into that elevator, it ended up doing OK. When did you start Pokey O’s?

Meek: We began the truck in April 2015, and we’ve been hustling, hustling with that truck for 3 1/2 plus years. But Julia and I moved out of their building as residential tenants in December when we bought a home in [the] Dean Highland [neighborhood]. Once we moved out of the building, it wasn’t as convenient for us to be using the Praetorian as our commissary as well. I began looking for new spaces at the end of ’17, beginning of ’18, and literally knocked on almost every door in downtown [where] I could see an exhaust fan on the roof. I was just trying to find places that had a commercial kitchen, so there’s a few spots in downtown that have kitchens that aren’t necessarily commercial yet.

But I had spoken at a Rotary Club meeting a few months back and had interacted with one of the Hilton Hotels management folks. I just went over to the Hilton and dropped a business card and said, ‘Hey, is Peggy [Jezek] here?’ Peggy introduced me to Stu [Arledge]. Stu introduced me to Justin Edwards, who’s the general manager of the Hilton, and we pitched them on letting us use their kitchen.

This was not about us having space as a physical storefront. It was just that we needed a place to bake. And we have a really large network. We have about 30,000 people who follow us across social media. The Hilton, even though it’s a large hotel brand, it’s owned and operated by a much smaller hotel group. So the Hilton hotel in Waco is a local hotel. When you spend your money at the Hilton, it’s not just going to the Hilton coffers. This is money that’s staying here in town. They have a fabulous restaurant with a really terrific chef named Nate Gay and a lot of Wacoans don’t know that that restaurant is open and available for them. So that’s why they were interested in having us come aboard just as commissary tenants, simply because we could use our platform to make sure that the community knows how focused the Hilton is on local businesses and supporting locally.

We moved in there in March or April and maintain a really good relationship with the Hilton. They have a very large kitchen space, and we’ve just kind of scheduled it so that we’re not on each other’s toes. But later in the summer we saw that they have some space in their lobby that was being underutilized. It was a pretty large room that housed two ice machines and we had kind of talked about finding ways that we could start integrating into their menu, maybe get on the happy hour menu or the room service menu. And they kind of stepped up and blew us away and just said, ‘Hey, you know, we love you guys. You have been great tenants of ours. Obviously, you have a terrific product and a good brand. Would you want to actually have a physical presence here?’ So we found this underutilized space in the lobby that’s very close to the pool, and they gave us the green light. We put a little Pokey O’s store inside of there, and it’s been operating for the last couple months.

We’re still running the truck, but the kitchen at the Hilton is still our main place of operations. We are adjusting to raising our game up to Hilton standards. I feel like oftentimes the food truck world is about doing enough to get passed by the health inspector and then making sure six months from now that you’re still maintaining that. But there’s just an elevated level of decorum that’s required when you are at the flagship hotel in Downtown Waco. That’s been so beneficial for Julia and me as entrepreneurs to be working with people with literally decades of food and beverage industry experience.

They’re helping us refine a lot of our practices — opening and closing checklists, what employees do during downtime — so that we can make sure that we are first and foremost staying up to Hilton standards and making sure that we look like we are a Hilton entity. And for whatever way Pokey O’s expands, we can take that knowledge and maintain those standards. You can never go back. Once you noticed that the floor is dirty, you can never go back to being OK with that floor being dirty. That’s been the greatest benefit of the store, simply putting us on a path towards professionalism.

But first and foremost, we care about culture. For instance, when we opened up the store inside the Hilton, it’s located at 113 South University Parks Drive. Julia decided that we’re going to give away 113 gift cards of $113 each to the people who came up that day. Well, when you do the math, that’s a little less than $13,000 worth of gift cards that we gave away in about 30 minutes.

There were lots of people, our accountant for one, who advised against giving away $13,000 worth of product, but that’s not the way that we make decisions. We really don’t make decisions primarily for financial reasons. We make decisions for cultural reasons, and we felt that that was a decision that we could make that would brand us with 113 South University Parks Drive. It’s beneficial for the Hilton hotel. It’s beneficial for us, and it builds loyalty.

WACOAN: How’s it working out with the gift cards?

Meek: I don’t know. I haven’t ever looked at it. It could be that we’ve already given away $13,000 worth of product this year. It’s probably happened that a couple people misplaced their cards and a couple people showed up once or twice and then graduated college and moved away. Those are things that, if my brain were wired differently, I would be really in the weeds about it. I don’t care about that that much. I don’t spend my brain power thinking about that kind of stuff.

WACOAN: How did you get started with your radio show, ‘Downtown Depot’?

Meek: What led me to it was going back to my time living downtown. In between living downtown and spending so much time on an ice cream truck, I became really chummy with a lot of the downtown [business] owners and people who work in the food truck industry, and I ended up just hearing lots of things about how it goes. This business is opening. That one’s closing. I realized that a lot of the stuff I was hearing I wasn’t reading in the [Waco Tribune-Herald], and that led me to understand that I’m privy to certain information because I work in this industry. I’m not a news person who’s coming and trying to get a scoop.

That’s how the show came about. I had done an event here at KWBU with Julia’s friend Wendy Gragg. She had a podcast called ‘The Waco Suck’ a few years ago. Wendy and Julia and I resuscitated that for a couple of episodes but didn’t end up doing it consistently. But after one of the episodes, Brodie Bashaw, the station manager here at KWBU, told me that I had a nice voice. And you only have to give me one compliment and then you’ve got me hooked for life. So I, of course, did not forget that.

A couple months later I had these thoughts pinging around my head about how I have all this information about what’s happening in downtown. I know of all these terrific stories that should be told, that Wacoans would love to hear but simply aren’t being printed every day in the Waco Trib. So how could I use my skills to put some of those stories out to the public? I reached out to Brodie and just said, ‘Hey, I’m that random guy who recorded a podcast here a couple months ago. Would you let me come on and just do one show about Waco and small business and how this place is growing?’

I was able to get the mayor, Kyle Deaver, on as my very first guest. And I think that the station was probably pretty surprised that I could pull that off. But having Kyle on just gave such a sense of credibility to what I was doing, and Kyle’s expertise combined with the expertise of KWBU from a production side and then me just being there to sort of facilitate the transition. It just was a really great episode and it sounded good and the station liked it, so they asked me if I would do it again. Of course, I said yes. And ‘Downtown Depot’ is a show that we’ve done 50 episodes. The 51st episode will air this Friday.

We air the first and third Friday of every month at 11:30 a.m. on 103.3 FM. You can also search for ‘Downtown Depot’ on Apple podcast, the NPR One app, and KWBU has its own fabulous app. But really, ‘Downtown Depot’ is a show comprised of conversations with civic leaders, small business owners and engaged citizens about development and Waco, whether that be economic development or cultural development or any other.

WACOAN: Did ‘Downtown Depot’ grow out of Waco Business News?

Meek: Waco Business news is the platform itself. That’s us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. WacoBusinessNews.com is the website that hosts all of our content. ‘Downtown Depot’ is the primary piece of content that is published by Waco Business News, but we’re also putting out Q&A’s with developers and articles about the culture of Waco and how things are changing.

WACOAN: Since y’all moved here in January 2015, what kind of changes have you seen in Waco?

Meek: One change I’ve seen is this continued push-pull between old Waco and new Waco, where there is a contingent of people in the city, like me, who I would consider new Waco, who don’t have ties here, don’t understand the history, didn’t know why there was an entire block of building-less sidewalk in downtown. But also, people like me don’t have these preconceptions of what Waco was or stigmas associated with the town. We just don’t see those.

I have a vision in my mind of what Waco can be and should be, but that’s often opposed by this quote-unquote ‘old Waco,’ who have a very distinct vision of what Waco was and they prefer that Waco stay that way. I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of people in Waco who don’t want to live in a city that has traffic. They don’t want to live in a city where they have to wait for a table at their favorite restaurant. And that’s fundamentally opposed to the city that I’m trying to build and the city that I want to live in.

So I just personally, as a citizen, I’m trying to balance the fact that these are two totally valid viewpoints, and just because [these other people have] been here longer than me, it doesn’t mean that they have a right to have the city be a certain way or that their way is better. But once again, just because I’m pretty sure that my vision for the city is better for the community development aspect and for the economics of the city, it doesn’t mean that my version of Waco is better for those people than theirs is.

I have tried to reel myself in a little bit because it’s really easy to say, ‘Why would you not want Franklin [Avenue] and Washington [Avenue] to be two-way streets? Why are you so sold on this being a one-way street? Why does the fact that it used to take you six minutes to get downtown and now it takes you eight minutes, why are you allowing that to ruin your day?’ And there are some battles which I’ve thought a bit and have kind of taken a backseat on now simply because there’s other battles to fight and you can’t convince people of everything.

So that’s a big change in the culture of Waco that I’ve seen, is that there are more and more people who are falling into this new Waco idea. And let me be clear, just because there’s so many who grew up in Waco and just because you’re an older person doesn’t mean that you’re old Waco necessarily. There are tons of very progressive older Wacoans who I’ve met with who are so smart and have a very similar vision for the city that I do. I don’t want anybody to think that this is because of age. It’s really more just mentality. Like, are you growth-minded? Do you see the city in a growth-minded view or do you see the city in a view of stagnation where we want it to stay the same because we are comfortable with this and we love it?

Before I moved here, I was talking with a well-connected Wacoan who said that the thing that’s going to hold Waco back is convenience. And this was in 2014, before I moved here. And that has been the thing that I’ve seen too, is that there are a lot of people who put a premium on convenience more than almost anything else. And so that can retard the process of growth.

WACOAN: What does Downtown Waco need?

Meek: I think Downtown Waco needs more activities. Putters will be coming into the University Parks-Mary Avenue development. It’s kind of an indoor putt-putt golf [and] bar deal. It might be really cool; it might be kinda hokey. To me, it doesn’t matter. You need places to go out.

The thing that stunned me when I first moved to Waco — and this was from being someone who was raised in Dallas — was that Downtown Waco doesn’t really have places to go be seen. Like if you live in Dallas and it’s a Friday night and you live in the Park Cities, you’re going to the Highland Park Village, go to Mi Cocina, and that’s where we’re going to go see a ton of your friends. You get drinks and move on with the rest of your evening. Waco doesn’t have those watering holes in the way that I’m familiar with it and in cities like Dallas.

I think Waco needs more places where people want to go out and be seen. I don’t know if Putters is one of those places, but we’ve seen the success of a place like Cultivate 7Twelve, where when I’m downtown, if I don’t know what I’m doing, I’ll just go pop into Cultivate 7Twelve. It is likely that there is a new art show happening or there’s a concert going on, or at least there’s someone there behind the bar. Andreas Zaloumis at Thrst Coffee is whipping something up. The city needs more places like that where people can come together.

The city also needs more patios. We need places to drink margaritas outside when it feels good, the few days a year that the weather is really nice. And then finally, I personally feel like there needs to be more of a live-event feel in downtown. I have a number of friends who are in music groups who want to play in Waco and simply don’t have places to play, because if you’re not a Christian band, you probably don’t want to play at Common Grounds. If you’re not a country band, you probably don’t want to play at The Backyard. If you’re not an established band, the Hippodrome probably isn’t a viable venue for you. If you are any band in the indie scene or a band that makes music outside of those genres, there are not a lot of viable alternatives for you to play in Waco. That’s a big, a big area of growth that I think will be coming in the next five years or so because there are so many great musicians who drive right past Waco on [Interstate] 35.

Anyone worth their salt is playing Dallas and Austin, and yes, we need to have venues for these artists to perform, but we also need to have incentives for them to perform. So yes, you can come and perform here, but also, like, here’s a house you can stay in and yeah, we’ll do your laundry and here’s a gift card and you can come drink at the bar. Those are little things that make the difference.

If you’re someone who has been living out of your van for three months, if you say, ‘Hey, I can go stop in Waco, there’s a house around the corner where my bandmates and I can stay and we can do our laundry and sleep on clean sheets.’ Yeah, I would go out of my way for that, much less just stop as I’m passing through and drive 2 miles off the highway. It should be a really simple sell. Waco is a simple sell, but we have to incentivize it and market it properly to these creative types.

WACOAN: Back in the day, there were a couple of places to see and be seen in Waco. One was J.T. McCord’s, on Valley Mills Drive, and then there was Water Works.

Meek: So we have all the ingredients, and old Waco should remember places like that and realize how much fun we had. The Water Works building has been vacant since before I moved here. I took a tour inside of the building. It’s a dog. It needs a lot of work. And I understand that if you’re talking to a banker and you mentioned the words ‘bar’ or ‘restaurant,’ they’d probably close their ears and run out of the office, but there have to be people who are willing to be pioneers, and I truly believe that Waco will reward those pioneers.

Like if you are the person willing to say, ‘Hey, we’re opening up a music venue here. We’re going to have live programming seven nights a week. We’re not closed on Sundays. I know that’s revolutionary.’ People will show up. And I’m going back to me not being particularly skilled at one thing. I also don’t think that I’m a particularly special guy. If I think something is cool, probably lots of other people think it’s cool too. I’m not that unique.

It’s like, yeah, having a cold Budweiser and listening to someone play the pedal steel [guitar] is a really pleasant way to spend a Saturday evening. I would go do that anywhere, and I can’t do it here. I used to do that when I lived in Austin, and I did it when I lived in Dallas, so we have the blueprint of how to do it. You just need people with vision and capital.

I feel like oftentimes people of my generation have the vision, or at least feel like they have the vision, but are lacking on capital. And then at some point that kind of shifts where you’ve got the capital, but you don’t have the time to think about it. You know, you can’t sit around dreaming up the greatest music venue in Waco history when you’re busy running a 300-employee company.

WACOAN: We talked about what Waco needs. What do you like about Waco?

Meek: My favorite things about Waco are that it is a nature-lover’s paradise. I love going to Cameron Park, whether it’s for hiking or biking. I love going out to the Lake Waco Wetlands. I bird out there.

I volunteered with Texas Parks and Wildlife and did this program through them called the Ambassadors Program where my cohort of about 20 and I were each placed at a Central Texas park. I was placed at Meridian State Park and spent a lot of time getting on Highway 6, driving out to Clifton and back. And just the things that you pick up on driving through Valley Mills every day or stopping in Clifton, going all the way to Meridian. There are cool little pieces of Texas in Waco and surrounding it.

One of my favorite spots in the Waco area is Tonkawa Falls out in Crawford. I love it because it feels like unfiltered Texas fun. If that place were in Austin, there would be a huge sign up saying don’t jump on this. There would be railway that you have to hold that would be ADA accessible. But Waco, the outlying areas to a greater degree, has kind of skated under the radar of a lot of this, I don’t even know what you would call it. Modernization, I guess you could say, where it really feels like old-school Texas and Waco, specifically, and some of these surrounding areas. That’s one thing that I love.

I’ve heard it from an older person that Waco right now, it feels like Austin in the ’60s, and if I had been in Austin in the ’60s, I could corroborate, but I can definitely see that. It’s at a spot that it’s inexpensive and it is located in a great part of the state and there’s a ton of nature around.

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