Monica Tharpe is the owner of Tharpe’s Boot and Shoe Repair – a downtown Killeen store opened in the early 1950’s. She remembers the good ol’ days when dozens of thriving shops lined Gray Street.
“It was booming. It was a big thing. We had restaurants, we had pharmacies, we had soda pop places down here. We had come and get coffee places down here,” Tharpe said.
Now, Tharpe’s shop is one of the few stores still open in the area. Tharpe says several stores started closing their doors in the late 1990’s.
“Between the malls opening and the places growing more with the soldiers coming in, they thought they needed to go a little further out, I guess,” Tharpe said.
Take a walk in downtown Killeen, and you’ll notice a lot of the buildings are vacant – yet the area was once a staple in the community. City officials are working to get it back to that, starting with expanding services at Solix.
City leaders are hoping adding close to 200 jobs will push more people to start businesses downtown.
“Doing things so that investment is protected downtown, and people can invest in buildings and acquire those buildings and bring them back and re purpose those buildings, then they become an attraction,” says John Crutchfield, of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.
While Tharpe has had no problem keeping her store running, she says she wouldn’t mind having more competition.
“Bring us back up, make us popular again,” Tharpe said.