GLADEWATER, TX (KLTV) - Memories of the past 30 years are still vivid in the minds and hearts of these Gladewater citizens.
"Gladewater had nothing but empty, mostly empty buildings."
Margaret Larkins, owner of the Gladewater Antique Mall, remembers the city as it was 30 years ago: Empty buildings and empty streets.
But her best memories are of Gladewater's rebirth as"The Antique Capital of East Texas."
Beth Bishop, the woman with the vision of how to save the dying city, is no longer alive to enjoy the fruits of her labor.
"She had a good idea, a good vision and she followed through...was one of a kind. She was very, extremely good promoter."
Auctioneer Joe Saxon, who now owns the auction house that Beth and her husband had owned, was also one of the first ones contacted about Beth's vision of filling the empty stores with antiques, beginning with the Gladewater Antique Mall.
Because of her auction business, Beth knew all the antique dealers in East Texas. And when she said "come to Gladewater", well you just didn't say no to Beth Bishop.
"My first step was when Beth said, Joe, I need you to help me this weekend for free. I said okay."
In the middle of helping Beth clean out the empty store in 100 plus Texas heat, Joe asked the all important question.
"I said, tell me again Aunt Beth why we are doing this?"
"She said what we're doing this for is revitalizing the town. The city benefits because of the taxes, sales taxes, and the dealers benefit because they have a place to put their goods and sell their stuff and the auction benefits because the dealers are going to come to our auction and buy our antiques and put them in their stores."
According to Gladewater Mayor Harold Wills, the opening of the antique malls came just in time.
"If the antique dealers hadn't come in, we'd be in real, real bad shape because of the tax revenue from the businesses."
Today the city's finances are in good shape and those empty buildings are filled to capacity with hundreds of dealers in the large antique malls, small antique malls, and individually owned antique shops.
The antique shoppers, who come from Dallas, Houston, Shreveport, and even out of state, not only buy antiques, but also gas, lodging, and food.
Stores like The Screen Door offer customers all the unique extras that make a visit to Gladewater special. Ice cream at the old fashion soda fountain and gourmet coffees are big favorites with out of towners.
The Sugar Shack with its homemade pies and Greenwood's Christmas Store also are big attractions.
Those businesses and scores of others just wouldn't exist if antiques hadn't brought in customers in the first place.
"I think one thing it proved was we all stick together and we all have the same dream like Beth did that we'd still be here 30 years later."
Once an oil boom town that almost died when the boom died, Gladewater is booming again as The Antique Capital of East Texas.