EVANT - Thousands of people drive right through it every day and never know it is there. In the western part of Coryell County on HIghway 281 and Highway 84, you will find the small town of less than 500 people called Evant.
“When I was growing up, it was the small town you went home to,” says John Drennan. “It was the place where you learned to haul hay in the summer time. It was the place where you went deer hunting and it’s the place where both grandparents were.”
His great-grandfather owned a hardware store in downtown Evant for many years. His grandparents and parents grew up walking these streets as did Drennan who spent his childhood summers here.
As an adult, Drennan came back to Evant to find much of it disappearing. Businesses were closing, families were moving to bigger cities where they could find better jobs and the small town his family loved was fading away. Drennan decided to do something.
“Evant is a small town that has been suffering from the WalMartization if you will of middle America and over the last 10 years, we have been buying parts of the downtown buildings with the idea of renovating it,” says Drennan. “If you don’t do it yourself locally and you don’t get involved locally, no one else is going to solve it for you.” s
Mary Ann Davison, President of Evant Chamber of Commerce has lived in Evant since 1991. Working in social work, she realized the trickle down effect the lack of jobs and commerce was having on children in the area. That is when she decided to get involved.
“I am devoted to getting people to come here,” says Davison. “When we live in an area so small, we’re not going to be able to offer a lot of jobs with benefits and insurance but I know we can create jobs here that will supplement a family’s income. Something for a mother or a father to do so they can supplement the income where they don’t have to travel.”
The small town of Evant is working to attract artists, craftsmen and entrepreneurs to their downtown in an effort to create those jobs. Places like Adamsville Furniture and Louise’s Boutique are offering new business owners a place to grow and the town of Evant a new look.
“I love Evant,” says Dimmy Weeks, owner of Louise’s Boutique. “I’ve always been very proud of being from here because I was born and raised here and I do love all the families and all the people. I knew if I opened a business anywhere I’d want it to be where people really appreciated it and me.”
Louise’s Boutique offers women’s clothing and accessories to the younger generation of Evant. It is exactly the type of store Weeks says she always wanted as a teenager in her hometown.
“I wanted to have a place where girls in high school can come and shop and not have to travel an hour to the mall and to have affordable clothing,” said Weeks.
It is just one of many success stories Drennan hopes comes from downtown Evant.
“It’s kind of a small example of what can happen when a community comes together. There are 6800 cars a day that come through here and it’s a shame not to capitalize on some of that,” said Drennan.
Besides the economic impact, Drennan hopes the resurgence of small town Texas has a ripple effect.
“The sense of neighborhood and community involvement that you find in a small town is really what the heart of America was about and that is really what we’ve missed. If that can take hold and if that can last for a couple of generations, we will have helped pay something forward,” said Drennan.