Our favorite guest writer, Kendall Sussman is out on the road for the next month. She encountered this cool car story in Waco, Texas which, in turn, inspired a jaunt around town to find the coolest places in Waco. Check out all she has to say in this two part series.
“I grew up in poverty, but I didn’t realize it because my dad was taking care of us.” Tony described his Waco childhood on streets where the rumble of a flashy car, posting up on the corner reverberated through the strangled neighborhood, drawing kids with a magnetic pulse. “Unfortunately,” he remarked, “they were all dope dealers and criminals.” The kids learned to see crime as a relief from the sweltering need, charmed as if swarming an ice cream truck that dispensed sugared poison.
As an adult, Tony found Jesus, a regular job, and freedom. He’s now the one posting up on the corner, rumbling in a flashy car, a 2013 Charger with chrome rims, a spoiler, and a 5.7L Hemi, wrapped by Precision Wraps in textured vinyl, matte, and gloss, with bold colors and graphics designed not only to attract attention but to slide along the hero worship of a culture that idolizes NBA superstars. The black and red #23 is not a player number; it is a reference to the book of Proverbs in the Bible. The leaping Jesus figure on the side is haloed and bearded, pointing heavenward. Tony uses the buzz arising from his car as a way of starting conversations and sharing an alternative outlook with the new generation in his old neighborhood. He wants to point them toward hope, rather than spiraling addiction and crime.
Car shows are another opportunity to use his vibrant Charger. Before the virus cramped communities, Tony’s car club– Texas Royalty— hosted events that drew car lovers, vintage and show vehicles, and the public together to raise money for local charities. Last May, the Red Nose Day Car Show– sponsored by a local On The Border restaurant– benefited the Boys & Girls Club. More recently, Tony worked with HEB, a grocery chain, to coordinate an event supporting Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry.
While disparate, these Waco organizations form a networked root system fed by a common desire to create a thriving community, to provide relief from scorching poverty and strengthen one another by twining together. Tony introduced us to Ryan Serrano who used a settlement he received from the death of his father to leave a chain-store retail position and open Hype Waco. An urban shoe and clothing retailer, the store carries vintage and new release sneakers and limited-edition clothing, but it is about more than the daily sales tally. Ryan’s goal is to use his store to create a community of support where local talent can develop a legit foothold, finding exposure, developing copyrights and familiarizing themselves with business practices. Musicians use his storefront as a venue, or as backdrop for videos, while the store’s playlist is exclusively comprised of artists from Waco and neighboring towns. Ryan offers store credit for buckets on the mini hoop over the door, well aware that his ability to give back may be a game changer for a struggling family, and also hosts a smack-talking hoops competition every Saturday for bragging rights to the store’s championship belt. Skunk By Us is the store’s most popular label, designed by a local fashion artist known simply as E. His choice of the skunk was deliberate, challenging our tendency to recoil at first impressions when in reality, the animal serves the community by ridding it of rodents and bugs.
Waco showed a gritty depth, and after visiting Tony, his ride and the urban pulse of downtown, it was worth staying for more. Check out part 2 of this post for more exploration.