El Charro reopening in former Woman's Building; donating building's plaques to Genealogical Society

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

Feb. 12, 2008 - El Charro will soon be reopening its doors not far from the downtown square, and the owners Friday took the time to see that the history of its new digs was preserved. The plaques, listing all of the contributors who helped see the former Woman's Building constructed, were donated via First Baptist Church to Hopkins County Genealogical Society.

When First Baptist Church sold their activities building to Antonio, Lance and Marylan Reyes, church officials mentioned that several of the women who once spent countless hours in the building doing club activities had indicated to church officials that they'd like to see the plaques preserved.

"Before they sold to the church, the ladies requested "don't let anything happen to our plaques," said Tommy Johnston, business administrator at First Baptist Church.

Tony Reyes said initially El Charro's owners had considered keeping the plaques of the numerous building contributors on the wall. But as renovating at the new El Charro location got under way, the wall was painted and more consideration was given to the women's wishes.

Since First Baptist Church, who purchased the Woman's Building from the Women's Forum in the summer of 2000, knew more about the building's history and the women who made the request than the restaurant owners, the plaques were given to First Baptist Church to see that they got where they needed to go.

Johnston in turn contacted Hopkins County Genealogical Society to see if the research facility would like to have the pieces of local history. HCGS gave first refusal on the plaques to the local historical society. It was decided that they should go to the Genealogical Society, which has room to display them at its Main Street research library and since it already has records donated from the Women's Forum and club meetings, HCGS librarian Marynell Bryant said.

Friday, Johnston met Bryant, El Charro owner Tony Reyes and manager Vera Hooten and former Women's Forum President Lou Cherry at the research library to see the plaques donated. HCGS now has the two brass plaques, one which lists all of the founding members and others alive at the time who had contributed monetarily toward construction of the Woman's Building as well as another listing money given in memory of others to the project. There are also three smaller plaques, two which list those who contributed financially to build a kitchen at the Woman's Building in 1973 and one listing donations in memory of others.

Hooten said she was glad to see the history of the Woman's Building, which at one time was originally the hub of activity for eight women's clubs, preserved.

As for the future of the College Street building, El Charro's owners said they have been working diligently since they bought it on Dec. 15, to get it ready for business. They had hoped to be open before now, but the renovation process and move from the Country Club has taken longer than anticipated.

El Charro has a long history in the area. The family first started the Mexican restaurant in 1964 in Greenville, then expanded their operations to Sulphur Springs in 1969. The restaurant moved in 1973 across the street to Main Street, where it continued to be located until January of 2006, when the structure caught on fire causing serious fire damage to the celling and smoke damage throughout. The business then later moved it's operations to Sulphur Springs Country Club, where it continued to be operated until Dec. 15, 2007.

Tony Reyes said that about 5 walls have been added to the old Woman's Building, a one way parking lot was added, the entire kitchen and outside were redone and painted. El Charro when open will seat about 100 at first, with another room in the back to be opened later for private meetings and other similar bookings.

No date has been set yet for El Charro's grand opening, just soon. The managers said for loyal patrons of the restaurant said to keep an eye out, that the owners plan to advertise the opening in the News-Telegram.

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