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Fueled by childhood memories of a once-thriving town and a desire to give back to the community, Brooks Gremmels bought property – lots of it – in and around small, unincorporated Ben Wheeler along Hwy. 64 and FM 773 in southern Van Zandt County. His plan: to return the town back to its 1935 look and to bring new businesses, and inspire a new community-friendly attitude and sense of pride back into the area through events, festivities and other social projects.
Brooks’ basic project through Ben Wheeler Development Company (BWDC) will take some time before his full vision comes to fruition. But when complete, Gremmels will have provided Ben Wheeler with a downtown and surrounding areas with sustainability and profitability for future generations to enjoy easy-living-conveniences life in Ben Wheeler can afford each of its residents – an endeavor that strives to afford the community with restaurants, a winery, downtown shops and artisans’ wares, a fully restored downtown park complete with gazebos and stages for entertainment, a farmers market, a classic car museum and motorcycle hall of fame, and much, much more.
“We’re working with a clean sheet of paper,” Brooks explained. “When I grew up in Tyler and went back and forth to Dallas, Ben Wheeler was a nice little town,” he said. “When I moved back 35 years later, I guess they’d lost their pride. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to do something positive to help restore it.”
Since last February, Gremmels and his team have been working on various projects which have included refurbishing old houses, buildings and store houses, cleaning up park land and putting on family-friendly events to help in that restoration of pride and community.
“I don’t know if that’s something we can really measure, but it’s something you feel if you have it,” he said.
“There’s no place right now for people to really gather, although the new fire station is very generous with its facility for town meetings. We’d like something dedicated to that, especially for the older citizens. If we take care of the youth and older citizens, those of us in between will find our own way.”