Life in the East End
#EastEndStrong: Finding economic resilience in community
By Christi Vasquez
In Houston, the pandemic has spurred a movement to support local businesses and organizations as restaurants and bars shut down, other businesses limit their capacity, and adapt their services to adhere to COVID-19 safety accommodations. The connection between supporting our local businesses and organizations, that in turn support the community, has never been more apparent to residents and business owners alike. Through this symbiotic relationship, several new ventures, innovative concepts, and lifelong dreams were made reality in Houston’s East End.
The East End Chamber of Commerce has been a champion of East End businesses during the pandemic. As daily life shifted to accommodate physical distancing precautions and businesses shifted their employees to remote work or take-out only service, many business owners were also forced to innovate and pivot their marketing and visibility efforts. But with the help of the East End community, the Chamber spearheaded the creation of a new Facebook group, East End Strong.
With more people shifting their social activities online, the East End Strong Facebook group was the perfect channel to capture the attention of a now mostly-virtual audience. The localized reach of the group is a unique opportunity for East End businesses who are both social media pros, and who have explored the digital channel since the COVID-19 pandemic started. As of January 2021, the group has over 1,900 active members with daily posts.
Tailoring a digital presence on the fly can be difficult for many small businesses and COVID-19 only emphasized this challenge. With a little innovation and leveraging the latest social media features, the East End Chamber of Commerce developed two recurring Facebook live stream series “Fridays with Frances: Feel Good Fridays” and “Member Minute.”
Both video segments feature Chamber president, Frances Castañeda Dyess, in conversation with Chamber members. The “Member Minute” is a quick, thoughtful glimpse into a single Chamber member business, and past businesses featured include Gulf Coast Distillery, Partners in Primary Care, Ben’s Den Food Truck, and ILA Local Union 24. The “Feel Good Fridays’ segment is a long-form deep dive into how Chamber member businesses are giving back to the East End and Greater Houston communities during this time of uncertainty. Past streams featuring Wal-Mart, Port Houston, Houston Botanic Garden, Amanecer Co. and Henderson & Kane General Store.
In addition to specific business spotlights, in the second half of 2020 the East End Chamber began organizing webinars for COVID-19 specific challenges businesses might be facing. Special topics include “A Toolbox for Entrepreneurs” during the pandemic with BakerRipley, “Marketing in a Pandemic” with Savage Brands, and more. Videos in all of the series generate hundreds of views, and all streams are archived for on-demand viewing on the Chamber’s Facebook page.
A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
With the pandemic and its safety precautions came a burst of new concepts, as entrepreneurs dreamed up ways to tackle a persistent annoyance for many people and families: safe, quality entertainment. So heralded the re-emergence of drive-in cinema.
In 2020, the East End became home to Houston’s first permanent drive-in, Moonstruck Drive-In. This modern drive-in movie theater was borne from a collaboration between two small business owners from Houston. With its rotation of new films, plus a breathtaking view of the city’s skyline, families, couples and individuals can skip a traditional theater for a nostalgic, open-air experience. Even more exciting for the East End, Moonstruck Drive-In was chosen to screen film entries to the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Houstonians and East End residents alike will be among the first to enjoy yet-to-be-released films from acclaimed and up-and-coming directors.
For more fresh air fun for the family, the Houston Botanic Garden opened to much acclaim and excitement in September 2020. Just a few minutes outside the 610 Loop and still within Houston city limits, the 132-acre golf course-turned-garden touts a dizzying selection of flora. Curated garden areas highlight different climate zones and nearby, a culinary garden is flanked by olive tree saplings. Cross the bridge back to the mainland (the garden is partially an island in Sims Bayou), and you will find a pond and community garden area.
From the native to the exotic, the vibrant to the opaque, the gardens are a riot of plant-based adventure for nature-lovers of all ages, aspiring gardeners and newly-seeded house plant parents. The meticulously maintained gardens are complemented by modern architecture that makes it impossible to fumble an Insta-worthy shot. The Houston Botanic Garden was years in the making, and though only Phase One of the project has been completed, Houstonians and visitors can look forward to bubbling fountains, a thoughtfully-constructed event space, and trail expansions in coming years.
TASTES OF HOME
Along historic Navigation Boulevard--named in honor of it’s terminus at Port Houston—a new restaurant highlighting the vibrant cuisine of the Gulf Coast has made its home. Acadian Coast has made waves with its thoughtfully prepared seafood, blending the flavors of American Creole and Southern culture, plus those of the Acadia region of Canada. The restaurant opened in October 2020, nearly 8 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and was a culmination of a Houston collaboration of entrepreneurs and chefs.
Houston Dynamo legend Brian Ching’s new patio cocktail bar, East End Backyard, pays homage to the historic East End. Like countless East End business owners before him, Ching’s concept operates out of a classic bungalow, renovated and refreshed for its laid-back clientele. East End Backyard is his love letter to the East End, complete with brightly colored outdoor furniture, a rotating selection of food trucks, and a tap list featuring some of Houston’s favorite breweries. Just a block over on Milby, White Rhino Patio and Cocktail Bar’s social media updates highlight their progress towards opening as they install pandemic-forward infrastructure for socially distanced, open-air cocktail hours.
THRIVING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
Gray Amazon Prime trucks have become a hallmark in the East End throughout 2020, especially as Amazon revenue exponentially increased during the pandemic as people around the world quarantined. Closer to home, residents of Eastwood and Second Ward watched this expansion from their homes. The e-commerce giant has progressively expanded shipping operations in the East End over the past few years, but in 2020 they officially leased the building that once housed the beloved Harrisburg Art Museum.
Though the vibrant art on the loading bay doors still remains, visitors are now prohibited as the inside of the warehouse has been transformed into a high-tech distribution hub. It sits a stone’s throw from the MetroRail Green Line. As a volatile economy triggered an unprecedented rise in unemployment in 2020, this Amazon location has been a consistent source of jobs for local residents seeking employment.
The long-awaited project from real estate mogul Frank Liu’s Lovett Commercial also broke ground in 2020. The project, located at the former Finger Furniture location on the Gulf Freeway, is slated to be developed into 610 multi-family units and several retail spaces, one of which will be anchored by a Chick-Fil-A. Liu acquired the property in 2014 as Finger Furniture liquidated all of its assets—the company had occupied the location for nearly 40 years. The development joins a newly-constructed student housing building for University of Houston students.
In fall of 2019, it was announced that the Dallas-based co-working space Common Desk would expand their operations into the Houston market. As of 2020, they have two locations in Houston: one in the Galleria, and the newest here in the East End. The co-working space arrives at a time when many businesses have transitioned to remote working arrangements in lieu of the traditional 9-to-5 office space due to COVID-19 precautions. Yet Common Desk’s focus on hospitality, versatility and affordability has made their spaces a great option for those yearning for the focus office spaces can bring, from consultants, to students to freelancers and more. While some of their amenities have been put on hiatus for the foreseeable future, they offer an extensive and detailed list of COVID procedures on their website for future members.
With the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across the country, these new East End businesses and organizations offer glimpses into post-pandemic life for Houston residents. The city has more than a year of physical distancing recommendations under the it’s belt, paired with squinting smiles over masks and constant hand sanitizer application. The importance of finding sanctuary in pre-pandemic pleasures offered by local businesses and organizations—or new offerings tailored to pandemic precautions—has never been more vital for Houston’s East End, and the area is poised for post-pandemic growth and development. The East End Chamber of Commerce is the premier catalyst for economic and community development in Houston’s East End and is essential for any area business’s post-pandemic business plan.
The East End represents a number of the city’s most historic and culturally significant neighborhoods. Many area residents can trace their ancestors back to some of the area’s early settlers and some of Houston’s original recorded deeds are in the East End.
The homes built in Eastwood were custom homes reflecting the early 20th century fondness for Craftsman, Arts & Crafts, Foursquare and Mission architecture. Today, Eastwood has one of Houston’s largest intact collections of these architectural styles.
Please take a look at the East End's premier neighborhoods:
Twenty-two new residential communities have become a part of the East End landscape bringing new and old together in a fashionable way. In town Homes the newest development in east downtown offers a variety of townhomes and lofts sure to suit your style!
Arts & Entertainment
East End Entertainment Venues
Part of the vibrant redevelopment of downtown includes entertainment venues located in the eastern side of downtown including Minute Maid Park home of the Houston Astros, and the Toyota Center home to the Houston Aeros and Houston Rockets. Also calling the East End home is the brand new exciting Houston Dynamo, Houston’s first professional soccer team that has been met with great enthusiasm and support. This two time MLS champion will be calling the East End home very soon.
Houston is second to only New York as a major cultural arts center. More than 200 cultural institutions are dedicated to bringing art to the Houston community. Houston is one of the few U. S. Cities that offer world-class year round resident companies in all of the major performing arts. Visual arts are served with distinction in Houston by the Museum of Fine Arts, Contemporary Arts Museum and the Menil Collection. Joining the Menil are several other museums including a wide range of commercial galleries. East End treasures include our very own featuring and promoting Latino artists and theater groups and the Orange Show, providing extraordinary imagination and the opportunity to express personal artistic vision through unique public art.
Parks & Greenspace
Enjoy a leisurely stroll along Brays Bayou in Houston’s Historic East End! From hike and bike trails, linear trails to parks nestled in historic neighborhoods offering a beautiful backdrop of downtown Houston. Visit the East End and enjoy amenities including a skate park, golf course, swimming pools, soccer fields and community gardens. Take a drive down East End streets and enjoy lush and beautiful canopies of trees lining the neighborhoods! The East End your HOMETOWN in A Big City!
Brays Bayou from Lawndale to Forest Hill
Brays Bayou from 75th to Evergreen
Harrisburg - Sunset Drennan to Marsden; Ave. R to Ave H
Hike and Bike Trail
Eastwood Park - 5000 Harrisburg
Hartman Park - 9311 Ave P.
Mason Park - 541 75th Street
Broadmoor/Kretschmar Park - 1500 Elliot St.
Brown Foundation Plaza - 2801 Harrisburg Blvd.
De Zavala Park - 7520 Avenue J/907 76th St.
Eastwood Park - 5000 Harrisburg
Eastwood Skatepark - 5020 Harrisburg
Glenbrook Park & Golf Course - 8201 North Bayou Drive
Gragg Park Complex - 2999 S Wayside
Guadalupe Plaza - 2311 Runnels
Gus Wortham Park & Golf Course - 311 S Wayside Dr
Hidalgo Park - 7000 Avenue Q
House of Tiny Treasures - 1529 Lombardy St.
Japhet Creek - 4600 Clinton @ Emile St.
Jenkins Garden Corner of Lockwood & Harrisburg
Mason Park - 541 South 75th St/Tipps
M.C Cullinan Park - 5120 Polk
Milby Park - 2001 Central
Park Drive Park - 4600 Park Dr
Park Place Park - 8600 Detroit
Peiser Park - 8510 Manchester St.
Reveille Park - Oak Vista
Settegast Park - 3001 Garrow
Smither Park - 2441 Munger St.
Spurlock Park - 6700 Park Lane
Tony Marron Park - 808 N. York
Yolanda Black Navarro Buffalo Bend Nature Park - 2300 S. Sgt. Macario Garcia Dr.
East End Murals
Over 25 murals can be found in every nook and cranny of the East End. From world renowned artists to local talent telling the East End story and its rich history, you do not want to miss taking a drive and checking out these colorful works of art. Stop and enjoy a delectable dessert or coffee or enjoy lunch at one of our many restaurants.
Rebirth of our Nationality - 5800 Canal
Ventanas de Opportunidad - 2704 Navigatio - (behind Original Ninfa’s)
Eastside Houston - 802 Telephone Rd. @ Dumble
La Reyna del Acorden - 6901 Harrisburg
The Houston Ship Channel - 6601 Harrisburg
El Callejon de Los Murales - Oshman’s Building - I-45 @ Wayside
Goodwill Building - 4535 Harrisburg
Nuestra Senora - 5100 Polk Street
Harrisburg Plaza - S. Wayside @ Capitol
El Derecho el Respeto Ajeno - 2950 Broadway
Selena - 7037 Capitol
La Virgen Encantador - 2405 Navigation
El Centro de Corazon - 5001 Navigation
Lee Angel Ramirez - 6300 Navigation
The View from Magnolia - 7748 Avenue K
A Mexican Mountain Scene - 521 S. Wayside @ Avenue P.
Don't Forget Your Roots - 6635 Harrisburg Boulevard
Las Mananitas - 6311 Gulf Freeway
Jardin - 6311 Gulf Freeway
Papel picado - 6311 Gulf Freeway
Baile - 6311 Gulf Freeway
Paz a Las Americas - 6635 Harrisburg Boulevard
Aerosol Art Wall - 4500 Harrisburg Blvd.
Coffee Plant/ Second Ward - Metrorail Station - 511 York St.
Conduit - 5020 Harrisburg Blvd.
East End: Birthplace of Houston - 3715 Harrisburg Blvd.
Frenetic Theater - 5102 Navigation Blvd.
GEEMD/ East End Foundation - 3211 Harrisburg Blvd.
Houston's East End - 1450 Gulfgate Center Mall
Jungle - 5100 Polk St.
Metamorphosis - 110 N. Milby St.
Nuestra Familia, - Nuestra Comunidad - 4410 Navigation Blvd.
Peace to the Americas - 6635 Harrisburg Blvd.
Voodoo Queen - 3004 Canal St.