Celebrating History: Waco Businesses 70+ Years in the Making

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Waco is celebrating its 175th birthday in 2024! Many long-lasting Waco businesses started as one thing and transitioned into another. Read on to hear more about companies that have been operating in one way or another for 70+ years. 

Padgetts / Brazos Media Technologies – Padgetts started in 1867 by Tom Padgett as a saddlery company and moved to Waco in 1874. The company became one of the largest saddlery companies in the country and was even favored for leatherwork in France and Britain during WWI. The company also helped shape Waco for more than a century. Eventually, they expanded their products and services as times changed and eventually went into technology. Read more about the store history here. The store named Padgetts has closed in Waco. However, what was formerly the Tom Padgett Company is now an employee owned Audio Visual company called Brazos Media Technologies and run by several former Padgetts employees, so its spirit lives on.

Tony DeMaria’s BBQ started as a grocery store in 1946. However, workers began asking for lunch so the company accommodated the demand. 

Owner Blake DeMaria said, “As more and more workers came in for lunch, grocery shelves came out and dining tables went in. It was not long after, and we were an all out restaurant.”

The restaurant claims its longevity is due to loyal customers and consistency from having four generations of DeMaria family members running it.

DeMaria said, “Places have return customers that come and are good customers, but some of our customers are next level amazing. We have people that come several times a week. We have some from Chicago and all over the US that bring their whole family everytime they come into town.

The restaurant uses the recipes everyone loves, but has undergone a large remodel that includes the dining room, extra TVs, a new beer license and a large patio. The menu is also on the list for an upgrade.

Nothing will go away, but we are looking to add more options to have a larger appeal. We have already started working on recipes for multiple taco options, nachos, new sandwiches and side options. So those are just some things to look forward to for the future.

The construction by the restaurant has been hard on many Waco businesses, including DeMaria’s.

“One day our area will have hotels, a beautiful street and other amenities and I will be very very grateful for that, but it’s just been a struggle in the meantime,” said DeMaria.

Cupp’s Drive Inn has kept people well fed since 1947, and includes famous patrons like Elvis Presley, while he was stationed at Fort Hood, and Willie Nelson. People are now able to enjoy indoor dining or an outdoor picnic area. The restaurant uses Texas-sourced fresh ingredients and uses the same recipes that have brought back multiple generations of patrons.

Health Camp was started in 1948 by brothers-in-law Jack Schaevitz and Lou Stein, pioneers in the fast food industry. They had a mobile food cart at James Connally Air Force Base. The burgers and frozen custard were so popular that the owners opened up a restaurant on the Waco traffic circle the next year, which was a popular gathering place at the time.

Owner Trent Neumann said, “The two brothers fought fiercely over choosing a name for their new business but eventually settled upon ‘Health Camp’, the words stamped on the eggs that Jack’s dad used to sell at his dairy in Youngstown, Ohio.”

Health Camp is a time capsule with the original recipes served on the original stainless steel countertops, a jukebox entertains customers while they scan the displayed photographs and newspapers of local history on the walls.

Neumann said, “The community really supports local Waco businesses … People also just love the way this place makes you feel. When you walk in the door it takes you back to a time that was simpler. If that was a time when you were a kid, or on your first date with your now wife or husband, or a special time with a grandparent, it just gives you a special feeling.”

The business is dedicated to the community, its history and its employees. The staff are celebrated with the hope they love to work there and take pride in what they do. The restaurant is expanding soon with a new location in Woodway’s Union Grove Food Hall.

Neumann said, “I know that a lot of the aesthetic of Health Camp is this really cool older building on the Circle. I know we can provide our great service, the fresh burgers and homemade ice cream that we make our shakes from and create something great there as well.”

Westview Nursery has helped Wacoans with their yards since before 1953. They opened up on Valley Mills when it was surrounded by farms on a single lane road, and now it’s in the middle of town. The company now has an additional locations on Woodway Drive with four generations of the family investing hard work, love and dedication into the business for their family and customers. They focus on customer service and quality whether it’s in the nursery, landscaping, irrigation, or just a customer’s question about plants. 

Whether you’re a long-time Wacoan or new to our town, it’s good to know your roots which add stability to the community. Let’s spread the love to the incredible Waco businesses who have served us for more than 70 years!

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Katelyn lives in Waco with her husband of 10 years, Matthew, and their two children, Caleb and Abigail. Katelyn started as a military brat, but ended up in Waco in the early 90s and has been in Central Texas ever since. She graduated from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor with a BBA in Public Relations and from Tarleton State University with a Master of Business Administration degree. Her career has included 10 years as a photographer and 11 years in non-profits, management and executive leadership, event planning. Katelyn has worked from home since 2018 and enjoys spending time with her children and homeschooling. She is a part of organizations like Women of Waco, Greater Hewitt Chamber of Commerce, and Brazos Valley Co-op. This “almost Waco native” loves encouraging others and is excited to do so through Waco Moms. Katelyn’s former publication experience includes San Antonio Weddings Magazine, Waco Tribune-Herald and Killeen Daily Herald. You can find her photography business at www.kasper-creations.com

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