Another downtown transformation

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Matt McCrane and Ryan Bailey are pictured on a sky lift as they work to remove sheet metal from the front of building on Center Avenue Friday morning, revealing intricate brickwork.

“Sixty years of sheet metal is being removed to showcase beautiful brickwork in pristine condition at 406 Center Avenue,” the Brownwood Municipal Development District’s Facebook page proclaimed Friday morning.

A visit to the site proved that the Facebook message was not an exaggeration. Two men in a rented Roberson Rent-All sky lift worked methodically to rip the sheet metal away from the front of an empty downtown building, revealing exquisite decades-old brickwork.

The building has been home to several businesses in the past — including the Heart of Texas Advertising Specialty owned by Wayne and Peggy McCrane — and has been vacant since April. An awning on the building was stamped with the date 1912.

Standing in front of the building while the two men worked, Tommie Bailey explained the circumstances that brought Bailey and her family —who moved here from Fredericksburg just over a year ago — to end up working Friday morning with former Brownwood High School and Kansas State University football standout Matt McCrane.

McCrane, a kicker, has played in the NFL and most recently the XFL, and is hoping for a return to the NFL. He is the grandson of Wayne and Peggy McCrane and the son of Steven and Lori McCrane.

Bailey and her husband, Ryan, bought the building in April and are renovating it with plans to open a baby and children’s clothing store. Plans are for the Baileys’ 23-year-old daughter, Rachel Howell, who followed them from Fredericksburg, to run the store.

McCrane was one of the men working on the sky lift. The other man was Ryan Bailey.

“My dad retired and moved to the area, and we came up here to visit him,” Tommie Bailey said. “We just fell in love with the area and people. We started looking and we found a house.” The Baileys live in Early, she said.

Bailey’s father is former McCulloch County Sheriff Earl Howell, who retired recently.

“I think he just needed to get out of McCulloch County,” Bailey said of her father. “He liked the (Brown County) area and wanted to be able to move up here and ranch and do his own thing.”

Bailey said she and her husband met McCrane when they bought the building. She said McCrane was working on a building known as the Green Room — formerly the A1 Locksmith business — which McCrane and his wife, Megan, have turned into an apartment for themselves.

“He came over and introduced himself,” Bailey said.

The decision was made to remove the sheet metal from the building’s front.

“We knew the windows were there but we did not what shape the brickwork would be in, or the design on it, or anything,” Bailey said. “We went with a lot of faith.”

McCrane and Ryan Bailey started removing the sheet metal Friday morning.

“We were holding our breath whenever the first panel came down, because we didn’t know what we’d find behind it,” Bailey said. “When we saw the design work we knew we were doing the right thing.”

Howell, the Baileys’ daughter, said her interest in running the store “kind of evolved from working in different retail shops back in Fredericksburg, and I just decided that I kind of wanted to tackle it on my own.”

Bailey said there is some work to be done on the inside including painting and putting in a new floor. The hope is to have the business open in mid-to-late September, but she realizes COVID may delay the opening.

Bailey said she and her husband are enthused about the efforts to revitalize downtown Brownwood.

“We’re excited to be apart of that,” Bailey said. “We’re hoping to help in any way we can to get people down here and shopping the area.”

Bailey and her husband have gotten involved with the Lyric Theatre and will be part of the Lyric’s next play “Get Smart.” Ryan Bailey will play the role of Maxwell Smart, and Tommie Bailey is the costume designer.

Brownwood economic development director Ray Tipton likes what he sees in the project.

“We are thrilled to see another new business come to downtown Brownwood, and the continued renovation and revitalization of our downtown buildings,” Tipton said.

“We have had a lot of successes and momentum in downtown Brownwood over the past couple of years and we feel like this will continue. The BMDD’s building improvement grant program is still available to businesses looking to make improvements to commercial properties in the downtown area.”

Tipton added, “I think the brick looks incredible. It gives a sense of what downtown must have looked like decades ago.”

Rachel Howell holds her 2-year-old daughter, Maya, as she stands next to her mother, Tommie Bailey, in front of the Center Avenue building Friday morning.