Abilene, Texas is a city that boasts a mix of old and new buildings scattered throughout its streets. One particular area that embodies this balance is the SODA district. Local business owners in the area are striving to maintain the city’s history while also looking to the future.
One such example is the Matera Paper Company, a historic building located on the corner of South First and Oak. Although it was destroyed by fire in 2012, Tim Smith made the decision to rebuild the structure, while incorporating new buildings that still respected the old architecture. According to Smith, “Think of it as a better product in the end, and something that people will appreciate more. It’s just that history is still there and people appreciate it.”
Lindsey Flores, a local restaurateur, sought to honor the Matera Paper Company’s history when he opened a new eatery in the building. Despite the charred window and brick wall that remained, Flores decided to keep the Matera name. Flores said, “History is a big and important part of everyone’s life, because without history there is no knowledge.”
The grand opening of the Matera Bar and Grill, the new restaurant, signaled the start of a new chapter in the building’s history. Flores said, “Before we cut the tape, I went out and looked around…I actually started crying because it was so surreal. What was this once, what is it now, and what it will be like in the years to come? It was surreal just to understand what the possibilities were. It was to bring an exciting vibrancy.”
Ultimately, the Matera Paper Company and the Matera Bar and Grill serve as symbols of Abilene’s ability to balance past and present in a way that creates a sense of connection for its residents and visitors alike.