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Honoring Community – The Frame Gallery

the frame gallery

the frame gallery

One of the great things about locally owned independent businesses is the degree to which they do community.  Independent businesses are integrally tied to the community that they are in and as such those owners tend to be great stewards of community.

One business that exemplifies this is The Frame Gallery.  Greta Watkins the owner of The Frame Gallery has, more than anyone else, inspired and created the downtown renaissance in Bryan.  She has worked tirelessly to make First Fridays and the Art Step the huge success that they are.  Twenty years ago, downtown Bryan was as far from cool as one could get, now it is an amazing center of community, commerce and art.  I seriously doubt that this would have happened if not for Greta.

The Frame Gallery at 216 N. Bryan Ave. is the heart of downtown.  On First Fridays the place is hopping. Greta’s husband, Randy, and his band are set up playing some excellent mell

As a community, we are very fortunate to have the stewardship that Greta Watkins provides, as well as the unique personality that she brings to The Frame Gallery. ow jazz, the walls are covered with incredible local art and the place is elbow to elbow with the fine people of our community.  It is a scene not to be missed, and so very different than other times at The Frame Gallery.  I love to slide into The Frame Gallery on a hot afternoon when the crowds are not as imposing and spend some time enjoying the visual talents of the artists of our town.  Greta’s portraits of Brazos Valley personalities are some of my favorites.

Honoring Community – Southwood Learning Center

Here is a great story of the American Dream played out right here in College Station. 


southwood learning center

southwood learning center

In 1981 an Indian family decided to leave all they knew behind and chase the American Dream in College Station, Texas.  They brought their children, some savings and lots of hope for a bright future.  Of all places in the world, why College Station, Texas?

The gentleman had a brother who was a professor at the amazing institution known as Texas A&M, which possibly had a position open for him.

Once the family moved here, circumstances changed and the opening at the university was no more.  What to do?  A young family, a new country, young kids and disappointment looming in the horizon.  What to do, what to do?

The wife had been a teacher, once upon a time in India.  Her passion had always been children.  She had patience, love and a desire to teach, perhaps she could once again work in a school.  The elementary schools were not an option, too many differences in teacher requirements.  She volunteered at a local preschool while the husband looked for a new job.

One fine day as they were driving by a quiet street, they saw a “For Sale” sign on a daycare center.  “Let’s inquire” they both thought, “we have nothing to lose.”  They did and though the center only had 8 kids they decided to jump in with both feet and started Kiddie Castle Children’s Center.

The couple worked diligently to provide a warm and nurturing environment that felt like home for all their children and families.  They worked tirelessly to improve their curriculum and eventually began a Montessori curriculum.  This was an internationally recognized approach that allowed children the freedom to move at their own pace and reach levels typically unheard of in other curricula.

It was hard work, many hours with the whole family working every moment they had to make a go of the new business, even the children pitched in after school.    The first few weeks and months were grueling.  There was excitement paired with fear, what if this did not work?  At first, there were many dark clouds, but with prayer and continued efforts the school began to grow and expand until there were several schools including Southwood Learning Center.  The American Dream had become a reality.

This is the story of how my parents Syed and Muneer Hyder came to this country and established themselves and their business over a 30 year period.  Today, my parents are somewhat retired and have finally decided to slow down a little, but the original Kiddie Castle is still in business as is Southwood Learning Center.

I get to contribute to the history as the proud administrator of Southwood Learning Center.  Times have changed with new theories on child rearing and classroom management, but we still follow the century old Montessori curriculum and we still believe in children having a nurturing environment that allows them to explore the world around them in a safe and fun way.

It is exciting to see what can be accomplished in this country with a dream, hard work and opportunity.  It is even more exciting to be a part of it all.  How fortunate am I to be a part of this legacy and I look forward to many more years of working towards keeping the tradition of good education and a family atmosphere alive in Southwood Learning Center.

BRAZOS VALLEY MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

I have fond memories of collecting fossilized sharks teeth from the banks of the Brazos River on an outing with The Junior Museum of Natural history, now the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History.  The museum is a real treasure for the Brazos Valley. If you have not discovered this treasure we encourage you to do so.  This museum is not just for children but it is always more fun to bring a child with you.
The Museums director is Dr. Deborah F. Cowman. The Museum’s mission is to preserve and protect natural and cultural history, to promote science education, and to encourage responsible stewardship of all natural and cultural resources. It accomplishes this through: 1) the preservation of artifacts and natural specimens; 2) the presentation of exhibits and educational programming; and 3) cooperative partnerships with arts and cultural organizations, community oriented entities, and academic institutions throughout the Brazos Valley.

The Junior Museum of Natural History was founded by the American Association of University Women in 1961 for the express purpose of providing object and activity-oriented natural science education to young people. All efforts were volunteer and extensively involved the Department of Biology at Texas A&M University. From its beginnings, the Junior Museum of Natural History aggressively reached out into the Bryan schools. Its first home was, in fact, in the Brazos County Courthouse in Bryan.

In 1970, the collections increased several fold when the Texas A&M Museum Collections were orphaned. Important acquisitions included a collection of Pleistocene mammals, local archaeological material, and two historically important local botanical collections from 1883 and 1897.

In 1979, the museum moved to the Brazos Center. In 1993, the name became the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History to clarify the museum’s role in the community and to focus collections, exhibits, and programs on the local area. In 1991, a new 9,400 square foot museum was built next to the Brazos Center on land donated by the County.

The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History is staffed by paid professionals, interns, and volunteers. Programs are provided to area schools and preschools. There are spring, summer, and fall nature camps, with special programs on- and off-site for adults as well as children. Educational exhibits are changed quarterly.

Classy Girls Cupcakes

Classy Girls’ Cupcakes was created by two teachers with a love for sweets!  We were hired as teachers the same year in College Station and our friendship grew because of our shared love of baking and tasting!  In the summer of 2010 we took a girls trip to the northeast  and enjoyed cupcake tasting at Magnolia Bakery in New York City and *ndulge Cupcake Boutique in State College, Pennsylvania.  Our favorite cupcake of all time is Red Velvet, so whenever we order it’s always one red velvet and one other flavor, and then we split them.  I don’t know if we have ever eaten a whole cupcake of one flavor, when we are together. Classy Girls’ Cupcakes of Aggieland was created because two girls could not find any cupcakes in town that would satisfy our cupcake craving! (at that time there were no cupcake shops!)   In the fall of 2012, we started baking cupcakes to sell by friend requests.   Through word of mouth and a Facebook page, we have sold over 1,000 cupcakes since October.   

We both teach 5th grade math in College Station, and we naturally incorporate cupcakes into our lessons whenever possible.  Cupcake recipes and different combinations of cake flavors and icing are topics that help us teach fractions and possible outcomes.  Talking about cupcakes makes for a great audience! The kids love it and are our biggest fans!  We couldn’t do it without our support team!

Much of our time in the kitchen is spent tweaking recipes to find the best tasting ones.  We have perfected our classic flavors, red velvet, chocolate, vanilla, and carrot cake.  As the seasons change, we add in flavors specific to the season.  In the fall, we made a sweet potato bourbon cupcake with a bourbon glaze, our classic carrot cake, and a cappuccino cupcake with whipped topping.  Many have said we have the best icing they have ever hadJ  We have a lot of cupcake tasting experience and that is why we use the freshest and highest quality ingredients.   We know what tastes good!

Not only do we change flavors as the seasons change, but we are always up for a challenge by customer’s request.  We have incorporated Pop Rocks into cupcakes, hot pink and zebra theme, and purple filling for the Lady Cougars.

The best part of this business and experience is that we are doing what we love and our friendship has grown.  There have been many late school nights in the kitchen doing some “cupcake bonding!”  We are very happy about what has occurred the past few months with CGC and are excited to what God has in store for our future.

“We are two teachers caught between a chalk board and a spatula.”  Rebekah and Hilary

Please visit our Facebook page at

We have photos of us and more importantly our cupcakes!

Our Local Businesses and Nonprofits

Stearns Design Build

Stearns Design Build

As our underwriting on NPR says, at Stearns Design Build “we are committed to the goals of environmental and community stewardship.”  One way that we want to work toward the goal of providing community stewardship is by offering a blog post every Friday on a different locally owned and independent business or nonprofit. A hallmark of community is the degree to which people in the community know one another. Our locally owned businesses and nonprofits are an essential part of our community.  Unlike formula businesses and national nonprofits, that are also often important community members, our local businesses and nonprofits help uniquely define our local character.  They are more integrated into the community, making decisions based on a relationship to the community rather than revenue alone.  Knowing a little about these organizations makes us better connected.  We are seeking information to help compile these posts.  If you are, or know, a local business owner or nonprofit director that would like to be featured please let us know. Or, you can us this to help us gather the necessary information. Send it to hugh@stearnsdesignbuild.com


**Is this business owned at least 51% buy people who live within 75 miles of Bryan, Texas?

**Does this business have the authority to make all decisions locally?

**Business owner(s):

Number of employees:

Year business started:

Inspiration for the business:

Brief history of the business:

Primary products and services of the business:

Tell an interesting story about the business, its owners, employees or customers:

Philosophy and/or goal of the business:

*Name five locally owned independent businesses or nonprofits that you like.

** Must be answered

* We request and answer

The rest are intended to help provide information about the people and personality of your organization.  Feel free to fill in as you wish or to use a different format altogether.


Tomorrow we will post an entry about Stearns Design Build to provide an example.