Coyote Drive-In theater coming to Lewisville


Published in The Denton Record Chronicle on Jan. 16, 2015

Harold Robinson opened the single-screen Town and Country, previously known as The Rancho Drive-In, in the summer of 1948. It was the first of its kind for Denton County, and the last.

The drive-in closed permanently in the early 1980s. Now, the only evidence left of the theater is the crumbling ruins of the snack bar in diamond-shaped foliage, reminiscent of the zombie film footage that used to play on its screen.

The glow of a drive-in movie screen will light up the night sky in Denton County once again later this year. Coyote Drive-In plans to open a five-screen theater on 35 acres in eastern Lewisville near U.S. Highway 121 Business, Sam Rayburn Tollway and Fish Hatchery Road.

On Jan. 5, the Lewisville City Council unanimously approved a special-use permit for a drive-in theater that would fit 1,500 cars on the southeast corner of Holford’s Prairie and Midway roads to view movies.

While there is no set date for the opening, officials hope to open by the end of the year.

It will be the closest drive-in theater to Lewisville residents since a two-screen drive-in theater on Business 121 closed in the early ’70s.

Coyote Drive-In opened its first drive-in theater in Fort Worth in 2013, Brady Barnett, vice president of development for Coyote Drive-In, said.

“We feel like Lewisville is a great community and a great location for our next opening,” he said.

“We’re very happy about the council’s approval of our request and excited to break ground on it and get it open in 2015.”

Here’s how the drive-in concept works.

Viewers park in designated spaces on one of the dirt mounds around the Selby screens.

Viewers watch movies, projected on outdoor screens that can be as large as 40 feet tall by 60 feet wide, through their car’s windshield or bring lawn chairs and sit in front of their vehicles.

The screen displays the FM radio frequency viewers need to tune their car radios to for the audio.

“There is a big nostalgia factor to it,” Barnett said.

“There is an entire generation of young families that never experienced the drive-in, so I think that is exciting and gets the attention.”

Drive-in theaters are relics of the past that are no longer included in city codes. There are not a whole lot of drive-ins around, and certainly not in city limits.

“In order for us to develop the way that we need to for our business model, we needed to request a special-use permit from the city,” Barnett said.

The Fort Worth location plays its double features on three screens. The Lewisville location will show its movies on five screens to provide more options for viewing its new release films.

It will also have an open-air pavilion, a kids’ play area and a 10,000-square-foot restaurant. Beer and wine will be available in the restaurant.

The company plans to keep admission prices the same across locations: $8 for adults, $6 for children ages 4 to 10 and free for kids 3 and younger.

The main difference between the Lewisville and Fort Worth locations will be that Lewisville will have an indoor, air-conditioned and heated space for the restaurant in addition to outdoor beer garden seating, said Glenn Solomon, a partner of Coyote Drive-In.

The drive-in likely will not be open in time for 2015 summer blockbusters, he said.

“It’s exciting and scary to be the first one to come back to Denton County. It’s much easier to do something when everyone is doing it and you know that it works,” Solomon said. “Now that we have done one, we know there is a need for this sector of the business.”

Lewisville Deputy Mayor Pro Tem R. Neil Ferguson has worked in retail site analysis for years. He said he was impressed the company sought out Lewsiville, and he couldn’t think of a better use for the space.

“They found us. We didn’t find them,” Ferguson said. “You don’t really go lasso a business and try to drag them to your city.”

The location is perfect for a drive-in, he said.

The land is set back from the major roadways, which creates a noise buffer. It also may help more businesses pop up in that area. It’s just a little ways from the landfill, and the nearest neighbors are an auto auction business and old junk yards that were permitted decades ago, he said.

“There hasn’t been anything happening in that direction, period,” Ferguson said. “This may incentivize other restaurants that may not have been on anyone’s radar.”

There have been rumblings of the possibility of using the pavilion and parking areas for outdoor events like concerts, he said.

“Since the primary intended use is at night, I would think that the owners would want to look at opportunities for daytime use,” he said.

ADAM SCHRADER can be reached at 214-773-8188 and via Twitter at @schrader_adam.

Mix of optimism and speculation swirling around future of Vista Ridge Mall

Published in The Dallas Morning News on March 26, 2015

Some Vista Ridge Mall tenants remain optimistic about the future in spite of the mall’s recent difficulties.

“We’re doing really well right now, so it’s kind of weird that the mall isn’t,” said John Yates, the manager at Zumiez.

Yates said the company has a lease through 2017. Zumiez, which sells action sports clothing and accessories, occupies a space on the second floor that was a FastForward location before Zumiez bought out the company.

“We don’t think the mall is actually going to close,” Yates said. “From processes that other malls go through in this situation, the loan will go back to the bank and they will try to sell it to another company.”

Yates has been at this location since the end of October. He says business at the mall has improved since he arrived and the company isn’t worried about losing its place in the mall or decreases in business.

But other store owners are concerned.

Mohammed Hossain, the manager of Toys & Gifts on the first floor, has been in business for eight years, but said he’s worried about the foreclosure and what will happen next. If ownership changes, he said he’d be fine with that. But if the mall closes, he will have to find a new location.

“I lose business day by day,” he said. “I’ve considered moving. Around Christmas, another mall offered me a storefront but I don’t have enough manpower and resources. So I stay here.”

The mall’s owner, Rouse Properties Inc., was recently late paying on its $67.82 million loan, according to Trepp LLC, a firm that tracks commercial mortgage-backed securities. Rouse said last month that Vista Ridge’s loan was sent to a special servicing firm.

The fact that Vista Ridge Mall, a million-square-foot mall in Lewisville, is facing foreclosure has some tenants and shoppers worried. Although they want the mall to be stronger, they have watched other developments sprout up to give the shopping center competition.

“We need Vista Ridge Mall. There are no other large anchor stores conveniently located to the Lewisville-Flower Mound-Highland Village area,” Doris Taylor, Highland Village resident, said in Sounding Off. “Going to Dallas to go to Macy’s or Dillard’s is not an option for many people.”

Although many residents hope Vista Ridge will find a new buyer, some speculated on possibilities for a vacant mall.

A few who responded to Sounding Off proposed turning the mall into a newer type of retail, an outdoor shopping center like The Shops at Highland Village. Other proposals included transforming the mall into a school or a college, corporate office space and even bulldozing it to build a park.

The financial situation is just the latest in hits for the mall. Currently there are 29 vacated spaces where retail once operated.

When Vista Ridge Mall opened, it was the only place to shop the major stores locally. Online shopping didn’t exist and there were few movie theaters in the area.

Soon, Vista Ridge Mall will also have to compete with new outdoor shopping centers such as the Riverwalk and Lakeside DFW in Flower Mound.

Carrollton resident Lewis Acrey has been coming to the mall for at least 12 years. He says the mall once was busy but has lost traffic to other shopping centers. Though the atmosphere at Vista Ridge is appealing, it doesn’t have enough family entertainment and discount stores, he said.

“Grapevine Mills is bigger and has more eating places and family entertainment. Parents can shop while their kids do activities,” he said. “[Vista Ridge] is decorated better than Grapevine Mills and some of the other malls. But it just doesn’t have the right things to bring customers in.”

Hollace Harvey wrote in his 2002 book Historic Denton County: An Illustrated History that Vista Ridge Mall averaged 13 million visits a year by serving a young affluent market, winning several architectural design awards and having shops including White Barn Candle Co., Ann Taylor Loft and Eddie Bauer — all of which are now gone.

Once many major retailers left, the mall began to hit hard times. In 2009, General Growth Partners, which owned Vista Ridge, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After the bankruptcy, 30 low-performing malls, including Vista Ridge, were spun off to shareholders and formed into Rouse Properties.

Vista Ridge Mall was built in 1989 on the southwest corner of Round Grove Road and Interstate 35E. Sears and Dillard’s were its initial anchor stores. J.C. Penney opened its doors in August 1990. The fourth anchor store to open was a Foley’s, a unit of Macy’s Department Stores, before it was converted into a Macy’s. The anchors own their buildings.

In 2006, Cinemark constructed an attached 15-screen movie theater to the mall, relocating from its smaller space in another part of the mall. The original theater closed in 2009.

Sheldon Rudman, owner of Collector’s Heaven, has consolidated his locations to a single store in Vista Ridge Mall. Rudman is retiring from managing the business and moving to Canada, but someone else will run his store.

Rudman doesn’t see the mall falling under new ownership as some stores, like his, are performing well. At any mall, the tenants are the stakeholders who have its future in their hands. If they do poorly, the mall does poorly, Rudman said, but a poorly performing mall doesn’t mean the death of its tenants.

“Some storefronts have been vacant for a while and I don’t expect anything to change,” he said. “It would be too costly for anything else to happen, but they’ll basically renegotiate the payments, essentially refinancing the mall.”

Kevin Ismail, a salesman at Classic Jewelers on the mall’s second floor for three years, said business at the mall has been slow for a long time with no improvement. He doesn’t see anything happening to many of the stores.

“We haven’t suffered anything [like some of the other stores] in the last two years,” he said. “But we are on day-to-day lease, so they can throw us out whenever they want.”

Eighteen stores have closed on the lower level and one elevator and one set of escalators are out of order. Eight storefronts and four spots at the food court have closed upstairs.

But it’s not like Rouse hasn’t tried to bring new people in. The mall recently converted some storefronts into sitting and family areas. It frequently has events for families. It used to have a Disney Store and Build-a-Bear Workshop, which also provided activities for families.

Jesse Dawayne stopped into the mall on his way back to his hometown in Houston from Kansas.

“About 10 miles north, I saw another mall [Golden Triangle] but it wasn’t appealing,” he said. “I thought, ‘Man, there’s probably nothing in this mall.’”

He kept going until he saw a “nice structure in a perfect location.”

“When I got to this mall, I didn’t even know I wasn’t in Dallas,” he said. “But I have been seeing many empty spaces.”

Lewisville/Flower Mound editor Adam Schrader can be reached at 214-773-8188 and @schrader_adam on Twitter.

Educator’s ‘laser focus’ helps him secure Lewisville ISD superintendent’s post


Published in The Dallas Morning News on April 30, 2015

First, let’s set the scene. It’s last Monday night. The Lewisville ISD Board of Trustees meeting room fills
with more than 200 people attending a special meeting. On the agenda is an announcement about who
will become the next superintendent of schools.
Vernell Gregg, former Lewisville ISD board president, sits in the front row — across the aisle from the
Chief Operations Officer and Interim Superintendent Kevin Rogers.
“I hope it’s Kevin Rogers,” she says with a laugh. “If it’s not Kevin Rogers, I’m going to throw something
at the board.”
School board president Trisha Sheffield calls the meeting to order. After a brief closed session, the
trustees return and the room quiets. Sheffield announces that Rogers, a hometown guy, has been
named to replace Stephen Waddell as superintendent.
“We had some fabulous candidates,” Sheffield says. “It was a great process to just see the caliber and
quality of candidates that we had the option to choose from, and then really know that Dr. Rogers was
the right person to move forward with strategic design and all the great things that are going on in our
campuses and in our classroom.”
As the board unanimously approves the motion, everyone in the room is standing, cheering loudly.
“They put you through the wringer and that’s what Lewisville ISD deserves,” Rogers said during a speech
after the announcement. “I look out and see parents I’ve known for 29 years, teachers I’ve worked with,
administrators. Together we can continue the great things this district is known for.”
Becoming superintendent
Rogers, 55, beat out more than 99 applicants from 30 states. He was selected because of his proven
track of inclusiveness, district spokeswoman Karen Permetti said.
“[He] has a record of bringing new ideas and seeking all stakeholders in the implementation process of
whatever those initiatives or ideas are,” she said. “That was really what raised the level of his
Rogers also stood out from the crowd because of his “laser focus” and record of accomplishment on
closing the academic achievement gap between white students and minority students, district officials
said. In a press release, they recognized his knowledge and support of LISD’s Strategic Design initiative,
the district’s road map to the future.
“Strategic Design remained at the forefront of the Board’s decision-making process,” they wrote. “Going
backward or stopping the progress that has been made was never an option.”

Mike Bowden, the regional manager for the United Educators Association, a union-like teachers’ group,
praised the selection of Rogers as smart and logical.
“Nobody else is doing this redevelopment process like Lewisville ISD is. It would be a very difficult
transition for someone from outside,” he said. “And Dr. Rogers is a phenomenal person to work with, so
this is a very exciting time for Lewisville.”
Rogers has worked for three LISD superintendents: Clayton Downing, Jerry Roy and Stephen Waddell,
who started the Strategic Design process, he said.
“[Waddell’s] point was that if we don’t do something different, then public education in the future will
become obsolete, and we cannot become obsolete. Strategic Design is a big deal to the board and
rightfully so,” Rogers said. “Every parent wants to make sure that we provide the utmost number of
opportunities for their child. Our community had incredible input into the Strategic Design process,
unmatched to anything LISD had ever done.”
Rogers said Strategic Design is about transforming education, and his passion for that is a little personal.
“My youngest son went to high school with two high school credits before he even walked in the door,
graduated high school a half a year early, but hated school. Hated it,” he said. “Now, I’ll be honest with
you, I’m a little more simplistic. It’s not about some grand idea — it means we’ve got to change,
classroom by classroom by classroom.”
Rogers’ contract is set to be approved May 18 with his first day as LISD’s superintendent on May 19. By
law, there is a 21-day waiting period before the board can approve a candidate’s contract.
Moving through the district
Rogers, from Wichita Falls, earned his bachelor’s degree and doctorate from the University of North
Texas, and his master’s degree from Texas Woman’s University.
Lewisville ISD hired him in 1986 as a science teacher at Hedrick Middle School and the now-closed
Milliken Middle School before promoting him to principal of Arbor Creek Middle School. Eventually, he
became the principal of Marcus High School, on the western side of the district.
Rogers led Marcus for 15 years. Then-superintendent Roy promoted him to the district level as assistant
superintendent for secondary education in 2008. After Roy’s retirement and Waddell’s appointment in
2011, some cabinet positions were streamlined and eliminated. But Waddell kept Rogers as chief
operations officer. When Waddell announced his retirement in December, the school board named
Rogers interim superintendent.
Rogers got into education to teach. He said he still misses the classroom. So for the past four years, he
has taught master’s and doctoral classes at UNT as an adjunct professor. While he enjoyed teaching the
principals and assistant superintendents trying to get their master’s and doctoral degrees, he said he’ll
probably be too busy to teach in the near future.

Rogers also serves as board chairman for PediPlace, a nonprofit health care facility for children. His wife,
Bridget, works for LISD. Matt Rogers, his younger son, lives in Colorado and Shane Rogers, his older son,
is a teacher and coach at Marcus.
“I was the principal when both of my sons were in high school,” Rogers said. “I’ll be honest with you,
one of my sons really liked that and one of them really hated it.”
Rogers said Shane has impressed him, not just because he’s his son, but because of his accomplishments
as a young teacher and a coach. But he’s proud of both of his sons, he said.
“I hope that he’ll continue to work hard to be the best teacher he can and touch children’s lives,” he
said. “That’s really what it’s about. For most of us, it’s the calling we got in this profession for.”
The LISD student population was 13,000 when Rogers first started working in the district nearly 30 years
ago. The number has since jumped to almost 53,000.
According to the Texas Education Agency, Lewisville ISD has more than 6,500 staff members teaching
52,698 students at its 69 campuses in 13 cities. Of these students, 25,239 were white (47.9 percent),
4,963 were African-American (9.4 percent), 14,490 were Hispanic (27.5 percent), 232 were American
Indian (0.4 percent), 6,153 were Asian (11.7 percent), 37 were Pacific Islander (0.1 percent) and 1,584
identified as two or more races (3 percent). There were 16,258 students labeled as economically
disadvantaged and 16,026 as at-risk.
Rogers said he wants to improve how the district serves its disadvantaged students, an initiative he’s
taken on since serving as principal at Marcus.
In that role, he found ways to distribute resources to LISD schools that were not as financially fortunate,
he said.
“I had access to funds and was able to provide some things,” he said. “So I think it’s important just to
understand that this is certainly more than just one person, whether you are a teacher, principal or
Last school year, there were 7,762 students enrolled in bilingual education, 8,344 enrolled in career and
technical education, 5,052 enrolled in special education and 5,324 enrolled in gifted and talented
“That’s not only English language learners, but that’s some of our kids that are economically
disadvantaged students,” he said. “That percentage continues to increase. There are a lot of kids that
are struggling and a lot of families that are struggling.”
Rogers said the district needs to find ways to better serve every student, including immigrant groups
such as the Chin, an ethnic group from Myanmar in Southeast Asia.
“We know we are the second-largest refugee area for Chin students and we’ve got to find ways to serve
those kids and enhance other opportunities,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to expand

our career center options, and we’re looking at what other things we can do to create opportunities for
all students.”
While it can often be difficult for an organization’s top dog to interact with lower-level employees,
Rogers said he doesn’t have that problem.
“I think what happens is some people forget where they came from or who the most important people
of the organization are,” he said. “In my opinion, the most important people in the organization are
teachers that work every day in those classrooms because they’re the ones who can touch the lives of
the kids.”
Rogers said that the first thing he’ll tackle as new superintendent of schools is hire for the leadership
team. Quentin Burnett, CFO, and Penny Reddell, associate superintendent for learning and teaching, are
Additionally, Permetti will be leaving the district to spend time with her children. Rogers will also have
to find a new chief operating officer.
Rogers said he’s in good health and has no plans to retire — at least for the next six or seven years.
“I’d like to work at least 10 more years. What I’ve tried to do all my years in LISD is work extremely
hard,” he said. “I’ve tried to make sure no one feels like they’re outworking Dr. Rogers and that won’t
Lewisville/Flower Mound editor Adam Schrader can be reached at 214-773-8188 and @schrader_adam
on Twitter.

Flower Mound teen dies in go-kart accident


Published in The Denton Record-Chronicle on July 22, 2014

Kierstin Eaddy met everything with passion. She had a passion for track and field, Girl Scouts, horses and helping others.

The Flower Mound teenager also had a passion for racing go-karts and was thrilled to participate in a timed race sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America at Texas Motor Speedway this past weekend.

Eaddy, 14, died Sunday when her go-kart crashed on a course set up in a parking lot at Texas Motor Speedway. She was taken by air ambulance to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, where she was pronounced dead.

Fort Worth police are investigating the cause of the crash.

The remaining races at the event were canceled after the accident.

“All of us at the SCCA are shocked and saddened to hear about Sunday’s tragic accident involving Kierstin Eaddy,” Lisa Noble, president and CEO of SCCA, wrote in a press release. “We are a Club of families, and are shaken by the loss of this young competitor. Personally, and on behalf of the SCCA, my heartfelt condolences go out to Kierstin’s family, friends and the participants at Sunday’s event.”

Kierstin, a member of North Texas Karting and the Dallas Karting Complex, had raced since age 7. She was a two-time regional champion and was wearing her helmet, neck brace, gloves and racing suit at the time of the accident, said her father, Todd Eaddy.

Kierstin had dyslexia and attended the June Shelton School in Dallas, where she was an honors student and participated in track and field. According to its website, Shelton is a private school founded for the treatment or accommodation of learning-different children.

She represented Shelton at the Junior Olympics recently in San Marcos and broke many school records this past year.

Kierstin, who owned the pre-assembled go-kart, wanted to become an engineer and design her own kart.

“Racing is fun, and something like track and field you have a passion to be a competitor, and she was a competitor in everything she did,” Todd Eaddy said of his daughter, adding that she was also a gifted painter.

Classmate and friend Brennen Bliss, who has created a memorial page on Facebook, said Kierstin received the Spirit of Shelton award this past year, which is the highest award a Shelton student can receive.

“She was the most amazing person. The impact she has made on all of our lives is something we’ll never forget,” Bliss said.

Todd Eaddy said the school had a major impact on his daughter’s life.

“I don’t know how to tell people about dyslexia and the difficulties that come with it and the children that go through what they do with being dyslexic,” he said. “Shelton is a school that wraps their arms around that.”

Counselors were made available to students and parents on Monday at the school, according to Shelton’s executive director, Suzanne Stell.

“We will be continuing that with grief counselors as we move forward,” said Stell, adding that the school is waiting to hear from Kierstin’s parents before having a memorial at the school.

Kierstin was a member of the Girls Scouts and a volunteer with the SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding Center in Corinth. The center provides free therapeutic horseback riding services to children and adults from 10 counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Her father said she chose the organization because of her love for horses and children and helping others.

She would volunteer every weekend and build PowerPoint presentations for teachers, students and corporations to help the organization, Todd Eaddy said.

Funeral arrangements have not been made public, but they will be published later at this link:

ADAM SCHRADER can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @Schrader_Adam.

DATCU credit union breaks ground on new branch


Originally published in The Denton Record-Chronicle on Oct. 27, 2014

DATCU, a full-service credit union, held a ceremony this month to celebrate the groundbreaking of its new location at the corner of Briarhill Boulevard and FM407.

Holly Johnson, the current assistant manager of DATCU’s Lewisville location, will manage the new branch. The contractor for the project is Links Construction. The architect for the Highland Village branch is Kirkpatrick Architecture Studio.

Visit  or call 1-866-387-8585 to learn more.

Accidental Asian fusion

Published in The Denton Record-Chronicle on Aug. 10, 2014

This fall, whether it’s after a late night of studying or a night on the town, University of North Texas students and Fry Street loyalists will have some new places to grab a bite and a pack of cigarettes.

Chai Tamprateep, owner of Mr. Chopsticks, is behind a small retail strip at the corner of Hickory and Welch streets featuring restaurants and a convenience store. Sushi Cafe, relocating from Oak Street, will fill Suite 100. Seoul Wings and Beer will fill Suite 101 and Viet Bites will open a second location in Suite 102.

The strip will also include a 3,000-square-foot convenience store, which Tamprateep said will be called C-101, and there is one more storefront available for lease.

The spaces for the restaurants are 75 percent complete inside, and he hopes they’ll be completed soon so the restaurants can start moving in and prepare to open later this year.

When Tamprateep started the project, he approached several businesses. He didn’t initially intend for all three restaurants to be Asian cuisine, he said.

“I approached them and that’s how it works. And actually the convenience store owner is Asian, it’s funny,” Tamprateep said.

Even though the theme of the tenants is similar to his own restaurant on Scripture Street, he’s not interested in moving because business owners shouldn’t have to compete with their landlord, he said.

Viet Bites is setting its grand-opening date for the first day of school, Aug. 25, but was planning a soft opening sometime this week. Co-owner James Trinh said he hopes everything will be in by next weekend.

Since the shopping center is right by UNT and nearby Fry Street bars, it will give Viet Bites a new market to tap. The original Viet Bites on South Elm Street opened in 2013.

“Everyone wants to be by Fry Street because that’s the top real estate location for restaurants in Denton where it’s not so hectic like [Loop] 288,” Trinh said. “Even people who work in the bars around there know us and love us and said it would be great to have us there.”

Trinh said Tamprateep worked with them along the way and he felt comfortable with him as a landlord.

Viet Bites’ Hickory Street location will offer a new concept, so diners can get different experiences at the two locations. It will be a fast-casual atmosphere, with less variety, so busy students can get in and out the door quickly.

“Right now we have a lot of space limitations, so sourcing it out to the new location, we can be more creative at the old location,” Trinh said. “I think people will even want to visit the old location more, so I’m not afraid.”

As far as competition goes, Sushi Cafe already has its own clientele, since the business is relocating from a nearby spot on Oak Street. Sushi Cafe’s owner is also opening Seoul Wings, whose menu, Trinh said, will be different and exciting.

“We’re not scared of competition but think it will make us strive to be better,” Trinh said. “It will get us to be innovative at times to keep up.”

ADAM SCHRADER can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @Schrader_Adam.

Native Lewisville filmmakers release dark comedy ‘Hello Gangster’ on Amazon

Published in The Lewisville Texan Journal on Jun 17, 2016

A band of friends has been filmmaking for more than 15 years. For the first time, one film, “Hello Gangster,” was screened at a movie theater and distributed for sale. The 82-minute dark comedy was completed with five people and less than $1,500.

The story follows Simon Cardoza, 30, a defeated working man. Matt Barron, 32, plays an aspiring musician who cuts a bad deal with a loan shark. The nefarious fellow takes Cardoza’s dog as collateral, thinking it’s Barron’s. Cardoza ventures to raise the money before the dog, and his friend, get executed. A kidnapping ensues before the “losers with no promise” hitch a plot to rob restaurants for the cash.

Cardoza said his mission was to show the power of independent film.

“Technology has revolutionized filmmaking to where people can shoot Sundance level films on an iPhone, like “Tangerine,’” he said. “This film will make people realize that you don’t need all the glamour and glitz; you just need the gumption and know-how to get it done.”

Cardoza said that’s where the director and producer, Richard Krause, shines. Krause has worked in commercial film since the age of 19 when he started full time in the Dallas Cowboy’s media department.

“He took the reins of writing the script. He set up the lighting, did the cameras and was a essentially a one-man production company,” Cardoza said.

Krause and Cardoza both graduated from Lewisville High School in 2003 before briefly studying in the Radio-Television-Video-Film program at the University of North Texas. They each credit their abilities to media technology courses at Dale Jackson Career Center.

“Dale Jackson gave us the opportunity to start making films and we really haven’t stopped,” Cardoza said. “It’s so awesome LISD supports vocational studies instead of pouring all its money into a $50 million football stadium.”

Krause said he sat next to Cardoza at Dale Jackson and they often worked on projects together.

“We did a bunch of action stuff starting out because that’s the first thing you want to do when you pick up a camera if you’re a guy like us,” he said. The most memorable was a trailer for a fake action movie ripping off Snatch and Reservoir Dogs — for which they won a state award. Richard later helped produce the Sundance-nominated short “Dig.” Cardoza assisted on set.

Like most filmmakers in their early years, all their ideas dawned from imitation and replication.

“We’d see a movie we liked, rip off major elements and make it our own,” he said. “They all turned out into really stupid comedies.”

The team started filming “Hello Gangster” more than two years ago. Barron, discouraged with his music career, called Krause looking for a new project. Krause had been trying to make the film with people he knew in the industry but development kept falling through.

So he asked the crew if they wanted to make a fun movie with guerrilla methods like they did in high school. Filming took about five months because it was completed outside of their day jobs.

Cardoza and Krause said that many of the film’s scenes were based on personal experiences, like a memorable scene involving the board game Risk.

“We played Risk quite a bit when we were younger and had crazy backstabbing alliances,” Cardoza said. In one instance, he almost had a physical fight with Matt at his parents’ house before the neighbors called the police.

It wasn’t their first run-in with the police and Cardoza fears it won’t be their last, he said.

All of the film was shot in the Dallas area, mostly at Krause’s Dallas apartment or in Lewisville with creative filmmaking. Cardoza said that the team skirted required permits by filming at the most opportune moments.

“We waited for Halloween night. We decided to put on our masks, fill bags with candy and gave candy to the teenagers working and just asked them if we could film,” he said. “They didn’t care because they’re teenagers working on Halloween and we just gave them candy.”

Krause would wear a yellow Pokémon suit so nobody would think it was a real robbery, Cardoza said.

“You don’t need to wait around; you can make films anywhere any time any place. F— the rules, just do it,” he said.

The team recently held a private screening at the Angelika and released the on-demand film on Vimeo and Amazon.

“If nothing else happens with the film, I’m still extremely proud of the film because I knew what it took to make it,” Cardoza said.

Krause said he’s lucky that he “grew up at the right time.” Working in commercial film at a young age coached him on how to work with the film’s small budget and new technologies.

“Commercial film is constantly working with smaller and smaller budgets,” he said. “When you get a commercial nowadays, the budget is so small you cut corners on the quality or you find ways to be creative.”

The only times the DIY film team felt resentful of their approach was when personal and professional disputes crossed paths, Krause said.

“We all knew each other too well at times,” he said. “It can be hard to balance that relationship.”

But in the end, Krause couldn’t have consummated the subtext of dialogue without them, he said. Their brotherhood and experiences helped tell a deeper, nuanced story.

Krause said the team can’t really put any more money into promoting the film than it took to produce. They hope awareness of it spreads through grassroots means and they can raise some money for future projects, “to make them a little bigger and better.”

“It’s like a mixtape you drop on the street and hope someone picks up, puts in their car and listens to,” he said. “It’s just something I worked on in my little second bedroom on my laptop.”

For more information, visit

Instruments inspire career

Published in The Denton Record-Chronicle on June 4, 2014

CROSS ROADS — It’s easy to miss the asphalt driveway to the Luthier Shop. The beautiful two-story converted barn is neatly tucked behind a white picket fence in this small community a few miles south of Aubrey.

Though there is a sign branded into the fence with the shop’s name and hours, usually the easiest way to spot the violin store in a residential area off Mosely Lane is to look for the bees.

Steve Cundall, now in his early 50s, is a luthier — a maker of stringed musical instruments. He has raised bees since he was a child and uses “bee glue” in his varnish. Since his mother’s death, he has given the bees a rest so he can have more time to care for his father.

It is only 10 a.m. and the Cundalls aren’t expecting customers yet. Guests walk in and a chime calls Cynthia Cundall, Steve’s wife, down from the workshop. Cynthia steps down the creaky wooden stairs to greet her guests. As she helps them, Steve works in his lair, painting and varnishing wood for a violin restoration.

Three workbenches face the windows, and Steve works on the far right station.

To his left, a King James Bible on his workbench and Bible quotes taped to the window inspire him while he works. Instant coffee, Perrier and empty bottles of raspberry sweet tea decorate the desk.

Pegs litter a table between various sanders, carpenter’s pencils and paintbrushes, and clear bottles holding a variety of colored liquids, like an unlabeled amber substance in a Gerber baby food container dating from the mid-’90s.

Steve’s legs cross to secure the butt of the violin in his lap. His left palm rests against the neck as his fingers grip the ebony fingerboard.

He dips a fine-tip paintbrush into the rainbow of “dry color” in front of him.

His steel-gray apron protects his blue jeans and shirt from the paints and varnish.

Steve was born into an artistic family from Englewood, N.J. He started playing violin in fifth grade in Denton using his grandfather’s instrument.

That family heirloom, in the process of being re-varnished, hangs on a rack by the stairs.

When he was 6, Steve wanted to be a paleontologist, and made dinosaurs, “teeth and everything,” with modeling clay. Now, a T. Rex-capped spray bottle on his desk reminds him how far he’s come.

Until he was 15, Steve made little boxes, jewelry and flying model airplanes. Then he discovered his real talents and passion.

It started when Aaron, his brother, asked Steve to fix their grandfather’s damaged miniature violin. He made sides for it and rebuilt it. His first original miniature, a cello made of basswood, came from a drawing in a book. He still has it.

“The proportions are not really violin proportions, so I put an endpin in it and it looks like a little cello,” he said.

Steve sold subsequent miniatures for $50 each and used the money to fill up his pickup, but “that was in 1974-75, so gas was 35 to 40 cents a gallon.”

While his new instruments carry hefty price tags, his restorations run at an affordable level.

The Luthier Shop specializes in the smaller half- to three-quarter-size instruments for students with small hands; and the shop offers a rent-to-own program perfect for growing children and their parents.

The biggest industry change Steve has seen is instrument resales on the Internet and market saturation of Chinese-made instruments, such as a cello that could be Chinese but is probably Sri Lankan.

Often, buyers are disappointed by poor quality and sound. A lot of Steve’s business comes from these disappointed customers, he said.

In 1973, he and his father started the shop, repairing and renting string instruments. He taught his father how to repair and make them while making miniature violins and repairing horsehair bows in his bedroom workshop.

He graduated from Denton High School in 1977.

The summer after he graduated, Steve visited a man in New Jersey near where his family once lived who recommended that he ask Bein & Fushi, a Chicago firm that deals in, makes and restores violins, whether they would hire him.

From 1977 to 1978, Steve attended what was then North Texas State University, studying violin performance and playing in the university’s orchestra and chamber orchestra.

The orchestra went to Chicago to perform at a conference, and he packed some miniatures to show Bein & Fushi.

The firm liked his work and hired him.

The memory makes Steve laugh, since he’d never attended violin-making school, but the miniatures he made prepared him for Bein & Fushi.

He worked at Bein & Fushi as a restorer from May 1978 to June 1979, including work on priceless violins from famous historical luthiers such as Stradivari.

Steve did well at Bein & Fushi. Until he worked there, no one had taught him the proper methods for his craft and what a finished product should look like.

“They taught me how to sharpen and make my own tools, which I had already done to some extent,” Steve said.

Steve says the problem with Bein & Fushi, and many places, is their attitude: “This is the way we do it and we do it the best.”

Since Steve is partially self-taught and professionally trained, he’s unsure if the way he does things is industry standard. With help from the Internet and conferences, he finds that other respected luthiers use techniques similar to his self-taught methods.

“It’s nice to have some reinforcement from someone else who makes very fine instruments and you’re doing the exact same thing,” he said.

Shop dabbles in everything

Published in The Denton Record-Chronicle on July 6, 2014

SANGER — Barry Durham pulls up to Findings: A Little Bit of Everything in his white pickup to unload some new cargo for the shop he co-owns with his wife, Joanna.

She stands in the children’s section near the register reading some teaching material. He carries the items behind the counter where he’ll price them and figure out where to place each antique and trinket in the store.

Today’s load is light enough that he can carry the garage sale winnings into the store by himself since the shop door is already propped open.

“Antiques give people a sense of history,” Barry Durham said. “You can go back and tell some history about things, and [it] gives people a chance to express themselves with what they collect and what they want to make a collection out of.”

The Durhams’ store really does have a little bit of everything. Barry Durham said you could make a collection out of almost anything. One customer today, Chris Noble, recently started a collection of antique books on hunting and guns. The self-professed antique junkie from Fort Worth has been in the shop before and was stopping by to examine the book collection.

“I’m really not supposed to be here. I’m just traveling down [Interstate] 35 headed back to Fort Worth and thought I could sneak in here without being noticed,” Noble said with a laugh. “So I’ll just find an antique store, and if they have the things I like, I’ll come in and see if I can get something I need.”

Findings has joined a collection of eclectic boutique shops, restaurants and services packed into historical buildings on the square in downtown Sanger.

Durham doesn’t see any of the other businesses as competition but as an extension of what he does.

“One store is not enough draw for people to come to Sanger,” he said. “Five, six stores becomes a bigger draw and people make it a destination to come to Sanger and shop in antiques.”

Barry Durham is also the director of the Sanger Chamber of Commerce and treasurer of the Sanger Downtown Association, which he helped restart several months ago. He said the association has started planning events to draw people to downtown Sanger, starting with its first Trade Day on June 7.

The Durhams, who both grew up in Cooke County, previously owned an antiques and collectibles store in Whitney, where business had been booming but where they were far from their family. Some of their Whitney customers have made it to the Sanger store.

Since the Durhams moved their store and their lives in August, business has increased every month and Barry Durham said he expects it to keep growing.

“As we’re trying to establish a downtown Sanger and let people know all these businesses are here, it continues to grow,” he said. “We now have three restaurants downtown, which brings people in.”

The Durhams opened the Whitney store three years ago after discovering their knack for finding, selling and collecting items.

“It became more of a hobby, then it became a business as the hobby grew and we enjoyed finding things at sales and auctions,” Barry Durham said.

The store is their collection and everything they sell is something they like, he said. They find most of the merchandise at garage sales, estate sales and auctions, but always have their eyes open.

“Sometimes you’ll just find it sitting in someone’s house and ask them, or find it in a trash can,” Barry Durham said. “Friends and family bring things to you, [stuff] that they’re wanting to get rid of.”

Before working in antiques the Durhams were both teachers — Barry for 18 years and Joanna for 22.

“I miss my children, but I don’t miss teaching,” Joanna Durham said. “And I miss the planning, which is why I have my collection of kids’ books and teaching materials and kind of cater to home-school day cares.”

“I don’t miss it,” Barry Durham said.

Their store was the first to occupy the space at 210 Bolivar St. in more than five years.

Despite being vacant for years, the space was in good shape when they purchased it, since it had recently been repaired and upgraded. More aesthetic touches they did themselves with the same thrifty approach they use to fill the store with items, like using old barn wood for the counter.

“We just took what we had from our other store and moved it here, set up shop and just did the best we could,” Barry Durham said.

In addition to collectibles, Joanna maintains a large section where home-school parents can purchase teaching materials and books.

“We try to keep it where [if] someone else walks in, we might have it,” she said.

Harlem building blaze that killed veteran firefighter may have been sparked by boiler

Published in the New York Daily News on March 24, 2018

A balky basement boiler emerged Saturday as the possible cause for a five-alarm fire that killed an FDNY veteran trapped inside a burning Harlem building.

The boiler was repaired in the days before the blaze that killed Firefighter Michael Davidson, leading investigators to question if there was a link to the inferno, said an FDNY source with knowledge of the case.

City records indicate the building at 773 St. Nicholas Ave. was cited a half-dozen times since 2011 for boiler issues, including a still-active complaint from last year for failure to file an annual inspection report.

But fire marshals remain unable to get into the heavily-damaged basement and determine if the boiler ignited the raging blaze in the 98-year-old building.

Davidson, 37, was posthumously promoted to FDNY lieutenant Saturday, two days after his smoke-inhalation death inside the building.

He was on the department promotion list after passing the lieutenant’s exam in 2015.

“He had all the qualities of an officer and more,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro. “Lt. Davidson was a natural-born leader. . . . His promotion is well deserved.”

The fire source indicated there was a possible leak repaired in the boiler, and fire investigators want to insure the repairs stayed up to code with authorized materials rather than substandard products.

The five-story building was cited for failing to file its boiler inspection report in 2011, 2013, 2014, twice in 2015 and again in February 2017.

And between 2001 and 2009, the city flagged the building for failure to keep the boiler at the standard operating pressure.

Despite the records, landlord Vincent Lampkin, 57, defended the state of his building’s heating system.

“It’s winter. It’s cold. We’re always checking to make sure the boiler is serviced,” he said. “We regularly, you know, people want heat. There was a snowstorm. Regularly checking heat, checking hot water. I had a lot people here. I had to keep the heat and everything maintained every day.”

Fire marshals are anxious to get into the lower levels of the damaged five-story rowhouse and examine the boiler.

Geovanny Fernandez, Lampkin’s attorney, said inspectors were able to access a small fraction of the basement level, which used to house the jazz club known as St. Nick’s Pub, on Saturday.

The boiler was housed in a cellar below the shuttered club.

“At this point, we should be trying to secure the building and ensure the safety of the neighbors and residents,” he told the Daily News. “The fire marshal has said he has no idea what the cause is. For us to be speculating is premature.”

Officials have told Lampkin the charred, hulking facade of the building will need to be demolished.

“Financially, I’m in a little bad shape. I don’t even know if I can pay for this demolition. Not nearly,” Larkin said.

“You’re talking to a guy with no stability right now. Somebody who’s worn out,” he added. “My heart goes out to the family.”

Davidson, a married father of four small kids, was the first man into the burning basement after Engine Co. 69 arrived on the scene Thursday evening.

Police in Davidson’s town of Floral Park, L.I., stood watch Saturday outside the home where the firefighter lived with his wife Eileen and their children — a 6-year-old son and three girls, ages 7, 3 and 1.

A neighbor dropped off a package and an envelope in the doorway of the otherwise quiet suburban home.

Davidson disappeared in the dense smoke and heavy flames as he and his colleagues pulled back from the basement, where his body was later discovered by distraught fellow firefighters.

His face mask was disconnected from its air regulator — the first step typically taken by a firefighter no longer getting air into his mask, the FDNY source said.

The other theory under consideration was that falling debris had dislodged the regulator during the chaotic response in the basement.

The firefighters union president, Gerard Fitzgerald, paid homage in advance of Tuesday’s funeral in St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the heroic first responder.

“Firefighter Davidson is a hero, and in his death embodies the title of ‘Bravest,'” said Fitzgerald. “His death is a reminder of the dangerous work New York City firefighters do every day in our city.

“Firefighter Michael R. Davidson’s sacrifice will never be forgotten,” he added.

Davidson was the son of a firefighter who worked in the same Harlem firehouse and the brother of Bronx Firefighter Eric Davidson — an 11-year FDNY veteran.

“Both of them worked at busy houses,” the source said. “They didn’t want to be on a quiet house in Staten Island. You go to these houses because you want to respond to fires.”

Davidson, who joined the FDNY in May 2003, was cited on four different occasions for bravery and life-saving actions on the job.

Before going to work Thursday, the firefighter spent his morning making a snowman with his kids outside their suburban Long Island home.