Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Heights' HITS Theater Fundraiser is All American

Located in the Heights for over 35 years, HITS Theater is a leading nonprofit performing arts education organization for young people. In addition to wonderful, family friendly, and affordable performances, HITS provides production and technique training through after-school and weekend performance based-classes. Each year, HITS serves approximately 900 students, grades 1 through 12, at their Heights theatre home. The theater also demonstrates a strong civic commitment, developing theatre education classes during and after school. This allows our local public schools to deliver and augment their current performing arts curriculum. Currently outreach programs are in place in the Heights at Harvard Elementary and, new this year, Hogg Middle School.

HITS is a 501(c)(3) organization. Individual support is their primary avenue for funding their mission to "inspire youth through the power of theatre." In addition to the support of patrons, they have one amazing fundraiser: The annual American Girl Fashion Show. The American Girl Fashion Show attracts a diverse, family oriented audience, and features an interactive and stylish showcase of historical and contemporary fashions by the ever popular American Girl. Attendees also get a seated meal, raffle prizes, take-home treasures, and more.

Photo: HITS Theater 

HITS is currently seeking approximately 125 girls, ages 6-13, to model in this show. They  will be holding model calls this weekend, August 29th and August 30th

Photo: Culture Map
HITS Theatre is holding a model search for its upcoming American Girl Fashion Show®. Girls ages six to thirteen are invited to audition to be in the fashion show, which features American Girl® historical and contemporary fashions as well as the Girl of the Year doll, Grace. Model searches will be held on Saturday, August 29 from 1:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Memorial City Mall (303 Memorial City Way) and Sunday, August 30 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Barnes & Noble – River Oaks (2030 West Gray). 
HITS Theatre is looking for approximately 125 girls to model historical, contemporary and Bitty Baby fashions in the fashion show. Auditions are held on a first-come, first-served basis. Girls who pre-register are seen first. Pre-registrations are accepted through August 24, but walk-ins are also welcome. The audition is free, but there will be a model fee of $45 for girls selected to participate in the fashion show. Model s will be selected based on their resemblance to the American Girl® dolls and whether they fit in the size 10 and 6x clothes provided by American Girl®. To download a model application and learn more about the fashion show, visit
The 21st annual American Girl Fashion Show® will be held on:

Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. 
Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. 
The show takes place at the Junior League of Houston. Adults and children are invited to attend as the American Girl® dolls come to life. The show features a showcase of historical and contemporary fashions , with an array of outfits, from sleepwear to fancy dress. A limited number of advance general admission tickets will go on sale August 29 and 30. Information on purchase of advance tickets will be available at the model search events. Tickets sales open up online for all shows and all seats on September 21. All proceeds from the American Girl Fashion Show® benefit HITS Theatre, a 501(c)(3) performing arts education organization for Houston area youth.

Sponsor tables are now available online and are the only way to reserve a runway table at the fashion show. Call 713-904-3777 or visit to purchase a sponsor table.
Photo: HITS Theater
This is a unique and fun way to support art and theater in our community. If you're not interested in participating by attending, but want to assist HITS with their mission, you can always make a donation HERE. If you're not interested in donating cash, you can still support HITS via, Kroger, and other rewards programs. Learn about how to do that HERE

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Heights Helps-- HHWC Supporting Kids in Need with Uniforms

Amazingly, summer is nearing its end for one of the largest school districts in the country. HISD heads back to class August 24. While the Heights is more affluent than it has been for many years, our neighborhood schools still serve a large population of kids in need. For back to school, the Houston Heights Womens Club is focused on their mission of community service work by helping students in need on the Heights. The members are trying to collect 1000 New or lightly used uniform pieces for students in need around our community. 
The goal of the drive is to distribute uniforms, via their schools, to students who have only 1-2 uniform sets and who can't make it through the week on uniforms. Many of these students also have limited access to laundry facilities, which makes the simple act of getting dressed for school a stressful and sometimes humiliating experience. Throw in the challenges of the school day (art projects, lunch, playground tumbles, bathroom accidents) for the younger students, and it adds up to an acute need. The HHWC asked some of the principals to estimate how many students they could help; the administrators were almost confused by the question. One principal said "all of them." Another one said that the need is "bottomless." Many of the participating schools have student populations of over 90% free or reduced lunch.

Participating schools are: Browning, Crockett, Field, Love, Harvard, and Helms Elementary; Hogg and Hamilton Middle, and Reagan High (they have actually hit the Reagan goal with 200 pieces collected, but are short for the other schools). 
Schools are especially in need of khaki shorts in elementary sizes for girls and boys (sizes 4T-12), and navy blue, goldenrod, or Hunter green polo shirts for girls and boys (sizes XS-XL). They definitely take gently used pieces, so this is a great reason to clean out your kids' closets!
Here's a link with info on dress code and sizes, and it also includes a way to donate directly by credit card if you'd like the HHWC to shop for you:

Sara's Bed and Breakfast, 941 Heights Blvd, has generously offered to be a collection point for clothing drop offs. Could it be any easier? 

You can find the items students need at local shops like our neighborhood thrift stores and Label Warehouse on 19th Street (they have polos starting at $3.99). Also, national retailers like Target and The Children's Place on Shearn, and Walmart on Yale, have uniforms at good prices.

Thanks for making the back to school transition just a little easier for kids who are already struggling with the material needs of their education. Your help makes a difference and will all year long!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Blockbuster Beauty

Since the day Blockbuster on Cavalcade at the five corners closed, everyone has been aflutter wondering what was going to go in to the space. The "For Lease" sign came down and work was seen in progress but no one could answer the question "What will it be?" 

Apparently, it will be the newest location for Sola Salons:
In 2004, Sola Salon Studios® was established with the opening of our first location. Now with over 200 desirable locations open nationwide, Sola Salon Studios® is proud to offer salon professionals the freedom and benefits of salon ownership without many of the risks associated with opening a traditional salon. Sola Salon Studios® is an innovative salon model in which experienced hairdressers, estheticians, nail stylists, massage therapists and other like-minded salon professionals come together under one roof to take their careers to the next level. To date, we have provided more than 5,000 professionals with premium, individual salon spaces in which they own and operate high-quality salons. If designing your own salon space, setting your own schedule and prices, and creating a larger profit margin with retail sales appeals to you, then follow your dreams with Sola – all for about the same price as renting a chair or booth (and maybe even less).   
We take pride in being the largest, fastest-growing salon studio business in the country. Join the Sola Salon Studios® community and experience a level of creative independence and career support you won’t find anywhere else.
So there it is. They have divided the building, built out a small space and a larger space, from what I could tell, and now have two front doors. Maybe Sola's concept will only be part of the complete build out? I guess we will just wait and see. According to a follower on FB, the whole building will be salons, possibly as many as 22 individual studios.

You can find out more about Sola Salon Studios on their website or Facebook page

What's also curious about Sola Salons going in to the old Blockbuster is the other new business opening in the strip just south of 20th. "Glam and Glow" at 1911 Studewood has paper over the windows and a sign promising blow outs, sunless tanning, and other beauty treatments. What they do not have is any on-line presence. It's like all of the sudden this part of the Heights is some kind of beauty vortex. It's interesting to me that these businesses turned up here, when the only other recent development in that area has been a dialysis center and beer (TownIn City brewery). 

Of course, if you drive around East Sunset Heights or even Monte Beach, you can see the rapid changes going on. Development has pushed quickly in to those neighborhoods, as original homes come down and townhouse, patio homes, and large single family homes replace them. It's still unusual to see these types of businesses be the trailblazers. Makes me wonder what will be next?

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Look At What Just Sprouted on Yale

Arizona-based Sprouts Farmers Market opened it's new location on Yale this week. The store, just south of the I-10 feeder, announced their grand opening with a flyer celebrating their "Heights Location." Well, sort of. Regardless of their actual geography, the neighborhood has been buzzing about having an option closer and/or more affordable than Whole Foods, that isn't Kroger.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in is how small it is. When you compare it to any of the other supermarkets in the area, it's practically minuscule. Having never been to a Sprouts before, I am unsure if this was a choice specific to this location, or if all of their markets are roughly this size? It kind of reminded me of the conversation I had at holiday party once with a regional manager from Target. I mentioned I live in the Heights and he told me the Taylor location is the 2nd highest earning Target in greater Houston, with the first being a huge super store in Katy. Everyone at Target corporate was shocked when this came to be. It was largely because they built it based on the demographics from 2000, which didn't reflect any of the growth that had happened in the Heights or Washington corridor between the census and the development. This was why they didn't build it as a Super Target and subsequently reconfigured the space to cram food in there, as well as to bring in more merchandise across all departments. Knowing this story, I am left to wonder if Sprouts under-estimates how much business they will actually do, or if a smaller store is their m.o.?

Either way, the store size has its pros and cons. I like a smaller, easy to navigate store. I like to get in and out quickly and know where everything is. That said, inventory has to suffer based on space limitations. After my walk through and small shopping trip, I think this store will do very well and satisfy the needs of many in the communities around it. Here is a look inside the store at 195 Yale:

When you enter through the southern door, you will find a large vitamin/supplement section, plus some health and beauty. The north door takes you in to their bread and bakery section. It was small, yet solid; not overwhelming but you'll find most of what you want. Muffins and other breakfast pastries, breads ranging from Mrs Baird's White to Ezekiel Sprouted in your normal price ranges. Some pies and cookies, but not as much as you see at either WF or Kroger. There is also a large case of chilled, natural sodas for individual purchase here, in close proximity to the prepared foods.

The prepared foods case is small with mostly salads, but also some pasta casseroles and other items to bake that look suited for 1 very hungry or 2 not as hungry people. Not huge and probably best suited to "it's late and I need to grab anything for dinner" for my family.

When the Sprouts was first announced, everyone who had been in one before raved about their bulk selection and how it blows our usual supermarkets away. I rarely ever buy from bulk bins so I can't comment from experience, but they did have a nice selection and I bought yogurt covered raisins, happy to buy just as much as I think my five year old should have access to.

With two small kids at home, crackers are a staple. We love the Annie's bunnies and the Back to Nature version of wheat thins. The prices were comparable to Whole Foods and less than Kroger's natural foods section. However, if you want something like basic Triscuits or cheap saltines, you'll be out of luck at Sprouts.

Cereal was the same way. Lots of organic variety but no Cheerios.

Small "ethnic"selection of Asian and Latino pantry items.

There were definitely ample Gluten-Free options sprinkled through out the store, including several quinoa pastas. The overall pasta selection was small, but the sauce variety was surprisingly wide, with their house brand organic sauce on special for $2.00/jar. This is a great deal (as long as it tastes good, which I can't verify at this point). Even the regular price of $3.49 is good for a decent organic sauce.

Good dairy selection- plenty of yogurt and the basic sour cream/butter/cottage cheese. Mostly organic but they did also have some non-organic milk. Prices were normal, but specials were really good! Note that if you come in the south door (on your left when facing the store), and go straight back to dairy, you won't find cheese. The cheese selection, including slices, shredded, and blocks, is over by the bread department.

The produce was a sight to behold-- so pretty! Now, common sense might suggest to you that the store just opened, so of course the produce looked great. Those of us who went to the Broger on Studewood when it first opened know this isn't always the case though. You might remember, I found multiple bags of rotten lettuce on their first day open. Anyway, the produce at Sprouts looked gorgeous. Their veggies are everyday basics, not a lot of exotic or unusual items. I think for most people this is ok, but if you are, say, looking at a recipe that calls for something not-so-basic, you may want to save yourself two trips and head straight to Whole Foods or Central Market.

I neglected to scope out the percentage of organic versus conventional, so when my friend Kat went, she posted some pics on THL's Facebook page of the wide variety of organic veg, including this celery at an amazingly low price:

Thanks, Kat!

Wine and beer selection is very small, but there are at least a couple things any wine or beer snob can throw in their cart for dinner at home or to carry to a BYOB restaurant.

Meat case looked great. My husband is all about a variety of sausages, so this will please him.

Bacon, hotdogs, and other meats of that variety are pretty much all organic and uncured versions.

Meat loaf and stuffed peppers looked really good! Glad I saw these outside of the other prepared foods selection.

Fish looked nice. Cheaper than Whole Foods; not dried out and old-looking like Kroger's.


Cashiers were nice and helpful, although they did not know (or just didn't bother to) pack my cold items together and pack other like-items together. I worked at a grocery store in college and we were trained very specifically on how to bag. Because that  made me somewhat neurotic about bagging, I always put things on the belt in the order I prefer them bagged. Whole Foods always gets it right.  Kroger will put a bottle of bleach in with your produce and a half pint of ice cream with your dry goods. Like most other aspects of comparing the three, Sprouts still has some work to do, leaving them firmly in the middle. 

Generally, though, it was a very pleasant experience. Prices are average and the specials are really good. Sadly, I will still not be able to buy all the things my family eats on a weekly basis in one store. That said, I am glad this is here and can replace Kroger for a lot of the "I just need an onion, some milk, and tortillas" trips I find I take. And certainly there are a lot of people in and around the Heights who will welcome this as their new, primary food shopping destination. It's not an HEB, but it's something...

P.S. You can access their sale flyer and store coupons on their website.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Heights Happenings: Blue Line Bike Lab to raise funds for MS 150

Just a simple C&P from the press release for your consideration:

Blue Line Chili Bowl at Ladybird’s Bar
Benefiting Blue Line Bike Lab MS150 Team

The third annual Blue Line Chili Bowl benefiting the Blue Line Bike Lab MS 150 Team is set for Saturday, Feb 7, starting at noon at Ladybird’s Bar.  Ladybird’s is located at 5519 Allen St. at TC Jester near Washington Ave.  Chili teams are invited to sign up for this festive event that attracted over 20 teams and 300 attendees in 2014, raising just over $5,000.

The BP MS 150 is the top fundraising ride for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Nationwide; there are 100 Bike MS rides. 
Team Blue Line has set their highest goal in their five-year history of riding in the MS 150. The team is made up of riders that have friends and family who suffer from Multiple Sclerosis. With funds generated by the Chili Bowl, the goal of raising $75,000 is more attainable.
Fund-raising organizer Kevin Chenevert says, “Events like this give us an opportunity as a team to raise money above and beyond the $400 minimum required by the MS Society.”  This will be the third year teaming up with Charles Bishop and his establishments.  “Charles and I have a good relationship and with his people and our volunteers we always pull off a fantastic event ” 
Chenevert continues, “This year, we will again be aiming for 30 teams and the competition will be decided by a host of local celebrities and chefs.”
In addition to $10 tasting bowls, attendees can purchase raffle tickets for a shot at a large and varied selection of items from many local area businesses.  There will also be a silent auction featuring pieces from local artist’s and other desirable items.
Expect entertaining MC work from John “Mills” McCoin and diverse eclectic live music from bands Poor Pilate, Tommy Lynch Band, Grisbee and Cavern Hymnal.
The BP MS 150 starts in Houston on Saturday, April 18, and finishes in front of the Bob Bullock Museum near the State Capitol in Austin on Sunday, April 19, following an overnight celebration in La Grange. 
For additional details and to sign up your chili team, contact Ladybird’s at (713) 393-7647, by email at or visit the website Updates are posted at

Here is the Facebook event, as well:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

226 Recordings: A 2nd Look at Studio Life on 19th Street

Back in 2010, I was invited to an open house at a new recording studio in the Heights. I couldn't make the event, so I was invited by the studio owner for a private tour instead. What resulted was not only a blog story (This Neighborhood Is Being Recorded)  but a wonderful friendship. 

It is a funny "small world" kind of story. As Mairi Cox, whose husband Paul is the audio engineer who runs the studio, gave me a tour and talked about the studio, their then 18 month old daughter Clara toured with us. I also had a toddler around the same age and conversation flowed between studio business, living in the Heights, and parenting. Eventually my younger son went to school with her daughter. In a real small world twist, Mairi's mother ended up teaching both of my sons at the Montessori school they attend; one that Mairi, herself, also attended as a child. Us meeting- it was all kind of meant to be.

After the tour, Mairi invited me to see their home behind the studio. I met her dog, Telly, whose fluffy, Samoyed hair was appropriately caked with some mac'n'cheese (appropriate when you have a toddler, that is). We talked a lot about the Heights and living on/ raising kids in a business dominated area, which I was totally fascinated by. I love living in my little Historic District- tidy bungalows all in a row. It was hard to imagine living in the heart of the 19th Street shopping district! 
I asked Mairi what it was like living on 19th Street in the middle of a commercial district. I kind of expected an "it is what it is" answer, but that is not what I got. She referred to the store owners as her "neighbors" and said they all drown Clara with attention. She said "When you live in a [residential area], you can't just walk outside and in to your neighbors house," but she can. The merchants on her block were totally supportive, even when construction of the building took up Gen's parking lot. She likes the fact that it's kind of the "opposite of a neighborhood" by being full of activity during the day and then totally quiet at night. Of course, it suits the work they do as well. "Bands can hang out in the [front courtyard] and not disturb anyone." She also loves how she can walk so many places. That, she says, is a "Heights thing."

Now it's almost five years later. Mairi and Paul have added to their family- another Samoyed, Sampson, and also had another child, Georgia, who is affectionately known to everyone on 19th Street as "Peach." The Cox family has grown and the demands of their recording studio have grown, as well. They are currently working to meet the growing desire for their studio by reconfiguring current space to add a second studio. They have also added an education component with a program for people who are interested in becoming Audio Engineers.

An Audio Engineering class in progress at 226 Recordings on 19th Street
The years since they put up their metal building have brought a lot of changes to the Heights and 19th Street, as well. Having the shopping district as their front yard gives the Coxes a unique perspective on the neighborhood. I asked Mairi if she still has the same feelings about living in our own, little downtown.

"We absolutely love being in the Heights. And we love living on 19th Street. We actually bought the lot in early 2008 and definitely noticed the neighborhood changing. Sometimes we walk our dogs down the street and try to remember the histories of all the storefronts.  It’s actually hard to keep track of all the changes, even though we’ve been here for just a small fraction of the street’s history.  Of course, we were sad to see some great neighbors go, like Tansu, Young at Art, and Balinska’s."

Paul Cox, left, was as an audio engineer in LA, working with the likes of Macy Gray,  Stanley Clarke,  Ernie Watts, and more. Home in Houston, Cox records local musicians at his 19th Street studio and offers classes in Audio Engineering. 

Cox has a positive outlook for the recent wave of businesses, though. There are some tough losses (Harold's comes to mind), but she sees "there are also new businesses with a lot of momentum."   And as far as the future, Cox says "more than anything, the sense of community among the merchants seems to be solidifying more and more, which is great.  There are some really motivated new businesses and everyone’s attitude is really positive."

As the Heights has grown in popularity, it's hard to imagine it could do anything but help 226 Recordings to be in the heart of one of Houston's most popular communities. This has been especially true for the Audio Engineering program they added. The new program is a unique opportunity to learn the craft of audio engineering school right inside their Heights recording studio. While they get students from nearby areas like Garden Oaks, Oak Forest, Near Northside, and, of course, from right here in the Heights, they also draw a lot of future engineers as far away as Katy, The Woodlands, and Pearland. 

It's worth the commute for a lot of people. 226 has created "an intense" and hands-on 16-week program, which consists of instruction during three 3-hour classes and one 4-hour lab per week, which prepares students to be audio engineers, not just assistants. They also go beyond instruction, to help with client development for their students.

And often, the supportive environment plus great, local vibe of our neighborhood wins them over. "More than a few students that lived in the suburbs have moved to The Heights after getting to know the area by attending our class," Cox says.

A commissioned art piece for the studio by local artist Chad Landry
"Our students and clients definitely take advantage of our location.  We love giving clients and students recommendations on places to shop, eat, or drink.  We are very proud to be where we are and really enjoy sharing all the area has to offer with our guests. Down House, Carter & Cooley, and Alli’s Pizzaria are places we always recommend to anyone looking to grab a bite. I can’t tell you how many times a client or student has called and said they’re just grabbing some Boomtown and will be right over.  Or after a session or class, they head over to Vinal Edge to shop for records."

The Coxes are rabid supporters of local businesses, too. I can go with Mairi to pretty much any store in the Heights, not just on 19th Street, and they know her. This is because their shopping philosophy is "to pretty much to look for whatever we need from one of our neighbors first."
This great 48x36 painting hangs in the living room of Paul and Mairi Cox's home on 19th Street. It is from their 19th Street neighbor, Gallery M Squared.

This shows in their home and their studio. "Many pieces of our furniture are from Gen’s Antiques, and probably all of our picture frames and lamps we own are from Bliss on 19th.  And of course our kids are taking advantage of Big Blue Whale being right across the street.  Thread and Man Ready are also pretty well represented in our house.  All of our art is from Gallery M Squared or directly from a local artist." The art part is key for Mairi. 

Another painting in the Cox home, purchased from one of my favorite Heights stores, Hello-Lucky.

"I think having local art in the studio is especially important.  Even though we don’t create visual art, we definitely feel proud to help recording artists fulfill their visions.  We know how hard it is to make artistic dreams a reality, so it’s important to us to support local artists regardless of their medium. " This local-centric behavior has made a difference in surprising ways. This year one of their engineering students actually decided to forgo the Galleria at Christmas and do all his shopping on 19th. He lives in Katy, so Mairi thinks it says a lot about what the neighborhood has to offer.  And I'm sure her leading by example had an impact as well. She was impressed with his dedication to this community and, like many of us, ended her thoughts with "I wish some of our residential neighbors cared as much about our unique local businesses as he does." Me, too.

This piece from Gallery M Squared hangs in the studio at 226 19th Street.

If you or someone you know is interested in sound engineering, 226 Recordings' 16 Week program begins each year in January and September. They also offer a more intense summer program that begins in June and ends in August. Students can also earn credit for an internship related to a traditional degree. Learn all about the studio, the curriculum, pricing, and registration here: