Downtown Depot: Nancy Grayson

In the second installment of Waco Business News's "Downtown Depot: Tracking the Ins and Outs of Waco Business," Austin interviews 2010 Wacoan of the Year Dr. Nancy Grayson.

Photo by Austin Meek/Waco Business News

Photo by Austin Meek/Waco Business News

I like to call East Waco "The Other Side of Downtown" because we're not just across the river, we are downtown. My hope in starting Lula Jane's was...I was eager to have a gathering point where people from all over town would come and experience the richness of East Waco.

My goal is always "it's okay not to make money, but it is not okay to lose money." So, I don't mind being an even status quo and helping the community. Our job is to turn around and do more in East Waco with the funds that are coming in. 

I just apply what I've learned. And one of my other goals is to "do everything with excellence in mind." So you do your research, you do your planning, you do your testing out and you see what is successful. 

What you have now in East Waco is a solid base of traditional, culturally based families who know each other. And its a rich heritage that we are now trying to inject change into. And we need to do that responsibly...Let's build it so that it...contributes to community life. All of the pieces that lends to people getting to know their neighbors...So if we pay attention, we can do a development process that honors the neighborhood, not changes the neighborhood. We want to honor the neighborhood.

There are people who preceded me, and they're certainly the backbone of the viability of Elm Street and East Waco. And that's DeMaria's barbecue. Marilyn Bank's gift Gallery, and the Jockey Club Barber Shop. Those three, I would say, are the pillars that have supported East Waco all this time, for generations...Anything we do now builds on their spirit of "Elm Street Happens."

Since 1978, Dr. Grayson and her husband have lived in Waco. In 1971, this educator graduated from Southwestern with a BA in French and English and a minor in psychology before becoming the first psychology teacher in Dallas ISD where she designed children's clothing sold nationwide. She received her master's degree in educational psychology from Baylor in 1993, and earned her doctorate in psychology from Texas A&M University in 2004. In 1998, Dr. Grayson founded the Rapoport Academy Charter School--a school created for low-income minority students which has grown in years since, receiving several national awards. In 2011, Grayson stepped down from the role of Director, onto new ventures. With the goal of creating a welcoming Waco community, Grayson opened the popular Elm Avenue bakery and cafĂ© Lula Jane's. The restaurant boasts made-from-scratch baked goods and an environmentally friendly roots where anyone can feel at home. She and her husband are now developing 1890s-1920s style environmentally-savvy and culturally conscious near Lula Jane's.