Towny Waco: Getting to know El Rio Western Wear

(Welcome to the first post of the new Act Locally Waco/Towny blog series. Towny is an app that exists to connect consumers with local businesses. It’s fairly new to Waco and is loaded with answers to the question, “Why local?” Beginning with this post, the folks at Towny will be sharing the stories behind some of our high-quality, local products and helping you get to know some of our energetic local entrepreneurs. We hope you enjoy it! Supporting local business is a terrific way to support the Waco economy! Plus, it’s just fun to get to know your neighbors. – ALW)

By Beth Whittington

I confess I haven’t shopped for cowboy clothing since Go Texan Day in 4th grade, so I had a thing or two to learn when I walked into El Rio Western Wear at 3433 Memorial Drive.   Cowboy tunes and the ringing of a landline were the soundtrack of my time with owner, Eduardo Martinez. Old fashioned reliability feels like it is baked into the walls of this place. One gets a thorough sense that the Martinez family knows what they are doing.

Eduardo’s voice is gentle and confident, a mixture of Texas twang with a memory of his family’s history. As we talked I thought, he’s someone who is going to shoot you straight — quick, and honest.  Here’s a bit of what I learned…

Beth: So, what made you want to start El Rio Western Wear? What was the vision?

Eduardo: It was my parents who started it. They actually started selling statues. Then, they moved to women’s clothing and then after that kinda died down, they started selling men’s clothing and then boots, and – that’s kinda where it all started, from them tryin’ to provide a little bit of income. I’ve been working with them since I was small, since I can remember.”

They started selling those statues maybe in 2003? And they moved to the boots and the hats in 2004-2005. And, we’ve been doing it ever since. We started selling at the flea market and things, you know, got good, and we actually opened a brick and mortar store in 2006.

We just moved over here last August. The new location is probably double the size of the old one.

 Beth: So, you grew up watching your parents run the store. What made you want to be a part of this?

Eduardo: (Tilting his head, searching for an answer…) I don’t know! I’m just kind of used to it. I’m the only one of my siblings that actually, I guess, actually got into it — into the business. I saw the success…and, I just wanted to continue what they started.

They actually started in Houston, but that store failed. We had family members here and they decided to give it a shot here and that’s how it grew.

Beth: Can a customer get exactly what they want?

Eduardo: We try to keep most things in inventory, try to be different from Cavender’s. We do carry major brands – Cinch and all that, Ariat and all that.  And we try to stay competitive. We try to keep in competition with Ritchie’s…

 Beth: Who’s your clientele?

Eduardo: It’s a little bit of everything. Right now it’s a middle-aged, older crowd. We’re trying to get a little bit of that younger crowd to take an interest in the cowboy outfit, stuff like that.

Beth: I love hearing the history of the store, Eduardo. In terms of being a part of a local business in Waco, do you like being in Waco? And, if so, why do you like being a part of this economy?

Eduardo: Well, coming from Houston, which was a bigger city, Waco gave me more opportunity – for me to grow as a person, get involved with a lot more people, get personal, you know?

I grew up here – well, my teenage years, I grew up here – and because of the business, I’ve come to know a lot of people. You know, I go out to eat – I’m gonna know somebody, at least. Which, in Houston, that’d probably be way different.”

I like that about Waco: it’s not too big, not too small. Right between Dallas and Austin. I mean, you can easily go up there and come back. But as a community, I think I like it more than I would’ve Houston.”

Beth: On a personal level, as business owners in Waco, what’s been your greatest obstacle?

Eduardo: Trying to get new customers. Trying to get the new traffic flowing through here. Because, like I said, it’s a small town. So, if everybody has the same thing…”

New inventory. Fresh! And sizes. I think that would be one of the challenges that we have. Trying to get new faces, trying to get new things in the store.”

Beth: How do you know if you have new customers coming in?

Eduardo: I’m here five to eight hours almost every day. I know what faces run through here all the time and which faces are new. This is basically my second home; I spend more time here than I do at my house!

I would know who comes here as a regular and who doesn’t.

Beth: What’s something you think would be surprising for people to find out about you or your business?

Eduardo: I guess…that I’m still learning. We’re still learning. I’m always tryin’ to learn – everything – new styles, new trends…”

Beth: So, El Rio, you are the fashion experts?

Eduardo: Well, we have to be attentive of what’s going – what’s in style, what’s hasn’t been in style, what’s going out of style, what’s still trending… We have to have something that’s there for people to buy, because if it’s not what they’re looking for, we’ll go out of business.”

Corporate clothing stores employ buyers whose only job is to stock up on relevant goods. For a shop like El Rio, the owner wears that hat. When clients come in, and they’re looking for something specific, Eduardo is the one who did the research. His clients benefit from all of his knowledge. El Rio Western Wear is waiting for you to reap its local benefits. Swing on by!

Beth Whittington remembers sitting on the Waco suspension bridge as a girl, visiting family friends. Legs dangling off, watching the Fourth of July fireworks spark the sky. Been a Waco local for the better part of 19 years.  Gaps explainable by the awkwardly untrue term of “ex-missionary” 🙂 Beth thrives on: generating ideas + copywriting. Can’t wait to: visit South Africa. Favorite part of Waco: Bangkok Royale + the HOTHTC. Wants: everyone in Waco to get Towny because it’ll make life better for us all if we let it. 

Take your local support up a notch – pop in Towny + have a look around.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.



Read Locally Waco: The Boy With Two Hearts

Read Locally Waco is a project to promote literacy in Waco.  Throughout the semester we will post stories that use sight words our children are learning in Waco ISD.  You can print these stories and lists of words to use with your children or with other children in your life.  This week’s story uses words from the First Grade Sight Word List.  For a printable version of this story and word list, click here: The Boy With Two Hearts.

The Boy with Two Hearts

One day in May a baby boy was born quite late at night.
His sister came to meet him just as soon as it was light.

She checked him over carefully…she counted all his toes,
She peeked into his little ears and pinched his little nose.

“This baby seems just fine,” she said. “I give him my OK.”
So, they put him in the car, and brought him home that very day.

But when they got her brother home, she soon began to wonder…
“Was bringing this kid home with us a big, enormous blunder?”

Sometimes he gurgled, laughed and smiled and acted like he loved her.
Then other times he cried and screamed.  He was a little monster!

She thought, “There must be something that I missed in my inspection.”
“I will study him more carefully … this problem needs correction.”

She poked his fat. She stretched his legs.  She could not see her error.
Why did this boy switch back and forth from “cutie pie” to “terror?”

She tried to ask her mom and dad, but they were tired and busy.
“I really need some help,” she thought.  “I’ll go ask Doctor Lizzie!”

Doctor Lizzie listened carefully.  She checked the baby’s charts.
Then she said, “I hate to tell you this…your brother has two hearts.”

“One heart is good and full of love, sweet as a jelly bean.
The other is a selfish heart.  It can be downright mean.”

“A baby brother with two hearts will be hard work for you,
But, if you think you’re up to it, I’ll tell you what to do.”

The Sister stood up straight and tall, a brave look in her eye.
“I’ll do whatever I must do to help this little guy!”

“Ok,” said Doctor Lizzie.  “Here’s the thing you need to know.
You must give him extra goodness, so that his Good Heart can grow.”

“He might be mean and nasty; he might act just like a pig,
Still, you must treat him kindly, so his Good Heart will get big.”

“He will sometimes make you angry; you won’t understand his ways,
But hug him when he’s grumpy, and be nice on those bad days.”

“And if you do these things, my dear, you’ll see when he is taller,
That his Good Heart will get bigger, and his Mean Heart will grow smaller.”

The Sister thought this sounded…well… a little hard to take.
But, she decided she would try it for her baby brother’s sake.

When he cried she sang him lullabies and stroked his fuzzy head.
When he yelled, she felt like yelling back, but stayed polite instead.

And so, the years went flying by, as years will sometimes do,
And Sister saw that Doctor Lizzy’s crazy words came true.

Her brother wasn’t perfect, but he was a whole lot better.
He pitched a fit from time to time…but not so much that it upset her.

His Bad Heart had grown so tiny, he was hardly ever bad.
His Good Heart was now gigantic, and his goodness made her glad!

She was thinking of her brother, his two hearts, and their effects,
When she noticed Doctor Lizzy on a walk with her dog, Rex.

She called out, “Doctor Lizzy!  Hey! How did you get so wise?
How did you know my brother had that extra part inside?

The Doctor grinned and winked and said, “I’m not so very smart.”
“I pulled a trick on you, my dear… All people have two hearts.”

First Grade Sight Words in this Story

  • All
  • Big
  • Back
  • Her
  • Over
  • This
  • With
  • Was
  • Give
  • Good
  • Of
  • Night
  • Very
  • Walk
  • His
  • Put
  • Him
  • Saw
  • Help
  • Day
  • When
  • Your
  • Had
  • Know
  • Then
  • Ask
  • Why

This Act Locally Waco blog post is by Ashley Bean Thornton, she has lived in Waco almost 20 years now. Far longer than she ever lived anywhere else. She likes to walk. If you see her out walking, honk and wave and say “hi!”

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.

2018 Greatest Hits #10: Want to have a great time in Waco? There’s an app for that!

(During these last few weeks of December we will be reprising the Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts for 2018 from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: Top 10 Most Opened Blog Posts of 2018.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

By Karen Rios

I became a Wacoan in January. Before that I literally only knew the Fazoli’s off of 35. I excitedly used my phone to explore my new home. However, I quickly got frustrated at all the articles and blogs that popped up on my search. Most revolved around Magnolia Market, and I knew that Waco had more than just the Market.

I really want people to know about an app that helped me learn about my new town. It’s called Waco & The Heart of Texas, and it’s free for Apple and Android. The Waco Convention & Visitors Bureau put together it together mostly for tourists, but I decided to give it a try anyway.


I love food! So, the first area I explored was the “savor” category. The app lists 141 food options. Through this, I discovered World Cup Cafe & Fair Trade Market, a locally owned business where you can eat with a purpose. I love their club sandwich. It’s a double decker with ham, turkey, bacon, American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and your choice of condiments. Did I mention it comes with fries?

Next, the app’s food list led me to Butter My Biscuit. If you see day old biscuits still available, just go ahead and buy them. They sell out fast! The two main biscuits to choose from are Buttermilk and Texas, which has jalapeño and cheddar cheese. They also offer the biscuit “of the day”, which was Rosemary when I went. Every day is something different. You can’t go wrong with these biscuits!

Finally, I enjoyed Moroso’s options for Neapolitan wood-fired pizza and other Italian dishes. A good margarita pizza is hard to come by, but Moroso’s hits the mark. The crust is crunchy and light. They put the right amount of sauce and cheese, and the basil tastes like they just picked it from the garden. It’s a good size pizza, most people share, but I think it’s a perfect personal size. I normally go during lunch to take advantage of their margarita pizza special. My mouth is watering just thinking about all this food.

Waco offers a variety of food options with Wacoan pride. As a local you may already know of the restaurants listed, but it’s always good to have something to reference in case you forget or need to share with friends or family from out of town. The app provides all the information you need. The hard part– deciding where to eat.

Other categories to explore

Perhaps you want something other than food. The app offers 15 different categories to help you show off Waco.

In the “See” category I discovered Cameron Park Zoo. My niece and I watched the lioness chase her cub around trying to bathe her. It looked like the scene from “Lion King” when Simba was trying to get out of his “bath time.”

One of their unique exhibits includes The Brazos River Country.  The exhibit shows you the journey of the early Spanish explorers who searched for gold along the Brazos. Throughout the exhibit you see different species that they could have encountered along the River. My niece enjoyed it because the river runs through Waco and we even walked around to see if she spotted anything.

Another of my go to categories is “Events.” You can see what events happen around Waco. For instance, on May 4th I saw First Friday Waco. That is an event on the first Friday of every month, where business in downtown offer discounts, live music and extended hours. I even learned the Dr. Pepper Museum has free admission on First Friday.

There are at least 300 listings, you just pick a category and go through the options. The app provides a brief description of the place, their website, other media outlet platforms, a contact number, and the address. If you come across an event you like you can add that event to your Google Calendar or iCal. The app is easy to navigate.  They did all the work for us, so all we Wacoans have to do is plan out the day.


I love being able to save money anytime I can, but I absolutely hate having to give my email address in exchange for coupons! I liked that Waco & The Heart of Texas didn’t make me input my email address to get their Specials. On their app they provide at least 54 different coupons that Wacoans can use. (Side note:  If you prefer paper coupons, you can find them at the Visitors Center at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame Museum, or at the Convention Center.

When my niece and I went to Cameron Park Zoo we used the coupon at least twice. The coupon gives you a free child admission with a purchase of an adult admission. I saved $7 dollars. You can keep using the coupons until December 31, 2018. Sure, it’s meant for tourists, but Wacoans can save money too.

Why should tourists have all the fun?

Wacoans can all benefit from this media platform. It provides a lot of options that you may know but not necessarily remember. You can plan a family outing and even save money. You can go on new bike trails. You can discover Waco history. You can provide more options to your friends and family. You can explore Waco in a different way. You can take advantage of the bus routes. You can try going to a winery. With over 300 listings, you are bound to find at least one new activity. Waco & The Heart of Texas might have been created for tourists, but Wacoans will know how to use it better!  (Free for Apple OR Android )

Karen Rios is a new Wacoan. She is currently attending MCC studying Digital Media. Although she is new to Waco, she is not new to the “small town” living. She loves exploring new towns and cities. She’s a sucker for hole-in-the-wall eateries. “Every day I discover something new about Waco, I realize how much beauty is here,” she says. “I like to brag about the scenery to all my city friends and family. I’m loving every minute of being a Wacoan.”

“What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?”

By Samantha Williams

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” How many times did you hear the question when you were five years old? When you were in High School? Sometimes we don’t achieve these lofty goals and that is okay!

Many of us have heard about the “grieving stage” regarding mental health conditions. Normally this is associated with the family members and the loved ones of those who have the mental illness. Whether it’s referring to the stress experienced providing care or finally reaching the realization that one dear to them may never accomplish the expectations of a normal life.

Less often does one hear of the grief experienced by the actual individual living with the condition. While it’s unclear if this is due to shame or disappointment, it is a very real aspect of any chronic ailment and mental illness is no exception of this.

Personally, I have kept what I feel to be the most discouraging facet of my condition to myself. I hate feeling like a burden to others and, frankly, I feel embarrassment when I give the subject thought. I am approached more often by former school mates that are asking after my wellbeing and what I have done since graduation than I’d like. I consistently flounder when I’m in the spotlight of those who were my peers during my teen years. Nearly all of them went off to college, landed prestigious jobs, and are proud parents to wonderful children while comparably I have stagnated, stayed in my hometown and often struggled with even going grocery shopping. How can I even begin to explain something like this when I sometimes labor to share something as mundane as my current emotion?

Due to medical limitations many of us living with mental illness find we are often unable to achieve lifelong aspirations. For some the cause can be the crippling anxiety that prevents them from pursuit of college education, the inability to cope with crowded places, and/or the disabling lack of confidence in ourselves.

Sometimes there is a profound remorse surrounding the perceived hardship our “failure” places upon our loved ones. We avoid discussing it and forgo the cathartic experience that often accompanies sharing our troubles. If sharing your personal grief is something that you have felt conflict about, I strongly encourage you to reach out. Holding in what we perceive as short-comings can fester within, inciting other hardships associated with mental illness to come forward.

It is extremely important to pause and take inventory of your accomplishments. Despite my own chafing and impatience at performing exercises like deep breathing or meditation, I have found this small activity to be more uplifting than I thought I would.

Gather up a pen and some paper. Ask yourself “What have I done that I am proud of today”? If one of your answers is along the lines of actually getting dressed or brushing your teeth, don’t be discouraged. I sometimes count myself lucky to get out of bed some days.

Follow up the first question with “What have I done that I am proud of this week?”

Next question- “…this month?”

And finally “What have I done that I am proud of this past year?”

Remember it is very important to take time to acknowledge how far you have come! You may not be working on your master’s degree or be the proud parent of an honor student, but you have likely come farther than you realize.

If you had asked me when I was in the thick of my worst depressive episode if I would be living in stability with my bipolar disorder, I likely would have laughed at you. While there are definitely setbacks, rough patches, and upsets in my life, I am profoundly appreciative to have come so far.

No matter where you are within your journey to living a satisfying life, the loss of your dreams are not the end. You are stronger than you know and are deserving of praise. The grief you experience in relation to your illness does not define you. It is not who you are as a person or reflective of how you will be for the rest of your life.

Samantha Williams, a Certified Peer Support Specialist, is proud to volunteer with NAMI Waco as a public speaker in local Middle and High Schools, and as a support group facilitator. With an ardent need to “pay forward” the kindness shown during the early stages of her bipolar disorder, she is extremely passionate regarding mental health conditions. She shares her home with a patient husband, three demanding feline roommates, and an ornery dog.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email for more information.