Community Spotlight - Jason and Donna McDaniel, The Ritz Downtown
If you’re blue and you don’t know where to go to, why don’t you go, where fashion sits… Puttin’ on the ritz.
De Kalb natives, Jason and Donna McDaniel are hoping to create a space for the local community to create new memories that will last a lifetime with their new business venture, The Ritz Downtown, LLC.
“The Ritz is going to provide my sons and grandchildren new memories and connection to our town. Hopefully, they will be 5th and then 6th generation business owners in DeKalb, Texas,” stated Donna when speaking of the new venue.
Originally opened in 1934 as a moving picture theatre, Ritz Theatre, the building has been used for several previous businesses, including; A.D. King’s Hardware, Bill Willis Sears Catalog Store, and Jo Eubank’s The Tea Room. In 2017 the building was completely renovated and used as an office space and event center, DC 124.
Currently the Ritz Downtown can be rented as a venue for parties, showers, reunions, weddings, receptions, and more. Donna states the building can “offer many additional services to assist in making your event not only memorable, but convenient.”
The desire to own a business of their own has been prevalent since they first got married, but over the years had been placed on the back burner due to their career paths. Business runs in the family, with Donna’s great grandfathers on both sides of her mother, and her parents owning several local businesses over the years.
Chris Warren Moore, owned businesses in DeKalb. T.C. Warren owned a grocery store and L.E. Brown, Sr. owned a shoe shop. T. C. Warren’s grocery store turned into C.E. Warren’s variety store. This store was located on Runnells across from where the Ritz is located. C. E. “Clifford” Warren was her mother’s father, and he moved the variety store to Front street around 1938. Clifford and his wife, Pauline Brown Warren, added an upstairs and changed the name to Warren’s Grocery and Pauline opened the Ben Franklin next door on Front Street. In the 1960’s Pauline sold Ben Franklin to her brother, L. E. Brown, Jr., and he moved it down further on Front Street.
In 1965, Donna’s parents, Don & Chris Moore, opened D & C Department Store and it remained open for almost twenty years, until 1984 when Chris opened Chris’ Fashion, from 1984-1987. Donna, being a fourth-generation business owner in the De Kalb community, “grew up on Front Street in D&C and Chris’. I rode my tricycle and sold lemonade on Front Street. Those store locations were destroyed by the tornado in 1999. I have many wonderful memories of those stores and others, and the wonderful workers of Front Street.”
Admiring the newly renovated building for some time, once the business hit the market, the idea of owning a business in their hometown created a spark for the couple. Although it took some time to make a final decision on the purchase, due to the current pandemic the world is facing, the McDaniels’ decided to take a leap of faith. Being a business that handles gatherings, venues must be careful to adhere to local, state and federal guidelines concerning Covid-19.
Dates are already booking and locals are running at the opportunity to hold their events in their hometown.
When speaking of the future of the Ritz Downtown, Donna told the Tribune, “We hope that in years to come it will be a gathering place for people’s most memorable events. The most exciting part of opening the Ritz is that it will allow us to stay connected to the people and town we love so dearly.” She continued by saying they feel, “privileged to share and help make precious memories for our people on their most special occasions.”