Local small businesses offer options for students over the summer

Wichita Falls has been labeled a city with not much to do, as noted by last year’s mayoral debate, but it still has its unique attractions. Whether you’re a local or are visiting Wichita Falls during the summer, here are four businesses that provide experiences unique to the area.

River Bend Nature Center

Located at 2200 3rd St. is River Bend Nature Center, an environmental educational facility that anyone can visit for $6. Students get in for $5 if they show their ID.

“We’re a non-profit and our mission is to connect people to the natural environment of Texas,” Jennica Lambert, RBNC exhibits curator said. “You’ll learn more about Texas ecology than you ever wanted to know, basically.”

River Bend Nature Center’s three-story-tall glass
conservatory contains everything from arachnids to
prairie dogs, May 12 (Abigail Jones)

RBNC houses over 100 live animals in their facility. All of them are rescued, so each has their own story from a “funky little snapping turtle” to a chicken named Cupcake. Lambert said it is important for people to be exposed to these animals.

“I think everyone, including students, should know more about the world around them,” Lambert said. “A lot of people have fears like fear of spiders [or] fear of snakes, and the biggest way to get over that is exposure and to learn about it. Then you learn that not every rattlesnake wants to take your face off.”

RBNC has a three-story glass conservatory, a butterfly house, a trail that goes into the nearby forest and a children’s garden. They host parties and weddings and are currently holding yoga classes and kid summer camps. They’re open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. To learn more about them, visit their website at riverbendnaturecenter.org.

Alley Cat

If you’re looking to discover some new old things, Alley Cat Vintage Mercantile, located on 1505 Lamar St., has antiques and handmade goods of all varieties.

“[It’s] 27,000 square feet of everything from the lowest, most humble bucket with a hole in it to a $5,000 music box,” Julie Sobczak, owner of Alley Cat said. “I have vendors and they rent the space from me, then I ring up all the sales, essentially. That means that I get a lot of variety.”

The interior of Alley Cat is filled with antique furniture, memorabilia, clothing and much more. May 13.(Abigail Jones)

Vintage malls like Alley Cat have been gaining popularity, and Sobczak attributes that to a couple of different things.

“You can’t say it’s just nostalgia because young people are discovering it. I think there’s the sustainability aspect, which makes it’s a green business. It tends to be better quality. It’s made in the USA for the most part, and a lot of these things are timeless,” Sobczak said. “We get so many young people I think because of vinyl records, vintage clothing. Those two things are the big draw. [We have] 10s of 1,000s of vinyl records.”

Alley Cat is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except for Wednesday when it’s closed. Look them up at alleycatvintagemercantile.com to learn more.

Thai Orchid

Thai Orchid is a family-owned authentic Thai restaurant located at 1912 Elmwood Ave N Ave.  Kit Suthisripok, a co-owner of Thai Orchid, said he does his best to cook good food and represent Thai food well.

“Some people really love Thai food. They start eating it and they have to come back and eat it like every week,” Suthisripok said.

Thai Orchid’s menu has pad Thai, sweet and sour chicken, spring rolls, and many authentic Thai dishes, May 22. (Abigail Jones)

People can eat at Thai Orchid from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every day but Saturday. When they do, they’ll be eating food made fresh that day by a family, for a family.

“It’s what I cook for my family. We make everything all by [ourselves]…. It’s just me, my sister and my wife,” Suthisripok said. “We want to make sure all of the food is exactly the way we eat.”

Take-out is available by calling them at (940) 696-8846. Their low prices are also a very intentional part of their business, despite pressure to raise prices.

“Nowadays [other places] increase price a lot, because the cost of everything has jumped up more than 100%… but we still keep the prices low for our customer because we have been here for so long, like 17 years,” Suthisripok said. “The customer, we feel like they are our family, so we keep the same price.”

The Deep End

The Deep End is an arcade bar located at 5117 Old Jacksboro Highway that houses virtual reality games, online games, classic arcade games like Skee-Ball or Mortal Kombat and console games. Their owner, Jason Hester, an MSU Texas alumni, said he started the business because he wanted more to do in Wichita Falls and didn’t enjoy bars by themselves.

“We want to do more stuff for the community. I don’t drink and when I was in the Air Force I would go to bars and I would just sit there with my friends… I never got the draw to go to a bar,” Hester said. “When I go to bars, I don’t have a reason to talk to people, but now with an arcade bar, you can enjoy the bar and you can enjoy the arcade.”

Deep End has a variety of games including Mortal
Kombat, DigDug, Walking Dead and Skee-Ball, May 22. (Abigail Jones)

For $5, you can play all of the games they have available from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday. Hester said the Deep End is also a performance venue and is open to all kinds of music and acts.

“Here we allow everybody. We give everybody a chance to play. We’re doing hip-hop this weekend. There’s not a lot of hip-hop venues [in Wichita Falls],” Hester said. “We have a good crowd; it’s a way of getting people who don’t have a place to play.”

Since 2015, the team at the Deep End has been working on steadily growing, and Hester hopes they can soon move locations and upgrade their business to further add to the attractions in Wichita Falls. To find out more, visit their website at thedeependwf.com.