Mark McWilliams lived in Texarkana for 18 years. He is owner of Arista Winery and Vineyards, founded in 2002 in Sonoma County, California. Arista has become one of California’s most sought after producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Arista’s wines are produced in small quantities and have deep, rich flavors that reflect the unique sites from which they come.
What is your favorite Texarkana memory?
Growing up in a place, you have tons of memories and it’s difficult to pick one. I’d say that as a kid, one of the most fun things I looked forward to, because it only happened once a year, was the Four States Fair. I loved the excitement that built during the week at school. As a kid, it all seemed so much bigger than it probably actually was, but for me it seemed like the most amazing event in the world! I loved the rides, the midway, the smells and sounds, and the various events associated with the fair. Very fond memories!
Were you a Hawk, Leopard, Razorback or Tiger?
I was (and am) a Tiger! T-High! As far as rivalry, obviously the fun and pageantry of the Texas High vs. Arkansas High football game was huge. I loved that entire week.
I played basketball in high school. For me, I always loved the chance to play against Pleasant Grove because that was the part of town I grew up in. Most of my friends that I grew up with went to PG, so for me it was the one chance to get to go against my buddies. For what it is worth, we never lost to Pleasant Grove. Just a little reminder to my buddies…
Who is someone from Texarkana who impacted your life and why?
My high school basketball coach, Jim McManus, had a huge impact on my life. Huge! He pushed me, yelled at me, got under my skin every day of my life for years (he might say I did the very same thing to him, lol.) All joking aside, “Coach Mac” really helped coax out and form many traits in my life that have shaped me into the person that I am: discipline, structure, hard work, determination, belief in self, and tenacity. I was never going to impress anyone with my physical attributes or stature (and he was fond of reminding me of that, ha!) But he taught me how to think, how to approach mental preparation and discipline. He was the first adult, other than a parent, to believe in my potential and push me farther than I thought I could go to reach it. I have so many treasured memories that oddly involve endlessly running bleachers, doing line drills, jumping over boxes and being yelled at.
What do you love about about Texarkana?
Admittedly, I haven’t lived in Texarkana for many years, so I get to work off of my memories, but what I loved about Texarkana when I lived there was the ideal balance of the size of the city. It wasn’t a truly small town, and it wasn’t a large city. It was small enough to know almost every corner of the city and feel that you knew everyone. At the same time, it was big enough to have options, to have variety and to still discover new places, new people, new things to do. I loved the old institutions, and I loved the growth and development that was beginning to happen just as I was leaving.
What do you miss about Texarkana?
The people. I miss so many of my childhood friends, classmates, teachers, pastors, etc. Texarkana has such a special place in my heart and that’s all based on the people I grew up with—the people who raised me and shaped me into who I am today.
Where was your favorite place to eat in Texarkana?
I loved Bryce’s Cafeteria. As a child, it was one of the few restaurants my parents were even willing to take my siblings and me—the hesitation was well founded! I loved the old downtown location. I can remember being blown away that a restaurant could have an upstairs. I always wanted to sit upstairs. Such a funny memory. I also loved the food and the experience of getting to pick my food out. There were always intense negotiations as we approached the dessert section. I also loved the social aspect of Bryce’s. Seeing people we knew, stopping by tables and having people stop by ours. It really speaks to the nature of the people of Texarkana. Bryce’s was an institution.
Where was your favorite place to shop in Texarkana?
I’m going to sound like the old soul that I am, but I loved shopping at Collins and Williams. The staff was always so friendly to us and knew us all by name. I used to be amazed at all the suits, and shirts, and hats, and shoes. Again, as a kid, perspective is so different, but it felt like such a fancy experience to go have people measuring me for pants and jackets. To this day I’m a huge fan of supporting a local, small shop/maker of anything, any chance I get. It feels good to shop where people know you and treat you as an individual. That was Collins and Williams to me.
What was the teen hangout when you lived here? Any story to tell about that place?
I’m not certain that the statute of limitations has expired and there are people that will read this that might have unknowingly provided land for some of our parties, so it’s probably best that we move on to the next question! I guess the safer answer would be Central Mall. It was one of the places where we could meet up with friends from our school, but also friends that attended other schools. All things considered, it was a safe place for teens to gather and wander through the teenage years together.
TXK Roots is Texarkana Monthly’s forum to highlight and honor Texarkana natives who have accomplished big things in the world. These folks may have relocated, but they took the values, education, work ethic and creativity instilled in them by growing up in this unique border city and used these qualities to blaze extraordinary trails. We asked them to share their thoughts about growing up here. No matter how far from Texarkana they may find themselves, we will always consider them our neighbors and we are proud to claim them as forever members of our extended Texarkana community. After all, “everyone is famous in their hometown!”