Tag: Local Business

Game publisher ends direct sales to local stores

Wizards of the Coast is a publisher of fantasy and science fiction-themed games originally ran from a basement. Wizards of the Coast, now owned by Hasbro, publishes card games such as Magic: The Gathering and tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons.

The direction Wizards of the Coast has been taking with Magic: The Gathering card game is questionable. I think WotC (Wizards of the Coast) is either hinting at completely stopping production of paper cards, or they think that they have so much money now that they can do whatever they please without any negative effects on their pocketbook.

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In recent years, the card quality has dropped significantly. The new cards coming out warp within 24 hours and bend too easily, compared to older cards. WotC says they like to “experiment” with their product, but I think the terrible card stock experiment has ran its course long enough.

Wizards of the Coast stopped distributing MtG cards directly to game stores this year, announcing their decision in July. This forced local game stores to order through distributors, which made the price of MtG booster boxes rise for local game stores.

Additionally, WotC announced this year that mega-companies such as Amazon and WalMart can now receive direct distribution from WotC. This further distances local game stores from making a decent profit from Magic: the Gathering.

Aaron Eldridge, the owner of Stormcrow Games in Lubbock, poses the question, “What is that (Amazon direct distribution deal) going to do for me running local events for players?”

The heart of the game is in local game stores. Players can meet, play, befriend other players and play competitively at these stores. Typically, the LGSs (Local Game Stores) run events and tournaments, sometimes two or more times a week, and barely see any overhead for these MTG events.

The open-beta release of Magic: the Gathering Arena has also come into play this month. I am not very familiar with the economics and state of Magic: the Gathering Online, but it seems to me that MtG Arena is the replacement for MtG Online.

mtgplayBut could it also be a replacement for the paper cards in the future? I hope that is not the case, although the direction WotC has been taking regarding paper card quality and distribution hints to me that WotC may be losing interest in the physical aspect of the game.

I do not think that we would see a complete paper replacement for a very long time. That would kill many aspects of the game. Players who enjoy the paper aspect of the game can and will still be able to play certain “formats” of the game. “Formats” are different ways to play Magic, which include specific rules, though lists of banned cards vary between the formats. However it seems that the general consensus of LGS owners on Reddit is: Amazon was always undercutting us anyway; this does not change much.

Eldridge adds, “It’s going to have to run the test of time and see if they have got an idea behind this.”

I agree with Eldridge. Who knows what WotC is thinking and planning? As a consumer, all I can do is eat popcorn, support my local game store and hope the game stays healthy and as fresh as my popcorn.

Lubbock coffee shops provide study atmosphere for students

by GENEVA NATAL

Coffee shops mean more to people than just the coffee. It’s about a place to hang out, relax or study, and enjoy a warm beverage.

Fall is finally here, and along with it comes a drop in temperature and an increase in the need for coffee. Many college students regularly go to coffee shops, many of which change their food or drink menus to celebrate the season. Sugar Browns, Yellow House, and Golden

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 Stripe are among the local coffee shops in Lubbock giving people a taste of fall.

Sugar Browns Coffee, located at 1947 19th St. in Lubbock, caters to local college students. Sugar Browns has many offerings to celebrate the fall season, besides the infamous pumpkin spice latte, including pumpkin spice chocolate chip muffins and maple pecan scones.

On any given day, Sugar Browns has “ a selection of different coffee varieties and brew methods, such as the French Press, Chemex, or the Stagg XF,” according to the manager Taylor McAlpine. Try out their expresso if you are looking for an extra boost. Their cappuccino and americano do the trick to get through the late night study session.

The Sugar Browns famous latte is described as “a rich caramelized sugar” by McAlpine, who recommends this to new customers to try on their first visit. However, they do have other lattes. If the sugar brown isn’t for you, try a delicious mocha or plain vanilla latte. Sugar Browns even has a non-coffee menu which includes chia tea, london frog, and a fan favorite this time of year, hot chocolate.

These drinks are made with what McAlpine calls, “private label roast from award-winning, nationally recognized, Texas-based roasters,” which allows the freshest coffee to be served. Sugar Browns is known for serving great coffee, having the best kolaches in town, and being an avid supporter of creativity.”

“It’s this sense of collaboration and community that I love about the coffee industry,” he adds. Sugar Browns also hosts a special Pumpkin Painting event during the First Friday Art Trail.

The atmosphere at Sugar Browns is unique. Like other coffee shops, it has the fresh smell and the low lights for comfort. However, at Sugar Browns the seats are comfortable, the area is open, and there’s a place for everyone. There are booths for couples, chairs and long tables for study groups, bar stools, and even a patio, which is a big hit with students, as a place to relax and read.

“Sugar Browns is known for its warm and welcoming environment,” according to McAlpine.

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“We have a young customer base that loves to spend time hanging out on our patio, spending time with friends, or studying for their next time in our shop,” McAlpine added. “We frequently receive compliments about the different Spotify playlists we have playing.”

Sugar Browns is a must to visit while in Lubbock. The staff cares about the customer and the coffee they make for each person. Each person who walks through the door is instantly engaged, and the extra effort is apparent.

“The most significant difference is our heart,” says McAlpine. “You can see it in our logo, the ‘Heart and Spro’. We engage with customers in a more personal way, and we try to get to know them and make them feel as part of the Sugar Browns family.”

Yellow House Coffee, located at 3017 34th St. in Lubbock, serves many college students on their homemade furniture. The seating is recycled, meaning it’s made out of pipes and refurbished material which is very intriguing to new customers. The low lighting allows customers to relax as they buy a cup of coffee.

“It’s a meeting place for college students, a good place to regroup after a long week,” says manager Collin Elas.

Yellow House caters to student clientele very well by offering community tables for studying and free Wifi for customers.

“For newer people, I would say try a latte or one of our house-made flavors,” Elas says.

Traditional coffees such as the latte, cappuccino, and cold brew are only a few drinks recommended for new customers. There are other non-coffee items, including cookies, scones, bagels, and muffins. On Saturdays, Yellow House offers a full hot breakfast menu. There is even a variety of different drinks for non-coffee drinkers such as hot chocolate, mineral water, hot apple cider, lemonade, and italian cream sodas. All are offered year round, though the menu changes throughout the year.

Yellow House also offers a seasonal menu which includes both drinks and pastries available upon request. At this time of year, the seasonal menu includes the infamous Pumpkin Spice latte and even seasonal homemade syrups that are definitely worth trying.

“We also buy directly from Oakland coffee,” said Elas. “Through direct trade and meticulously roasting, we follow quality control which we have developed over time. In the coffee industry, we use direct trade, which means we have direct relationships with farmers.”

Students are a big part of their clientele, because of what makes Yellow House Coffee memorable.

“It’s our culture,” Elas explained. “Our product is constant. That makes us stick out here.”

Golden Stripe coffee shop has unique qualities that make their coffee one of a kind. The owners are graduates of South Plains College. Zach and Zane Montandon own the coffee shop located at 2610 Salem Ave., Suite 5, in Cactus Alley in Lubbock.

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The brothers, who grew up loving coffee, started with a mobile espresso and expanded to what became Gold Stripe Coffee. Both Zach and Zane yearned to make their coffee exceptional, so before they opened their store, they did taste testing and made sure the quality of their coffee was the closest to perfection.

“We get coffee from countries like Brazil, Guatemala, and Mexico, which come in as green coffee beans, unroasted seeds of coffee fruit,” said Zach Montandon.

They credit the farmers who are growing the crops and the hard work they put in so that the brothers have the ability to do what they want to do in the coffee industry.

Both owners said they love the challenges that come with importing raw coffee beans and roasting them in house, the craftsmanship of an espresso or latte art, and bringing smiles to their customers. Each menu item is made with love, including the filtered coffee that varies depending on the beans that are used. The expressos and lattes are some of the most ordered and best to try out for a new customer. There is decaf and even sugar-free vanilla for customers, or you can add an extra shot in your expresso. Either way, add a waffle, which is a must try item, and you can even add toppings such as mocha, lechera, or caramel.

“We believe we are created to create,” said Zach Montandon.

Gold Stripe even offers classes on the second Saturday of the month. This month is latte art to teach others to create.

With a welcoming, modern, and friendly vibe, Golden Stripe is open to anyone who walks in and wants a cup of coffee.

Frightful Fun: Nightmare case haunts West Texas with scary attractions

In the calm of the night, you can hear the screams of the people who dared to enter Nightmare on 19th Street.

During October, Nightmare on 19th Street opens their doors to scare the Lubbock community. What everyone doesn’t see is the hard work that goes into making the attraction successful.

Nightmare is more than just a haunted attraction. It’s a family. Every one who is part of Nightmare plays an important role. The teams make sure that the attraction runs smoothly.

Located at 602 East 19th Street in Lubbock, Nightmare on 19th Street is known as West Texas’ only Halloween theme park and features four themed attractions, including its newest attraction, Dead Doll Island. The park also features Blood Moon Manor, The Wastelands, and Clowntown.

Open on Fridays and Saturdays, from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., the park offers wristband entrance for a fee of $25, as well as on Halloween night from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The fee, which can be paid with a credit or debit card, pays for your entrance into all four attractions.

The build crew is what keeps Nightmare functioning, running properly and safe for the patrons. The crew consists of Ana Chavira, Michael Morrell, John Vega, Wes Nessman, John Adams, Lynn Day, Stephen Kelley and Bobby Beach.

IMG_0063All are volunteers who like to be a part of the changes that are made to Nightmare. They all get to come up with ideas and discuss how they think a scene or the attraction should look according to the theme.

“Usually, to change an attraction it can take anywhere from a few weeks depending on what exactly we are doing,” and Chavira

Building season starts as soon as the haunt season is over on Nov.1 and goes until Sept. 28 the following year. They are constantly working on the attractions, solving issues, and adding attractions throughout the haunt season to make sure they are prepared for a new season of haunting.

The hardest part for Chavira was moving the big pirate ship that was in the Lost City outside to the front of the new attraction, Dead Doll Island.

In addition to the build team, there is the makeup and costume team that keeps the actors looking their scary best.

The makeup team consists of Ro Sergio, Renee Raven, Lan Holms, Sara Ward, Vanessa Duran and Jessie Whitecloud.

“We get new supplies every season,” said Sergio. “We try to brainstorm what the characters will look like, especially when we get a new attraction. I try to work with the actor to come up with a look for their characters.”

The newest costume coordinator is Zana Flores, who has made changes to the costume trailer and keeps it running smoothly. She also hopes to help actors who want to create their own characters.

The biggest part of Nightmare is the actor IMG_0050coordinators and the actors. There are four coordinators, Stephen Kelley for Bloodmoon Manor, Matt Aguilar for Wastelands, Robin Burkett for Dead Doll Island and Drew Blood for Clowntown.

The actor coordinators take care of the actors in their attraction, and they make sure that the attraction is running smoothly for the season. Each coordinator walks through their attraction to do their safety check each night.

Not only do they make sure everything is running properly, they walk through the attraction during the night to make sure the actors have water and cough drops, and that they are doing OK.

“They main thing I try to do to get ready for the season is helping the actors get ready, help them be the best they can or improve their acting skills,” said Kelley.

Kelley also makes sure that the Manor looks and runs smoothly for opening nights. If he has the time, he works on improving his own character.

Nightmare’s undead beating heart are the actors who participate each season. There are anywhere from 70 to 150 actors a night. They have a big part in making Nightmare what it is today.

The actors all prepare differently, depending on the attraction they are in or their character. There can be victims, murders or something your wildest dreams couldn’t imagine.

Every actor takes the time to come up with their character, the backstory, how they look, how they act and talk. It’s the actors chance to be someone else when they step foot on the ground at Nightmare.

One character is Dr. PARTson, also known as The Collector, played by Dylan Avant. The Collector is a very prim and proper man from the front. But inside, he harbors something much darker and more twisted, a real psychopath who knows what he wants.

“I usually prepare for the season by imagining my scene and different scenarios of different patrons and ask myself questions,” said Avant. “What would I say? How would I act? How would they react? What could I use in my scene to make it become more lively? Would it fit my scene? It usually doesn’t take until I put on the makeup and costume.”

IMG_0042-2.jpgFor Avant, the character has always been there, but his identity has always shifted and changed. After finding his outfit and voice, all it took was connecting that with a proper personality and motives.

Another actor is Zoei Huntsman, also known as Bloody Mary. In order for Huntsman to prepare for Bloody Mary, she must rest her voice and stretch so that she can yell, sing, and be flexible for her act.

Huntsman’s character was actually not her idea. She got the opportunity to try out the room that is now known as the Bloody Mary room for one night, and it stuck,. She told the makeup artists what the setting of the room was, and from that, they tossed around ideas until the idea of Bloody Mary came up. Ever since, that has been Huntsman. Bloody Mary is full of hatred toward her victims. Huntsman says she based her character’s personality off of the true historical character of Bloody Mary.

“Often, on my way to Nightmare, and right before we open, I practice singing my chants,” said Hutsman. “As soon as I get into costume, I’m not Zoei any more; I’m the infamous Bloody Mary, ready to rip heads off.”

For Huntsman to get fully into character, she must suit up in her raggedy, ripped, bloody dress and tights, her leather corset, and well padded shoes (since she jumps, runs, and is acrobatic in her act). Then she gives herself the trademark bloody and black tears and makeup to make her face look empty, dead, and hollow.

“As soon as my makeup and costume is on, I’m Bloody Mary,” explained Hutsman. “I hardly get out of character, and I’m ready to hear the blood curdling screams that is music to my ears. True, evil, crazy person in history.”

Sally Boudreaux prepares all year for her character as a hippy clown named Grooves. Grooves loves being a clown and loves to entertain the crowds.

There are so many more characters that make Nightmare scary. Nightmare isn’t just a haunted attraction. It’s a family that works together. It is the Undead Army, and they are always there for each other.

So if a scare is what you look for on Halloween, check out Nightmare on 19th street on Halloween night and prepare to scream your lungs off.

Wallace Theater entertaining new generation of audiences

by DESIREE MENDEZ//Staff Writer

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Once upon a time, in a small West Texas town, there was a man who wanted to open a movie theater in Levelland.

The Wallace Theater was created in 1928 by Wallace Rose Blankenship. Blankenship had owned more than 30 theaters in the West Texas region. Bob Hope and Walt Disney wrote letters to Blankenship congratulating him on his success in the theater business.

The original Wallace Theater was built in 1925 across the street from its current location. He saw potential in Levelland, and that great potential is still thriving today.

On October 5, 1949, the Wallace Theater reopened as “West Texas’ Finest.  The Wallace was fully renovated to the theater that Blankenship had been dreaming of since 1926.  At the time, the Wallace Theater was a state-of-the-art theater that boasted E-7 Simplex projectors, 4-star Western Electric Sound, fully upholstered opera chairs, and, most impressively, fully automatic air conditioning.  The renovated theater included deep carpets to hide foot traffic sounds, a cry room and a smoking room.

“The lights of the marquee were described to be as bright as any you would envision on Broadway in New York City,” said Alycyn Keeling. “This is where they would like to take the theater back to currently.”

George Keeling purchased the Wallace in the early 2000s. The Levelland resident wanted to be able to bring the Wallace back to life and bring entertainment back to Levelland. His  daughter, Alycyn Keeling, is currently the executive director of the Wallace.

When George Keeling purchased the building more than 10 years ago, there were significant structural concerns with the second story and loft.  Steel beams had to be installed in the ceiling of the lobby to support the second story, and additional steel work was done in the loft to reinforce the roof.

Alycyn Keeling recalled, “We had to hire pigeon catchers to catch all the pigeons we kept finding in the theater area from the damage on the roof.”

In 2015, they established their non-profit organization, “Levelland Wallace Theater.” The Levelland Wallace Theater Organization now owns the theater. They have a board of directors of five people and an advisory board of 15 people to help grow this project and help it become what the community needs it to be.

The Wallace currently hosts live music concerts, films and art shows featuring local artists.  The Wallace team is continuously working to increase our programming and provide more entertainment experiences for Levelland and the surrounding communities.   

The Wallace is starting to show movies once a month, and they are starting a Kid’s Club on the second Saturday of the month. The Wallace recently showed “E.T.” to kick off their movie nights at the Wallace.

“The goal for the Wallace, other than just reopening, is to once again be a source of great pride and inspiration for the community,” said Keeling. “ It will be a gathering place for the community, where people can find entertainment in Levelland without having to go to Lubbock and can enjoy the company of their friends and neighbors.”

  “The Wallace will be a cultural institution in the community where patrons will have the opportunity to find new and exciting entertainment,” added Keeling. “It will revive the nostalgia and wonderful memories that so many members of the community cherish, but will also seek to create new memories and nostalgia for this generation.”

The Wallace is a non-profit organization, and all donations to the Wallace are tax deductible.  Proceeds from every event held at the Wallace goes toward the remodeling of the theater.

“In addition to developing the programming at the Wallace, a large part of the project is working to preserve and retell the history of the Wallace,” said Keeling. “We are still working to identify people in photos and are looking for more old photos and news about the Wallace. This is an area where we need a lot of help from the community.  We’ve had a great response so far, but we still need help with more of the pieces.”

How can you help and get involved?  Follow updates and “Like” their Facebook page, sign up for their e-mail list to be notified about upcoming events, and visit the Wallace Theater website at www.wallacetheater.com.

  [Photo by SARA MARSHALL/PLAINSMAN PRESS]

Fine as Wine…Local vineyards thrive in West Texas climate, soil

by SARA MARSHALL//Editor-in-chief

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As high quality, artisan alcohols become more popular in the United States, local growers are taking advantage of the booming market in West Texas.

Beating out international wines and the top wines in the United States, Trilogy Cellars of Levelland brought home gold, silver and bronze medals from the 2017 TEXSOM International Wine Awards at the Irving Convention Center on Feb. 22.

“It was a little bit shocking,” said Steve Newsom, co-owner of Trilogy Cellars. “We were against some of the best wines in the U.S. The toughest wine competition in the U.S. is the TEXSOM, and they bring in the absolute best judges in the world. We were kind of nervous about TEXSOM.”

Being the only U.S. Malbec to win a gold medal at TEXSOM offered those at Trilogy Cellars the validation they were seeking. But the winery’s success would not have happened had three friends not come together with an idea to change the face of winemaking.

Rowdy Bolen, Chace Hill and Newsom each have vineyards growing premium wine grapes. Originally, the three had only been producing Malbec for their friends and family for fun, but it quickly evolved into so much more.

“We started making wine in harvest of 2015,” Hill said, “and it just kind of mushroomed. We weren’t exactly planning on opening a tasting room when we first started making our wine, but we came across the building at a good price and thought ‘Hey, why not? Let’s do it and see how it goes.’ And so far it’s gone real well.”

Balancing the vineyards and the winery has been the family’s favorite part of the business.

“I’ve always wanted to be part of the wine business and take it from the field to the bottle,” Hill said. “I think it’s really neat that we can do that. There aren’t many industries that you can grow like we have, and it’s great. When I was farming cotton, I never got to see a t-shirt that my cotton made.”

Growing premium grapes in West Texas is not an easy task for all growers, but these three families are confident in their vineyards.

“This is a really good place to grow anything,” Newsom said. “We’ve proved that. Some of the best quality cotton, and the highest yields in the world come from right here. The problem is, you have to adjust for the climatic conditions here; it’s not California, not Italy. It’s not France. Growers here usually adjust pretty easily. But I mean, we pretty much give the soil whatever it needs. We don’t have a lot of organic matter. Pretty much anything the plant needs, we have to supply.”

According to Bolen, in April, the vines have a bud break, which represents the first leaves that begin growing. In May, the clusters begin to flower, but due to heavy rains and unusually warm spring weather, this may be as early as the end of April. In June, the grape clusters are formed. In July, veraison occurs, which is the changing of grape color from green to purple. By August and September, the grapes are ready to harvest, which may even occur as early as July this year. When the first frost occurs, typically in late November, the plants go into dormancy until the next growing season.

Once the grapes are harvested, they must be crushed, pressed and fermented. The fermented grapes are then aged in either wooden barrels, for red wines, or stainless steel tanks, for white wines.

“Usually, in your fourth or fifth year, you’re finally at a mature production bloom,” Bolen said. “This all depends on how well the plants have grown, and if you’ve had any crazy weather conditions, bitter colds, freezes, hail. All those things kind of set you back.”

Whenever the three vineyards encounter a problem, Dr. Pierre Helwi, the West Texas regional viticulture extension program specialist, is there to help. Viticulture is the study of grapes and grape growing. Helwi’s job is to take scientific projects, which tend to be extremely complicated, and make it practical for local grape growers.

“It’s been really helpful,” Hill explained, “because in the past, we’ve had people in his position that didn’t have any experience growing grapes, and it wasn’t much help at all. Now we’re glad to have him here, and he’s got more experience than anyone here. We’ve learned a lot of things the hard way. We would do it wrong the first time and then figure out in time how to do it correctly. And with Pierre, I think we’re going to, especially with new growers, skip that trial and error period and go straight to the right way to do things.”

After successfully growing wine grapes, the families came together to open the Trilogy Cellars on the downtown Square in Levelland on Nov. 17, 2016. Hill says that the most important thing a person seeking to be a part of the West Texas wine movement can do is become involved in the business as soon as possible.

“There’s a need for people in the vineyard, but not necessarily those who are college educated,” Hill said. “I mean there are vineyard managers, but that’s not something you’re going to get into right out of college. You’d have to be a hand for a while.”

According to Newsom, both sides of the business require patience. If you rush in, you will rush out just as quickly.

“As in anything in agriculture, business is number one,” Newsom said. “The work ethic is the same between the vineyard and the winery. You have to be very personable, and you want your customers to be entertained when they come in. They want to be entertained.”

Trilogy Cellars plans to release new wines later this year and enter more wine competitions.

[Photo by SARA MARSHALL/PLAINSMAN PRESS]

Cowork provides quiet place for students, faculty

by SHELBY MORGAN//Staff Writer

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Students now have another study space option available that has the conveniences of a coffee shop and the quietness of a library.

David Lamb-Vines, Lubbock native and 2004 graduate of South Plains College, and his wife Leann, are the owners of the art for goodness sake Fine Arts Gallery and Studio in Lubbock, and have recently opened the afgs Co-Work. David is a poet and a free-lance painter, while Leann works in a variety of artistic mediums, including painting, mosaics, photography and writing,

“We receive so many comments and complements regarding the welcoming space we provide that we’ve come to believe giving a warm, comfortable and invigorating place to work is something our guests would welcome and appreciate,” said David Lamb-Vines.

The Co-Work features an art gallery setting with a quiet, comfortable atmosphere. Free coffee, tea, creamer, and sweetener are provided for visitors. There are multiple power outlets to accommodate laptops and devices, secure Wi-Fi, and a wireless printer. Paper, postage, stamps, envelopes, packaging, and mail delivery are also available.

“We aim to serve both students and faculty with our services,” said Lamb-Vines.

Located at 1810 19th Street in Lubbock, The Co-Work is available by appointment, which can be scheduled by calling (806) 771-2727. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment in the evenings and on Sundays. The cost is $5 hourly, with the first hour free. Additional rates include $15 for four hours, $25 per day, $60 for three days within one week, $100 for six consecutive days, excluding Sunday, $175 for 12 consecutive days, excluding Sunday, and $300 for 24 consecutive days, excluding Sundays. Special pricing is available for group meetings.

“It’s a really good place for people who want to work in a setting where there are other people working also,” said Lamb-Vines, “and the kind of friendships and collaborations that can form when people work together, even if they are working on different projects. The whole idea is that the energy that one person is feeling about their project can bleed over into helping other people who are working on their project.”

The art for goodness sake Fine Arts Gallery participates in the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center First Friday Art Trail, which is a monthly event that showcases galleries and other fine art venues for public enjoyment.

“This is also a place to be that’s in an art gallery setting.” Lamb-Vines added. “We have 15 different artists that are showing. We are on the First Friday Art Trail. Our art changes every month, and we get new work and artists in on a regular occasion. We have been an art gallery since 2010, and will now offer the co-work aspect of it.”

The grand opening was held on March 25. Students and faculty of SPC are invited to come by and see what they provide. The Co-Work is the only of its kind in Lubbock and the surrounding area, according to Lamb-Vines.

More information on the Co-Work can be found on their website at www.CoWorkLubbock.com.