Tyler Today December 2017 / January 2018 : Page 29

maybe eight or ten years ago that interest was generated to have a Chamber of Commerce that could concentrate on helping the town’s growth. From a business standpoint, the biggest challenge facing Arp is having a town with a population big enough to support the local businesses.” The current city limit sign boasts that Arp has a population of 970. From the forties through the sixties, the population held fairly steady around a thousand people. But, during the sixties, the number of businesses fell to thirty-seven. With the loss of businesses, in 1970 the population had dropped to 816. By 1989, the number of businesses was down to nineteen. The population was down to 812 by the 1990 census. Since 2000, growth has been slowly inching upward. As the population increased to its current 970 citizens, as noted in the 2010 census, the number of businesses increased to twenty-six. “In the current climate, most of the activities of the Chamber are geared toward raising money to support various events for the citizens of the town,” Nichols explains. “For instance, we have sponsored a Halloween event for the past three years. We team up with the City to sponsor an Easter Egg Hunt and an annual Christmas Parade. The parade is one of our biggest events. It draws between forty and fifty entries every year. These include a variety of organizations that range from local politicians to police groups, and fire departments that come from nearby surrounding towns like Jackson Heights, New London and Overton, and even entries from a fire department as far away as Flint. We have people who own antique cars and tractors that participate and every school and church in town has some kind of entry, most spotlighting the children who participate.” Nichols emphasizes that hosting events and encouraging the residents to participate is one way that Arp’s hometown appeal becomes apparent to more people. The small-town charm, coupled with the excellent school system, is a prime factor for motivating more people to get away from the hassles of city living and take advantage of a family-friendly atmosphere. “I think people enjoy the fact that we can shut down Main Street on Halloween and provide a safe place DECEMBER 2017 / JANUARY 2018 29 “In the 1930s, when Arp was at its peak, there were no less than seventy businesses located in the downtown area,” says Damon Nichols, the current president of the Arp Chamber of Commerce. “For a brief period, Arp was booming. With the coming of World War II, the population began dropping, but there were still businesses operating downtown.” Nichols is the store director of the Brookshire’s Grocery Store in nearby Overton. He has worked for Brookshire’s for twenty-two years and is a lifelong resident of Arp, having graduated from Arp High School in 1998. He has a twin brother, and by coincidence, he and his wife Denice are the parents of seven-year-old twin girls, as well as two other daughters, ages twelve and sixteen. “Our kids all go to school in Arp. If there is anything that attracts people to live in Arp, it is our school system. Our schools provide an excellent education to the children of our town. The schools offer activities that give kids more opportunities to participate in more events. Whether it’s athletics or the band or art, our schools offer a well-rounded education in a quiet, small community atmosphere. Arp is a low-crime, church-going town, without any of the hassles of a big city. I loved growing up here and I love that my children are growing up here.” Nichols served as mayor for four two-year terms. Getting involved with city government was a way to give back to the community that he loves. It was during the time he was mayor that the Chamber of Commerce was started. “It was

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