TEXARKANA --Hopkins Icehouse draws an array of patrons with a range of tastes, some of whom are making an investment in local artists.
Over the years, owners Dave Jones and George Dodson have cultivated a relaxed environment where friends and family can gather. More recently, manager Christian Mackey has used the platform to grow the local music scene and provide nonprofit organizations a place to fundraise for their cause.
In 2019, Mackey took on his first electronic dance music night at Hopkins. EDM nights continue to be one of the most successful, regular monthly events at Hopkins, with easily over a hundred in attendance.
"The night after that EDM show, the owners kind of came up to me and were like, 'Well, that was successful, right?'" said Mackey, who has managed Hopkins for 4 1/2 years.
Part of Mackey's success is his extensive network of promoters, sound technicians and artists. Together, they ensure events for the alternative community remain available to the public.
"He allows promoters like Chris Long to gather acts from other cities and bring them to Hopkins to get their names out in the Texarkana area," said Courtnee Jones, Hopkins staff member and local DJ under the name Siege.
Besides giving a variety of artists a place where they have a voice, Mackey generally does not take a cut from performances. Musicians are encouraged to promote themselves and take the entire collection of funds from the door cover.
Mackey does more than provide a platform for artists. He gives a leg up to many who are new to the music scene and to veterans who are looking to grow their audience.
On Dec. 15, musician Chace Rains held a fundraising event to record his maiden album -- the first local musician to do so. Mackey wanted to be the friend who could make that mission possible.
"I help out when I can," Mackey said.
It is help that has not gone unnoticed.
"The staff is what sets Hopkins apart from other venues. They are always welcoming and supporting in all areas of the scene and not just one part of it," Rains said. "They always make you feel like you belong and fit in there."
Mackey aspires to make Hopkins a place where people can come as they are and be accepted. On any given day, lawyers, doctors, police officers, construction workers, families and the alternative crowd can be found dining or sitting at the bar or at a table together.
"Mackey, along with the rest of the Hopkins staff, have created such a safe space for individuals to be themselves, and that's the most important thing to many people in the electronic scene," Jones said.
Over the years, organizations have sought out Hopkins as the venue of choice for their events. It all began when the local chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse came to Mackey in his first year at the restaurant and asked to host their fundraiser at the establishment.
"The Bikers Against Child Abuse was a really fun event," he said.
Like many of their musical events, fundraising events generally are booked based on the connections Mackey has made in Texarkana.
"A lot of our benefits here are just kind of like word-of-mouth. One dude came up to me and said, 'Hey, can we throw this here?' And I was like, hell yeah, we can," Mackey said.
Mackey said Hopkins' inclusiveness and sense of community that set it apart.
"I always call it the Switzerland of Texas," Mackey said. "Like, everybody's welcome."