San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas


Kelly Franks is retiring after 25 years of administrating the Main Street Program in San Marcos (photo by Don Anders).


Kelly Franks, who has administrated the city’s Main Street program for 25 years and co-founded the annual Sights and Sounds of Christmas festival, is retiring.

The city announced Franks’ retirement last week.

The City of San Marcos, Texas Main Street Program and Downtown Association will honor Franks at a reception on Thursday at Café on the Square (3-5 p.m.). The public is invited.

The city has named Samantha Armbruster, owner of Social Media Sisters, to succeed Franks as the Main Street Manager. Armbruster began work last week to learn the ropes from Franks through the month.

San Marcos joined the Main Street program in 1986, then Franks began to run the local effort in 1988. The national program, which began in the 1970s, is administrated National Trust for Historic Preservation. The program provides technical expertise and consulting services for its member cities and urban neighborhoods.

The Main Street program in San Marcos encompasses a 24-block area around the city square. Though the odd vacancy still pops up on the square, the area now generally thrives day and night with restaurants, nightclubs, shops, government offices and professional services. When San Marcos joined the program, 15 vacant buildings sat on the city square, one of many downtown casualties nationally after the federal interstate system changed traffic patterns and businesses began setting up on the frontage roads.

“Kelly Franks has helped guide the downtown through a major transitional period over the past quarter century,” said Matthew Lewis, Director of Planning and Development for the City of San Marcos. “She has initiated wonderful special projects, aided building owners in the preservation of historic buildings, and been a strong advocate for local businesses.”

More than $56.5 million of public and private investment have gone into downtown San Marcos since the city joined the program in 1986. By the time the economy tanked in 2008, downtown San Marcos had a net gain of 188 business starts, expansions and relocations since 1984, adding 820 jobs to the Main Street district. The downtown area also added 74 housing units and 102 residents.

Main Street also has played central roles in bringing trail rides, Texas State special events, the Great North American Race of antique cars, the Texas Natural Festival and the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame, and Sights and Sounds of Christmas festival to downtown San Marcos.

Franks was designated in 2011 as one of the “Legends of San Marcos’ by the Heritage Association for her contributions to the Main Street Program and civic organizations.


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7 thoughts on “Franks retiring as Main Street manager

  1. Thank you Kelly for all your hard work. I know Samantha will do a great job, but, there just seems something wrong with Main Street and no Kelly. I hope you enjoy everyday of retirement, and will find the time to return and enjoy the many events you made happen in San Marcos.

    God Bless you.

  2. There is no truly replacing the legendary Kelly Franks but I will do my best to make her and our community proud! I can only hope I have half the stories and accomplishments she has upon my departure.

    The Texas Historical Commission released their first ever special edition of “Main Street Matters” and it’s all about Kelly. Here’s the link

  3. Kelly Franks should be congratulated on her retirement and her long tenure. Sights and Sounds alone is awesome, and she did way more than that.

    I am not willing to concede that the square and the downtown area is significantly ahead of where it was in 1986. I think there are probably just as many vacant buildings today as there were then. Texas Music was a good add, but in 1986 Showplace was a vibrant movie house and together with Magic Coin offered some youth entertainment options. Root Cellar is great but Wesrays was solid before, plus Hilburns was great. And gone are mainline retailers like Serur’s, Alert Sports, Breed Hardware, Shoe Collection, etc., and in there place are a few hemp stores, second hand stores, and smoking lounges. Paper Bear had to shrink its footprint and the County buildings appear to have been all scooped up by folks who intend to leave them vacant.

    All of this despite $56 million in investment and more than a doubling of our population. Since Mrs. Franks has retired, it seems like a good time to re-evaluate the wisdom of this investment moving forward.

  4. Congrats Samantha I KNOW you will bring your own personality to this endeavor and the city will do nothing but benefit from it.

    By the way skeptical if I’m not mistaken a large portion of the funding of the main street program are grant funds, I’m not sure what budget is required or what percentage comes from the city, but from what I understand it’s not a huge investment out of our coffers. In any case the events that are funded by this program, in my opinion, ensure that San Marcos keeps it’s unique charm and it wouldn’t be SM w/out them. In addition it aids our city in keeping a historic town square, as we grow I’m sure things will improve on the square and at least we’ve had the foresight to preserve it.

  5. Let us not forget that 10 years ago the three most important corners on the square were all but empty. the old rogers building had some sort of arcade, but was otherwise empty. the old First State Building had sat empty since the 70s, and the old Two bitter building had deteriorated to the point I thought it would have to be bulldozed. Now all three have been revitalized, have apartments on the second floor, ad businesses on the first.

  6. I personally think Ms. Franks has done a good job. Downtown is definitely prettier and livelier than it was when I moved to town 15 years ago.

    To skeptical’s point, it’s sad that the businesses that currently inhabit our “main street” area are mostly bars, restaurants, and head shops these days….I too would rather see family run businesses and for the love of God, can we PLEASE get some family entertainment options in this town?

    But what we have beats these buildings being empty and let’s face it, the days of the old downtown mom and pop stores being able to survive are all but over thanks to Big Box retail.

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