“We purposely push down our rental rates lower than a lot of surrounding areas to encourage mom and pop [businesses] to come in,” Bryan said. “I won’t allow [chain businesses] into Old Town if I can help it simply because I want Tomball to look like Tomball and not Generica. For the Old Town Historic District, I want it to have that really cool look and feel—this is a real, live, 108-year-old downtown.”
The Hutson Group
Since 2007, Bryan has owned and operated The Hutson Group, the development and management arm of the Hutson family trust. Along with Bryan’s father, Dr. Rodney Hutson, a retired optometrist and trustee of the Hutson family estate, and family friend Salvador, the three are the backbone behind the multimillion-dollar development of Old Town Tomball. The Hutson family has developed and maintain a number of local businesses marked with Victorian lampposts outside, such as The Empty Glass, Nonnie’s Soda Fountain, The Lunch Ladies Cafe and Catering and Jane and John Dough Bakery.
“We tear nothing down, and we preserve everything we can,” Bryan said. “Any lumber we take out of buildings we recut and put back in. It’s funny to watch my dad, Salvador and I because we are picky about everything. You may walk by one day and see [my dad and I] screaming at each other in the middle of the day over brick. At the end of the day we’ll go back home, business goes away and we’re back to [being] family.”
Gaylene Green, owner of Legacy Beauty Academy, and her daughter, Sawyer Matson, owner of Sawyer’s Place, both operate properties managed by The Hutson Group in Old Town Tomball. After purchasing the beauty academy in 2007, Green said she worked with Bryan to move the business from a building in poor condition near H-E-B to a more spacious two-story location on Commerce Street in 2012. In her first year in business at the Hutson property, enrollment grew from 30 students to more than 75 students, she said.
“I have had no issues from day one [with Bryan]; he’s been very accommodating in what we need,” Green said. “I’ve been in commercial leasing since the late 90s, and he’s the first hands-on landlord I’ve dealt with.”
In the mid-1970s, Rodney began building the family’s property ownership portfolio with some Tomball real estate purchases after moving to Houston from South Carolina. Rodney purchased 12.5 acres near FM 2978 and Dobbin Hufsmith Road and would bring Bryan and his other children to the property each weekend.
“I have had no issues from day one [with Bryan]; he’s been very accommodating in what we need. I’ve been in commercial leasing since the late 90s, and he’s the first hands-on landlord I’ve dealt with.” —Gaylene Green, owner of Legacy Beauty Academy
By the time Bryan graduated from high school in 1986, Rodney gifted him with two rundown buildings he purchased in Old Town Tomball, which have now become The Whistle Stop Express and Sawyer’s Place. While attending college at Texas A&M University, Bryan said he began reading books to teach himself how to wire electricity and install plumbing and would drive home each weekend to renovate the buildings that became home to a Mexican restaurant and apartments.
Though he stepped away from the family business to enroll at South Texas Law School in the mid-1990s, Bryan said he never lost interest in working with his hands and now is a licensed electrician and plumber. After receiving his law degree, Bryan said he worked briefly as an attorney in New York City, moved back to Houston to work for GE Capital and began running his own law firm with branches in Tomball and the Dallas area in 2003. In late 2006 Bryan received a call from his mother encouraging him to return home to help with the growing family business, he said.
“You have to look at it from the perspective of what would I be doing if I wasn’t doing this,” Bryan said. “I would be wearing a suit and tie stuck in an office staring at a computer, have my nose in law books or in a court room screaming at people. One of the most rewarding things is I have a 15-year-old daughter I raised by myself since she was 3, and having a job like this gave me a tremendous amount of flexibility. [I appreciate] the time and trust that my own family has in me to [accomplish] what needs to get done.”