“Hey Papi!” If you have spent much time downtown at all, chances are you’ve heard those two words yelled out across a street or in a restaurant. When I first met Dane Rodriguez I was instantly captivated by his charisma and positive attitude. That was June 2016. Almost three years later, I still secretly wish I had some of that charisma.
Dane didn’t grow up in Wichita Falls, but you wouldn’t know it by talking to him. He is Downtown Wichita Falls through and through. It seems that he can’t have a conversation without bringing up downtown. He lives downtown, owns a building downtown, and is moving his business (Stone Oven Pizza) downtown. He also has more plans in the works that he isn’t ready to share…. But all of it is downtown.
Dane grew up in Biloxi Mississippi and joined the US Air Force right out of school. He served his country as a civil engineer and found great pride in his service. He spent most of his time in uniform overseas. In 2005 Dane was in Portugal when Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast, and in the process, destroyed his mother’s home. Upon hearing the news, Rodriguez approached his superiors and requested permission to head state side to help his mother. He was granted permission to decide his next assignment and chose Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas where he had once trained. He spent the next year at Sheppard where he finished out his service and decided to stay and call Wichita Falls home.
Fast forward a few years and a few beers over a family barbeque, Dane and his friend Johnny Uch hatched a plan to open a gourmet pizza joint in Wichita Falls. Stone Oven Pizza was born. It quickly became a staple for local cuisine. A few years into business they relocated to the current location in Century Plaza near the mall. Expansion is on the horizon for Stone Oven. Dane is opening a second location downtown in John Houston Farmer’s building at 810 7th Street. The restaurant will offer carryout and delivery to the downtown area. Rodriguez is open to the idea of adding a dine in option in the future, but for now he wants to keep it as “quick, quality pizza delivered to your home or office.” The space is currently being renovated with plans to open in the very near future.
In the middle of all these activities Dane somehow finds time to renovate a three story, 21000 square foot building downtown. He and his partner on the project, Beau Dameron, have been working on 922 Indiana across from Wichita Theatre for a few years now. Rodriguez jokes about how they used to mock building owners that were taking so long to renovate their properties. He now understands the effects of government red tape and hoops that stone wall progress. Though progress at 922 was been slow, it has been steady. However, no estimated completion date has been set.
Dane can often be found shooting pool or playing chess at the locally owned establishments downtown. He is a big supporter of local music and art. His office walls display art that he has purchased from local artists Sorrow, David Fowler, Chelsea Pirkle, and more. Dane Rodriguez is #DowntownProud.