On the morning of June 21, manager Jake Laughlin ran a nervous hand through his hair as he looked the place over one last time.  A crew of excited Dentoning Experts and Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) staffers donned in #dentoning T-shirts scurried around him, a blur of color making sure every little detail was exactly right.

A video showcasing Denton lifestyle unfolded silently on the giant digital screen.  An old-fashioned “on-air” light glowed in the window of the DentonRadio.com studio, from where Denton music wafted through speakers around the room and on the sidewalk.  Scones, cookies and punch, an opening day gift from The Chestnut Tree, sat ready for guests to enjoy.

Stillness settled over the group.  Everyone stood, breath held in anticipation for this moment.DDWC Staff

Jake walked to the front door of the brand-new Discover Denton Welcome Center.  His hand on the latch, he turned for one last look around.  No more scaffolding and ladders.  No more machinery and workers.  Instead, a beautiful, perfectly-appointed center designed in original, independent Denton style waited, ready.  He turned the latch, and a cheer erupted in celebration of opening day.  Bubble gum cigars, a present from Atomic Candy, were passed around amidst laughter and slaps on the back.  After years of planning and months of labor, the Welcome Center is finally born!

This project has been a long time coming. Just a dream for years, it finally got legs when the Leadership Denton class of 2012 invested their year-long project in researching and developing a business plan for a Denton visitor center and store.  City leadership embraced the plan and tasked the Denton CVB to begin the work of implementing it.

I’m confident the details involved in the past four years are unnecessary to reiterate for readers to appreciate everything that’s gone into bringing this project from dream to reality.  From finding the right location, identifying the right people, planning, designing, and building partnerships, this was building a business from scratch and a first for all of us.  Man, did we ever do it right!

Within moments of opening the door, local artist and writer Shay Youngblood sauntered in through the wide, welcome entryway.  It’s one of my favorite features of the center, half of the glass front folding open to create an open-air-market ambiance.

“I’m the first customer?” Shay exclaimed with delight.  The very first, we assured her as we snapped pictures to commemorate the significance.  She ooohed and ahhhed over the mural, the mini Campus Theatre marquee, the artful merchandise displays.  She browsed the brochures along the pallet wall, an artistic repurposing of the Denton delegation’s exhibit background at the 2016 SXSW Interactive Expo.  After selecting a few brochures, she purchased a postcard and became our first official sale, as well.  More pictures.

DDWC Dentoning merchOur first day was the beginning to a couple of weeks of “soft opening.”  We want to work out any kinks before kicking off our grand opening month on July 4.  So, promotion has been light, almost non-existent.  But that didn’t hinder business a bit. More than 300 people visited, and sales topped $1,000 that day.  Like the response we realized during our pop-up previews during the Holiday Lighting and Arts & Jazz Festival weekends, it validates again the demand and timeliness for Discover Denton.

“Is this an art gallery?”  One guest wondered aloud when a Dentoning Expert greeted him at the door.  I don’t blame him for asking.  It is that breathtaking!

Here are some don’t-miss highlights for your first visit:  the artwork around the center; the DentonRadio.com studio (especially the incredible ceiling tiles branded with a sepia-toned image of Denton’s very first radio station, 1938’s KDNT); the interactive kiosks that enhance the “infotainment” experience and help us track visitation; the Denton Bucket List full of ideas and free Denton button pins; the fabulous digital wall; and the array of Denton-esque merchandise from Discover Denton, the DIME Store, Denton Design Company, Only in Denton, I Heart Denton, TWU and UNT.

For the entire month of July, visitors can register to win the most massive #dentoning gift basket ever assembled.  Merchandise, tickets to attractions, gift certificates and more make it an incredible, immersive #dentoning experience for one lucky winner.  Plus, while supplies last, guests will receive a set of Denton coasters with purchase.

We’ve lived and breathed the Discover Denton Welcome Center for a long time.  It surpasses even our dreams in reality.  And it is yours, Denton.

Denton gear. Gifts. Adventures. The Discover Denton Welcome Center is open now at 111 W. Hickory Street on the square.