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Movie-miffed merchants want respect from city

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Ellis County Press
FERRIS — Merchants upset by the actions of film crews for the television show 'Walker, Texas Ranger' said all they want from the city is a little respect. 

'When the city is approached by a film crew,' said Carmela Haywood, co-owner of Hidden Treasures on Main Street, 'they should tell the merchants, find out if it's a financial burden. The city should then lobby for the businesses. They would not have such an outspoken response if they would just do that.'

A handful of downtown merchants gathered at the Gazebo in Town Square in near-freezing temperatures on Monday, Nov. 13 to discuss the issue.

'We're looking for a solution for the future,' said Ben Martinez, co-owner of the Fiesta Inn. Martinez and his wife, Mary, said they lost more than $2,500 in revenue during the recent filming of the TV show. 'We still have to pay the rent, the employees, all those things,' said Martinez.

'In our business,' added Carmela Haywood, 'there are 19 or 20 girls in there, and they are all counting on that money. Some of them are living on just that.'

Haywood said her business was virtually shut down for six days during the filming.

Mayor Jimmie Birdwell said last week benefits to the city outweigh inconveniences when film crews come to town.

'I realize it was unhandy for some people,' he said, 'But how many times do you get a national TV show? The advertising was good for the merchants - offsets the (inconvenience).'

According to merchants, Ferris has hosted four or five film crews in the past seven years.

'Financial benefits?' questioned Carmela Haywood. 'You'll never see that. It isn't like they say ‘filmed on location in Ferris, Texas.''

Haywood said a Bob Dole commercial filmed in Ferris was portrayed to have been filmed in Dole's hometown. 'Whatever state that's in,' she said, shaking her head.

Birdwell told the Ellis County Press he was under the impression the film crew had contacted each business owner that would be affected by street closures during filming, so possible objections could be worked out in advance. He also indicated film crews were expected to cooperate with citizens who needed to go beyond the barricades to access businesses.

'If they would ask, they would let them go through,' he said. 'They made sure they let people get to the drug store.'

But merchants say there was in fact no such cooperation.

'I asked them,' said Rosie Perdue, owner of Quik Fliks. 'They would not let me past the barricades.' Perdue says she lost over $1,000 in revenue during the filming.

Pauline McCoy, an employee at Ye Olde Barber and Style Shop, said numerous clients of that establishment were turned away. 'Our clients did ask,' she said, 'and they were turned back at the barricades.' 

Police officers were in charge of effecting street closures, according to Mayor Birdwell.

'I don't see how you could blame the Police Department, though,' said Carmela Haywood. 'These were off-duty police officers, hired by the film crew. They had to do what they were asked to do.'

'This was a major interruption,' said Billy Haywood, co-owner of Hidden Treasures. 'It got out of control. Others had problems too, but are not wanting to go public.'

Haywood says these other merchants do plan to submit written statements to him. The statements will be gathered and forwarded to city officials. Haywood was unsure whether the information would be presented at a council meeting or just given personally to Mayor Birdwell.

'One way or another the Mayor's going to get it,' Haywood said, sparking laughter among those merchants gathered. 'The comments, I mean! I don't mean he's going to get it,' Haywood continued, making a mock jab with his right hand. 'Although that one statement might get more response than anything.'

What do merchants expect the city to do with the comments when received?

'Just take it into consideration,' said Billy Haywood. 'Look at it objectively. Offer us a little assistance. Instead of presenting a hodgepodge of complaints, we want to get together so we can do something constructive.'

Merchants said they don't object to hosting film crews if reasonable guidelines can be adopted and enforced to protect businesses from adverse financial impact. 'We're just trying to make a living,' said Billy Haywood. 'We pay our taxes. If we were not here, the city would not be prosperous.'

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