With the exception of a few buildings, downtown Sulphur Springs has seen a complete renovation in the past couple of years. The people behind it all have been SS Commercial Services, an industrial construction and plant maintenance company here in Sulphur Springs. The owner of SS Commercial Services, John Heilman, has been in charge of the company since 1978.
“When I got out of the Marine Corps, I became a policeman in Euless, Texas,” Heilman said. “When my lieutenant became Chief of Police here, he called me and asked me to come work for him.”
Heilman entered the construction business initially for the promise of a better income. Both Heilman and his associate, John Berry, were drawn to renovations of the downtown area after a shared desire to take advantage of the redone main street. Their first project was the corner drugstore, now known as Bayou Jack’s, after which they moved on to the other vacant buildings on the square. The plaque on the east side of the building attests to their physical and monetary effort.
“The buildings were all really solid,” Heilman said. “It was more cosmetic work than anything else. One of them, the Burger Grind, we had to put a roof between two buildings and then build the structure. The rest of them were, structurally, in good condition.”
SS Commercial Services does most, if not all, of the work on their buildings, excluding whatever requires licensed professionals. With most of their projects, they first renovate the building then they make any changes or additions according to the new renters needs.
“When we go in,we have an idea of what we are going to do before we actually start it,” Heilman said. “Whenever they come in and want to lease it, we tell them what we are going to do. If they need special walls or unique hookups or any of those things, we’ll put that in too, but mainly we’ve already got it designed for how it’s going to be for anything that’s in there.”
SS Commercial Services has been able to change our downtown for the better thanks to the help and cooperation of Marc Maxwell, the city manager. After the work they have done, our Sulphur Springs has become a model for the ideal small town downtown.
“Marc Maxwell has done a heck of a job with downtown,” Heilman said. “Some people don’t realize it, and some people do, and a lot of people give him grief about it, but he has done a heck of a job. It’s considered one of the best models for other small towns.”
In the past, construction companies and the city argue over their way when it comes to construction or renovation. With SS Commercial Services and Marc Maxwell, both sides share a vision for what the future of Sulphur Springs should be.
“You would have one side pulling their way and the city pulling the other, but now Marc has gotten all sides pulling the same way,” Heilman said. “The city doesn’t give you anything, but they let you work with them to do it right. If they hadn’t been cooperative, we’d have quit it a long time ago.”