ALICE, Texas — The Rialto Theater in downtown Alice -- shuttered now for more than 40 years -- soon will be just a pile of rubble.
The city hired a demolition crew recently, after pieces of the building started crumbling following decades of deterioration.
"It’s about the safety of the neighbors (and the) safety of the community," City Manager Michael Esparza said. "It’s not a nice thing when you have to tear down a building like that, but sometimes it just has to happen.”
Employees at Kids Kloset, a clothes store for children next door to the Rialto, have mixed emotions about the demolition work.
“Our fear is: What’s going to happen when they bring that wall down that’s attached to our side?" Connie Hughes said.
Despite that concern, Hughes said tearing down the aging theater eliminates a danger to her customers.
But customers haven't been shopping as much during the COVID-19 pandemic, and now Hughes says the inconveniences of the demolition work are further hurting the business that her friend owns.
“(My friend has) done a really good job of keeping the store afloat," she said. "I don’t know how much longer we can do it.”
The demolition work, which is costing the city $34,000, should be complete in about two weeks.
At that point, city leaders can decide what to do with the lot where the Rialto once stood.
“It means a lot to a lot of people," Esparza said. "So hopefully we’ll be able to do something to remind people about what it was."
People like Alice native Jerry Wright don't need a reminder.
“It was such a great place, and it’s such a tragedy to see it go,” Wright said.