Rio Theatre; owners Mike and Nita Atkinson earn 2019 Small Business of the Year honors

Presentation made at Texas Forest Country Partnership's Economic Development Summit in Lufkin

Center's Rio Theatre and owners Mike and Nita Atkinson recently received the 2019 Small Business of the Year Award for Shelby County during the 2019 Texas Forest Country Partnership (Economic Development Summit in Lufkin.

This award presentation was made by Don Iles, Board Chairman of the Texas Forest Country Partnership.

“The Rio Theatre, owned by Mike and Nita Atkinson, has been in business since 1926 and is one of the most beautiful theaters in East Texas,” Iles said in the November presentation. “We are proud to recognize Rio Theatre for their dedication and commitment to the Texas Forest Country region.”

The Atkinsons are only the second family to have owned the downtown Center landmark since it was founded in 1926. Nita said the couple feels passionate about that responsibility.

“We are honored to have been the caretake of the historic Rio for all these year,” she said.

Mike bought the Rio in 1974 after being raised in the theatre business. He has been here since and while at one time he owned seven indoor theaters and drive-in theaters.

The couple were married in 1992. While they operated other businesses over the years, the Rio Theatre and its ties to the past have been their main business focus in recent years.

The couple has made major investments in the Rio for both a remodeling effort and the upgrading to digital projection in order to show the latest releases. With those upgrades they have continued to focus on the history and nostalgia of the landmark.

Iles, with the Texas Forest Country Partnership, said small business like the Rio Theater in East Texas is vital to the region's growth.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our area and the TFCP wants to emphasize their importance to our continued growth,” he said. “According to the Small Business Administration, 60-80 percent of all new jobs come from Small Businesses.

“Additionally, 70 percent are owned and operated by a single person and they represent 44 percent of the United States payroll,” Iles said.

“Our Summit is an opportunity to discuss ways to improve the economy of our region and we appreciate everyone who attended to help us celebrate small business as an integral part of our future”, he continued.

In addition to recognizing the counties’ small business winners, Betty Oglesbee of San Augustine received the Silver Bucket Award.

The Summit’s Keynote Address was made by Christian Fischer, President & CEO of Georgia-Pacific. Featured Presenter was Aaron Demerson, Commissioner Employer Relations with the Texas Workforce Commission.

Other topics included East Texas Manufacturing, Texas Rural Funders Collaborative and an overview of “Jasper United.”. Concluding the Summit was a panel discussion with the region’s State Senator and State Representatives.


The Light and Champion

137 San Augustine St.
Center TX 75935