A thriving McKinney is becoming cool, funky and fun. The square now hosts three new and unique businesses worth checking out: one that takes you around the world; one that takes you out of this world; and finally one that keep you cozy right here on the square.

Fair and Square Imports

In the market for something unique and cool, something with a conscience that’s handcrafted by artisans from around the world? Then put Fair and Square Imports, a shop where imagination and altruism meet, on your itinerary. The idea of area newcomers Andrew and Kate Jones, of Fair and Square Imports brings ingeniously constructed items, many from recycled materials, to the square. What’s just as important, says Andrew, is that the Fair and Square business model enables the artisans, many from third world countries, to work their way out of poverty.

“We want stuff that will draw customers in,” says Andrew. “But we also want them to feel and understand the goods and the culture of the people who made them and that they’re being provided with an opportunity.”

Fair trade policies in place help Fair and Square Imports contribute to the legal practice of fair prices being paid to producers in developing countries.

A stroll around the shop is like a quick trek around the world, but don’t pack your bags; you’ll need plenty of space for the things that in any language will make you say, ‘Oh wow!’ Here are just a few:

After some Singing Rooster Coffee from Haiti, head to South Africa for jewelry made from zippers; and decorative frogs, lizards, chameleons and butterflies constructed of soda cans. From Ghana come drums, block printed fabrics and baby clothing, each piece signed by the maker. These shirts, shorts and dresses are decorated in island bright colors and simple Matisse figures of monkeys, stars, dogs, fish and flowers.

On to Latin and South America, here you’ll find shiny purses and clutches made of potato chip bags from Mexico; and from Peru, ceramics and woven wool finger puppets.

Asia artisans contributed sketchbooks made from the used notebooks of Indian school children; stationary made from pulp recycled through the digestive tracts of Sri Lankan elephants (yes, you read right); one-of-a-kind wood stools hand carved by rice farmers in Thailand; and from Nepal wool purses and singing bells hand-hammered from brass.

From artisans around the world come more than 50 handmade nativity scenes that are woven, hand-formed and rolled using recycled paper, beads and even banana fibers and enough scarves to choke Steven Tyler’s microphone stand.

“We purchase things that have interesting stories,” Andrew and Kate said. “And McKinney is unique. The downtown vibe is different. We knew this is where our store would be appreciated.” Visit fairandsquareimports.com.


One Lazy Lizard Restaurant and Bar

One Lazy Lizard Restaurant and Bar, opened on South Tennessee Street by Chef Kim Meeks, her son David Mc- Daniel and her husband Eddie Meeks, is the one spot in McKinney where George Jetson could hang out with the Rat Pack, and no one would bat an eye. Whether you pull up in a space ship or a vintage Cadillac, when you see the sign of the electric lime lizard in a purple smoking jacket holding a martini glass, you’ve arrived at the clubhouse of cool.

Meeks, who got there first, puts it like this: “The minute we saw the square, we knew McKinney was for us.”

The bar is high-tech hipster, constructed of chrome diamond plate with a bar-top of green beer bottle composite with bar stools that would make Captain Kirk feel at home. An eight-foot tall banquet of gold lizard skin with purple velvet plush and gold buttons separates the bar from the two dining rooms. Upstairs are two banquet rooms, accessible by elevator.

The surreal artwork of Tim Biscup adds to the otherworldly aura, but you’re quickly brought to earth with the industrial sconces of rugged steam pipes and green beer bottles. The creativity continues with the menus, which are made of stainless steel and leather and, most importantly, with what’s on them.

One Lazy Lizard Restaurant and Bar is more than attitude says Meeks, a seasoned chef. “The whole reason behind our restaurant is to make people happy, and the best way to do that is to feed them. Our menu came from the top requested dishes I’ve been asked to cook over and over during my career, so you know there’s plenty of yum.”

Some of that eclectic yum includes green chili stew, beef stroganoff, baked brie in puff pastry with an apple pear compote, jalapeno peppers stuffed with asadero, cheddar, Monterey jack, bacon and seasonings, duck crepes in wine sauce and grapes, homemade citrus dressing, as well as many traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes.

But the green lizard, where did that come from?

“We saw a lizard cross the road on our way to Texas,” says the resourceful Meeks. “So we combined it with the green of the chilies we use in our recipes.” Visit onelazylizard.com.


Snug on the Square

Snug on the Square is the kind of place where people know your name, and that’s the whole idea says proprietress Sandra Nichols. So far, she says, it’s been working like a charm. With the warmth of a cottage, and the casual appeal of the family den, Snug on the Square is a laid-back coffee and sandwich shop that’s making mornings and afternoons on the west side of the square the perfect spot to meet old friends or make new ones.

Established in the summer of 2012 by Nichols after relocating from Charlotte, N. C., the ambience of Snug on the Square was designed to inspire and encourage; step in for breakfast, lunch or a cup of one of eight specialty coffees (including local brews) and see how the space bustles and percolates.

A tin ceiling, rugged old flooring, comfortable seating up front, and a loft space in the rear where like minds can gather, inspires creative thought or conversation. Study groups, books clubs, bible groups, writer’s groups and plenty of business people have discovered Snug on the Square as the place to discuss the topics of the day.

Merchandise such as buttons, jewelry and scarves created by McKinney artisans and wall hangings of colored yardsticks arranged in geometrical patterns, match book covers doing the same and muffin cups by local Ted Cantrell give everyone something to talk about.

“I love watching people connect and express themselves and ideas,” says Nichols.

If you need food for thought, grab a menu and get inspired by the smells and sounds of a sizzling griddle. In addition to generous omelets made to order, Snug on the Square creates sandwich melts such as Turkey Almond Jack and Bacon and Pimento on Italian butter brioches, along with salads, soups and fresh-baked cobblers.

Like the most comfortable room in your house, Snug on the Square is a place to kick back and share your thoughts with others.

“A pastor approached me and said he’s seen people here, some neighbors, whom he hadn’t seen in months,” says Nichols. “Snug on the Square is the kind of place where you’ll run into them. I see it happen all the time.” Visit snugonthesquare.com.

As the number and variety of downtown shops and businesses grow, running into friends and familiar faces may become even more frequent than it already is. So hit the square to rekindle old friendships, but make sure to visit the newest members of the downtown community and make new friends.


About the author: Steven Nester is an educator and freelance writer who hosts “Poets of the Tabloid Murder,” a mystery author interview show that can be heard on public radio.