Dr. Ken Ellis, the smiling face behind Longhorn Dental on Bellfort, has deep roots in the Hobby Area.

His dental office now sits on what was once the site of the apartment complex where his parents lived when he was born almost 60 years ago.

“I grew up in this area,” he said. “When I was growing up, this was the area where everyone in Houston came to look at Christmas lights. They didn’t go to River Oaks; they came to Glenbrook Valley.”

Ellis started school at Southmayd Elementary School off Evergreen and went to Park Place Elementary as well. He spent a year at Hartman Middle School before his parents moved to the Museum District.

“My grandparents lived on Orem street, right behind the old Gulfgate Cinema. I would walk across the bridge, which is still there, and go to the only indoor shopping mall in Houston at the time, Gulfgate Mall,” he said. “I grew up in this area, I walked to school and back. You can drop me off anywhere in this area and I know exactly where I’m at.”

He went to UT-Austin for college and then his medical education before returning to his old stomping ground to open his practice.

Because he’s been in the Hobby area through the good times and the bad, he said the area is full of potential — if people are willing to work toward the goal of following through.

He pointed to the transformation on North Main and the Heights, which was a dilapidated area until people realized how near it was to downtown and began revitalizing it 20 to 30 years ago.

Because the Hobby area is only seven to nine minutes from downtown, the area could be more of “the next Heights,” he said, if young couples and ambitious developers start moving in and remodeling and rebuilding.

“That’s what makes an area ‘up and coming’ because they have the energy to make things happen,” he said. “As a business owner, as a resident, as someone who grew up in this area, I’m very passionate about the area and if that happened, the property values would skyrocket.”

He noted that he regularly meets business colleagues and former classmates for lunch in the Hobby Area District and they are always floored by how close it is.

“Everyone is shocked, but it’s straight down I-45,” he said. “This area is so prime, it’s primed and ready, for young couples and other people to come in and turn things around.”

Ellis worries about any possible spread of blight and crime in the area, but said he is ready, willing and able to help any person or entity who is trying to make the area better. (The Hobby Area District provides extra patrols by Houston Police and the Precinct 2 Constable’s Office and provides graffiti abatement and litter removal).

For now, you can find Dr. Ellis personally overseeing the treatment of every patient at Longhorn Dental. With three full-time hygienists and a dedication to customer service, the office strives to provide caring, sensitive and gentle dentistry.

“Your comfort is our number one concern, and we work hard to ensure that you feel relaxed from the moment you walk through our door until the moment you leave,” he said.