"I started sweeping floors when I was five years old," he says. "Long time."
Ryan says the downtown strip was a far different place back then.
"When I was a child, Springdale was the leading community," he says.
Longtime Springdale resident Walter Turnbow agrees.
"You could go to Emma Avenue and buy any of the clothes you needed, had a good hardware store, lumber yard," he says.
But when economic development shifted to the North and South, Emma's appeal went with it.
"Our downtown has drastically changed," Turnbow says.
"It did go downhill rather dramatically," Ryan adds.
"Springdale has been dealing with this for a long, long time," says Mayor Doug Sprouse. "We've had a lot of false starts."
Sprouse says it isn't just downtown that's suffering. The fourth largest city in the state doesn't have much to show for it.
"A lot of people don't realize that, they don't come to Springdale," he says. "They just maybe drive through on 540, and our presence on 540 isn't what some of the other cities have."
But Sprouse says Springdale is over the hump.
"Momentum is really beginning to build," he says. "We've got projects all over town."
Voters approved 71 million dollars in bonds to improve roads, parks and fire stations. The world's biggest retailer is also planning to build a new store on Elm Springs Road, so the city is investing in infrastructure, hoping to turn the West side of town into a retail destination.
"With Walmart and the supercenter going out there, and all of the development opportunities around that, we know that traffic is just going to get heavier out there," Sprouse says.
But the most ambitious project is taking shape along Spring Creek, running through the heart of the city, where the Ryans set up shop so many years ago.
"Suddenly it's a new day," Ryan says.
The federally funded Razorback Greenway trail follows the creek, and city planners want to take full advantage of it.
"This area of Northwest Arkansas is not as thriving as other downtown areas," says Kent Hirsch, the president of the Springdale Downtown Alliance. "We need some focus and some activity to bring us up to where we need to be."
Right now the creek isn't much to look at, and most of it's covered in concrete. But the city believes it can open up the creek again, and realign the area into a unique spot full shops and restaurants with a waterfront view.
"A lot of things have come together at just the right time," Sprouse says.
And after fighting through tough times, Ryan plans to be front and center for Emma's comeback.
"It's time for Springdale to have its day," he says.