Store in San Angelo
the term “general store” has become a bit of an anomaly. A true one-stop-shop
seems not to exist.
But, as Texans know, the state itself is full of should-be anomalies.
Here, cowboys still ride, coyotes still roam, and the Wild West mentality
is, in many ways, still in full swing.
There are places around the state, then, where general stores — “general”
in every sense of the word — still exist. Case in point . . . Eggemeyer’s.
Travel east on Concho Street, the oldest street in San Angelo, to
step back in history and experience a general store reincarnation.
Stop when you see a star imprinted red brick sidewalk accompanied
by a Butter Krust signage backed bench. A marquee pig wearing a chef’s
hat guards the entrance and announces, “Hams, Turkeys: Order Now.”
The heavy double doors welcome visitors to an era of days long ago.
Outside, the pretty façade is like many others in the
historic downtown area. But its freshness is something that some of
its neighbors lack. Inside and out, the building and its furnishings
are a testament to Texas’s past, as each portion of the store and
each piece of furniture has its own personal history. The store itself,
then, is as charming as its contents.
Eggemeyer’s General Store covers two fronts, by sidewalk standards.
The largest part of the store occupies what was an old Buick dealership,
one of the first in Texas (built in 1911). The front portion of the
store was a showroom, and the back portion was a repair shop. A Plymouth
dealership occupied the building from 1927 to 1935, when Angelo Spring
and Axle purchased the property. As the name suggests, their service
was repairing the only two parts of a vehicle which were prone to
replacement at the time. The business was maintained, changing later
to Angelo Automotive, until 1992 when husband and wife duo Bobby and
Karen Eggemeyer purchased the property. Their goal was to move their
specialty gift and homemade craft store, which was situated in the
old Miles train depot on their rural property outside San Angelo,
to town. Gas prices were rising, and, with competition from several
franchised stores located in town, customers were reluctant to drive
outside the city limits to shop.
Bobby and Karen had always been interested in the idea of a general
store, but not necessarily their own. As a hobby, they began collecting
general store furniture and fixtures long before they ever dreamed
of owning one. Frequenting auctions and closing sales, the couple
managed to acquire an impressively eclectic collection of pieces.
They stored many of the pieces and used some in their first store.
But larger thoughts arose. “When you spend all day in a tractor, you
can think of a million things,” said Bobby, a farmer by trade. Slowly,
those thoughts birthed into the current Eggemeyer’s General Store.
When Bobby and Karen made the decision to move the store to town in
1988, the building they originally set-up shop in is the current J.
Wilde’s boutique across the street. Then, the store's present location
became available for sale, and, after the Eggemeyer's decided on a
major renovation, the work began.
The building restoration project took approximately
one year. Bobby, Karen, and other family members had done construction
and remodeling projects before; this, then, became a labor of love
for the Eggemeyers. Their son, Eric, designed the exterior awning
of the building, which he fashioned after one the couple liked in
Inside, the wall of an existing building on the west side was used,
which dates to around 1880. For the remaining walls, matching red
bricks were uncovered by chipping away at heavy plaster then etching
each out by hand to reveal their color and shape. Four walkway arches
were cut in the brick to connect the two buildings. A garage door
that allowed for vehicular access via Oakes Street during the building’s
automotive days was transformed into a large fireplace. The original
pressed tin ceiling received a fresh coat of paint. A banister, recovered
from the Holcombe-Blanton printing shop, framed the indoor balcony.
Lights salvaged from the old San Angelo Montgomery Ward illuminate
the new wood floors. The outdoor bricks were recycled from M.L. Leddy’s.
Newly planted live oaks and a freshly laid patio in the back of the
store, facing the Concho River, completed the Eggemeyer’s vision.
The store’s display cases, counters, and cabinets are a testament
to Texas’ retail past. Bobby restored the furniture and fixtures they
had collected from various drugstores and general stores in Austin,
Wall, and Gruene to house their wares. A group of impressively tall
glass curio-type display cabinets, bought from San Angelo’s Weak’s
Drugstore, line the east wall. Other pieces are peppered throughout
by Audrey A. Herbrich, April 2005
much of the store’s merchandise is veiled in a nostalgic cloak. Model
airplanes hang decoratively from the ceiling. A train runs on suspended
track above the middle of the store. A potbellied stove sits in the
corner. A skylight helps showcase everything from jellybeans to jewelry,
cards to candles, ornaments to oven mitts. A specialty kitchen section
houses gadgets, gourmet coffee beans, jams, jellies, spreads and more.
Customers can still purchase a five-cent cup of coffee. Just help
yourself and leave the nickel in a paper cup next to the counter.
The store is more “general” than “retail” according to the owners.
With its own kitchen to make homemade goodies, a coffee counter, and
section of candy jars, it is easy to see why. Customers, an equal
blend of locals and tourists, love the old-time atmosphere.
And Bobby and Karen love it too.
“This didn’t really start out as a dream of ours,” said Karen. “But
now we have everything we want.”
Eggemeyer’s is located at 35 East Concho. Hours of operation are
Monday through Saturday 10:00 – 5:30. Soon, many items will be available
online at www.eggemeyers.com.