Troy couple revives 100-year-old store
Downtown Troy is about a half block long, but residents Eric and Brandi Warren are turning the street into a community gathering place with the newly re-opened Troy General Store owned by Eric’s parents Sammy and Florence Warren.
The building is a standout with the words Troy General Store emblazoned across the front, and it comes with its own history.
Originally opened in 1919 as the Cameron and Co. Lumberyard and Hardware Store, the shop served the burgeoning railroad community with lumber, tools and hardware for building the railroad and homes for the growing town.
Remnants of the store’s original lumberyard are in the yard behind the Biergarten, where 100-year-old planks of wood are stacked in original stacking bins behind a chain link fence.
Sometime in the 1950s the Camerons sold the business to Wayne Randolph who maintained the lumberyard and hardware store while adding other food and merchandise, turning it into a general store for the local community. The Randolphs held onto the property until 1998 when Sammy Warren bought the store with his wife, Flo. Eric was still in high school at the time.
The Warrens sold coffee, teas, Texas crafts, antiques, homemade salsa and jellies. Occasionally they took in a consignment.
The store held on up to five years ago, then things started to slow down because of road construction on Interstate 35.
“That’s when we decided to do something about it,” said Eric Warren, who now runs the farm-to-market store with his wife, Brandi.
Married since 2010, the Warrens have three sons. Both Eric and Brandi have always been “passionate about local foods” and feeding their children pure, organic and ethically grown produce, dairy and meats.
“We learned how different foods and chemicals react in our bodies and made an effort not to put it in our bodies,” Brandi said.
“We grew up eating the same junk food other people ate: fast foods, artificial sweeteners,” said Eric.
“Once you start eating healthier, you feel better,” added Brandi. “Make the decision to start eating better.”
“If you splurge from time to time and have a treat, do it with quality,” Eric commented.
The young family visited area farmers markets to shop for quality organic produce, but were unable to go every Saturday. So they held impromptu open air farmers markets for the community at their store.
“We were going to so many different places. It was limited in what you can do when shopping at a market. It was hit or miss,” said Eric. “Large cities were doing well with outdoor traditional farmers markets in Texas, but you would have to travel.”
Eric said he saw the store as an opportunity to create a place where people in the community could shop for locally grown produce, milk from grass-fed cows, and beef from grass-fed cattle.
“The next logical step was to have a store where people could buy the goods they want and more often. We wanted a farm-to-table store,” said Eric.
In their dreams
Their idea began as a daydream. They were young parents and their son, Kegan, was just a baby. They’d travel to Austin, visiting markets, trying different products, when Eric had the idea of bringing a farm-to-table store to Troy.
“Being in a community where everyone knows everybody it seemed like a good idea to have a place where we could meet and support local businesses,” he said. “It was a really cool idea. We knew we had to have a way to do something like this.”
In 2011 the Warrens began the transformation, wanting to make the store a community gathering spot. Bands in Austin for South by Southwest would stop by for impromptu concerts. This idea would later lead to the Friday night concerts now held in the Biergarten. But to fully make the transformation, the store was shuttered in 2012 to make the necessary updates without compromising the 100-year-old integrity of the store.
Eric, his brother Jason, and parents went to work to revitalize the structure inside and out. They had a new roof installed, sealed and repaired the outside of the building on each side, cleaned and maintained the original 1919 hardwood floor and added a fresh coat of paint to the original store shelves. Bins once used to hold nuts, bolts, screws and other hardware items are still in use today as storage bins for some of the shops
An ethos connection
Eric and Brandi were both students at Temple College when they met through mutual friends in 2005. As they got to know each other they discovered they shared the same values and wanted the same things in life. “We both seemed to want peace and community for everybody, our friends, and to serve others,” Eric said.
Eric recalled the Fourth of July fish fries at this grandfather’s house every year. When his grandfather died in his 60s from cancer, Eric said family gatherings became fewer and fewer.
“I realized the importance of fellowship and family,” he said. “It inspired me to carry the torch and carry on to bring people together.”
It is this philosophy that he hoped to bring to the store.
The Troy General Store had its grand re-opening in March. Brandi runs the shop during the day with Mary Armstrong, and Eric steps in when he gets home from his day job as a computer technician for a local company. On the weekends Sammy and Flo help out.
Today the store offers ethically grown food items from local farmers and ranchers; it has a coffee bar, serves craft beers, old-fashioned sodas, grab-to-go meals, Made in Texas products, and offers a limited, but healthy lunch options. But don’t ask for a printed menu. Everything is written on a chalkboard you see when you walk into the store.
“The menu is created by what ingredients we have on hand,” Eric said. “As we experiment with different quantities, we hope to have items everyone is interested in on a limited menu. We are working toward more.”
The Friday night music shows are free to the public and Eric said with every show they bring in a food truck. “And if we don’t have a food truck, we’ll go back there (in the kitchen) and cook,” he said.
The business is gaining momentum and in addition to their farm-to-table selections, they have a steady week-day coffee business. Not only does the store support local purveyors and vendors, it also puts money back into the community.
Since the store reopened it has become the gathering place the Warrens had hoped for. Brandi said many new friendships have developed as people come together.
“This is an excellent place for people to come and meet their farmers and people in the community; (people) they may not meet otherwise,” said Brandi.
“Our central focus and ethos is to support local farmers,” said Eric. “We hope to see it continue to grow as more and more people learn to love and appreciate why local organic food is so important.”
Catherine Hosman is editor of Tex Appeal Magazine. Contact her at email@example.com or 254-501-7511.