Even as the landscape changes, owners carry on a tradition at feed and supply store in Texas City
Gary Schaper knows a thing or two about working in a feed store, he said.
At age 17, he went to work for his father, Rusty Schaper, who bought Texas City Feed & Supply in Texas City in 1975. A few years later, Gary Schaper bought a neighboring feed store in Dickinson he operated for a while, until he returned to his father’s store. He knew that’s where he belonged, he said.
Today, Gary Schaper co-owns Texas City Feed & Supply with Kevin Schirmer, who started working there in 1980. The two men, along with Schaper’s wife, Rita, and his mother, Jane, enjoy keeping the store running smoothly, they said.
“There’s a lot of history that goes along with this place,” Schaper said. “The original owner was Ralph Schock, who opened the store in the late 1930s or early 1940s. His original sign hangs above my office door and shows the address as 901 Texas Ave., which is a few blocks away. The phone number was just three numbers — 588. The store was moved to is present location, 2031 Texas Ave., sometime in the 1940s.”
A newer photo on the wall depicting the store possibly was taken in the 1940s, judging by the automobile in the picture. Jack Hale owned the store from 1966 to 1975, Schaper said.
There are signs around the store of how things have changed over the years. There are plenty of hay bales, horse pellets, range cubes, hen scratch, corn, rabbit and goat pellets stored out back. The front of the store is heavily stocked with dog and cat food, lawn chemicals and garden supplies.
The number of ranchers have dwindled as subdivisions have sprawled across the upper Texas coast, Schaper said.
“We do have a few cattle ranchers in Hitchcock and Dickinson who buy range cubes, mineral blocks and hay,” he said. “We also have a lot of regular customers who have been coming here for years. Presently, we sell a lot of chicken feed because people love their chickens and treat them like pets.”
Schaper’s father, Rusty, died in 2019, leaving a lasting legacy.
“Dad was the youngest of 13 kids and worked on the family dairy farm in Galveston until he bought the feed store,” Schaper said. “The dairy farm and the feed store were the only two jobs he ever had. Dad was a star football player at Ball High School in the early 1950s and my mom was a beauty queen there. They were the couple that everyone knew.
“When my dad owned the store, there were about 15 guys who hung out here — lots of ranchers and farmers who would come in all morning and visit until about 11 a.m. It was a popular coffee club for years, but we don’t have too many younger guys hanging out here like in the past.”
Some of those men who hang out at Rogers Malt Shoppe in Dickinson each morning for breakfast used to gather at the Texas City Feed & Supply, Schaper said.
There also was Jack Doreck, who owned Doreck’s Meat Market in Santa Fe; Milton Bulaich, who had a ranch in the La Marque/Texas City area; and Cecil Perthuis, one of the last of the old cowboys in this area.
“We have a plaque on the counter at the front of the store with Cecil’s name on it,” Schaper said. “They talked about the weather, how much the cows were bringing at the market, about their farms and ranches and everything under the sun. My dad never had any enemies — everyone loved him. He was a good guy, easy to get along with, didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and hated confrontation.”
Schaper and Schirmer took over Rusty Schaper’s operation when he died in 2019, and it was at that time the good old boy hangout days began to wane.
“When dad had all his friends come in here, nothing got done for half a day,” Schaper said. “By the time it was lunch time, dad wanted to go home and take a nap, so not much got sold. He loved visiting with people, and he was a good businessman, but he’d rather make friends than make money.”
Schaper feels his father is at the store. There’s a pencil drawing of Rusty Schaper by local artist Roland Castanie that hangs in Gary Schaper’s office.
“It’s a good place to be — I can bring my dog, Dingo, to work with me, wear jeans or shorts in the summer,” he said. “My only regret is that I didn’t write down all the stories about the people who came in here. I heard them all growing up, but there are just so many. There was always a good story, especially at the end of every day.”