Timeless Treasures - Historic Businesses You Need to Visit
In an era of big-box retail and instant gratification via the internet, it’s not surprising that mom-and-pop shops come and go. But some places endure, carrying our region’s history and tradition through the ages, defying the odds and delighting our senses consistently over decades. Sometimes they become such an indelible part of the Houston landscape that we forget to appreciate them. Revisit these long-standing Houston businesses if you haven’t been in a while, and consider the reasons they’ve stood the test of time.
Shepard’s Barber Shop, Conroe
At 116 Simonton Street in downtown Conroe, a modest red-brick building houses the oldest continuously operating barber shop in Texas. From the outside there is little fanfare: Plain white lettering on the windows announces the business name near a small rotating barber pole. But inside, historical photos and relics of days gone by tell the story of a place that offers more than just men’s haircuts and hot shaves. The fathers and grandfathers of current customers in the Northern Houston area once gathered regularly at the business, which has served as an important community meeting space for local men for over nine decades. That’s just one reason why subsequent owners went from loyal customers to barbers to proprietors, including the current proprietor, Leon Apostolo.
Christie’s Seafood and Steaks
What began as a small food and drink stand on the Galveston waterfront in 1917 is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a Houston seafood institution. The restaurant moved to Houston’s Main Street in 1930 and to its current location at 6029 Westheimer in 1979, but walking in today still recalls a bustling seaside tavern, where fresh Gulf fish deliveries turned into butterflied and fried delicacies would bring in hungry beachgoers and fishermen. Though the location has changed and the menu has expanded over the years, the restaurant remains a family affair dedicated to fresh seafood and loyal clientele. Sample favorites like oyster stew and fried shrimp, or opt for lighter fare like chopped seafood salad or blackened shrimp sliders for a taste of Gulf Coast history just shy of a century.
The right bookstore creates a sense of infinite possibility for its customers, and Brazos Bookstore at 2421 Bissonet has opened up new worlds for Houstonians since 1974. What started as a gathering place dedicated to the Houston literary scene has transformed into a community space owned by a group of 27 book-loving locals. With an eye for curating the right mix of eclectic authors and techniques, the store’s cookbook buyers offer wares by and for every kind of cook. Lining the shelves are colorful conduits for learning, creating and devouring, from celebrity chefs and bloggers to authors from lesser-known cooking regions around the world.
With exposed brick, flickering candlelight, ice-cold beers and multiple rumored ghost sightings, it’s hard not to feel like you’re taking part in Houston’s history when you order a drink inside La Carafe. Housed in the city’s oldest commercial building at 813 Congress—an official Texas Historic Landmark describes its opening as a bakery in 1860—denizens in old paintings and photos watch over patrons in the bar’s dark interior. As much a love letter to the city’s past as a place to gather with friends, it manages to feel even older than its 1960 opening date. Come for the cheap drinks, the incomparable jukebox and the history—but be sure to bring cash, as credit cards are not accepted.
One man’s dream to become a master candy maker more than 70 years ago continues today as a local confectionary legacy at 4934 Beechnut. In 1947, when Robert Kegg set up a small shop in Rice Village, his business mission was sincere and straightforward: Create candies from scratch using high-quality ingredients. Though the business changed hands after Kegg’s retirement, it remains a place dedicated to providing the area with high-quality specialty chocolate and sweets. Today more than 1,500 sweet treats bear the Kegg’s name, though the famous “pecan crisps”—a blend of sugar, butter and chopped pecans—remain the most popular item.