San Augustine Drug and Gifts celebrating 110th anniversary

Front window of San Augustine Drug and Gifts (Source: KTRE Staff)
Front window of San Augustine Drug and Gifts (Source: KTRE Staff)
Therman Bridges (Source: KTRE Staff)
Therman Bridges (Source: KTRE Staff)
Debbie Jackson (Source: KTRE Staff)
Debbie Jackson (Source: KTRE Staff)
Anniversary notice (Source: KTRE Staff)
Anniversary notice (Source: KTRE Staff)

SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) - In this day and time, "open for business" signs are often quickly replaced by "going out of business" signs. So what's the secret to staying in business for 110 years in a small, rural East Texas town?

East Texas News went to the only place you can find the answer - San Augustine Drug and Gifts. It's the place where you talk about San Augustine winning the state championship back in 2003.

"And Tadpole ran 3 punts back straight in a row!" said one of the customers.

And it's where a star player from that game can eat ice cream before noon.

The soda fountain talk has been going on for 110 years thanks to the Rushing brothers.

"They were the two that started out the store in 1904. That we can prove," said Therman Bridges, the drugstore's former owner.

Bridges bought the store in 1965 and has since turned it over to his kids. His job now is simply to take people down memory lane.

"This is the ice crusher where we made ice before we had the crushers to do it with," Bridges said.

Bridges said he never had to actually grind up the ice.

"That was before my time," Bridges said. "That was back in 1918-19."

That was about the time the grapefruit highball was dreamed up. It's still served today. Only the pharmacist knows the recipe.

What's no secret is the service that customers attribute to the store's longevity.

Bobbie Roberts has been a regular customer at the drugstore for decades. When asked why he keeps coming back, he said, "The service. And, I like the people. They're nice."

They do nice things that Houston transfers just don't find in the big city.

"And they told me, which surprised me, if you need medication, here's my card," said Mike Tollett, a customer and former Houston resident. "Call us anytime day or night we'll bring it to you and you can come in and pay for it later, which really shocked us."

Co-owner Debbie Jackson left San Augustine long enough to become a pharmacist. She knew in high school that she wanted to carry on the family business through good times and bad.

"Probably the roughest time we had was when we had the fire back in 1988," Jackson said. "And they could have easily closed the doors."

But they never thought about it. They had milestones to reach.

On Saturday, this block in front of the San Augustine drugstore will be full of activity from ten to two. It's an anniversary party the owners don't want you to miss.

"We're going to have hot dogs, hamburgers, a food court," said Mike Ross, the gift manager. Coca Cola is giving out canned drinks. Just a lot of fun."

And chances are, the event will provide more soda fountain talk.

San Augustine drug is providing free food and drink and games for the kids as part of the 110th anniversary celebration. You'll find the store right off the square in downtown San Augustine.

Copyright 2014 KTRE. All rights reserved.