Sunday, August 13, 2017

A New Chapter at Pampell's

Pampells in Kerrville around 1905
Pampell's, at the corner of Water and today's Sidney Baker Street, in Kerrville.
Taken around 1905.
Click on any image to enlarge
When I last wrote about Pampell's, back in May of this year, I started with this sentence: "It's hard to walk by Pampell's these days and see it vacant."
A few days before I wrote that column, a group of us toured the building, from the dark basement to the top floor, wondering if it would be an appropriate site for a Kerr County Museum. The old building carried a lot of nostalgic memories for many of us, and those may have motivated the tour that day.
Visitors in front of Kerrville's Pampell's around 1905
Young visitors in front of Pampell's
around 1905
Then a few weeks later I learned that the POPO Family Restaurant intended to open there. It was good news: they have a good track record and a loyal customer base. Since then people have been busy in the old building, and Thursday's edition of this newspaper says they're open in the evenings this week, with a grand opening planned for August 28.
I'm thankful for the entrepreneurial spirit of the entire POPOs crew, not only for opening a new business in downtown Kerrville, but also for writing a new chapter in the long history of Pampell's, and of its home at the corner of Water and Sidney Baker streets.
That old building has been there a very long time, since at least the 1880s, when a hotel was built on the site by William and Julia Gregory. My friend Lanza Teague, who is related to the Gregorys, has a good photo of the Gregory Hotel, and William and Julia can be seen in front on the porch.  Click here to see the photo.
Around 1900 the property was sold to J. L. Pampell, who moved his 'Ice Cream Parlor and Confectionery' into the building. For a time Pampell continued to rent the upstairs rooms to guests, but he soon remodeled the upstairs into one big room, which was used for community events like school graduations and theatrical productions. In time he added a movie projector, and some of the first movies in Kerrville were shown upstairs at Pampell's. That big upstairs room saw concerts, 'operas,' and even square dances.
Pampells C C Soda Bottle Kerrville
Pampell's C C Soda bottle
In 1916 Pampell acquired the franchise for the Coca Cola agency for this section, which was a pioneering move at the time. Pampell also bottled their own 'soda pops' in a bottling factory at the rear of the building. By 1948 the bottling works could produce 1560 bottles of soda per hour.
Later Pampell added a Rexall pharmacy to his operations, and hired two pharmacists "on duty at all hours."
In addition, "Pampell's Home Made Candies" were a popular gift in this section of Texas.
A postcard showing the interior
of Pampell's, around 1910
The building went through a lot of remodeling projects. In the earliest images, it's a frame structure with wooden siding. In the late 1920s, the wooden siding has been covered with stucco. And then another remodeling: the exterior was covered with bricks, and inside the second story was converted to a mezzanine.
As I reported here earlier, I'm old enough to remember Milton Pampell, son of J. L. Pampell. And I have many happy memories of the soda fountain at Pampell's from when I was a boy, in the 1960s.
Kerrville's Water Street around 1928
Kerrville's Water Street around 1928
Pampell's was a drug store and soda fountain in my youth. Mr. and Mrs. Bob Hood ran the store then, followed later by Steve Ackman. When my children were young, Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller ran an antiques store in the building, but the soda fountain remained; during that time I became reacquainted with chocolate malted milkshakes.
Later Ken Wilson purchased the property and spent a fortune renovating and shoring up the structure. The building, I think, has had several owners since Wilson.
Now a new restaurant opens in the old place. I think POPOs will do great, and I look forward to stopping by soon.
Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who enjoyed many a chocolate malted milkshake at Pampell's. Perhaps too many. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times August 12, 2017.

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