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General Store Revival Brings Community Together


Pipe Creek resident restores general store and dance hall

Story by David Norris | Photo of Bruce Martin courtesy of Mark Peterson | Location photos by Jennifer Norris

If you’ve ever driven through the town of Pipe Creek, you’ve likely seen the Pipe Creek General Store and Dance Hall. For generations, it has remained a fixture in the community at the corner of Highway 16 and FM 1283.

Bruce-Martin-photo-credit-Mark-Peterson_crop.jpgDr. Bruce Martin, who moved to Pipe Creek in the early 1980s, knows a lot about the place. The dance hall was built in 1930 by Adolph Shot who, along with his family, ran it until the early 1950s. Martin said it was the first commercial location in Pipe Creek to get power from Bandera Electric Cooperative.

In 1951, Martin said, the dance hall was taken over by a man known to locals as Judge Jennings, a justice of the peace who made a big impression during his time. “He was quite the character,” said Martin. “He was well known for conducting marriage ceremonies in the backyard of the general store.”

Martin said Judge Jennings ran the place well.

“He used the dance hall to hold court for his justice of the peace duties at times,” said Martin.

In the 1980s the general store was bought by a family who converted it into a restaurant, the Pipe Creek Junction Cafe. Martin said he and so many others made great memories there over the years. “We would come out and meet friends here. If I had a business meeting, we’d meet here at the cafĂ©,” said Martin.

When Martin heard about possible plans to build a gas station in its place, he couldn’t stand by and let it happen. This place was more than just a stop on the road. For the community, it was a rich part of their history, and Martin knew it was time to do something.

“I knew if it was purchased, they would tear everything down and put a gas station on the corner. That would be a terrible loss for the community,” he said.

In 2013, Martin decided to buy the place and fix it up—a decision that turned out to be one of the best of his life. There was much to be done, starting with some major foundation work, upgrades to the electrical system, and the addition of central air and heat. The most important work, however, would require a trip back in time. Martin wanted to restore the general store and dance hall to its original state. That started with peeling back the layers of add-ons created over the years and going back as far as possible.

“The floor had three or four layers of linoleum and tile. We took it down to the original hardwood plank. We took the drywall off and exposed the shiplap,” said Martin. “We took it back to the way it most likely looked when it was built in 1930.”

Now, Martin, with the help of the space's manager, is breathing new life into the old buildings, which have reopened as an event center and banquet hall. Martin said it has always been a place for connecting with others in the community, and he wanted to keep it that way. “We should use it for what it’s always been used for, and that’s for community gatherings,” he said. “It’s where the community has always come together and said hi to their neighbors and friends.”

Every other month, Martin and his team host what they call Market Days just behind the general store. It’s one of their community's most important gathering times. After so many months of being secluded from friends and family because of the pandemic, Martin thinks this is exactly the right time for it. “We’ve developed the back area, the area where Judge Jennings used to marry people, into a parklike area. We call it the dance hall courtyard. People really enjoy it.” There was a Market Day held in April, with dozens of vendors and a special performance by country music star David Lee. “From 10 in the morning to four in the afternoon, we had a community gathering and everybody had a good time,” said Martin.

Pipe Creek General Store and Dance Hall is a place to come together and make memories to last a lifetime. Martin said the only complaint he’s getting is about their hours. “People are asking why we aren’t open more,” said Martin, 71, who is a practicing physician in San Antonio. He said there just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep the place open more, but that may change one day.

Martin loves what they’ve made, and he and his team plan to keep it going for as long as they can. Market Days are scheduled through the end of the year, and the event center and banquet areas are available for rent for weddings, parties and other events. If you’d like to book an event, call the dance hall at (210) 912-7663.


Posted: 6/28/2021 4:21:22 PM
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