BALLINGER - Higginbotham's, one of the oldest (if not the oldest) retail outlets in Ballinger, has a storied history in the community and throughout Runnels County.
BALLINGER - Higginbotham’s, one of the oldest (if not the oldest) retail outlets in Ballinger, has a storied history in the community and throughout Runnels County. The current Ballinger location at 108 N. 8th St., has been operating for more than a century and is one of the busiest retail businesses in Runnels County.
Higginbotham’s has been selected as the business of the month by the Ballinger Area Chamber of Commerce.
Manager Bob-O Wright, said he is honored by the distinction.
“We are very proud to be selected as business of the month,” Wright said.
Higginbotham Brothers began in late 1880 when JM Higginbotham along with his family moved from Water Valley, Mississippi to Dublin. According to recorded documents, the trees were just being cleared for the town-site and the Central Texas Railroad had just made its advent in the area, when two brothers decided to open a General Mercantile in DeLeon. So began the first link in the Higginbotham Brothers chain.
By the early 1900’s the brothers, along with other relatives opened eight other General Stores in towns such as Ballinger, Comanche, Dublin, Rising Star, and Stephenville.
The Ballinger store is considered one of the oldest in terms of the building. However, some historians say that Higginbotham's had a store in Ballinger before the turn of the century.
According to recorded reports made in 1969 of Dick Ayers, who managed the Ballinger store for 50 years, the current Ballinger location was built in 1907.
Wright, was hired by Ayers on a handshake in 1980, he said.
“I was hired in October on a handshake on a Friday afternoon at 4:45 p.m.,” Wright explained. “I started the next day.”
Wright, who was named manager of the store in 2004, has memorabilia and artifacts in his office and throughout the store, chronicling the store’s history.
In the early days, Higginbotham’s motto was that they could take their customers from the “cradle to the grave,” said Wright, who has been working at the Ballinger store since 1980.
Ayers, who is the grandson Sarah Higginbotham Williams, started working for Higginbotham’s in 1931 at the lumberyard in San Angelo. In 1933 he would come to Ballinger, where he went to work for his uncle, R.T. Williams, the first manager of the Ballinger store.
“It was a tradition that if a family had a boy or two, they would aspire to work at Higginbotham’s,” Ayer’s said in the recorded interview in 1969.
At one time, the Higginbotham stores, including the Ballinger location, touted multiple departments which included groceries, dry goods, a millinery, clothing, furniture, farm machinery, hardware, horses and even the undertaking business. Higginbotham’s even opened a funeral home in Ballinger which was located on the site of the Stonewall Motel on Broadway Avenue. The funeral home closed in the 1940s.
Ayers, was made manager of the Ballinger store in 1958 after Williams retired. Ayers retired in 1981.
Wright has three full time employees including Assistant Manager Rodney Nichols, Randy Rubio and Joe Ray Fernandez.
The Ballinger store is noted for its annual Christmas tree and holiday window display, which Wright has been putting together years.
“It has always been our Christmas card to the community,” Wright said.
That same enduring spirit that began more than 135 years ago is still alive in well in the Higginbotham Brothers Company. In October 1999 Rufus H Duncan, Jr., a great grandson of one of the founders, purchased the existing Higginbotham Brothers stores, adding this to the Big Tin Barn locations of East Texas that he already owned. In 2001, the Higginbotham-Bartlett’s of West Texas were added to the Higginbotham family.
Higginbotham Brothers, headquartered in Comanche, today operates 37 locations within Texas. The stores have evolved over the years replaced dry goods with a notable hardware department. In addition to the core of lumber and building Materials, they have added lines and departments such as Husqvarna, Stihl, hunting and fishing supplies including guns and ammo to fit communities’ growing needs.