The Depot grand opening

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

The Depot at Top Tier quietly opened on November 16. In the ensuing two weeks, the store has had steady business and is already growing a loyal customer base. On November 28th, The Depot had their grand opening, complete with hamburgers, sausage wraps with Sklenarik's sausage, hot French fries, fried mushrooms and cold beverages.

The Depot at Top Tier cooked fries with the same make and model of equipment that they sell inside the store.

Owners, Danelle and Donnie Schwertner, welcomed guests with a live band that kept everyone entertained throughout the evening. The band, which has yet to adopt a name, is compromised of Miles High School seniors Caleb Seara, Collin Steward, Melvin Lee and freshman Carlie Jo Johnson. The band performed country songs, as well as other classics. Alexa and Kameryn Schwetner, daughters of Danelle and Donnie, also took a turn at the microphone as they sang "Shallow" by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.

A yet-to-be-named band comprised of Miles High School students entertained the guests as The Depot's grand opening on Saturday. L-R: Melvin Lee, Collin Steward and Caleb Seara. Not pictured is Carlie Jo Johnson, who was out due to an illness.

Danelle says that the The Depot offers name brand tools such as DeWalt, Makita, Irwin, Bosch, and others, 'We have all brands and styles." The store carries other supplies as well, "We have garden soil, livestock feed, mulch, picnic tables, PVC pipe, electrical supplies, paints, shovels, rakes and pretty anything that you could want. We'll also have our Top Tier feeds, as well as Hudson livestock tubs and others."

In a year that has arguably seen the greatest negative impact on small businesses in history due to the COVID pandemic, the Schwertner's are supporting other local businesses by carrying many items made in the area. Items such as Saint Abigail Honey is harvested in Wall. Rodeo Trash Jelly comes from Lowake. Miracle Grow is made in Ballinger. It's store full of the best that local companies and individuals have to offer.

A heater helped ward off the autumn chill as folks ate hot food and watched a live band during the grand opening of The Depot at Top Tier in Miles.

The store's grand opening even featured an appearance by old St. Nick himself! The entertainment and food were in the warehouse attached to the store. Neatly organized shelves of livestock feed and other items formed a backdrop for the guests, which included Skyler Brooks, a Miles product who signed to play Division 1 softball for North Carolina. Brooks, the first Miles female athlete to sign with a Division 1 team, was in town for the holidays.

Old St. Nick himself stopped by The Depot at Top Tier to listen to some kiddos' wish lists during the store's grand opening festivities on Saturday.

The response to the store has been positive since the first day they opened their doors, "Overall, the response has been very positive. Nine out of ten customers who come in tell us that a store like this was badly needed in Miles, and that they appreciate that we are here," Schwertner said.

The day of the grand opening the temperatures hovered around the 50-degree mark with a steady rain falling. A couple of hours before the event, the rain stopped without dampening anyone's spirit, "I was very happy that we had such a busy day and evening – you never know how things are going to turn out, especially this year. The day was cold, cloudy and we were blessed with rain, which I thought might deter people from coming to see us. I was excited to have the boys play music for us, and I think Santa and good food brought us some customers, as well. Thankfully, people braved the cold and came out to support us, and we appreciate that a lot!"

Being a small hometown store, there are always numerous suggestions from customers, "Honestly, we’ve had a LOT of suggestions! We can’t be everything to everyone, so some of them are ones we can’t really focus on at the moment. We have had a lot of people ask for deer feeder batteries, salt blocks, propane bottle refills, and lumber. The biggest request has been for ammunition, and that is something that we can’t do currently." Schwertner said that they'll soon have the ability to fill those propane tanks, "Currently, we are waiting on a propane tank to refill propane bottles for customers. I think that is a big addition – there’s no one else in Miles that offers this service. I also want to find a company that will offer some hunting and fishing items at a reasonable price to us so we can provide a few basics to customers who would like the convenience of having these things in Miles."

Perhaps the biggest challenge of any business such as The Depot is keeping their prices comparable to big box stores in San Angelo, "We have a good supplier for our store, and we also are lucky enough to be only 15 minutes from San Angelo. This allows us to set pricing competitively. I don’t want to carry things in the store that won’t sell due to pricing – with our close proximity to San Angelo, it would be very easy for someone to say, 'I will just drive there and spend the money.' I don’t want that to happen – we want our local economy to grow, and the best way to make that happen is to hire locally, price competitively, provide good products and be good stewards in the community."

Schwertner was asked if there was anything that she wanted people to know in particular about The Depot at Top Tier, "Yes! I have had people go to San Angelo to big box stores, and then come in and say 'I didn’t know you sold that!' I would encourage people to call us and find out if we have what they need before they waste a trip to town – we carry a lot more than you might think. We also sell hunting and fishing licenses, cleaning supplies, electrical & plumbing supplies, tools, feed and feed-related items and a lot more. We also have a large selection of locally-made items for gifts, and lots of Texas-made items as well. If there is something you are looking for that we don’t carry, be sure to ask – it may be something we can get. I’ve got a great, friendly staff, and we can’t wait to see you in the store!"