Small Cities’ Corner
Texas’ Treasured Businesses: Texas Historical
Commission Award Honors Iconic Lone Star Companies
By Andy Rhodes
Texas Historical Commission Public Information and Education Department
t’s fairly common to
see different business signs on the
same storefront, as local
companies come and
go. But how often do
you see the same business name in place for
50 years? Or even 100?
The Texas Historical
Texas Treasure Business Award program pays tribute to
companies that are part of Texas history, having provided
employment for at least 50 years in Texas and exceptional
contributions to the state’s economic growth. More than
120 businesses have received the award since 2005, and the
decorative decals indicating this prestigious distinction are
increasingly being displayed on storefronts in Texas cities
of all sizes.
Businesses can be nominated for the award by an
elected state official, business representative, or community organization—including Main Street managers and
County Historical Commission members. They must meet
the following criteria:
• Have been in continuous for-profit operation in
Texas for at least 50 years.
• Continue to operate the same or very similar type of
business as it did at least 50 years ago.
• Have a continuous record of employment for at least
the past 50 years.
• Continue to operate as an independent, for-profit
business (that is, it cannot be operating as a subsidiary of or have been absorbed into another business).
• Maintain a good business relationship with the state.
Businesses that can also establish they have been
continuously owned by the same family or have operated
continuously from a building that is at least 50 years old
and have maintained its architectural integrity will receive
A significant hallmark of the Texas Treasure Business
Award is legislative involvement. Conceived during the
2005 regular session of the Texas Legislature, bill author
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio credits the Texas
chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business
with the idea. Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson of Waco, a
veterinarian who manages a small business, shepherded the
bill through the House.
These legislative founders have enjoyed watching the
program grow, and earlier this year they agreed to encourage
local organizations to nominate directly to the THC.
Certificates presented to qualifying businesses feature the
signatures of the home senator and state representative, and
presentation events are often coordinated with legislative
For example, Rep. John Kuempel of Seguin recently
worked with the Main Street manager from his hometown
in nominating Starcke Furniture, a company founded by
the Starcke family in 1912. In addition, Rep. Kuempel,
a lifelong personal friend of the family, served as master
of ceremonies during the award presentation at the State
“Legislators value recognitions from the State of Texas
focused on historic businesses, economic development
with local investment, and long-term job creation in their
districts,” says Mark Wolfe, the THC’s executive director.
“Consumers will know when they spot the familiar Texas
Treasure business icon that they are doing business with a
successful, longtime Texas-owned-and-operated company.
These truly are the real places telling real stories of Texas.”
Wolfe adds that communities across the state have nominated multiple businesses located in their historic downtown districts. Earlier this year, LaGrange hosted several
ceremonies with local officials and THC representatives
presenting the award at well-attended events.
The following Texas Treasure Business Award recipients
represent merely a sampling of the state’s award-winning
Gibbs Brothers and Company—supported by Sen. Charles
Schwertner of Georgetown and nominated by Rep. John
Otto of Dayton—is one of Texas’ oldest continuous
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Small Cities’ Corner
1986, the morning and afternoon editions consolidated to
form the San Angelo Standard-Times.
(continued from page 6)
businesses under the same ownership on its original site.
This family partnership, devoted mainly to property and
financial investments, traces its origins to 1841, when
Thomas Gibbs opened a general mercantile store. Gen.
Sam Houston was a regular customer. In 1886, Gibbs’
sister-in-law Sallie assumed control of the business, and
over the next 32 years transformed the company into one
of East Texas’ leading enterprises. Throughout the 20th
century, Gibbs Brothers and Company continued to be a
family-owned operation that focused primarily on land and
The San Angelo Standard Times—nominated by Rep.
Drew Darby of San Angelo—dates to 1884, when most
of its readers were Fort Concho-based soldiers. Originally
published as a four-page weekly newspaper, the San Angelo
Standard expanded to a daily publication when Houston
Harte purchased it in 1920. Harte entered a partnership
with Abilene Reporter-News owner Bernard Hanks, which
became the renowned media corporation Harte-Hanks
Communications. In the 1970s, the company developed
the San Angelo Times, an afternoon edition of the paper; by
Red McCombs Ford—nominated by Sen. Van de Putte and
supported by Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio—traces
its origins to 1950, when McCombs began his automotive
career as a used car salesman. Red McCombs Motors was
founded in 1953 in Corpus Christi, and in 1958 McCombs
became the dealer and CEO of what is now San Antoniobased Red McCombs Ford. This dealership is the flagship
of what grew to be an automotive empire, once made up of
more than 75 U.S. dealerships. The business now employs
more than 325 Texans—three of whom are 40-year veterans
of the company.
Jacala Mexican Restaurant—nominated by Sen. Van
de Putte and supported by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer—
opened in 1949. According to an article in the San Antonio
Express-News, Jacala is credited with introducing the puffy
taco to San Antonio nearly 60 years ago. The Quinones
family, which founded the restaurant, claims to be the originators of the famous taco style and the owners of “the oldest
originally owned Mexican restaurant in San Antonio.”
For more information about the THC’s Texas Treasure Business
Award or to download a nomination form, visit www.thc.
state.tx.us. For additional details, call 512-463-6092.+
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