22 Nov 2004
Ross Building Emporium Interview
November 18, 2004
J= Julie Broyles
S= Jim Sanders
J: Ok Mr. Sanders, to begin our interview, what made you decide to open a place of business in Del Rio?
S: We just…the building was empty, and it was a family building and we hated to see it sit empty.
J: Ok. When was your business established?
S: Uh, 1991
J: Do you know what the first purpose of the building was?
S: It… the building originally was a drug store.
J: Do you know when the building was first constructed?
S: I don’t actually know when it was constructed, my grandfather bought the building in 19-5… and it was Pennington’s Pharmacy…and my grandfather was a doctor…and he and another doctor bought the building and opened uh…Rose Ross Pharmacy…and it was a one story at that time.
J: Did you find any old items left from the previous owners?
S: Unfortunately no (haha) we looked. The building had been modernized when we bought it. It had a drop ceiling, it had tile floor, it had a wall separating two halves of the building, it had two shops, and a…at one time.
J: Now that I understand that no items were found on the inside of the building from the previous owners, but I heard that some items were found can u tell me like a little about…a little bit about where and what was found?
S: Um, when we remodeled the building after we bought it to try to take it back the original look of the building as we did the wiring underneath the floor the electricians found maybe 75 or 80 old bottles under the floor with some of the same Rose Ross Pharmacy, some of them Ross Drugstore and uh...
J: What is a typical day like?
S: It varies uh, school days we get students from St. James and Sacred Heart a lot. We have a regular coffee group that comes in everyday. Uh weekends, we get more families and base people.
J: Ok. What kind of business is the Emporium, like what kind of products do you carry?...Just…
S: Soda fountain and coffee and then a lot of scrap booking items, paper and pens and paper cutters, that sort of thing. We have cards, uh candles, candy.
J: What are the main social groups that come here? Have they changed over the years?
S: Uh. pretty much the same.
J: The same?
J: Have you ever had any problems with crime such as vandalism or break ins?
S: A couple of times. We had a um, a break in a few years back. They broke in the front window and stole a large bear that we had. Stuffed bear. Other than that we’ve had graffiti and eggs but it’s been mostly all the buildings on Main Street that get that. And since they moved the eighth grade out of downtown, that’s…we haven’t had much of that.
J: Oh. (haha) How has the surrounding community changed?
S: It hasn’t changed much since we’ve been here.
J: Ok. How has the Emporium itself changed over the years?
S: Uh, we started out with more different gift items and uh, some of them sold, some of them didn’t so we gradually and finally the scrap booking is one reliable…has been real successful. Uh, Betty does a lot of invitations, printing, uh we do laminating.
J: How has the building changed physically over the years?
S: When my grandfather bought the building in 19-5 it was a one story then, and we think it was a frame wood building and then around 1916 they added the second floor. My grandfather moved his office upstairs and sometime during that period they bricked the building and my grandfather had his office upstairs until uh, he died in 1957. The doctor…the other doctors had offices upstairs. There was a dentist, there was an eye, ear, nose, and throat doctor, there was an attorney upstairs. The first X-ray machine my grandfather …the first X-ray machine in Del Rio my grandfather had upstairs and we always imagined trying to carry someone with a broken leg up those steps cause they’re pretty steep stairs to get to the X-ray but uh, the upstairs is used mostly as doctors offices.
S: The uh, my uncle… my cousin had a law office up there after the drugstore, after most of the other doctors were gone from upstairs. He had a law office upstairs, but the drug store remained in this building from 19-5 to 1980. So it was here a long time owned by my great uncle and his family and then uh, after it moved to the mall, the family sold the building and the person who bought it put in an auto parts in the north half of the building he built the wall and his daughter put in a nail shop and cosmetic supplies and uh, made two shops out of one building and they went bankrupt and broke and the family took the building back over and it sat vacant for 5 or 6 years and we just couldn’t stand to see it sit here and deteriorate so we bought it from my cousin and we came in took the wall out separating the building and took it back to the hard wood floors and 13ft ceilings and we tried to put it back as much as we could to the original look of the building
J: Ok. How has the business changed over the years as in the average number of customers, do you get a lot more now?
S: Yes, it’s a lot more now, the first year was very slow.
J: What was the worst business experience, the worst time for the business?
S: The worst what?
J: The worst time, the worst time the business had experienced. As in like a low…was there like a low peak ever?
S: Uh, its changed year to year at one time September was the slowest month. Is that what your talking about? Ya, September was the slowest month at one time but it hadn’t been that way the last couple of years. Uh, probably January now.
J: When is the best time of the year for business?
S: It… it changes. Summertime is the busiest time because of the soda fountain, the kids are out of school, we get a lot of tourists, a lot of families traveling. But then during Christmas time we get a different type of customer but it’s just as busy during the Christmas season.
J: Ok. Um, why do you think the emporium has done so well through the years?
S: Well the soda fountain attracts a lot of people because there’s not too many soda fountains left and people just like the atmosphere of the soda fountain. The uniqueness of it and that brings the people in and then we try to get items that sell that no one else in town has or there’s not much of it. We try not to duplicate what the Veranda has or Buffalo Girls and that sort of thing we try to get something different.
J: Ok. Um, was your place of business effected as a result of the flood of ’98?
S: Well it was effected because we lost water. It was effected that because we shut the soda fountain down for the week or ten days when we didn’t have running water. We could serve ice cream but it was all to go styrofoam cups we didn’t have any wash where we could wash the dishes so we were effected.
J: Um what is your most powerful memory, um, from working here at the emporium? Does anything stand out?
S: Uh nothing…part of a movie was filmed here which we’ve never seen is a , uh a movie I think from Mexico and they filmed a dance scene in here. We’ve had uh, a travel log filmed in here where people told us they saw but we have never seen yet they said we have two great…it’s a some kind of a Texas travel log. It uh…some of the most memorable as far as the type of customers is we used to get a lot of the community concerts of the performances. They usually brought the performers over after the concerts and they’d eat ice cream and autograph the programs and talked to us and that was always fun.
J: So that was…that leads into my next question which I think you’ve answered would be do you know of any famous people that have come here or any famous event that have taken place around other than that?
S: No, that covered that, ya.
J: Ok. I was also reading that um, in 1935 there was a… I know I asked you about the flood of 98…um I heard that the waters they reached up to at least Johnson Street. Do you know if they reached as far as over here?
J: No they didn’t.
S: No we’re high enough that… in fact when we have heavy rains, the water comes down Main Street and when it gets to the corner of Canal and Main it turns west and goes right down toward the irrigation canal and completely…it doesn’t even go down South Main, it turns and goes west.
J: Ok, um what’s in store for the future of the Emporium?
S: Uh, I…we hope just keep going they way we are going. As long as…as long as we’re doing as we’re doing, we’re just gonna keep doing what we’re doing now.
J: Ok and is there anything else you would like to add or comment on?
S: Uh, It’s an enjoyable work because people come in to eat ice cream. It’s a happy type of business, they’re usually in a good mood when they come in. The young kids have never seen a soda fountain, they’re amazed at making sodas the old fashion way with the soda and the carbonated water and uh it’s just a fun business.
J: Well that has concluded our interview and I’d like to thank you again for your time and I appreciate it.
S: Thank you.