By Jessica Rocha
The Brownsville Herald
Twenty-two years ago, an unemployed Arturo Cavazos walked into Zepeda
Hard-ware to do some shopping and the owner offered him a job on the spot.
Next month, Cavazos, 70, will most likely be the one to lock up the East
Washington Street mainstays doors for the last time.
After 38 years in downtown Brownsville and another 20 in a previous San Benito
location, owner Henry Zepeda, 85, has decided to move on. Hes closing the
store at the end of January.
Some said, No! No! Were used to the store, you have everything, Zepeda
said. But there comes a day when thats it.
Zepeda opened the original San Benito store after returning from World War II
in 1945. He moved to downtown Brownsville in 1964, selling hardware,
kitchenware and military and camping equipment. Until about three years ago,
when he suffered a major heart attack, he spent most days there.
He credited the stores good times for good customer service and being
friendly with the plumbers and electricians who would become his regulars.
My deal was if the customer liked to discuss baseball, we talked baseball,
Zepeda said, If he liked to talk politics, we talked politics. If it was
religion well, religion was a little tricky.
The good neighbor policy helped him land Cavazos, a loyal employee for more
than a generation. It also helped save his life.
Zepeda remembers he was opening the safe at the hardware store three years ago
when he started to feel chest pain. Amado Perez, one of his regulars and a
business owner in the area, spotted Zepeda and drove him to the hospital.
Housebound, Zepedas daughter, Mary, moved from Dallas to take charge of the
store. Now a little more frail than he used to be, Zepeda stops by the store
for a couple hours every month just to talk.
Indeed, after just 10 minutes in the store Monday, Zepeda, called Chacho by
his friends, shook more than a couple of his old-time customers hands.
If I was in good health, I would still be working, he said. I love to
Zepeda hired a liquidator to clear out the store. For the last three weeks,
prices have steadily been dropping and everything is currently 50 percent off,
not including raffle items like a grandfather clock that is being used to lure
But for some regulars, clearance prices werent much solace.
Olmito resident Victoria Gosser said she had been going to the store every
couple of weeks since she was 17 years old to buy cake pans and other baking
utensils. Shell have to stock up now because no store in the Lower Rio Grande
Valley sold the items she was looking for.
They have baking goods that you wont find anywhere else, Gosser said.
The store has been here for so long. They know the needs of their customers
from this side and the other side (Mexico), she said. I have family here, in
Matamoros and Monterrey who are so sad this store wont be here next time they
The store has a life of its own, Cavazos said, holding back tears. But
everything has its time, a beginning and an end.