Established in 1900 as the Eugene Spencer Company, the currently named Spencer Hardware firm has for many years been a major part of the Athens Community. Also, just recently they were honored with the Texas Treasure Award given by the Texas Historical Commission, an award program that recognizes long lived Texas businesses.
And under the original name the firm was also recognized as a major commercial establishment in the May, 1941 Historical and Homecoming Edition of the Athens Weekly Review. There the reporter stressed how the firm intended to remain current.
“From the horse and buggy days of 1900,” the reporter continued, “when the store was established by the late Eugene Spencer Sr. the Eugene Spencer Company has kept pace with modern progress to become one of East Texas’ largest hardware stores.” At that time, according to the 1941 article, the store was located on the north side of courthouse square in a building erected in 1924 and evolved from what the reporter called “the old Miller, Carroll and Spencer Companies, one of East Texas’ largest stores at the turn of the century.”
The store in 1941 featured what was described as a “fully-stocked sporting goods department, a large implement section and many other departments” and was managed by Wofford Spencer, son of Eugene Spencer who died in 1924. He and other siblings actually were the store’s owners.
Coming from Mississippi, Eugene Spencer Sr. arrived in Texas at age 15 and settled in Fincastle, then a busy commercial center in Henderson County. In the 1880s he moved to Athens to work in the J.B. Wofford Company, married a local girl in 1890 and founded his own company several years later.
And the store has certainly changed over the years, wrote the reporter in 1941. “Evolving from an early-day type hardware store which featured buggies and wagons and all kinds of harness, the firm has gone constantly forward by discarding declining lines to keep in step with modern progress.” In 1941 the store carried nationally advertized brands such as Wear-Ever Aluminum, Pyrex Ovenware, Westinghouse electric fans, Moline farm implements, Mound City paints, Shakespeare fishing tackle, along with name brands cream separators, and carpenter’s tools.
Also, one of the most well equipped departments of the store were the gift items such as cutlery, china, and pottery items for the home – or for the new bride. “This department,” wrote the reporter, “features a wrapping and delivery service for the convenience of patrons.”
It’s interesting to note that some 10 years later the store was described just as completely in the September, 1950 Centennial Edition of the Weekly Review.
As with many Athens businesses, Christmas a busy time for the Spencer company, and this was especially featured in an advertisement in the December 2, 1926 issue of the Weekly Review where children’s items were included.
“Gifts from the Christmas Store” ran the ad’s headline. The ad writer had some advice: “The time to do your Christmas shopping is early in the season while stocks are complete and you can do your buying without the rush and worry of late shopping.”
Shoppers were assured that at the Spencer Company they would find “unmatchable quality and values” with appealing prices and the confidence to find the right gift.
Sidewalk riding toys were especially welcome Christmas gifts for boys and also for girls. Featured at this time were wagons at various prices from 90 cents to $4.75. Or how about an air rifle? There were various sizes and prices from $1 and $1.50 for single shots or a Daisy Pump for $4.50. Cap pistols were 25 cents and single shot .22 rifles were $3.50 and up.
Other sidewalk toys that would appeal to even girls were tricycles “for every size and age” from $3.50 to $8.50. Children’s skates were $1.75.
Specialized pedal cars included a Fire Chief car that was designed for budding firefighters and came “fully equipped just the way the children like.” Another vehicle was the Lincoln Roadster, which the ad writer touted, saying, “This is a real automobile, large enough to ride in. Operates with foot pedals, has brakes, horn, lights and everything: roller bearing”. Both Fire Chief Car and Lincoln Roadster were $11.50
Indeed, over the years Spender Hardware has served all ages with individual quality merchandise and special attention.