Topsey Road Mercantile to close: end of an era
By LYNETTE SOWELL
It’s been a good run, but after 42 years, Gary Ragsdale is ready to shutter the doors of his longtime business, Topsey Road Mercantile.
“All good things must come to an end,” Ragsdale said, who along with his wife, Elnora, look forward to some traveling in the future.
Located at 207 N. 5th St., the shop which is the former Meir house and the former Kattner house located across the alley, were both relocated to that site when Fort Hood expanded and took in Coryell City, said Ragsdale. Both buildings were homes for some of Copperas Cove’s mayors, he added.
But what’s important to him is the comings and goings over the years at the establishment, which Ragsdale dubbed “the best little store house in Texas” for its first 10 years, a take on the popular Burt Reynolds and Dolly Partin movie with a similar title.
Ragsdale’s shop can lay claim to several firsts for Copperas Cove, with the Topsey Road Mercantile being one of the first retail establishments on the north side of the city.
“Other than two gas stations, Topsey Road Mercantile was the first commercial operation on this side of railroad tracks in Copperas Cove,” Ragsdale said.
Ragsdale said he originally came up with the idea for a mercantile type store, thanks to things like Westerns on TV. Stepping into the store, shoppers can see the original wood plank floors and a variety of items on the shelves.
There are items like solid wood vanities and mirrors, along with a chest of drawers from the Faust Hotel in New Braunfels, children’s books, household goods and more.
“I’ve always loved anything old,” said Ragsdale. Decades ahead of now-popular shows like “American Pickers”, Ragsdale would pick up items at estate sales and auctions, then re-sell them in his shop.
Another first is that Topsey Road Mercantile was the first business to offer cash for recycling items in the city. In 1980, Ragsdale expanded the store’s services to open a recycling center, which took in aluminum, copper, and even glass. He said the recycling market is a fickle one.
The recycling market is also what helped create his nearly collection of nearly 6,000 cans, to include beer cans, soft drink cans, and more, that will all be up for sale.
“I don’t like seeing things thrown out,” Ragsdale said of the idea to open a recycling center.
Ragsdale also can claim another “first” for Copperas Cove, that of the first U-Haul rental center in Copperas Cove, when he acquired the Kattner property in 1985.
He acknowledges that he couldn’t have run the store without faithful employees throughout the years, people like Lyle Spear, who came on board when Ragsdale opened the recycling center.
Spear no longer works for the mercantile, but still spends his days there. He calls the place a second home to him and visits with Sandy Helm, who manages the store for Ragsdale.
On Saturday, Dec. 8, everything inside the store will be up for auction, including the largest can collection in Central Texas.
The auction, conducted by F&F Auctioneers out of Cherokee, Texas, will commence at 9 a.m., with guns, rifles, shotguns, knives, jewelry, Rolexes, oil and gas memorabilia, various silver certificates, coins, misprinted currency, recycling equipment, an automatic nutcracker, household items and more. The guns will be up for auction starting at noon. On Friday, there will be time to pre-view the items up for auction from noon until 5 p.m., and starting Saturday at 8 a.m. prior to the auction.