BARTONVILLE — On the northwest corner of Jeter and McMakin roads, only the shell of the Bartonville Food Store remains. The building, which greeted commuters with coffee during the morning rush, now appears to be a storage facility for convenience store fixtures.
The doors are locked, the gas pumps are shut off and a poster in the window acts as a tombstone with the inscription “Bartonville Food Store May 30, 1959 – Feb. 15, 2013. Thanks for your business, it’s been FUN!”
As former owner James Price walks past the front door — which bears a “CLOSED” sign with the phrase “Please Call Again” scratched out — he says he’s happier it’s closed.
Reccurring changes to state mandates and regulations took the enjoyment out of operating the store, which had solidified itself as a staple in the community over the years, he said.
“It was also the economy, too,” Price said. “The recession made things hard. I never really made any money from the store. Only enough to pay bills and to keep the store open.”
He sold the store to the town earlier this year. Bartonville Town Council members have even expressed a desire to preserve the building, given its 130-year history.
Interim Town Administrator Stacey Almond said the mayor and council determined that future plans regarding the store should be addressed by the Bartonville Community Development Corp.
She said the town also formed a community survey committee to assist in developing ideas for possibly repurposing the building.
“This committee is in the beginning stages of survey development, which, upon completion, will assist the BCDC and the town in determining goals for the old store,” she said.
Price tailgates on his pickup as he reflects on the history of the building. The Argyle volunteer firefighter shrugs when he’s asked if he misses operating the store.
“My grandfather said it perfectly,” he said. “He used to tell me, ‘Boy, you only run a business to either make money or to have fun. If you’re not doing either one, it’s time to change.’”
Though he doesn’t have any sentimental attachment to the building, Price smiled as he recalled memories he created while working in the store over the years.
He told the story about an elderly woman in the early stages of Alzheimer’s who drove her car to the store looking for her husband’s grave. The store was closed, but Price, a store employee and a deputy sat with the woman until her children arrived to take her home. He said the woman was lost, but they each stayed with her to make her feel safe.
“Those are the types of things that happened all the time,” he said with a laugh.
Price also told the story of a man who looked like a dirty, ragged cowboy, who used to visit the store years ago. Price’s father, James “Shorty” Price, loaned the man $20, which he used to buy gas and other necessities.
A few years after Shorty died in 1998, the cowboy returned, minus the dirty and ragged appearance.
The cowboy told James Price that he went broke and lost his farm, but opportunities in Montana led to a job and he became quite successful, Price said.
The man remembered how nice the people at the Bartonville Food Store were and how he never repaid the $20 that Price’s father lent him.
He repaid his debt with a $100 bill, Price said.
The store had a long history of owners before Price took over in the late 1990s. Before Price, his mother, Amie, his father and another couple had started operating the store in 1959.
Keeping up with tradition, Price’s three children also at some point worked for him at the store.
“They were sad to see me give it up,” he said. “They grew up in the store, but they understand.”
According to a historical essay written about the store by Jim Morriss, the store had been in operation for more than 130 years.
It was one of the oldest-operated businesses in Denton County, he wrote. Morriss also wrote that no one alive could remember a time when there wasn’t a Bartonville Food Store.
“A lot of people grew up with the store,” Price said. “I know a girl who moved away awhile back, but she told me that every time she comes back, she knows she’s home when she sees the food store.”
Price admits that he wishes the food store could have stayed open in some fashion. He said he thinks most of the local residents were shocked that the store wouldn’t be replaced by another business after it was purchased by the town.
Price said he supports the town’s decision to preserve the building and possibly turn it into a community center.
Residents are now forced to drive an extra three miles to another convenience store for their coffee fix, at the All N1 Food Store in Flower Mound.
But occasionally, someone forgets that the Bartonville Food Store has closed and tries to pull open the doors out of habit.
JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.