Like many good Texas tales, this one begins with the search for Blue Bell ice cream. Banana pudding flavor to be exact.
Welcome General Store
12528 FM 109 in Industry
Hours: Thu-Sat from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.,
Sun from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Abbey Road was ready to move back to her hometown of Fayetteville and take a well-earned break after a decade booking talent for the legendary country venue in Luckenbach, followed by a stint at Austin’s famous Threadgill’s, a turn at revitalizing Devil’s Backbone Tavern in Fischer, and then restoring and running Coupland Dance Hall, located midway between Elgin and Taylor. But a break is not what the honky-tonk universe had in store for her.
After selling Coupland in January 2022, Road was driving on Farm-to-Market Road 109 to Brenham when she stopped at the Welcome General Store in Welcome, an unincorporated community in the town of Industry, a stone’s throw from the antique markets of Round Top. To her delight she found a cooler full of Blue Bell Banana Pudding Ice Cream, a flavor she had been craving and looking for since the previous summer. Her friend with her happened to mention that the general store was for sale.
“I said, ‘Oh God, no,’” Road recalls. “I was not looking for another old building to restore and repurpose…I did not want anything to do with a bar, restaurant, or music venue business.”
But the banana pudding ice cream proved to be a sign, and after speaking with the Faist family who had owned the store since 1964, she knew that taking on the general store was something she just had to do. In March 2022, she found herself owning, yet again, a restaurant and bar of historical significance that needed some TLC.
Built in 1890, the Welcome General Store has served as a gathering place for residents of Austin County, one of Texas’ oldest counties, dating back to 1837 during the Republic of Texas. The one-story building (a storm in 1900 took off the top floor) is listed as a Texas Historic Landmark, and it once housed a singing society before becoming a general store with a post office, then a restaurant and beer joint in the last 20 years.
Within six months, Road cleaned out the grocery store remnants (“some old chips, ramen noodles, powdered soup,” she says) and stripped layers of old linoleum to find the original oak floors. What was left was an old cooler, two bars, and a faded photo of former bartender Ester, who tended bar well into her 90s, and her motorcycle.
I first met Road in 2018 when she was running Coupland. When I walked into the general store and saw her sitting by a vintage neon Miller High Life sign and wooden stage, the smell of mesquite rafting from a wood-burning stove, I knew she was right at home. Since acquiring the property, she’s added a vintage cigarette machine, a jukebox, a 1960s shuffleboard table, and a photo of a fine-leather holster made by the late A.W. Brill, one of Welcome’s most famous residents.
She stresses that she did not change the footprint of the building. “The updates and upgrades were intended to blend in,” she says. “I didn’t want people to not recognize the space after all these years. It just needed to be freshened up. Customers didn’t care what I did with it as long as I saved the building.”
But there were two things the locals asked for: hamburgers and karaoke. So along with overhauling the electricity and plumbing and extending the bar from the ’60s by 25 feet, Road put in a real kitchen, where she often mans the ESSE wood-burning stove purchased from England. “The only place you can get such a grill,” she says.
The chalkboard menu behind the bar lists plates of Louie Mueller barbecue, street tacos, Frito pie, nachos, and smoked brisket hamburgers. Everything is made from scratch—from the brownies to the barbecue sauce. And everyone is invited to leave a note behind on brown paper bags, which get tacked to the walls and ceiling, a throwback to when you could buy beer in a country store and they wrapped it in a small paper bag. Occasionally Road fills in as bartender, serving cold beer and “strong” cocktails like an Old-Fashioned made from oranges marinated in rye whiskey and served in a Mason jar.
As for karaoke, that is on the schedule once a month, along with various local bands on Saturdays nights. And because she “could not escape [her] past life when it comes to the music,” Road occasionally brings in musical friends like Deryl Dodd, Kelly Willis, and Dale Watson, who is coming Feb. 25.
On my way out, I picked up a Welcome General Store T-shirt, a homemade brownie, and, yes, some banana pudding. The store also sells local pecans, eggs, and Road’s Bootstrap brand coffee beans and barbecue sauce. Future plans include sprucing up the front of the building and the backyard area that houses the chicken coop for 20 of Road’s “girls.”
The next item Road would like to see on the menu is rib-eye steak, once her specialty-built grill is installed. “I had a vision years ago that I’d just find a place on the road and make great steaks with big baked potatoes,” she says. “At the Welcome store we don’t really have an agenda. We are just making it up as we go…making friends and hanging out. Keeping the wood chopped, the stove hot, and the chickens fed.”