Buda business amasses trove of artifacts
Worlds are colliding at the 1898 Store in Buda. Inside the glass case at the store's checkout counter, a Gore-Lieberman election pin sits next to a Bush-Cheney election pin. Nearby a collection of action figures sits next to a book by Bill O'Reilly, which shares a table with a collection of jazz and pop 45 RPM records.
Jeanette Chelf, the building's owner and the business' lone employee, has been collecting and selling odds and ends in the 115-year-old building at 200 Main St. in Buda since the early 1970s.
"Nothing gets wasted here," Chelf said while motioning toward a collection of screws, fasteners, nails and other pieces of hardware populating one of the shelves in the store's annex. Each of the pieces is for sale.
The collection started when Chelf's late husband, Carl, a University of Texas graduate and archaeologist, realized he was quickly running out of storage space in the family's garage.
A search for the perfect repository ensued, and Chelf said her husband almost settled on a location in Round Rock before he found the old Buda Mercantile building at the corner of Main and Live Oak streets in Buda.
Chelf said she still isn't sure why he chose Buda—then a sleepy little town on the outskirts of Austin—to store his collection.
"He loved the building mainly, I think," Chelf said. "He was very intuitive. He knows what's good."
The couple moved the collection into the building early in the decade and began selling its pieces off soon after.
Old metal signs advertising Coca-Cola, RC Cola, Dr Pepper and more cover the walls, looking down over the store's expansive space. Almost every square inch of shelf and counter space is covered with decades-old letters, trading cards and books.
Of the goods for sale at the store, Chelf said the rocks and minerals her husband spent years collecting are the biggest draw. The shop contains drawers and shelves filled with quartz, magnesite and opal. The shop's other items include vintage magazines and photographs, dishes and cutlery and more, mostly culled from estate sales.
On a weekend in early April, a woman bought $48 worth of marbles for her soon-to-be son-in-law. The thought of selling handfuls of marbles brought a smile to Chelf's face.
"Why someone would need so many marbles, I don't know," she said.
But Chelf said there are some things she does not plan to part with.
"The signs are not for sale," Chelf said. "I just like to look at them. The furniture, the cases, those aren't for sale. [The store is] part museum."
How to pressure-wash a piece of history
In early April, 1898 Store owner Jeanette Chelf hired Western Waterproofing to clean up the building's grimy facade. Job supervisor Mackey Welch decided to forego harsh chemical cleaners in favor of something more simple: water. In order to avoid damaging the building, Welch's team turned their pressure-washing system down to 800 pounds per square inch, one-fifth of its maximum output. Passersby can now see the building's "1898" and "1901" engravings, which mark the completion of the main building and its annex.
1898 Store, 200 Main St., Buda, 512-295-4919
Hours of operation: 11 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Saturday