(Part of the Austin Rocks series of posts by a local about things to do and see in Austin, Texas)
When someone owns chickens, they need chicken feed and chicken wire for fencing repairs and some scratch and maybe to replace a waterer.
Growing up, we’d visit my grandmother in East Austin and I’d spend time out in her big, narrow backyard where her chickens ran around. She didn’t have a car, and the nearby Safeway grocery store didn’t carry everything she needed, so my Dad and I would make a chicken supply run out to Callahan’s General Store.
Established in 1978, family-owned Callahan’s is still going strong in a metropolis that’s known for being a tech hub, not a place where people need farm and ranch supplies (although Rodeo Austin is still one of the city’s big events.)
From a profile of the Callahan family:
“When I came here, our demographic was a 35-year-old working man who wore jeans and worked on a ranchette on the weekends….Three to five acres. Horses, cattle, chickens, perhaps hogs, sheep and goats. That’s where we came in.”
When I visited the store recently, I saw plenty of people who still somewhat fit that description, but given current trends like canning, organic gardening, and other do-it-yourselfing – plus the city of Austin’s chicken, bees, and goats program – Callahan’s is still a go-to supplier.
Need a Flat Wasatch Top or a honey sieve for your backyard beehive? There’s a beekeeping section.
Need predator urine to scare off raccoons and gophers? They have it.
How about healthcare for your horses and cows? Here you go….
I felt very sentimental looking at all of the chicken supplies, including the cutest little fluffy baby chicks all running around under a heat lamp….
Chicks usually come in on Thursday mornings – New Hampshire Red Pullets, Buff Orpington Pullets, Crested Special Straight Runs, and a bunch of breeds that chicken people will know, but I do not.
There were some rabbits, too.
The hardware section is something to behold. Rows of galvanized buckets and tubs, stacks of rakes and sledgehammers, cage traps, hurricane lamps, and to help with your towing requirements, this assortment of shiny trailer hitch balls that for some reason I found rather mesmerizing.
There’s a pretty big kitchen section that carries not only local foods like jerky and chili mix and chow chow, but also make-your-own foodie equipment like sausage stuffers.
Need Masontops Pickle Pebbles Plus weights to keep your fermenting vegetables submerged while they ferment? That’s in the canning area.
Home decor is mostly Western/country, which is not really my style, but I loved the colorful oilcloth selection, which reminded me of older relatives swiping a sponge over their oilcloth-topped kitchen tables before we’d sit down to eat. Who knows what the table underneath looked like, because we never saw it…
If we ever need any more cast iron cookware, I know where to go, although I can’t imagine what would destroy the cast iron skillet we’ve had for decades (unless somebody without any good sense put it in the dishwasher.)
Sturdy enamelware comes in several colors and patterns:
There is a large section of Western-style clothing, including plenty of boots and hats. Don’t miss the big sale/markdown section in the back. If you do any sort of outdoor work and want to stay warm, look through Callahan’s selection of Carhartt classic jackets and overalls.
Wrangler jeans and Western shirts are a uniform for many around Texas, and when it’s time to get dressed up a bit, those jeans get pressed and you grab yourself a pearl snap shirt.
You can get your Stetson or Resistol hat shaped and creased here, too.
Don’t let anyone tell you that Austin isn’t “real Texas” (and some bozos WILL try to tell you that.) It is an enormous state, with residents from every ethnic group you can imagine, and most of us live in urban areas. We celebrate a place like Callahan’s because it has managed to stay with its roots, and yet shifted enough to accommodate new trends and tastes.
It is definitely #TrueAustin, just like ACLFest and millions of bats and the pink granite Capitol and Alamo Drafthouse and Barton Springs and SXSW and chickenshit bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon. I’ll bet the chickens at Ginny’s get their feed from Callahan’s General Store.
(All photos by Sheila Scarborough)
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