CUERO - When customers walk into Wagner's Hardware and Gifts they're in the atmosphere of an early 1900s hardware store.

It's been in the Wagner family for three generations, in a location that has always been a hardware store.

Almost all building infrastructure is original including the wall cabinets, display units, longleaf pine floor and wall shelving. The only updated infrastructure is the inner shelving.

The building, 110 N. Esplanade, was built in 1891 by R.C. Warren and operated as R.C. Warren Hardware. Walter Pettit Wagner bought the store in 1945 from family members of R.C. Warren.

Reed Wagner and his wife, Beverly Wagner, married in 1979 and soon ran the store. He bought Wagner's from his grandmother, Faye Wagner, who continued to work there until her death in the late 1990s.

The Wagners sell a wide range of products and keep them competitively priced, which allows them to compete with Big Box stores.

"People get what they need, and they're in and out quick," Beverly Wagner said.

The store offers products from craftsmen across the United States, including outdoor furniture from San Antonio, steak turners crafted by a South Texas blacksmith and wooden furniture made by Amish carpenters in Pennsylvania.

Newer offerings include Stihl power equipment, Traeger grills and GameGuard shirts, ice chests and gun and pistol cases. Items once on offer in an upstairs gift shop are now for sale downstairs, including cow skins, goat hides and figurines.

Beverly Wagner said she doesn't know if the store will pass on to the next generation of Wagners and if her son or daughter will own or manage the family business.

The Wagners' longstanding relationships with their customers have kept them in business all these years. In one of the shelving units, the Wagners hang John Deere caps and cowboy hats from loyal customers on their "Local Legends" wall.

"They choose to come back. They choose to shop with us," she said. "When they're gone, you miss them coming in."

Advocate reporter Mark Rosenberg contributed to this story.

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Kathryn Cargo covers business and agriculture in the Crossroads. She enjoys reporting on industry trends and getting her shoes dirty out in the field.

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