A Little Peace of Heaven: Peanut Butter Warehouse by Renee Fortner

100 20th Street
Galveston, TX 77550

409-762-8358

April 2004–“Are we there yet?” That familiar question every child asks when in anticipation of a much awaited arrival seems only to make the arrival seem further and further away. Driving down the bumpy, fast-paced Gulf Freeway that hot and sticky summer day, excitement filled the air. Just south of Houston, there is a place that holds a special place in my heart. On the very edge of the Strand sits what looks like an old abandoned warehouse with a life sized Indian chief waiting to greet you with an open sign hanging on the door. Known among many locals, the Peanut Butter Warehouse has withstood the test of time.

As that heavy dark brown door, with broken glass windows, creaked open, I wasn’t sure what I was about to step into. The old wooden floor no longer brown but more of a sand color, most likely from all of the beach visitors, creaks beneath your feet. There’s something magical in the air; each board on the wall, every item for sale, there’s a story behind it all. “Everything seems to be wooden for some reason,” I remember thinking. The outside of the building is a plain light orange colored concrete. The concrete looks feet thick, perhaps this is why the building is still standing. The inside walls almost match the color of the floor. The walls have withheld their color much better than the floor has. Every part of the store seems to be on a raised platform. This must have helped saved some of the inventory in 1900. What makes it so special though, is what you will find inside.

The Peanut Butter Warehouse is every collector’s dream. The front of the store is laced with jewelry resembling styles that would have been worn in the 1900s. Draped behind the counter that holds the jewelry is a beautiful deep blue cloth, which adorns jewels of reds, greens, and diamond-like colors. There are also porcelain dolls of every size, shape, and color. This is my section of the store. Every doll has something special about it. A different dress, one’s prettier smile, the eyes, or the hair, it all holds me paralyzed deep in fascination. Minutes upon minutes are spent deciding which one I want this time. Should I choose the one sitting on the swing, the one laying on the pillow, or the one who looks so innocent standing there holding an umbrella? I close my eyes, hold my breath, and play the childhood game to finally arrive at my choice. The smooth features, every blonde curl that bounces, she’s perfect, and mine, I think.

This old warehouse, now store, brings out the child in everyone. There was an elderly woman in her mid-70s on one recent trip there. I decided to follow her with my eyes to see what she thought of this place. Joy, as I had nicknamed her, was roaming through the store as all others do until she found IT. You could tell this is what she had been looking for, for there was a twinkle in her eyes that can only be found when finding a treasure. Here it was, a ring resembling one that her mother had had when she was younger. Granted, the exact ring would never be found, Joy had found one that looked just like the one she adored so much growing up. The smooth garnet red stone and the slightly rough and tarnished silver ring was, in her mind, perfect in every way.

As you walk through the old warehouse, you are blasted with an aroma of peanut butter, chocolate, coffee, and popcorn. Each smell permeates the body, calling one’s name to take a short journey towards the exit for a small sample of what lies there. There is a special section of the store where you can buy a block of fudge, rich in chocolate, showered with walnuts, and caressed with love. The old M&M saying “It melts in your mouth, not in your hands,” is true. This fudge might get a little chocolate on your fingers, but one does not mind after tasting it for the first time. You can also obtain peanut brittle, cookies, ice cream, popcorn, and drinks to quench your thirst. Little ones love it here the best. Who can blame them though? The best peanut butter products can be found here.

This old building, which is located at 100 20th Street, has been in use since 1895. It is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., Sunday through Saturday. This building battled the Great Storm (hurricane) of 1900, and won unlike many of the other stores found on the Strand . Originally, the Peanut Butter Warehouse stored coffee beans, peanut butter, and candy. There was never any manufacturing of coffee, peanut butter, or candy. The store still has much of its original features. For example, there is an Otis freight elevator that still is in operation today. Also, on the second floor, there is a raised wooden platform that was used for the tram car. The car would run along the rails for products to be put into it. The car would then take it to the elevator where it was eventually sent downstairs. To the dismay of many customers, however, the Peanut Butter Warehouse has recently been sold. Avid shoppers can only hope that the store will remain the same.

However, there’s one place that is a world away from home in that creaking old, two-story warehouse. Winding my way around the store, I make a short journey to the back of the store and up one flight of stairs. Turning around, I remember an initial reaction of utter astonishment. Every little girl’s dress-up fantasy can be relived in this section of the store. From corner to corner, there are clothes resembling the fashion styles of the early 1900s. I stop and think about the pink, flowing dress that is draped with lace and ruffles in just the right places. I’ve become Lady Renee for a few quiet minutes. “Renee, don’t play with those!” I have been snapped back into reality, though, realizing my time here is almost up.

Back downstairs, the left-hand corner of the store contains some of the most beautiful china that once again resembles pre-modern times. Here you will see no children, just fascinated mothers deciding whether the china is worth it or not. Watching women in the china section is as fascinating as picking out a new doll is to a little girl. There is the initial reaction of this one is pretty as is this one, and so forth. Then you see a grown adult do the exact thing a child does, play a game to decide which two to choose from. Sometimes, this is harder than it seems. There are times, though, when I have noticed a childish grin on one’s face because they decided that today they would take both instead of one.

One wonders though, with all this mention of women, where are all of the men? Step outside and there you will find them. Occasionally, the older women will drag their husbands along kicking and screaming. However, most of the women shopping realize that their husbands tend to be just as big of a pain as do the kids at times. The women also realize that their husbands tend to make better babysitters than toys do. You will find that a majority of the men are entertaining the children. Half of the remaining men rest their eyes on the bench outside while Big Horse, another adopted nickname for the Indian chief, keeps a close eye over them. The rest of the men, however, seem to be more adapted to sitting and waiting ever so patiently for their wives. It still amazes me that every time I have come across a man down there, not one has complained about their wife spending money. Maybe this is why the women decide on two sets of china rather than one

As I make my way back to the front, I realize that for a day’s events, I am exhausted. My mom, sisters, and grandmother meet me at the register. When the word “register” is mentioned one automatically thinks of our modern day registers with the latest technological advances. However, there really is no register at the Peanut Butter Warehouse. The “register” is just the top of the jewelry counter. A small older calculator is used to add everything up and to apply the sales tax. The receipts are made on thin paper with beautiful blue script writing giving details about the Peanut Butter Warehouse. The tall, sandy blonde headed man rings our purchase up. I notice his clothing and realize that he always seems to be wearing the same thing every time I visit. I bet he has some stories to tell about this old place. “Maybe next time,” I think to myself. We pay and off we go.

The Peanut Butter Warehouse is my nirvana. Here, complete and total happiness and peace can be found. Every day of every season can be spent here, yet there’s always something new and exciting awaiting you. Whether just needing to get out of the house for the day or taking a weekend get away trip, there is plenty to be offered at the Peanut Butter Warehouse and the Strand . South of Houston, there is a new world awaiting your arrival.

Links

Galveston, TX

Chocolate Recipes

1900 Fashion

Antique China

Porcelain Dolls

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