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Sam Houston EC News

General Stores: The Heart of Rural America

Small businesses that call rural East Texas home

More than 80 years ago, electric cooperatives assumed the responsibility for electrifying rural America—one pole, insulator, mile of line and consumer-member at a time. The rural areas where electric co-ops formed were deemed too far from population centers and not sufficiently profitable for private power companies at the time.

To this day Sam Houston Electric Cooperative provides power to some of the most rural parts of East Texas. We have not wavered in our commitment to the communities and consumer-members we serve.

Sam Houston EC serves parts of 10 counties that comprise a service area roughly the size of Connecticut. The Cooperative supports many communities, including those that are much smaller than many small towns featured in TV shows. But these rural East Texas communities still gather together. Our most rural members have a tendency to congregate at stores, similar to what we all saw in Western movies when we were growing up. General stores are still around, and many are doing quite well in today’s world of big box stores and super centers, which resemble general stores—just on a grand scale.

Allow us to introduce you, our members and readers, to three general stores over the next few months.

Our first visit takes us to Hardin County in the southeastern portion of the Co-op’s service territory. The Honey Island General Store sits on the north side of FM 1293, about 8 miles west of Kountze, population 2,000, and about 45 minutes from Beaumont.

Punkin General Store

Punkin General store is the second store and takes our readers across the Trinity River to the western portion of the Cooperative’s service area. The small community of Punkin lies about halfway between Coldspring to the east and New Waverly to the west. The community is right in the heart of the Sam Houston National Forest, in San Jacinto County.

And finally, Harris Country Market takes us to the extreme eastern portion of the Cooperative’s service area, high above the Neches River and Dam B, in Tyler County. The store sits along FM 92, about 6 miles south of U.S. Highway 190 and more than 15 miles from Woodville.

All three stores have similarities, but each store caters to its patrons’ unique wants and needs. Watch for articles in upcoming issues of Texas Co-op Power magazine to learn more about these vital and thriving community stores.