‘People around here are tough,” small town restaurant, grocery owner says

Green's Sausage House and Grocery, in Zabcikville was busy Thursday morning, and enforcing...
Green's Sausage House and Grocery, in Zabcikville was busy Thursday morning, and enforcing proper social distancing was a problem because when a dozen shoppers get stuffed inside there's not a lot of extra room. (Photo by Paul J. Gately)(KWTX)
Published: Mar. 27, 2020 at 11:37 AM CDT
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Zabcikville, one of several tiny communities in eastern Bell County, is a survivor and since the town took root it has managed to weather every storm that rolled across the prairie,the current one included.

"Oh, everybody's concerned and being careful but life here goes on just like it has for a long time," Marvin Green, owner of Green's Sausage House and Grocery, in Zabcikville, said.

The coronavirus response recently ordered by successive levels of government, forced the sausage house, the only restaurant in town, to cut back to take-out service only, but the other business, the grocery store, is booming.

"Just came up to get some smoked meats and bacon," said customer James Lampley, who drove all the way up from Austin Thursday to get some smoked turkey tenderloins.

The bacon was an afterthought, he said.

The store was busy Thursday morning, enforcing proper social distancing was a problem because when a dozen shoppers get stuffed inside there's not a lot of extra room.

Bu almost everybody in town's related one way or another, anyway, Green said with a laugh.

Green said employees installed a sort of rope line in front of the fresh meat counter that built in a bit of extra space between customers and employees working the counter.

Green said he's not really worried about weathering the storm because "people around here are tough, they've had hard times in the past and come out okay, so I expect that to happen this time."

He'd likely have chosen another route, but the restaurant shutdown has enabled Green to plan and complete some projects he'd been holding back on.

"We took up the carpet in the back to replace it and there are some other things we're doing, new tables, lighting, that we're getting done now."

He said he's hopeful the shutdown won't last too long, and that "I hope they give us some warning when they're going to let us re-open.

"We'll have to replenish stock of perishables like lettuce and tomatoes and that might take some time."

On a normal day the grocery store would total about three-quarters of a day's business, but in these times, it shoulders more of the load.

Green's employs about 26 people, in the shops, the bakery and the smokehouse and butcher plant, and Green says they're all still working.

"We took extra care with cleaning," Green said, "but it's a butcher shop and bakery so we keep them sanitary all the time, anyway," plus staff is doing extra cleaning in the store and display cases, as well.

The grocery Thursday was stocked full, a bit short on bread and some paper goods, but merchandise at Green's grocery isn't an issue for most items because the jams, jellies, pickles, canned fruits, sauces, salsas and dips are produced right there under Green's watchful eye.

Most of the baked goods, things like famous sausage kolaches, and smoked meats are done right there, too and the butcher shop also turns out fresh meats and poultry every day.

Green's Sausage House, since 1946, has been the busiest place in town and it has become a thing of legend among writers who search out unique, and very local, places to eat, most especially those with a Texas flavor.

Green's fits that bill, their sausage burger is legendary, and the sauerkraut and sausage lunch draws diners from all around on Fridays and don't even get started on their deserts.

The governor's orders in response to sheltering forced restaurants to restrict their service to drive-through or take-out, and that's kept the restaurant pretty busy, Green said, but customers still have need for basic items that the grocery store can provide.

Founded by immigrating Czechoslovakian families in the mid-1850s, the town site originally was known as Marekville after the Marek family who owned a store in the area.

"Every little town around here had a grocery store," Green said, "a grocery store and a cotton gin, sometimes a gas station.

"Farmers were growing cotton and it had to be ginned before it could be marketed," adding that back then most farmers in the Blackland Prairie of Texas still were using draft animals to work crops so very local gins were key to the market's success.

"They just couldn't travel a long distance to get to market," Green said.

They were places like Cyclone, Ding Dong, Doubleheader, Heidenheimer, Moffat, Pendleton, Prairie Dell, Seaton, White Hall and Zabcikville, shows a Texas State Historical Association list.

Save for a few today, they're all gone.

Sometime around 1855 the Zabcik family, also immigrants from Ratiboř in the Zlín Region of Moravia, Czech Republic, moved to the area and eventually married into the Marek family.

Soon the store changed hands and when sign over the door changed from Marek to Zabcik the quaint little town on the banks of Possum Creek, overnight, became Zabcikville.

Frank Zabcik, in 1932, replaced the old wood-frame building with a stucco-faced structure that still stands on the north side of Texas State Highway 53 where it intersects Texas Farm-to-Market Road 437, about 12 miles east-southeast of Temple.

The store opened the same day the highway did, Bell County records show.

It's still there, though not in use for several years, right across the street from the sausage house.

Back then the town had a population of about 60 and there were three business there, by 1949 another business, Green's, had opened up and population grew to a few more than 80 residents.

Green said there about 130 folks living in town and in the surrounding countryside today but added "we're not incorporated so we don't really have a city limits."

Jerome and Della Green opened a grocery store for the farming families who lived in the surrounding Blackland Prairie region, but it didn't take long for folks to notice the sausage Jerome was creating in his butcher shop.

The unique mixture of meats and spices, Green said based on a Czech recipe created by and handed down through his family, was the initial reason for wild success.

The market now makes 26 different kinds of sausage with added things like cheese, jalapenos, Cajun spices, onions and a list of others.

"I've always said anything sells better when it has jalapenos or cheese," Green laughed.

He even makes a peanut brittle with jalapenos in it.

Green and his brother Charles are the driving force today and along with them come five other family members, so Green's truly is a Central Texas family business, and Green says he doesn't see that changing.

"Within this establishment's four walls, a touchstone of rural Texas culture is preserved," says an article published in Texas Highways Magazine, in 2014, says.

"From farmers to bikers, everyone who enters Green's doors is looking for a taste of home in a changing world."

"Not many places like this are left. The food is real. The people are real. There are no phonies here," said patron David Anderson.

"This place is special."

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - The infections in New York City have dominated much of the national conversation about the coronavirus.

But far from the coasts, smaller communities also are preparing for things to get worse. In places such as Albany, Ga., it's already happening.

The infections started with a person from out of town who attended a funeral. Now Georgia's mostly rural southwest corner has the highest rate of coronavirus infection in the state.

The local hospital is rapidly running out of space. Intensive-care beds are filled with COVID-19 patients. And employees are hand-sewing masks to help doctors and nurses stretch their dwindling supplies.