J. C. Heaton Brothers Drugstore
In 1854, J. C. Heaton purchased Niells share of Niells & Wilson Drugstore in Port Lavaca, Texas. The business was renamed Heaton & Wilson, when Thomas Wilson passed away in 1867, J. C.'s brother, L. D. Heaton, relocated from New York in 1860 to assist him. The business was renamed J. C. Heaton & Brothers. Three years later, D. H. Heaton, another brother joined them, and a branch in Victoria, Texas was opened.
The following year, in 1872, a branch was opened in the new town of Cuero, with D. H. Heaton as manager. Eight years after opening, the wooden structure burned to the ground. Somehow, the Heatons managed to pull together sufficient merchandise and reopened in a neighboring building within 24 hours. In 1889, the current, brick, two-story building was built. Amazingly, it took only about 8 weeks to complete including the interior ornate cabinetry. In 1912, D. H. Heaton passed away, and his widow managed the drugstore for the next nine years.
In 1921, L. L. Buttery purchased the Cuero Store and changed the name to L. L. Buttery Drugs. Mr. Buttery owned the drugstore for 51 years, and never did any major remodeling, keeping the old time feel throughout the years.
In 1972, Joe Reuss purchased the store from Mr. Buttery and changed the name to ValuMart Pharmacy. David Polasek, a Cuero native and pharmacy graduate, operated the store. One of the reasons Joe purchased the store was to compete with his own drugstore, Reuss Pharmacy and later stated that, " it was one of the best things he has ever done."
In 2012, ValuMart closed its doors. The building had been used as a drugstore for over 124 years, but it was now time to show off its history, and it became the Pharmacy and Medical Museum of Texas.
In 1845, Dr. Joseph Martin Reuss emigrated from Germany to Indianola, Texas and opened, what is now, the oldest operating drugstore in Texas. The first structure was a tent shared with Dr. Reuss' medical practice. In 1872, J. M. Reuss and his son, Dr. August Reuss, opened a branch in the new town of Cuero. They built a one-story wooden structure on Main Street and named the store J. M. Reuss & Son Drug Store.
Following a major hurricane in 1875, the Reuss' decided to dismantle and relocate their home and business to Cuero. A year later, Dr. August Reuss passed away after battling tuberculosis. His brother, Oscar Reuss, after graduating from Pharmacy School, joined the family business.
The wooden building was relocated in 1885 to make room for a new modern two-story brick building. The drugstore's location was on the first floor with the second floor housed a doctor's office.
The Cuero Star newspaper recorded the store to be "handsomely furnished in all white fixtures and stock of drugs, chemicals, oils, paints, varnishes, proprietary medicines, toilet articles, school supplies and druggist sundries all in full and complete stock."
Dr. J. M. Reuss passed away in 1908, and a week later, Oscar passed away. Dr. Joseph H. Reuss, the youngest child of Dr. J. M. Reuss, returned from Dallas and managed the store for approximately two years. Oscar's son, Edward Reuss, then managed the store for a couple of years before dyeing of consumption. His brother, Theodore Reuss, purchased the store from the estate in 1912.
Theodore's son, Joe Reuss, joined him in 1957 as his associate. In a short time, Theodore fell sick, needed to retire, and left management of the store to Joe. In 1971, Joe Reuss built a larger building at 515 North Esplanade which still houses the Reuss Pharmacy.
A Walk Through Cuero’s Pharmaceutical Past
Pharmacists are highly-trained and skilled healthcare professionals who perform various roles to ensure optimal health outcomes for their patients. In Cuero as elsewhere many pharmacists are also small-business owners, owning the pharmacy in which they practice. These individuals have played important roles in the growth and development of the City.
The history of pharmacy is a long one with some of the earliest recorded prescriptions dating back to the Sumerians around 2,000 B.C. The first known drugstore was opened by Arabian pharmacists in Baghdad in 754 A.D. The first pharmacy in Cuero dates to 1870 when it opened for business as a branch of Reuss Pharmacy from Indianola. Reuss Pharmacy is the oldest operating drugstore in the state of Texas, having opened in 1845 by Dr. J.M. Reuss, Joe Reuss's great grandfather.
Other pharmacies that came to Cuero were:
Booton and Kunitz Brumlau Drug Store Bullard Drug Store
City Drug Store Center Pharmacy Cuero Drug Co.
Cuero Pharmacy DeVinney Drug Store Heaton Brothers
Horizon Pharmacy Klecka’s Drug Store Kunitz
Ley’s Drug Store L. L. Buttery Valumart Pharmacy
Duggan's Lifecheck Drug
Today there are three pharmacies in Cuero open to the general public:
Reuss Pharmacy, Walmart, and HEB
Early pharmacies were more than a place to get your prescriptions filled. They often served as a social center and a place to take a “date” for an ice cream soda. Like today’s stores, one could purchase a wide variety of items such as the latest Edison phonograph, jewelry, school supplies and tobacco products.
The term “soda jerk” originated in the ice cream parlor located inside a drugstore. The name came from the jerking action the server would use on the soda fountain handle when adding the soda water, and not the temperament of the server.
As you walk though the various displays you will notice the heavy emphasis on extracts from plants (botanicals). Keep in mind that it was not until around 1860 that the first non-naturally occurring medicines were synthesized. You will also notice that some practices showed a total lack of understanding of human physiology. As an example, patients were often “bled,” either by opening a vein or through the use of leaches, to drain the poison from the body. These practices were done in good faith and were based on the current thinking of the time.
Other Early Drug Stores in Cuero
The Brumlau Drug Store was located in the Stratton Building in the 100 Block of North Esplanade in the early 1890's. It was purchased in October 1895 by A. E. DeVinney, a young Dentist who operated as DeVinney Drug Store with August Ley as the pharmacist. After a short period the store was purchased by Mr. Ley and operated as Ley Drug Store. This store operated for several years before closing.
During the depression years of the early 1930's City Drug Store was located in the 100 block of West Main Street as a branch of Reuss Drug Store. It's managing pharmacist was J. D. Cohen who later became co-owner of the Harding and Parker Drug Store, formally Heaton Brothers Drug in Victoria, Texas. This store operated for several years before combining with Reuss Drug Store.
During the Depression years and until the 1940's Dr. T. A. Bullard a colored physician operated the Bullard Drug Store in the 200 block of West Main street.
In 1927 Louis J. Klecka opened Cuero Pharmacy in the 10 Block of East Main in the Dickinson building. Soon thereafter Mr. Klecka moved his Pharmacy to the corner of East Main and Esplanade in a section of Breeden Brothers Grocery. In 1933 Charles Riebschlaeger was hired as manager and Pharmacist. Mr. Riebschlaeger purchased the store after Louis Klecka's death in 1934 continuing to operate as Klecka Drug Store. In 1949 after graduating from Pharmacy school, Ray Katzmark, Mr. Riebschlaeger's nephew, joined the store as a staff pharmacist. Klecka Drug opened a branch store on north esplanade in the early 1960's and operated as Center Pharmacy which remained in business until the early 1990's when Mr. Katzmark combined it with Klecka Drug which he and his wife Beverly had purchased in 1971. in the mid 1990's Ray sold Klecka drug to Bill McAuliff who operated it for a short while before selling it to Horizon Pharmacy, a small area chain which later became bankrupt. Horizon Pharmacy was aquired by LifeCheck Drug which continues the operation and ownership still at the same location on East Main Street in the Breeden Brothers Building.