Our History

After 28 years, the “Our History” section should be a book, not a blurb.  Maybe some day I will write it because it really is a great story.  For now, I will give you the Cliff Notes on how it started, how it grew, and how it continues to be my life and way more than I ever imagined.

Let’s start with a little about me- My name is Holly Green and I moved to Albany in 1981, and have been here ever since, minus four years of college.  A few fun facts:  Technically, I am a high school drop-out. Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, had an early admissions program which I fortunately qualified for, and I took off.  (Highly probable I would have been voted most likely to never return, if there had been such a thing.)  I school hopped to the University of Texas, and finished my last year at Hardin-Simmons, primarily because of an Albany boy that I married in 1989.  This is relevant, because in 1992, we opened Blanton-Caldwell Trading Company, and I am regularly questioned about the name of the store.  My last name was Caldwell when the doors opened.

The Early Years

Owning a store was not my dream.  I never took a business or accounting class.  I wound up opening a store because I was insanely bored and needed to make money.  Albany is a thriving metropolis of 2000 people on a good day.  There were not a lot of job opportunities for a young twenty something with a speech communication degree. In the late summer of 1992, I popped in the Albany Chamber office looking for something to do.  I drew the long straw that day…my distant relative was Chamber Manager at the time.  Sally BLANTON Porter (hence the store name) is an idea person and has vast experience in retail.  Her mother once owned a shop in Albany.  She masterminded the gift shop for Billy Bob’s when it opened in Fort Worth.  She sharpened her tourist buying eye working in Hendley Market on The Strand, in Galveston.  She was an experienced buyer in France, New York, Dallas, etc.  Sally has an eye for greatness and a nose for the interesting.  She was the perfect teacher for a rookie retailer.

Sally’s friend, Brad Locker, mentioned to her that Albany needed a hunting store.  At the time, he owned a rep group in the hunting industry, and was acutely aware that Albany was becoming a hot bed for deer and quail hunters.  Sally, being Sally, off-handedly mentioned this idea to me in the office that day and the big adventure began.  We both scraped, and I do mean SCRAPED, up four thousand dollars each and opened a bank account.  We crawled through ranch “dumps” for props.  We scrubbed and painted.  We had racks welded out of old oilfield pipe and plow disks.  Our checkout stand was a card table with a calculator.  I did the books on a paper ledger.  We had exactly $7000.00 of joint merchandise and to date (and I am REALLY proud of this) Blanton-Caldwell has never had a loan for anything.

I must include that my mother, Sharon Matthews, also joined in on this crazy idea and consequently, my Dad, John Matthews had to do the heavy lifting.  Mom always had a thing for antiques and horses.  Our “hunting” store idea morphed into a unique concept that has since been replicated by many stores.  We sold feed, vet supplies, tack, deer feeders, fine men’s apparel, camo, kazoos/harmonicas, bird vests, hunting license, gorgeous antiques, and animal calls.  Within a few months, we sold Wrangler, Carhartt, Red-Wing boots, high-end sterling silver jewelry, and literally wind-up plastic soldiers dressed in camo that crawled.  In a year, we were carrying Resistol hats, expensive belts and buckles, ties, and just about anything that caught our eye that was great looking and not common.  Mom and John hauled in beautiful old antique display cases from all over Texas. Sally did the majority of the display work. I opened the doors most every day and handled the business end of running a store.  Over twenty-eight years later, that same door is open 10-5:30, Monday through Saturday, as it was in 1992.

The Middle is a Blur

I bought Sally out in 1995.  She wanted to move, I was getting divorced, and it just made sense.  Mom stayed in, although we were not partners.  She had her merchandise. I had my merchandise.  We split the rent and she paid for an employee three days a week.  I usually worked six days a week and that has not changed. 

Somewhere around year five or six, I decided to literally knock a hole through the wall and rented the building next to B-C.  I called it, “The Next Door Store” and filled it full of fun gifts, candles, and home décor.  My mantra is, if everyone carries it, you can probably bet heavily that I do not want it in my stores.  I caught the early wave of the Mexican pine furniture and bailed out before it was in every home.  I am thankful for that- it helped me build enough cash to buy a lot of inventory that I could not afford before.  Soon, brides started showing up to register, something I did not anticipate.  It sparked another entirely new dimension to Blanton-Caldwell, and I tumbled into the wedding registry business!  I really enjoyed this time in the store.  I was able to buy good looking home goods and I started waiting on as many women as men.  This was, very different, from what I had become accustomed to.

One day, my Wrangler sales rep, Bill Taylor, sauntered in and made a push for me to start selling Wranglers new women’s jeans.  At the time, I was a Gap jeans girl, and shriveled up my nose.  Bill is an excellent salesperson.  I am NOT an easy sell.  Before it was over, I ordered a few thousand dollars of women’s apparel.  I distinctly remember waking up the next day thinking I had lost my mind, although I did not cancel the order.  Four months later, the women’s apparel side of Blanton-Caldwell began in the back section of the men’s store.  Fortunately, at the time, Diana Nail was working with us and she had owned a women’s boutique previously.  She was all in to go to women’s apparel market and we loaded up for Vegas to buy at Magic.  We learned a lot very quickly.  It is vastly different than Dallas market.

Diana and I were, and still are, clothing and jewelry horses.  We both have an eye for how to put things together and it worked.  Our women’s business soon needed more room than just the back of the men’s store.  It is important to note this time BECAUSE, Diana gets the credit for recruiting Lynda Heatly to work at Blanton-Caldwell.  Lynda taught kindergarten and first grade for forty-two years.  She had recently retired, and we needed more help in the store.  Seventeen years later, she is still my right arm.  She gets most of the credit for keeping me sane as well as peeling me off the ceiling numerous times. 

Around this same period, Mom decided to leave Blanton-Caldwell.  We were unaware at the time, but in retrospect, it was the beginning of Alzheimer’s taking over her brain.  She is still alive although she has not known me for years, and it has been brutal.  When she pulled out of the men’s store, I filled it with more men’s apparel, a men’s grilling/cooking section and ramped up our kid’s area.  I do not miss the feed, vet supply and antique business at all.  I am thankful I do not have to lift 50lb sacks every day- just heavy boxes now. 

The Last Decade

We moved the women’s merchandise to the front two thirds of the Next Door Store.  I ditched the furniture business and ramped up the wedding business.  A few years later, the business occupying the building next to the Next Door Store was for sale and I bought it.  We were seriously out of room again and I knocked another hole through a brick and cinder wall.  Within a week, we moved all our wedding and kitchen merchandise to that building and the store’s inventory instantly tripled.  This became known as Blanton-Caldwell’s Kitchen Store. Lynda became the Queen of the Kitchen Store and at eighty, I am the only one really allowed to question her…LOL!  The middle store became the women’s boutique and it is displayed to the ceiling as well. 

When it comes to retail, I am from the theory that you cannot sell from an empty cart.  I am not a fan of minimalistic stores.  A small-town store needs to wear many hats to accommodate its local and big city customers.  I despise telling a customer I do not have what they want or are looking for.  If I tell the truth, I am probably more surprised by the success of Blanton-Caldwell than anyone.  I know the recipe for our “secret sauce” and yet I am still constantly awed.  My biggest surprise of all, was our growth on Facebook.  Envision that when I started, hardly anyone had internet.  I remember buying the first computer for the store in 1994 and buying new software called Quickbooks.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think Blanton-Caldwell would have six full time employees and even more part time help. Thank God, Laura Dickerson joined the family nearly five years ago.  She is now our General Manager and does a fantastic job of keeping all the balls in the air. Up until eight months ago, we checked everyone out with a hand-written sales ticket and an old school cash register.  We carried personal charge accounts and still have wedding tables for each registered bride.  We are by nature small-town values, customer service centered, and we genuinely care about and appreciate our customers. 

Now we are venturing into new territory again- a real website with power.  The literally thousands that have asked, “Do you have a website?” will now receive a Yes.  It has taken over nine months to enter our existing inventory into our first point of sale system.  It will probably take nearly the same amount of time to get all our inventory on this website.  It is at best, one third of what I intend for it to look like, although we must start somewhere.  As I have always done, this is a grassroots effort.  We figure it out as we go.  Blanton-Caldwell is a family.  Our crew is age 80 to 19 and I am proud of that too!  We are a group of women with a can-do attitude and internal drive to make this a real success.  Nothing would please me more than for the online version of Blanton-Caldwell to take on a life of its own requiring more jobs for the women/men of Albany. 

Thank you for visiting us online.  Thank you for reading our story.  Thank you for understanding that we may not always have the cheapest price AND you will find great deals as we continue to get our merchandise loaded onto the site.  Know that when you make a purchase from Blanton-Caldwell, it is sincerely appreciated.  Know that it really does make a difference in an individual’s life and they really are doing a happy dance when you buy from us.  Know that we will always do our level best to give you small-town service and there are rules that we will have to follow to keep our doors open. 

Blanton-Caldwell may not have been my dream, but it is my heart and soul.  It is a large part of my identity and the well being of the people that work there is one of my greatest priorities in life.  Thank you for being a part of Blanton-Caldwell.  It matters.

Finally- I will be writing a blog about current and historical craziness at the store.  I hope you will tune in.  There are so many stories to tell, that it will be hard to decide where to start.  Be prepared to laugh!

PS…All of you English teachers, grammar gurus, and comma queens are encouraged to copy/paste this into Word and correct my mistakes.  I write from stream of consciousness, and am under a tight deadline to get this live.  PLEASE FIX IT FOR ME AND SEND IT TO: [email protected].  LOL!