This store, originally owned by a German family, opened l the turn of the century in the 6400 block Washington Avenue. It was called Consumer Grain. The name changed to Consumer Grain and Feed and then to Consumer Grain and Fuel to reflect changes in the store’s inventory. The family sold the store in the 1970s to interior designer Manning Mann, who was looking to expand his antique business. He liked the feel of the place, and ended up keeping the feed business, changing the name once again to the Wabash Antiques and Feed Store. “Wabash” is a name Mann coined. It stands for Washington Avenue Bric-Brac, Antiques, Sundries and Hardware.
Mann, who got a beer license so his customers could kick back and relax while browsing for antiques, enjoyed running the store for the next four years. When the real estate market crashed, the antique business saw tough times as well. Mann put the store up for sale. Betty Lou Heacker, the hard-working and happy owner of today’s Wabash, was in the food business until her banker suggested she consider buying the store. Betty stayed at that location for almost five years until the original owner died and the land went into his estate. Betty tried to buy the property but couldn’t come to terms with the heirs, so she started looking for another site. She scoured the Washington Avenue area but couldn’t find anything that wasn’t completely run down or dilapidated.
Finally, Betty found a small, square concrete building that had been vacant for 10 years. It had an interesting 1950s facade, but Heacker couldn’t see how an earthy feed store would ever work in it. A friend insisted, though, that she could “build it to look old”. And if the place weren’t already charming enough, a giant pecan tree that builders told Betty she’d have to cut down in order to expand her store grows right smack dab in the middle of the place, through a hole cut out of the ceiling. The tree has its own interesting history. Back when Washington Avenue was the main drag into downtown Houston, it was the route used to deliver prisoners from Fort Bend and Brazoria counties to the Houston jail. To cut their trips short, the guards often chained the prisoners to the pecan tree and sent the message that they could be collected at the “West End Jail.”