According to owners Benny and Christina Lyssy, the Big B store, located at the corner of Farm-to-Market Road 99 and U.S. Highway 181 in Karnes City, was built in 1964 on the strong virtues of a deep family tradition, strong work-ethic, and old-fashioned customer service. The Big B is currently a convenience store, sandwich deli and eatery, and also serves as a place where friends and community gather to socialize.
Benny Lyssy is a third generation store owner and credits his hard-working, entrepreneur parents, the late Ben and Mary Lyssy, with setting the foundation for the store’s ongoing success over the many years. Ben and Mary Lyssy were natives of Karnes County.
“Right after my mother and daddy got married, right before World War II, they moved to Clegg, Texas and had a store there until 1948,” recalled Lyssy. “In 1948 they moved to Charlotte, Texas…and we stayed in Charlotte from 1948 to 1964. Charlotte was an oil boom town and the boom was over by the early 1960s. It just dried up. So my dad came back over here, bought this corner, and built this store in 1964. My mother and daddy worked themselves hard. They really worked to make it what it is. I’m going to attribute all of our success to them.”
Lyssy’s parents ran the store until 1980. Lyssy then took over running the store that same year, keeping the store within the family line. Lyssy credits his wife, Christina, with helping to maintain the success of the store by managing aspects such as payroll, scheduling, bookkeeping, among others.
“My wife is a big part of the business, a very big part,” he said.
The current building structure of the store remains as it was built 50 years ago. The Big B was the first convenience store established in Karnes County, and decades ago was the very first self-serving gas station along the lone U.S. Highway 181, which was the highway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi. The store served as a common and busy stop for beachgoers stocking up on supplies and gassing up.
Lyssy said that it is the people the store serves that makes running the store a personal and social experience that goes beyond just business. Certain regular customers will gather almost every morning at the store and socialize over coffee and food.
“You get to see your regular customers and meet new people,” said Lyssy. “I’ve met a lot of good friends here, met a lot of interesting people.”
The vast present-day increases to traffic and population brought on by the Eagle Ford Shale has kept business steady and ushered in a new era for the historic store, according to Lyssy.
“It’s a lot more business for everybody,” said Lyssy of the increased business the Eagle Ford has brought on. “Business is good. We’re at a busy intersection. Now we’re meeting a lot of new people again…lots of real colorful and genuine people.”
In celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Big B is having an event on Friday, May 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. that will include free food and drinks, along with festive activities such as a pizza eating contest.
“We just want to thank everybody for all their business and support for 50 years,” said Lyssy. “If it wasn’t for our customers we wouldn’t be here.”