Friends, family, and former employees were on hand to reminisce about the store’s colorful history and to have a good time of togetherness. The public was treated to free food and drinks, as well as festive activities such as a pizza eating contest. Free hats, pens, bottle openers, and koozies featuring the Big B logo were also generously given away to all.
Among those attending the event were twin brothers Jerry and Terry Kempe, the two very first employees of the Big B. The twin brothers were 12 years old in 1964 and were hired by Ben Lyssy to work on the stores then new property.
“Jerry and I started working for Mr. Lyssy in 1964, the year that they opened the store,” said Terry Kempe. “He asked us to pick up the roots and clear this land out here, and that led to working in the store shortly thereafter. So I was here from ‘64 through high school.”
Terry Kempe, who now resides in Collierville, Tennessee, recalled the virtues of hard work and dedication he learned from Lyssy at a very young and impressionable age.
“Mr. and Mrs. Lyssy were like parents to us in many ways,” he said. “They were instrumental in my life. Mr. Lyssy himself was such a shrewd and capable and incredible business man. Watching him work…he had an incredible work ethic that he instilled in me as a young kid that’s got me through my entire career.”
Jerry Kempe, who now resides in New Braunfels, recalled how the Big B was and still is a gathering place for many in the community and is a place of fellowship and friendship.
“It’s a gathering place for the County and the City of Karnes City,” said Jerry Kempe. “It was the first convenience store in Karnes City from what I understand. It’s been a gathering spot; it’s been a place for people to gather and go over the weather or what ever else there is to talk about.”
Kempe related how the store was a big stop for beach-goers back when US 181 was the lone highway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi, long before Interstate 37 was built. Travelers would stop at the Big B and stock up on fishing supplies, gas, food, beer, and bathroom breaks. The store would be packed on friday nights, recalled Kempe.
In the span of its 50-year history the Big B has seen the vast changes the decades have brought on and the store continues to maintain its success as a family owned and run business, according to current owner Benny Lyssy.
“It’s been very good,” said Lyssy of the anniversary event. “We got to see lots of friends, lots of old employees came. Our customers is what is what has made us what we are the past 50 years. We thank God for being able to do it.”