NACOGDOCHES, TX (KLTV) - The General Mercantile and Old-Time String Shop in downtown Nacogdoches is a step back in time, not only in its merchandise but in the music that emanates from the historic old building as well.
"They built the Mercantile store, started it in 1904 and finished it in 1907," says owner, Steve Hartz.
Steve Hartz bought the building and started restoring it in 1978. Along with his love of history, Hartz brought his love of music. Hartz had become infatuated with bluegrass music in college, but as the area's old-timers visited the shop, he began tuning into early East Texas.
"It became really easy to see a whole other side of life. I had guys who would bring in a bag of peanuts, sweet potatoes, or something to swap for fiddle strings.
In the early days, as now, much of Hartz business centered around repairing instruments. Recording music and tales of early settlers just seemed to evolve.
"I'd hear stories all day long while I was working," Hartz says. "So, I thought, you know, I need to do some music about here."
The CD's, 'By the Muddy Angelina' and 'Settlers of the Western Woods' are products of Hartz's immersion in the area's history and its people.
"You know music's product of people, their times and their environment," says Hartz.
Hartz's talent for creating new instruments with old-timey materials has made his shop more unique. Intermingled with the banjos, mandolins, musical spoons, and flutes, are antique toys, old equipment, and even lye soap.
There's just enough old-fashioned goods around to attach the 'mercantile' name to the Old-String Shop designation.
Steve's wife Sheryl's touches can be seen throughout the shop in various collections, but since it was their love of music that first brought the couple together, it's still music that fills their lives.