Half-Century Old Business Offers Opportunities for Others
BROWNSVILLE – A half-century old business in Brownsville started by renting a space in a store and selling ladies’ shoes. They were persistent and now they’re celebrating another anniversary.
Customers, friends and former employees arrived at Country Casuals of Brownsville to kick-off the festivities.
“We’re very happy,” store owner Jayme Gelfer said. “We’ve had a lot of loyal customers and we’ve enjoyed our life.”
Gelfer and her husband, David, started the business. And now their daughter, Robin Pierce, and her husband, Mike, work the day-to-day operations.
“I’m a third generation retailer. My grandfather did shoes in McAllen and that was my family’s first business,” Pierce said.
Her husband mentioned his wife’s family has been in the business for 65 years.
Pierce’s grandfather leased space in the Advance in McAllen and sold ladies’ shoes. In 1959, they moved to Brownsville, first in downtown and then to Boca Chica.
“When we came out here, Boca Chica was really outside of town and people said, 'You’re crazy. You need to stay downtown on Elizabeth Street,'” Gelfer said.
The business has since grown. They built a shopping complex, even a connecting restaurant.
“And daddy would open charge accounts for teenagers and things like that,” Pierce said.
“I was in high school, I was 17 years old and I wanted a pair of earrings from here and (David Gelfer) gave me my first credit card,” customer Sandra Langley said.
Paula Rodriguez, another loyal customer, said she’s been shopping at the store for almost 50 years.
“Every Christmas, if we saw the presents wrapped and said Country Casuals, we all knew they were going to be really good,” Patty Ayala said.
Pierce said some people remember the first outfit they bought.
“The first item that I wore was a low waisted dress with a white collar and a red patent belt,” Carmela Petraitis said.
And these days the owners made room for someone else to sell items from Mexico, following the footsteps of her grandfather who rented space to start a business.
“We love Brownsville. We are Brownsville,” Gelfer said.