Bittersweet Day as 121-Year-Old Deep Ellum Business Makes Way for Progress

Sale of vintage items underway through January 17

The closing sale is on at Texas Refrigeration and Butcher Equipment Supply Company after 121 years of business in Dallas' Deep Ellum neighborhood.

The owners collected what seemed like a museum full of old equipment that went up for sale Tuesday.

"It amazes me now, some of the things they pull out in the back," 94-year-old owner Russ Gilpin said.

At first, Gilpin said he resisted his father-in-law's 1948 offer for a job at the place.

"After I was here awhile, I got used to it, and I stayed," he said.

His 67-year-old son Jim joined the firm 44 years ago after plans to attend law school fell through.

"So my father, fortunately, he gave me a job, and I'm still here," Jim Gilpin said.

The firm that started in 1898, primarily with butcher supplies, added refrigeration equipment and Russ Gilpin said it was successful.

It offered equipment repair and wound up with many items that were no longer popular for modern stores. It also had an inventory of newer equipment.

But over the years, competition from the internet and direct supplier sales hurt the business.

"When your manufacturers start selling to your customers, it's real bad," Russ Gilpin said.

Meanwhile, restaurants and bars around the store are thriving in Deep Ellum.

Today, new high-rise apartments are open, and more are on the way, bringing more residents to the area. Real estate values are soaring.

"They continued to go up and up, and we decided to take the plunge," Jim Gilpin said.

The owners accepted the latest offer to sell their valuable land, and they sold the contents to Dave Thompson, who is conducting the closing sale.

"We made an offer to buy all the equipment, organize it and put it on the market to sell, so that's where we’re at today," Thompson said. "They're hoping to see a CVS or a bank go in here, instead of another bar."

Sale items include vintage Dayton meat scales from the 1930s and a Kelvinator refrigerator model from the 1940s.

Some customers are stopping by just to say hello to their old friends at this stand-alone family business.

"Somebody that greets you and knows you when you are walking in the door, nothing else like it," customer Geoffrey Noone said.

It is a bittersweet time at Texas Refrigeration and Butcher Supply as the Gilpins cash out to make way for progress.

The sale is under way from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 2800 Commerce Street.

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