Eagle-eyed passers-by (or people who look up when they walk) may have noticed the absence of a downtown San Antonio landmark. The Kallison’s Western Wear Cowboy has not been at his post on South Flores Street for more than a month.
The Kallison Cowboy, a statue in faded cowboy garb holding a saddle atop the former Kallison’s Western Wear store, has not been removed permanently – he’s simply awaiting restoration, said GrayStreet Partners managing partner Kevin Covey, whose firm owns the building.
“He’s been deteriorating,” Covey said of the cowboy, which according to some accounts has been around as long as nearly all San Antonians have been alive. “It’s been up there for a long time. Our intention is to remodel the entire [Kallison] block, and he’s part of it.”
The “Kallison block” Covey mentioned refers to the 1.67-acre property first developed by the family of Nathan Kallison, a turn-of-the-century immigrant who, along with his son Morris, was responsible for developing much of downtown. GrayStreet purchased the Kallison property on South Flores and Dolorosa streets last year.
The Kallison legacy
Nathan Kallison, the patriarch of the family, opened a leather shop in 1899 at 124 S. Flores St., according to He Soared With Eagles, a 2011 book written by Morris’ son Jack Kallison that chronicled the Kallison family’s contributions to San Antonio’s landscape.
According to the book, Nathan Kallison continued to diversify his business holdings after opening Kallison’s Store. Nathan added general ranching supplies to the store’s stock in 1908 and renamed it Kallison’s Department Store in the 1920s, according to the Jewish Museum of the American West. He bought Kallison’s Ranch west of San Antonio in 1910, farming half the land and using the other half to graze cattle. More than 1,000 acres of the ranch became part of Government Canyon, according to his grandson Nick Kotz.
After Nathan died in 1944, sons Morris and Perry took over the family businesses. Morris Kallison continued to purchase and develop property downtown. Between 1946 and 1966, he developed 26 properties, including what are now Heritage Plaza and the Drury Inn & Suites Riverwalk Hotel. Morris’ endeavors set up much of today’s downtown landscape, Jack Kallison wrote.
“Downtown San Antonio, in comparison to similarly-sized United States cities, is [still]blooming and booming,” Jack Kallison wrote in He Soared With Eagles. “These exciting structures and activities, created by the innovation and vision of so many with foresight and passion, will make this small piece of real estate – San Antonio’s downtown – a foundation of San Antonio’s legacy of unique growth and development.”
Jack Kallison still remembers the impact his grandfather and father had on downtown San Antonio. Before the family’s department store on South Flores closed in 1968, everyone shopped there, he said.
“If you worked downtown, then you knew Kallison’s store,” he said.
In 1968, Perry’s son Pete Kallison opened Kallison’s Western Wear across the street from the former department store. He expanded the business to a second location a few years later. Kallison’s Western Wear closed in 2002, and Pete died in 2003.
The Kallison property today
Covey said GrayStreet intends to restore the buildings on the property once existing leases expire. Candy’s Old Fashion Burgers, Athens Xpress, and Cricket Wireless are still tenants, but others– including a loan company and law firm – already have left.
“The [Kallison] family wants to see [the property] restored to its former glory,” Covey said.
As for the rest of the block, Covey said GrayStreet hopes to populate it with new businesses.
“Our goal is really to try to find a mix of modern tenants, similar to what we did on another property in King William, where we put in Steel City Pops, Brown Coffee [on South Presa and South Alamo Street],” he said. “We want to try to make it more neighborhood retail than cash checkers and Cricket stores.”
The cowboy is biding his time in a storage facility near Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, awaiting an expert with the right skills, Covey said. The figure is made of cement and needs a new coat of paint. Covey is looking for an artist who knows how to work with cement to aid in the cowboy’s restoration. He guessed the actual work wouldn’t take long, though.
“I would be very happy to see it back up by the holidays this year,” Covey said.