“Do you know about La Gloria? On Laredo and Brazos? Upstairs was for dancing, Mucho dance. And the story: one time in the 30s the devil was there,” said David Villareal, a Kenney’s store regular for more than 62 years. He has been visiting this west side store since he was in elementary.
I visited this unassuming store/ taqueria at the corner of Merida and South Sabinas for some fideo loco and shared a dining room with Villareal and his two childhood friends, Jesse De La Cruz and Juan Agirre.
The men shared fond memories and their experiences throughout many different eras in San Antonio’s Westside
“The real story: There were no houses around here. This store was una tienda que vendia stuff for your farms. The store was for the rancheros here. Ms. Kinney used to be at Laredo and 35 and the church was san juan and used to be on Kempher and aqui puro ranchos. Across the street, old houses like would be about 200 years old so they put new ones,” said Villareal.
Ms. Kenney, born Irene Marie Kenney on March 8, 1908, grew up in the grocery business. She was the 3rd generation owner/operator of Kenney grocery food store, a business started by her grandfather in June 1886 and now the oldest continuously operated grocery store in San Antonio.
She retired from the business in 1988 and Atilano Mendoza has managed the store ever since. The long time patrons said that nothing much has changed since they were little except for now there is a restaurant and you can buy beer.
“A lot of things in here have been here longer than I have. Customers just bring me stuff to put up on the wall,” said Mendoza as he points to an old coca cola clock from another century.
He said one of the ladies has been cooking here for a decade because the kitchen is closed on sundays.
“For other people sundays in mandatory to work at restaurants. It’s home in here, the ladies, I never bother them. Do what you know how to do and they do,” said Mendoza.
The store has been a historical beacon for many and the men who grew up here hope that this generation will be interested in preserving it.
“The new generation has left, but we didn’t we are still here . Everything we know is from our grandfathers,” said Aguirre.
Mendoza pulled out two thick coffee table books with large photos of San Antonio from the 1800s featuring notes on some local monuments like Hot Wells, the Missions and dance halls that have historical roots.
De la Cruz recalled when the mothers of Vietnam Veterans crawled on their knees from their doorsteps to the church when they were told their sons would be returning home because many did not.
“Everyone that lives here, we know all the families that were here born and raised. I used to know their mothers and their grandmothers. They would get after us and we would listen out of respect. That’s how we grew up here in the neighborhood. All of my families were born in the house, not in the hospital. A lady would come to take care if it,” said De La Cruz whose mother used to live right next door to the store.
Mendoza said jokingly, “Some of these customers we cannot get rid of.” This year he will celebrate operating Kenney’s food store for 30 years. You can visit Kenney’s store at 342 Merida St, San Antonio, TX 78207, Monday-Saturday from 7am – 9pm and Sunday 10am-8pm. The kitchen is closed on Sundays and operates from 7am- 3pm all other days. Call (210) 225-6884 for more information.