The original Hruska family store was founded in 1912 by Frank J. Hruska. The F.J. Hruska General Merchandise Store opened on Main Street in downtown Ellinger, and provided the small Southeast Texas community with all the amenities of a well-stocked store of the day – which meant everything from groceries, mild medicinals and household goods, to furniture, shoes and live poultry. The business even included local ambulance and undertaking service. In 1947, the store was passed to Frank’s sons, Frankie R. and Gus Lee, who altered the name to suit the new management structure: Hruska Brothers.
In 1952, Frankie and his wife, Bessie, ventured out on their own and opened a service station along Highway 71, where they eventually moved Hruska’s Store. The store became and remains a popular gathering place for the residents of Ellinger and its surrounding community, as well as a much-frequented stop for people passing through en route between Austin and Houston. Teresa James, Frankie and Bessie’s granddaughter, began managing Hruska’s in 1995, eventually taking over the family business from her grandparents and continuing Hruska’s rich tradition of deliciousness.
Yet no worthwhile story is all sunshine and lollipops (or klobasnikys, as the case may be),and during its 95+-year history, Hruska’s has experienced some notably darker events: a 1958 burglary, complete with high-speed car chase, shots fired, and the arrest of two thieves; a 1983 fire that burned the store to the ground [Frankie and Bessie rebuilt it better than ever]; and a five-year period during the 1990s, when Hruska’s had no fresh kolaches for sale.
Hruska’s kolaches are so special and so crucial to Hruska’s history, that they have their own story. It begins in 1962, when Adolphine Krenek began baking fresh kolaches for Hruska’s to sell at the store. Every Saturday morning in her home kitchen, Adolphine used her own special recipe and the freshest ingredients – including milk, cream and cheese from her own livestock and poppyseed from her garden – to bake up three batches [about 540 kolaches], for the coming week at Hruska’s. Adolphine sold them to Hruska’s, and Hruska’s sold them out.
When Adolphine grew too weary to keep up the weekly bake, she handed her recipe down to Agnes Polasek, a neighbor of Frankie and Bessie Hruska. Agnes kept the kolaches coming, and when it became clear she needed help to fulfill the continuously growing demand for the tasty pastries, she enlisted an apprentice: Frankie and Bessie’s 11-year-old granddaughter, Teri. But when the law changed to prohibit off-site food preparation, Agnes was forced to close her kolache kitchen and Hruska’s spent the next five years sadly kolache-less.
Then, in 1995, Teri – now grown-up Teresa James – began managing Hruska’s, and brought back the kolaches, baking them on-site. Today, using Adolphine Krenek’s original recipe and the freshest ingredients, Teresa and her staff – many of whom have worked for the family for decades – create 16 varieties of Hruska’s top-notch kolaches – the little Czech pastry that has become Hruska’s big roadside attraction.