Sleepy Little Texas Town


Digital Exclusive


Words by Ginny Ellsworth

Photos by Shannon O’Hara

 

As you leave the hustle and bustle of the 4th largest city in America, about 45 minutes west, you can take any turn off I-10, outside Houston, and the dull buzz of the city quickly fades to the hum of a little Texas town. It could be any in a series of railroad towns that parallel I-10, all surrounded by open fields and big Texas sky. In many, you can zig-zag your way off Highway 90 into a signature “downtown”—the kind that makes you want to put your boots on, walk to the soda shop for a sandwich and say “howdy” to every stranger you meet on the way.

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In Sealy, just blocks from downtown, on a side road off Main Street, sits a white clapboard building that you might assume to be a church at first glance—except, that on second glance, you notice two stories of 12-pane windows where you would expect a series of stained glass stretching from floor to ceiling, and a field where you might expect a parking lot to sit waiting for Sunday morning patrons.

The curious building now houses the creative workings of Stash, the artisan leather goods company. Stash is owned and operated by Cheryl Schulke, the granddaughter of the building’s previous owners.

Scope out the front door and take one step across the threshold, and you’ll find the walls are full of decades and decades of stories. The floor creaks a little as your heel strikes the bare wood with each step.  Walking into a leather goods production studio, you expect a leathery smell—but instead you’re greeted with the scent of a little must and a little dirt, mingling with old wood. There are even a few undertones of freshly sharpened pencil, and once you know the history, the scent tells you you’re not alone in those shiplap walls.

As I took in the sights, smells, and sounds, I heard the clomp of boots down an original wooden staircase as Kristin came to greet me. I tried to look inconspicuous, like I hadn’t been burning every tiny detail into my memory… the pile of cotton in the corner, the raw wood machinery, the metal tracks across the floor.

“I’ll give you a tour,” she said, “but it won’t be as good as when Cheryl tells the story.” I smiled at her warning, which turned out to be untrue. Even though you can see straight through, the space was divided into rooms. Kristin explained the process of stuffing the cotton into the giant wood bins that were built right into the building and how a completed mattress rolled down the tracks. My mind could only soak in so much—it leapt to imagine the mattress makers working on each machine—what they wore, what they talked about, or if they could hear themselves think with the loud buzz of the fan.

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Sealy resident Daniel Haynes created a unique technology to manufacture cotton mattresses. After selling to investors, he opened a new mattress factory in 1909, which brings us to the white clapboard building. A few decades later, Cheryl’s grandparents purchased the building and continued the mattress business, while adding upholstery and design.

The rich history of the building is not lost on the Stash crew as they conceptualize, cut and hand-stitch their leather goods. The mattress making equipment is largely left untouched—not to mention the bundle of cotton here and there that didn’t quite make it into a mattress before production came to a halt in 1976.

So as you stretch out on your Posturepedic mattress tonight, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and take in the smells and the sounds around you. Although companies are acquired, grow, and change, take a moment to appreciate that your good night’s sleep was brought to you by the creative minds in a sleepy little Texas town.