Hico’s location 110 miles from Horseshoe Bay makes it a perfect stop in the road on your way to Dallas or regions beyond. This tiny town (pronounced HI-ko) encompasses only 1.5 square miles and has a population near 1400, but a look around will explain why it has managed to survive the recent universal financial slump. Hico native Cindy Davis said, “I’ve seen a lot of changes here but Hico still has a country atmosphere. People take the time to wave and say ‘howdy’, and they help each other.” I experienced this friendly attitude first hand while crossing the street in downtown Hico when I passed a cowboy and he tipped his hat to me in greeting. Spend some time in Hico and you will see that “Everybody is Somebody”, as their slogan states.
When Vernon Pete Jenkins was preceded in death by his wife and son, he decided to leave his sizeable fortune to his beloved Hico. The impressive Hico High School and adjoining covered practice field on Highway 220 were built with some of these funds, as well as a hike and bike trail, named Pete’s Path, and a remodeled City Hall with a separate court room. City Secretary Anita Mueller or her assistant, Hico native Sandra Polk, are pleased to answer your questions at 254-796-4620 or go to the City Hall website at hico-tx.com.
Hico’s annual Texas Steak Cook-off began with 20 cooks nine years ago, but after being featured on the Food Channel they have enjoyed capacity crowds sampling steaks from over 100 cooks. “Cooks come with all types of sophisticated grills, but one year a man won first prize on his little Weber grill,” said this year’s chairman Mike James. All entrants are given 12 ounce Nolan Ryan rib-eye steaks to cook and those attending can choose their cook and enjoy a full meal to go with it for $25. Appetizers are available all day, and a variety of vendors add to the festive atmosphere. Mark your calendar for May 19, 2012. To order tickets and find entry rules, go to TexasSteakCookoff.com.
In the late 1880’s Hico was a cotton shipping center and the town also prospered with grain farming and sheep and cattle ranching. The town was virtually destroyed by fire in 1890 and, as you can see, the wise townspeople decided to rebuild the town in stone and brick. One of the surviving wood buildings is now called Davis Feed Mill, run by Loni and Cindy Davis for the past 30 years. The breezeway between the two buildings was once a cotton weighing station for the cotton gin, and built high enough for wagons to drive up to the weighing stand. The Davises cater to hunters with deer blinds and feeders and carry hay and all types of feed, fertilizer and much more. Visit them at 105 Avenue A or call 254-796-4690.
Save some time for a little shopping when you stop in Hico. There are a variety of shops with gourmet and down-home foods, clothing and unique gifts. Horseshoe Bay resident Ora Dell McMahon gave Hico visitors good advice: “A must on the list is having a slice of pie at the Koffee Kup to revive oneself from the serious shopping. The house just across the street to the west has scrumptious chocolates and gifts. The last time I was there the main street had one shop after the other and was a real blast to explore.”
Kevin and LaDonne Wenzel moved to Hico to start a gourmet chocolate company in 1996, named Wiseman House after their home’s first owner, artist Rufus Wiseman. Note the elegant blue and yellow Queen Anne Victorian home next to the Koffee Kup, at the intersection of Highway 281 North and Highway 6. The Wenzels have found this to be a perfect place to raise their four children. The family lived upstairs during their first few years in Hico, making and selling their chocolates downstairs which are handmade using only real chocolate, fresh fruits and nuts.
Kevin is right at home in the food business because his family has owned the Dutchman’s Hidden Valley Country Store outside of Hamilton for several decades. He grew up helping out in the roadside store selling smoked meats, preserves, fudge and other homemade items to neighbors and passing tourists. He has served on the Hico city council for ten years, and commented, “Hico is a wonderful place to live and raise children. There are still a few old buildings here at a great price for businesses like ours.”
Wiseman House truffles were selected above all others statewide to be represented at the 2009 Texas Presidential Inaugural Ball. Stop in the Chocolate Studio in downtown Hico and watch luscious chocolates being hand rolled, then just try to resist a sample. I tried the Wild Lady dark Belgian chocolate truffles and found them, in a word, divine. For shipping and other information, call 866-460-3571 or order online at
Don’t miss Homestead Antiques & Home Furnishings at 100 North Elm Street. Tim and Carol Bolton of Fredericksburg owned the Homestead store in Fredericksburg and launched a second Homestead in Hico, housed in the historic 1895 Opera House, which was one of several buildings beautifully renovated by John Jarneke of Stonewall. Brenda and Mike James bought the Hico store in 2006.
Brenda was a practicing CPA in Denton for many years, but made a career change after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Mike credits her present good health and happiness in Hico as “divine intervention.” “Now I spend my time playing with antiques and anything vintage,” said Brenda. Mike has become very involved in community affairs and serves as Executive Director of the Economic Development Council. Brenda’s arrangements and the store’s high quality of European antiques and accessories earned the Homestead mention in the Dallas Morning News June 2011 special publication about style and fashion, F!D Luxe, as one of the 50 best stores in Texas. The James travel to France and England often and also buy goods in the northeastern United States. Their biggest surprise in recent months was a call from a monk in Italy, who had seen a beautiful side altar with a painting of Jesus in it on the Homestead’s website, and asked if it was still available. Thus the side altar’s journey went from a Catholic Church in Cleveland to Hico’s Homestead to a monastery in Italy. The Homestead also sponsors a tented antique fair twice a year. Visit on May 25 and 26 and explore goods from over 30 vendors. For more information, go to wwwthehomesteadhico.com or 254-796-2510.
The Blue Star Trading Company, 112 South Pecan Street, is housed in a restored 1907 building and occupies 10,000 square feet with home furnishings, women’s casual fashions and men’s clothing lines that cater to hunters and ranchers. Be sure and take a look upstairs. Proprietor Becky Holt spent six months collecting historical photos and hanging them on the second floor of the building “as a gift back to Hico.”
Sugar Moon Antiques is located at 101 South Pecan in a family owned and renovated late 1800’s building. The top floor contains antique furniture and an art gallery. Amongst the downstairs antiques you will find a wonderful selection of linen clothing styles from FLAX. To order online go to flaxgirl.com
For a delicious snack, “pop on in” Popcorn Works (111 Pecan) and choose from fun flavors including dill pickle, backyard grill, salt & vinegar, garlic parmesan, cinnamon toast, and spicy jalapeno. Steve Douglas and Donna McInnis were looking for “a small Texas town with a quaint downtown shopping area, interesting history, and an old house we could enjoy pampering and restoring. For the first several years the house was a project and getaway for us. Then we got to know our neighbors, made good friends and decided to make Hico our home.” They opened their gourmet popcorn store in 2010 and also take mail orders. Contact them at 254-796-4125 or check out their website at hicopopcorn.com.
The Koffee Kup Family Restaurant has been owned by the Allen family since 1970, and by Lynn Allen since 1975. The Allens have made an art of comfort food and offer a full service restaurant. Baking is a specialty, and you can order pancakes, Texas size onion rings or a full dinner including Black Angus rib-eyes.
Order a pie and you can choose from one of sixteen flavors offered daily. Stop by and you will see why Texas Monthly listed the Koffee Kup in their “40 best small town cafes in Texas” publication. The Koffee Kup is open daily from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Chari Dollar of Chari’s Emporium on Elm Street, has been pleasing hungry customers for 24 years with her homemade bread and other baked goods. She is originally from Spain, and she and her husband travel widely but love coming home to Hico. You can eat in or take out at Chari’s, and she is emphatic about using all fresh ingredients in her sandwiches and other dishes.
Who was Billy the Kid? Was he really shot and buried in New Mexico or did he escape and live out his later days in peace in Hico, dying of a heart attack at age 89? Pursue the answers to these and other burning questions at the Billy the Kid Museum, open Monday thru Saturday at 114 North Pecan St. The town will be filled with antique cars on April 7, 2012, when the museum will sponsor the 2nd Annual Billy the Kid Rides Again Open Car Show. A variety of crafts and food will be available while you enjoy walking amongst the vintage cars. A car entry registration form is available at billythekidmuseum.com.
Drive down South Elm Street to see Hico’s City Park. It spreads across 43 acres beside the Bosque River, and is open to the public. On your way back to town notice a tall silo on your right after you cross the bridge. Its original purpose was to store poultry feed. Local residents told me a young couple who are avid climbers bought the property it sits on for a vacation home. Word has it they are turning the inside of the silo into a rapelling wall.
There is no end to the creativity going on in Hico, so take a break from that long drive and explore the many surprises in this friendly town.