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2014-05-15

The song of life plays on for Pipe Creek Trading Company vendor

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Happy notes and discordant chords make up the songs of our lives. For Pipe Creek Trading Company vendor Jay Urbano, the music of his life has taken on a new melody in recent years.
Urbano's parents, Minerva and Louis, spent 13 years as vendors at the Highway 16 flea market and antique mall. For years, they commuted from San Antonio to man their shop. Minerva, a seamstress and crafter, collected and sold antique sewing machines and fabric crafts, many of which she created herself.
"She brought a lot of her ideas out the Pipe Creek and had craft, painting and doll making classes," said Urbano. Louis enjoyed making boxes, benches and shelves of old barnwood.
"The last couple of years, they had health concerns, so they just came out sporadically," said Jay, "and I gradually took over more and more of the business."
Following the deaths of his parents, Jay found himself unexpectedly in full control of a sales business.
"I'm a finish carpenter and a musician," he said. "So this was not exactly in my plans." However, becoming the primary caregiver for his parents made it difficult to continue with his regular employment and his siblings encouraged him to keep up the family tradition in Pipe Creek.
"My sister says that mom and dad would want me to keep busy," he said.
Loyal customers frequently stop by and share remembrances of the elder Urbanos. "A lot of people stop by and visit. It's like therapy for me," he said.
Urbano continues to build the rustic style pieces originated by his dad. "I even do custom work for clients. I'm working on a small bathroom cabinet right now for a woman that I've done other pieces for," he said.
He is also getting back to his music, another important part of his life that got moved to the back burner while caring for his parents.
"I've been in the band for 38 years," he said. "It's a five-piece band called The Smith Brothers, because none of us are Smiths!"
The band plays mostly rhythm and blues and non-top 40 tunes. "We play music we enjoy and we entertain," he said. "We don't take requests, and you won't hear us play that song you hear every hour on the radio. But our audiences are always pleasantly surprised." He does a lot of jazz and ballads, "some of the romantic stuff, 'cause I'm a real sap!"
Costs of hiring a full band have made gigs for the whole group more rare these days, but the members do a lot of solos, duos and trio appearances.
Urbano hosts a jam on Wednesday nights at Jake's in Pipe Creek, "and you have to be good to perform," he added. On Thursday nights, he and whoever from The Smith Brothers play, much to the delight of the crowd. On Fridays, he and harmonica player Byrl Cromwell provide the musical backdrop at the Bistro Café in Pipe Creek.
The Pipe Creek Trading Company is made up of an assortment of iconic barracks-type buildings lined up like the wagons of the pioneers of the Old West. It's located just north of Pipe Creek at the intersection of Phil's Road and Highway 16. The mall is open Saturdays and Sundays from 9 to 5, or later if they get busy.
In addition to Urbano, the vendors include owner James McCall and his partner, Brenda Jordan. They have several large rooms stuffed with everything from furniture to glassware to tools. "We even have a few antiques in here," said McCall, waving an arm at the floor to ceiling treasure trove.
Raul and Maria Garza offer a lot of dolls and sports memorabilia in their shop. The ruling doyenne of the mall, Dorothy Scales, has been selling lovely things in her little corner for over 20 years.
If you're in the market for antique firearms or collectible knives, Bob Klein's shop is the place to discover that unique piece you must take home.
John Hamilton mans Tex Antiques, with a wide variety of items filling his spaces.
One vendor doesn't feature antiques at all. Super Frank Castro runs a guitar repair shop at the north end of the trading company. He can supply picks and strings, too. A talented musician in his own right, Castro can do the custom repairs on most stringed instruments.
So, take an hour or two out of your weekend and browse around Pipe Creek Trading Company. Even if you don't find a treasure to take home with you, you'll surely make a friend or two with the great folks behind the counters who share your love of old things.