Our History

At Hruska’s, we embrace being “old school.” We are, after all, a third-generation family-owned and -operated business. With almost a century of success, we have often found it’s the old-fashioned ways that set us apart and above the rest. “Old school” is what built our renowned tradition of deliciousness.

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At the same time, we realize this is the 21st century. We’re committed to continuous improvement so we can keep on succeeding. We’re always seeking ways to grow, to connect, to build a better skrumption.

The Store

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.

The Kolaches

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.

The Hruska Family

Generation I: Frank J. Hruska

Frantisek J. Hruska – nicknamed ‘Frank’ – was born in Ross Prairie in Fayette County, Texas, in 1880. In 1903, Frank wed Louise Mikeska, also a Ross Prairie native, at the Ross Prairie CMB Church. He was 23, she was 19.

Frank and Louise farmed in Ross Prairie for several years as they began having their family of five children: Alfred, Elenora, Frank R. (Frankie), Leslie and Gussie Lee. Both Alfred and Leslie died during childhood of dysentery, leaving only the two brothers – Frankie and Gus Lee – and their sister, Elenora.

In 1912, Frank and Louise moved their family to Ellinger and opened up the Hruska General Merchandise Store on Main Street. Louise died of cancer in 1941. In 1947, Frank passed the general store on to his sons, Frankie and Gus Lee. A year later, Frank remarried at age 68 to Annie Sulik of La Grange. He died in 1964 at the age of 84.

Generation II: Frank R. Hruska

Frank R. Hruska – nicknamed ‘Frankie’ – was born in Ross Prairie in Fayette County, Texas, in 1908. In 1940 – the year before his mother’s death – Frankie wed Bessie Walla, an Ellinger native. He was 32, she was 24.

Bessie’s own father and grandfather were rather well-known Texas inventors. Her grandfather, Frank Walla, Sr., invented the first cotton cleaner and distributor in the state for use in cotton gins. And her father, Frank Walla, Jr., designed and built his own cotton gin with the help of her brothers.

Frankie and Bessie had two children: daughter Karen and son Franklin. In 1947, Frankie partnered with his younger brother Gus Lee to take over ownership and operation of their father’s general store. They changed the company name to reflect the new management: Hruska Brothers.

In 1952, Frankie and Bessie branched out and built their own service station along Highway 71. The business venture proved extremely successful. So when the brothers decided to part professional ways in 1966, Frankie opened up his Hruska’s Store & Bakery next to the highway service station, where it continues to thrive today.

Frankie and Bessie were married more than 50 years, until Bessie’s death in 1993 at the age of 77. Frankie died in 1997 at the age of 88.

Today’s Generation

Frankie and Bessie’s daughter, Karen, is the mother of John Haworth, Lucas Knickerbocker, and current Hruska’s owner and operator, Teresa James. Teresa began managing Hruska’s in 1995, eventually taking over the family business from her grandparents and continuing Hruska’s rich tradition of deliciousness in her hometown of Ellinger.