Last-chance stop for visitors en route to Big Bend National Park
The Little Burro Country Store in West Texas is about as remote as you can get. “They say we’re the last frontier, a warm Alaska,” said Pam Gordon, owner.
The store sits about 40 miles north of the Mexican border. And while it has an Alpine mailing address, it’s actually some 60 miles south of the town.
But that doesn’t stop Gordon from drawing customers from all over the country. Located 24 miles from the entrance to Big Bend National Park, Little Burro is one of travelers’ last chances to pick up supplies before reaching the park, according to Gordon.
“We are the only services for 100 miles here. The only Wi-Fi, only water, only food,” she said.
While Terlingua, nearly 30 miles south of Little Burro, has a grocery store and “about three restaurants,” Gordon’s country store is the only option for residents and travelers between the town and park.
Little Burro is part of Gordon’s company, Jackass Flats. She and a couple of business partners set about taking the property and improving it. In 2016, they opened the store. The company’s property also has primitive camping, RV sites, Airbnbs and an art center constructed from a restored old tin barn. It also boasts a community center called The Cactus Farm and, most recently, an equine facility.
Gordon, who hails from Indiana, spent most of her career riding, training and teaching horses. Her only experience in the grocery business was her first job at age 16. It was “a little store almost identical to this one,” she said.
Gordon fell in love with West Texas while riding client horses in the area and decided to buy the property that now houses Jackass Flats’ various ventures.
“We’re just encompassing the needs of the immediate neighborhood area,” she said. “Most of our revenue influx here – besides the locals, which originally was very minimal – comes from tourism. So we have catered to the tourism [at] the onset of the business..now we’re getting more people coming in [locally].”
According to Gordon, more people are moving to the area to “escape the craziness of the world.” During the COVID-19 pandemic, her sales numbers increased 45 percent.
“It became local. Yeah, I had tourists who knew where we were who were trying to escape the craziness up north and came down here. We’re so remote,” she said. “We got people who come down who have winter homes, vacation homes or RVs that visit the parks.”
The community around Little Burro Country Store is mostly ranching country, “big ranches that are pretty much self-sustained within themselves,” she said.
“Where we are is kind of on the edge of that, right at the cusp between traditional ranching and the ghost town tourism of the Big Bend State Park. The ghost town draws a lot of musicians. We get a lot of influx out of Austin down here as far as our music and art.”
The store itself has become a gathering place for people to come and “talk smart,” Gordon said.
“You never know who you will find in here sitting in the middle of the room when they come in for ice cream in the afternoon. It’s a big deal to come down here and get ice cream in the summertime.
“We got an old-timey front porch, people come sitting on the porch figuring out all the answers for the world.”
The store itself is about 1,600-1,700 square feet with three aisles but encompasses grocery basics, fresh produce, camping gear, beer and wine, frozen and refrigerated items and fresh local meat. It also offers a variety of healthy and organic foods and dietary alternatives.
“For a small floor space we are pretty versatile. A lot of people come in and they’re shocked at the inventory that we carry,” Gordon said. “They’re kind of surprised that – out here at the end of the world – the store’s here.”
Gordon is pleased with how Jackass Flats has evolved and doesn’t have any immediate plans to expand the store or property. She hopes to one day include gas pumps, but also doesn’t want the hassle of them. Little Burro does have an air compressor to refill tires because traveling to and from Terlingua and Big Bend is “just awful and people get flats all the time.”
There are no gas stations between Alpine and the two other major landmarks. Gordon knows the park’s station can run out of fuel fast during peak times such as spring break. “People start freaking out because there isn’t any gas for another 100 miles.”
To view the grocer’s Facebook page, click here.