Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

John Watson

November 6, 2011

Decade of design

Texas Hill Country Furniture and Mercantile celebrates 10th anniversary

— After retiring from the construction business in the Fort Worth/Dallas metroplex, Larry and Sherry Dennis moved to Natty Flat where he set up a sawmill and started milling his own lumber and building custom furniture. Most of the lumber he uses is milled from oak, cedar, mesquite and pecan logs from the North Texas area.

Larry next built a store by U.S. 281 to sell his furniture out of. Besides selling his furniture, he also sells handcrafted items from other artisans in the area.

Texas Hill Country Furniture and Mercantile specializes in custom furniture designs. If there is a special piece of wood furniture you would like, simply tell Larry what you want. His special orders include milling the lumber to the finished product.

Over the years Larry has added other businesses, including the Natty Flat Smokehouse Café, a blacksmith shop and a circus wagon containing the Coutureville Clothing Company.

Each year on the second Saturday in October the Dennis’ have an anniversary celebration. This year was the 10th anniversary. When we arrived Saturday morning the parking lot was full.

There were vendors from all over Texas selling hand-made items ranging from crocheted items to handcrafted jewelry to woodwork items. Some vendors were set up beneath a large shed on the south side of the furniture; still other vendors were set up on the grassy area south of the building.  

Beneath the shed on the north side of the furniture store there were several tables set up displaying the handiwork of individual members of the Parker County Wood Chippers. Visitors to their table could watch the members demonstrate their whittling skills and also had an opportunity to purchase hand-carved items.

Our next stop was the circus wagon where we met Karen Combs, who operates the Coutureville Clothing Company. Karen carries a line of ladies ready-to-wear including some western styles. And no outfit is complete without accessories, also sold by Karen. Karen keeps up on the latest styles as she receives a new shipment of goods each week.

After looking around for awhile and not seeing Larry anywhere I went back into the furniture store and asked his wife, Sherry, where he might be.

“Oh,” she replied, “he’s out by the smokehouse café preparing his specialty, fried cornbread.” So we headed out that way.

Something new this year is Shucks’ Place, a covered porch area between the furniture store and the smokehouse cafe with a bandstand in the back and tables set up in front. Shuck’s offers diners a shady place to eat, relax and listen to live music. That day there was a country and western band playing, complimenting the free food served in honor of the celebration.

We found Larry near some grills set up beneath a shed by the Smokehouse Café. One grill held a large pot of red beans and sausages were grilling on another. There was also a griddle set up where Larry was preparing his specialty, fried cornbread. He was preparing two varieties, regular and jalapeño cornbread. I recommend the jalapeno cornbread with the sausages.

While we were there a group of motorcyclists stopped by to get some of the red beans, sausage and cornbread. It seems that red beans and cornbread is everyone’s comfort food.

And no celebration is complete without cake. In the open area in front of the bandstand there was a flatbed wagon with free cake for everyone.

Another new addition I noticed was a large building they had moved onto an area on the north side of the property. This appeared to be part of an old World War II army barracks. When I asked Larry what he planned to do with it he replied, “I’m thinking about putting in an old-time general store, or do you have a better idea?” My reply was, “That sounds good to me.”

The Texas Hill Country Furniture Store is easy to locate on U.S. 281 just north of Texas 4 with a 27-foot-tall rocking chair sitting by the road, just inside the fence. This serves two purposes, first to get your attention to the store, and second to promote Larry’s hand-crafted wooden rocking chairs.

If you would like to get a wooden rocker like Grandpa used to have this is the place to get it.

Christmas is coming up in a few weeks and this will be a good place to shop for that unusual gift for someone special, from small to large items.

One very unique item is a wooden bath tub made like the old-time claw foot tubs that some of us remember seeing from years back.

This would make a great conversation piece in the den with glass over it to make terrarium coffee table.

While there shopping be sure to stop by the Smoke House Café to have a barbecue lunch with all the trimmings.

They are open Tuesday through Sunday and closed on Monday. For information, visit


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