It was never a depot or owned by the railroad even though it stands in the block just west of the tracks.
The building at 402 E. Chambers St. has always housed some type of warehouse since its first business in 1904. The walls were thick, the metal awning curved and the 60-foot-by-100-foot building had a rail sighting. It looks much the same way today.
Miles and miles of auto parts have filled the building since 1982.
“The original M’s in 4M was our father Otis Martindale and the three oldest boys, Donnie, Bobby and me,” Bill Martindale said. “Lanny Martindale and Brian Martindale joined the management team in the late 1980s. We now have several more M’s involved in the company, including Amey Martindale, Brenna Wheelock Martindale, Braxton Martindale, Harley Martindale and brother-in-law Tim Bivens.”
The business has evolved from a small family store on Texas 171 near Lake Whitney where they sold groceries, gasoline and fish bate. That was 1957.
Their father was a poor farm boy, married with four small kids. He had no business experience and an eights-grade education, but he was loaded with common sense and new how to win customers.
Otis and his family lived in two small rooms back of the store. He posted a “HONK FOR SERVICE” sign out front, put his recliner by the cash register where he slept, waiting on customers 24 hours a day. He was driven to succeed.
“His idea was to treat customers exactly how they wanted to be treated, better than your competitor, and you will win them over,” Bill Martindale said.
The business continues to operate with that philosophy.
“Part of our operation was that Dad and the boys would go seine minnows, perch and shad out of the Nolan River then sell them by the dozen to the public,” he said.
MARCO SUPPLY INC. was formed, short for Martindale Co., with the culture of treating your customer right. About 1965 the company gradually transitioned from bait and groceries to a few lines of auto parts and tires. Customers came from the area and the surrounding counties. They liked the prices and the service.
With a small business loan from Lowell “Stretch” Smith at the Cowpasture Bank in Rio Vista they began growing the business.
“We started as an automotive parts store in 1970 at 1803 N. Main St. in Cleburne,” Lanny Martindale said. “In 1978 my father and three brothers made a big jump by changing from a store to 4M Parts Warehouse. The name stands for four Martindales.”
On May 3, 1979, there was a flood. The decision was made to look for a new building, one that would not flood.
In 1982 they moved to the larger location, 402 E. Chambers St.
“Now we are working out of 18 buildings and have 66 employees,” Lanny Martindale said.
They own eight auto parts stores — two in Cleburne (the main warehouse at 402 E. Chambers St. and Bob’s Auto Supply), plus one in Hillsboro, Whitney, Clifton, Teague, Jewett and Ferris. Wholesale deliveries are made within 120 miles, including a daily delivery to Oklahoma.
“If you’ve had your car worked on in Cleburne during the last 40 years there is a good chance you have something in your vehicle that came through our warehouse,” Lanny Martindale said.
Former owners of
402 E. Chambers St.
The 1910 Sanborn map shows the brick structure, metal awning, the platform on the south end of the building, and the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe tracks that ran up the south to the platform. McCord-Collins Grocery Co. opened in 1904. The Martindales took up that track a few years ago so they could run their equipment between the buildings.
Smith Transfer & Storage occupied the building from 1909-11. William H. Smith, owner, advertised in the city directory with the slogan, “Household goods stored, moved or packed.” That may have been the first storage company in town.
Boren-Stewart Co. operated a wholesale grocery there about 1911-12, managed by Joe M. Higginbotham. Years later there was a Higginbotham Lumber company just south of them. When they relocated the Martindales purchased that building and moved their offices into it.
Blasingame Transfer & Storage was next to occupy the building. Hugh C. Blasingame had been a contractor prior to opening the transfer and storage business in 1913. He was active in the community and a volunteer firefighter. Their delivery truck, manufactured by the Wichita Falls Motor Co., was the first of it’s kind in Cleburne.
There was a tragic accident that involved Will Blasingame, son of H.C. Blasingame. Will aimed a .22 rifle at a painted letter on a boxcar door and pulled the trigger. He had no idea that employee John Cashion was working inside the car. The bullet went through door and struck his Cashion’s head. They took him by wagon to the doctor’s office but he did not survive. Cashion, also a volunteer with the fire department, had been driving the fire wagon for about 10 years.
Webster Grocer Co. headquarters were located in Dallas with warehouses in Cleburne and Cisco. The Cleburne location was opened about 1914, had five employees and was managed by Don Pinkney Webster. They were in business until about 1930. His daughter, Blanche, she said much of the can food products they carried were the “Plee-zing” brand.
Roberson Wholesale Grocery sold Bright and Early coffee, which evolved into the Duncan Coffee business. They continued the wholesale business in 1938 at 402 and 404 E. Chambers St.
F.N. Wooldridge and Willie A Meals were associated with Wooldridge & Meals Wholesale in 1941-61 or maybe longer. During these years a small secure room with thick walls at the front of the building was used for cigarette storage. The 1961 city directory list Clayton B. Wooldridge as President of Cleburne Savings and Loan Association and associated with the warehouse.
The former owner and publisher of the Cleburne Times-Review, William Rawland, purchased the building in the mid-1960s and used it for storage.
Gibson’s also stored items in the building in 1971.
When Rawland sold the building to 4M Parts Warehouse in 1982 the Martindales inherited almost 60 years of historical Cleburne Times-Review newspapers. For the next four decades the papers were thoughtfully cared for.
They knew they had a treasure. More recently the papers were arranged by years and stored on shelves on the third floor of the warehouse in the old Cooper Grocery Co. building, now used for their expanding auto parts business.
They recently donated the papers to the Layland Museum, but before arriving at their new home they had to be cleaned, counted and will be sent to Denton.
“Elias Rios Jr. is a senior in high school, a close friend, and a hard worker. I guess his title might be Hardworking Special Ops Team Member,” Lanny Martindale said.
Rios moved the heavy, dirty monthly bound newspapers from the third floor of the Cooper building to the lower floor. Then the papers were loaded into a truck and delivered by Rios and Tim Bivins to the Marti Enterprises building on North Main Street where members of the Cleburne Fire Department moved them inside. Volunteers cleaned the stacks of dusty papers.
Employees of The Portal to Texas History at the University of North Texas will be scanning the fragile pages and placing them online with free searchable access. Dozens of rolls of microfilm from two other newspapers, the Cleburne Morning Review and the Cleburne Daily Enterprise now available at the Cleburne Public Library, will also be processed and included with the project. The Enterprise dates go back to 1894.
The process of preparing the papers will take several months and funding to cover the project will include grants and individual contributions. More information on funding will be announced soon.
For those who research online it can’t come soon enough.
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Mollie Mims at cleburnetx