BEAUMONT — When driving back to Mid-County from Austin, Port Neches native Melissa Black sees the Pearl Brewery sign on Interstate 10 as a local icon, reminding her that she is almost home and filling her with nostalgia.
“As you pass through the area, it’s something that you identify with home,” Black, 23, said.
The tall, 60-year-old sign is located on the property of R&P Employer Solutions, Inc., 3898 Hollywood, off Interstate 10 West in Beaumont. The business and surrounding property is currently on the market to be sold for $789,000.
When Black, who now lives in Austin, and her friend Steffan Sangster, also originally from Port Neches, found out that the owner of the business was not willing to sell the piece of land that the sign sits on separately from the property, they realized that a part of Beaumont’s history could disappear.
“It’s no space needle in Seattle, but it’s unique to Beaumont,” Sangster, 23, said. “It’s an important marker and part of our history — it’s worth preserving.”
Rodney Robichau, owner of Employer Solutions, remembers the antique Pearl sign from his childhood.
“My father worked in the beer business in the 1940s and then I worked in it in the late 80s and 90s with Giglio Distributing,” Robichau said. “I remember I was a little boy when the distributorship was built — nearly 60 years ago.”
Not much information is available about what Pearl Brewery had set up in Beaumont in the mid-20th century.
According to the Texas State Historical Association website, the Pearl Brewery Company started in 1881 in San Antonio as the J.B. Beholradsky Brewery. By 1916, Pearl was the largest brewery in Texas.
Over the course of 80 years, many microbreweries were bought out larger national companies and Pearl closed its doors in June 2001. The Miller Brewing Company in Fort Worth later assumed production of Pearl beer.
Since putting the highly visible Interstate 10 property on the market six months ago, Robichau has had a number of interested buyers.
“People are antsy that the building is for sale because of the sign,” he said. “Maybe they would be able to preserve it and put it somewhere.”
Though they have both moved to other areas in Texas, Sangster and Black travel home regularly. “This will always be my home and the sign is a part of my home,” Sangster said. “Just because we don’t live here doesn’t mean we don’t care.”
“We’re trying to raise awareness at this point and see what avenues open up for this,” Sangster said. “We want to branch out and network with other people interested in preserving the sign.”
The duo wants to start an online petition and has started to raise awareness for preservation of the sign by detailed emails to the mayor and the Beaumont Heritage Society.
Though they would be alright with the sign being moved from the property for preservation, they would rather it stay where it is.
“If the least we can do is save it, then that’s okay,” Black said.
With Facebook and other social networks being a daily part of life, preservation efforts can be easily spread, but also easily forgotten.
Beaumont’s “Save Our Pig” effort to preserve the historic Pig Stand #41 was started in 2011 when city leaders were looking to bull doze the building at the corner of Calder Avenue and Martin Luther King Pkwy.
Shirts were made, meetups were had and the building is still there. But the official “Save Our Pig” Facebook page has been silent for months and no cleanup efforts have been made to keep up the deteriorating building in a while.
“We are excited by the way people have responded to it,” Black said. “Everyone is willing to help and support us and it’s really beautiful.”
As of now, there are no concrete buyers for the Interstate 10 warehouse location.
“There’s not so much here for our generation, but we are now in the position to do something about it,” Sangster said.