Homegrown Slacker

Photography by Jenna Noel

The Chevron at the corner of South Congress and Riverside might look like your run-of-the-mill gas station-food store combo, but once inside, customers quickly realize this isn’t the average git-n-go. Of course some of the usual suspects can be found hanging out—Twinkies and Ding Dongs and syrupy fountain drinks available in cups the size of Chicago. But this store has something extra to offer—it’s been continuously owned and operated by the same family since 1973, and it’s watched Austin grow up. Being local means something here.

“I’m third generation,” says owner, Ken Slack. “I started working here in high school, back when I had hair,” he says with a laugh, gesturing to his shiny pate.

The top of Slack’s head isn’t the only reflective thing. There are solar panels on the roof of the building, and still more atop the station’s carwash—you know, the one with the mural of the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue standing in front of the Capitol.

Slack says he’s carried local products for years, even before it was the thing to do, and often rotates in new inventory. Currently, he features Segovia Produce, Sweet Leaf Tea, Out to Lunch sandwiches, Ruta Maya coffee, Mary Louise Butters Brownies, Austin Natural Soap, Katz’s Deli sandwiches and Texas Teas.

“Being independent and a small-business owner myself, I like to support those in similar positions . . . to help them succeed,” says Slack. “Because we’re a single business, we don’t have to deal with economy of scale. I’m not afraid to put in new products.”

Customers appear to appreciate the dedication to local fare. In addition to those just passing through or in town for ACL, Slack has a large base of loyal regulars. “Some folks have been coming in for thirty-five years,” he says.

Longtime customer Diana says she often drops in for a midday pick-me-up. “I love [the store] because it’s convenient; I work next door. The guys are such a pleasure. They really do try to accommodate when I ask for a certain kind of coffee or a certain kind of sandwich,” she says. “When I need a break, they’ll always have a joke and they’ll pick my mood up."

“I live and work next door,” says Glenda Wilsford, who’s been a regular at the Chevron for five years. “I go in for anything from beer to T-shirts to food—whatever I’m out of that day. They all know me by name. If I need something, Ken gets it.”

Slack doesn’t just sell local products; he indulges in them. During times when he’s too busy to go out, he dines at what he calls Café Chevron. “I love the selection of sandwiches—They’re really good.”

Find Slack’s homegrown Chevron at 400 S. Congress Ave.