In 1885 the S. F. Travis Hardware store opened on the Indian River in Cocoa, Florida. It is still in business.
The S.F. Travis Company
Samuel Franklin Travis… began the business on a merchant boat that traveled the rivers between Jacksonville and Fort Pierce delivering orders and selling general merchandise to riverside communities with little access to any significant network of roadways. In 1892, he purchased the business’ current location for use as warehouse space, which slowly grew into a retail storefront. S.F. Travis has met the needs of many notable organizations throughout its history including NASA, Lockheed Martin, the United States Air Force, and SpaceX, as well as power plants and heavy contractors.
Cocoa Florida Blog, September 3, 2015
You can visit and buy a piece of the past.
The store spreads over 35,000 square feet of the original Cocoa downtown area, now called Cocoa Village. For GPS, put in 300 Delannoy Avenue, Cocoa, FL.
Walking through the doors is like walking into an anachronism. The latest things you will find at Ace hardware next to things that look like Victorian steam technology.
The history of this business runs deep in the City of Cocoa; the City itself hadn’t been established until 10 years after the founding of S.F. Travis in 1895. Mr. Travis himself was one of the City’s founding fathers and an original Councilman.
Cocoa Florida Blog, September 3, 2015
Exploring S.F.Travis Company Hardware Store
We spent hours exploring the store. It is organized, but there is a labyrinth of aisles, stairs and even a boardwalk.
There is all kinds of regular hardware, but in more sizes than you usually find.
The store is as interesting as the stuff in it.
I love the tin ceilings.
The walls are old pine, too.
Wood and Coal Stoves
Upstairs we found stoves. There were the stoves you would find in a fireplace store near where we live in North Carolina, but there were also really unique stoves.
I found this ad in the December 1, 1908 issue of the Coshocton Daily Times, Coshocton, Ohio
FOR SALE–Used stove, radium base heater, good as new: will be sold cheap. Call at 126 Pearth street
This stove has a second surface.
A six burner stove with oven!
As you go up the stairs, there are a lot of old photos of the store.
It still looks the same now as the old photos.
The river is behind the buildings.
The S. F. Travis Company Marker
Founded in 1885, the S.F. Travis Company is the oldest continuously operating business in the city of Cocoa and one of the oldest hardware stores in Florida. Surviving two world wars, numerous hurricanes, and financial busts, the S.F. Travis Co. has been family owned and operated for over five generations, making it among the longest-running family operations in the state. Built in 1891, the store was one of the first constructed after a fire in 1890, and Colonel S.F. Travis purchased it in 1902. It is the only commercial structure in Cocoa from this period still used for its original purpose and is the oldest brick building in the city. Travis expanded his operation with a second building in 1907. He sold everything from groceries and furniture to caskets and appliances. The buildings’ exteriors have changed little since a 1924 renovation that added large display windows, the awning, brick facade, and second floor walkway between the buildings. In addition to the hardware business, this property also housed a mortuary, telegraph office, and at one point a small movie theater. It was the first building in Cocoa to have an elevator and a sprinkler system, and was one of the first businesses to install a telephone.
Predating many modern conveniences and local infrastructure, the S.F. Travis Co. conducted much of its early business by boat. The company used a dock that came right up to the back of the store. It made deliveries up and down the Indian River until the 1950s when the dock was removed and the shoreline was filled in for the Cocoa River Development project. The tools and building materials sold by the S.F. Travis Co. helped build Cocoa Village, the Kennedy Space Center, the Banana River Naval Air Station (later renamed Patrick Air Force Base), and many of the other neighboring communities. The S.F. Travis Co. sold supplies that helped build the infrastructure for Florida’s space industry and continued to serve an array of customers ranging from defense contractors and aerospace companies to small businesses and homeowners. What began as a small local hardware store has made a lasting impact on the Space Coast extending far beyond the boundaries of the little village where it began.
S.F. Travis Company History Page
The History page of sftravishardware.com is in Flash, but this is what it says;
For over 125 years, from the rise and fall of the river trade in the late 1800’s, to the birth of the space age, and into the present, The S.F. Travis Company has been in Cocoa, Fla., providing hardware products and supplies.
“In 1885, my great-grandfather, Colonel S.F.Travis, who served in the American Civil War, had a sailboat going up and down the rivers, delivering items and taking orders from Jacksonville to Fort Pierce” says fourth-generation owner Travis “Mac” Osborne who took control of operations in 1983.
In 1892, S.F.Travis purchased an existing store on the river and used it as a warehouse. The building eventually grew into a retail store and The S.F.Travis Company is there today.
“Until 1955, he still ran a barge up and down the river to make deliveries”says Osborne. “In the old days they would run tabs for customers until the crops came in, then they paid them off. Business was done on a handshake.”
Osborne conducts business in much the same way his great-grandfather did 125 years ago – he still offers free delivery (just not from a barge), has more than 3,000 house accounts (some who are third- and fourth-generation customers) and conducts business from a tin high-ceilinged building with rolling ladders and no air-conditioning.
The old-fashioned standards of customer service are still in place. “We still wait on every customer with the attitude that they’re the only one we have, “ say Osborne. “our tradition is to give exceptional service. We can’t cut back on that.”
It may be an old-fashioned store but it has acquired a unique niche that didn’t exist during S.F. Travis’ time – a location just nine miles from the Kennedy Space Center. Osborne’s customers include Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and URS. Osborne also provides supplies for NASA, the Air Force, Coast Guard, and Army in addition to power plants and heavy contractors.
“We sold the two-inch bolts that hold the shuttle to the crawler” says Osborne. “Now we’re getting into private launches with SpaceX.” Osborne also supplied the roller bearings to open the doors of NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building and the parts for repairs to the tracking satellites for rockets and shuttles.
“Sixty percent of our business is special order and have an inventory like no one else has. Many of the customers we supply need a quick response.”
“Hardware stores are the basis of any community,” says Osborne. “It’s where people gather and that’s been our place in our community.”
Historic Cocoa Village Walking Tour
The Historic Cocoa Village Walking Tour includes Travis Hardware. They have a page on their website about it.
First photo: Bicycle Club circa 1895
Second photo: Circa 1913
Third photo: Travis Hardware circa 189? (on the left)
This brick building was completed in 1909 and became the home of the Travis family businesses; they opened their first in Cocoa in 1885. The structure originally housed businesses owned by three Travis brothers; hardware and furniture on one side and dry goods and clothing on the other. There have been several additions and renovations to the building over the years, including installing the large windows at the sidewalk for displaying merchandise. Four generations of the Travis family have owned and operated the business, which is currently run by the original owner’s great-grandson. It has never had air conditioning.
~Courtesy of Central Brevard Mosquito Beaters “Memory Books”
Sketch of Travis Hardware Store by AnnaJo Vahle
You can buy a sketch of Travis Hardware Store by AnnaJo Vahle at Fine Art America.
It can be printed on canvas, framed or unframed. Or you can have it printed on metal or wood or made into a poster.
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