Burkett’s Emporium carries through three generations, customer trends to reach 75th year

Published 12:38 am Saturday, April 9, 2022

The last two years have brought the end to many businesses as owners struggled to work through pandemic restrictions and employee shortages.

But in Nederland, Burkett’s Emporium came out of COVID-19 to celebrate its 75th year in business.

“We just adapted like everyone else,” said owner Holly May. “We went to curbside. We did social media. We were selling things through Facebook. Whatever it took.”

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Since the 1960s, Port Neches-Groves High School cheerleaders and Indianettes have celebrated joining the team by purchasing a megaphone or boot necklace.

“They couldn’t come in and get the necklace they always get, so we were up here making them and they’d pick them up curbside,” May said.

Burkett’s started on Port Neches Avenue with May’s grandparents, Elwood and Kathleen Burkett. But the business soon became not just family owned and operated, but female owned and operated.

“My grandfather actually started it,” May said. “My mother was an only child, so it went to her. And I’m an only child, so now it’s me.”

May also has only one child — a teenage daughter.

But will she continue to work in the family business?

“We’ll see,” May said with a laugh. “My mother started in the store when she was young and out of college. She moved to Houston for a little while, and then she came back. I think (May’s daughter is) taking after my mother even though she never knew her. I think she’ll figure out what she wants to do but also be here. We’re hoping she’s going to be the fourth.”

The store owner lost her mother at about the same time she got pregnant with her child.

“But she is so much like her and doesn’t even know,” May said.

Her grandmother died in January 2019 at the age of 94.

But the legacies of both women live on in the store, where customers have been as generational as the store owners.

May has seen customers grow and expand their families, as they have her.

“They have watched me grow up; they’ve watched my daughter grow up. They’ve been here through all of that,” she said.

While the customers have remained loyal, trends have not. But Burkett’s has adapted to what’s in demand.

“We change the way our customers do,” she said. “Now people want more functional than collectible. We move with what the customers are looking for.”

Some of their unique items include baby jewelry, bereavement gifts and various hard-to-find collections.

They also handle jewelry repair and watch batteries.

On April 29, the store celebrates its 75th anniversary with a ribbon cutting ceremony that includes appetizers, refreshments and door prizes.