A piece of Waco’s retailing history goes on sale March 29, when auctioneers will take bids on western wear, shoe-repair machines, furniture and even the iconic neon sign in front of the Piazza Brothers store at 1304 N. New Road, which can trace its roots to the early 1900s.
Sandy Piazza, 66, has hired Clark Auction Co. to liquidate the assets of the longtime family business that her late husband, Tommy Piazza Jr., operated until failing health forced him to shutter the establishment in 2011.
Hats, boots and belts remained on display inside the darkened building until Piazza launched a clearance sale more than a year later.
Sandy Piazza said she had hoped longtime customers would snap up the discounted products, clearing the store to its bare walls.
She said she was heartened by the community’s response, saying “people shared so many memories and condolences,” but she cut short the sale because she found it emotionally draining.
She has turned to Clark Auction Co. to complete the task, saying, “I think it’s best just to let it go.”
Piazza Brothers sold an array of western apparel in later years, but the family founded it as a shoe- repair business.
“We are auctioning 12 to 15 machines that were used for that, many of them very old. One looks like the building went up around it,” Robbie Clark with Clark Auction Co. said. “I would guess that an old shoemaker would be interested in what we have, and we have had inquiries.”
Clark said he will sort the merchandise into about 350 lots of similar items, with bidders making offers on each lot. No minimums will be established, so the high bidder will walk away with each lot, regardless of the size of the bid.
The exception is the 6,200-square-foot building, with Piazza reserving the right to accept or reject the top dollar.
“But I want to emphasize that she is a very aggressive seller,” Clark said of Piazza.
The shop on New Road was the latest manifestation of what Piazza Brothers became after Tommy Piazza Jr.’s grandfather, Samuel Piazza, left his job in a shoe factory in Sicily and immigrated to the United States to better support his growing family, according to company records.
In the early 1900s, he opened a store in Waco that was strictly shoe repair. Eventually, sons Tom Sr., Ralph and Rico Piazza took over.
During the early 1950s, the business expanded to include leather goods, and it occupied two locations on Austin Avenue at different times. Another move took the store to Westview Village, at Valley Mills and Waco drives, where it began selling western wear.
Tommy Piazza Sr. took control of Piazza Brothers in 1967, and Tommy Jr. bought it six years later.
It later found a home on New Road, where a prominent feature is the maroon-and-white neon sign that says, “Piazza Bros. Shoe Service Cowboy Boots.”
“I believe some memorabilia buff will find that irresistible,” said Clark, noting it will be sold as a single item.
Clark declined to speculate on how much the auction would fetch for Piazza, but did say the auction house will adjust its percentage of the gross depending on its success.
“Who’s to say how much a pair of boots that has been sitting on the shelf for two years is worth?” he said.
Piazza Brothers auction
Clark Auction Co. will auction off merchandise, equipment and fixtures of the historic Piazza Brothers store:
When: 10 a.m. March 29
Where: 1304 N. New Road
Property preview: 1 to 6 p.m. March 28
Online information: www.clarkauctioncompany.com
Source: Clark Auction Co.