CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Since 1960, Corpus Christi – the sparkling city by the sea – has had a burger staple off of South Staples.
Not much has changed over the years at the Hamlin Pharmacy for one simple reason: it’s been the same people running this mom-and-pop store since the start. Karen Nicholson was four when her parents opened the pharmacy and has been working here her whole life.
“I used to come down here with my grandmother a lot, and she would put me on a box so I could reach the register and check out customers,” said Karen.
Of course, Karen’s dad Karl, the man who hammered out Hamlin, is still prescribing pills for patients.
“This has always been the dream of her mother and I. And some day this will all be hers, and that day’s approaching faster as I’m getting up to 90 miles an hour,” Karl said.
Then there’s Jesse Lerma, the cook. Since day one, Jesse has been the man behind the myth of the great grub at Hamlin’s.
“Jesse, the cook, is the original cook. He’s still working here, and my parents and I, we’re still here, and some of the fixtures and counters are still the same, and we cook the hamburgers the same as we did when we first opened,” said Karen.
Having worked at Hamlin for over 55 years, Jesse is justifiably one of the most experienced cooks in Corpus and his chili is famous for miles.
“If I want some good, homemade chili, Hamlin Pharmacy’s the way to go,” said Noe Cantu, Port Aransas resident and customer at the eatery.
That homemade chili is the star attraction on Jesse’s Chili Cheese Burger. A simple quarter pound patty is placed on the grill, the bun starts to toast, and fries are fried up. Three minutes and a flip later, cheese is placed on the patty while mustard, onions, and jalapenos get bestowed on the bun. Then comes the famous chili that hides the jalapenos and the patty is placed on top. Time to fill our prescription!
With so many ingredients poured on top of that patty, you have to be a little adventurous when it’s time to take a bite. The incredible flavor explosion is not just because of the delicious fixings Jesse puts in there; it’s also about the history, time, and years of dedication that it took to make such a tasty burger.
“Since I’ve known it all my life, it doesn’t seem like it is, but listening to other people when they come into the store and tell me, I’ve come to realize how special this really is, and I’m really thankful to be a part of it,” said Karen.
A sentiment that is echoed by the customers that fill the store six days out of the week.
“This is a neighborhood pharmacy and they care about the local people and the regular customers that come in,” said Cantu. “You want good chili, and it’s from Corpus, and it’s a neighborhood pharmacy, come if – you need to come and have it.”