BROOKSHIRE, Texas – Just west of Houston, in the small community of Brookshire, you’ll find a long tree-lined drive leading to a Texas-sized barn looking building. As soon you pull up to this place, it comes to light that this building is a radiant, retro, repository. Known as the Hemi Hideout, what started as a place to park some cars has turned into so much more.
John Hovas is the reason the Hemi Hideout is here and it all started when his father bought him a car – but not just any car.
“In 1970, my dad bought me a Dodge Super Bee. It was like the yellow one back here in the background, and this is why this is a Dodge and Plymouth venue,” said Hovas. “I’m trying to hang on to the past and reminisce the old days.”
Hovas’s time with his Super Bee flew by.
“I had that car for probably 2 or 3 years, and then got married, had children, and that car had to go,” Hovas said. “Everybody wishes they had the cars that they had originally, but who has the money or the wherewithal to do that? So I had to straighten up and walk a tight line at an early age.”
After a career of successful entrepreneurial ventures, Hovas wanted to relive his glory days, so he got his old car back plus a few more and built a small man cave in Waller country.
Construction took over two years and now Hovas is the proud owner of the biggest timber-framed building in Texas. But it’s not just home to his car collection, it’s also home to a large collection of rare, colorful, and crazy signs.
“So, there’s probably 1200 signs in here right now, and it can easily hold three times as many,” said Hovas. “The more you put, the cooler it looks. The more cluttered, so to speak, the more intriguing, and you think you miss something and you want to go back over it again, and we hear that comment all the time here.”
With over 21,000 square feet of space in this cathedral to neon and Americana, you’ll find some of the most unique and rare signs in all of the United States. But for Hovas, it’s more than just flashy flares and radiant rays, it’s the story that these old advertisements tell.
“Men, women, old, young, everybody seems to love it because of all the beauty and the bling going on. But, when you start talking about the history behind it, it really grabs everybody’s attention,” Hovas said.
Having such a unique and luminous location brings in all sorts of life events – some of which you might not expect.
“We’ve had several weddings, we’ve had funerals in here too. I mean, I didn’t never dream in a million years, but car guys, it makes for a great, soft, nice touch if you’re a car guy,” said Hovas. “A farewell party in here, and they’re both fantastic.”
Despite having light bill from $2500 to $4500 that’s higher than a house payment, Hovas doesn’t charge people to gaze at the glare in his garage. But if you do feel like you need to contribute to the cause, you’ll be doing more than just lighting the lights.
“We ask for a five dollar donation, and we match it dollar for dollar and all the funds go to local charities here, and we’ve done some remarkable things in Brookshire and Sealy area that we’re proud of,” Hovas said. “So if you don’t want to donate, you don’t have to.”
And if you take a fancy to some flashing neon lights, you’re allowed to bring them home – for a price. But for Hovas, this building is more than just trip down memory lane. It’s a culmination of everything he’s ever worked hard for, it’s a chance to bring joy and light up the eyes and hearts of the generations who got to see these signs in their glory years or to those who may have never seen the light.
“This will be the ride of my life, no doubt about that. I’ve done quite a few things that I’m proud of in my life, but this will be the ride of my life, and it’s still going on,” said Hovas.