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2012-01-08 / Front Page

Wilson True Value closing its doors after 66 years in business

By Gloria Bigger-Cantu gbiggercantu@king-ranch.com


Ben Wilson III and his wife, Pam are pictured in the key department of Wilson True Value Store Wednesday. (Photo by Gloria Bigger-Cantu) Ben Wilson III and his wife, Pam are pictured in the key department of Wilson True Value Store Wednesday. (Photo by Gloria Bigger-Cantu) A family- owned business that has been in Kingsville for 66 years will close this month. Wilson True Value Hardware, highly visible in the downtown area, will close its doors Jan. 31.

“The name has to go down that day,” owner Ben Wilson III said Wednesday.

“It’s time to retire,” Wilson said. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years.”

“We enjoy our time together, and there are things we want to do while we have our health,” he said. Wilson and his wife, Pam, plan to continue traveling and partici- pate in volunteer work. The couple just returned from Germany last week.

Wilson said, ideally, they would like to see an independent business owner who wants to re-open or relocate to Kingsville purchase the building.


(Above) Some of the Wilson True Value Hardware staff poses for a photo on Wednesday. Pictured from left are Diana Garcia, Tim Estes, Melinda Chapa, Ben Wilson III, Pam Wilson and Will Davis. (Right) Longtime True Value Hardware employees Dora Garcia, left and Ruby Barrientes help Delia Garza select a baking pan. (Photos by Gloria Bigger-Cantu) (Above) Some of the Wilson True Value Hardware staff poses for a photo on Wednesday. Pictured from left are Diana Garcia, Tim Estes, Melinda Chapa, Ben Wilson III, Pam Wilson and Will Davis. (Right) Longtime True Value Hardware employees Dora Garcia, left and Ruby Barrientes help Delia Garza select a baking pan. (Photos by Gloria Bigger-Cantu) Wilson said he and his wife had set a long-range retirement plan about three years ago.

The couple plan to live in Fredericksburg, where they bought a home in the country. The couple also has children who live in that area. Wilson said they would still keep in touch with their Kingsville connections and plan visits here.

True Value is a cooperative individual dealer ownership business with 4,000 stores. Many of the stores are family operated.

Wilson’s True Value customers receive personalized services when they shop at the store.

The store has 10 employees that include university students. Wilson said he has trained many university students over the years.

“This is probably the best staff we have ever had and it’s tough to leave the store,” Wilson said.

He said one of his most memorable experiences spent at the store was the freeze of 1983 that lasted 12 days. True Value provided a lot of heaters and supplies for their customers.

“Materials were in short supply in South Texas and people were trying to get their houses back in order,” Wilson said. “People were desperate to get the frozen pipes fixed.”

“It was a service to help them,” he said.

Other memorable experiences were being in business right before hurricanes.

Another experience was being a member of the True Value Marketing Council. Wilson was one of 12 members from over 4,000 nation wide stores.

The members met in Chicago the True Value headquarters, and shared ideas in marketing and strategies for the co-op that also pertained to product selection for all circulars.

“I made 35 trips to Chicago,” he said.

The Kingsville store has thousands of items ranging from core hardware to appliances.

The store has different departments such as automotive, electrical, general hardware, sporting goods, paints and paint supplies, lawn and garden, portable appliances, electronics, plumbing, a versatile gift war section, kitchen items and toy section.

“We will have inventory liquidations using progressive discounts,” Wilson said.

The store also has a rental department. Hunting and fishing licenses are also sold.

Wilson said that about eight years ago they began a customer relationship with hunting lease managers in the area. He said the managers would come to the store for ammunition and camp supplies.

“We try to help lease managers make their jobs easier and take care of details,” Wilson said.

Pam Wilson said she and her husband are going to miss their longtime employees and customers.

“Our customers tell us heartwarming stories,” she said. Some of their long time customers also told her stories about when they first got credit in the 1950s.

“Some of the customers’ great-grandchildren bring in their great grandparents,” Pam Wilson said.

Many of the King Ranch families obtained credit when the first store opened and were customers throughout the years. Ben Wilson III said they used to roll up the circulars and distribute them to the homes of King Ranch families.

He said he and his brother, Allen, began working at the store when they were young boys.

Pam Wilson said her most memorable experience was being around her father-inlaw and spending time with him. The late Ben F. Wilson Jr. spent hours at the store.

“I enjoyed being around Dad Wilson and listening to his stories and talking about sales,” she said.

Robert Riviera, a longtime customer and local restaurant owner said he is going to miss shopping at the store.

“This is going to be a big loss to the community right in the heart of Kingsville,” Riviera said. “We’ve always come here for hardware.”

“It’s a family owned business with a lot of pluses,” Riviera said Thursday.

Alex McGee, another long time customer, said he was going to miss the store. “I can always find what I need here,” he said. “My wife uses night lights that I can find here.”

Wayne Quandt said Friday he was surprised the store was closing. “What am I going to do?”

“They always have specialized items and I’ve always had keys made,” Quandt said.

True Value employees were notified in December of the store’s closure.

Most of them said they were going to miss working at the store and their bosses.

“I’m very sad the store is closing,” Longtime employee Dora Garcia said.

“I still want to be here talking to customers.”

Garcia, called Dorita, has worked for the Wilsons 27 years. She has worked at numerous stores for 54 years.

“I love them like my own family, and I told them they would have to come see me and have coffee,” said the 90-year-old lady, who maintains a youthful appearance and personality.

“It’s a part of me that’s closing with the store,” said Diana Garcia, a 20-year employee. “It’s been a family-orientated atmosphere and I’m going to miss working for them and their friendship.”

“They have been wonderful bosses,” she said. Diana Garcia said she plans to work at another business.

Ruby Barrientes, who has been working with the Wilsons for 28 years, said her bosses treated her like a family member.

“I consider Ben like a brother and his father like my own father,” Barrientes said. She said Ben Wilson Jr. would listen to her and give her advice.

“He helped me a lot and was always there for me,” she added.

Barrientes said she plans a short vacation and might get a part-time job.

Tim Estes, who has been the store’s manager for the past 13 years, said he doesn’t have any plans yet.

“They are good people to work with,” Estes said. “They are making the right decision by doing what is right for them.”

Will Davis, a Texas A&M University-Kingsville student, said he learned about basic plumbing and electrical information from his bosses and also customers since he became an employee a year ago.

Ben F. Wilson Jr. founded Wilson’s True Value in 1946 when he returned from World War II in Europe.

“My father sent my mother money with intentions to open a store,” Wilson said.

The first location operated out of a small hardware store near Allen’s Furniture Store. The business expanded in four locations and became a True Value store in 1975. The business relocated to its present spot at 230 E. King in 1997.

The new building doubled in square footage and the new location had high visibility. The store was built with 20-foot ceilings.

The downtown building was donated to Texas A&M University-Kingsville last year.

Ben F. Wilson Jr. worked at the store 50 years and retired in 1996. He continued going to the store every day. He passed away at the age of 95 in 2009.

Ben Wilson III became owner of the store in December 1997. His brother, Allen, worked at the store about 25 years and retired in 1998.

Wilson said he and his brother began working at the store when they were young boys.

He said his father taught him to have a strong work ethic, principles, perseverance and a duty to country. Wilson graduated from H.M. King High School in 1965. Wilson, a college ROTC student, received a commission in 1969 after graduating from Texas A&I University. He served a tour in Viet Nam. He later received an MBA degree from Texas A&I.

“I came back to Kingsville by choice,” he said.

Wilson served as the finance director and city secretary for the City of Kingsville from 1972 until 1974. He also worked for Santa Gertrudis Breeders International for four years. Wilson has been a Rotary member for numerous years. Pam Wilson served as vice-president of La Posada.

The Wilson family were one of the original Kingsville pioneer families. The family, who were cattle ranchers, moved to Kingsville from Eagle Pass in 1906. Ben F. Wilson became the first Kleberg County Judge in 1913.

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