A one-stop-shop for unique gifts and event-centric goods, Bering’s has served the Houston, Texas, community since 1940. What began as a lumber yard has evolved into a unique retail destination over the course of several generations. As it turns out, that diversification put this family business in the perfect position to help when the Houston community needed it the most.
“My grandfather started the business in 1940,” says August C. Bering V, third-generation owner of the Bering’s business. “At the time, it was a lumber yard in the middle of nowhere, and it then evolved into a hardware store when the area became more built up with homes.”
In 1971, a fire devastated the business. “After the fire, my grandfather, dad and uncle had to make a tough decision,” Bering says. “They chose to keep the business going with all of the employees. That’s when they added a gift shop.”
The gift shop offers fine dining and kitchen essentials, such as china and crystal. There’s also stationery, luggage, candles and more. With the gift shop open, Bering’s launched a bridal registry service.
As the store grew, the family added a children’s shop, a men’s shop and outdoor goods. Today, an outdoor kitchen at the store hosts cooking classes and other events.
“We also have our own private-label coffees that are roasted right here in Houston,” Bering says.
Last summer, those years of diversification came in handy in a big way. As Hurricane Harvey made its way toward Houston, Bering’s turned first to its roots in the hardware business. Then, the store’s employees and vendors teamed up for relief efforts.
“Once we noticed the storm taking a turn toward us, our team came together,” says Tony Bolding, marketing director. “We started ordering products that we knew we were going to need to have in the store, like flashlights, batteries and other supplies. We worked with Do it Best Corp. to have those products here before it hit.”
During the storm, Bering’s remained mostly open. The store closed for barely 24 hours during the first weekend. “The storm hit on a Friday night,” says Bolding. “We were closed on Saturday, but we were back open on Sunday.”
On Monday, the first truck filled with relief supplies showed up to the Bering’s store. Once they started coming, the trucks didn’t stop. The Bering’s team had ordered so many supplies that the store was filled to capacity.
“We had to stage merchandise in the trucks and portable containers and sell it from there,” Bolding says.
Of course, the Bering’s team weren’t the only ones who wanted to help. The store used its bridal registry platform to allow people to make donations and purchase items for others. Bering’s also worked with several of its vendors to make the relief efforts possible. For instance, Yeti supplied several coolers which Bering’s filled with water and ice and shared with first responders.
All this occurred as members of the Bering’s team dealt with their own recovery efforts. Team members rescued each other in boats and continued to work, even while they were unable to reach their own homes because of the flooded streets. For the Bering’s team, working felt like the right thing to do.
“We’re a neighborhood store,” Bolding says. “We knew that our neighbors needed things.”
As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey approaches, the Bering’s team knows that many members of its Houston community are still rebuilding. No matter what the community weathers in the future, Houston will persevere with the help of strong family businesses like Bering’s. For more information, visit www.berings.com.
This story is part of our ongoing ‘Local Memories, Lasting Impact’ series that highlights small, locally owned businesses and the differences they make in their communities.
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