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By Janlyn Thaxton
The award was bestowed by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s West Texas District Office.
In business for 76 years, the hardware store has been owned and managed by only three families. Purser and the Brights bought the business in January 2011 from longtime owners Jim and Linda Walraven. Jim Walraven took the business over from his dad, J.V. “Jay” Walraven, who purchased it from namesake Rufus Bible in 1956.
“We couldn’t do this without the community — our customers — and we couldn’t do this without our employees,” Purser said during the ceremony. “Many of our employees, as well as our customer base, came to us by way of the Walravens and they remain our biggest assets.” Purser and the Brights are also the owners of Builders Supply in Kermit. Carol Purser is retired from the automotive industry where she worked in computer system installation. Bobby Bright is a retired Odessa firefighter and has worked in construction most of his life. Jennie Bright is retired from the Abilene office of the Department of Public Safety.
With three big box stores in Abilene, Bible Hardware is a great indication of what can happen in small business, said Judy Wilhelm, director of the Texas Tech Abilene Small Business Development Center, which nominated the owners of Bible Hardware.
“In a day when other people look at profit margin, Bible Hardware continues to be a shining star of the lifeblood of our American economy — a small business that is outstanding, successful, and thriving. They care about their community and they care about their customers,” said Rey Lops, SBA deputy district director for the Lubbock-West Texas District Office. Lops said Bible Hardware was chosen from thousands of small businesses in a 71-county west Texas region covering 68,000 square miles.
Bright said that after buying Bible Hardware, Jim Walraven worked with him for several months without pay. “One day I was standing there, looking around the business and said, ‘I think this store fits me pretty good.’ Jim looked at me and said, ‘If it didn’t, I wouldn’t have sold it to you,’” Bright told attendees.
Longtime customer and local attorney Lynn Ingalsbe, who was attending Thursday’s ceremony, said his history with Bible Hardware goes back to 1955.
“My dad traded with Jay Walraven. I’ve been trading with Jim all these years. The Walravens created a legacy and the new owners are carrying on that legacy. It’s a one-of-a-kind business,” said Ingalsbe.
In the last four and a half years since purchasing the store, Purser said they have more than doubled the floor space — filling up five rooms with new and expanded merchandise selections. “We have stuff for the entire family,” added Bright. “Housewares, a welding department, great stocking stuffers. Our paint department is run by Guy McFadden, 82 years old, who started painting when he was just 15. We also have Larry Vaughn, a master certified plumber running our plumbing department.” Purser added that employees have a combined 170 years of experience in the hardware business.
“Bible Hardware is a great example of how small business can achieve success through the hard work of the owners and employees,” said Calvin Davis, director of SBA-West Texas District Office in a news release.
The owners of family-run Bible
Hardware, one of Abilene’s oldest
businesses, are the recipients of the
2015 Small Business Persons of the
Bobby and Jennie Bright, and
Jennie’s sister Carol Purser, were saluted Thursday in a ceremony attended by state and local dignitaries, Small Business Administration and Small Business Development Center leaders, and Bible Hardware employees and customers during a luncheon in downtown Abilene.