By Janlyn Thaxton
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 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.
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. 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,” Bible Hardware said during the ceremony. The Brights are also the owners of another hardware store, Builders Supply in Kermit, TX. 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 Texas 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 they have more than doubled the floor space — filling up five rooms with new and expanded merchandise selections. There are things for the entire family in our many departments such as tools, toys, housewares, jarred food, and great gift items. The paint department is run by Guy McFadden, 82 years old, who started painting when he was just 15 years old. Also, Larry Vaughn, a certified Master Plumber runs the plumbing department adding his invaluable experience. The employees have a combined 170 years of experience in the hardware industry.
“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.
Bible Hardware was purchased in January of 2011 by Bobby and Jennie Bright, both originally from Odessa, TX. Their daughter, Leigh Thomas, is also an integral part of running the business. Bible Hardware is proud to have served Abilene, TX over the last 75+ years and are committed to serving them for many more years to come!