Tyler-born Brookshire's tends to roots and gives back

Published on Sunday, 22 September 2013 18:54 - Written by ADAM RUSSELL arussell@tylerpaper.com

Fourth-generation, family owned-and-operated businesses are a rarity in the entrepreneurial world.

Interest in the family business can wane. Heirs can decide to follow other pursuits, and complacency can lead to decline.

It’s been 85 years since Wood T. Brookshire opened a 25-by-100-foot grocery store in downtown Tyler.

What began as a partnership among brothers, named “Brookshire Brothers,” has grown into a multi-brand company with more than 150 stores in three states, employing more than 14,000 people – Brookshire Grocery Co.

Brookeshire’s Chairman of the Board Brad Brookshire, Wood’s grandson, had little early interest in becoming a grocer. His love of sports created the desire to be in the sporting goods business, but working in the industry never seemed to fit.

In 1977, he trained at the Brookeshire’s store in Monroe, La. He loved it and worked his way up the ladder.

Brookshire said the company has been conservatively grown. The family was aggressive when opportunity to expand or add components, such as manufacturing products here in Tyler, presented itself.

And now 85 years after his grandfather opened the first Brookshire’s on the Square, Brookshire said he hopes to leave a strong, vibrant, community-involved company for another generation.

“I like to say we’ve grown at a tortoise pace rather than just rushing into markets just to have more stores,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate. We’ve had a lot of great people, and we’ve stuck to my grandfather’s philosophy of giving back to the communities we are in.”

The main emphasis has always been customer service, but lately remodeling stores and improving technology has been a focus.

The new Super 1 Foods on Gentry Parkway is a good example, he said. Brookshire said improving the customer experience in various ways would continue into the future.

FRESH by Brookshire’s on Old Jacksonville Highway is another market expansion he said signifies how the company is changing its approach to the grocery business.

Brookshire’s gives back. The company donates food, time and money to various community organizations from the Salvation Army to the East Texas Food Bank. Its employees, or “partners,” have volunteered more than 80,000 hours since summer 2009. The company has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds of food to charity.

The World War II Heroes Flights, a program to escort WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial that stands in their honor has been one of the company’s largest community endeavors, Brookshire said.

“Community service has always been an important aspect of what we do,” Brookshire said.

There is also a focus on promoting employee education and health and company-wide environmental awareness.

Manufacturing products including ice cream, yogurt, milk, and baked goods has been another addition that has improved the company’s ability to supply products and keep jobs here in Tyler, Brookshire said.

It’s another way a Tyler-born company tends to its roots, he said. About 21 percent of the company is owned by BGC employees. It’s a philosophy born by Brookshire’s father and one that promotes buy-in from the people guiding the company into the future.

Brookshire said he is pleased his son, Trent, has shown great interest in the family business. And with a relatively new company structure run by professionals, Brookshire hopes to leave the company in good hands for decades to come.

“Our generation took the baton and ran with it,” he said. “It’s good to know there is still excitement within the family to see the company continue to grow and change.”