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Houston’s Most Iconic Family Business Withstands a Fire, Continues to Innovate Today Behind CEO With a Familiar Name

Getting to Know Augie Bering V

BY // 06.24.19

Augie Bering V is entrusted with keeping one of America’s most unique businesses, one founded by his great grandfather in 1940, relevant — and he takes the job of shepherd one of Houston’s landmark companies seriously. After all, there is only one Bering’s.

Let’s learn more about the man at the helm in his own words:

Since Bering’s began in 1940, what has been the family succession?

We’re celebrating our 79th year of business, and have been cited in national articles and books as being one of the best places to shop in America. Bering Lumber Company was founded in 1940 by my great grandfather, August C. Bering Jr., a descendant of German immigrants who settled in Houston in 1846.

My grandfather, August C. Bering III, took over the business in 1943, expanded the business and also started a residential construction company, building the first homes in Tanglewood and Memorial. After a lumber shortage, he purchased the current Bering’s location on Westheimer Road for $13,000 in 1952.

August Bering IV, my father, began work at Bering’s in 1965 and Norman Bering joined the business in 1971 to help rebuild the store after it was nearly destroyed by a fire. The two brothers added a second store on Bissonnet in West University in 1987. Norman served as president of the company until he departed in 2005.

I began my career at Bering’s in 2000 as a manager. My sister, Heather Bering, had been working as director of marketing since 1995. I became president and CEO in 2017, before my dad passed away.

From the ashes … How did the business evolve after the Westheimer fire?

An electrical fire in 1971 resulted in a total loss of the Westheimer store. While it was undoubtedly a setback, they saw it as an opportunity to assess how best to move forward, which lead to the opening of our gift shop, stationery and housewares departments.

Relationship to Bering Drive.

Bering Drive is named after my grandfather, August C. Bering III, and possibly his brother, Conrad Bering. I’m not exactly sure when the street was named, but most likely when Tanglewood was being developed.

Favorite part about a family business.

It allows us the flexibility to make decisions on the fly without a lot of red tape.

Are you handy around the house?

Before I began my career at Bering’s, I built houses for years in Taos, New Mexico. So, these days, if there is urgency around something that needs to be fixed, I have the tools to fix it.

Oddest tool in the hardware department.

A Switchdriver. You can pre-drill a hole and flip it and screw the screw in without changing the bit. It retails for $130.99.

Your most-used tool.

An 18-volt battery-operated drill and a Phillips head screwdriver.

What you collect.

I’m not much of a collector, but I do keep interesting rocks, arrowheads and small pieces of art.

What do you cook on your Big Green Egg?

Salmon or mahi on a cedar plank, whole chickens, and turkey on Thanksgiving.

Top-selling china pattern at Bering’s.

Juliska for casual everyday china, Herend and Mottahedeh for fine china, and Waterford for stemware.

245 4×6 DROP OUT leaf plate_DROP OUT
Juliska, Herend, Mottahedeh, and Waterford are the most popular china sets sold at the store.

Best registry advice for newlyweds.

— Make sure to have enough on your registry for the number of people you’re inviting. All too often, couples feel like they’re being greedy by registering for too much. The truth is you are ultimately helping guests by providing options.
— Look at your registry as an extension of you (the couple) five, 10, 20 years from now. Will you still enjoy your selections?

Community involvement.

We have worked with The Rise School of Houston for years, and are proponents of the fine work they do with children. I serve on the executive committee of the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, as well as the advisory board.

I also serve on the advisory counsel of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School), which provides experiential leadership and backcountry skills training in wilderness environments around the world.

Two great gifts.

If you haven’t shopped our men’s store yet, you should check it out. A Jack Mason or Bertucci watch. Or an MLB-authenticated Astros-game wallet and other items which include baseball bat remnants or jersey remnants. It’s pretty cool: You can see which game the swatch of jersey or wood from the bat was used, as well as the player that used it.

Favorite book of the last few years.

My son gave me a book recently called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. I thought it was a joke until I read it, and I found it to be a great read. It’s about narrowing down what in life is most important to you and caring more deeply about those things, while spending less energy on the things that bring you down.

Another great read for a young entrepreneur is The New Face of Entrepreneurship by Michael Taylor. Very inspiring for anyone interested in starting their own business.

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