On the 80th anniversary of Bering’s, Augie Bering reflects on the past, future and present of his resilient company.
Bering’s founder August C. Bering III helping a customer circa 1960s
The story of how August “Augie” Bering V came to be president and CEO of Bering’s—the hardware-turned-everything-else store in the Loop, a Houston institution—is not an unfamiliar one. The child of a small-business owner, Augie was resistant yet destined to take over a business his grandfather, and subsequently his father, built. “I made [the decision] because my dad needed me,” says Augie, referring to his late father, August C. Bering IV. “And he made it because his dad needed him.”
It was 2000, and Augie and his now wife were living and working in Austin, by way of Montana, where he attended college, and Taos, where he worked after graduation. Bering’s was expanding to San Antonio, and Augie’s dad called on him to help man the ship. “He wanted someone on the ground he could trust,” he says. And though the brand ultimately closed that location six years later to focus on Houston operations, its success and challenges served as a crash course for Augie—an education he took with him when he moved back to his hometown to take the reins at Bering’s Houston.
The Westheimer store in the ’70s, then Bering Home Center
From the beginning, his approach was unorthodox. Augie had spent time at NOLS, a nonprofit global wilderness school that trains the likes of NASA and Navy SEALs on leadership, and he wanted his management team to experience that same training. Augie credits that year of small-group trainings, conflict and risk management, and purpose statements, for Bering’s longevity, and for the loyalty of his leadership team. “That training helped us weather the storms,” he says, particularly hardships like Hurricane Harvey, a volatile oil and gas industry and, more recently, tariffs and widespread illness, as well as trials that preceded him like an electrical fire in 1971 that resulted in a total loss of the Westheimer store. “We keep getting back on our feet,” he says.
And they keep evolving. When his grandfather August C. Bering III started the company in 1940, 80 years ago, it was a lumber yard. Now, it is by all accounts a general store, offering upscale hardware, gifts, china, crystal, stationery, apparel, Big Green Eggs, Yetis and small-batch cleaning products—just about everything but lumber.
The original Bering’s location
When asked how he keeps up with e-commerce giants like Amazon, he doesn’t hesitate: “You go head to head with them,” he says. “We are selling on every channel right now—berings.com, social media and, yes, Amazon.” But what sets Bering’s apart certainly isn’t convenience. It’s community. Bering’s employees are known to run products out to the cars of busy moms or elderly persons. Regulars come by to grab a cup of coffee, “just to see what we’re doing,” Augie says. Both locations regularly host events—watercolor classes, pet portraits, whiskey tastings, you name it. “We’ve become a destination,” he concludes. And the journey continues. 3900 Bissonnet St.; 6102 Westheimer Road; berings.com
Shoppers at Bering’s in the ’60s
Photography by: courtesy of Bering's