Palestine Magazine May 2019 - Page 11

LOCAL SPOTLIGHT George earned money by selling fruits and vegetables from a stand on Spring Street. He married Janie Kojack, one of the family’s five daughters. After a couple of years, George purchased a second- hand car and began making long-distance trips to Houston and Dallas to buy produce to sell in Palestine. The long, perilous trips continued after George bought a second-hand refrigerated truck. Frank Sr., now 87, remembers growing up around his father’s business. During the summers, they rented space from Home Ice Company; in winter, they stored pro- duce in their living room to keep it from freezing. The company primarily sold produce to local grocery stores, which needed deliveries by 6:30 a.m. Frank Sr. began working in the business with his four older brothers at age 12 — until the U.S. entered World War II. After they left, he helped his father before and after school. “We had to all pitch in when I was that age,” Frank Sr. said. Even so, help was so scarce the sheriff brought prison- ers from the jail to help unload trucks to supply local grocery stores. The business grew steadily, and the family built the current warehouse on Granberry Street in 1956. When retail grocery chains moved into East Texas, the George company shifted to retail by purchasing five Dairy Queen stores from owners in Crockett. They Photo by Lisa Tang eventually owned 52 Dairy Queen outlets and added a small meat processing plant. supplies, to local restaurants like Little Mexico, Giovanni’s, Old Mag- William George died in 1965, but the company continued to grow nolia, Farris’, and others. with the third generation. Frank Jr., 60, is the eldest of four siblings. The Palestine warehouse now receives just one truck a day from Two of his three sisters, Lana Todd and Margot Elkouri, live in Pales- Lufkin, but local customers still appreciate the company’s consistency tine; another sister, Brenda Sayegh, lives in Plano. and service. Frank Jr. remembers, at age 10, Richard Farris Sr., a former restauranteur, says the William George watching his parents operate their Co. provides as good or better quality and service as any other com- business from the garage of their pany. “You can order it one day and get it the next,” Farris said. “You home on Royall Street. At age can’t get any better service than that.” 14, he started to work. Today, he Frank Sr. and wife Jeanette, 83, are retired from the business, but owns a third of the company. stay active in the community. The couple attend St. Philip’s Episcopal The company’s operations base Church and support its functions; Jeanette is active in the Harvey shifted to Lufkin, after one of Women’s Club and the Dogwood Divas. Both have served on the Frank Sr.’s older brothers, Mur- boards of several local organizations and contributed to local chari- phy, began selling to restaurants ties. southeast of Palestine. The com- Frank Sr. acknowledges the produce business has changed over the pany built the Lufkin warehouse years, but he’s optimistic the William George Co. will continue for in the 1980s, with three times many more. the cold storage capacity as the Today, Frank Sr. often shows up at the warehouse in the morn- Palestine warehouse. Today, the ings to talk to old friends and customers. He proudly watches his company employs roughly 25 son supervise produce arrivals, speak to customers on the phone, and employees at the three locations. manage every detail, including which cut of frozen French fries the William George Co. no longer restaurant needs. operates the Dairy Queen stores, Frank Sr. pays his son his highest compliment: “He’s a good work- but continues to supply all kinds er. He tends to business.” of foods and food service items, from paper goods to cleaning APRIL 2019 11