Jason Wilkison was working as a Cordon Bleu-trained chef at San Antonio’s La Cantera Resort when he got the call asking him to come home and help his dad manage the family business in Trinity, Texas. He returned to his hometown a year and a half ago and stepped up to help operate one of Trinity’s best-known independent businesses: Wilkison Hardware and Furniture. Today, he enjoys the satisfaction of offering quality products and neighborhood services, while raising his own family in a small town atmosphere.
A Trinity native, Jason was born, raised, and schooled in this rural town of about 2,700, a two-stop-light-town where he says, “I know just about everybody.” Wilkison is a fourth-generation hardware salesman and a third-generation Trinity businessman.
“I’ve lived most of my life here,” he says, “though I’ve spent a few years in Austin, San Antonio, and Colorado. I attended Trinity public schools and then Sam Houston State University, earning an Agriculture Business degree. But I grew up in the hardware business.
“My father’s grandfather owned a hardware store in Missouri, and my own grandpa Oren Wilkison got a job selling hardware while traveling around the country—he was selling people things they didn’t even know they were out of!” Oren Wilkison spent his life in the business, working together with his wife Pauline.
Oren knew the development of Lake Livingston and the increase in weekend visitors to the East Texas area would mean hardware customers, so he purchased an existing store in 1971 on Trinity’s main street. Wilkison Hardware began at 603 South Robb Street, and his son Rudy, who managed it for about 40 years with his late wife Cyndi, joined Oren at work. Though Oren is no longer working, he still requests a daily sales report from Rudy.
“My grandfather is now 88 and unable to work, but every day he asks my dad what items sold in the store,” Jason shares.
Wilkison Hardware and Furniture is the only area supplier of retail hardware goods as well as furniture. The 28,000 square foot store is a just a few miles east of the Trinity River Bridge, past a sprinkling of boat launches and a trail of pines. With matching columned porches, glass doors, and a green metal roof, the twin businesses are a local landmark for Highway 19 drivers and weekend visitors.
Wilkison Hardware features more than 30 sections of shelves and aisles filled with everything needed to build, repair, or maintain a home or business—and enjoy life.
“Our newest additions are Stihl products such as chainsaws, weed-eaters, and leaf blowers,” Jason says. “Nuts and bolts and RV supplies are some of our bestsellers.”
“Of course, if we don’t have it, we can order it,” he says. “We enjoy catering to our customers. My grandpa would say if someone came in the door and asked for something, he was going to order 10 or 12 of the item, because eventually someone is going to want it! We get hardware special orders in twice a week, and furniture orders take about six weeks. A lot of people come here because they say we have hard-to-find items.
“In the hardware store, we also offer special services—like helping some of the customers cover their faucets before a freeze or arranging special financing when needed. We go out of our way to help.”
In the Wilkison Furniture area, best-selling Corsicana mattresses, La-Z-Boy recliners, Riverside products, and Broyhill furnishings highlight displays for bedrooms, living areas, and dining rooms. Special services are again available.
“With furniture delivery, we will gladly haul off old furniture,” Jason says, “and then donate it to needy families. I really get the most job satisfaction from giving beds to people who need them so they don’t have to sleep on the floor!”
Wilkison Furniture’s same-day delivery service “amazes people,” according to Jason.
“They can come in at 9 a.m. and order a chair, and we’ll have it out to them by 11 a.m. We are competitively-priced, sell furniture for every room, and offer discounts for cash purchases.”
In a new development, Wilkison is updating its website to make all hardware vendors available so purchases can be made online.
“This is being done this fall to expand our business and customer base,” he said. “You can be at home and shop with us. The website will list everything we carry by manufacturers’ numbers, and you will be able to link to pictures of items. You can have items shipped to the store or to your home, and you can set up everything from delivery to payment. Anyone, anywhere can buy from us. We will update the furniture web pages first, and then the hardware store pages a couple of months later. The hardware store website is a real challenge with so many items!”
Wilkison Hardware and Furniture will also continue to offer its regular lines in the Trinity store, and advertising will continue in the local newspapers, magazines, on area radio, on the website, and on Facebook.
The store stays busy, with 12-15 workers serving both the hardware store and the furniture store. They range from part-time SHSU students to experts in plumbing, electrical work, and even home decorating. They do everything from stock shelves to wait on customers—and they are involved with holiday preparations for the annual Christmas party and decorated trees.
“We carry on a tradition started in 1996 when my mom and her friends decorated trees in the store,” Jason said. “People come from all over to see the trees; we have an open house for customers with snacks, music, Santa, and later shopping hours. We participate in Trinity’s Christmas at the Crossroads celebration, and we offer holiday sales and mark-downs on Christmas decorations.”
Stylist Tonja Rice, a family friend from Houston who owns a decorating company called All Things Beautiful, arranges decorations and displays for the store.
“Tonja works daily in our store with decorating and advice for customers, and freshens up our store with her love of color!” Jason says. “She also decorates houses for people for Christmas, and Wilkison Furniture partners with her to help out.”
According to Jason, some of the most popular holiday gift items from both sides of the business are pocket knives, scented candles, tool sets, drills, power tools, yard art, decorative plant stakes, wind chimes, lanterns, flowers, crosses, and framed pictures. Dining groups, sofas, and loveseats are also in demand.
After the holidays, Wilkison Hardware and Furniture remains active supporting community activities such as 4-H, softball, and football, and Jason himself follows a similar schedule with his four children, ages 6-14.
“It’s hectic, but I like spending time with my kids in scouts or soccer, and I find a little time for golf. I enjoy cooking for them, too!”
“Some day I may return to my dream of being a chef or maybe having a gourmet food truck in a larger metropolitan area,” Jason says. “But for now I am good working with my family, caring for my kids, and making our customers happy. I like helping them solve problems. That’s why we’re really here in Trinity with hardware and furniture: we’re problem solvers—sharing furniture and giving to those in need—working with our neighbors to help them meet their needs. After 40 years of service to Trinity, that’s the point.”