By DANA DELGADO
Winkley’s in Liberty Hill has come a long way in only 10 years. Although those who know Chris Winkley would expect nothing less, his wife of 28 years, Maria Winkley, says it has been quite a surprise.
“We didn’t expect it to grow this much,” she said, “but Chris had a dream and he has worked hard.”
As the youngest of 13 children, Chris Winkley learned a lot from his siblings, but was mostly influenced by his enterprising father, William “Bill” Winkley, and his devoted Mother, Alice. The family retells the tale that Bill persuaded his new bride to come to Texas in the 1930’s from their Minnesota homeland on the pretense of a visit. Having seen opportunity in Texas on a previous visit, Bill convinced her to stay. To this day, Alice says with a sense of humor that she is only visiting.
Bill Winkley went on to become a business and community icon in Central Texas with a network of businesses ranging from auto dealerships to auto parts stores and a lot of others in-between and beyond. So respected and for his unselfish contributions to the community, the Leander Independent School District honored him by naming an elementary school after him in memoriam.
Bill’s wife, Alice and grand matriarch of the Winkley family, remains active even in her 90’s by coming to Winkley’s in Liberty Hill every Thursday to help her youngest son Chris in the office.
From his family, Chris has taken to heart the values he learned like responsibility and hard work coupled with generosity. Unquestionably, he is a chip off the old block.
“He is light-hearted, generous, caring, and fair, but at the same time level-headed, objective and confident, and has very high expectations,” said wife Maria. “He is also very conscious about the environment and recycles so much that no paper goes to waste.”
The couple met while both were vacationing with family members in Mazatlan, Mexico. They dated long distance for five years before getting married. They have two daughters Julia, a school psychologist, and Michelle, who graduated with a business degree and works in logistics in Austin.
When Chris and Maria opened their store in Liberty Hill in 2003, the store was intended as a “mom and pop” operation. They carried basic hardware needs, some building materials and feed. Success changed everything.
Today, Winkley’s is one of those stores that carries everything one could think of and need and combined with great customer service has become a model for success.
The store carries a varied stock of work apparel, hats, gloves and work boots. It also offers an assortment of batteries, building materials, fencing and hardware including heating and cooling supplies. Winkley’s inventory also extends into home and garden essentials, hunting and fishing supplies, and livestock and pet supplies along with chickens and coops. While the list is nearly endless, Winkley’s also has tanks and barrels, tools and equipment, trailers and towing gear and tires. On the service side, they make keys, cut single pane glass to fit, sharpen chain saws, custom made metal art, offer park and sell and provide for the sale of items on consignment.
“People know Winkley’s has most everything,” said Jeff Winkley, Chris’ nephew who has been the store manager for the past six years. “It’s a little bit of everything. Customers have a saying about Winkley’s, ‘If Winkley’s doesn’t have it, we probably didn’t need it.’”
“The community has been very good to us,” said Maria Winkley, who has joined her husband in the business after teaching for a while in Leander. “We are so grateful to them and really appreciate that they have made us their shopping place. We also couldn’t have come this far without our employees who work so hard.”
In appreciation of the community support, Chris Winkley and his wife have donated thousands of dollars to a variety of programs including youth sports, the high school band, church programs and the public library. Winkley’s also sponsors an annual local bike race.
“It’s so important to give back,” Maria Winkley said.
Because of their great diversity in merchandise, it is appealing to anyone and everyone.
“I shop here for everything,” said Charles Fales, a Liberty Hill resident for the past 32 years. He said he has been shopping at Winkley’s since it opened. On a recent day, Fales along with his sons, Albert and Jay, was buying all his hunting needs for an upcoming trip to the Fort Hood area.
Another loyal patron is Kenneth H. McMillan, a native of the Lubbock area who has resided in Liberty Hill for the past 15-plus years. They are but two of a throng of loyal customers.
With success over the years, Winkley’s has expanded by adding an additional building to accommodate consignment items and horse tackle for rodeos among other items. With a new plan and permit in hand, Chris Winkley is now looking to add a second level — possibly as soon as 2014 — to one of his buildings to add women’s western wear and other specialty items.
Chis Winkley said he occasionally steps away from the hectic pace at work to enjoy a ride on his bike or an occasional escape to hunt or fish. He said it provides the physical and mental balance he needs before stepping back into his store. When he returns, it’s full throttle as usual, but always with a very personal and passionate flair. That, is the Winkley way.
Winkley’s, located at 15128 W. SH 29, is open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.