By Dana Delgado
BERTRAM – A few weeks ago, it was a steady stream of people looking for relief or fixit remedies from the cold weather. Whether it was repairing a burst pipe or sealing up air leaks or routine home maintenance, Bertram Hardware & Supply was a haven for just about anything.
With the impending spring weather, the attention has turned to gardening including cool weather veggies and home projects. So excited about the arrival of fair weather plants to the store, co-owner Ray Simpson made an announcement at a recent meeting of the Bertram Chamber of Commerce.
“The onions are in,” Simpson exclaimed. “The potatoes will be in soon and the trees are expected in a few weeks.”
In anticipation of the approaching change, brightly colored lawn chairs adorn the edge of the parking lot just outside the covered porch near the main entrance by the onions. A host of gardening tools await their new owners inside the store, and for those customers interested in organic gardening products, they are on their way.
“We’re a core hardware store,” said Simpson, who along with his wife, Libby, manage the store. “We try to be helpful and carry items that our customers in our area might need.”
And with a 4,200-square-foot store and an additional 1,000 square feet under a covered porch on two and a half acres, that’s a lot of items. Items that range from plumbing to electrical to tools and a variety of ranching, automotive and farming supplies along with some construction materials. The one-stop store also has a unique gift area and much more.
It was eight years ago that the Simpsons began their venture in Bertram after helping out at the renowned Winkley’s General Store in Cedar Park. After opening in tight quarters in the east central part of town at first, the store eventually relocated to its larger present site at 224 E. State Highway 29. As a result of its service and varied merchandise, the Bertram Hardware & Supply has become Bertram’s home for all its hardware needs. The couple has also become supporters of various community programs including Little League and the Burnet County Stock Show.
For Ray Simpson, the hardware business is a far cry from where he’s been. He had a good inkling what he didn’t want to do after moving every few months with his parents because of his father’s job as an ironworker. There was a move from state to state after the completion of every project.
At age 17, he got orders to Vietnam but had to wait a year because of his age. The next year his orders came again and the combat engineer climbed aboard the charter flight to Southeast Asia not sure what he’d be doing. Where he landed was a real surprise.
“Aboard an armed riverboat patrolling Vietnam’s waterways?” he thought. “What was the Army thinking?”
He was in the Army as part of the exclusive 458th Sea Tigers. Like for most young military soldiers, he says it was a learning experience with a high learning curve. After his service term, Simpson returned to the states in search of a job in the early 1970’s. He recalls it as an impossible task.
“There just weren’t any jobs,” the Austin native said. “Finally, I found a job making artificial Christmas trees, but it didn’t pay much.”
He said it didn’t take him long to realize that being an ironworker like his dad was not such a bad career after all, especially after he saw his first paycheck.
“I just knew I’d never starve again,” he said.
Today, Simpson relishes his role in serving the community and reuniting with his old Army buddies.
Bertram Hardware & Supply is open daily from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.