Winkley’s: 13 years and going strong
By Lauren Jette
When Chris and Maria Winkley opened Winkley’s General Store in Liberty Hill in 2003, they talked about holding a grand opening to welcome customers, but business took off and they never found the right time to make it happen.
After 13 years and the completion of two mezzanine expansions inside the main building, Winkley’s is finally getting around to hosting a customer appreciation, grand re-opening for the community from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 21.
“It’s just to thank the community. That is the main thing, to show our appreciation,” Maria Winkley said. “Chris opened the store 13 years ago and we were going to do a grand opening and we were still talking about it. We just kept growing and growing and finally (store manager) Mike (Laskowski) said, ‘no, this is what you’ve been wanting for 13 years so this is what we’re going to do’.”
To help mark the occasion, Winkley’s is bringing in several locals, including Janice Maynard and the Texas Family Traditions Band and Sarah Pierce Band for entertainment, Major’s Burgers will cater and there will be a petting zoo with pony rides from Fannie’s Farm Friends.
There will also be book signings with local authors Hollis Baker, Alex Alexander and Lisa Robertson.
Everything in the store will be five percent off, as well, added Chris.
“Business has been great. Liberty Hill has been wonderful, the people, the community,” he said.
“It’s been a real good match, us with them and them with us. I knew a lot of them from the Cedar Park days already, but I got to know a lot more of them and it’s a good community—good people, good values, good morals. We love it.”
Chris Winkley got an early look at owning and running a business from his father, Bill Winkley, who was in retail in the Leander/Cedar Park area for about 10 years. While his brother stayed in Cedar Park, Chris and Maria came to Liberty Hill to open Winkley’s, which offers everything from fishing worms to drill bits, saddles to tractors, chickens to paint and everything in between, with 28,000 items in the store. With such a variety of offerings, the Winkleys added two mezzanine spaces inside to make room for even more items.
“We built this building in the beginning this tall, because way back in the back of my mind, we were going to run out of space and we were going to need that upper story,” Chris explained.
“We’ve had this in the planning for two and a half years and then we got (the east side) built a year and a half ago and this west mezzanine just got finished three months ago.”
With the two additions, Winkley’s has 5,400 more feet of show space.
“It’s added quite a bit of space, but mainly what it’s done is help move things out, sort them better and spread them better because before it was crowded,” Chris said. “It helped a lot.”
While Chris’ favorite department is the fishing department, Maria loves the pottery and gardening department.
Studies have shown that money spent at locally-owned businesses stays in the local economy, and Winkley’s is no exception to that.
Plaques from various Little League teams line one wall in the store, dating from 2003 up to present time, showing Winkley’s commitment to the community. Maria said they contribute to churches, the schools, athletics and other community foundations, and this past year took on the title sponsorship of the Rip Roarin’ Ride, a bicycle race hosted by the Liberty Hill Lions Club.
“We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for these people,” Chris said.
“I guess that’s what has helped people be so loyal to Chris, we will always help,” Maria added.
Chris and Maria say they have the most loyal customers around, therefore they place great emphasis on customer service and product quality.
“We really strive not only in price, but the quality of our merchandise, and our customer service,” Chris said.
“We want knowledgeable people to wait on people and be able to tell them how to paint their wall and plant a garden, how to fish, how to build a house, whatever.”
“It’s quality of product,” he added.
“I don’t want it if it’s cheap, even if it’s a nickel, I just don’t want it. It’s going to break or just not be adequate for somebody for the long haul. We try to give good products and good service. There’s plenty of variety. We’re not cookie-cutter at all, we’re not corporate at all. We want to do what Liberty Hill needs and wants and that’s a big difference I think.”
That customer service and variety of quality products is what keeps customers coming back to Winkley’s. If, however, a customer can find something they need that isn’t already in the store, it can be special ordered, Maria said.
“You see 30,000 items in the store, but we sell so much more in special orders,” she said.
“We are in the works where people will be able to see catalogs on our website. If we don’t have it here, we will special order it. We do tons of special orders from chicks, geese, rabbits to anything. That’s a big thing in customer service.”
Now that the expansion project is complete, Chris and Maria are looking to add more products to their inventory.
“We just add more product is what we do,” Chris said.
“We’ve added more feed, more product inside. We’ve added clothing, Dickies and Justin boots are on the way. The tractors were a big addition.”
“More houseware items. We’re adding little by little,” Maria said.
Winkley’s is located at 15128 West Hwy 29. Store hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.