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The American Dream is not a myth, it can be found in the ongoing operation of the William George Co.

It’s a story that began in 1932 when William George, a young immigrant who came to Palestine to make a new life for himself, turned his work into a business that now has three warehouses and 32 refrigerated trucks on the road.

“My daddy came from Lebanon with two boys on the boat with him and Dr. DeBakey’s daddy,” Frank George Sr. said, referring to famous heart surgeon Michael Ellis DeBakey. “They settled in Louisiana and later he came here and got married and started raising a family.”

By 1932, William George was going into business, but it was a rough start, according to Frank Sr.

The business began with a fruit stand on Spring Street. After a while, Frank Sr. said his father bought a second-hand car and would drive to Dallas and Houston to buy produce and then come back to Palestine to sell it.

After a couple of years of that, he was able to buy a second-hand truck to make his trips to Houston and Dallas.

“Those were some hard times,” Frank Sr. said of starting a business during the Great Depression, as his father made the perilous journeys to the state’s metropolitan centers.

With a lot of time and dedication the business began to grow, but life didn’t get any easier.

“We rented cold storage space from the Home Ice Co.,” Frank Sr. continued. “Then, when I was about 10, we would pack our living room full of produce during winter time because we could not leave all the fruits and vegetables on the trucks when it was cold outside.

“We would have the house so packed full of stuff we couldn’t get through the front door.”

The entire family worked at the business including Frank Sr. and his four older brothers. Business was picking up and they even had an office inside the Home Ice Co., but then World War II broke out and things changed.

“I was in school when the war started, but my four brothers all went to war,” Frank Sr. said. “I would work before and after school.

“Things are different in a war, though, the men had all gone to war and you couldn’t get any help, so the sheriff would bring prisoners over from the jail to help unload the trucks for us.”

Even during those hard times the George family persisted at the business and it continued to grow.

In the mid-1950s they built the warehouse in which the Palestine office is currently located on Granberry Street. The business continued to grow and they added warehouses in Lufkin and Texarkana, with the current main offices now being in Lufkin.

Things started to change in the years after the war, according to Frank Sr. In the early years the William George Co. would supply produce to privately owned grocery stores across East Texas, but as chain stores started coming in with their own warehouses the company had to change with the times.

“My brothers decided we needed some of our own retail outlets so we started acquiring Dairy Queens,” Frank Sr. said. “We started out and bought 13 Dairy Queens from some people in Crockett and when we ended up we owned 52 Dairy Queens.”

Along the way the William George Co. acquired a small meat processing company where they made hamburger patties and steakfingers, according to Frank George Jr.

“Most of the meat went to our Dairy Queens and a couple other outlets,” Frank Sr. said, noting that’s when things really started to change as the next generation of Georges began making their way into the company.

That’s when Frank Jr. along with his cousins Jeffrey and Randy took the helm of the company.

Now the William George Co. is a full service distributor of food, cleaning supplies and other products.

“If you wanted to open up a restaurant we could supply you with everything you would need,” Frank Jr. said.

In the early days most of the customers the company had were family-owned grocery stores, now things are a bit different.

Hotels, restaurants, nursing homes, hospitals, schools and ballparks make up most of the business, according to Frank Jr. with grocery stores only accounting for about 10 percent.

While the company has grown from its early days, Frank Jr. said it is still a family business, but it is a business that wouldn’t make it without loyal employees and loyal customers.

“We have lots of loyal customers we depend on,” Frank Jr. said, “and they are loyal because they can depend on us. They know our truck will be there before they start their breakfast or lunch rush and that they will get a good product when the truck gets there and at a fair price.”

The keys to the family’s success are simple, according to Frank Jr., with the first being a strong work ethic, as he notes his family has been known to work around the clock to make sure the trucks leave on time every morning.

Honesty also is a key, along with dedication and treating everyone with respect, including employees and customers.

One of the biggest keys, Frank Jr. said are the people who make up the William George Co.

“Our employees are the ones who make us,” Frank Jr. said. “It isn’t the George family. It’s the sales ladies, the office managers, the truck drivers — they’re the ones who made the William George Co. what it is.”

Many things have changed in the nearly 80 years the William George Co. has been around. It is a success story that stands the test of time.

“Daddy started with a horse and wagon,” Frank Sr. said of the company’s humble beginnings. “He was an immigrant who couldn’t read or write and he barely spoke any English, but it turned into the American dream.”

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