Main Street

Among Houston society, the means to luxurious living often comes from such dirt-under-the- fingernails industries as oil and ranching. That contrast is manifest in the motley aisles of Bering's department stores, a family business that has been mixing drill bits and Limoges boxes for more than 60 years. Inside the tan stucco-and-tile building on Bissonnet Street, bucks in mud-splattered cowboy boots gaze carnivorously at the Pitmaster grill, smoker, and all-in-one cooker while, close by, their fur-draped wives browse in a glittering landscape of Waterford and Lalique crystal. Commentary -- of a sporadic, irrelevant sort -- is provided by Chainsaw, a yellow-crested blue-chested Amazon parrot who holds court in the store. (Another Amazon, Hacksaw, presides over a second Bering's location.)

The first two Bering's stores are run by brothers August C. "Augie" Bering IV and Norman Bering. The company's roots stretch back to the partners' granddaddy, who in 1940 started Bering Lumber Co., destined to become a three-store, $30-million temple of Texas retail. Until recently, though, the company's eclectic sensibility wasn't unique in Texas. San Antonio was home to Scrivener's, a 55-year-old hardware store, women's dress shop, tearoom, and gift-delivery service (with Rolls-Royces for delivery vehicles). "My brother said, 'If there's ever a store that we'd like to have, it's Scrivener's," says Augie. Dropping by one afternoon in 1999, Augie asked Ernest Scrivener -- the 83-year-old owner, who at the time was relaxing in an office chair with his poodle, Punkin -- whether he'd consider selling. "And right then," recalls Augie, "he said to me, 'What if I sold it to you now?" Scrivener's has since assumed the Bering family name and Bering family management. The store is undergoing renovations, but when the dust clears, the new owners will be bringing in a parrot. Name of Buzzsaw.


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