Ful-O-Pep Feeds maintains core values but changes with the times

FEED BAG FASHIONWomen used to make clothing from old feed bags. Bags came in different designs and colors, depending on the types of food they contained, thus giving women a variety of fabrics to choose from.

DID YOU KNOW ... ?Although a business must see some change, customers want some things to remain consistent. Ful-O-Pep changed its logo about 10 years ago, removing the roosters from the design, since such feed made up little of its sales, said Greg Gossett, the company's president. Customers immediately asked for the roosters back. In the end, the company obliged.

FOR MORE INFOVisit www.fulopep. com

Call Ful-O-Pep Feeds at 361-275-5711 or the Ful-O-Pep Ranch and Garden Center at 361-275-5033.

CUERO - From the outside, it doesn't appear much is happening inside the unassuming Cuero building.

But, with conveyor belts zipping bags down the line, people concocting feed mixes and others stacking finished products in warehouses, Ful-O-Pep Feeds is bustling.

And its managers said they don't plan to stop anytime soon.

GETTING ITS START

Ful-O-Pep got its start in February 1982, with four owners: J. Gossett, Clyde Woerner, Jim Casky and Johnny Gantt, said Greg Gossett Ful-O-Pep's president. At the time, the site was a Wayne Feeds plant.

The name didn't change until several years later, when Wayne offered the company the option to call itself Ful-O-Pep, Gossett explained.

"The name Ful-O-Pep goes back to the Quaker Oats days, when Quaker made feed," he explained. "It's an old, old feed name, probably from the '40s."

The Gossett family bought out the other three owners in 1997, he said, and the rest is history.

UP AGAINST BIG BOYS

Ful-O-Pep boasts about 68 employees, including its Cuero and San Antonio retail sites. That might not make them the biggest on the block, but being smaller offers advantages.

It means the company can better serve and communicate with customers, Gossett said. At times, it can even create blends specific to what a farmer or rancher needs.

"We don't do it too often, but every once in a while," he said.

Diversity also helps.

The company tries to appeal to as many people as possible, Gossett said, explaining the retail sites offer jewelry, candles and more, in addition to the pet and feed products it's known for.

"Our business is very competitive," he said. "We've got so many people within about 100 miles doing the same kind of thing. We just have to be conscious about what we do."

That means taking rising gas prices into account which, with seven or eight big rigs on the road, can eat into income, he said.

South Texas' recent drought introduced new hurdles, since many area cattle raisers sold off their herds, said Dennis Jemelka, the company's vice president.

"When you have a drought, it's just not any good for anybody," he said, noting dealerships that sell pickups, fencing companies and the like. "I think it will be a slow recovery."

It will all even out in the end, Gossett said, explaining he goes by his father's wisdom.

"My dad used to say he thought this business was somewhat recession proof," he said. "People with animals, if they want to keep them, will feed them."

CHANGES OVER TIME

Like most businesses, Ful-O-Pep has seen change.

Computers, for instance, make workers' jobs faster and easier, Jemelka said.

Software allows them to create virtual feed mixes until they find just the right blend in terms of nutrition and cost.

"In the old days, it was all done by hand," Jemelka said.

Where it used to take three or four people to bag feed - one to put the bag on the line, a second to sew it and place the label and one or two to stack it on the pallet - it now takes one.

That worker feeds tags into the machine and stands by to make sure bags are sewn correctly and that the process runs smoothly, Jemelka said.

He has some help from Herman, a speedy robot that loads the bags onto pallets.

The updates aren't solely technological, though.

Ful-O-Pep's retail stores continue to offer new items. With the area's new paddling trail, for instance, the company introduced kayaks to the line up.

"If you go in doing just one thing, you can hardly make it any more," Jemelka said.

Gossett said he hopes to see the business continue to grow, through more dealers selling Ful-O-Pep's products and even new store locations.

Operations may have changed over time, and other updates might be on their way, but, at its heart, Gossett said the company remains what it's been from the beginning.

"What really brought us to the dance, what will always bring us to the dance, is the feed business," he said.