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97 years old and still working (w/video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
June 3, 2014 at 1:03 a.m.
Updated June 4, 2014 at 1:04 a.m.

Edward Kalinowski Sr., 97, smiles at Victoria Bearing and Industrial Supply in Victoria. Kalinowski has been a part of the family business since he was just 13-years-old. He said Victoria Bearing and Industrial is still run as a family-owned, local store. Its employees live locally, spend locally and are treated like family. He wants his employees to be happy and healthy at work. "I always tell them, 'It don't cost nothing to smile.'" he said.

Ed Kalinowski Sr. is no ordinary worker.

He's a hard worker, dedicated to a craft he learned when he was 13 years old.

Now, he is 97 years old.

"Don't let the age scare you," he said from his office at Victoria Bearing and Industrial Supply. "You have to find out where you're going and get there."

According to Kalinowski, he's not there yet.

Monday through Friday, he arrives at the business he opened in 1963 promptly at 8 a.m. and prepares to take care of his customers. Some days, he spends his time solely in his office; other days, he spends his time on the road visiting with customers. Call him old-fashioned, but he still believes in talking to customers in person.

"Always face to face. It's the only way to do it. And I always come in through the front door, too," he said with a smirk.

He's built a relationship with businesses spanning from Wharton to Columbus to San Antonio in a territory he's traveled since the 1930s that has carried him for as long as he's been in business.

When Kalinowski first started the route, he tagged along with his dad as he collected orders for parts. It's the same route he travels as often as he can to see what his customers need and whether there is anything new he can do to stay on top of his trade.

"If I stayed home, I'd be dead a long time ago," Kalinowski said. "I can't stay still."

Kalinowski always has his head in the business, said 24-year-old great-grandson Taylor Schroller.

Schroller started working for the family business at Gulf Bolt Supply, which Kalinowski opened in 1990. Schroller's mom, Diane Herbold, and his aunt, Gay Gilliland, own the business now.

"He's good. I'm still learning something new from him every day," Schroller said.

Schroller grew up around his great-grandfather, spending a lot of time between both Gulf Bolt Supply and Victoria Bearing, which are across the street from one another.

Some days, Kalinowski just calls him into the office to chat, Schroller said.

"But sometimes, I have work to do."

Herbold, 52, said her grandfather is her inspiration to work as hard as he does.

"We bought the business from him (Kalinowski) years ago," she said. "Then, about seven years ago, I started working for him here."

She was recently promoted to president of the company, but Kalinowski remains chief executive officer of Victoria Bearing. She also knows he has no intention of slowing down.

Herbold is continuing in his footsteps by giving clients the same level of customer service that Kalinowski did when he started the business.

"He gives me my drive," Herbold said. "He gets here early and stays past 5 o'clock sometimes."

Kalinowski said he taught Herbold everything she knows about the business.

"We're the only family-owned and operated combination bearing and industrial supply store in the area," he said.

The entrepreneur learned early that oil-field businesses needed a company that could service their needs. Victoria Bearing was the first of several businesses he owned that would cater to the oil field and its supporting industries. He opened several businesses after Victoria Bearing, including Victoria Auto Supply, which closed years ago, when he found there was a need to expand his industrial empire to include Columbus Bearing, Gulf Bolt and Supply in Victoria, Acme Screen Manufacturing in San Antonio and Brady Bearing.

He said his 94-year-old wife, Margaret, has been by his side the entire time, even filling in at the shop when he needed the help.

"She knew how hard I worked," Kalinowski said about his wife of 73 years. They celebrated their anniversary May 12. "It's a good understanding."

Kalinowski said his dad told him when he was still young - but old enough to know what hard work was - that he needed to put in the time for his work to pay off.

"He said, 'Ed, you gotta be a millionaire somehow,'" Kalinowski recalled. "I got there."

In three years, he'll celebrate his centennial birthday. There's still work to be done, he said, and goals he has yet to achieve.

The business tycoon even has plans to open a few more businesses this year. There's nowhere else for him to expand Victoria Bearing, which has already endured three expansions.

"I'm just 97 years old. I figure I'm still young," Kalinowski said.

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