Our Company History
The company has been owned by the same family since 1965. Two families in southeast San Antonio founded the company in 1952. In the very early years, the company was a combination wholesaler-retailer. The original location was less than 1,500 square feet and featured a meat counter that actually sold horsemeat, which was a popular diet for dogs at that time. In an adjacent hardware store, owned by the same family, live goldfish were sold along with the hardware. By the late fifties, most of the retail operation had been closed (along with the meat counter) and the company began to concentrate on the wholesale business.
By the early sixties there were more feed and garden stores selling pet supplies along with an occasional tropical fish store. In many cases these tropical fish stores were started in the garage of tropical fish hobbyists. San Antonio and south Texas also had a large concentration of military bases such as Fort Sam Houston, Lackland Air Base, and Randolph Field. The company won a contract to service these military base commissaries with pet supplies. This contract was instrumental in supporting the company's early growth.
In 1965 the founding families sold Lone Star to R.J. and Hilda Billimek. By this time, the company was in its fourth location at 865 Highland Blvd. in southeast San Antonio. The Highland Blvd. location was approximately 4,000 square feet. With the Billimek's acquisition of the business, the military contract was expanded and Mr. Billimek began to personally travel extensively over the southwest cultivating many new pet and feed stores. In 1968, the company moved into a modern 10,000 square foot facility at 2830 So. W.W. White Road in San Antonio. In 1966, the Billimek's nephew Dennis Stahl worked part-time doing clerical and warehouse chores while attending middle school.
In 1977 the company became one of the first distributors in the United States for a premium dog and cat food that was targeted at concerned pet owners. The product was called Hill's Science Diet. This product helped propel the company to a new level of growth. It was at about this time that Dennis left his aunt and uncle's family business to join Hill's. He later left Hill's to spend several years with Tetra.
During the 1970's the company continued to grow and add regional sales representatives including Jim Swenson in Houston who is still with the company today. In 1979 the company expanded the W.W. White location to almost 14,000 square feet. The premium pet food business continued to experience explosive growth into the 1980's and led to many new store openings.
In 1986, Mr. Billimek was ready to retire. Mrs. Billimek had already exited the business due to poor health. The business was sold to Dennis Stahl and his wife Anna. At that time, the company employed a total of 13 people. This was Dennis' return to the distribution business in which he had grown up. It also maintained the business within the same family. Dennis had met Anna as a customer. She had previously owned two retail pet stores.
The late 1980's saw the company go into a large growth rate spurred on by a growing industry and young management of a well-established company. In 1989 the company moved into a newly built 30,000 square foot facility in southeast San Antonio that was expanded on two occasions to a total of 50,000 square feet.
During the 1990's Lone Star continued to grow as the industry began to consolidate.
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The industry consolidation happened as it had in many other industries with the opening of pet "super-stores." Distributors and retailers had to either grow, change, or go away. Fortunately Lone Star was able to survive this period. Where there were once approximately 27 distributors of different shapes and sizes in Texas, there was now a hand-full. Today, Lone Star does over thirty times the annual volume it did in 1986.
In the late 1990's the company made a long-term decision to build a new distribution center and headquarters in Schertz. Mr. Billimek helped Dennis and Anna choose the present headquarters site. Shortly before construction began in early 1998, Mr. Billimek passed away. His dream site and the business continue today. The company moved into the Schertz facility in September of 1998. In a rapidly changing world, the company still prides itself on many years of independent ownership and value-added distribution.