Daddy’s girls follow in fathers’ footsteps

We’ve all heard the old adage, “like father, like son,” but in today’s world, daughters are just as likely as their male siblings to follow in dad’s footsteps. In this issue, in honor of Father’s Day, we are showcasing three women who work side by side with their dads on a daily basis. Hired for more than simply their last names, these are independent, well-respected businesswomen who have brought their own unique skill sets and ideas to the table. Just ask their dads!

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Cheryl Ludwick, co-owner,
Gourmet Country Store
While other 7-year-old girls were playing with Barbie, Cheryl Ludwick was spending her weekends building fences and feeding the animals on her family’s ranch. Although she may not have realized it at the time, she was also laying the groundwork for what would become a lifelong passion and career. Today, Cheryl works alongside her father, Tony Koch, in the Koch Ranches Gourmet Country Store, which they opened in 2011 as a place to offer the Koch Ranch homegrown produce and grass-fed meats, along with other locally grown products, to the public.

“We had been successfully selling our meat and produce at local farmer’s markets, but the selling period was limited,” explains Cheryl. “We thought it was time to offer retail hours.”

Koch Ranches, Inc. consists of eight working ranches that are spread across more than 4,400 acres of lush pasture in Medina and Frio Counties. Here they grow produce to organic standards and raise grass-fed livestock that has met the prestigious American Grassfed Association and the Animal Welfare Approved Agency’s certification standards. Getting to this more natural ranching process was an evolution that Cheryl was instrumental in leading, especially after learning that her oldest son suffered from Crohn’s disease. A lifelong proponent of healthy eating, Cheryl began to take a hard look at the effects that food can have on the body and began working with her father to change the way the Koch Ranch raised its livestock and grew its produce. “If you are raising it yourself, you know how it’s grown,” she says. “My passion is growing the cleanest, healthiest, tastiest food we can grow and then sharing it with our customers.” To that end, Cheryl, a retired attorney, oversees nearly every aspect of the business, from marketing and bookkeeping to management and production. She also oversees the ideas of her father. “She takes care of the details,” says Tony, a self-described “idea guy.”

“The challenge is that when he gets an idea, he wants to go full steam ahead without laying the groundwork,” explains Cheryl. “That’s where I come in.” Together they have implemented some ideas that are making it easier for people to not only understand why they need to be mindful of how the food they eat is grown, but also to have convenient access to healthy foods. In addition to stocking the shelves and cases with fresh meats and produce and other goodies for customers to grab and go, Koch Ranches Gourmet Country Store offers Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions where customers can pay for weekly boxes filled with seasonal produce, meat or a combination of both. Cheryl explains that the purpose of the CSA is to teach people to eat local, sustainable food that is in season. “Studies show that it is actually healthier for our bodies to eat the foods that are in season in our area,” she explains. Each customer receives a weekly email with the details of the contents of that week’s box, along with a recipe for how to prepare the items. “It makes people better cooks because they learn to try new things,” she says.

Cheryl and Tony are also preparing to introduce pre-packaged frozen meals, the majority of which will be Paleo-friendly and gluten-free. Keeping busy moms like herself in mind, Cheryl says that these meals will make serving up a quality dinner much more convenient. “These allow you to have a healthy meal on the table in 30 minutes,” she says.By making healthy foods easily accessible and by educating her customers on the benefits of a clean, healthy eating lifestyle, Cheryl is hoping to change the way people look at the dietary choices they make. She has already had an influence on her oldest son, age 15, who is very active in the business, working on the ranch in the summer and participating in the agriculture program at Madison High School. But the biggest reward for her efforts comes in the form of customers who tell her that they have started eating better and losing weight. “We are so blessed to be able to share what we do with others and make a difference in their lives,” she says proudly, adding that working with her dad is just an added bonus.

“So many people are denied the opportunity to know their parents that well,” she muses. “When you work with them daily, you get to know them as more than just your parents but also as friends.”

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Kimberlee Dennis-Brysch,
Dennis Jewelry
Some of Kimberlee Dennis-Brysch’s earliest and fondest memories involve going downtown to visit her father, George, at work and having lunch across the street at the old Bluebonnet Hotel. “I was only 3 or 4 years old, and I thought it was such a special treat,” she reminisces. Today, Kimberlee gets to see her father at work every day, and even though she’s all grown up, it’s still a special treat. “Seeing my dad every day is the best part of my job,” she says happily. “My parents divorced when I was really young, so I didn’t have that growing up.” Kimberlee’s grandfather started Dennis Jewelry in 1936. She is the third generation to join the business, and over the years, she has learned every facet. Even as a child, she would spend her summers wrapping packages, answering phones or just sitting and watching her grandfather at the bench as he created custom pieces. She paid close attention as he explained the process, and as a result, she can handle everything from special orders to buying to customer interactions. “I can do everything except physically create or repair jewelry,” she says, adding that she started as a typical Girl Friday.

“I had to work my way up just like anyone else, but I always knew that this is what I wanted to do.”

In addition to learning the physical aspects of the job, Kimberlee was also educated on the family work ethic. Her father taught her his philosophy of “My word is my bond and my handshake is my contract,” and it is a motto she employs daily. “You have to be straightforward, and you must have integrity when dealing with people,” she explains of the family’s creed. “I treat everyone the same way that I would want to be treated.” George credits his daughter for bringing in a younger demographic by introducing new, more fashion-forward lines and bridal selections. “It’s great having a third generation in the business because most of our customers are multigenerational,” says George. “Plus she has a great work ethic, and I know that I can trust her with anything.” Part of that work ethic includes understanding that there is no special treatment for the boss’s daughter. Kimberlee says she makes sure to follow the same protocol as everyone else when it comes to things like calling in sick or taking vacation time. And like the other women in this article, she is careful about leaving work at the office. The family often vacations together at her father’s South Texas ranch, and all talk of jewelry is forgotten as they spend time barbecuing and relaxing.
With two sons of her own, Kimberlee says there is a chance that Dennis Jewelry could see a fourth generation joining the family business. Her advice to them about working with family? “You must have an even temperament, and you must be able to keep a calm, cool head at all times,” she cautions. “You also have to really love the business.”

 

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Courtney Percy, vice president of marketing,
Julian Gold
When your father is the COO of one of Texas’ most upscale retailers and your mother is the cosmetic buyer for the company, there’s a good chance that the fashion bug will bite you at an early age. That was the case for Courtney Percy, who began working in gift wrapping at Julian Gold while she was still attending MacArthur High School. Today, she is the vice president of marketing, overseeing everything from special events to the graphic design of all the printed materials to the company’s social media presence. She is also working alongside her parents, James and Susan Glover. Julian Gold has been clothing generations of women from some of the most stylish families in Texas for almost 80 years. During that time trends have come and gone, and the way that companies do business and interact with their customers has evolved. Courtney, who worked her way up from gift wrapping to assistant buyer and floor manager, realized the need for the company to embrace the changing trends and approached her boss, aka dad, with ideas for ways to enhance the presence of one of Texas’ oldest independent retailers. While attending the University of Texas, Courtney worked at the State Capitol for the House of Representatives, where she gained experience in event planning and public relations. She convinced James to give her a chance to put her skills to work at Julian Gold by moving the marketing in-house rather than continuing to outsource. “He had more hesitation about it than I did,” says the lively blonde, who refers to her father as Mr. Glover while on the job. “In the end, however, it turned out to be a seamless transition.”

“Courtney brings new ideas and a fresh approach to doing business,” says James. “Adding the social media component has had a huge impact.”

Courtney explains that the fashion industry in general has changed to be more contemporary and sporty across the board, and even work attire has become more casual. By nature, these changes appeal to a younger demographic, and what better way to reach them than via social media platforms? “We attract a younger generation by utilizing the tools that demographic likes to follow,” she says, acknowledging that her father had some concerns about this new way of communicating with the store’s loyal clientele. “There is still that Julian Gold customer that appreciates the more personal touch in the form of phone calls and direct mail pieces,” she explains. “We try to keep a balance between the traditional and the modern. I’ve learned a lot from my dad about this, but he has also seen a positive change in the past few years via our digital media efforts.” Communicating openly and honestly is the key for Courtney and James when it comes to creating a harmonious work environment. They also know to leave business at the store. A close-knit bunch, Courtney, her husband, and their two children can be found having Sunday dinner at the Glovers’ home almost every week, and Julian Gold is not part of the family banter. “We don’t talk business after hours,” she says.

Courtney realizes that theirs is a unique situation that isn’t necessarily for everyone. But then again, Julian Gold is a unique specialty store that still takes pride in one-on-one customer interaction and community involvement. As a result of that level of dedication and commitment, the store has a devoted following, something that is almost unheard of in the fickle world of retail.

“Businesses like Julian Gold, and families like ours that work together, are rare and special,” Courtney says. “We are trying to hold on to that for as long as we can.”

By Bonny Osterhage
Photography by Casey Howell