TSFMag Highlight: ForEverlast Hunting and Fishing Products
Billy Gerke's ForEverlast brand can be found all across Texas. Virtually every store in the state that carries hunting and fishing supplies has something from ForEverlast on their shelves. The company's current catalog includes more than 70 items, each meeting a specific need for Texas outdoor enthusiasts. Deer to doves, saltwater wade fishing to barbecuing, tailgating and travel. In Billy's words; "It's all about our passion for the outdoors. Every product we offer is designed for the outdoorsman by a team that hunts and fishes year 'round. Understanding what they need, our strength is supplying products other brands do not offer."
You could call ForEverlast a true cottage industry. Founded in 1998, Billy and Amy Gerke operated out of their home in the early days. "We had stuff crammed and stacked in every room," Billy reminisced. "We'd get home from our jobs, have a quick dinner, and go right to work until late into the night on the living room floor, boxing and labeling orders. I'd drop them off at UPS the next morning on my way to work."
Their first product was a clever folding singletree hunters could stow in a tool box or behind the seat of a pickup. No more searching for just the right stick to jam between a deer's hind legs for hanging and skinning. It's still in the catalog and still very popular.
A few minutes with Billy and you quickly gain the impression that he is a true Texas sportsman with a strong entrepreneurial flair. And he's a family man of great Christian faith. Billy and Amy and their two sons go everywhere and do everything together. When they're not working, hunting or fishing, they're probably at a ballgame. Both boys are fine young athletes.
With demand for ForEverlast rising like Jack's beanstalk, it wasn't long before the Gerke's enterprise outgrew the cottage it was born in. Standing in the recently completed third phase of the large steel building structure, Billy pointed out the original section and the wings they have added to house the growth. "We took a leap of faith buying this land and moving the business out here. This latest section gives us a total of 15,000 square feet. And it's already filling up," he noted.
With their business growing, Amy left her regular job in 2002 to become ForEverlast's first full-time employee. Billy followed in 2007, another great leap of faith for the Gerke family. Warehouse and shipping manager Bradley Grahmann joined them in 2009.
"Before Bradley came onboard," Billy explained, "It was up to Amy and me. Placing orders with our manufacturers, sales calls to retailers, receiving shipments and getting orders out–you name it and we did it, including a lot of ballgames, hunting and fishing. It is a lot easier now, especially since we have Kelli full-time in the office. But that's what we had to do."
Wade fishing gear was the line that Billy says really spurred Foreverlast's growth. The highly-popular Ray Guard Boot with integral leg protection came in 2003 and led to the Ray Guard Reef Boot and detachable Ray Guard Shield. Hunters need foot and leg protection as well and it didn't take long before a full line of snake boots and leggings were added.
Wade belts in various styles for men and women followed, along with stringers, pliers, landing nets, tackle storage systems, and other tools. The ForEverlast wade fishing line today is the most complete in the industry.
Saltwater wade fishing is unique to Texas, except perhaps a small segment of surf fishing in other coastal states. And like Billy's description of niche products and his willingness to supply them, the future is bright for ForEverlast as they reach further into hunting, camping, barbecuing and tailgating markets.
As we toured the warehouse we were amazed at row upon row of deer feeders, game preparation equipment and, thousands upon thousands of wading boots of several styles. Even camouflage pattern luggage for traveling sportsmen.
Perhaps the most gratifying part of our recent visit to the ForEverlast facilities in Hallettsville was the enthusiasm of the whole ForEverlast team and the Gerke's faith in God. "The Lord has surely blessed us," Billy and Amy said in unison. "And we thank him every day."