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Spotlight - Ray Hegwer, River City Bolt and Screw

image Ray Hegwer, president and co-owner of River City Bolt and Screw, with one of his handy-dandy kits of various fasteners.

SAN ANTONIO - One can’t fish and golf all the time. That’s what Ray Hegwer discovered when he retired. He just had to keep busy. Fortunately, Hegwer turned all his putzing and tinkering around into his new business. Now, he’s enjoying staying busy, even if he’s not at the lake as much as he could be.




Tell us about your background and earlier years.

    I was born here in San Antonio into an Air Force family. We moved seemed like every three or four years. We were in Germany for four years. It was good because I learned to meet people fast. I enjoyed the traveling. My dad was in San Angelo when he retired. We moved to Port Arthur for a while. He ran a Top Value stamp store, if you remember what those things were. We ended back in San Antonio. I was a senior in high school then. I graduated in 1964 from Harlandale High School.

Where were some of the places you lived when your father was in the Air Force?

    My dad was stationed in San Antonio at Lackland Air Force Base, and then stationed at Darmstadt and then in Zweibrucken, Germany. After four years we came back to the United States and he was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force base in San Angelo, where he was a commissary officer.

What was your favorite place to be stationed at?
    I liked Germany. I learned some German and we were there four years. San Angelo was good too. We went to Port Arthur. We just got In the habit of moving every four so after three or four years in Port Arthur we moved back to San Antonio.

What did your family do after Goodfellow AFB?
    After three years we came home to San Antonio, where my father opened a restaurant. He and mom moved to London, TX, and he managed a restaurant near there.

What happened after high school?

    I went on to do some time at San Antonio College and St. Phillips and did some welding courses. I kind of came full circle: later on, I did safety seminars at both those college for college kids on the safe use of power tools and ladder safety.
    San Antonio College is down on San Pedro and part of the Alamo Colleges. I didn’t get a four-year degree. I had a couple of kids by that time and was working full-time anyway.

What was your working journey like?
    As a youngster I worked in a grocery store and an ice cream fountain for a while. Then, I went to work for a rental equipment company here in San Antonio and ended up managing it almost 10 years. An opportunity came about to go to work for Milwaukee Electric Tool. I took that job and stayed with Milwaukee Tool as a factory sales rep for 27 years.

Did you have to travel much in that job?
    Pretty much South Texas. I’d be in Austin every week and Corpus a couple of times a month; everything from Austin to Brownsville.

What was the job with Milwaukee Electric Tool like?

    Milwaukee Tool is a national, really well-known power tool brand. We competed with Rockwell, Skill and Black & Decker. I would call on construction and industrial supply houses primarily, also major contractors if they had a particular problem on the job that needed a solution. It would be my job to go out there and try to help find the solution. I ended up doing a lot of safety training the safe and effective use of power tools and extension cords and the effective use of these things. That became what my strength was.

What else did you do?
    I was a representative for Werner Ladder and Weatherguard. They all had product training as well as safety training. In the beginning it was the contractor teaching me how to learn on the job site and the right way to use tools. I became teaching the younger contractors how to do it. It’s been fun. I really enjoyed it.
What happened after you retired from this job?
    I retired but I guess I needed something to do. I started building in a home shop some kits- - an array of assorted fasteners all in one container. If a customer didn’t know what size he needed, he could grab this assortment and have the right fastener when he arrived at the job site. I started assembling these and selling them to the same distributors I had known before and they started doing pretty well. It led to being River City Bolt and Screw. We needed a brick and mortar place. I needed to warehouse the product to make the kits and also it allowed me to buy the fasteners at a better price. I could build the kits more competitively. It spawned River City Bolt and Screw. I was really fortunate to have a partner come along. His name is Donny Perez. He’s been in business for a very long time; he’s worked in fasteners his whole life. He came on as a full partner.

Who else works with you at River City Bolt and Screw?
    Lucien DeBow is our office and store manager. He came out of the fastener business as well. We’re fortunate to have his over 30 years of experience.

What is the time frame for all this? When did it happen?
    I started making kits in 2014 and River City Bolt and Screw started in 2018. Our open house will be August 15th to show of our new location and try to make some customers more aware of us.

You’ve been involved with tools and machinery for a long time now. What kind of changes have taken place or what’s been a notable difference between then and now?
    I started in 1979 in power tool sales. It was an all-electric industry. Cordless tools were virtually unheard of. A lot of the parts were all metal including the handles instead of plastic. Tools are a lot safer now than they were and lighter in weight also. The cordless drills came in in the mid ‘80s. Now you see cordless anything. Tools that run on batteries are really convenient. A cordless tool won’t electrocute you. You can use a cordless tool ankle-deep in water and it won’t hurt you. Technology has advanced so fast in batteries that it’s incredible.

We’ve already established that you like to stay busy with work. But - hypothetically speaking - if you had some down time, what do you like to do for relaxation?
    I like to golf but don’t do hardly any of it anymore. I’m still into fishing. I fish salt water, fresh water - anywhere. Last weekend my wife and I were fishing in Corpus Christi. At Calaveras Lake you can fish big reds and cat fish. I did ride motorcycles as a kid, but I haven’t been on one in a long time.

So, now you have a new business, a second career, if you will. What does the future look like?
    The kits have been good to us. The sales of the kits have grown every month. The company itself has turned into a full-fledge supply house for fasteners. We’re impressed with the growth that we’ve had and certainly hope it continues. We see nothing but good things. We believe the future is bright and we want to be part of it.

What does your wife think about your new venture in life?

    My wife, Jo Beth, and I have been married 40 years and she and I are really excited about this new business, as it overcomes obstacles and continues to grow.
    River City Bolt and Screw is a supplier of fasteners, bolts, nuts, screws and industrial supplies. They are located in San Antonio. -dsz

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Dan Zulli dan@constructionnews.net