The steady expansion of the Illinois-based Tom Lange Co. first forayed into Texas in the 1970s when the Houston office opened, and Dallas followed in the 1980s. Now, the latter of those two operations has a new, dedicated office in the Dallas suburb of Rockwall.
“We had been in our old location from 1998 until last week,” said Tim Rose, an 18-year Lange veteran who took over the Dallas office when Darrel Wolven retired recently. “Most of us live out in this vicinity, and now we have our own location that’s going to give us some room to expand. In the whole grand scheme of things, that’s one of the reasons for the move — we were limited on space at our old location. We’ve had a little transition; we moved right before the end of August, a week before the end of the deal, and it was tough. When you’ve been in a spot as long as we have, it was difficult getting used to a new phone system and that sort of thing. We moved from 1960s technology to 2011-type stuff, and it’s hard to teach some of these old dogs new tricks. But they’ve caught on. It’s been a transition, but it’s something that needed to be done — getting our systems updated. We are definitely on-call 24/7, and this enables that even further. And we like having our own space and not have other tenants knocking up next to us.”
A steady increase in logistics needs at the Dallas office is another reason the new location was needed. The city of Houston is already the nation’s third-largest logistics center and has long had infrastructure in place to support that, but logistics in Dallas is booming.
Brandon Powell spent a year training to head up Lange’s Dallas logistics operation, “And now and that’s a department we’re looking to expand further,” Mr. Rose said. “It’s been successful and it’s helped fill a great niche for us. Especially during the summer when the trucks out west in California are pretty tough to find, it’s been nice to have someone in here. It’s been nice to have that and open up some new carriers for us — and working to get those same carriers back outbound to California and the East Coast as well. Hopefully we can add several people and expand this — we’re currently looking for the right people.”
The increase in business is due in part to the economic and population growth of Rockwall County, TX — more people means more consumption.
“Rockwall has had the most job growth of any county in the United States. A lot of companies have moved out here and the state as a whole has created some nice tax breaks, and that’s created a lot of jobs. In this area, you go to a restaurant in the evening and you’re waiting to get in there. You look at how bad some of the other areas of the country are and you look here, and business is good,” Mr. Rose said. “We all love this area. We’ve got three transplants that were originally born and raised in the Midwest. There’s a saying: ‘I’m not a native Texan but I got here as quickly as I could,’ and they’re starting to understand that. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We’ve all collectively traveled throughout the U.S., and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. It’s a great place; the people are nice, they’re friendly. It’s really a melting pot. You’ve got people from everywhere and it’s amazing how people mesh in and just love being here.”
That melting pot also stirs up more business for Lange from retail to foodservice.
“It’s just a vast array of business from all different types of cultures — that’s what we like. There are different things for every different type of customer out there,” Mr. Rose said. “Produce from the Texas Valley — we can order it on a Monday night and have it on Tuesday morning. We do a ton of business on those little, short rides — a mix of products a few pallets of each. We have the Texas onions in the spring, the grapefruit — it’s terrific having all that at our disposal. When you look at the stores, they promote ‘Grown in Texas’ more and more. Hey, Texans are proud and they’ll support their own, no doubt.”
For example, Lange-Dallas has seen a “big expansion” in the demand for and supply of avocados. “A lot come through the Laredo area. That makes it easy when you need a few pallets.”
Mr. Rose cannot imagine any scenario that would take him out of Texas or away from Lange.
“There’s not a day I’m not thankful that Tom gave me an opportunity, and if you know how long our people have been here, you know they’re very loyal to the company. Jeff Kraft’s been here 25 years, Mike Kidd, 20, Bruce Benz, four, I’ve been here 18, Darrel was well over 30,” Mr. Rose said. “I think that says something when you see the longevity our employees have. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. I’ve made that commitment to be here until the day I retire, and I hope that’s a long time from now. Believe me, we work hard, we put in long hours, we’re here on weekends. It’s hard work, but you have customers to take care of and that’s the one thing Lange has always stressed: You take care of that customer no matter what. And we do that in here every day. We stand behind everything we do.”