In pre ERA 1932, in Fort Worth, Texas, Vera Lee Tucker took nine yards of material and eventually built a respected and successful family business, which she headed until her death in 1953. As is often the case, the business was born out of necessity. Vera Lee's sister had died, and had nothing appropriate to wear. This made a lasting impression on Vera Lee, who immediately recognized the need for funeral garments, and then a couple of years later discovered a market for them as well. In time when dollars were scarce, she got out her sewing machine, and with nine yards of material made three dresses which she sold to Robertson-Mueller and Harper funeral home. With the proceeds from the sale, she bought more fabric and made more dresses. And so it began.
As the business grew in the 1930s, Vera Lee went on the road selling her garments to local and out-of-town funeral homes. When her daughter Olive was 18, she too started traveling, accompanied of course, by a chaperone. Olive was sent to study design at New York's Traphagen School. She laughingly said of her mother, " She wanted me to learn every phase of the business. I didn't really know I wanted to (study design) but my mother said I did." Many of Olive's original designs are still in the line today. Eventually, Olive met and married her husband Clifford Kellow, who himself became an intrinsic part of the business. He was instrumental in adding men's suits to the Vera Lee product line. Those suits would eventually bear his name being labeled as ‘Kellow Suits'.
In the beginning, dresses were sewn at Vera Lee's home on Penn street in Ft. Worth, Texas. The family eventually moved to a big two-story house at 316 S. Henderson, where it operated until 1964 when it moved to its new home at 1808 Park Place. The new building was designed specifically for the manufacturing of their clothing line. Vera Lee Garment Company would occupy that facility for the next forty years. Since 1932, Vera Lee Garment Company has been manufacturing in Fort Worth, Texas. During this time we've had several homes. In fact, our first facility was a home, which we soon outgrew.
Olive and Clifford's daughter Kathye would succeed her parents in the operation of Vera Lee Garment Company. After her marriage, Kathye and her husband Ron Buckallew would guide the company to even greater growth and success by moving it in to the ‘Information and Technology' era. By integrating computers in to their operation, they were able to meet the needs of their customers via telephone. This enabled them to lower their costs and serve a much greater number of customers in a more efficient manner.
Through the years, the building at 1808 Park Place was retrofitted many times to adapt to the modernization of the industry. When the building no longer suited our needs, we designed a new facility at 6811 Corporation Parkway, which hadbeen our home since August of 2004. After overseeing the successful move of the company, Kathye and Ron decided in July of 2005, that it was time to take a much-deserved rest. Since Kathye had no one in her family to succeed her in operating her business, she offered to sell the company to long-time employee and acting President, Jennifer Branton who was proud to carry on Kathye's family business.
In December 2014, Jennifer reached an agreement with Lee Hampton, to purchase Vera Lee's biggest competitor, Rita Barber, Inc. which was based in Abilene, Texas. In order to facilitate the merging of two 80-plus year old companies it was necessary to design yet another facility; our current home at 12201 Camp Bowie West.
From its meager beginnings, the company that Vera Lee Tucker founded has evolved into a million dollar business that sees it's products marketed in funeral homes nationwide. The company also has a limited presence in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the West Indies.
We currently have 19 employees, all of which have been an indispensable part of our success.
In this year 2017, we celebrate 85 years of serving the deathcare industy. In doing so, we take pride in the journey we have made from our humble beginnings to our present success. We attribute our success to the Grace of God, hard work, ingenuity, integrity, and the thousands of Death Care professionals who have supported and grown with us throughout the years.
To you, Vera Lee Garment Company's customers and friends, I give my personal pledge to continue offering only the highest quality products and the best service possible.