Riggins’ retirement ends lengthy run of local business￼
By Kyle Mooty
On Mark Riggin’s first day of work with his wife’s father, Forrest “Jack” Wilson, as his boss, Stephanie pressed and ironed his clothes to make sure he’d look sharp and make a good impression. When Mark arrived home that evening, he looked as if he’d had a rough day at the lumber company. He had. Jack had his son-in-law loading dry wall, 90-pound sacks of fertilizer, and other things on a hot Texas day.
“I looked at him and said, ‘What happened!?’” Stephanie said.
Mark’s reply: “Well, I’m not in upper management.”
Mark was originally from upstate New York but had met Stephanie while attending college in San Marcos.
Married for 43 years, most of that spent at what became Wilson & Riggin Lumber, the Riggins are closing their doors and riding off into retirement, Friday, June 24. The business, first established in 1935 as Stripling Blake Lumber Co., was changed to Cardwell-Wilson when Jack Wilson became a partner in 1970. It became Wilson & Riggin in 1986.
A Marine, Jack Wilson returned home from World War II, then returned to Korea, but came home for good in 1950 and went to work for the lumber company. Jack Wilson died in 2019 at the age of 97.
The Riggins’ only plan is to travel, mostly to Mud Drags, which both were once involved with but now just Mark. Mud Drags are much faster paced than the floats the lumber company became well known for over the decades at the Chisholm Trail Roundup Parade. In fact, this year’s CTR was dedicated to the Riggins. They didn’t have one of their unique floats for the first time, but they rode a four-wheeler with a sign reading “Thanks for the Memories.”
“This year, we’ve been married 43 years,” Stephanie said. “The number one thing I told him when we started dating was that he had to help build a float. He said, ‘What?’
“We are retiring. It’s been a good time. We are truly overwhelmed by the people that have said they are going to miss us. I have had them be so sweet, giving us good wishes. I cry a couple of times every day just thinking about it.”
The Riggins do not have children, so they’ll look for new chapters to explore.
“There are a lot of places in the United States we haven’t been,” Stephanie said. “Mark mentioned Yellowstone, Alaska, Mount Rushmore, and fishing off the Florida Keys. Now, if anyone offers a trip to Europe, I’m in.”
There have been ups and downs with the business, Stephanie said, “like any business.”
COVID-19 threw a wrench into almost everyone’s lifestyle, but it may have brought more customers to the store, certainly at different times.
“What we’re doing was deemed essential and since so, we worked every day,” Mark said. “There were a lot of honey-do list with people staying home. We sold so many decks and home improvements during that time.”
Stephanie added, “COVID was so surreal. We didn’t know if we were going to be able to stay open or not before they made us essential. COVID was so hard, but there was a silver lining. It was great to meet so many people, but I’m not making light of COVID at all.”
Riggin & Wilson was open six days a week, with Saturday being only a half-day. The building’s appearance has changed over the years, the biggest being the addition that made its front on San Antonio Street.
There were some crazy times at the business.
On one occasion Mark was using the paint shaking machine on some oil-based aluminum paint. He dropped the can, and the lid blew off. Paint exploded all over Mark, who fortunately closed his eyes before paint covered them too.
“He was covered in silver paint,” Stephanie recalled. “He looked like Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. It said nowhere on the can ‘Do not shake.’ We called the (paint) maker and said ‘Y’all may want to put that on there.’”
Wilson & Riggin has three employees aside from Mark and Stephanie. Included among those is Rosario Hernandez who has been with the business for 33 years.
“Snowmageddon,” as Stephanie calls it, happened two winters ago. During that time, Mark Riggin and Hernandez became inventors, coming up with plumbing solutions for customers.
“It was like they were mad scientist,” Stephanie said of her husband and Hernandez. “They were trying to get people’s water back on. We took people in our home. There were several people that did that. That’s Lockhart for you.”
As for the Mud Drags, it has always been Mark’s dream to run in the national circuit, and Stephanie wants him to chase it, literally and figuratively.
“Mark loves Mud Drags,” Stephanie said. “He is in the pro class. His truck with him inside weighs 2,500 pounds and his motor provides 3,000 horsepower. He can travel the length of a football field in less than two seconds.
“We used to race together. Mark set a track record in San Antonio and at the same time blew a tire and rolled his truck. All of the safety material kept him from being injured. Mud drags are so much fun. It’s not about winning or losing but if he can better himself and do better than the last time. He’s happy.”
Mark said the whole experience of doing his job each day and the way people have reacted to their retirement has been incredible. “I’m flabbergasted,” he said, noting that taking care of people was “just part of the job.”
As for Stephanie, the only business she’s ever been involved with, even as a child, made for a grand life.
“It’s been an eventful journey for Dad and Mom and Mark and I,” she said. “We got to be a little bit of the American dream. We were able to embrace life. My dad always said that money doesn’t matter, but he strived to help his family. We are so grateful for this town and its support.
“Like anybody that owns their own business, we don’t take off at 5 o’clock. You’re always worrying about stuff. I don’t know what I’m going to do. Now, but I’m going to give it a try.”