It is 1939. Germany invades Poland triggering the official start of World War II, the six-year global conflict that ended in 1945.

It is 1939. A Hungarian immigrant stakes his claim to own and operate a business in America. To be sure, it was a fortuitous time as it marked the end of the economic ravages brought on by the Great Depression. New opportunities abounded as the commercial world began reinventing itself, even in the face of impending global warfare.

Sam Hausman was that Hungarian immigrant, and these historical markers helped to shape his world view and, ultimately, the kind of American businessman he became.

His early life unfolded like many others of his generation and, also like them, Hausman not only passed along good genes to his progeny but also the kind of work ethic necessary to build a successful business that attracts loyal customers.

At age 49, he founded Sam Hausman Meat Packer Inc. in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Laredo Street. The business continues to operate today, although on a different street, under its new name of Hausman Foods with two of his great-grandchildren holding key management positions.

By the 1950s, the company, having outgrown capacity at it original site on Laredo Street, expanded with a main cooler capable of handling 300 head of cattle and an annual capacity of 20,000 head. Sam Hausman died in 1958, but his legacy survives and the seed he planted has grown into a modern enterprise generating annual sales approaching $25 million with 120 employees.

The company celebrates its 70th birthday this year. It did not reach that milepost without encountering some bumps in the road, however. After Hausman’s death, his son-in-law David Holliday, a longtime company veteran who worked in the plant, was named president. About that time a rival company entered the scene and began eroding Hausman’s market share, prompting Holliday to recruit his eldest son Rick, who took over as president, and younger son Steve, to help revitalize the business. By 1973, the turnaround was complete and Hausman needed additional production space to handle demand.

Although the 21st century business is guided by Steve McClure as president and chief executive officer, a non-family member, its corporate values have changed little from those embraced by the founder and his clan.

“Over the years, the company’s business plans changed many times and they continue to evolve with respect to products and targeted customers,” McClure explains. “At one time in our history we delivered protein products store-to-door over the entire state of Texas. Today we deliver to independent restaurants only through broad-line distributors.”

Even so, the principles that continue to sustain Hausman as a company have endured through the generations.

“The common thread has always been a commitment to quality, service and integrity in any venture,” McClure concludes. “We transitioned ownership of the company to the fourth generation in 2005. Fortunately, each generation has grown the business to new levels.”

Coming to America

In 1902, at age 12, Sam Hausman left his home in Hungary to journey alone by ship to America. His only capital were his wit and courage, and both served him well the night he arrived in Philadelphia with no job and no place to spend the night. He requested and was granted lodging in a local jail.

“He always said [with humor] he spent his first night in America in jail,” recalls his daughter Lorraine, now age 80, who spent her entire working life in the family business.

By age 18, Hausman had worked in Canada, where he met his future wife, before making his way to Eagle Pass, Texas, in 1915, seeking more work. There he befriended two brothers who joined him in his quest to learn enough to prepare him to run his own business someday. The three hired themselves out in various positions in Texas, spending the majority of time working in Laredo and Brownsville.

By 1918, Hausman had convinced his Canadian sweetheart to marry him, and he brought her to his adopted American home in Texas. In the next 10 years or so the couple began their family that eventually included daughters Annette, Bernice and Lorraine and, in 1939, with some two decades of experience earned in the South Texas meat industry, Sam Hausman finally became an independent business owner.

He established Sam Hausman Meat Packer in Corpus Christi with his wife Fannie and their daughters at his side and his Old World values of hard work and personal attention to every customer as his major capital.

The evolution of

Sam Hausman Meat Packer

Hungary is no different than many Eastern European countries whose meat recipes survived through generations. And, as a 12-year-old, Hausman certainly brought his Hungarian palate with him to America.

However, Hausman the businessman wisely learned early on to deliver products tailored to the palates of his customers. Thus, when he opened for business at his first store at Alameda and Mussett Streets in Corpus Christi, Texas, the operation enjoyed steady growth thanks to the orders he filled for his clientele of small grocery stores and restaurants.

“Certainly it grew, because everybody worked at it,” his daughter Lorraine quips. “It was the product — good product. Nothing shoddy ever went out.”

Initially those products were basically sub-primal cuts including beef round, loin, rib and chuck — such cuts from the carcass gained Sam Hausman entry as a player in the American meat industry.

New name, new leadership,

same values

Sam Hausman Meat Packer was renamed Hausman Foods in 2005 under a new ownership group with McClure in the driver’s seat, and two of Sam Hausman’s great-grandchildren, Amy Seward and Jerry Simpson as vice presidents. Seward also serves as chief financial officer. The three of them own and control the majority of the voting equity securities of the company. The new name better represents the vision of the next generation of owners.

“This company is such a part of me, from cooking migas [a Tex-Mex tangle of eggs, bits of corn tortilla, and a host of savory ingredients, from black beans, chorizo and cheese] with my grandparents at the plant on Laredo Street as a youngster, to working at our current facilities,” Seward says. “I went from answering phones and keeping books manually to the phase-in of computers and now managing the company. Yet, through it all, the solid bond remains with many longtime employees, as well as the concept that the customer comes first.”

Furthermore, despite the economic recession, the company has several projects underway designed to move forward.

“Our business segments of broad-liner sales, co-packing and private label are on target, and we have created new items for the sports and concession industry,” McClure says. “While this year may prove to be soft for them, their new product offerings will catch the eyes of the attendees.”

The culinary array of products range from a variety of prepared beef, pork and chicken items designed to satisfy the taste buds of sports fan. Two of the most popular items to date have been a fully cooked Shredded Beef Brisket and a hamburger pattie called the Slider.

Meanwhile, concerning current challenges, McClure says consumers are trading down from more expensive cuts of meat to something more affordable. Also, export sales are down due to currency exchange rates.

Production manifesto

As a global marketer, Hausman Foods operates two production facilities in Corpus Christi for the manufacture of a broad line of products targeting foodservice, deli and retail customer.

Products include gourmet steaks, smoked brisket, pre-breaded beef and pork, hand-cut steaks and cutlets, marinated proteins, individually quick-frozen (IQF) hamburger patties, fully cooked Mexican food entrees and various sauces.

Hausman moved from Laredo Street to a new 20,000-square-foot plant that opened on Beacon Street in 1975. The plant furnishings included the first cryogenic freezer installed in South Texas for quick-freezing products.

In 2006, the company upgraded the Beacon Street plant and installed a new spiral freezer to triple the facility’s capacity to produce IQF patties and raw batter-breaded products.

Quality products begin with quality raw material. Hausman Foods’ procedures involve requiring its vendors to certify that proper food-safety protocols have been met by submitting a letter of intervention indicating the steps they have taken to reduce pathogens. Vendors must also certify in writing that USDA regulations are under compliance.

“All vendors are then screened by telephone for additional parameters developed by Hausman Foods over the last 70 years,” Simpson concludes. “This same close scrutiny is applied to the product from the time of arrival through the whole production process. Attention to detail is the difference and is the ‘Hausman way.’”