New day, new challenges

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Woolsacks brings in new owner but deals with market, tariffs

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  • Timothy Koock sold his wool and mohair sack company Woolsacks to Tom Gromus after 40 years of business. Gromus and Koock will continue to produce wool and mohair sacks for the county and the nation. —Standard-Radio Post/Julia Maenius
    Timothy Koock sold his wool and mohair sack company Woolsacks to Tom Gromus after 40 years of business. Gromus and Koock will continue to produce wool and mohair sacks for the county and the nation. —Standard-Radio Post/Julia Maenius
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The Texas Hill Country has benefitted from the production of wool and mohair sacks by Woolsacks, a family owned business, since its opening in 1982.

The Koock family has provided wool bags for the state of Texas since 1868 with the opening of Koocksville, a hardware and wool bag shop in Mason.

“When I came to Fredericksburg, I knew how to buy burlap and import it from India and Bangladesh,” said Timothy Koock, founder of Woolsacks. “I started finding out all of the companies were using burlap bags for wool and mohair.”

Competing with the four other wool warehouses in town, Koock began his production in Houston before acquiring the building used to store oil as a part of Quality Peanut Co. “Gary Pyka was one of my first

“Gary Pyka was one of my first employees,” Koock said. “He and his mother really helped get the business up and running.”

Woolsacks benefitted from their exemption of the duty tax on imported wool and expanded their market to the entire state by giving the local ranches and farms access to the Texas market.

“Sheep and mohair growers in Texas and the United States benefitted the most,” Koock said. “We specialize in the wool business, and they know they can trust us for a classic, quality wool bag.”

Over its 40-year tenure, Woolsacks has acquired the production of wool and mohair sacks to be distributed across the entire country.

“We were producing a good handcut, hand-folded, hand-sewn, handfolded, hand-baled classic wool bag,” Koock said. “That is what people began to depend on that we could do better than anybody else.”

New buyer

At the end of the 40th year in business, Koock made the decision to sell his company.

Koock was put in touch with Texas Business Buyers, a company out of Kerrville that specializes in selling businesses, and attended a workshop held by the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce on how to sell a business.

“Within the first week, we had five qualified buyers, and it turned out to be a great slate of potential buyers,” Koock said. “When Tom Gromus told me he grew up near a dairy farm, I thought this guy knows how to work.”

After interviewing all five candidates, Koock sold Woolsacks to Gromus.

“I really could not have prayed for a better situation,” Koock said. “The qualities Tom brings to Woolsacks is exactly what is needed at this time after 40 years to learn the business and understand what we do now.”

Now working together, with Koock as a consultant, Gromus has kept all the original employees and continued the relationships with customers.

“It felt like the right fit, and Timothy and I gelled from the beginning,” Gromus said. “Woolsacks, from the beginning, felt right. The business side of it was very interesting to me.”

Expanding products

Gromus has begun to expand Woolsacks’ production to reach markets in sand bags, grass seed expansion, the paper bag business and industrial hemp for ranchers’ bags.

“The wool market is not getting any bigger in the U.S., so our expansion will be finding other uses for burlap and other ranching uses,” Gromus said. “Maintaining what we have and meeting the wool industry’s needs and seeing where we could go in other industries will be our focus.”

Once the Trump administration implemented the Section 301 Tariff, the large percentage of Texas wool imported from China has been taxed an additional 15%.

Woolsacks is the only company that imports the international standard for wool, Nylon-Wool Pack, making them qualify to be taxed an additional $39,000 by this tariff for its annual imports.

Gromus realized this tariff would cause trickle-down taxing, resulting in extra fees being placed on ranchers and farmers providing the wool. “Tom had a keen sense of conti

“Tom had a keen sense of continuity and what Woolsacks means to our customers throughout the country,” Koock said. “He wanted to maintain that while at the same time, innovate and see what we could do in this year of 2020.”

Tariff challenges

As a result of the wool industry becoming a struggling market, Woolsacks has been exempt from other import tariffs, but the Section 301 Tariff does not allow the business an exemption.

“If Apple can be excluded for the Apple Watch, then why not Woolsacks?” Gromus said. Gromus has been in contact with

Gromus has been in contact with the Texas Farm Bureau, congressmen and women and United States trade representatives to exclude Woolsacks and the struggling wool market from the additional tariff fees.

“Whatever tree bears some fruit, I will shake it,” Gromus said. “We decided we are going to take up the bold fight against the government.”

Gromus submitted an exclusion request on Feb. 7 and will continue the Woolsacks production with Koock.

“What I represent, and what Tom is filling the shoes of very well, is the tradition,” Koock said. “The Koocks have been in this industry, selling wool and mohair bags, since 1868 and we do that same thing today.”