Karen Walinder was exposed to business her whole life.
Her grandparents opened the first Mickey’s Convenience Store in 1955. After they retired, her father, Tommy Schroeder, took over the business and opened his first chain store March 11, 1965.
“It was always a learning experience,” said Walinder, secretary and treasurer of the family-owned business. Schroeder expanded the small, family-owned corner grocery, which now has 17 stores across Central Texas.
Schroeder, 73, CEO and president of the company, died Wednesday morning of heart failure. His involvement with the company slowed down in 2005 after he suffered a stroke, which impaired his speech.
Even though the longtime Killeen businessman is no longer running the company, Walinder said she plans to keep his legacy and brand alive.
“We are very much alike. There were days that it was extremely challenging and yet it was gratifying because we were able to help the family and carry on the business,” she said. “We had many long-term employees. It’s gratifying to be able to continue his work and (the) legacy of what he started.”
Laverne Wallace, 84, has been with the company since Sept. 1, 1968.
“I enjoy working with the Schroeders,” she said. “When he opened this little store (on Trimmier), I lived just down the street. I would stop here to get bread and milk. Tommy was always behind the counter.”
When she was 39, Wallace said Schroeder wanted her to work for him. With four children in school, Wallace said she didn’t have time.
But Wallace said Schroeder was a caring and understanding man who let the mother set her own hours. After nearly 45 years with the company, Wallace said she works about two hours a day, five days a week.
“Tommy was so good to me. I took the summers off so I could be with my kids. In all the years I’ve (been here) I’ve only been part time,” Wallace said.
“Tommy was that kind of person. He was always giving. I remember when I was working for him, one of the things he always told us was, ‘If you need something, don’t steal from me. I’ll give you whatever you need.’”
While Walinder considers herself a detail-oriented person, she said her visionary father taught her what it’s like to look at the big picture and be an entrepreneur.
“He helped me take more risks and show me it was OK to step out there,” said Walinder, who will take over the business. “There’s a long list of stuff he taught me and work ethic was certainly one of them.”
Visitation with family is from 6 to 8 p.m. today at Crawford-Bowers Funeral Home in Killeen. A funeral service is at 10 a.m. Saturday at Lifeway Fellowship Church in Killeen.