Our story begins with Vernon Horton, lovingly known to our family as "Papaw". Papaw grew up working the fields and picking cotton in Southern Arkansas alongside his 17 brothers and sisters. At 15 years of age, America entered the second World War and duty called his older brothers to serve. Papaw, being too young at that time to be enlisted, was left behind to work the fields with the younger children. Only a few years later, however, Papaw would get the opportunity to join the fight and serve on the Pacific Front as a technician fifth grade for the US Army's 57th Artillery Battalion, repairing trucks and maintaining other equipment. One day in 1944, while on furlough, Papaw would meet the love of his life - Alice "Jean" Thompson, who would later come to be called "Mamaw". Mamaw and Papaw decided to tie the knot only a few months later, and in 1950, after Papaw was given an honorable discharge from the army, they moved to the small, but industrious, town of Lufkin.
Initially Papaw worked at Lufkin Industries, like many in Lufkin at that time, but after an employee layoff, he went to work for Boesch Farm Products for the next few years. In 1962, Mamaw and Papaw finally decided to chase the American Dream - purchasing the small engine repair portion of the business from Gus Boesch and rebranding it into "Horton's Lawnmower Shop". With Mamaw working the counter and Papaw running the shop, they managed to build the company from the ground up, eventually hiring on two other small engine mechanics, and developing a solid reputation in the community. Soon however, the business would grow too large for just two people to manage alone, and a new generation would enter the workforce.
In 1972, Mamaw and Papaw would hire on their son-in-law, Jerry Stout, to help manage the growing company. Horton's Lawn Mower shop would soon be renamed "Air Cooled Engine & Equipment Company." and we would begin offering a larger selection of equipment and parts. Ten years later Mamaw and Papaw's daughter, Linda, would join the team. With Linda's prior experience in banking and Jerry's experience in management, the company would be pushed to new heights. In the mid 1980's, no longer content to only serve the customers that walked through the door, Jerry and Linda would reach outside the four walls of our brick and mortar building, and Air Cooled Engine Co. would soon climb its way to become an essential distribution center for several small engine parts and equipment lines for the East Texas area. Mamaw and Papaw would officially retire in the early 1990s, and the business would steadily grow - eventually employing a full team of inside and outside sales representatives to supply parts to over 200 independent repair shops around East Texas. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and as the internet and logistic technologies grew more advanced, manufacturers began pulling smaller distributorships in favor of larger central distributors, or a "factory-to-dealer" approach. By the early 2000's, there was hardly a need for Air Cooled Engine Company's distribution side.
Despite the hardships encountered in the late 1990's and early 2000's Air Cooled Engine Co. would scale back its operations and focus entirely on it's storefront. Jerry and Linda's daughter, Stacie, and son-in-law, Dale Robertson, would be pivotal in helping to transition the company from a dwindling parts distributorship into a flourishing outdoor power dealership. Having been a part of the business for more than a decade at this point, Dale and Stacie worked to shift our focus back to the Lufkin/Nacogdoches area. Over the next 10 years, Air Cooled Engine Co. would achieve multiple awards for equipment sales milestones - consistently placing in the top 10% of Scag dealerships and being recognized as one of the top 10 selling Dixie Chopper Dealerships in the nation. After Jerry and Linda retired in 2008 and 2013 respectively, Dale and Stacie would continue to operate the dealership until their son, Connor, and daughter, Kristen, joined the business in the early 2020's.
In the last few years, Connor and Kristen have helped the company adjust to the modern age by expanding our online presence, revamping our inventory system, and expanding into the compact tractor market. As we begin the transition into our 4th generation of owner/operators, our family remains optimistic about the future, and we're proud to get to continue on the legacy of the generations that came before. Air Cooled Engine Company's story is far from over, and we'll never forget that it only ever existed because of you - the customer. Thank you for allowing us to serve you and your kin for the past 60+ years!