Central Office Supply has left its stamp on Bridge City.

The business began with a stamp machine purchased by Bill and Betty Smith in 1975. They produced rubber stamps and printing in their living room. 

Smith kept his day job, however, with Kansas City Southern Railroad, until he was able to open a store front near the corner of Roundbunch and Texas Avenue. The couple began offering office supplies at the location. In time, with daughter Caroline behind the counter, the family owned venture became a vital part of Bridge City commerce and community. 

Eventually Smith moved into a portable building at 1600 Texas Ave. while waiting construction for a new shop at the present location. Later he donated the portable building that became the original office for the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce. It remained the chamber office on Roundbunch until the Teacherage Building was moved there in 1993. 

Today Central Office Supply, known by the acronym COS, is owned and operated by grandson Eric Andrus. Andrus got his start there licking envelopes and other small jobs after school.

“They made me work, like it or not,” Andrus said, “Instead of staying home and watching Saturday morning cartoons I was up at the shop doing something I didn’t want to do.” Future ownership of the company wasn’t something he was much interested in as a youngster.

Andrus, now 27, owns and operates the high-tech printing company that was unimaginable in his granddad’s day. His mother Carolyn Andrus is still an employee.

“As it turned out I grew to love working at the business, and saw a future in this town,” Andrus said.

He bought the business when his grandad retired in 2005. Since then it has grown, having kept pace with industry innovations and doing things a lot like his granddad did. To go along with the cutting edge technology and graphic design rubber stamps are still available there.

Thirty-five years after Bill and Betty Smith first put their stamp on Bridge City, COS owned by third generation Andrus, has been named 2009 50th Anniversary Business of the Year by the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce.

Andrus will also be installed to the executive board of the chamber during the 2010 annual banquet Feb. 20 at Bridge City High School. Tickets go on sale in February.

 Andrus married Elysia Roy Sandoval in 2008. The couple have a daughter, Cyann.

“Elysia has been a wonderful inspiration to me,” Andrus said, “I couldn’t wake up every day and do what I do without her and Cyann.”

It has been a bittersweet few years, however, for the Smith family, Andrus and COS. In Sept. 2009 Betty Smith passed away.

Longtime employee Linda Rose lost her husband Jack to cancer last year. 

“If it wasn’t for Central’s employees, past and present, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Andrus said. “They are the gears that keeps me and the business moving.”

Marilyn Malagarie is also part of the COS staff.

“This has been a family owned and operated business since the mid-’70s and I hope to keep it that way,” Andrus said, “Over the years my parents, grandparents and wife have given me nothing but support.”

Also being honored at the BCCC 2010 annual banquet is Bridge City’s legendary Texas Longhorn two-time All-American fullback Steve Worster as 2009 50th Anniversary Citizen of the Year.

Worster led the Bridge City Cardinals to the state football championship in 1966. It galvanized the small unheard of town of Bridge City and changed its course of history. At UT Worster plunged it in to the national spotlight. Last March, Worster was inducted in to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.

The BCCC 2009 Ambassador of the Year will also be named.