One Gate at a Time
By Katrina Huffstutler
Adding more products
to the lineup
each year since 1990,
Ranger Gate Co.
• Ranch gates
• Portable panels
• Livestock feeders
• Livestock pens
• Water tanks
• Trailer products
• Horse products
• Small animal products
• Wildlife products
• Home and ranch products
For more information, visit
The Ranger Gate Co. story is more than a story of startup success. It's one of cattlemen with jobs in town, brothers working harmoniously together and a father's legacy and lessons living on after he's gone.
For decades, the late James Jahn, a rancher and entrepreneur, and his wife, Geraldine, owned a Yoakum-based trucking and moving company, Merchants Moving and Storage. One of their sons, David, and his wife, Nicki, later bought into the company, while their other son, Rick, became a county Extension agent.
The trucking business was a success, but deregulation in the 1980s caused business to gradually taper off. The Jahns knew they needed to diversify their business if it were to support two families.
David says a friend who owned a wholesale metal business planted the seed that eventually grew into the formation of Ranger Gate Co.
"[His company] sold gates, wire, nails and such to feed stores and lumberyards," David says, "and one day he just said, 'Why don't y'all start building me some gates in the evening after work?'
So, they did.
James cleaned out the shop where he had been storing his camper, boat and miscellaneous items so they'd have a workspace. They would gather every evening after work to build gates, with Rick joining them on weekends.
"And that's where it all started," David says.
And, thus, Ranger Gate Co. was born.
"We hired 1 guy and it kept growing from there. Soon we closed down the trucking business and started building gates full time. And that's all we built at first — gates — but every year, we'd add more products," David says.
Panels, hay rings, bunk feeders, wildlife equipment — even picnic tables are among the long list of products the approximately 55 employees of Ranger Gate Co. now build.
Both David and Rick agree the company wouldn't be where it is without their late father, and he continues to influence their decisions and product lines.
"Our dad was extremely influential," says Rick, who left his Extension job to join Ranger Gate Co. when it continued to flourish. "He was a thinker of sorts and loved to solve problems. We are capable because of some of those great ideas, and, [like him] want to provide a very high quality product at a very competitive price."
David interjects, "And, as far as our manufacturing side, he played a huge role."
Rick adds that one reason James was able to be so involved and pay such close attention to detail in the early days of Ranger Gate Co. was timing.
"He and David basically started this whole thing at a time when Dad was getting close to trying to slow down. He was at the age where most people retire, but he was never going to retire. He had the time and the desire to sit out there in the shop and watch us build a gate and really study it and think through the process. And a lot of those ideas he came up with are still being used today," Rick says.
Since James was a rancher himself, he understood what ranchers wanted, Rick says.
"When he made a purchase, he expected it to last. So, from the beginning, he and David went to great lengths to make sure they were building a product that would last and live up to ranchers' expectations," Rick says.
And as an established entrepreneur, he already understood customer service.
"Dad had been in the moving business for so long and he was used to dealing with people and making customers happy. And I think if you polled our customers [on why they buy our products] I think they'd say not only do we make a high-quality product, but we take care of our customers. We're proud of that, and work very hard at it," Rick says, adding that sometimes that means making sure an outgoing load is just right.
"David and I may be out there at 7:00 in the evening taking something off [of a truck] and putting something on. We may be a fairly large company now, but we're not so large that we aren't willing to get out there and make the adjustments ourselves. Dad gave us that good strong base."
Rick also credits his and David's similar vision for the company's success.
"We both have a vested interest in this business and try to make all of our decision together," Rick says. "But if one of us gets into a situation where we have to make a decision on our own, we are 100 percent always on the same page. We look at things the same way. That's one of the reasons it's great to work with family."
The right equipment for the right job
When asked about how they advise ranchers, both David and Rick stress the importance of not only selecting a quality product, but the right product for the job and environment. They also buy in to the whole 'you get what you pay for' mentality.
"The most economical or cost-efficient purchase is not always the cheapest one out there," Rick says. "From the very beginning, my family made the wise choice on choosing materials for our primary product, our Ranger Gate product, to handle the harsh environmental conditions of the Gulf Coast. And those original gates we built are still out there and in use. Picking the right product for the right environment is very important and that's why we have such a wide variety of products."
"We really pride ourselves in building a quality product from the best materials we can find, while keeping our prices in check with everybody else," David adds.
He encourages producers to do their research and make sure they are buying a quality product.
"They need to really look at the quality of the materials they are buying," David says. "Two products may look exactly the same, but they are not."
Once quality is established, David says it's important for cattlemen to consider exactly what they are going to use a product for — and where.
"We build some light pasture gates and we build some really heavy pen gates," he says. "They really want to spend some time choosing the right product for the right application. And the environment has to be considered. Down here on the Gulf Coast, you'll see signs of red rust really soon if you use the wrong materials. Galvanized is the way to go."
With all of the decisions to be made, the experts at Ranger Gate Co. consult with their customers to make sure they are getting a product they will be happy with long-term.
"I think that is part of the service we provide to our dealers and ultimately to our customers," Rick says. "We're really kind of a manufacturer-slash-custom welding shop in a lot of ways."
David says that Rick is a big part of the consulting they do.
"He really is our go-to guy on that sort of thing," David says. "Everybody has their own idea of how to set up different things, and we try to use their ideas while incorporating our experience to build something that will work."
Rick says his background in Extension helps them exponentially in the consulting arena.
"I loved my experience with Extension," he says. "A lot of people ask me if I miss Extension. Well, the part I liked best about being an agent was helping people solve problems and, in this job, I'm doing exactly the same thing. The product is different, but producers have a need and we work real hard to solve those problems."