Fort Worth

Fort Worth entrepreneur H.W. ‘Hub’ Markwardt helped popularize ceiling fans

H.W. “Hub” Markwardt, a well-known Fort Worth entrepreneur, died this week at age 81.
H.W. “Hub” Markwardt, a well-known Fort Worth entrepreneur, died this week at age 81. Courtesy photo

That ceiling fans are now in almost every home, if not in almost every room, is a credit at least in part to H.W. “Hub” Markwardt of Fort Worth, who died last week at age 81.

Mr. Markwardt started a Fort Worth ceiling-fan import business, Encon Industries, in 1977 with just a good idea and a $20,000 letter of credit and walked away in 1995 with $35 million.

Mr. Markwardt died Thursday while vacationing with his family in Biloxi, Miss. He and his wife loved to travel but had not been able to do so in more than three years because of health issues, said his oldest son, Michael Markwardt. To allow his father to indulge his enjoyment of Cajun food and casinos, Michael Markwardt planned a trip to Shreveport, New Orleans and then Biloxi.

Mr. Markwardt became ill on the second day of his last stop, but not before cashing out one final time.

“I was sitting next to him the night before he died and watched him win $3,000 on blackjack,” Michael Markwardt said.

Mr. Markwardt’s legacy was pinned to Encon Industries, the company he established to sell imported ceiling fans in the southern United States. At the time, ceiling fans were too expensive for the middle class, but Mr. Markwardt changed that, Michael Markwardt said.

Encon was born at a time when the economy was flailing and energy costs were soaring. Mr. Markwardt had a product that could cool a room for pennies a day. Encon, short for Energy Conservation, thrived.

His idea for the business came from his love of antique auctions, where he would buy a ceiling fan for $10, fix it up, then sell it for $200, he told the Star-Telegram in 2008.

In its first year, Encon Industries tallied $8 million in sales. By 1994, the year before he sold it, sales topped $63 million.

“I started out selling to small lighting showrooms. I ended up selling to the giants — Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart,” Mr. Markwardt said in 2008.

He also was a pioneer of just-in-time inventory control and one of the first businesses to establish business ties with mainland China, Michael Markwardt said.

Youngest son Steve Markwardt said Mr. Markwardt was playful, mischievous, a dreamer and a thinker.

“When we were growing up in Chicago our friends would knock on the door and ask if my father could come out and play,” Steve Markwardt said.

Steve Markwardt said he never received a college degree but joined the family business instead, figuring he could learn so much more from his father.

“He taught me so much, things that I could not have learned in school,” Steve Markwardt said. “He taught me all about relationships. Always protect and cherish those relationships. You can be tough, but be fair. Stand up for yourself, but be kind and be fair.”

Herbert William Markwardt was born Dec. 12, 1935, in Malone, a town of less than 300 residents about 70 miles south of Fort Worth, to Lillian and Henry Markwardt. He grew up in nearby Bynum.

Mr. Markwardt moved to Fort Worth in 1954 when he was hired on as a mail clerk at the oil field supplier Mid-Continent Supply Co. He quickly worked his way up as a salesman, eventually becoming vice president of sales in 1968.

Mr. Markwardt met his wife, Rae Nell, a schoolteacher, in West Texas in 1956 when they were set up on a blind date. They married a year later and had their first child the next year.

Mr. Markwardt learned the basics of running a company and the value of hard work from his father, who owned a rural general store. Michael Markwardt said his father passed along the same values to him. “He taught me honesty, integrity and hard work.”

Mr. Markwardt’s favorite place to go was China, where he spent a lot of time for business and pleasure, accompanied by his wife.

“He was so good at building relationships, especially internationally,” Michael Markwardt said. “He might have had more friends internationally than he did here.”

“I had such a great time,” Mr. Markwardt told the Star-Telegram in 2008. “I’ve been living the American dream.”

Other survivors include his wife; a sister, Ruth Havis; a brother, Dean Markwardt; three grandchildren; and two stepgrandchildren.

This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3


▪ Visitation 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Greenwood Chapel

▪ Services 1:30 p.m. Friday at Greenwood Chapel