Above, Doug Gaeke and his dad Louis, along with his brother Robert, bottom right, are the principals of Gaeke Construction in Giddings. For more than 50 years, the company has built offices, churches, banks, schools and homes across Central Texas. (Jay Godwin photo)

By Ed Crowell

From the outside, the plain, one-story building along U.S. Hwy. 290 in Giddings gives no clue of the wide-ranging building projects hatched inside.

Gaeke Construction Co. has been in business for more than half a century, leaving its sturdy imprint with new banks, churches, grocery stores, schools, city halls and houses. The company has built projects from La Grange to Rockdale and from Bastrop to Houston. In Giddings, buildings constructed or rebuilt by Gaeke seem to be on nearly every block. 
Louis Gaeke Jr., who grew up in Giddings, started the company in 1961 as a homebuilder for Alcoa Aluminum employees in Rockdale. After about 10 years, he also took on commercial buildings around Central Texas. 
“I started small — myself and two people,” said Gaeke, who is 83 but not at all retired. He can recall the company’s progress with an easy litany of “I built…then I built…I also built….” 
His two sons, Robert and Doug, work as company president and secretary/treasurer, respectively. Every project is a joint effort by all three family members. Nineteen employees in Giddings bid construction jobs and carry out architects’ plans with a small army of subcontractors and leased heavy equipment. 
Their biggest recent undertaking was the Giddings High School/Middle School complex, a $35 million project. Gaeke won a Building of America gold award three years ago for its innovations in building a new 170,000-squarefoot high school with shared spaces connected to the middle school. The design included converting parts of the old high school building into a middle school. 
Robert Gaeke said his company was a part of the design team from the project’s conception. “All of us at Gaeke Construction value the ability to provide pre-construction services for a project as complex as this one — and the school district reaped the rewards of our involvement by saving time and money,” he said. 
The school’s impressive structure has a soaring glass entryway that leads into wide-open, colorful spaces. Here, students can spend time in a shared sunken library, in a large stair-step gathering area bathed in sunlight from windows above, and in a cafetorium (combination cafeteria and auditorium).
Doug Gaeke enjoys the residential side of the business and builds several custom homes each year. “We’ve always kept the residential work; never stopped,” he said. “You can’t say we have one specialty because we can do whatever comes through the door.” 
One of the company’s ongoing residential projects was the Whispering Oaks subdivision of Giddings. “That was 38 acres, and the first house was built in 1982. We just finished putting a house on the last lot,” said Louis Gaeke.
Louis smiles broadly when talking about additions to The Brookwood Community, a residential and vocational center for adults with disabilities in Brookshire near Houston. He shows off a photo of himself and dozens of residents holding a sign thanking him. 
“Over 19 years, we’ve built dorms and a recreation center, including a lazy river and a pool with ropes to help the residents build strength in their arms,” he said. 
He also is proud of a new project in Houston’s impoverished Third Ward area, a “food desert” of tens of thousands of people without a nearby grocery store. The company is building an independent store as a Pyburns/Grocers Supply project. 
Gaeke’s resumé includes years of building and remodeling about two dozen Brookshire Brothers groceries throughout Central Texas. 
The blueprints-filled offices of Gaeke Construction not only get power from Bluebonnet, but the company also is a good nextdoor neighbor to the co-op’s Member Service Center in Giddings. Built by Gaeke, of course. 
This is one in a series of profiles of Bluebonnet commercial accounts.

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