Lewis & Raulerson Inc.
Even after 75 years in the wholesale gasoline distribution industry, Lewis & Raulerson Inc. (Lewis & Raulerson) has continued to find new ways to expand the company’s market and bring in new revenue sources.
Co-founded in 1938, Lewis & Raulerson began as a distribution center for Shell Oil Company. The distribution center had already existed before the founding, but namesake partners Ernest Lewis and Bill Raulerson came together to buy the center and rename it. Sometime in the ‘70s, the company hit an economic downturn and was in dire need of assistance. Then, Ernest’s son, Carl Lewis, and Grady Lewis, son of Carl Lewis, joined the business and brought the company back into an economic upturn.
Come the early ‘90s, Lewis & Raulerson bought two convenience stores and soon after purchased gasoline dealers. “The business grew rapidly from there,” says Bill Raulerson, business partner of Lewis & Raulerson and grandson of the founding Bill. “Eventually we bought out 70 convenience stores in southern Georgia, and actually tightened that number up to a solid 40 stores.”
The convenience stores are now known as Friendly Express Inc. (Friendly Express), and that business actually operates as a separate entity of Lewis & Raulerson. Essentially, the two are sister companies, and both utilize the other to leverage corporate revenue and business opportunities. For example, Friendly Express is the retail arm where customers can actually buy gasoline, whereas Lewis & Raulerson provides the gasoline to those distribution points.
“It’s a great partnership,” says Bill. “We’re always looking for new avenues to explore with them.”
Together, Friendly Express and Lewis & Raulerson founded a charitable foundation, through which the companies support regional organizations. Since the foundation’s founding some 13 years ago, the two companies have raised more than $500 thousand.
“We have an annual golf tournament in addition to other annual projects to raise the bulk of our money,” says David Turner, president of Lewis & Raulerson. “We also have recently begun a program labeled Feeding Families on Friday, which donates $0.10 of every cup of coffee or fountain drink sold on Fridays at a Friendly Express. We are doing this in conjunction with an annual food drive to raise funds for, and to raise awareness of, our regional food banks. We submit funding to these food banks, which we have very carefully vetted, on a monthly basis in an effort to help provide consistent funding for their efforts.” To-date, the program has raised $20,000.
Catering to Customers
Currently Lewis & Raulerson specializes in supplying light products, distillates, lubricants and gasoline from various producers, such as Chevron Corp., British Petroleum, Mobil and Texaco, as well as multiple unbranded suppliers.
“We market those gasoline producers to over 250 dealers in four southern states,” says Bill. “We currently serve more than 40 commercial and fuel accounts, as well as customers using FueLoc, a proprietary credit card.”
Today, Lewis & Raulerson is known to sell in excess of 150 gallons of gasoline per year, and Bill says that the past 10 years have seen the company experience explosive growth.
“We do whatever we can for customers,” says Bill. “Our construction, maintenance and fleet departments are available to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and all environmental issues are monitored by our environmental compliance manager, using the latest technologies available.”
Bill credits the company’s willingness to provide constant care for clients as a major factor in the overall success of the company. “We have various departments that are available to assist customers, and some others include accounting and risk management, to name a few,” he details.
In addition, Bill says that the company’s employees are what set Lewis & Raulerson apart from competitors. “We have great people here and provide a great service,” he says. “Some customers we’ve had for over 60 years, and we intend to continue building on those relationships.”
Building relationships with customers then allows the company to expand future projects and explore new channels of revenue - all of which Bill and David have in mind for the company’s future.
A New Horizon
A company capable of surviving for three-quarters of a century clearly has a solid understanding of adapting to the times, and Lewis & Raulerson will continue that tradition as the markets continue to grow and shrink. After all, the company has already weathered numerous economic upheavals.
“We’ve survived several substantial setbacks over the years,” says Bill. “We were prudent and watched our bottom line, that’s what helped.”
Some setbacks experienced by the company include higher credit card fees and tighter gasoline margins, which has forced the company to find new sources of revenue. One such new revenue was supplying bulk lubricants to companies, and an upcoming option is expanding into the paper and pellet mill industry.
“We’re expanding our lubricants and grease products by working with paper mills and pellet mills,” says Bill. “Getting involved with startup pellet mills on the commercial lubricant side has helped.”
Moreover, the company will continue focusing on corporate convenience stores and all things on the commercial side of the industry, such as lubricants, distillers and gasoline. After all, Lewis & Raulerson is now positioned as a leader in the industry of southeastern America, and the company seeks to broaden that reach. With Bill Raulerson still involved and David Turner now manning the operation, without a doubt that mission will soon be complete. Lewis & Raulerson Inc. is on its way to celebrating a very, very successful centennial.