Long-Lewis Hardware, a distributor based in Birmingham, Ala., is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. A division of Long-Lewis Inc., Long-Lewis Hardware serves hardware stores, home centers, agricultural retailers, industrial/commercial dealers and lumberyards in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee. The other division is a Ford automobile dealership, one of the oldest in the nation.
The company got its start in 1887 as Bessemer Cornice Works, making metal cornices and other architectural decorations that are still visible on older buildings in Alabama today.
As founder William Long became more successful, he started Long-Hardware and later bought out his competitor, Lewis Hardware.
Long-Lewis Hardware is still a family business, now headed by CEO Vaughn Burrell and his two sons-in-law, VP and general manager Doug Stanford and operations manager Steve Benson. Other management includes Dwight Brown, general sales manager; Michael Brady, purchasing director (who serves on the PRO Hardware merchandise committee); and Jane Geggus, PRO program director. Long-Lewis joined the PRO Group in 1989.
Long-Lewis has dramatically improved its customer service and lowered operating costs through technology, which it uses as leverage to improve performance in many areas of its operation, from sales to delivery. According to Stanford, the general manager, "Technology is allowing us to handle inventory with minimum effort and it has helped reduce paper usage dramatically, while enhancing the accuracy of inventory in warehousing and shipments, providing better service to our dealers."
Stanford added that some categories, such as industrial and commercial, are growing, so the company is expanding in those areas and hiring more sales reps, especially in the commercial side of the business. "We are a company with a rich history. We like to think big, start small and act fast. As you see opportunities you want to think big by growing quantities or categories. Start small by hiring one or two sales people and do it pretty quickly."
One of Long-Lewis' key strengths is providing customer service in rural areas that dealers normally expect in urban areas only. "As a result we are very popular with a lot of different categories of dealers, such as agricultural categories and building contractors," Stanford said. "We find a way to provide customer service to retailers of all sizes. Part of that service is providing the PRO program that offers advertising and recognition."