Transfer of Power

photo by Matt Cornelius
photo by Matt Cornelius

Transfer of Power

Family is the foundation each identity is built upon. Beginning at birth and unwavering through age, it is a bond that supports personal growth and aspirations, while helping navigate the future. For the McCulloch family, their kindred tale first took root in Texarkana’s past, and today its legacy is shown in their thriving company, Wholesale Electric Supply.

Buddy McCulloch is the President of Wholesale Electric Supply Company, Inc. (WES), which was founded by his father, Amos McCulloch, in 1947. Buddy’s son, Chris, joined the family operation in the early 2000s. WES now has more than 60 branches across Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri and Tennessee, making it a leader in the commercial market it serves.

In 1946, a young Amos was already a budding entrepreneur. He had pressed pause on his pursuit for the American dream because he had been expecting the draft to call on him to fight in World War II. Amos’ plans to join the Air Force alongside his brothers would soar instead toward a different path.

“The small towns in his part of the country relied on dirt and gravel roads, so to make it easier to reach his customers, he bought a single-engine, single-seat Aeronca Chief,” according to WES. “He would fly 70-100 miles to places like El Dorado, Camden and DeQueen, land and catch a ride with a customer to make his sales calls.” He was truly committed to getting this business off the ground.

“The day after their wedding, Amos and his bride, Carolyn, set off on a honeymoon business trip. They traveled to Chicago, New York, and Boston to set up the business,” according to WES history. The first official location of WES was in an old grocery store building that Amos and Carolyn rented on West 3rd Street in Texarkana. According to company history, “For [around] three or four months, it was just the two of them, but they quickly expanded on their early success.” By 1952, they built their own 10,000 square-foot building, and by 1969, they needed a 25,000 square-foot facility. Wholesale Electric Supply grew exponentially, and along with it, the family.

The original Wholesale Electric Supply Company location in 1947 submitted photo

“My grandfather and grandmother started Wholesale Electric Supply,” said WES Vice President Chris McCulloch. “My grandfather was the warehouse manager, counter sales, inside sales and delivery. My grandmother was the accountant. They started the company together, and when they started having children, she stayed home, and he kept the business going. One of my favorite memories of working at Wholesale when I was younger was getting to go to my granddad’s office during my breaks and talking about baseball and football.”

In 1978, fresh from college, Buddy formally joined his father’s business. Years had passed and WES was nearly unrecognizable; it was not the same company that was once birthed in an old grocery store in town. The industry was changing its face. Modern technologies and advancements flooded the field with no introduction. A newborn environmental movement swept the nation into a different energy conversation. Buddy was eager though, and he packed an arsenal of new ideas for the business.

“At that time, it was difficult for a single-house independent electrical distributor to survive the changing times,” according to WES history. “Wholesale Electric needed to grow to maintain [our] sales territory against the competition. So, the company decided to push outward. The first three or four stores [WES] opened helped recapture their original business from the 40s and 50s, with El Dorado and Magnolia becoming stores number four and five.”

In the early 2000s, WES gained another young, college educated McCulloch. Chris, like his father, Buddy, could not have joined the family business sooner because the nation was in the midst of a financial crisis which disrupted critical markets. Chris took a page from his father’s playbook; he came home from college prepared with a fresh set of ideas that helped the company adapt to the change in technology and e-commerce.

Today, under the leadership of the second and third generation of McCullochs, Wholesale Electric successfully operates 60 stores while consistently expanding in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee and Missouri, and ships to many other states via distribution centers in Little Rock and Dallas.

Texarkana’s WES has yet to reach its limit. Compounded with familial strength, ties to the local community are a key component in the company’s cultivation of success. “My favorite thing about the company is the people that work here and our customers,” said WES President, Buddy McCulloch. Texarkana continues to share a deep connection among its locals and neighboring cities. The small-town unity may be WES’ “secret sauce.” “We have been able to grow as our community grows and are fortunate enough to be able to give back to the community that has supported us for the past 74 years,” said Chris. “Our motto is ‘Yes, We Can!’”

Since Amos founded WES, the company has continued to provide lighting, power distribution and switchgear, safety technology, wire and cable, cable management and raceway, power connection and control, as well as other miscellaneous products. Up-to-date energy saving solutions and options are also offered. “We sell electrical distribution, so, as I like to describe it, anything from light switches to industrial automation controls and everything in between,” said Chris. “One thing that sets us apart from the competition is people and servicing our customers. Also, we run trucks to every store every night so that our stores are stocked for the next day of business. When a customer calls on a Saturday night, our team answers the phone and makes sure they are taken care of, even if that means making an out-of-town delivery on a Sunday morning.”

WES’ progress and expansion are indisputable. If history repeats itself, the region should prepare for further potential expansion. Buddy says his hopes for WES’ future are that it remains consistent, “continuing with sound and steady growth.” “The markets we operate in continue to grow at a rapid pace,” said Chris. “Additionally, we are looking at some exciting opportunities in other new areas that would bring Wholesale to the forefront of the electrical distribution industry in terms of size, locations and products.”

The McCulloch family could not have foreseen what their company would become. Texarkana gave root to one of the largest businesses in the area, which has been nurtured in love and unceasing ambition. It is within these parameters that WES continues to inspire camaraderie among those who have encouraged its prosperity, which in return has led to a laser-focused family. “One of dad’s most quoted mantras is ‘if we do not take care of our customers, somebody else will,’” said Chris. “Texarkana is full of hard-working people and has a good sense of community that supports their own.”

photo by Matt Cornelius

 

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