Wholesale Electric, a family-owned electric wholesaler that has grown to 59 branches and counting since it was opened in 1947.
When Amos McCulloch Sr. opened Wholesale Electric Supply in 1947, he intended to run just the one store in Texarkana, Texas.
“My grandfather and grandmother started Wholesale Electric Supply,” said Chris McCulloch, Vice President. “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.”
More than seven decades later, Wholesale Electric has grown to 59 branches and counting in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Missouri. Second and third-generation McCullochs provide the company’s leadership. They serve customers in the residential, commercial, industrial, and utility fields.
“We sell electrical distribution—so, as I like to describe it, anything from the light to the switch and everything in between, we sell,” Chris said. “One thing that sets us apart from the competition is that we run trucks to every branch every single day.”
At 4 a.m., Chris said, trucks leave Little Rock and Texarkana to deliver inventory to each one of the company’s 59 branches.
“The way we look at our inventory is that it isn’t just one branch’s inventory,” Chris said. “It’s Wholesale’s inventory. So unless it has already been sold, everybody in the company is entitled to that inventory. Some companies sell materials to their branches—we do not do that.”
If one of their branches needs something, they all work together to ensure that branch gets it.
“If Little Rock has something and Dallas needs it, they might meet in Texarkana,” Chris said. “That’s just our mindset. “When a customer calls on a Saturday night, our people answer the phone and make sure they are taken care of–even if that means making an out of town delivery on a Sunday morning.”
Box trucks and stake bed trucks with tarps were inconvenient and time consuming to load and unload, and they didn’t adequately protect products from rain and moisture.
Over the decades, the Wholesale Electric team has tried different methods of shipping products to each branch.
For 25 years, their solution for keeping their products dry was to use stake bed trucks and tarps. Each time they had to load or unload, they would remove the rails from one side of the truck, secure a heavy tarp, and then put the rails back. Chris said the rails were heavy and prone to breaking, and the tarps were expensive and didn’t always provide adequate protection from moisture.
“It’s very easy on a two or three-hour drive for a tarp to get loose and start flapping,” he said. “And in a heavy downpour, a tarp is not going to cover everything.”
The patent pending Ledwell Gull Wing, a truck custom designed for electric wholesalers with aluminum sides that lift with the push of a button. The Gull Wing can be loaded from the sides via forklift and protects products from rain and moisture.
Buddy McCulloch—the company’s president and Chris’s father—started looking for a better way to transport products to Wholesale Electric’s branches. He found it on a cocktail napkin.
Buddy had known Steve Ledwell his entire life. Wholesale Electric and Ledwell & Son had grown alongside each other since both companies were founded by Buddy’s and Steve’s fathers after World War II. One evening, they sat at the bar of a local restaurant, Twisted Fork, and discussed Wholesale Electric’s transportation challenges.
“They drew it up on a cocktail napkin,” Chris said. “That’s the story.”
Wholesale Electric’s team’s requirements included 24 feet of internal loadable space, the capacity to load six 4-foot pallets on each side, opening on the sides, and protection from moisture.
The result? A truck bed with hinged aluminum sides that lift and lower with the push of a button thanks to a central hydraulic system.
“Working with our customer, we produced several early trucks that were essentially R&D,” said John Crisp, Ledwell Regional Manager. “They’re all different—we tested the cylinders, lifted the doors at different angles, used different hinges, a different waterproofing system. We built this with a lighter structure, but still tough. In the delivery business, the trucks are stressed to their limit every day.”
Chris said the Gull Wing’s lifting aluminum sides were a game-changer for Wholesale Electric.
“When you have that 4 a.m. truck and you’re having to unload, re-load, then tarp everything down and put the rails back on—well, now we just open the Gull Wing and load it up from the side,” he said. “Unloading is quick and easy. You open it up, and the forklift pulls the material off. We can’t load conduit from a forklift to the back of a box truck, and the rail trucks were so cumbersome to load and unload and had the added expense of replacing the tarps. The Gull Wing is the best of both worlds.”
Wholesale Electric now has nine Gull Wings in their fleet that make multiple deliveries per day. On average, the Gull Wing saves 30 minutes to one hour of loading and unloading time per work day.
“If you think about it, that’s a lot of time over a year for nine trucks,” he said. “Thirty minutes to an hour per truck per day is a huge advantage for us. We’re not having to stay until 6-7 p.m. loading these trucks. Time is the most valuable thing out there. Whatever can save time and get things quicker is always going to be what we choose.”
He said speeding up the delivery process makes it easier for Wholesale Electric to fulfill their customers’ needs.
“We want to be known for providing the best service,” he said. “Electrical suppliers all sell the same stuff. What matters most is, do we have it? And can we get it to you quickly with a smile on our face?”
The Gull Wing doesn’t require a CDL to drive, which Chris said makes it easier to hire drivers. And unlike tarps, the aluminum sides can be wrapped with vinyl, turning them into moving billboards.
“They’re excellent advertisement,” said Blaire Barlow, Wholesale’s Marketing Director. “One of our locations is on a road that gets about 180,000 cars per day. So when we aren’t using it, we park it right in front of our building. It’s an outstanding billboard.”
Wholesale Electric has recently expanded into the Dallas/Fort Worth market, and the company has seen significant growth over the last decade, Chris said.
He said Ledwell has been a valuable resource for Wholesale Electric since the beginning.
“My granddad was a longtime resident, and Mr. Ledwell was a longtime Texarkana resident,” Chris said. “My father and Steve grew up here, and I went to high school with the Ledwell kids. This is three generations of family business working alongside each other.”
But the companies’ shared history isn’t the only reason Wholesale Electric continues to buy Ledwell trucks.
“Ultimately, I know that with one single text or phone call to Ledwell, I can get whatever I need done, done,” Chris said. “That matters more to me than anything else.”