S.W. Rawls sells business to Chester company

Published 11:15 am Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FRANKLIN—S.W. Rawls Inc. will mark its 100th anniversary next year under new ownership.

Modern Fuels Inc. of Chester recently purchased the business, acquiring 100 percent of the company’s slightly less than 50,000 shares of stock, said Elliott Whitfield. Whitfield is the former president and chief executive officer for S.W. Rawls and has remained on as a consultant.

“We had a situation where the company bought the business,” Whitfield said. “This was an opportunity to preserve jobs with an opportunity for the company to continue to grow. Considering the economy, it was a good opportunity.”

S.W. Rawls operated six Sunoco convenience stores and gas stations in Western Tidewater. Stores are located at Armory and North College drives in Franklin, on Highway 58 across from the Food Lion in Courtland, in Boykins and Smithfield, on Godwin Boulevard in Suffolk and on Route 17 in Crittenden.

The Franklin company also provides heating and air conditioning sales and service and petroleum delivery.

Modern Fuels has two dealers operating the six stores. S.W. Rawls will continue to own the Sunoco properties and operate its heating and air-conditioning and petroleum delivery entities, Whitfield said. Some 20 to 25 employees will operate the entities and S.W. Rawls will keep its office staff at its Bowser Road location. The office was built in 1945 for the business.

“I think from a customer standpoint, for the most part, they will have the same people serving them,” Whitfield said. “It will be the same HVAC technicians and same delivery personnel, same office staff, and for the most part, the same people at the convenience stores.”

The 65 to 70 employees enrolled in the company retirement plan in six to 10 months will each receive a share of the proceeds from the sale of the business. Whitfield did not want to say how much they would receive.

In addition, Modern Fuel is looking at additional conveniences stores, possibly in the Richmond and Chester areas. S.W. Rawls will provide Sunoco products to these stores, Whitfield said.

Whitfield, who has been with S.W. Rawls for 30 years, plans to retire. Modern Fuels will have a board of directors name his successor.

S.W. Rawls Sr. founded the company in 1912. His son, S.W. Rawls Jr., later took over the business. In 1997, the younger Rawls and his family sold the company to its then 75 to 80 employees.

S.W. Rawls spent nearly two years on the sale of the business to Modern Fuels, which was finalized on Dec. 9.

No one from Modern Fuels wanted to comment.