Williams Wholesale celebrates 80 years

Left to right: David Williams, Roy Williams and Lee Williams celebrate Williams Wholesale Supply serving the Upper Cumberland for 80 years.

By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor

COOKEVILLE – Williams Wholesale Supply marked 80 years in business with a celebratory lunch on Aug. 22. There were no speeches, just a handshake, a warm smile and a heartfelt thank you given by Roy Williams, the third-generation owner of the Cookeville landmark.

“I know 80 years is a very nice accomplishment, but we’re very fortunate to be in Cookeville and Putnam County and the surrounding counties,” said Williams. “We’re blessed by our customers, and we don’t take them for granted.”

Williams Wholesale opened in 1939 as a hardware store on the square in Cookeville. Williams’s father and grandfather started the business selling everything from wagon wheels to bricks and paint. The business outgrew its location, and in 1962, they relocated to the current location at 250 S. Jefferson Ave.

“Back then, people told my father he was crazy for moving so far out of town,” reminisced Williams. “the only businesses on the road were Keller’s Veterinary Service, Red Minnear’s gas station and the stock barn. I-40 had just been built and completed.”

When Williams graduated college and joined the family business in 1980, he expanded the business in a more commercial direction, focusing on plumbing and electrical, as well as larger commercial jobs. It now serves as a full-service plumbing and electrical dealership serving both residential and commercial customers and has added a lighting showroom. 

The company’s success has resulted in it adding locations to serve its customers across the region better.

“Three years ago, we opened a branch in McMinnville, and a little over a year ago we opened a branch in Crossville,” said Williams. “That goes back to our whole philosophy – it’s all about our people. We had some local people in both of those locations who came to work with us, and they are making those businesses successful obviously with our support with the products and such.”

Williams also has Williams Wholesale Plumbing Supplies located in and serving the Chattanooga market.

The business is truly a family affair.Williams’ sons, Lee and David, after both studying at UT, decided to join the family business bringing the fourth generation to the company.

After all these years, when asked what the key to the company’s success has been, Williams doesn’t hesitate to say that it is the employees and their customers that help make all of this possible.

“The only thing that really can separate us from the big box stores and their competition is that we try to have knowledgeable people and provide good service,” said Williams. 

“We appreciate our customers,” Williams added. “Through all the years we have had some great employees, and we still do. It’s not about Roy Williams or the name Williams; it’s about the people that are in the building, who you know obviously, develop relationships with our customers. So, we’re blessed to be in the town we’re in and have the people that work with us.”

Michelle Price is the managing editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal and can be reached via email. Send an email.

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