From Beer to Brokerage
The real estate firm of Edward J. Lewis began with the business-minded enterprise of its founder Edward J. Lewis in the 1930’s and that same entrepreneurial spirit continues to drive its third generation of service to the local real estate community today. In an interesting turn of events, Edward J. Lewis (E.J.) began his entre into the real estate community as a young man in New Jersey who developed a business relationship with a group of investors who designed a coil cleaning machine. In the 1930’s beer was not pasteurized and fermentation occurred in the lines leading from the keg, often stored in basements, to the tap located at the bar. There was a need to clean those lines and Edward J. Lewis led the sales efforts to distribute the beer coil cleaning machine throughout New York State and the eastern seaboard. The machine sold quite well.
As the New York tavern market became saturated with coil cleaning machinery, E.J. began to think about other markets and also a change in business direction – selling the beer coil cleaning as a service versus selling the machinery. Knowledgeable about the operation of the system, Lewis researched cities with the highest per capita barrooms in the United States. At the time, Gary, Indiana had the most tap rooms, but being too far from home, the Lewis’ moved the business to Youngstown, OH. Youngstown was booming and steel was king. There were three shifts and round-the-clock mills and it wasn’t uncommon for workers finishing midnight turns at the mill to stop into a pub at 6:00am for a steak and a beer before going to bed.
Building a Business in Changing Times
As the beer coil cleaning business grew, EJ expanded the operation to several trucks, a staff to clean coils and a reputation as Youngstown’s beer “roto rooter” man. Building relationships with the pubs expanded into relationships within the business community and Youngstown continued to prosper. Times changed, however, after the end of World War II. Fueled by the G.I. bill established after the war, returning veterans frequently opted to attend college rather than enter the family tavern business. Beer changed, too. As beer was more commonly pasteurized, the coil cleaning service was no longer necessary. Loyal tavern owners soon had a new need as there were taverns to sell and Lewis had numerous relationships within the business. In 1948, Edward J. Lewis established Edward J. Lewis, Inc. and entered the field of real estate.
The firm continued to prosper and grow throughout the 50’s and 60’s and working within the tight knit steel community Lewis became an expert on the various industrial properties. Knowledgeable of the various businesses and the steel community, Edward J. Lewis, Inc. became a resource in the area for appraisal work. One such appraisal assignment would change the direction of EJ’ son Dan, then a mechanical engineer and graduate of Rensselear Polytechnic Institute. Awarded the task of appraising the market value of the Riverbend Urban Project for the Federal Government on what is now Crescent Street in Youngstown, EJ called upon the expertise of his engineer son to assist in the valuation. Finding that work to be rewarding, Dan turned his talents towards strengthening the industrial knowledge base of the company which is a core focus of the firm today.
EJ’s son Dan Lewis eventually took over the real estate firm expanding its industrial relationships and became a well respected resource for the area’s heavy manufacturing base of businesses. Under Dan’s leadership, his son Scott Lewis returned to the family business after graduating from Colorado State University and successfully completing numerous real estate transactions there. In 1987 the office grew from one location to two – Youngstown and Warren. Father and son worked together for almost a decade growing the business from 1986 through 1995 until Dan died in a tragic accident while piloting his private plane. Scott Lewis assumed the day-to-day operations of the company along with his uncle, Arthur Lewis, and carried forward his father’s legacy of volunteerism and community service as a way to give back to the area that had provided the company with so many opportunities. Together with a senior team of real estate agents, the company grew its base of clients beyond the commercial and industrial markets into office, retail and land; increasing the company market share in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys.
Edward J. Lewis, Inc. Today
As times continue to change, the firm continues to adapt and adjust to the needs of the real estate community. After numerous companies left the area and the steel industry moved overseas, the Youngstown area experienced a cataclysmic shift in business. Location and affordability, however, continues to keep the area relevant in the real estate community. Equidistant from Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Youngstown remains an excellent option for business and industry along the I-80 corridor.
Today the firm of Edward J. Lewis provides real estate services to a variety of owners and users of office, retail, commercial, land and industrial users. In addition to real estate transaction services, the firm offers in-house appraisal and business brokerage services. The firm prides itself on market knowledge, a historic database of information covering a high percentage of properties in the market and a reputation for uncovering opportunities, fair dealings with the public and a commitment to community service. Edward J. Lewis, Inc. is an integral part of the real estate fabric of Mahoning and Shenango Valleys. Above all, however, the firm’s commitment to the entrepreneurial spirit and the value of relationships serves as the core of its service to the community.