Lewis Esso was founded in 1934 by Ernest Lewis on Main Street in downtown Sylva, North Carolina at foot of the historic courthouse steps.
T. C. Lewis (Ernest's son) served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. While serving, he earned the name Top Cat - a name that would later adorn the C-Stores in his honor that he was so integral in starting.
T. C. Lewis Serves in Air Force, Earns Name Top Cat
A tear down renovation was completed in the 1950's at the original store location on Main Street in Sylva, North Carolina.
Tear Down Renovation of Original Store
T. C. Lewis (Ernest's son) takes over the company helm and the company moves to the second generation.
T. C. Lewis Officially Takes Over
T. C. Lewis is elected Mayor of Sylva and embarks on a long political career - always concerend with making North Carolina a better place. Pictured below with Governor Jim Hunt (right).
T. C. Lewis Gets Elected
Tim Lewis guides the company to purchase a small store with two fuel dispensers and a gravel parking lot fronting what is now the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway between Cherokee, NC and Atlanta, GA in 1989 that would serve as the C-Store company's flagship store after extensive remodeling and expansion. The fuel distributorship offices were eventually relocated to the same property.
Flagship Store Purchased
Lewis Oil Company, Inc. celebrates 80 years throughout 2014 with customer appreciation, giveaways, and more expansion.
80th Anniversary Celebration
The company was included in a list of "The 100 Family Businesses That Built NC" feature that also included some other longstanding staples in the North Carolina business community like Biltmore Farms and Estate.
Our State Magazine Feature
Seen waving his hat in the first car during a parade in his honor down Main Street in downtown Sylva, North Carolina. The procession went right by the original store.
President Roosevelt Visits Sylva in 1936
After returning home from the Air Force, and earning a degree in business from Western Carolina Universtiy on the GI Bill, T. C. (Ernest's son) opens a second location in downtown Sylva, North Carolina across from what is now Jackson Paper Company.
T.C. Lewis Opens Second Location
Lewis Esso buys a home heating oil company in Sylva, North Carolina consolidating into Lewis Oil Company, Inc. in the 1950's. Picture below L to R are: T. C. Lewis, Ernest Lewis, and Duane Lewis.
Lewis Esso Expands Into Heating Oil
T. C. Lewis guides the company into purchasing an Esso bulk petroleum distributorship as that company divests from distribution of its products. Pictured below L to R: Furman Raby, Mike Lewis, and Tim Lewis.
Lewis Esso Expands Again
Tim Lewis (T.C.'s son) takes over the company in the late 1980s. Tim's wife, Margie, was already serving as Executive Secretary for the company. And the company moves to the third generation. Pictured below (L) Tim Lewis, T. C. Lewis.
Another Changing of the Guard
With his passing in 2003, a few tributes were written about T. C. Lewis that pretty much summarize everyone's thoughts. An excerpt from one of those written by Carey Phillips and Lynn Hotaling reads, "We didn't expect to write another tribute editorial this week, and we're sad that it turned out that way. T. C. Lewis, a man who was always willing to help out, both in his political and personal life, passed away Thursday, and North Carolina lost one of its best."
T. C. Lewis Gone But Not Forgotten
In March of 2015, another new store is opened between Franklin and Sylva, North Carolina led by Cory and Cody Lewis (Tim's sons). The stores are rebranded as TopCat Markets in honor of T.C.'s name earned in the Air Force, and divided into its own, separate entity - TopCat Markets, Inc.
The Next Generation
In February 2018, TC's ProHardware and Outfitter was opened in Sylva, North Carolina. The latest Lewis generation reconfigured, remodeled, and built a convenience hardware store carrying a wide variety of products and in-store services. Visit www.TCProHardware.com