IN THE FAMILY: Cooper-Lewis Inc. has survived for 65 years, most of them in the same Providence location. Owner Mark H. Freedman, pictured above, began his career at the company in 1966 when his father was owner.
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
By Michael Souza PBN Staff Writer
In an old, industrial neighborhood in Providence, Cooper-Lewis Inc. has withstood the tests of time and change. A distributor of products for the automotive, marine and industrial repair and refinishing trades, Cooper-Lewis has been at the same location for 49 years and has been in business since 1947. Owner Mark H. Freedman believes the expertise that comes with that longevity sets his company above the rest.
“We’ve been doing this a very long time so we have a lot of knowledge about the materials and the equipment,” he said.
The company began with Joe Cooper and Lou Lewis, who started their partnership in 1947 and sold it in the early 1960s to Freedman’s father and another partner.
Freedman’s story starts out simply enough, traveling to the University of Miami for a degree in business administration. His father owned the company when Freedman began his career there, working part-time in 1966. By 1972, he was there full time. “By the time I got out of school, [President Richard Nixon] had imposed a 90-day wage and price freeze to help stabilize the economy and fight rising inflation costs. I had three job offers before I got out of school but the wage freeze put an end to those prospects,” he said. “That’s why I started full time.”
Their core business is selling supplies and equipment to the auto-body-shop industry as well as the industrial coating and marine businesses. Typical products include paints, sandpapers, compounds, waxes, finishes and adhesives. Many of their customers are commercial and industrial in nature but they still take great pride in helping a customer from off the street. In fact, many of them are return customers. “They come in and usually have a problem they want to resolve. If you answer their questions and do alright by them, you will have a repeat customer for a long time,” he said.
The company stocks full supplies of sealers, primers, tape, sand-blasting equipment, welding equipment, tools, finishes, fiberglass and fillers – anything that could be needed for a commercial, professional paint job.
The store covers southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut. A second store in Lynn, Mass., caters to the Boston area.