Colonial Electric Company, Inc. commenced operations in the early 1900’s at 10th and Vine St. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies had just won the National League Pennant (1915) and with over one million residents, Philadelphia was the country’s largest city. As the city’s electrical demands increased through the middle of the century, Colonial responded and flourished.
By 1970, Philadelphia’s population was nearly two million. The road systems badly needed updating. Colonial’s turn-of-the-century office building and warehouse was taken by ‘eminent domain’ to make way for the new Vine Street Expressway. Rather than endure a move, Colonial’s president and the founder’s son, John Wilson, opted to close its doors and liquidate the inventory.
At that time, Joe Bellwoar had been Colonial’s star outside salesperson. He offered to buy Colonial’s inventory and was given permission to use the Colonial name. Square D, one of the nation’s leading electrical manufacturers, agreed to transfer the franchise authorization to the new Colonial Electric Supply. In 1972, Joe moved the inventory to a warehouse at 40 N. 2nd Street in the Old City Section of Philadelphia. He renamed the business Colonial Electric Supply Co., Inc. to reflect the company’s focus as a wholesale supplier.
Joe grew the business focusing on his core lines: Square D, Thomas & Betts, and General Electric. He was legendary for his incredible service to his three largest accounts, Scott Paper, US Steel and Conrail. It was not uncommon for Joe to get an emergency call in the middle of the night to bring a transformer or some desperately needed cable to these manufacturers. His motto was always, "Service after the Sale."
In 1976, Colonial moved its operations 15 miles west of the city to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. With suburban sprawl taking over farmland and the King of Prussia mall quickly becoming a regional attraction, Colonial was poised for the construction boom of the 70’s and 80’s. Colonial’s 20,000 sq. ft. warehouse enabled the company to stock more inventory and efficiently deliver supplies to the growing tri-state area. The company continued to out-service its competition through its dedicated work force led by Joe Bellwoar.
The next generation of the Bellwoar family arrived at Colonial in the early 1980’s. By the end of that decade, the company had grown to $20 million in sales and had about 50 employees. The company leapt into the computer-age, well ahead of other distributors, making inventory control, order entry, and purchasing virtually paperless.
The 1990’s were huge years for Colonial as Jay, David, Steve and Peter Bellwoar took over running the company and sales grew from $20 million to nearly $70 million. The company also became the first electrical supplier in Pennsylvania to achieve ISO certification. Colonial opened its first branch location in 1991 in Downingtown, Pennsylvania with five more regional branches opening before the end of the 90’s.
During this growth period, Colonial expanded its service by adding a Projects Department for Lighting and Gear jobs. The company continued to focus on industrial, OEM, and utility markets, but was now ready to compete head-on for the commercial construction business. Utilizing the talents of the industry’s most knowledgeable lighting and gear experts, Colonial became specialists at servicing commercial electrical contractors.
As the millennium grew near, the young Bellwoars partnered to make the company stronger. They purchased a building complex on a five acre lot and quickly filled 50,000 sq. ft. of warehouse and office space. Moreover, an additional 50,000 sq. ft. warehouse was procured to help execute the company’s plans for a central distribution system with bar-coded inventory. With dozens of delivery vehicles and 24 hour a day operation, Colonial entered the 21st century committed to providing the best and fastest service.
The millennium also welcomed the addition of the Bright Light Design Centers, a retail lighting division of Colonial. These consumer friendly showrooms set the standard for elegant lighting and home accessories. Bright Light also employs Certified Lighting Designers who work on-location or in-house with Architects, Interior Designers, and Residential Builders.
In 2005 the company required more space for its expanding warehouse operations and corporate offices and moved to a 400,000 sq. ft. facility not far from its original King of Prussia headquarters.
Today the company has over 300 employees, 40 delivery vehicles on the road, and over a dozen branch locations in four states. Colonial is still family-owned and family-operated by the Bellwoar partners who strive to maintain Colonial’s reputation as the most service oriented electrical distributor serving the region.