Douglass Distributing is more than a gas distribution company. After almost four decades in the Texoma area, the company has made a name for itself among the large name gas stations and convenience stores also located throughout Texas.
It was 1981 when Bill Douglass decided to leave his job at Exxon Mobil to create a family legacy within an industry that he knew quite a bit about. He bought the Humble Oil bulk plant in Sherman and Gainesville that same year.
The first Lone Star retail store, 1716 Texoma Parkway, Sherman, was opened in 1983. Now Douglass Distributing includes 22 convenience stores and eight quick-serve restaurants.
The Sherman-based company has more than 400 employees and sees more than 7 million customers annually. The company distributes more than 130 million gallons of fuel each year with trucks running 24 hours a day.
And, the legacy business has expanded to include more than one Douglass family member in top tier positions. Bill Douglass said in 2017 that it was important for the company to always be run by a blood family member.
“When I started the company, I was primarily trying to do it for my family,” Bill Douglass says about the start of his company. “I had a successful corporate career, and when I decided to go into a small town — because I transferred from New York City, Rockefeller Center to Sherman, Texas — I wanted a business that would be viable for this area and this community. If you say ‘was I focused on the community,’ I would say no because I had only been to Sherman two times before I relocated here. I was not aware of all of the things in the community.”
Then Bill Douglass learned about the more than 500 charities in North Texas. He realized just how mission-minded the area is.
“When we were in it 20 years, that was around the time we had both my son and daughter actively managing key parts of the company,” Bill Douglass explains. “I did not have a global objective. I had more interest in my customers, and I saw what we did as important — that we help our customers and we help the community. And when we helped the community, it helped my customers. I was focused on that. I always believed in a win-win. No one ultimately wins who does not share with everyone else. Our success came from helping our customers become better at their business, more economic and more dynamic.”
One of Bill Douglass’s points of pride is that his son Brad Douglass is a chairman on the board for the Sherman Economic Development Corporation. It was a seat that Bill Douglass held about 20 years ago.
Bill Douglass’ son, Brad Douglass, is the CEO of the company. Brad Douglass is in change of both the wholesale gasoline and the propane sides of the company.
“We have a payroll of $13.7 million,” Brad Douglass said. “We have 400 team members. We distribute products all over the country, ship to five states. But then from there, the products go all over the country. Our trucks run about 3.5 million miles a year safely. We have over 120 vehicles. Some are pickup trucks and most are delivery trucks.”
Like his father’s vision for the company changed to one that was not just about family, Brad Douglass witnesses the growth of Grayson County every day. He said that in 20 years, he sees the company on a progressive track.
“We will definitely have a lot more citizens, and that is great for all of us,” he said. “We will have more traffic and with it, there will be more opportunities. That is the part that is exciting for me. As we have new industry and new systems coming to Sherman, we are getting a larger, more diverse and resilient economy. If there are closings or economic setbacks, it will not affect us as it did in the old days like when we lost Johnson & Johnson or Oscar Meyer.”
And though he works everyday in wholesale gasoline and propane, Brad Douglass sees an area for growth in the community that he hopes the family can make an impact on one day.
“The health care opportunities that we have are really remarkable,” he said. “We have a base with our hospitals that we could really grow part of the sector. It is clean, and we do not need a lot of infrastructure to support that. They are a lot of high paying jobs with real futures. I would like to see us really continue working on health care.”
Lone Star Food Stores Chief Executive Officer Diane McCarty says the legacy of Douglass Distributing is linked to the reputation her father has created in this area and the legacy that she and her brother have worked hard to continue. McCarty, daughter of Bill Douglass, runs the retail side of businesses, managing the convenience stores and restaurants in them.
She has been in the role for 21 years.
“We want to exceed people’s expectations,” McCarty says. “Our stores are a have-to stop for people. No one gets excited about having to fill up on gas or running in to get a pack of cigarettes, but since people have to do that anyway, we want to exceed their expectations on what the experience can be. We love it when people say, ‘This is not your typical convenience store.’”
She explains that goes for the people and the facilities. Douglass Distributing has spent over $1 million upgrading the restrooms at its convenience stores.
“When I was growing up, my parents would say that living is giving,” she talks about why the connection between the businesses and the community that houses them is important. “It has just become part of our culture.”
How the company defines itself is not just in the people, but also in the values within the company, McCarty continues.
One of the keys for McCarty is making sure that the stores are always meeting the needs of the customers. The newest Lone Star will be at FM 1417 and U.S. Highway 75 in Sherman. The store will have Pie Five Pizza as its partnered restaurant. Even though they have done a lot of remodeling, this is the first time in about 20 years that Lone Star has built a new store.
What I love about retail is that we have just about every type of person on our payroll, and we are serving the general public,” McCarty describes the importance of service to others. “And so, that is what keeps the job interesting. We really do see every walk of life. Every walk of life is served at some point by a convenience store. I love the fast-paced landscape of it.”
The third generation Douglass working for the company is Credit Manager Whitney Oestreich, daughter of Brad Douglass. She has been with the company for six years.
“There is something comforting in being around your family,” she explains. “They are your work family, but we have so many long-timers. The continuity is great. We have a lot of families within the company. There are husbands and wives, brothers and sisters. We have other father-son relationships. I think that adds a level of trust that you do not get in corporate America. It is nice and comforting.”
As the third generation, Oestreich says that employees and partners can feel safe knowing that there is a third generation working at the company. It shows that the business is not going anywhere and that the original leaders in the company believe in its continued growth.
“I would just like to help with the company becoming more diverse,” she talks about what she sees in the next 20 years. “We already are very diverse with all of our lines of business, not only on the wholesale side, but on the retail side. We recently incorporated a liquor store into the business. I would like to see that diversification continue and would like to be a part of that.”
Making their mark on the community in more than gas and service stations, in 2018 Douglass Distributing continued to diversify its brand by partnering with 50 area organizations, giving of time, talent and monetary gifts.
“There are so many folks doing a tremendous amount of good in our community,” Brad Douglass says. “We like to look at it in three buckets. One of them is education. That is really important to our entire family. We have money we set aside for education, and then there is money we set aside for the charities. Then we have sponsorships and events. That is Hot Summer Nights, the Celtic Festival. Then within that, we go and visit the nonprofits we support. We like to see what we have going there. We will have a committee of people that will go out and try to understand what we are committing to and see if we can make a difference.”