It’s not often you come across a local business that reaches its 90th anniversary.
Take into account that this particular business not only started life as an open sack coal merchant but that it continues to deliver to this day, and you’ll realise that its sheer power to stand the test of time really comes down to something special.
It’s this attribute that has helped to make FW Lawson such a success story. Talk to current owner Jolyon Lawson and his version of special, quite simply comes down to time-honoured values that can be understood by every customer who has ever dealt with the business throughout its long history.
“Across all of our services, as an original open sack coal merchant and now also including supplying garage forecourts, we do pride ourselves on a level of service that can’t be matched” said Mr Lawson.
“We hope we stand ourselves head and shoulders above them by providing the services of a family business.”
It’s a true family-run establishment that can trace its beginnings all the way back to 1922. The year that Fred William Lawson begun a little slice of Driffield history when he opened FW Lawson in the town.
In those early years and the decades following, the venture thrived by selling and delivering coal to households and other companies within a 25 mile radius of Driffield.
Taking over from his father in the early 70s, Colin Lawson carried on the family line of work from The Old Railway Station Yard, in Albion St, where it would continue to trade, right up until 2012.
Twenty-seven years ago Jolyon first joined the organisation, learning the trade passed down from his grandfather to his father. Just seven years in and he took over the running of FW Lawson and has lead the company beyond arguably its most testing time.
With introduction of gas central heating and the widespread home installation of the commodity saw the use of coal decline, but FW Lawson, committed to providing a service, continued as an open sack coal merchant while also diversifying.
“The first real change came about when we started with a sideline of supplying garage forecourts,” said Mr Lawson. “We initially started doing just kindling sticks on a small scale, then progressing to encompass a full range of solid fuel products”
“This new arm of the business grew massively and eventually we joined the two businesses together to form FW Lawson Ltd.”
Under the new trade name, the services now on offer include supplying households with top quality coals, and supplying garages with solid fuel products such as pre-packed coal, logs, kindling, paraffin and firelighters.
As well as its 90th anniversary, 2012 marked another big change for the coal merchant in its relocation to more suitable premises.
Forty years of operation from the old station yard have passed, and after it was sold by British Rail for developement, FW Lawson looked on the bright side and saw the potential to move to a more convenient location for both the benefit of the business and its customers.
You’ll now find the company at Pexton Rd, Kellythorpe Industrial Estate where it first opened its doors for trading on July 1, 2012.
Larger storage facilities and better purpose built premises allow FW Lawson to keep up its good work, and now it is also fuelled by loyal, local workers.
Mike Bower started with the company 10 years ago and helps maintains a friendly, family atmosphere, ably assisted by his brother Alan for the last two years.
On the administration side, Company Secretary Jane Ledger has been with FW Lawson for 20 years and follows in the footsteps of her mother Audrey, who was also secretary, when Colin held the reigns.
Nowadays Colin remains a director and still takes keen interest in how the business is performing. But he can rest assured he’s left it in the capable hands of Jolyon, Jayne, Mike and Alan.
Although the business is widely known throughout the town and surrounding area through long-term custom, FW Lawson never rests on its laurels.
“We go the extra nine yards to make sure our customers are happy,” said Mr Lawson, but added “You’re only as good as your last delivery.”
It’s this dedication, to never get beyond itself and to treat every single customer as good as, if not better than the last, which earns the establishment its deserved reputation.
In the coal market FW Lawson still enjoys a loyal customer base and in return it is carefully selective of the products it offers, for the benefit of those that use it.
“There’s been an increase in the installation and use of multi-fuel stoves over the last few years; where once they were installed as a secondary heating source, now many people are using these as primary,” said Mr Lawson. “And you need to have the best fuel to get the maximum output.”
As a result of its available products – premium grade coal cobbles, premium grade coal doubles, ovals for the stove market, (a smokeless man-made coal with a high heat return),as well as anthracite for room heaters, AGAs and Rayburns – FW Lawson has seen a demand base increase with much repeated and recommended custom.
Open sack coal deliveries cover Driffield and the surrounding villages while forecourt deliveries are being made as far north as Newcastle and down to North Lincolnshire.
People can also pick up pre-pack products directly from the depot at Kellythorpe Industrial Estate.
But if you do opt for the delivery service, you can bet it will get to your destination and on time.
Even during the recent heavy bouts of snowy weather there was only one farm which didn’t quite get its delivery on the doorstep, yet received it none-the-less.
Mr Lawson said: “We were amazed that we’d managed to deliver all of our orders in the conditions. One customer was completely snowed in, so he met us at the bottom of his farm track with his tractor and trailer, and we gave him the sacks and he drove them back up to the farm, so the deliveries actually still got through.”
Throughout its 90 year history, FW Lawson may have diversified but have never strayed from its dedication to service and whether householder or commercial, each is respected and valued equally.
Mr Lawson added: “We’re absolutely delighted to reach such a milestone and hopefully we will continue to reach 100 years.
“We’re incredibly grateful to the many customers who have supported FW Lawson over the years and on behalf of all the staff, I wish to say thank you to all of them.”