by Dan McClelland
There's a new Lewis in charge at Tupper Lake's Tip Top Electric on Cliff Ave.
He's Nate Lewis, the son of Robert N. and Cindy Lewis of this village, and like his dad before him Nate has been working for the family-owned business since he was a teenager. He's the third generation of the family to own and operate the well-known and well-respected Tupper Lake business.
Nate purchased the business from Bob at the first of the year, and while the name is the same, he's operating under a new limited liability corporation, Tip Top Enterprises.
After graduating from high school here, he studied electricity at Canton ATC before joining the Tip Top Electric staff in 1999. He worked summers there during high school and college.
The firm was started in 1953 when two local electricians- Bob Lewis, Nate's grandfather, and Darwin “Tony” Gensel, then both employed by King's Electric, went out on their own and jointly formed Tip Top Electric. Their first headquarters was a garage on Arden Street, owned by Mr. Lewis' mother.
From the start the business was popular, catering to many local residents and their electrical needs and eventually winning more and more commercial accounts including the Altamont Milk Company and the Draper Corp. plant.
Over the years it gained many more commercial jobs including the electrical work on the original Big Tupper Ski Center lodge, O.W.D. Inc., Major Rod, Elliott Hardwood and renovations to Mercy Hospital.
Servicing the repairs of many area camps, including those at Big Wolf Lake and Whitney Park was also part of the successful business plan.
In 1955 the partners moved their business to Wawbeek Ave., across from Wawbeek Quick Stop and 1959 the partners purchased the company's present quarters at 15 Cliff Ave.
For years the partners did electrical repairs, some refrigeration work and the installation of electric systems. For years too, beginning in 1957, the place was the local headquarters of General Electric appliances and household goods.
For years the firm boasted three full-time employees, aside from the partners. Shaheen Shaheen worked for the firm for many years.
The partners and their wives, Lu and Marie, celebrated 25 years in business with an anniversary dinner with family and staff in February 1979.
In 1974 the younger Bob Lewis joined the firm on a full-time basis, after working there summers since he has 14 years old and after completing study in electrical technology at Canton ATC.
In September, 1982 the senior Bob Lewis died prematurely and the ownership of the partnership went to Mr. Gensel under a buy-sell insurance agreement the partners had forged years earlier.
In 1983 Bob Lewis purchased his father's half of the business from Mr. Gensel.
Leading up to that purchase Bob also started Lewis Insulators, working weekends and evenings installing insulation in a number of residences and businesses here in the early 1980s. That company was eventually folded into the new partnership with Mr. Gensel.
Bob and Tony ran the business for several years together until Bob eventually bought out his partner in 1986.
From that time on he ran the business as the president of his company, with valuable bookkeeping assistance from his wife, Cindy.
For a time too Tip Top Electric was a Skidoo dealership here.
In the late 1980s Bob introduced a heating and plumbing division to the company, which continues to thrive today.
Under Bob's direction the firm over the years grew its customer base in size and geographical area across the Northern New York and Vermont.
For many years Tip Top Electric has been aligned with large area contractors like Cascade Builders and together they have tackled a number of large projects in Lake Placid, St. Regis Lake and across the area. Locally they have also worked closely with contractors Bob Becker, Jim Frenette and others.
According to Bob, Nate has been running one of their crews for a number of years.
One of the firm's mainstays over the years has been plumber and electrician Chris Gallagher who has been with Tip Top for 25 years.
Other employees include Steve Gagnon, Ian Gillis and Zach Smith.
Bob will continue to work for his son, whenever he's needed. He admitted this week it is satisfying to be able to turn over the business to his son.
When the Free Press interviewed Nate last week he promised to dedicate himself to the family business like his father and grandfather did before him.
“Tip Top Electric has a reputation of good work and good service. We're known for honesty, hard work and doing right by our customers. Those things are all priorities for me!” he told the hometown newspaper.
He said in addition to tackling various residential and commercial projects across the North Country, he is looking forward to more jobs at home what with the coming of the Adirondack Club and Resort.
by Dan McClelland