A Trip Down Memory Lane with Bill Kirk

For more than 70 years, our company has been supplying liquid asphalt to customers seeking quality materials for a variety of projects. While our history is rich in the asphalt industry, there are other ventures from our past that are well worth looking back on.

“If you know from whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” – James Baldwin

We sat down with, CEO Bill Kirk, to take a trip down memory lane. After watching his father, J.W. Kirk Jr. lead the company and later joining the company in 1976, he’s seen Associated Asphalt adjust, innovate, and expand over the years.

Diversifying Revenue Streams

Associated Asphalt was founded in 1948 under a very different name and offered a very different set of product and service offerings. As Fuel Oil & Equipment Company, Inc., they offered home heating oil delivery. Bill Adams, Carter Tate, and Gordon Mills jump started the business with the purchase of a 10,000 gallon storage tank at the same location our Roanoke Terminal is located today.

“The heating oil business was the new home heat after World War II, replacing coal,” says Bill, who still sits at Mr. Adams’ desk. “He wanted to find something to do for his people in the winter when the paving business slowed down.”

Around 1953, Fuel Oil’s offerings expanded from heating oil into the sale and distribution of liquid asphalt. Just like a winding road, the company saw many changes over the years. In 1956, they dabbled in the gasoline business by operating 9 gas stations. When Bill joined the company in 1976, he diversified the business even more with the establishment of 3 Chesapeake Bagel Bakery stores, the Pop Shop, and the establishment of the EZN convenience store brand.

Refining Our Focus

By 1961, the company had offices in Roanoke, Richmond, and Bristol. Under the leadership of Bill Kirk, a second liquid asphalt terminal was acquired in Inman, SC in 1984. This was the start of a long road to becoming one of the largest liquid supply resellers in the United States.

“In the 90’s a lot of people were converting from heating oil to gas,” Bill remembers. “The convenience store business was good but it wasn’t our main revenue focus.”

After the purchase of a third terminal in Salisbury, NC, leadership made the decision in 1997 to divest the non-core business lines, selling the Fuel Oil & Equipment name, as well as the EZN stores, to focus on growth in the liquid asphalt industry. Shortly after, Associated Asphalt as we know it today was established.

“When I worked for Shell, I saw how the oil companies were starting to focus on refining the oil rather than direct marketing it,” says Bill. “I thought we could apply the same concept to liquid asphalt. We had different terminals in different states but they would all be associated with one another, so that’s how Associated Asphalt came about.”

Paving the Way Forward®

In its final form as a liquid asphalt reseller, the leadership at Associated Asphalt set their sights on growth. Over the next two decades, the company would build or acquire terminals in West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. After receiving outside investment, the footprint expanded into the North even further with the acquisition of Axeon Marketing. Today, there are 35 terminals strategically placed near railways and waterways for efficient transport. We are able to export liquid asphalt for projects overseas, provide third-party testing and research for our internal teams and partners, and provide efficient formulas for projects across the country.

That may be because Bill Kirk has made a point to maintain a company culture that still feels like family. Even though they’ve moved into the former Norfolk & Southern Building, the office still feels as tight knit as the little building they originally worked out of on Roanoke Avenue.

“We do our best to hire locally,” says Bill. “I’m proud that we’ve been able to bring jobs to our hometown and even bring in families.”

So what’s next for Associated Asphalt? Bill says they’ll continue to look for opportunities to formulate innovative products for the variety of markets they serve. They’re also eager to keep partnering with other asphalt formula companies and contractors around the world to provide long-lasting, quality asphalt.

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