Lykins Companies, one of the Tristate’s largest private companies, traces its roots to a mistake.

It seems one day in 1948 a couple of representatives for the old White Rose Gas Station brand traveled to Clermont County looking for someone to reopen a closed gas station in tiny Newtonsville, about 10 miles northeast of Batavia.

They went to the wrong address and ended up at the house of tenant farmer Guy “Bandy” Lykins Sr., says his grandson Jeff Lykins.

“My grandma fed them lunch and when they left, grandpa was the new operator of that White Rose gas station,” says Lykins, who is president and CEO of Lykins Companies, today located off U.S. 50 east of Milford.

“It was strictly accidental,” he says. “We’d probably still be farming, if they had gone to the right house.”

Lykins got out of the retail gasoline business about seven years ago, but today it is one of the largest petroleum distributors in Ohio, ranked by taxable gallons sold. Lykins annually supplies about a billion gallons of fuel across a 15-state region stretching from Pennsylvania to Texas. About half of that is through its wholesale fuel brokerage business, but Lykins also supplies fuel to around 25,000 homes for heating and farms, delivers branded petroleum products to about 175 independent gasoline station owners and operates a fleet of about 100 trucks delivering fuel to its customers and others across the Tristate.

Revenues are about $1.1 billion for the third-generation business employing around 300.

And while Lykins is marking its 65th anniversary this year, the owners Jeff Lykins; Ron Lykins, vice president and Jeff’s cousin; and Bob Manning, long-time chief financial officer, are focused firmly on the future.

“We want to double the size of the company over the next five years through a combination of acquisitions and organic growth. The opportunity is out there for us, especially with the other lines of business we’ve added,” says Jeff Lykins.

The newest business, launched little over a year ago, markets electric and natural gas to businesses in Ohio under the state’s utility deregulation law.

“It’s very competitive business,” says Lykins. “It’s a little slower than we thought, but the deals are more solid than we thought. We’re not getting the customer numbers, but we are doing the volume numbers we wanted. And we’re keeping customers who might have gone elsewhere.”

The company has expanded into distribution of bio-fuels including its Eco-Supreme, a cleaner burning diesel blend for trucking companies and a more environmentally friendly home heating oil for customers who want to feel like they’re helping the environment.

New homes in rural areas aren’t being built with oil heat because of the cost. But about four years ago Lykins began distributing propane for cooking, commercial use and backup heating. It has several thousand customers as far away as Chillicothe.

The fuels may change but Lykins remains focused on what it does best.

“We’re really in the BTU (British Thermal Unit) business,” says Lykins. “We want to provide the BTU to the customer whether it is from petroleum, natural gas, electricity or alternative fuels. They are commodities and we’ve been dealing with commodities for 65 years. It’s nothing new for us. It’s just the physical form of the product and how it’s delivered.”

The company’s vision is to be a one-stop shop for its business customers.

“It makes it easier on the customer because they only have one supplier to worry about,” says Lykins.

Lykins is also growing through acquisitions, completing more than a dozen deals over the last eight years.

“In the petroleum business, there are a lot of small and large family-owned businesses that either don’t have a next generation or the next generation isn’t interested in the business. That’s where we get a lot of acquisitions,” he says.

Lykins is also looking at new ways to grow its business.

It is expanding its small fleet card business under a new agreement with Voyager Fleet Systems, a unit of US Bank. The agreement will allow Lykins fleet card customers to use their cards at any gas station in the country not just those supplied by Lykins.

Lykins plans to eventually tie the credit card program into its commercial fueling operation, where it goes into a client’s fleet yard and fuels up its vehicles overnight.

“So whether we fuel that customer’s truck at night or they go out and run 500 miles the next day and get refueled at a truck stop in Tennessee, that customer gets one bill,” he says.

Lykins is also exploring the possibility of developing a one-stop fueling station for commercial fleets for electric, petroleum and natural gas vehicles.

“We’re looking at several options, whether it be electric charging stations or setting up an unattended fueling site that would have the whole gamut of fuels,” says Lykins. “Right now the problem is the quick chargers out there [for electric vehicles] take 30 minutes.”

The concept is probably several years away, Lykins says.

“The technology is moving fast. Today it might cost $1.5 million to develop a combination fueling station but a year ago it might have cost $3 million, so the cost is coming down.”

As a business with long local roots, Lykins says community support is part of its mission.

“My dad [Don Lykins, who died in 2010] was fire chief, police chief and mayor in Newtonsville. He always said you’ve got to support the communities where you derive your income.”

Lykins annually donates about $100,000 to community projects. One of its biggest is CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates in Clermont County). An annual golf outing has raised over half a million dollars for CASA over the last several years.

Lykins also tries to stay close to its roots as a family-owned business.

“If you talk to any of our employees, they’ll say they feel like they work for a family organization rather than a big company,” Lykins says.

It’s something the company fosters with unannounced “play days” for employees to kickback, relax and get to know each other.

“We’ll have food catered in and set up volleyball nets out back,” says Lykins. “I hire one of my old neighbors, who is a retired security officer, [to] come in that day, just to make sure nobody is working.”