In 1953, Joe Keeling was a traveling salesman covering all of Arkansas for Lewis Diesel Engine Company in North Little Rock, Arkansas. They were a Detroit Diesel Engine distributor who sold power units for everything from sawmills to re-powering trucks. During the years 1953-1955, there was a serious drought in Arkansas. So as an avenue to sell more engines, Joe and the North Little Rock branch of Lewis Diesel Engine began to furnish engine and pump combinations to an agricultural market that was desperate for water and the method recently introduced using aluminum pipe and sprinklers. At the time, agricultural irrigation was one of the only widely used forms of irrigation. Late in '63 and '64 Lewis Diesel Engine Company changed ownership and sold to RCH Distributing of Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1965, RCH decided to sell its North Little Rock store and move. As part of a deal struck with RCH, Joe Keeling received a security safe and a 1963 Chevrolet two-ton truck. Keeling Company was started on the dining room table. The first location was a converted tomato shed (pictured right) in Little Rock located where the Little Rock Airport now meets Roosevelt Road. We were there until 1968 when we purchased the property where our current headquarters and main branch is located to this day. Our two initial employees besides Joe Keeling and his wife, Helen, were John Schneider and Billie James. Both John and Billie have since retired from their careers with Keeling Company.
Primarily, we began as a distributor for the agricultural market. However, in 1967, Keeling Company demonstrated serious growth in both service and diversity as Joe Keeling and Ed Shoemaker furnished one of the first 18 hole irrigation systems in Hot Springs, AR at Belvedere Country Club. We are very proud to own all of our branches; now working on our 26th location! We feel ownership makes a statement to our employees and customers that we are here to stay through good times or bad - not just until the lease expires. Many of the products we distribute have their roots in the agricultural markets we initially served and continue to enjoy. Keeling Company's philosophy is that the customer is the foundation of our business and is the one we strive to satisfy. We are very proud of our loyal, enthusiastic and knowledgeable employees who work with us. We are also very proud of our diverse customer base, many with whom we have enjoyed doing business since Keeling Company began.-Joe Keeling, Jr.