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Family Affair

At Lee Delauter & Sons, being a part of the community is in their DNA.

By Al Hebert

​Historians tell us the most challenging year of the Great Depression was 1933, probably the worst year ever to start a business. But Lee Delauter
had a different view. In the small community of Wolfsville, Maryland, in the grim year of 1933, Lee and his wife Pauline opened a little gas station.

In the early years, Lee repaired cars and sold clothing, feed and appliances. The Delauters lived in the back of the store, and their three sons, Robert, Charles and Dale, literally grew up in the business.

Well, it’s been more than eight decades and Lee’s small store survived that depression, a couple wars and a few recessions. His sons took ownership in the 1980s (the store took on the name Lee Delauter & Sons Inc. or LDS for short) and a second location in nearby Middletown, Maryland, was opened in 2000.

Today, Lee’s grandchildren run the business and many great grandchildren work at both locations as store clerks or deli workers. They continue Lee’s tradition of being an integral part of the community. “Going to the store was like coming to his house. It was and still is the central hub of the community,” said Trina Delauter, Lee’s granddaughter-in-law, adding, “If there’s a disaster or something going on in the community, people congregate here at LDS.”

Service with a Smile
Not many convenience stores offer complete auto repair these days, but it’s an important draw at both Lee Delauter & Sons locations. “In Wolfsville, we replace transmissions, engines and do oil changes,” Trina said. Her husband Keith, grandson of Lee, oversees the shop.

Customers can get repair work completed while having coffee in the store. It’s got a reputation for honest, affordable work that keeps customers
coming from all over the area, including far-away Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Keeping rates reasonable is also a big draw. “The great thing about our store is that we own all the property. We’re not governed by a mortgage and high overhead expenses,” Trina said, “We offer top-notch service and make sure the work is honest and dependable. LDS offers service with a smile that lasts for miles and miles.”

Local Favorites
These days, no c-store worth its salt is without a foodservice program and LDS is no different. The Middletown location serves a steak and cheese sub that’s got folks coming back for more. And there are a variety of choices for dressing the sandwich, as in most stores, but it goes a step further at LDS: Customers are offered either home-grown lettuce or store-bought lettuce. “We recently started buying our lettuce and some vegetables from a local grower in the community. We often sell produce from farmers in the area. We’ll sell a few blueberries, and other produce and baked goods; we sell firewood in the fall. We try to get products that people want so they don’t have to run into the city,” explained Delauter.

The deli offers a variety of items. Daily hot specials are popular as well as fried chicken and homemade soups. “Bean and ham, along with vegetable soup, is very popular. Our soup and sandwich specials are popular,” said Trina. “We listen to our customers’ suggestions and ask what they look for in choosing a place to stop and eat. It’s important.”

Fried egg sandwiches are a hit with commuters heading off to work in the mornings. “We go through 100 breakfast sandwiches a day. Customers can just grab them from the case or have them made to order,” said Trina.

After the morning commuter rush, retirees in the community come in and sit down to eat. They socialize and get car repairs.

Small Town Service
In a world of credit cards, in-store charge accounts are still used in Wolfsville. “This is how Lee did business; he would help a person out who was hard on their luck. They didn’t have to pay right away if they didn’t have the money,” Trina said.

Customers can charge groceries, gas and parts on their account. It’s the way business was done over three-quarters of a century. “If the church needs fried chicken for a funeral meal, we cook it and bill them at the end of the month. On the repair side, we deliver and pick up cars for people. We’re out to help our community.”

“Grandpap” Lee would surely approve.

Al Hebert is the Gas Station Gourmet and showcases America’s culinary treasure—gas station cuisine. TV host Hebert shares these stories and on occasion, a recipe or two at He is a regular NACS Magazine contributor, bringing foodservice ideas to readers.