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March 13, 2008 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-03-13

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Business I on the cover/entrepreneurships



ena, DonalNrjory

and Lilly Epstein



n The Farnil

Staff photo by Angie Bean

Close-knit leadership
keeps Vesco Oil
flowing profitably.

Bill Carroll
Special to the Jewish News


onald and Marjory Epstein are
lawyers, and their daughters, Lilly
and Lena Epstein, were econom-
ics majors at Harvard University. So why is
this suburban Jewish family now running
an oil business in Michigan?
The answer is based on a tragic family
circumstance that the Epsteins overcame.
They persevered to make Vesco Oil Co.
one of the largest distributors of branded
automotive and industrial lubricants in the
United States. The multi-million-dollar-a-

year business, founded by lubricant pio-
neer Eugene Epstein 60 years ago, has its
main office in Southfield and warehouses
in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Mancelona and
"When Lena and I were learning the
businesses during summers off from
school, we often came home with oil spots
all over our clothes:' mused Lilly, 29, now
general manager-business development
and corporate strategy. "We had to get
involved in the nitty-gritty of the business
to learn everything about it. That's the
nature of the oil business!'
Lena, 26, is director of process man-
agement, assisting employees in quality
"My sister and I are happy to have come
home to Michigan to help our parents run
the family business:' said Lilly. "We're mak-
ing the transition to the third generation."
Added Lena, "We work together closely

and are very close friends. Vesco Oil is
truly a family affair. We're a close-knit
family and, best of all, we really like each
Lilly and Lena are single.

At The Beginning
The Vesco story began when Eugene
Epstein came to Michigan from New Jersey
and began dabbling in the sale of oil prod-
ucts to customers, joining the Victor Oil
Co. In 1947, he, Harry Victor and Aaron
Silverman formed Vesco as a subsidiary of
Victor Oil, using the first initials of their
last names ("VES") — with a car dealer-
ship as their first customer. Epstein even-
tually bought out his partners and Victor
Oil later was sold to the Marathon Oil Co.
Epstein died at 70 in 1985 but, by this
time, his son Richard had joined Vesco
and the company continued to thrive and
expand its product and service offer-

ings. Vesco became Mobil Oil's primary
Michigan product distributor, and the
firm acquired the distributing business
of Diamond Oil in Grand Rapids. Richard
also established Vesco's Environmental
Services Division to provide "cradle to
grave" environmental support to custom-
But tragedy struck the Epstein family in
1994. Richard was diagnosed with leuke-
mia and asked his brother, Donald, to run
the business "temporarily." Donald was
"happily practicing corporate law" with the
Sommers Schwartz law firm in Southfield,
"and I had no plans to join the family
business and, although I handled some of
Vesco's legal matters, I really knew very
little about the total company operation."
After Richard's death the following
year, Donald, a University of Michigan law

All In The Family on page A32

March 13 • 2008


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