Veteran transit man forged work ethic milking a cow
Record contributing writer
Steve Lewis saw an opportunity in 1972 when, short on money to complete his graduate degree in architecture, he went to work in the family business, Lewis Bros. Stages. The name and the company have been synonymous with Utah’s mass transit system for over 100 years. Lewis, a longtime Park City area resident, says simply, “I thought I should give it a try.” It was a good decision and, 45 years later, he’s still at it.
His grandfather, Orson Lewis, started the business in 1914, when he began shuttling people to the Bingham Canyon mine and mining towns in Nevada in his Model “T” Ford. Five of his brothers eventually joined the business, hence the name. The fabled transit company provided regular bus service between Salt Lake City and Park City from 1938 to 2003.
Lewis grew up on a family farm in Hunter, Utah, once a rural area of the Salt Lake Valley, now swallowed up by West Valley City. As a child, his family struggled.
“The only milk we had was Carnation instant,” he recounts. “That was until my grandpa, in his wisdom, bought us a cheap cow from a local farmer. I was 12 years old and, for the next six years, it was my job to milk her twice a day. She was an uncooperative beast and I’ve no doubt the farmer was glad to be rid of her. Getting up every morning at five to milk her before I went to school and again after I got home was no fun, but it forged a work ethic that still drives me. All thanks to my grandpa and ‘Ol Bossy.’”
After graduating from Cyprus High School in Salt Lake City, Lewis attended Westminster College, where he took his bachelor’s degree in English. He went on to study architecture at the University of Utah until he ran out of both educational enthusiasm and money and joined the family business.
At Lewis Bros. Stages he soon began exploring new opportunities. Among the many projects he has created and managed over the years are: the Wendover Casino Shuttle; a “driver escort” service for Russian missile inspectors after the Cold War; a shuttle service from area lodging to Canyons Resort that evolved into the Snyderville Basin route of Park City Transit; another shuttle service for the crew that built the Montage; transportation services for the Salt Lake Olympic Committee during the 2002 Winter Olympics; and his latest venture, Red Canyon Transit, which recently won a five-year contract for the Bryce Canyon National Park visitor shuttle service.
Lewis has been driven to succeed throughout his career.
“I’ve been pretty much a workaholic all my life,” he says.
Blame the cow.
He diversified in 1988 by bringing the Thomas Built Bus dealership to Utah, which in 2003 became Lewis Bus Group, Inc., a full service bus dealership that today sells new and used buses and repair parts, as well as maintenance services.
Lewis acknowledges there have been bumps along the road, both in his business and personal life. In 1987 he met Deborah, his wife of almost three decades.
“I met Deb briefly at a Salt Lake Convention Bureau meeting, just long enough to notice she was both smart and lump-in-my-throat pretty,” he grins.
The pair began dating and married in September, 1988.
“We have great chemistry, we’re best friends, and deeply respect and trust each other.”
Those qualities were tested bringing up the blended family — three children from previous marriages and a fourth between them.
The family resettled to their home in Jeremy Ranch in 1994. The children, three girls and a boy, are all now grown and successfully out in the world.
“We’ve gone through some stuff like every couple,” Lewis admits. “Raising a blended family was really a challenging project, and the travails of my work life have been difficult at times. Sometimes we just had to put our heads down and say, ‘this isn’t very fun right now but we’re going to stick with it anyway.’ It’s all worked out well. Here we are emerging on the other side of that, on the brink of retirement and still together 28 years later, which is a testament to her patience, persistence and strong character.”
Park City is home sweet home for Lewis and his wife.
“We love it here, the mountains, the wildlife, and the diverse mixture of people from all over the country. It’s a stimulating outdoor and intellectual environment,” he says.
The couple recently celebrated the birth of EllaJo, their first “homegrown” granddaughter.
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