Success Story - Blaze Express Courier Service

With a borrowed van, a shared office and $1,000 in his pocket, Charles J. Wolfe founded Barnett Services, Inc., which later became Blaze Express Courier Service, in New Orleans, La., in 1975. Ellie, Charles Wolfe’s wife, answered the phone and handled administrative tasks while Charles made deliveries and handled the operational end of the business. And while the business started small, it has grown considerably throughout the years.

In 1980, Blaze Express moved to Elmwood Business Park, a premier business park in the New Orleans area, and located its offices inside the General Electric Building. The company ran General Electric’s Major Appliance warehousing operation and provided regional delivery for General Electric, too.

Over time, Blaze Express ended up providing local freight delivery, local courier service, public warehousing and retail home delivery (now referred to as residential white glove delivery) for its growing customer base.

Blaze Express moved out of the GE building in 1989 and into a 40,000 square-foot warehouse in the same business park. In 1991, the business’ courier division created its identity and unveiled its name: Blaze Express Courier Service.

Part of the company’s focus was to concentrate on its courier business, which included the medical and pharmaceutical industries, as well as the company’s rush-demand business. But it wasn’t until 2003 (when the company sold its local freight and retail home delivery divisions) that the company’s identity as Blaze Express Courier Service was solidified.

Blaze Express sold a large portion of its company in 2003 to focus primarily on the medical industry. “Since that time, we have made a decision to re-invent ourselves and to include some of the services that we provided prior to 2003,” Charles Wolfe said. “We still want to see continued growth in the medical industry. We want to continue this growth and are actively pursuing this segment. Our drivers are trained in Specimen Handling and Exposure Control as well as HIPAA regulations and policies. They are also trained in the proper packaging of specimens for transit. We have been providing Medical Delivery for approximately 30 of our 38 years in business.”

Katrina did deliver a blow to Blaze Express Courier Service. In August 2005, the company was on pace to have a record month since undergoing changes in 2003. Sales in September 2005 were all but non-existent, plummeting to 12 percent of a normal month. But in spite of the decline of sales, Charles Wolfe Jr. and Paul Wolfe were able to rebuild the business back to its pre-Katrina numbers over a four-month period.

Now, Blaze Express delivers:

  • Lab specimens for several national laboratories
  • Human organs
  • Rush deliveries to and from the airport, both locally and regionally
  • Rush orders, three-hour orders and same-day delivery service for many local companies across Metro New Orleans and Baton Rouge

The company also has dedicated routes for one of Louisiana’s largest hospitals, provides warehousing for critical electronic parts and provides last-mile delivery services for several national logistic companies.

Drivers and service

Today, Blaze Express Courier Service handles over 350 daily deliveries across South Louisiana. The company uses approximately 40 independent contract drivers. All drivers are drug screened and undergo background checks. Most of Blaze Express’ drivers are trained to handle medical delivery, including pack and ship services for lab specimens. All drivers are trained and screened under TSA guidelines to handle deliveries to and from the airport, too.

Blaze Express enjoys helping its independent contractor drivers succeed. “Although it is very important to keep your customers happy, we believe it is equally important to keep your IC’s {independent contractors} rolling and happy,” Charlie Wolfe said. “We think it is important that when we provide pricing to a potential new customer we do so with the IC in mind. He or she must have opportunities to be profitable as they provide services to us and others. We have a saying…”Happy Drivers make Customers Happy!”

Blaze Express’ acquisitions

Blaze Express bought a small courier company in 2010 called Trax Delivery. With the purchase, Blaze added approximately 75 law firms to its customer base (the company offers specialized delivery to the legal industry, including court fillings, document “walk-thru” to judges and sheriffs, and subpoena delivery.)

With the purchase, Blaze opened a satellite office in the Central Business District of New Orleans that runs two bikers and a vehicle fleet that recovers and drops off CBD deliveries throughout the day. The company also has a small warehouse in Baton Rouge, La., where it completes regional distribution for the western part of the state. This location also serves Lafayette and Lake Charles, La.

Company services

Although Blaze Express is a smaller company today than it was in years past, the company has found that its customer service has become more personalized. “Our office personnel have great relationships with all of our customers,” Charles Wolfe said. “Even many of those that are entering their jobs online and do not call our office.”

The company also provides various technological services to its customers.” We utilize Datatrac as our technology partner,” Charles Wolfe said. “Our customers can do online order entry, check POD status, and review certain reporting online, amongst other things. We provide scanning for those requiring it, which can also be viewed online. We provide electronic signature capture. We can also customize any reporting a customer may require, such as on time performance or cost summary.”

The company is now also targeting the last mile logistics segment. “As a result of the continuing growth of online retailers and the fact that they will be looking for ways to get their product to the consumer, we are positioning ourselves to serve this business segment in one of two ways,” Charles Wolfe said. “First, to provide service directly to the customer based on their specific needs; second, to provide service to this industry through 3PL’s. We expect to continue to see growth for many years to come within this industry segment.”

Blaze Express is also growing as a last-mile provider to the traditional retailer. “We continue to provide last mile distribution of product that is sold on the shelves of the traditional brick and mortar retailer,” Charlie Wolfe said. “We have seen this segment of our business grow over the last 18 months or so and look forward to continued growth. Once again, we provided these types of services in years past…got away from it…and are now pursuing it again.”

About the Author
Abbie Stutzer is the editor of Courier Magazine. Contact her at abbie@couriermagazine.com.