Southwest Georgia Oil Company
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THE BEGINNING

SOUTHWEST GEORGIA OIL COMPANY, INC. was founded in November, 1959 by Jimmy W. Harrell in Bainbridge, Georgia. Jimmy, a graduate of Florida State University with a degree in physical education, had tried teaching physical education in a juvenile detention center as well as farming - each for a year. He decided to venture into the petroleum business by selling diesel fuel to farmers from an old tank wagon truck that he bought for $1,000.00 with the help of a personal loan.

His wholesale business grew and soon he decided to sell retail gasoline from a small station located on Highway 27 North in Bainbridge. The first retail banner that Jimmy Harrell flew was that of Colonial Oil. Soon, he added stations on Calhoun Street and Scott Street in Bainbridge. With additional growth in volume he began purchasing gasoline from Murphy Oil Company and Marathon Oil Company in addition to Colonial Oil Company.

In 1968, it became apparent to Jimmy Harrell that he would need to give his oil company a new, independent name. With the help of a close friend and a Marathon Oil Company representative, Wynn Kallay, he decided to name his company SOUTHWEST GEORGIA OIL COMPANY, INC. and operate under the trade name of INLAND. Jimmy's goal was to be the biggest oil company in Bainbridge, Georgia. Moving quickly toward that goal, he added stations in Tallahassee, Quincy, Douglas, Enterprise, Troy and Columbus, as well as Bainbridge.

Jimmy’s initial venture into the convenience store business came in 1973, when he opened his first store in Tallahassee. He then expanded into Albany and Dawson, Georgia; Havana, Crawfordville, and Medart, Florida; and Mississippi . In 1983, the company headquarters was moved to its present location at 1711 East Shotwell Street in Bainbridge, Georgia. His sons, Mike and Mark, also graduates of Florida State University, joined the company in 1984 and 1986 respectively. They shortly began image upgrades, a modernization project, and computerizing store and office operations. In 1986 the company updated its INLAND logo and added a new and exciting graphics package to all its locations. In 1987, using its own contracting company, SOUTHWEST GEORGIA OIL COMPANY, INC. leveled several existing stations and rebuilt new convenience stores in new markets with the same modern design and graphics package. With this new growth came a new progressive image and renewed progressive thinking.

A JOINT OWNERSHIP

On May 31, 1990, Jimmy decided to sell his interest in SOUTHWEST GEORGIA OIL COMPANY, INC. to Mike and Mark and retire from the dizzying pace of the petroleum and convenience store industry. On the date of his retirement, Jimmy Harrell's little South Georgia oil company operated fourteen gasoline stations, seventeen convenience stores, one furniture store, a two tanker and two tank-wagon wholesale operation, a farming operation, and a newly acquired plantation.

In 1991, Southwest Georgia Oil began branding some of its stations British Petroleum (BP) and branded other locations TEXACO in 1994. The company operated several BP and Texaco locations and the Texaco Inland Travel Center with the Fire Chief Diner.

STEPPING INTO THE FUTURE

Fast forward to 1997... Southwest Georgia Oil is again in the process of upgrading the INLAND image with new colors, graphics, and store designs. Using this new image for the overhaul of existing stores, construction of new stores, and expansion into new markets, Southwest Georgia Oil was poised to enter the next millennium with a renewed sense of purpose and with the same commitment to service that has been its hallmark since 1959.

Those changes and growth brought more transition to Southwest Georgia Oil in 1999. Mark Harrell, having acted as the company's VP since 1990, decided to leave the company and pursue a different career. He and his brother Mike worked out a stock redemption plan that left Mike standing at the helm of SWGO. Mike, who had already been serving as company president, kicked off his solo flight with an aggressive growth strategy. Several construction projects have been completed, most notably those that open up a new market in Alabama. New stores have been opened in Dothan and Enterprise, Alabama, and in Tallahassee, Florida. A second travel center has already been added to the company's diesel offering. Hold on to your hats, folks, because SWGO is moving full speed ahead into the 21st Century.

 


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