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.