US energy and port-related company Colonial Group has celebrated 100 years in business with an event at the site of its very first service station at 342 Drayton Street, Savannah, Georgia.
The company began on 21 July 1921 when Raymond McAllister Demere, the great grandfather of current president and CEO Christian Demere, bought a 55-gallon barrel of oil to set up Savannah’s first wholesale petroleum company, after seeing the rising popularity of motor vehicles. Two years later he opened the company’s first service station. The business was first called the American Oil Company, and was renamed Colonial Oil in 1933.
Now, the Colonial Group, which is still family-owned, has a number of segments – Colonial Oil, Colonial Terminals, Colonial Fuel & Lubricant Services, Enmark Stations/enmarket, Colonial Compliance Systems, Colonial Energy, Colonial Chemical Solutions, Colonial Towing, Savannah Yacht Center and Aqua Smart.
Colonial Terminals has four terminals in the US, of which three handle bulk liquids. Terminal 1 in Savannah, Georgia has a capacity of 2.65 million bbl, and stores caustics/acids, food grade products, petroleum, solvents and alcohols, specialty chemicals and tropical oils. Terminal 2, also in Savannah, has a capacity of 1.03 million bbl, and stores asphalt, caustics/acids, food grade products, renewable fuels, solvents and alcohols, and specialty chemicals. CTI of North Carolina (Terminal 4) has a total storage capacity of 730,239 bbl and stores caustics/acids, food grade products, petroleum, solvents and alcohols, and specialty chemicals.
To mark its centenary, Colonial Group unveiled a historical marker on the site of its first service station in Savannah’s historic district, at an event hosted by Dr W Todd Groce, president and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society.
The marker reads: ‘Raymond McAllister Demere founded the American Oil Company on July 21, 1921, as Savannah’s first independent wholesale petroleum company, and he opened his first service station at this site in 1923. Renamed Colonial Oil in 1933, the company is now known as Colonial Group, Inc,’ and also states that the business has become one of America’s largest privately held companies.
The event was attended by Christian Demere, his father, Robert H Demere Jr, the Colonial Group chairman, his brother, Houstoun Demere, VP of business development for Colonial’s Savannah Yacht Center, Ben Watson, State Senator for Georgia Senate District 1, and Van Johnson, Mayor of Savannah. As part of the celebrations, Watson sponsored a Georgia Senate Resolution recognising Colonial Group for having grown from its ‘humble beginnings in July 1921 to become one of the leading businesses in the state’, while Johnson proclaimed 21 July as Colonial Group Day in Savannah.
‘The Georgia Historical Society is pleased to recognise this iconic Georgia-based company and the lasting impact it has had on our state and nation since 1921,’ said Groce at the event. ‘Colonial Group’s sustained, century-long growth is testament to what can happen when you have all the right ingredients for success: great products, excellent succession planning, outstanding intergenerational leadership, and entrepreneurial vision. I am particularly excited about the classroom resources we have developed to tell the Colonial Group story to Georgia students.’
A historian and local writers have worked with Colonial employees, past and present, to write a book about the first 100 years of the company, and Colonial has commissioned a commemorative centennial logo.
‘Colonial Group has evolved from my great grandfather’s original mission of providing petroleum products to my grandfather’s expansion to commercial and retail markets, then to my father’s diversification of the company into other industries from dry bulk commodities such as kaolin and the storage and distribution of chemical products,’ said Christian Demere. ‘Today, our core competencies are in intermodal logistics, transportation, storage, and distribution of both petroleum-based and many other types of liquid and dry bulk products. We will continue to leverage these competencies in our second century of service and build new ones that add value.’
Look out for an interview with Colonial Group looking back on 100 years of business in the August/September edition of Tank Storage Magazine.