Bamberg-based Brabham Oil Company is selling its wholesale fuel distribution business and network of 34 convenience stores to a Savannah company.
Enmarket will assume operations of the stores in mid-April.
"The friendships established by this company with customers and suppliers over the years have been vital to its success and will always be treasured," Brabham Oil Company President Brab McCully said Tuesday.
"We look forward to the family business tradition being continued by the good folks at Enmarket,” he said.
Brabham Oil employs about 500 at its convenience store locations, which are branded with the E-Z Shop name. All employees will be given an opportunity to work at Enmarket when the branding changes, McCully said.
"They are not going to miss a beat," McCully said during an interview at his office in Bamberg. "It is my understanding they will come in one day, count the inventory, and the next day take them right over. I don't know of any that are closing."
The future of Brabham Oil's headquarters on Midway Street in Bamberg is uncertain. Enmarket has its own home office in Savannah, so it will not need the Bamberg office.
McCully, 55, says he will keep the facility for a potential future business endeavor.
He said employees at the Bamberg office will either take a job with Enmarket or seek a job elsewhere. The office has 12 employees.
"All of these folks have technical experience or expertise they would be interested in. Some of them have retail experience or supervisory experience," he said. "They will sort through to see how they can best utilize them."
McCully said he expects customers will be pleased with the changes Enmarket will bring. Enmarket’s parent company is Colonial Oil.
"Colonial Oil is a lot larger operation," McCully said. "They bring their own petroleum products in through their own terminals. They have advantages in size and that matters in the petroleum business. They are well capitalized."
As a result, McCully says he has been told Colonial Oil will most likely invest in the stores upon purchasing them.
"Customers will see newer equipment, more modern equipment," McCully said. "I know for their size, their benefits for their employees are stronger than ours just due to size, such as larger health plans. From our people’s standpoint, I think they are going to be very pleased."
Enmarket’s President Brett Giesick said, “Both Brabham Oil and the Colonial Group (Enmarket’s parent company) are fourth-generation, family-owned businesses who have built strong reputations in taking great care of their customers and employees in the markets in which they operate.
“We are proud that Brab and his family have entrusted us with the awesome opportunity to continue to build the business that they have spent decades building."
McCully says it was a good time to sell the business.
"In order to stay in this business, you have to continue to grow," he said. "This business is becoming more complex and size-driven."
"I can see where the stress of operating of this company was going to get bigger and bigger," McCully continued. "Being that it was a family-owned business, I chose not to saddle another family member with that much stress. It is a lot to deal with."
McCully said back in the 1980s, large oil companies had their own stores but did not know much about retail.
"But now you have a different kind of breed of stores coming back into the market," McCully said. "There are a lot of larger, retail-savvy operations that are getting into the petroleum business."
"When you start talking about competing with someone with thousands of stores and you’ve got 34, they have a tremendous advantage over you," McCully continued. "We are fighting a little uphill battle and I figured that would not get any easier."
The decision to sell has been bittersweet, McCully said.
"It took a long thought process to entertain the idea of selling the business," he said. "Then it took over a year to market the business and get a feel for if there is a good fit out there."
McCully says he is confident Colonial Oil is a good fit.
Brabham Oil Co., Inc. was founded by Clarence M. Brabham in 1929 in Bamberg.
Brabham served in World War II and the Korean War while the company he founded continued to operate.
"Being surrounded by excellent people has been the key to success over the years," McCully said. "Mr. Brabham always said, ‘Warm fuels make warm friends’ and he loved that part of the business."
Both Brabham and Colonial's relationship goes back to 1929 when Brabham opened a small wholesale petroleum business as a reseller for Colonial Oil.
The company served as a wholesale jobber for major fuel brands such as Shell, BP, Phillips 66 and Chevron for several decades.
In 1999, Brabham Oil recognized the need for private-label gasoline and launched the Horizon brand.
Enmarket, founded as Interstate Stations by Robert Demere in 1963, is part of Savannah-based Colonial Group, Inc.
The retailer operates convenience stores in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Previously known as Enmark, it launched a rebranding initiative in 2015 to better align with its commitment to fresh food and health.
Enmarket completed the acquisition of 35 Clyde’s Markets on Dec. 1, 2017.
The addition of the EZ-Shop stores will bring the company to a total of 122 operating stores, making Enmarket the 54th largest convenience store operator in the country.