Quality Oil Company History
In 1929, when the United States was just beginning to enter the era of the Great Depression, Joe H. Glenn, Jr. and Bert L. Bennett, Sr., were beginning an era of their own. These two men shared very little in common, other than the fact that they both had a dream of owning an oil distributorship. This dream seemed unrealistic in the economic conditions that were present in 1929, but Joe Glenn and Bert Bennett, Sr. would not stop dreaming and looked beyond adversity to opportunity to make this dream come true.
Quality Oil Company was organized in December 1929. Initially, the Company had been created to launch a distributorship for the then unheard of, Shell Oil Company. This distributorship was originally owned by W. H. Leonard and an unknown partner. Joe Glenn and his uncle, Bert Bennett, Sr. bought the business in 1930. Although the partnership changed hands, the original name of the distributorship remained the same. W. H. Leonard went on to form his own oil company, Leonard Oil Company, which was purchased by Quality Oil Company sixty years later.
Once the partnership had been formed, the two men needed a way to catch the public’s eye and generate interest in the Shell name. This was accomplished through the creation of a seashell-shaped gasoline station. The construction of the stations were quite an event, requiring a wire frame that was overlaid with concrete. Although these stations definitely caught the eye of the public, they were very small and generated little profit. However, they were beneficial in marketing the Shell product as well as building an image that portrayed Quality Oil Company as an aggressive and growing organization. The construction of the eight seashell-shaped stations began in 1930. Today, only one of these stations still exists. The station is located at the corner of East Sprague Street and Peachtree Street in Winston-Salem. In 1975, this unique service station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and has since been renovated to its original state. Learn more about this historic site.
Prior to 1934, all of the oil and gas that Quality Oil Company distributed were brought to the area by railroad from Wilmington, North Carolina. This mode of transportation was fairly expensive, chipping away at the profit of the young organization. The Company decided that transporting the petroleum products using transport trucks would be much more beneficial and profitable than by railroad. In 1934, Quality Oil Transport was founded with the sole purpose of accomplishing this task. This new venture was very profitable and helped to save a considerable amount of money in transportation costs. Quality Oil Transport changed its name to Reliable Tank Line in 1984 and continues to distribute petroleum products to various businesses on a daily basis.
The first corporate office was located on Haled Street in Winston-Salem. By 1935, the office had been relocated to Salem Avenue and South Main Street. At this time, the Company continued to grow rapidly consisting of approximately 175 employees located in various parts of North Carolina. A larger facility was needed for the growing Quality Oil family. In December of 1938, the Company completed construction on a new office building and gas station located at Northwest Boulevard and Reynolda Road. This facility housed a “one of a kind” new style hydraulic lift and the largest tire warehouse in the state containing enough tires to equip 375 automobiles.
The years from 1934 to 1940 saw rapid growth for the Company. Other operating companies were established. They were Quality Oil Company of Mt. Airy, Quality Oil Company of Greenville, Quality Oil Company of Salisbury, Quality Oil Company of Statesville and Quality Oil Company of West End. During this time, most gasoline was sold in country stores rather than service stations and the Company’s largest facility sold 20,000 gallons of gasoline a month.
In the 1950’s, under the leadership of James K. Glenn, Sr. and Bert L. Bennett, Jr., it was decided that the Company needed to consolidate all of the Winston-Salem operations. A thirteen-acre site on Lockland Avenue was chosen to be the new location for the Company’s headquarters. The construction project was completed in December 1962. This was the first time in the thirty-two-year history of the Company that all of the Winston-Salem operations were at one location. Today, this facility continues to serve as the headquarters for Quality Oil Company and Reliable Tank Line.
The Company continued to flourish during the 1960’s. By 1962, Quality had the distinction of being one of the largest branded jobbers in the United States. The Company had approximately 115 conventional service stations and another 300 “filling stations” plus farm and commercial accounts. Quality’s operations were served from seven bulk plants scattered throughout North Carolina from Elizabeth City to Statesville.
In the early 1970’s, Quality’s management team was given the opportunity to delve into an industry that was quite opposite from the petroleum industry. Teaming up with an individual that had the know-how, Quality Oil Company provided the capital to open its first hotel in 1973. Unfortunately, at this particular time, the United States was suffering from the worst gas shortage in history. People were not traveling and hotels were not occupied. The first year of operation was terrible. Management considered placing a fence around its two hotels and closing them down. After much consideration, the Company decided to wait out the wave of bad timing. It was a smart decision as the hotels proved to be very profitable once the gas shortage was over and people once again began to travel. In 1985, another hotel was built in Greenville, North Carolina and was profitable from the beginning. The delayed success of the hotels sparked a vision within management regarding the Company and its role in the hospitality industry. Although it would be 1993 until the Company built another hotel, they once again were able to see beyond adversity to opportunity and worked hard toward making this vision a reality. Today, Quality Oil Company owns and operates hotels located in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida.
The 1970’s proved to be a decade of new ventures for the Quality Oil team. The Company envisioned having an independent station, one that did not bear the Shell logo. After much consideration and research, Quality decided to open their first independent station as a Gas House. This concept was new to the petroleum industry and had started in a small company in Georgia. The concept was quite simple. The Company would build a structure that could serve as a dwelling and have an attached office where payment could be received for gas or cigarettes that were purchased. It was thought that families could work and live together in the Gas House making a very profitable situation for both the Company and the family that worked in the Gas House. This venture was a huge success proving that hard work and dedication to a unique idea can lead to great rewards. Today, Quality Oil Company is one of a very few if not the only company that operates Gas Houses in the United States.
The 1980’s and early 1990’s proved to be very profitable for the Company. The convenience store industry flourished and the hospitality industry also gained momentum. Gas Houses continued to be very profitable and growth in this area seemed inevitable. The only area where the Company saw a decline was the home heating oil division. Since the introduction of electric heat, the home heating oil division had gradually lost customers. Virtually all new home construction was using electric or gas heat. The Company knew that the only way to keep their market share of this industry was to convert competitors’ customers to Quality Oil or to buy existing fuel oil businesses. In 1990, the Company bought Leonard Oil Company followed by the purchase of Wachovia Oil Company in 1996 and Gant Oil Company in 1999. These purchases distinguished Quality Oil Company as the largest fuel oil distributor in the Winston-Salem area. Once again Quality demonstrated the vision needed to overcome adversity and be successful in virtually every avenue that it pursued.
The legacy continued as J. Kirk Glenn Jr. and Graham F. Bennett, who joined ranks of partner in the 1970’s, implemented our Core Ideology:
- To do it because it is right
- To treat others as we would like to be treated
- To be financially responsible
- To be better today than yesterday
Although J. Kirk Glenn, Jr. retired in 2001, the company continues to grow and maintain its strong values.
Today, Quality Oil Company led by Graham F. Bennett continues its heritage of vision and industry leadership. The Company has numerous Quality Marts, Gas Houses, and Hotels located in various cities throughout the southeastern U.S. The future is bright for our ever growing Company and its affiliate Reliable Tank Line. These Companies continue to grow, adding new facilities and employees on a continual basis.
Years ago with only a vision and a small distributorship, Joe Glenn and Bert Bennett, Sr., created a place that would far exceed anything they ever imagined. A place that would continue to be led by hard working family members who would carry on their dream and their vision. A place where employees would be proud to work, vendors would be proud to serve and customers would be proud to use.
A place where Quality people provide Quality service and Quality products with a dedicated commitment to be the best. A place called Quality Oil Company.