SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A local company is hitting a major milestone. The Georgia Historical Society unveiled a new marker Wednesday celebrating Colonial Group Inc. reaching 100 years in business.
The historical marker tells the story of Colonial Oil, Savannah’s first independent wholesale petroleum company.
Founded in 1921, the company has grown to be one of the largest privately-held companies in the country and is now led by the fourth generation of the Demere family.
“What colonial has done for the community, done for the people that have worked there over the years, it’s a lot bigger in terms of the impact,” President and CEO of Colonial Group Christian Demere told WSAV NOW.
“I didn’t expect it coming into the company but it has really driven my passion to want to continue it and give it my all,” he added.
The marker sits at the former site of its first service station at the corner of Charlton and Drayton Streets in downtown Savannah. The convenience stores span the southeast and are now known as the Enmarket franchise. They employ more than 2,000 people in the area.
“Colonial is just tailor-made for this. They are one of the most extraordinary companies in Georgia history,” President and CEO of the Georgia Historical Society, Todd Groce, said.
“This is their centennial,” he added. “So it’s a great opportunity to tell their story to the public through the historical marker.”
The City of Savannah has proclaimed July 21 as “Colonial Group Day.” The Georgia Senate also observed the day with a resolution.
“There were three generations and 100 years of leadership before me,” Demere said. “Over the years there has been a lot of effort and sacrifice by many people to get the company where it is today. It’s a collective effort across the entire team of employees at Colonial and I take great comfort and pride in knowing how many incredible people we have that support the company.”
The commemorative logo was designed and will be used for several years to observe the company’s centennial of service.
“We are grateful to be part of a family business that has served the Savannah community for many generations,” Demere said.
“Colonial Group has led the way as an invaluable steward in the communities where it conducts business and the Demere family is dedicated to demonstrating a continued commitment to giving back through charitable contributions and volunteer efforts in the years to come.”
The marker reads:
Colonial Group, Inc.
Originally American Oil Company
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. In 1934 the company built its first independent ocean terminal on the Savannah River, contributing to the growth and diversification of the Port of Savannah. In 1964 Colonial launched Interstate Stations, now Enmarket, for the operation of convenience stores in the Southeast. At its 100th anniversary in 2021, the fourth-generation family-owned company remained headquartered in Savannah and was one of the area’s largest employers, having expanded with multiple, diverse subsidiaries to become one of the largest privately-held corporations in the United States.
To learn more about Colonial’s history and milestones, visit their website.