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Forsyth, Georgia
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July 11, 2018     The Monroe County Reporter
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July 11, 2018
 

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Page 8A i orter July 11, 2018 By Michael Davis and Will Davis What started as a small retail mar- ket on Peachtree Street in Jackson has grown into a multi-state family of companies in multiple lines of business, including a shopping center in Forsyth. But while Jones Petroleum Com- pany is marking its 50th year, that doesn't mean it's resting on its laurels. With new pro)ects underway and more on the horizon, founder and CEO William "Bill" Bailey Jones sat down recently with the Jackson Progress-Argus to look back on the foundations of what has become a brand of companies involved in businesses from retail and fast food to fuel transportation to insurance to auto sales. What would eventually become Jones Petroleum can be traced to Jones' first store in Jackson, a Handy Andy market on a plot ofland that remains in the company's portfolio. The doors of the convenience store opened April 4, 1968, the same day of the Rev. Martin Luther King J s assassination in Memphis. But the store almost was not to be. After graduating from the University of Georgia in the spring of 1966, Jones got a contract to teach and coach football at Jackson High later that fall. After teaching for a couple ofyears, Jones said he wanted to go into business for himself, but needed $8,000 to purchase inventory to stock the Handy Andy. After being turned down Owner of Forsyth shopping center an All-American success story for a loan several times, during a second visit to C&S Bank in Jackson a banker told Jones he could get the money fib is father co-signed for the loan. Jones' dad, Bailey, refused. "He had seen, over his tenure, people lose their whole farm over a used car note ' Jones said. " That made an indelible impression on him" Jones' brother Steve, however, agreed to go into business with him and took a 90-day leave from his rail- road job to help run the store during the day. When his teaching day was done, Bill Jones would relieve his brother from duty and run the store in the afternoons and evenings. By September of 1968, Bill Jones had won the seat as Butts County's school superintendent and later started a master's degree program. By the summer of 1970, he'd finished a master's degree in school admin- istration. That September, he began pursuing a law degree at Atlanta Law School. "I managed to juggle a lot of ca- reers;' he said. While finishing up his master's de- gree, Jones opened his second store, in Stark. By the time he was entering law school, he was opening his third store, a location on Macon Avenue. After finishing law school in 1973 and being admitted to the bar in 1974, Jones continued expanding his retail portfolio, opening his first supermarket in Jackson in De- cember 1975. It was located where the company's Piggly Wiggly store in Jackson is located today. Jones' second grocery location opened in Barnesville in 1977 Meanwhile, Jones had found a prime location on Lee Street in Forsyth for a third grocery store. To get financing to build a Forsyth store, all he needed was a commitment from his wholesaler, Alterman Foods in Atlanta. The successful company was owned by five Jewish brothers, and Jones drove to Atlanta to make his pitch to one of the brothers, Sam Alterman. Jones told Alterman how excited he was about the location in Forsyth and asked him to sign a lease for what surdy would be a successful operation. Jones said it was obvious Alterman wasn't biting. "He was way too smart for that," " me alon the laughs Jones. He led g path and behind the barn and every- where else." Jones kept insisting the location was perfect, and finally the wise old Jewish businessman told him some- thing he's never forgotten. "The plan ain't the land; Alterman told the young businessman from Jackson. "It's the man. If you put a sorry fella in there he'll ruin it for you no matter how good the. location. And even a bad location will work if you have somebody nmning it thafs going to make things happen:' Jones said it's a lesson he carries to this day. "The real secret to business; said Jones, "is the man, not the plan" Even as his business grew, Jones was finishing his second four-year term as school superintendent when he was elected to a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1976, the same year he opened a law office in what is known as the Buttfill House in Jackson. Jones served eight years in the Georgia General Assembly. During that time, he was also expanding his business. In 1982, he said, he acquired a wholesale fuel distributorship that came with a dozen convenience stores. That year, the company be- came Jones Petroleum. replace CVS, and opened Freshway Market to give Forsyth a local gro- cery option. More recently they've added Dunkin' Donuts, which has been a big hit not only with locals but also with interstate traffic. A FAMILY COMPANY But while Jones Petroleum indudes multiple lines of business -- and more than 1,000 employees across Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina it's still a fam- ily business. Bill and wife Martha Jones' daugh-" ter Natalie oversees retail, fast food and convenience store operations at the stores Jone Petroleum operates. (The company also leases stores to be operated independently). The company's fast food franchises indude Burger King, Dunkin' Do- nuts, Little Caesars, Subway and DQ Grill & Chill. The Jones Petroleum store on Peachtree Street in Jackson, which was opened in a newly built building in 2013, is home to a DQ. Bill Jones said the company is also approved for a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen franchise, but hasn't yet opened one. In all, Jones Petroleum operates 35 fast food outlets, with eight more in the works. In 2004, son Burt Jones started the company's insurance firm and expanded it into lending to create JP Capital and Insurance. Burr Jones is currently a member of the Georgia Legislature, having first been elected in 2012 to the state Senate, where he is in his third term. Son Bryan, the oldest of the three children, oversees the construction, maintenance and transportation components of the Jones Petroleum Company, including Jones Petro- leum Transport Company, a trucking arm. Perhaps the company's largest ongoing construction project is the building of a new travel center at the interchange of Interstate 75 and Ga. Highway 16. The center be geared toward the motoring public and truckers alike, with diesel filling in the rear and a large retail and res- taurant facility at the front, induding food operations, among others, it also has other lines of bus'mess. In 2007, Bill Jones said, the com- pany bought some property at Lake Oconee and developed it into a ma- rina. The complex, called Fish Tale Marina, offers boat storage, ramps, a pontoon and ski boat dealership and boat servicing. In 2014, the company partnered with local businessman Harry Lewis to open the first new-vehicle dealer- ship to be located in Jackson since Lewis' was dosed in 2009 amid the natiotiwide auto bailout. Country- side Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram was opened in a renovated location the Jones company had owned for more than 30 years, which was purpose- built decades before as an auto dealership. A few months after Countryside opened, Bill Jones said the company bought out Lewis' share of the busi- ness and remains the dealership's sole owner From a farm boy in Butts County to the CEO of a sprawling enterprise with 1,000 employees, Jones has lived the American dream. As he reflects on 50 years of success, he was asked if young people starting out from humble beginnings can still enjoy the kind of success he has had. "Oh yes, it can still be done. It's done every daN' said .Jones. So what advice does he have for young people? "Learn all you can about what you're going to do. Ask all the ques- tions you can and the what ifs. Ifyou ask enough questions the answer Hill become obvious," said Jones. And he said young people starting out liave to get after YOu have to be Willing to w td saadJones. Scrap for yoursel it cant be about the position. oudo what: ever it takes to get the job donff ' But Jones said ff a y(amg person and ~es~to be has the to as smart as.they can, they can enjoy some degree of success. Asked if, at age 73, he has any in- tention of slowing down and perhaps retiring, Bill Jones notes that because of the company's size and reputation, it is constantly being approached with new bus'mess opportunities. "Why do you want to quit some- thing you're having fun at?" he asked. Reflecting on his childhood in Jackson -- his mother at one time employed at the textih is expected to be ?/ '1 t,