The 60-year journey of Moore Oil Company
Ron Moore, president of Moore Oil Company, began writing the company’s story several decades before it put the Marathon brand solidly on the map. What is now the largest light products petroleum supplier in Alabama began modestly in 1954, when Moore borrowed $300 to make a down payment on a delivery truck along with an 800-gallon used gas tank he purchased from a junk yard. From that, he delivered kerosene – using two 5-gallon buckets – to small grocery stores in and around Birmingham.
Moore hasn’t forgotten his humble beginnings. “I like to say the business survived in spite of me,” he said with a smile. “I was blessed unbelievably along the way, including my wonderful wife, Liz. Fortunately for me, I got my father-in-law along with the deal. He was an educator who took it upon himself to teach me about business. Without him, I wouldn’t have known what appreciation was, or inflation. I like to say he gave me the home-schooled equivalent of a master’s degree.”
His father-in-law eventually loaned them $5,000 to expand the oil distribution business, but Moore was not one to be in debt for long. “From that first $300 I borrowed, our emphasis has always been on financial planning,” he says. “We’ve reinvested our profits into the business and stayed away from debt as much as possible. We’ve grown the company deliberately and methodically.”
When the Moore Oil offices come into view from Center Point Parkway in Birmingham, a single mature tree stands alone among the Moore delivery trucks parked out front. This tree is actually what remains of the original Moore home, which included a service station at the front of the property, with the house located behind it. Both personally and professionally, Moore considers that tall, leafy tree an enduring and fitting symbol of growth and change. “We figure we’ll leave the tree there as long as it is in good shape,” he said. Standing in his office’s entryway, Moore can point in all directions and show how the property grew over the past 60 years.
Moore bought out a supplier and lubes business in the early 1980s, and the company today includes multiple brands, including nearly 40 locations carrying the Marathon brand. Since 2000, the company has continued to grow through acquisitions of 15 other companies. According to Moore, the company’s “niche” in the industry structure is to find good operators and essentially become their banker. Ron himself has served on a bank’s board of directors for the past 32 years.
“The Marathon brand offers us really good supply, and we believe they are here to stay,” he adds. “They also have a lot of good people. You can call and talk to any of them.”
“Moore Oil put the Marathon brand on the map for us in Alabama in a big way,” notes Marathon Brand Sales Manager Jen Golub. Tony Stephens, Moore’s Marathon Brand territory manager for many years adds, “I was impressed with Moore Oil Company from our first meeting in 2007. It was evident they were a large and respected jobber in Alabama. After several meetings spanning over two years, Moore agreed to convert 22 locations to the Marathon brand. This initial group of locations positioned the Marathon brand for future growth in Alabama and established Moore Oil as a Marathon anchor jobber. It has been a pleasant and mutually-beneficial partnership.”
Today, Ron Moore is joined by his only son Ronald J. “Joey” Moore, Jr., who oversees development, construction, and c-store operations, and his granddaughter Rebecca Moore Swann, who handles many of the financial functions in running the family business. Rocky Neason, who the Moores say they count as part of their extended family, also directs integral pieces of Moore Oil. Neason, a high school friend of Joey Moore, joined more than 30 years ago. And the next generation is coming: Rebecca’s son, Skyler, born earlier in 2015, is already making regular office appearances.
The Moores all say that Rocky Neason deserves much of the credit for developing the relationship with the Marathon Brand, starting first with Territory Manager Tony Stephens and today, David Lattimer. Neason himself has partnered with the Moores on eight facilities. “Rocky has always been able to see opportunity coming,” Moore said. “First it was case goods, and then bulk drum oil. And he saw convenience stores coming. Today, Rocky also represents Moore Oil on Marathon’s Jobber Advisory Council.”
Moore’s management team says diversification has been key to the company’s survival. The company has expanded into financing and real estate, and holdings include convenience stores, car washes, quick-lube units, restaurants, and the local country club. “As far as the retail locations are concerned, we own the facilities that account for 80 percent of our volume and are financially invested in the rest,” says Moore. The company also co-owns A&M Oil Co. in Tuscaloosa, the largest petroleum jobber in Tuscaloosa County. Ron Moore himself is a visible figure in the Birmingham community, active in a wide variety of civic and charitable organizations.
Joey Moore also notes that the company can claim a lot of firsts in the area. In the 1960s, he says, they were among the first to offer a “self-service” concept in the state. In 1979, they pioneered electronic card readers. They were among the first to do remote deposits and electronic fund transfers. “Really,” his father adds, “it all boils down to the fact that [my wife] Liz never liked being Number Two at anything.”
Although Ron Moore has co-owned and operated the local country club for nearly 40 years, he doesn’t find much time for a game of golf, or even the thought of retirement. “I’ve always said if you’re a good golfer, you probably aren’t spending enough time at your business,” he said. “But I’ve gotten around to a game every 10 years or so. I’m not retired, and I have no intention of doing so. I often use the phrase, ‘if you retire, you expire.’ This company, and this family, is really the most rewarding part of my life.”