Beach Oil's New Office Builds on Past

From front to back, a walk through Beach Oil Co.'s new main office facility on state Highway 76 near Exit 11 is a journey through the local fuel distributor's history.

From Beach Oil Company, Inc. -->

Article Written by Jimmy Settle. 
Provided courtesy of The Leaf-Chronicle. 

Inside the front door, there are remnants of old downtown Clarksville where the company began, highlighted by a collection of early 20th-century gas pumps.

Original downtown brick and wood slabs form the interior walls and ceiling of the entrance. Then there are conversation pieces like an old gravity-flow American Gas pump from the 1920s, a 1940s art deco-style Amoco pump from the World War II era and two more gas pumps from the earliest days of Elvis and poodle skirts.

Along the hallways, there are old black-and-white photos of former Clarksville-area businesses where Beach Oil once had accounts — like the Boogersville Cafe, or the little grocery store in Henrietta once run by Richard Head, father of the now-legendary women's basketball coach, Pat Head Summitt.

"When we decided to rebuild, we determined that we wanted to have something to represent each decade that we've been in business. Like here at the entrance, we have these old gas pumps. You don't see many gas pumps selling gas for 16- to- 24-cents a gallon anymore," owner William Beach said.

That's quite an understatement to be sure, but Beach and his staff say they're feeling the pinch of modern-era fuel inflation right along with the rest of Clarksville, as profit margins are squeezed at the distributorship by the global market trend.

These are indeed challenging times for consumers and the domestic petroleum industry — minus Big Oil, perhaps — but life goes on at Beach Oil with its newly expanded digs.

It's a company that's visibly conforming to some of the latest industry automation and product mixing to include increased sales of alternative fuels like ethanol and biodiesel.

William Beach said that, as the company grew, he wanted to hold on to some of the relics of the early years as a way of visually reminding him and his staff of the core values of the business that originated with his late grandfather, Oscar Beach, and late father, Jack Beach.

It was Oscar, and his brother Dale, who formed Beach Oil in 1919 at the corner of Seventh and Madison streets. It was primarily a tire business after World War I. William Beach said there was more money to be made in tires than gas.

Oscar and Jack Beach both remained active in the business until their deaths in 1985 and 1988, respectively.

In 1976, Beach Oil moved to the Highway 76 connector. "At that time, this road wasn't paved, but we felt like Exit 11 was going to be a primary area of retail development," said William, who grew up in the family business, at times driving the company truck.

Admittedly, he said, the company may have miscalculated just a bit, for most of the retail growth in the city was happening near Exit 4 by the 1980s.

"Out here near Exit 11, we saw more residential than commercial growth, but it's still been a good location for us. It's served us well for about 30 years," he said.

As the city grew — and with it, consumer fuel demand — Beach recognized a need to update the company's fuel equipment, tanks, lines and more, while also conforming to new environmental standards affecting the industry.

The company quickly began outgrowing its Sango location and started weighing its options.

"We looked around the city, and seriously thought about taking our company out to the industrial park, but we couldn't find anything that worked as well as this location," Beach said.

So the company tore the existing building down to the concrete slab and remodeled it. Then, more office and warehouse space was added to the side and rear.

Al Boswell, chief financial officer for Beach Oil, said the 10,000-square-foot warehouse for bulk sales and distribution of motor oil and petroleum products, plus about 6,000 square feet of offices and other modern features, should serve the company well for years to come.

"We've added 18 above-ground bulk lube tanks, representing a total of 80,000 gallons of lube storage that we didn't have before," Boswell said.

"Plus, we've increased our underground fuel storage capacity from 80,000 to 180,000 gallons.

Beach said the new tank storage areas are built with protective features so that, should there ever be a leak, any spillage can be recovered without threatening the environment.

Out back, there is the electronic, newly automated truck fuel loading rack which has been upgraded with three diesel stations, plus regular, premium and ethanol gasoline.

"Again, everything here is contained," Beach said, "meaning if we have a spill, it is recovered so that it should never get into the ground."

A vapor recovery system also ensures that fumes through the truck-to-tank exchange aren't released into the atmosphere.

Beach trucks deliver fuel to the tanks at the back dock from major oil company terminals in Nashville. The dock has the capacity to load four large fuel trucks at a time.

Inside the new main office, there is a large staff training room, administrative offices, conference room, plus a small exercise room for employees.

Beach Oil currently has 16 fueling locations that it services as part of its own company network, including the 13 BP stores it owns and operates, an Exxon location and its own branded Beach Oil station. The 16th station is located to the rear of the new main office.

Jimmy Settle is business editor and can be reached by phone at 245-0247 or by e-mail at

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