Whitehead Oil Changes With the Times
“If you want to be successful in business, you’d better embrace change.”
It’s an old business axiom that has stood the test of time.
The business of Whitehead Oil Company has lasted from generation to generation because it has done exactly that, said principal owner and company president Mark Whitehead, who was the featured speaker at a recent Lincoln Executive Club luncheon. Whitehead shared the history of his company orally and through some nostalgic pictures from the past that he shared with club members.
One of the pictures shared was the “Tall Man” in the red Husker cowboy hat located at 2701 West O St. Whitehead said many people identified the iconic “Tall Man” with his father. M.E. ("Bus") Whitehead was a 6-foot, 9-inch former Nebraska basketball player who led the Huskers to the Big Seven Conference championship his senior year in 1950.
Contrast in business
“The Whitehead Oil (Company) that my father created bears no resemblance to the Whitehead Oil of today,” said Mark Whitehead, in reference to his father. “In sustaining an organization the size of Whitehead Oil, the only constant is change.”
Mark Whitehead continues the mission set by his late father “to be aggressive and try to keep abreast of the trends.”
And, what has trended is 21 U-Stop convenience stores in Lincoln.
Mark Whitehead joined the Whitehead team full time after graduating from Kansas State University in 1982. His first order of business was to open the first U-Stop at 27th and South streets.
Whitehead said one of his proudest achievements is the 80 acres of development at the 27th and Interstate 80 Interchange, where you will find a U-Stop in the middle of the commercial area.
“We saved the City of Lincoln millions of dollars in the development of that area due to how we were able to run the sewer system,” said Whitehead. “We had to cut the elevation on real estate to the south and work with the wetlands to the north to accomplish the development of the area.”
Mark Whitehead said in three years, Whitehead Oil Company will be 60 years old. “And, we (the second generation of Whiteheads) will have owned the company for 30 years, just like my dad,” said Whitehead.
Founded in 1959
In 1989, Bus Whitehead sold 100 percent of the company to his family, which included Mark and his two sisters. Bus founded Whitehead Oil in 1959 when he bought the Phillips 66 Direct Operation in Lincoln, which included 14 service stations. By 1965, Whitehead Oil grew to 24 service stations and a bulk products distribution plant.
“My father was an incredibly successful salesman,” his son said. “And, he did an incredible job at picking locations for Phillips 66 service stations.”
Mark Whitehead described the way the dealerships of Phillips 66 began in Nebraska and their evolution across the years and into Lincoln. He said they held the dealers out as the highest quality.
“We wanted to be completely different towards what it meant to bring value to the customer,” he said. “We surrounded ourselves with great dealers.”
One of the Phillips 66 dealers he referenced was Melichar 66 Service and Gas at Ninth and P streets. He said the Melichars are going on three generations.
“Bruce (Melichar) and I are the same age,” he noted.
Another relationship that has flourished between the Whiteheads is the one formed with the Minnick family and the DuTeau Companies. Gates Minnick and Bus Whitehead worked together on the 17th & Q streets location which was a DuTeau 66. Now, it’s a U-Stop Convenience Store. Mark Whitehead says they still lease from the Minnicks at that site.
Partnering with NU
The University of Nebraska became another long-standing relationship established with Whitehead Oil Company. But, this one was established over gas and research.
“We became pioneers in the ethanol industry along with the University,” said Whitehead, who was the chairman of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality Council.
Today, Whitehead Oil Company markets through 35 locations around Lincoln and Eastern Nebraska and 21 of the locations are U-Stops.
This article originally appeared on journalstar.com