Petroleum Equipment Company Inc
by Susan Marquez
Although he was born in the old Baptist hospital in Jackson, Forrest Rhemann has lived all over the world. “My dad was in the Air Force, and we moved around the world when I was growing up. When he was on an extended leave, we’d either go to Texas, where he was from, or to Mississippi, which was my mother’s home.”
Forrest’s grandparents on his mother’s side were Mr. E.W. Fox and his wife, Celeste. Mr. Fox was a distributor for Tokheim when he teamed together with Mr. Johnny Whitfield in 1944 to form Petroleum Equipment Company, a service organization devoted to repairing old gasoline pumps and related equipment. It was an important service since there was no new equipment available to be sold as it was during World War II. After 1948, PECO was incorporated and others became affiliated with the company.
Mr. Fox suffered a stroke in 1966 and was unable to continue as president. His wife took over the reins as president and general manager. “After I graduated from college, my mother asked if I’d like to come to work at the company,” recalls Forrest. “She said that if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to stay, and if they didn’t like me, they were free to ask me to leave.” That was in 1977, and Forrest has been there ever since. “I’ve been running the company since 1983.”
Throughout the 1980s the company saw expansion. Needing more warehouse space, the business moved from the Hooker Street location in Jackson to its present Richland location in 1992. The company is now housed in a 35,000 square foot warehouse with twenty-four hour service offered to their customers.
Petroleum Equipment Company Inc. is a company everybody uses but no one outside of its inner circle knows about, explains Forrest. “We are a complete stocking distributor of petroleum marketing equipment for bulk plants, convenience stores, service stations and automotive service shops,” says Forrest. “We are on the front line after disasters as well. The three things that are needed immediately following a disaster are fuel, portable tanks and portable pumps. We don’t supply the fuel, but we do supply the tanks and pumps. People will die if we don’t.”
The company sells everything from gas pumps to lighting to underground storage tanks. “We also have a division that sells the security chips in credit cards. One of our most common products is the credit card upgrade on gas pumps.”
The company also has a staff of factory-trained technicians to service the equipment they sell. Their market area covers all of Mississippi as well as several Southeastern states. “One thing we pride ourselves on is customer service. If a customer invests their money with us, it’s our job to help them make money with our products.”
Forrest says the pro-business attitude in Rankin County and willingness of the City of Richland to work with them has made doing business here favorable. “Rankin County is a jewel,” says Forrest. “The education system is fantastic, the crime rate is low and the police and fire departments and the sheriff’s departments all work well with us.” He also credits the good workforce available here. “Teamwork is the name of the game, and we’ve got a great team. We have a low turnover of employees, and that makes a big difference.”
Forrest serves on the Rankin First board of directors, and has been presented with the Spirit of Richland award. Both his son, Trey, and his daughter, Krista, work for the company, too. “They work,” he says. “After Katrina, they sold two to three months’ worth of inventory in five days, with no air conditioning. They never complained. I tend to expect more out of them, but both have good attitudes and a good work ethic.”