Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
One hundred years ago, in 1913, the parachute was invented. Today, men have walked on the moon. In 1913, the first windshield wipers were put on cars; today, the cars are electric and connected to the world via GPS. One hundred years ago, the crossword puzzle was invented; today, you can play all of your favorite games on a smart phone.
In that span of 100 years, many things have come and gone while others have prospered. Today, General Supply and Machine Company is celebrating three generations of family ownership and success since opening its doors in 1913.
“From my grandfather, to my father and uncle and, to me, we have always worked with this major philosophy — treat our customers as we would like to be treated,” said Alex Weddington, Vice-President and Secretary-Treasurer of General Supply.
The Meridian establishment was founded in 1913 by A.B. “Ben” Weddington as the area’s premier distributor of saw mills on wheels. One hundred years ago, the lumber industry was flourishing in the East Mississippi/West Alabama area and most of the lumber was milled by small, portable saw mills that were picked up and carried from site to site.
The mills were built in-house in the General Supply machine shop, as well as all of the ancillary components. At the height of the mill business, General Supply employed 35 machinists.
“Throughout the Great Depression, my grandfather kept all of his employees, despite the fact the company wasn’t making any money,” said Alex. “That is another one of the working philosophies that has been passed down to each of us who have run General Supply — doing the right thing and improving people’s lives.”
But when you start a business in 1913, and go through the Great Depression and two world wars, things change.
By the end of World War II, the portable saw mill was no longer needed thanks to more paved roads and large trucks to haul lumber. General Supply adapted its inventory to meet the needs of the times, becoming a totally “supply” establishment specializing in industrial, electrical, plumbing, heating and air conditioning supplies. The company also has a line of pumps, pipes and pipe fittings, as well as tools.
When Ben Sr. passed away, his two sons, Ben Jr. and Hunter George, took over the family business. Ben Jr. served as president until his death in 1986; today Hunter George holds that position.
MCC President Dr. Scott Elliott stated, “Most people are lucky in their lives if they can distinguish themselves in just one area. H.G. has distinguished himself in at least three – in his service to his country, in his stellar career as an amateur golfer, and as a longtime civic and business leader. In all that he has done, H.G. has brought honor not only to himself, but also to Mississippi and Meridian.”
The growth of General Supply has been steady and aimed at serving customers in Mississippi and in the West Alabama area.
“We make time for people and if something is wrong, we make it right,” Alex Weddington said.
As more years elapsed, General Supply began to diversify its business, becoming a wholesale distributor for HVAC, mill supplies, plumbing, pumps, valves and pipe fittings. H.G. has credited his son, Alex with expertly managing the continued evolution of the company to ensure its viability in a global marketplace. With innovation General Supply has never lost sight of the company’s beginnings. "General Supply’s employees are loyal and most have been with the company over 25 years," according to a company press release. "General Supply employs eight individuals (other than Mr. H.G. and Alex). One of the eight has been with the company for 48 years and another for 43 years.
"This is just an example of employee loyalty to the company. Not only are the employees loyal to General Supply, General Supply is loyal to their employees and that is one of the main reasons the company has been in business for 100 years."
To that end, General Supply carries a full line of HVAC and mill supplies, specializing in Mitsubishi, Goodman and Bryant heating and air conditioning equipment.
"General Supply also has one of the nicest showrooms between Meridian and Birmingham with Jacuzzi whirlpools, spas, fireplaces, gas logs and bathroom fixtures — anything to make your house a home," the press release states.
As General Supply looks to its next 100 years of success, third-generation owner Alex Weddington said, “We have a choice each day regarding the attitude we will have. Our attitude at General Supply is one of optimism, service and always doing more than is expected.”