From its early beginning in 1936 when Dee Colborn assembled a supply order, delivered it in person by row boat and stowed it aboard a customer's work boat, Economy Boat Store established its tradition for personal service. Growing the Wood River, IL business by word of mouth, Colborn, with his partner Floyd Shilling, expanded Economy Boat's range of products and services offered to include: groceries, newspaper delivery, postal services, laundry, crew changes, marine supplies, fleeting and limited line trades. By 1938, the US Army Corp of Engineers had upgraded the navigation channels of the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois Rivers to a minimum 9-foot depth. A dependable navigation channel insured the supremacy of the powerful fuel-efficient marine diesel engine and the screw propeller over steam powered vessels. Marine transportation established a new post-war market for the refineries of the Wood River, IL area by selling diesel fuel dockside.
By 1951 Colborn had identified an opportunity to streamline marine re-fueling operations on the river. The opportunity included the delivery of fuel and supplies to vessels in transit. Harbor boats and fuel barges were used to deliver fuel and supplies, thus enabling vessels to continue under power. Economy Boat Store's service of 'midstream fueling' became the first of its kind on the inland waterways. As the "Originator of Midstream Fueling," Economy Boat maintained a leading position in the Wood River and St. Louis marine markets. Economy Boat's innovative idea of delivering fuel, lube oil, groceries and marine supplies midstream to the barge industry is still the standard in the industry today.
In 1971, a group of investors led by Richard Scheffel, James Barton and Charlie Newton formed a company called MERS, Inc. and acquired Economy Boat Store from Colborn. Richard Scheffel became President with Charlie Newton in control of the company operations. MERS Inc., (dba Economy Boat Store), significantly expanded the company through a combination of internal growth and outside acquisitions; thus establishing a presence on the Upper & Lower Mississippi River and US Gulf Coast. Economy Boat currently serves the marine transportation industry today from Wood River, IL; St Louis, MO; Wickliffe, KY; Memphis, TN; Baton Rouge, LA and Mobile, AL.
In 1999, the Barton family acquired Scheffel and Newton's remaining interests in the company and became 100% owners of Economy Boat Store.
In 2015, Pilot Thomas Logistics acquired a 70% controlling interest in Economy Boat Store and Radcliff / Economy Marine Services, with the Barton Family and Greer Radcliff owning the remaining interest. Fred Barton continues in his capacity as President of Economy Boat, with Jody Davenport and Tom Zupan managing the company’s day-to- day operations. Greer Radcliff is President of the Radcliff / Economy Marine Services operation in Mobile, AL, with Steve Gordon managing daily operations.
Economy Boat Store operates a strong and trustworthy business because of its outstanding employees. Dedicated to our customers, Economy Boat Store serves the marine industry with dependable mid stream service, quality products and competitive pricing; 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.