Tiger Tote founder made his mark in area
July 22, 2013 at 2:22 a.m.
Updated July 23, 2013 at 2:23 a.m.
Fletcher Johnson's effect was widespread.
Johnson, the founder of Johnson Oil Co. and the Tiger Tote chain of convenience stores, died at his home Saturday at 82 after battling pancreatic cancer.
A philanthropist and historic preservationist, Johnson and wife, Jane, supported many community events and nonprofit organizations.
"He was a driven man," said his wife of 62 years. "He wasn't happy unless he had thousands of projects going."
In addition to running his business, among the organizations the Johnsons supported were the Gonzales First United Methodist Church, regional livestock shows, the Gonzales Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services, the Gonzales Hospital and Relay for Life.
In May 2012, Fletcher and his daughters, Ellen Johnson, Judy Gipson and Janet Burke, donated $350,000 to Gonzales Healthcare Systems to help create the Jane Johnson Women's Imaging Center.
"They have been tremendous community supporters of all the projects through the years," said Barbara Hand, recently retired 31-year Gonzales Chamber of Commerce director.
"Both personally and with their business, they have been very supportive of community activities," Hand said.
A Gonzales native, Johnson was a standout pole vaulter at Texas A&M University.
He joined the Texas National Guard in 1947 at the age of 16 and rose to the rank of major during 22 years of service.
He returned to Gonzales in 1950 to run the family ranch and on Nov. 25, 1950 married Jane.
He began his consignee relationship with Humble Oil and Refining Co. in June 1958, with a staff of two.
In 1980, after 22 years of being a consignee, Johnson Oil Company became an Exxon distributor.
In the following years, various distributorships were purchased and consolidated to form the network of bulk plants that comprise Johnson Oil Company.
The corporate office remains in Gonzales with satellite plants in New Braunfels, Pflugerville, Temple and Abilene.
Soon after becoming a distributor, the industry began to shift toward distributor operated convenience stores.
In 1985 Tiger Tote Food Stores was born with its first store in Luling.
Today, the chain consists of 22 stores and five bulk plants with about 500 employees in 11 counties, including stores in Gonzales, Luling, Shiner, Yoakum, Cuero and Nixon.
"We didn't want to be in the grocery store business; we wanted to sell gas," recalled Jane. "But at that time, to do one you had to do the other."
It turns out, Fletcher and Jane "enjoyed every minute" of the convenience store business.
"It was another project, but he loved his employees," she said. "He was always concerned about his employees, about their families and their well being.
"There are not many bosses like that. Ones that really care," she added. "We both knew that we wouldn't be where we were if not for the employees."
Susan Barnick worked for Johnson for 24 years, starting out answering the phones and doing order entry.
She's now the company's chief financial officer.
"We have been fortunate to work for a man like him," she said.
"He was a wonderful man. Kind-hearted. Generous to all his employees," said Barnick." After the '98 flood, he helped several employees restore their damaged homes. His employees had the utmost respect for him. He was a father figure to many."
In 1998, Fletcher received the Outstanding Rancher Award from the Gonzales County Soil and Water Conservation District. In 2003, he was awarded an honorary membership as major in the Texas Rangers Foundation.
He and his wife have twice restored the historic Braches Home that sits on their Cinco J Ranch.
He will be buried there Wednesday.