ALL ABOUT FAMILY
Cochran Bros. Co.
For all of the last one hundred years, the owners of the Cochran Bros. in Dublin have been serving their community with our groceries and living needs through their businesses. Outside the store, the Cochran brothers have served their community, their church and beyond. This is the story of one of Dublin’s centennial businesses and the people who have made it into a local institution.
B. F. Cochran, a former bookkeeper, railroad man and school teacher, came to Dublin and joined R.F. Deese to open a short lived, very primitive shelter store in 1892.
It all began for Cochran Bros. on the Ides of April in 1916, when Horace L. Smith and Guy V. Cochran joined forces to form the Cochran-Smith Company. Smith withdrew from the partnership in short order. Cochran, a former feed and seed company operator, turned to another Smith, Milo Smith, Sr. as his new partner. Milo Smith remained with the firm until he decided to join a higher calling as a member of Uncle Sam’s army in World War I in December 1917. Guy served in the army as well.
The secret to the success of the company came from the fact that B.F. Cochran was raised on a farm and raised all of his children on a farm. As his family grew, his children married and had their own children, Cochran realized that no farm could be big enough to support such a large family.
Operating as B.F. Cochran & Sons, Guy Cochran (left) invited his brother, M.E. Cochran, to join the firm. The Cochrans welcomed Milo Smith home from the war and back into the company. Smith, who would establish his own, highly successful wholesale company, remained until Feb. 1920, when B.F., Guy V., Carl and M.E. Cochran established the current corporation, Cochran Bros Co., as a strictly wholesale grocery house. M.E. Cochran sold his interest to open the Blue Ribbon Bakery.
Within ten years, the company grew from a line of less than a dozen products to more than four hundred grocery items.
B.F. Cochran and family.
Nearly out of business during the dark years of the Great Depression, the Cochrans persevered. One of the secrets of the company’s success was the hiring of quality grocers, including J. Hughes Lord and F. Roy Orr, both of whom were successful grocers in their own right.
At the beginning of World War II, the company was led by President Guy Cochran, Secretary Carl Cochran (left) and Treasurer B.F. Cochran. When the U.S. Labor Department established a forty-hour work week, some businesses feared serious financial repercussions. Company president Guy V. Cochran led the way by leading the first business in Georgia to increase its work force. Cochran Brothers added ten employees to the 17 existing workers before the new rule change. The company added a building supply division under the leadership of Guy V. Cochran, while Carl Cochran took over the management of the grocery division.
During the post war boom, small country grocery stores began to wane as a more mobile populace patronized larger city stores. Faye Cochran’s husband, Ray Prosperi, and Betty Rose Cochran’s husband, Preston Joiner, joined the company. In the two decades which followed, the grocery and the building supply divisions split, reducing the number of family members working in the main company.
Guy V. Cochran’s son, Ben, (left) worked at the store from his earliest working days until the present, except for a short term when he served our country in the US Air Force. Cochran, who is approaching his 60th year of active service to the company, returned home in 1958.
“During my time with the company it has evolved from a small rural wholesale food distributor to a still small, but much more efficient, supplier of convenience foods, fried chicken, gasoline and diesel.”
Cochran considers himself fortunate to have lived in this time in history. He points to the fact that he has had the opportunity to work with his grandfather, father, sons, son- in-law and especially the outstanding members of the Cochran Bros. team, the names of whom he cannot single out because the list would be too long.
In addition to those employees mentioned below, Ben Cochran points to Earl Roach, Raymond Thomas, Emory Garner, Hazel Thigpen Syboda, Geraldine and Walter Haywood, Landrum Bland and Ben’s wife, Pat, for keeping the company in business during the stressful times. It is to these employees that Ben gives eternal thanks.
With the aid of Ben’s daughter Lee Cochran Ladson and her husband, Gus, the company opened its first Friendly Gus Store in Mt. Vernon, a second one in Vidalia and the company’s first store in Dublin at the corner of Highway 441 South and I-16. (Below) Today the company continues to operate many stores in the East Central Georgia area.
“For a business to last for a century, it must have a constant stream of dedicated, talented people who are willing to cast their lot with that business,” said Cochran, who added, “Cochran Bros. has had such people.”
L-R: Ben Cochran, Guy Cochran, Gus Ladson, Ash Cochran and Wick Cochran
Ben’s son, Guy Cochran, (left) who worked as a child in the business in a variety of tasks recalled, “I remember all those summers as a kid working as a trucker’s helper, delivering groceries, feed, building supplies, etc. to country stores all over the Middle Georgia territory. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would one day be running this business in the configuration that has evolved, nor celebrating our 100th anniversary.”
Cochran left the United States Army and moved back home with his wife Tina to join the family business, which was then being run by his father Ben and his brother-in-law, Gus Ladson. Brothers Ash and Wick joined the business, which was engaging in a wide variety of activities. Cochran Bros., once five separate companies, are now one company with three divisions.
“The challenges of growing a family business are real and require a tremendous amount of soul searching when trying to balance the intricacies of business interests and family interests. If you are successful, most often you quickly outgrow the resources provided within your immediate family,” Guy maintains.
Not being able to name all of the cherished employees of Cochran Bros., Guy points to Ira Edwards and Julius Taylor, as well as Skeet Fordham, the all time leader in sales at Cochran Bros. Guy can’t go without giving credit to Bo Payton, Larry Jackson, Sonny Warnock and Sean Claxton as well as his Savior, Jesus Christ.
Ash Cochran, known as “the working Cochran” in the company, is a firm believer in the power of God, He still holds to the principals of hard work he learned as a child. “I am a man of few words, but a man of action. I embrace every day as the first and I always give thanks to the Lord for our business and God’s giving me the strength to do anything that comes my way,” proclaimed Ash.
For one hundred years, Cochran Bros. Company has been all about family, their family, their family of employees and serving your family.