Natchez man at top of his class

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 7, 2001

Energy and attention to detail have propelled a Natchez businessman to an elite status.

Virgil Powell, who owns and operates Powell’s Chevron on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive, is among the top 5 percent of Chevron dealers nationwide who have won the company’s Gold Award.

&uot;I’ve won the Bronze Award three times – 1993, 1994 and 1998,&uot; said Powell, as he spent a rare quiet moment inside the station office between customers.

&uot;This station being more than 50 years old, it’s surprising we could win that award. It’s very hard to win.&uot;

The Chevron award is based on cleanliness of the site, service to customers and other small details, all checked several times a year by judges who stop by but do not identify themselves.

&uot;You have to make 100 percent of their checks,&uot; said Powell, who has operated the station for 15 years.

&uot;You have to have all your rack cards in place, remember to ask someone to fill out credit card applications and other things like that.&uot;

Powell’s is a full-service station, one of the last of its kind in the Natchez region. He offers car washes, oil changes, small repairs and replacement of hoses and belts.

With his background of many years as an auto mechanic, he is qualified to provide those services, he said.

&uot;We’re just like the old grandma and grandpa shops used to be, and that’s just about what I’ve become, an old grandpa,&uot; he said.

Powell has worked at gas stations and as a mechanic for most of his adult life, spending time at several auto dealerships, including Gardner Motor Co.

His customers are 80 percent Natchez-area people who visit him regularly, even though the station is located on a busy section of highway at the intersection of Liberty Road.

&uot;One of my customers told me not long ago, ‘Mr. Powell, slow down; you’re going to die before me if you don’t, and I need you.’&uot;

Powell does move quickly, giving his full-service customers the royal treatment as they come and go.

A native of Columbia, he has found a niche in Natchez that suits him fine, he said. And in November he married Peggy McNeely.

The Chevron Gold Award comes with a free trip for the couple.

It will be like a honeymoon, Powell said, as they did not have time for one back in the fall.

&uot;We’re going to Sydney, Australia,&uot; he said. &uot;And I’ve never been on an airplane in my life.&uot;

So, the 20-hour flight from New&160;Orleans will be an adventure, he said. &uot;This is going to break me in right,&uot; he said.

The Powells will make their trip in May, staying at the Regency Sydney Four Seasons Hotel overlooking the harbor and the famous opera house. &uot;And we’ve got tickets to hike up that bridge over the harbor,&uot; he said with a twinkle.

&uot;I’m ready. I run around here all the time, and it won’t be any trouble for me.&uot;