Tidewater Equipment Co. is a dealership that seems to be in a perpetual state of growth, but their top priority is, and always has been, their customers. Originally a manufacturer of timber harvesting equipment, it has evolved into one of the Southeast’s premier heavy equipment dealerships.
Tidewater was established in 1947 to meet the growing needs of the timber industry. They made some of the earliest wheel saws and other similar forestry equipment. Charles Whittle, the company’s founder, based his operations on two guiding principles: offering exceptional customer service and taking care of his employees. It wasn’t long before Tidewater began offering other manufacturers’ equipment at their store in Brunswick, Georgia, and so began their foray into distribution.
By the 1980s, Tidewater had transitioned entirely from manufacturing to distribution and began to grow in the region. And this growth was sustainable, as it was rooted in Charles Whittle’s commitment to the customer. Now with over 20 locations throughout Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and Alabama, Tidewater is the exclusive dealership for Tigercat, Morbark, Case IH and Case CE equipment in the Southeast.
In 2019, Tidewater diversified its inventory offerings to serve markets similar to forestry. President and CEO Jamie Young told CED, “The company has been on a very nice growth trajectory driven by the markets and our focus on customer needs.” When five Case locations in their area became available, Tidewater decided to begin serving the agricultural and construction equipment markets.
“Needless to say, we bring in a completely different management style than most Ag and CE dealers, that requires a complete rebuild of philosophies and personnel that can handle the needs of our customers,” said Young. “The process has begun and continues to get better as we learn customer expectations and form the team of new leadership.” Like anything worth building, Tidewater’s expansion into Ag and CE will take time. “But the Ag and CE customers will soon enough see our commitment is different, and we do business the right way to earn an opportunity to sell them more machines.”
To perpetuate their progress in the Southeast and possibly beyond, Tidewater has recently joined the AED family. Young commented on joining AED: “We needed to rub elbows with folks that run in our circles that may have different viewpoints than we have, to help us continue to grow. We hope to see opportunities to keep us at the forefront of technologies and learn what other tools are offered in our marketplace.
“We take great pride in believing in every product we offer to customers. We forge relationships with our manufacturers’ key leaders and believe that makes us special to the customers we serve. Each of our branches has a leader that can make any decision needed to get the customer going and take care of his needs – real-time – without hesitation.”
As crucial as it is to maintain a customer-centric approach in this business, founder Charles Whittle’s mission was twofold. Tidewater’s second guiding principle is treating their employees right, another commitment that Tidewater’s leadership team still embraces. Young stated, “We have employees that have served with us for over 45 years, and we have respect for each and every member in the Tidewater family.”
As to what comes next for Tidewater, Young opined, “Hopefully, our culture has helped us grow the Ag and CE markets into the territory’s choice to do business for the farmers and contractors. We may even look into other markets that fit our model of industry-specific focused locations.” If history is any indicator, then Tidewater is in store for further success. With their newfound partnership with AED, the sky’s the limit!