#621 – How does Alabama’s wealthiest man spend his money?

Posted on | The Agurban

We love to hear stories about how one person or a small group of people can make a difference in a small town. One person’s “Can Do” attitude can be infectious and inspire others. Jimmy Rane is that one person for Abbeville, Alabama. Below, in part, is the story of Abbeville and Jimmy Rane.

How does Alabama’s wealthiest man spend his money? Revitalizing his beloved hometown

The Henry County town of Abbeville, whose population hovers at about 2,700, is not on the way to anywhere. Located in a far southeastern corner of the state, within spittin’ distance of the Georgia line, it’s a little town mostly known to those who live there or who happen upon it. But that’s changing. Civic leaders and Abbeville’s most prominent resident, Jimmy Rane, are preserving the town’s historic buildings, encouraging new businesses and adding fun and quirky touches to make Abbeville a destination city. Here’s how.

Jimmy Rane may be listed by Forbes as Alabama’s wealthiest person but he’s just a regular guy.

In fact, Rane, a lifelong resident of Abbeville, spends a lot of his time saving historic buildings and helping revitalize the tiny town.

“I’ve lived here all my life and my mother’s family has been here more than 200 years,” Rane said during an interview at his offices in Abbeville. “It’s a very important place. Not just because it’s home but because of the history of the town. Some of its people have made significant contributions to the country and to the world.”

Abbeville is the oldest remaining colonial settlement in east Alabama, located in one of the five original counties in the state.

The headquarters of Rane’s business, Great Southern Wood Preserving, makers of YellaWood, is located on the outskirts of town in a beautiful building constructed, of course, of his company’s wood. Rane also preserved a historic Standard Oil gas station in town as additional office space for his employees.

In downtown Abbeville, Rane opened a family style restaurant filled with collectibles that is a lure for residents and tourists, and he spearheaded the construction of a convention center. Rane said his future plans for the downtown area include a boutique hotel.

One unusual feature of the downtown area is a series of neon advertising signs hung on buildings along Kirkland Street. The working signs were collected by Rane and attached to buildings for a fun, vintage feel. They include signs for Buster Brown Shoes, Rexall Drugs, Philco, Mother Penn Motor Oil, Ford and many more.

“Walking around downtown is like a walk back in time,” Rane said.

Do you have a “Jimmy Rane” in your community? We would love to hear your story!

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