A Word from the Owner
The interesting thing about it is that I was never all that interested in running the whole show. I was always perfectly happy being part of a team. Don’t get me wrong – I definitely wanted a say in how we did things – but I was never interested in the spotlight. Here I’m is.
We started Local Pride; Jim, Bill and I in reaction to our former employer selling Cash Fuels to a very large Canadian corporation. We worked well together and had great success for him. We knew he would want to retire some day but we thought it might be a little longer and maybe, who knows, he might consider selling it to us. Yeah well that wasn’t happening. He took his earnings and moved far away. Never really bothered to say goodbye but whatever, we still had jobs. Except it soon became apparent we would likely be removed, replaced or relocated within a year or so and alternative plans were in order. During the early days of the transition in ownership we saw quite a lot of our good customers leave for other local companies. They were not interested in dealing with a large corporation from away. We soon realized that we could take advantage of this migration and put our experience to use for them and ourselves by starting our own business. And thus Local Pride was born.
It really was a no-brainer. It just took some work, some cash, some good faith and a bank loan. Twenty-five years later and Local Pride is still providing that personal service we have always been known for. There have been changes, evolutions in ownership, management and customer base. Some of our first and most loyal customers have moved south or passed on and where once sat three equal owners around the table, only one sits now.
The customer base is always evolving – like any business. People come and go. Move away or to homes heated by other means. Some pass away – such is life. But we also have some cool stories like delivering to the sons and daughters of older clients who now have their own families and homes! Being in the heating business is not like some other businesses. With many people we become part of their family as they become part of ours. It is a business relationship unlike most others. A life-long commitment to be there for each other – and it is most definitely a two-way street. We depend on our clients as much as you depend on us. That’s what makes it rewarding. Maybe that’s why we are still doing it.
Local Pride was incorporated in 1995. I delivered our first gallons of oil on June 2nd – one of the dollars I received is still on the wall. It was onward and upward from there. From humble beginnings in a back room at the now demolished Rochester Stove shop we soon acquired more elbow room on Hancock Street at a property originally developed in the early 1900’s by Standard Oil. With that many years in the oil and coal handling trade and the rather lax – if any – environmental regulations of the times it was no surprise that there were a few issues on, or rather under, the ground. Although most of the site had been cleaned up and the old tanks removed there was still a persistent contamination in the groundwater. With careful monitoring, conscientious use, the passage of time and evolving regulation we are proud to say we received a clean bill of health in 2018!
In 2002 we moved forward with our long held plan to build our own fuel storage facility. Even though the Piscataqua River terminals are just down the road bottlenecks can and do occur and picking up fuel can become problematic. With storage on site our customers have a level of protection against short supplies that many other companies cannot provide. It was a very expensive proposition but we do not regret it for one instant.
In 2006 the three way ownership structure became two when Bill retired from the oilheat industry. A purchase deal was worked out and Local Pride carried on. In that same year Local Pride took an ownership stake in an upstart HVAC service company called High Degree Heating. We had always made recommendations to trusted technicians but now we had some skin in the game.
Over the next several years the market turmoil struck. The mortgage crash and too-big-to-fail scam, the stock market shudder, the various prepaid price disasters all proved challenging. Many homeowners left oil heat behind and moved to pellet stoves, wood stoves, propane and natural gas. The natural gas utilities recognized the opportunities and made huge infrastructure investments, laying down pipe and picking up accounts at an ever-increasing pace. They are still at it. The end result is that oil heat is a much smaller part of the home heating spectrum. Most companies saw their sales reduced by half or more and Local Pride is no exception. We have adapted well. We have become leaner, more efficient and more dynamic in our approach to delivering fuel. Of course the entire industry has changed. Everything is more expensive; trucks, labor, insurance… the product itself!
And then two became one. In 2015 Jim decided he was ready to enjoy retirement and a deal was worked out to transfer his ownership stake to me. Last man standing. It is a serious responsibility and one I do not take lightly. I cannot do it alone. Tony – who has been here almost from Day 1 as driver, driver supervisor and dispatcher both for Local Pride and High Degree has stepped into the Operations Manager role. My daughter Katie has taken over the day to day accounting, bill paying and etc… and let’s don’t forget Brett. She handles the High Degree side of the world as well as answering Local Pride phones, taking orders and providing customer service.
Me – I drive truck as often as I can, helping Corey, Alvah and Lisa get the fuel where it needs to go, safe and sound. It is how I started in this business and what I enjoy the most. I think the office crew likes it too! I still answer the phones in the office, work the front counter, mow the lawn, shovel the snow, fix the trucks… you know… regular owner stuff. (I don’t vacuum but I do empty trash!) It has been a long, interesting and fun ride and the road continues onward.
Thanks for inviting us into your lives and Welcome to our family. See ya out there!