Small Hudson Valley Oil Companies Secretly Owned by ‘Big Four’
Do you really know who owns the fuel oil company you're using? You may be surprised to learn who's actually running that small, hometown business.
In New York towns like Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Middletown and Kingston, fuel oil is a necessity for those who depend on their furnace to keep them warm during the winter months. As someone who's been a homeowner in the Hudson Valley since the 1990s, I get sick thinking about how much the price of service contracts and oil delivery has risen over the past 25 years.
I'm usually pretty loyal to an oil company. But after a decade or so I begin to get fed up with the price hikes. One or two bad service visits and I find myself shopping around to see if there's something better out there.
Truthful Information About Your Oil Company's Owner is Difficult to Find
I hit a point in my relationship with my oil company where I've decided to start looking elsewhere again. Unlike 12 years ago when I last made the switch, the competitive landscape in the Hudson Valley has drastically changed.
Many once-independent oil companies have now been gobbled up by larger companies, but you would never know that by talking to them on the phone or visiting their website. I was shocked to find out that a surprising number of companies that tout their long history of being family-owned small businesses are now secretly owned by a small handful of large oil companies.
Hudson Valley Oil Companies Are Hiding Their True Owners
While doing my research I came across lots of anecdotal claims on social media of small, local companies actually being owned by some of the bigger Hudson Valley oil and heating businesses.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard I searched online, there was no mention of these purchases or any transparency of who truly owned which oil company. Phone calls were met with nervous denials or outright lies about not knowing who the true owners were. The only clues I could find were similar p.o. boxes listed in the contact section of several small oil businesses' websites.
Funny enough, I eventually stumbled across a page on the Bottini Fuel website warning the public that many so-called "local oil companies" have been purchased by larger companies. Bottini calls itself the "true local company" and says that they're sick of people being fooled by the "Fuel Flip", a term they use for large companies purchasing smaller ones to make a profit.
But what they fail to mention is that Bottini's parent company, Morgan Fuel & Heating Co., has also recently purchased several local heating oil businesses, quietly operating them under different names.
According to Bottini, the consolidation of local oil companies is a bad thing for consumers.
Each time a company gets swallowed up by some huge corporation, their operations get upended. Employees leave. New rigid rules emerge. Customer service is often outsourced. Flipping the acquisition can take the place of building long term relationships. Prices have to be maximized to pay for the new corporate overhead and acquisition debt.
Bottini specifically calls out Petro Oil, who took over Love-Effron several years ago. It also warns customers that small names like Depew, Abbot & Mills and Wallace Energy have all recently changed ownership.
What Companies Does Bottini Oil Own?
After days of researching the true owners of many local Hudson Valley oil companies, I kept hitting dead ends. Then, finally, I came across the participating oil company list for the New York State Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). The database lists the companies that are a part of the program to help homeowners in financial trouble from having their heat shut off.
According to the official New York State database, Bottini Fuel is just one of 11 names used by its parent company, Morgan Fuel & Heating Co. Brian Bottini is listed as the CEO of that company which does business as Bottini Fuel, Economy Fuel, Valley Oil, A Better Choice Fuel Service, Hunter's Oil, Baldwin Fuel Oil, Express Fuel, Serv-All Fuel, Wilson Oil, Jurassic Fuels and Stormville Oil.
What Companies Does Petro Oil Own?
While it is true that Petro purchased Love-Effron several years ago, they no longer use that name and have converted all of Love-Effron's former customers to Petro. However, Petro Inc. also does business under the names Frank Bros., Schenck Fuels, General Utilities, Hardy Fuel, Berkowski, Lyons Fuel, Perillo Bros, Dyno Fuel Oil, Hawkins Cove Oil Supply Corp and Romanelli & Son.
What Companies Does Mirabito Energy Own?
Based locally in Newburgh, Mirabito Energy has branches in Central New York as well as Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. The company also owns Abbot & Mills inc, Borst Oil, North Shore Oil, Andre Petroleum, Mountain View Oil, Westcott Oil, Bullis Oil, Wagner Century Oil, Mountain Oil, Oneonta Oil & Fuel, Rounds Fuel, F&S, Oneida Petroleum, Lawr, Gilbert Oil, Polsinello Fuels and Cazenovia Oil.
What Companies Does Meenan Oil Co. Also Own?
The fourth big player in the Hudson Valley fuel oil business is Meenan Oil. The company is based in Woodbury, NY and operates Discount Oil, Wallace Oil, Sclafani Energy, Malzahn, Wilco Energy, Burke Heat, Carpenter & Smith & Ramsey Oil as well as Marine Oil.
Is it Better to Go With a Small, Independent Oil Company or a Large Conglomerate?
Although Bottini Oil admits on its own website that the consolidation of small oil companies can lead to higher prices and lower quality service, that's not always the case. While it's true that the large oil companies are able to muscle out the little guy and drive up prices, they also have a much larger workforce and may give you more perks such as automated deliveries, locked-in pricing and 24-hour service. It's important to weigh all of the pros and cons and not just the price-per-gallon when deciding on a fuel oil company.
Another important factor to consider is that if you do select an independently owned fuel oil company, chances are that you could still wind up a customer of one of the four big companies listed above without even realizing it. Small, local oil companies continue to quietly get gobbled up by larger conglomerates and there's no sign of that ending any time soon.
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