Furnace oil sales catching on

Ryan Cooke
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Attendant Chris Williams fills a fuel can with furnace oil, a common occurrence at Lockhart’s Auto Service during the recent cold streak. Ryan Cooke – Journal Pioneer

SUMMERSIDE - Dwight Lockhart looks out the window of the garage door, and waits for a customer to come by.

“How many have you seen in the last hour?” he calls out to a co-worker, working the cash.

“Thirty…at least,” he replies.

Despite the bitter cold and whipping wind, these are the days on which Lockhart’s Auto Service Ltd. thrives.

Lockhart has been seeing an increase in business ever since he began selling furnace oil at the pumps five years ago. During cold streaks such as the last few weeks, his business goes up even more, he said.

Sure enough, it’s only a matter of seconds before a car pulls up to the pumps. An attendant scrambles out into the cold to take the orange 20-litre can from the woman’s hands, and begins to fill it with home heating oil.

“Every year we seem to sell a little more,” Lockhart said.

For a small station, it’s difficult to contend with the bigger stations located just up the street, he said. Having a product like furnace oil handy at the pumps draws in customers who wouldn’t find it elsewhere.

“It’s been a substantial difference (in business). It’s something new to sell in the winter that we didn’t always have, so anytime you bring in a new product it helps.”

Selling furnace oil at the pumps doesn’t just help the gas stations though. It’s also a cost-effective option for people who don’t want to spend the money to fill a large tank, Lockhart said.

Since home delivery carries a half-tank minimum amount, filling up at the pumps ensures you only get as much as you need, or can afford, Lockhart said.

“The difference is the cost. To have it delivered, it’s a minimum of 100 gallons I guess, so that’s close on $500. With us, you don’t have that. You can take as much or as little as you want.”

A little further west, Troy Thibideau has noticed the business Lockhart’s has been drawing in since they started selling furnace oil.

“I wish we sold it here,” said Thibideau, who manages Thibideau’s Ultramar, his father’s gas station in Miscouche.

“Every time you drive by Lockhart’s, you see the people lined up to buy it. They come with their jerry cans and take a bit here and there. With the cost of it these days, it adds up.”

Being able to buy small amounts brings a lot of different customers, Lockhart said.

“For some people, their tanks have expired and they can’t get them filled anymore, or can’t afford to get a new one put in. Some people burn wood but want a little bit of oil, and don’t want to pay for a half-tank. And then I guess there’s some people who just can’t afford the half-tank minimum.”

Thibideau agrees.

“That’s just the thing. It’s $400 or $500 just to get the minimum. A lot of people can’t afford that.”

The rising price of home heating fuel has been problematic of late.

Earlier this week, the Salvation Army reported running out of money for their program to provide home heating fuel to those in need. With the amount of demand, the $40,000 allotment from the provincial government ran dry in two days.

After serving 80 homes in the Prince County area, it now has more than 20 families in need of oil on a waiting list.

On a day when temperatures hit -11 Celsius, with the wind chill ducking even lower, Lockhart estimated he’d seen close on 100 people come to his shop for furnace oil alone.

“We don’t sell a lot of gas here in comparison (to the bigger gas stations in town),” he said. “So being able to sell something like furnace oil brings more people around.”

With the temperature plunging and fuel prices hiking, Lockhart doesn’t expect his sales to go anywhere but up.

 

 

 

 

Organizations: Auto Service, Salvation Army

Geographic location: Miscouche, Prince

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Recent comments

  • Thankful for furance oil a small gas stations
    February 09, 2013 - 22:18

    I don't use this gas station to furance oil as I live at the other end of the island. But. Use one down thIs way. It is wonderful that they have it cause I can not afford it from the. It company. No wonder Irving dropped its min amount as down this way there is feasible fules and there min is $115 so all the bigger company are loosing ALOT of money from this service and from the service station having oil glad someone stepped up to the plate to make something easier for us islanders.. I can't see government changing it from service station as there still getting there money out of it.. No wonder so many people need help at food banks and suchs as with min oil Dilvery at 400-500 dollars that's pretty well someones mortgage or rent payment ..

  • Joe Deighan
    February 07, 2013 - 15:40

    great story,lovely to see good people running small business.I also know that Pineaus Fuels in North Rustico will deliver a smaller amount of furnace oil, these are also great people,who care for those in need.

  • ted peach
    February 07, 2013 - 10:01

    a great story.i knew dwight as a youngster.a good friend of our son kevin.good luck

  • ray of kindness
    February 07, 2013 - 08:24

    Good on Lockhart's for seeing and responding to the desperate need for fuel during these harsh months! Shows where the heart is - certainly NOT in big business when it comes down to real need.. Helps to soften the portrait of that despicable act of inhumanity committed on the seals last week; didn;t that act bring a black notoriety to our"gentle" island? - whatever idiot idealist coined THAT description of PEI! More power to folks like Dwight who shine through a welter of sef interest and greed as seen in so many .

  • Cody Hoover
    February 07, 2013 - 07:38

    this is a great story, lockharts selling furnace oil has kept me out of a jam more than a handful of times... for the interest to the public, he also has a tank you can use by truck that holds 250L has a pump and everything and he will led the use of it to you...great guy, great business and great idea keep it up Dwight!

  • Kathryn
    February 07, 2013 - 06:57

    I think that is a great idea! I have to pay as I go, and its 350 a shot. I don't make a lot of money so 350 out of my pay is a lot to lose. I did not know I could get oil elsewhere and I am sure a lot of people didn't. Hopefully this story will get the word out and less people will have to go without!

  • Mary
    February 06, 2013 - 21:52

    Irving no longer requires a half-tank minimum for delivery. As of January 2013 they reduced their minimum to $200. A big change from previous years.

  • agree
    February 06, 2013 - 16:43

    Perfect thing no deliervy fee and its about 5cents cheaper doing it yourself :-) i have noticed a few gas stations with the samething and always people waiting for the pump.. Soon though im sure the Goverment will put a stop to it someway!! Awesome to see a little gas station maken money!!!