Two companies aim to pick up business following Pettit Oil's closure

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

Two companies from Aberdeen and Bremerton are positioning their resources in Clallam and Jefferson counties to fill the fuel-distribution void left by Pettit Oil, which shut down last week after filing for bankruptcy.

Officials from Masco Petroleum of Aberdeen and Cooper Fuel & Auto Repair of Bremerton said Monday their companies also are waiting for proceedings to play out in bankruptcy court in Tacoma.

Lakewood-based Pettit listed $22.5 million in liabilities and $18.7 million in assets when company officials filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Nov. 25, seeking protection from creditors to allow it to reorganize.

The company's Chapter 11 petition says it has up to 49 creditors and assets of up to $50,000.

Pettit filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Friday, seeking protection from creditors to allow a liquidation of company assets to pay debts.

A meeting of potential creditors is set for March 10 in Courtroom J of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tacoma, 1717 Pacific Ave.

Pettit's largest secured creditors are KeyBank, owed $11.3 million, and U.S. Bank, owed $8.8 million.

Pettit owns facilities in Port Angeles, Forks, Port Townsend, Lakewood, Hoquiam, Everett and Bremerton.

In business for 75 years, the company employed about 200 people, distributed heating oil to 12 counties and supplied Chevron, Shell and Phillips 66 fuels and lubricants to marine, commercial and automotive businesses.

It also owns 10 automatic card-lock fueling locations — unattended gas stations where customers are billed directly — including sites in Port Angeles and Forks.

Masco and Cooper Fuel already serve Clallam and Jefferson counties and plan to ramp up their activities on the North Olympic Peninsula, the company officials said.

“My hope is to have no net job loss on the Peninsula,” Masco Vice President Sean Mason said Monday.

Mason said his company already has hired some former Pettit employees and hopes to hire 20 to 25 employees within the next several weeks.

“We are going to need truck drivers, sales people and office staff,” he said, adding the company is in “expansion mode” and does not have long-term debt.

“We are going to help your local community in any way possible with fuels and/or oil, and we will gladly do so,” Mason said.

“No one likes to see a family-run business go down the way this went down.”

Pettit, listed by the Puget Sound Business Journal as the 33rd largest company in Washington in 2011, sold a portion of its business and bought a heating oil supplier in early 2013, according to a Jan. 9 bankruptcy court motion signed by Olympia lawyer Brian Budsberg, representing Pettit, for approval of an emergency sale of Pettit's assets.

In February 2013, Pettit bought the heating oil and commercial fuel lubricants distribution assets of Tacoma-based SC Fuels, then the largest petroleum distributor on the West Coast.

“The combination of these transactions and problems with its financing has rendered the company financially too weak to be profitable,” Budsberg said in the motion.

Budsberg did not return a call for comment Monday.

Masco, which has 60 employees and was founded in 1999, owns 12 fuel card-lock stations on the Olympic Peninsula and owns the Shine Quarry in Port Ludlow, the Penny Creek Quarry in Quilcene and a marine fueling station in Westport.

Cooper Fuel General Manager Dave Metcalf said that since Friday his company had received about 50 phone calls about the shutdown from Pettit's commercial and residential accounts.

About 25 calls were from Clallam and 25 from Jefferson.

Cooper Fuel employs 10 people on the fuel side of its business.

“We're short on equipment right now and are looking at buying some of their trucks,” Metcalf said.

“We can't get any of their trucks until bankruptcy court releases stuff and puts it up for auction.

“We're just trying to keep up, now.

“We will be needing drivers and trucks.”

Metcalf said he expects there will be enough work for both Cooper Fuel and Masco on the North Olympic Peninsula.

“With these guys going out, we'll have a hard time just keeping up,” he said.

Gig Harbor-based Conan Fuel owner Dan Root, who does not distribute products in Clallam and Jefferson counties, said the heating oil business has dropped dramatically over the last several years.

“It used to be a fairly big part of our business here in Skagit and Whatcom counties, but with the advent of natural gas and propane, it's a very minute part of our business,” Root said, adding new homes are rarely built with oil-based heating systems.

“Heating oil is a dying breed,” he said.

Masco can be reached toll-free at 1-877-537-9744.

Cooper Fuel can be reached at 360-377-2894.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 20. 2014 7:06PM
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