As the Second World War gripped much of the world, the Ewell family left England in 1940 for a calmer life in Canada, likely content to know they were still part of the vast British Empire.
Fitting then that they would use the empire’s still formidable prestige to name their brand new company – British Empire Coal Supply Company, located in Toronto.
Twenty years later Bert Ewell, son of the founders, renamed the company British Empire Fuels. He bought property on Hwy. 36 in Bobcaygeon and then moved the company there in 1967. He and his wife, Ruth, successfully ran it for 14 years.
In February of 1981, Ross and Madeline Whyte purchased the business. The Whyte’s have lived in Kawartha Lakes area their entire lives, and Ross’s vast experience in the heating business helped British Empire Fuels grow and expand their services and offerings for their clients.
As the years passed, Ross and Madeline’s sons, Rob (1992) and Greg (1993) joined the business, and today they run and operate the business that their parents built.
Rob’s wife, Sheila Whyte, joined the company on a daily basis in 1996. Sheila started at reception and worked her way up to vice president office and marketing.
“It always amazes me at how our business continues to grow, and the quality of people we have working with us,” says Sheila.
“The staff is the backbone and keeps our daily operation going in a professional and caring way,” she adds.
The pride in being a locally-owned, family-run business is evident. Now, the company has 39 employees, from service technicians for maintenance and service calls, to sales and installation teams for the new equipment installs – not to mention an amazing team of office and support people.
Rob Whyte, president and owner, agrees.
“We try to treat our customers the way we would like to be treated,” he says.
“We are in the ‘emergency’ business, as most people do not even think about their heating and cooling equipment until it does not work.”
Rob notes they are continually working on their in-house technology and procedures to be able to address the needs and expectations of their customers.
“We like to think that we have a small town commitment to looking after our neighbours,” Rob offers.
Greg Whyte, as vice president of fleet logistics, and owner, says their company’s policy is simple when it comes to staying in touch with customers.
“When you need to speak with an owner you will be available to sit down and talk to one. And, you get a real person when you call into the office, no automated voice.”
He says staff are trained in the newest cutting edge technologies on the HVAC side and British Empire Fuels holds many memberships with organizations that deal with heating and air conditioning.
The 26-year veteran in his industry notes they cover an area from Lakefield, to Bethany, Little Britain, Woodville, Kirkfield, to Minden, north to Gooderham – and of course throughout Kawartha Lakes.
“We started as a small four-person operation delivering fuel oil, and now we’re a multi-fuel operation, and offer propane installations and delivery,” Greg says.
A propane bulk facility, with an expansion, is coming, along with technology advancements.
Service techs all have in-vehicle automation for trouble shooting and can access a customer’s accounts and analyze problems online through Wi-Fi connections. Their delivery fleet is also automated with GPS technology as well as routing capabilities that assist in getting deliveries done more efficiently, with 24-7 delivery and service response times.
British Empire Fuels is a big believer in community involvements. From hockey teams, to horse riding events that raise money for cancer research, the company is proud to support the surrounding communities that they service.
They have made large financial donations to Boyd Island and Fenelon Falls’ new arena complex; and then there are smaller fundraising efforts with the local service clubs like the Lions, Kawartha North Health Team and Kawartha Lakes Carvers.
The local company also helps out with prize table donations to the Boys and Girls Club and the Port 32 Golf day, among many more.
“We do firmly believe that giving back to our community is the best practice. We would not be here without the support of our customers,” says Greg.
To learn more about British Empire Fuels check out their website or call 1-888-472-6006.