A family owned business with grass root beginnings on Isle Madame has sold the fuel retailer to another locally owned company in Cape Breton.
After 22 years, Arichat residents Lisa and Brian Boudreau have sold Boudreau’s Fuels Ltd. to Sydney-based Sullivan Fuels. The transaction closed on Dec. 31. Financial details were not disclosed.
Lisa Boudreau said it was a tough decision to sell because she and her husband had built the company from the ground up.
“It wasn’t that we thought 2017 would be the year (we would sell), but we knew that at some point we would need to be ready for that eventuality,” she said, noting they are now assisting the Sullivan family in this transition period.
The Boudreau’s children are grown up and now attending university. They did not show interest in running the business, which made plans for a sale more likely, Boudreau said in an interview Friday.
Discussion on the sale began in the summer when Sullivan Fuels owner Wade Sullivan broached the subject in a phone call with Brian Boudreau.
There was little movement until talks suddenly took off in October, Sullivan said.
“We’ve been trying to grow pretty aggressively over the last few years with so many family members involved,” he said.
“We were always looking for acquisitions. I just asked him the question if he would be interested in selling someday and next thing you know that turned into more conversations and here we are today.”
Sullivan Fuels provides home heating oil for customers from Halifax to Cape Breton, with the exception of the Truro area. With the acquisition of Boudreau’s Fuels, Sullivan can now add an office in Arichat as it expands its presence across the island.
The company now has between 45 and 60 employees on the payroll, depending on the time of year.
Included in the transaction are the 12 service stations under the Caper Gas brand that are located in Sydney, Arichat, Ingonish, Potlotek First Nation, Belle Cote, L’Ardoise, Orangedale, Louisdale, D’Escousse, St. Peter’s and Wreck Cove.
The Boudreau’s started the franchise in 2008 to combat the wave of national gas retailers closing unprofitable stations in small, rural communities.
In the early 1990s, the Boudreau’s operated a Shell Canada service station when they were notified by the company it would stop supplying product because they didn’t meet contract requirements to sell a minimum of 1 million litres of product per year.
“We didn’t have a lot of the resellers that we have now for options for supply, so we ended up selling that station to Irving Oil,” Boudreau said.
Effectively unemployed following that sale, Brian began to take work out West while Lisa would stay home in Richmond County.
They later partnered with local businessman Lloyd Boudreau to establish a retail fuel business.
Boudreau’s Fuels Ltd. began servicing Richmond County communities in 1995, providing home heating oil without the haggle of dealing with the impersonal nature presented by a national retailer, she said.
It currently has between eight to 14 employees, based on the season, and services most of Cape Breton as well as eastern Antigonish and Guysborough counties.
Boudreau said customers seem to be happy for the couple and are open to the change in ownership.
“I think they are very happy that it worked out well for us and were able to pass it on to a company that has roots in Cape Breton, and whose ethics and style are similar in the sense that it’s a family-run company and not a large multinational,” she said.
Sullivan said all staff at Boudreau’s Fuels have been told their jobs are secure.
Sullivan Fuels is a third generation fuel oil company which began in 1957 by Mike Sullivan and whose sons Alan and Mike Sullivan Jr. took over in 1988.
Wade started fulltime in 2002 and now run the company with his sister, Emily Sullivan, and father Mike.
It’s expected the Boudreau’s Fuels name will remain for a while as the transition to the new ownership continues, said Wade Sullivan.
“It’s not really the time of year to be looking at making any changes like that. But, yes, over time it will become Sullivan Fuels so that we have a unified brand across Cape Breton Island and on to the mainland as well.”
Caper Gas will keep its name as a separate brand, however.
Boudreau Fuels Ltd.
• Established in 1995 in Arichat, Richmond Co.
• Services most of Cape Breton including Richmond, Victoria counties, the Town of Port Hawkesbury, and parts of Inverness County and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, as well as northeastern mainland Nova Scotia.
• Employs between eight to 14 employees depending on time of year.
• Created Caper Gas brand in February 2008 and now has 12 gas stations across the island.