Longtime Hermiston business Heller & Sons Distributing will be losing the Heller name after the family sold the business to Carson Oil.
Mike Heller said his father, Glea Heller, originally worked for a petroleum distributor in Milton-Freewater before buying a distribution business in Hermiston and moving the family there in 1957.
“He started with one truck, and we sold 500,000 gallons in a year,” Mike said. “Now we do 500,000 in less than two weeks.”
Heller & Sons provides a range of services, including weekly deliveries of fuel, fuel recycling, lubricant support, various aviation fuel services and five Pacific Pride cardlock stations. The company also runs a gas station and convenience store at 30 W. Catherine Ave.
Mike and his brother, Jim Heller, grew up around the business and joined officially when they were older. They have carried on running it since their father died in 1990, and have had help from other family members through the years.
Mike said the Heller siblings are getting older, though, and fuel distribution has mostly been taken over by much larger companies, so they “saw the writing on the wall” and started discussing retirement.
“The business itself is changing,” he said. “It’s a bit like farming. The little guys are not there anymore. The big boys are taking over.”
He said he has known Lance Woodbury, president of Carson Oil, for a long time, and he and Jim eventually decided after significant due diligence that Carson Oil would be the best company to take over serving Heller & Sons’ customers. The sale was finalized on May 1, but the Heller brothers are still on board for now to help with the transition.
Mike said many Heller & Sons customers have been with the business since it first started in 1957, and he will miss talking with them regularly.
“The customers have just been wonderful,” he said. “That’s the thing I’m going to miss the most, is working with them and taking care of them.”
Mike said he will also miss working with employees, some of whom have been with the company for 20 years.
He will also miss the community involvement. Heller & Sons has always been a significant contributor to community projects, and the company was named Hermiston Business of the Year at the 2014 Distinguished Citizens Awards. The business has been one of the core sponsors of the Farm-City Pro Rodeo and its name is prominently displayed on the donor walls of projects around Hermiston, including Kennison Field. When a customer at the convenience store won an $18 million lottery prize in 2001, Heller & Sons donated most of its $100,000 award to local schools.
Mike said Carson Oil plans to continue to participate in the community. The business’ distribution trucks already say Carson Oil, and at some point the gas station and convenience store will too, but he said people still can expect the business to look largely the same, including some of the same employees.
“It’s been a long run, and I’m going to miss it a lot,” he said. “It’s going to be tough to walk out that door for the last time.”