Service runs in the family.
The leadership of Maritime Energy Company will eventually pass to Susan Ware Page, granddaughter of founder Roland G. Ware and daughter of John Ware, current President and CEO, making this the third generation of Wares to lead this midcoast family-owned business. From its humble beginnings in 1939 as a Rockland service station and local heating oil distributor named Maritime Oil Company, the firm has grown to a multifaceted energy, service, and convenience store business serving Knox, Lincoln, and Waldo counties.
Roland G. Ware, a native of Waterville and a Colby College graduate, came to Rockland to establish this new business after first being employed in the forest products industry in the eastern United States and later in the oil lease business in New Mexico and Oklahoma. He next moved to Portland, Maine in 1929 where he worked with a partner in the investment business for ten years prior to coming to the Rockland area in 1939.
The first location of Maritime Oil was at 532 Main Street, at the corner of Talbot Avenue, in the building now occupied by Verizon Wireless / Coastal Communications. Initially, the company was strictly a retail business operating a service station at the Main Street location selling "New Blue Sunoco" gasoline and related products - and delivering heating oil to Rockland-area homes and businesses. The company's offices were in the basement of the service station. At about the same time, Roland Ware's brother, John, started Pineland Oil Company in Waterville, and together they purchased a transport tanker truck to haul oil and gasoline from Maine terminals to both their companies' locations in Rockland and Waterville.
Although Maritime Oil Company gained a foothold in the Rockland-area market in the years immediately before America's entry into World War II, wartime shortages and rationing of petroleum products for domestic consumption restricted the company's growth between 1942 and 1946. The tanker, however, provided yeoman service during the war years. As mandated by the federal government, the company hauled aviation fuel for the military from terminals in southern New England to Limestone Air Base in Aroostook County. Also, during the early days of the war, in addition to running the company, Mr. Ware became Maine's chief rationing officer for the Office of Price Administration (OPA) in Augusta, serving under former U.S. Congressman Carl Moran of Rockland, who headed the OPA in Maine during the same period.
After the war, several factors combined to give Maritime Oil an opportunity to expand its market and open a new chapter in the company's history. With general prosperity, the lifting of rationing, and the resumption of automobile and truck production came a significant increase in the demand for gasoline and motor oil. New housing, especially in outlying areas, and the conversion of many homes and businesses from coal to oil heat lead to an increasing demand for heating oil.
Roland Ware positioned Maritime Oil to take advantage of post-war conditions; consequently, in the late 1940s and early 1950s the company undertook its first significant expansion. In 1948, it purchased property and buildings at 234 Park Street, which then was on the road to the Rockland dump. The primary building was formerly the Limerock Railroad's locomotive repair shop, which became the company's new headquarters. Initially, the company did not need the entire space, so it rented half of it to "Sparky" Upham's trucking company, U & G (Upham and Glidden) Transportation Company - later renamed B and R Transportation (Boston and Rockland). At the time, Route One was along New County Road. But because that route had two dangerous railroad crossings at Park and Pleasant Streets where many accidents and several deaths had occurred, in 1951 the state built a new section of Route One, called Payne Avenue, which by-passed the two crossings. As a result, Maritime Oil gained frontage on Route One.
In this same period, the company expanded its retail outreach by adding two more service stations - one in Camden and one in Newcastle. At about the same time, it also entered the wholesale business and began supplying non-company service stations and fuel operations of commercial fishing wharves in the midcoast area. For a brief period during this same era, Maritime Oil changed its brand from Sunoco to Calso (California Standard Oil Company).
By the mid-1950s, the company had grown to the point where it needed more office and shop space; consequently, it took over the entire Park Street facility. And in 1955, Maritime changed its brand affiliation to Gulf. The company benefited from the general prosperity of the 1950s, continued to expand its operations, and became a major player in the local area market. Mr. Ware believed that growth was essential to survive in the very competitive oil business. In the late 1950s, a second-generation member of the Ware family, son John, joined the business. After graduating from Bowdoin College, serving in the army and briefly working as a chemist for DuPont in New Jersey, John decided to return to the area that he liked best - midcoast Maine. In 1958, he moved back to the Rockland and went to work for the company. Starting from the ground up, he began by delivering home heating oil, next drove a tanker transport, and then served for a time as the company's service technician after it entered the furnace burner servicing business. Following that, he worked in the office learning, hands-on, all phases of the business until he gradually took over as operations manager in the 1970s. His father was grooming him to head the company.
Reflecting the growing diversity of its operations and products, in 1977, the company changed its name to Maritime Energy Company. It was fitting that the change came shortly before the company's first entrepreneur and founder, Roland Ware, passed away. He had built the company from one service station and a local heating oil business to a much enlarged and diversified firm serving a large portion of Knox and Lincoln counties. When he died in June 1978, his son, John, became the president.
John recognized that the company's future depended on adapting to the changing times. Further diversification, new products and new services, he believed, would be required to remain competitive. Nationwide, especially after the "energy crisis" of the mid-1970s and the recession of the early 1980s, the service station business began changing - with more specialty shops handling auto repairs, replacing many traditional, multi-purpose gas stations. Self-service gas pumps, often associated with convenience stores, became a growing trend in the industry as well.
Maritime Energy was very busy in the winter with the delivery of heating oil but had less to do in the summer. Consequently, in 1985, Maritime Energy moved into the convenience store business by purchasing a store in Newcastle. Over next decade and a half, the company purchased or built eight more of these stores/gas stations, which sold gasoline and other auto-related petroleum products, groceries, deli-type foods, beverages and a host of other consumer convenience products for motorists and neighborhoods. These were the late twentieth-century version of the old neighborhood store and gas station combined. Called Maritime Farms, each is located on or near a busy highway to serve both travelers and local customers.
In 1986, Maritime Energy added propane to its inventory of energy products, providing bulk delivery to homes and businesses that used gas furnaces and appliances - and sold "bottled" propane at its retail stores. In this same period, it expanded its sale, installation, and service of heating systems for homes, businesses, governments, schools and other institutions. The company also began selling low-sulfur kerosene, K-1, in 1990. While continuing to sell Gulf products at some of its stores and to independent dealers in the region, in the early 1990s it also started carrying the CITGO brand at several of its locations. The company also expanded its geographical reach by acquiring a company in Waldo County and establishing a satellite facility in Montville. With this acquisition, Maritime Energy now serves all of Knox, Lincoln and Waldo counties.
Over the years, Maritime Energy had renovated and expanded its headquarters building on Route One several times and added a maintenance facility on upper Park Street. As the company approached its seventh decade in business, it built a modern headquarters building on its Route One site in Rockland. The new building seemed to symbolize the steady growth of the company and the important position it held in the industry in the midcoast region. Shortly after the company reached this milestone, a member of the third generation of the Ware family joined the business. John Ware's youngest daughter, Susan, returned to Rockland to follow in her father's footsteps. A graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Susan, following graduation, worked for several years for a Fortune 500 corporation, Safeco Financial, in Seattle, Washington, and currently she is the Vice President of Maritime Energy. Susan says it is a challenge that she is looking forward to.
Today, Maritime Energy is a much larger and more complex company than when John became President twenty-five years ago. It has more than 170 employees (80 of whom are full time), delivers heating oil, propane and K1; provides heating systems installation and service; distributes a variety of other petroleum products; and operates 13 Maritime Farms convenience stores. According to John, the real strength of the company is in its people. "We couldn't have reached this point without the outstanding efforts of our dedicated employees," he said.
Heating oil - including service to its heating oil customers - remains the "bread and butter" of the business. Susan believes that the strength of the company will continue to rest on effectively serving its retail customers by meeting their changing needs. The company's slogan, "We are not comfortable until you are," reflects that effort and the company's philosophy say both John and Susan Ware.