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Member Spotlight: Rhoads Energy

Tue, February 01, 2022 9:30 AM | Anonymous

Founded in 1917 by Jerome H. Rhoads, the company began selling kerosene out of a railcar in southern Lancaster County. Even then, Mr. Rhoads was a step ahead of the competitors – at this time kerosene was just emerging as the replacement for coal. In a short time, he also opened an automotive repair business in Quarryville – the first signal that his company would relentlessly pursue opportunity.

In the beginning Mr. Rhoads took under his wing an orphan, Michael DeBerdine who became Mr. Rhoads’ right-hand man and later becomes father and grandfather to two future company CEO’s. In 1959 Mr. Rhoads gathered his nieces, nephews and Michael DeBerdine, Jr. and gave ownership to these seven families – the current-day version of an ESOP!

Mike DeBerdine, Jr., eventually became CEO in the 1970’s after the passing of Mr. Rhoads’ sister-in-law. During the 1990’s the company struggled when newly-enacted regulations required buried fuel tanks must be removed. The company began a decades-long process of paying to remove potentially unsafe tanks that pushed the company to its fiscal limits. The company took responsibility for all tank removal, calling it “the right thing to do”. Many assets were sold to fund the remediation including tire retreading business, gas stations, bulk plant, etc. with the heating oil division remaining as the primary business.

In 1998 Rhoads expanded to commercial fueling and Pacific Pride locations. In 2000, Michael DeBerdine, III, took over the role of CEO from his father, and in 2003, Rhoads Energy began the process of acquiring regional family-owned businesses. In 2012 the company introduced Voyager Fleet Fueling cards to the region, demonstrating Mike 3’s constant pursuit to diversify the business and remain relevant!

In 2012 Rhoads Energy created a division to sell propane and propane equipment realizing that propane is quickly becoming a versatile and clean-burning fuel. The company then played a pivotal role in the push to bring propane-powered school buses to the region. In 2014, Rhoads helped Hempfield School District make the conversion of their entire 100-bus diesel fleet to propane. In 2015, Rhoads Energy worked with Council Rock School District to convert their 150-bus fleet and build two 18,000-gallon propane fill stations. Upper Moreland School District was the first school-owned fleet of buses to completely convert with help from Rhoads and also install an 18,000-gallon fill station – a project that received significant AFIG funding. Subsequently, neighboring Hatboro-Horsham School District began fueling their fleet also at Upper Moreland while they gradually build their fleet. In 2018 Centennial School District engaged Rhoads to install an underground 18,000-gallon tank for their fill station and they are working on a staged conversion of their entire bus fleet. In 2021 Rhoads worked with Wilson School District to install an 18,000-gallon fill station and assist in the gradual conversion of their entire fleet over the next several years – also a project funded by AFIG grants. Finally, Exeter Township School District is beginning to convert some of their diesel fleet to propane and Rhoads is wet-hosing their buses currently. It should be noted that all of the schools who received AFIG funding did so with the help of Tony Bandiero and EP-ACT!

Always looking for ways to continue to stay ahead of the curve and practice what they preach, since 2014 Rhoads Energy has begun converting their own fleet of vehicles to propane power. Today approximately 20% of the fleet runs on propane from a crane truck to the CEO’s Ford Explorer to a ROUSH monofuel cargo van to several Ford Transits – the purchase of these kits were funded by AFIG

grants. However, Rhoads leadership strongly agrees that while the grants are helpful, the case for support stands on its own without them. Rhoads also installed a public fill station in Willow Street that has an Autogas dispenser on one end and a cabinet on the other end for filling smaller cylinders.

Today the company covers Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania with 160 employees and is celebrating their 105th anniversary. The company never forgets their roots and Mr. Rhoads’ legacy of giving back. Rhoads Energy employees realize that without the communities they serve, they would not be who they are today. With this in mind, Rhoads supports a significant amount of non-profit entities with their time, talent and treasure and encourages their employees to do the same. Always striving to Make A Difference!

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