White Mountain Oil & Propane Inc.

White Mountain Oil & Propane Inc.
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

For nearly 72 years White Mountain Oil & Propane Inc. (White Mountain) has delivered reliable heating oils, propane gas and HVAC sales and service to customers throughout central New Hampshire and western Maine. As a family owned-and -operated business that spans three generations, White Mountain strives to treat customers like friends and family.

Growing Alongside the Industry

White Mountain was founded by the husband and wife team of Forrest (Ben) and Ethel Saunders in 1941. The company originally delivered heating oil and range oil to homes, farms and businesses in the beautiful Mount Washington Valley. When the industry began to transition from coal-fired boilers and furnaces to modern oil systems, Ben and his crew worked long days installing new heating equipment along with delivering the newly available fuels.

By 1949 the operation had taken off and White Mountain built its first office and showroom in downtown North Conway, N.H., surrounded by some of New England’s most pristine national forests and mountains. The new building allowed for the sale of kitchen appliances and locals were amazed to see the range of different makes, models, sizes and colors all under one roof.

Around the same time, White Mountain entered the propane gas market. Then known as bottled gas, propane was mainly used for home appliances. White Mountain began by delivering full 100 pound cylinders, approximately 25 gallons, to replace empty ones that were returned for refilling. In the 1950s propane transitioned from 100-pound cylinders to larger tanks with capacities of 100 to 500 gallons; propane fuel sales now exceed White Mountain’s oil sales.

In 1965 the company built a propane bulk fuel plant in North Conway on the old Maine Central Railroad grounds. With business booming, Ben and Ethel’s two sons, Glenn and Scott Saunders, returned from college and the military to join the family business.

“Although I grew up in the business, I didn’t start working full time until 1968,” shares Glenn, president of White Mountain. “I spent my youth hiking the Presidential Mountain Range and helping my father in any way I could.”

The family tradition lives on through Glenn’s two sons, Kirk and Mark Saunders. “I have one son whose 47 years old and another that’s 43 years old,” he reveals. “My youngest joined after graduating from the University of New Hampshire and the oldest came back to work for us about three years ago.”

Over the years, White Mountain has grown into a trusted locally-owned company with a staff of about 50 employees and a fleet of 35 trucks. In the 1990s, the company installed a new, state-of-the-art propane and oil storage facility in Conway, N.H., followed by a new propane storage plant in Campton, N.H., in early 2000.

“We serve about a 50-mile radius from North Conway and do about 220 deliveries a day during our peak season,” shares Glenn. “We’re full service from bulk propane and heating fuels to over the road fuels such as gasoline and diesel. We also offer a 24/7 service crew, ready to be at your door rapidly.”

100 Percent Customer-oriented

But Glenn says what truly sets White Mountain apart is its commitment to customer satisfaction and the way the company interacts with people. “First and foremost, we’re customer-oriented,” he says. “It’s always good to be in touch with your consumers; it’s one of the ways we differentiate ourselves from the bigger regional and national companies.”

Glenn sees the company heading toward more automation controls to further increase customer convenience. “We’d like to make things more automated to make us more efficient and to ease the process for our customers,” he adds. “I think this industry overall is moving in that direction, and we’re on that track, as well. Our goal is to have a system where delivery and service will be automatically posted from the vehicle and we can track where our delivery and service personnel are in the field for more efficiency in providing our products and services to our many customers.”

Although Glenn admits the past few years haven’t been the easiest for White Mountain, the company remains optimistic and grounded in a long history and ties to the North Conway area. “This economy has been difficult for us, as with many businesses,” he says. “Our fuel and installation sales had dropped, but they’re picking up again and we’re still looking to expand. We’ll probably open our first branch in Campton to support our bulk fuel plant that’s already there.”

The company prides itself in local, family ownership and continuing to compete with industry giants that serve multiple states. The difference is in treating customers like they’re part of the family and White Mountain Oil and Propane Inc. has been doing so for nearly 72 years.

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