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Business of the Decade: Palmer Gas & Oil

Published Tuesday Nov 10, 2020

Author Matthew J. Mowry

Business of the Decade: Palmer Gas & Oil

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“How can I make your day simply amazing?” That is how every customer who calls Palmer Gas & Oil is greeted. It is part of the company’s overall culture of being friendly, simple and safe. It is also part of the reason why this family-owned business has grown to more than 170 employees delivering propane and heating oil to customers in more than 60 communities in NH, Southern Maine and Northern Massachusetts.

“[Employees] take care of each other as well as the customers and I think it is a great way to run a company,” says President Bill Ermer (pictured), who is joined at the company by his children Charlie and Joanne. It is a family business in every sense of the word as there are also multigeneration families among the employees, some who have been with the company 30 years or more.

“I think it shows we treat them well and they enjoy working here,” says Joanne. “We all get along well, which you don’t always see in a family business.”

Palmer Gas & Oil has its roots in two family businesses founded in the early 1900s: William E. Palmer’s country store and Charles A. Ermer’s kerosene and fuel oil business. Bill, his son, merged the two in 1981, setting the course for Palmer Gas & Oil (PGO), based in Atkinson, to grow. Under Bill’s leadership, the company has made bold moves, from investing in a storage plant in Raymond in 2008 that holds more than 500,000 gallons of propane to acquiring Lamprey Energy in North Hampton in 2018.

As an essential service, Charlie says the company can’t have downtime so they put together a contingency plan for emergencies, which was fully tested by the pandemic. “If phones or the internet go down, we can answer calls off site and work remotely. If we had not done this preparation, we would have been scrambling when the pandemic hit, but we were really prepared,” he says.

As they look to the future, Joanne and Charlie recognize the value of the past and what their father has taught them. “We look up to him. He’s a true leader in many capacities—industry associations, chambers, church and the community,” says Charlie. The company and its employees give back to the community in many ways—supporting the NH Food Bank, holding blood drives for the Red Cross, providing school supplies for the local Boys & Girls Club, and donating oil for U.S. Service members in need.

Such commitment to community is why the  Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce honored Palmer Gas & Oil with its Business Pillar Award in 2014. “It is rewarding to know that everyone [here] has a role in providing comfort to so many people and we’re making a difference in the community,” Charlie says.

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