After returning from his service in WWII, Lawrence Tesei went to work for Seaside Oil Company delivering petroleum products to the farming community of Madera County. He dedicated six year of service to them before being hired at Gail Stewart Co., distributing Mobil Oil products and Petrolane Gas Service propane. In 1969, after Mr. Stewart’s departure from the fuel business; Lawrence and his co-worker Howard Cook were offered the consignee contracts for Mobil Oil Company and Petrolane Gas Service. Together they formed their partnership ‘Cook and Tesei’.
Being family men, they worked hard to grow their business for the future. As the years passed their business practices and reputation became well known in Madera County. The ‘Cook and Tesei’ name meant reliable service and a quality product. In 1975, Gail Tesei, Lawrence’s son, joined the company as a delivery driver, having chosen to learn the business from the partners. Gail purchased Howard’s half of the business four years later. One year later, the business was incorporated and renamed Tesei Petroleum Inc. on October 1, 1980. Howard stayed on until a replacement could be found to take over his office duties. He retired on June 17, 1981, after a new office employee was hired, Kimberly Thomas.
With the office now staffed, Lawrence was free to do service work and set propane tanks, while Gail delivered fuel with the help of three other employees. Tesei Petroleum carried on the same business model Lawrence and Howard had developed over the years: quality product and reliable customer service.
In 1982, Lawrence and Gail purchased a large area of land between the Gateway off-ramp and Freeway 99. Rathmann Oil Company and Tesei Petroleum went into partnership and built the first cardlock in Madera on the property. In 1983, the company purchased Madera Propane and began distributing propane, doubling the previous company’s propane business volume in 6 months.
Two years later, in 1985, the company purchased its first fuel truck, severing ties with Mobil Oil. Now with the capability of hauling fuel from the terminal to the plant and its customers, Tesei Petroleum became a fully independent fuel distributor. Then, at last, it began the process of moving the business to the new premises between Gateway and 99, where the existing warehouse building had been completely renovated. The move was completed in 1987, and Tesei Petroleum began to operate entirely out of its new (and current) location.
Dissolving the cardlock partnership with Rathman Oil in 1988 and joining the Commercial Fueling Network (CFN), the company modernized the cardlock and opened the doors to increased volumes of cardlock traffic. The large, state-wide network made the option more enticing to new customers, who now had the ability to fuel across much of the western United States using their Tesei Petroleum credit line.
In 1992, Tesei Petroleum purchased the local Shell distributor. The company began providing fuel to local Shell stations, which provided much needed work for its transport fleet during the winter months, which were slow months for gasoline and diesel. This also allowed the company to acquire a brand, Shell Oil, after having given up the Mobil contract years earlier. The purchase of another fuel distributor in Chowchilla further increased business.
When Shell Oil chose to offer many of its corporate-owned service stations for sale in 1995, Tesei Petroleum chose to invest in this new area of business. Shell gave priority purchase to the dealers who operated the stores, but two stores, one in Merced and the other in Los Banos, were not purchased by their operator, and Tesei Petroleum was able to purchase them, then lease them back to the existing operators.
In 1997, with business volumes increasing steadily and company staff growing, the decision was made not to renew the lease on the second half of the building, and Tesei Petroleum expanded to fill the entire building, adding five offices, a conference room and a storage room. The next year, a choice offering of land was purchased in Chowchilla just off at Freeway 99, at Robertson Blvd and Chowchilla Ave. On this land, the company built a brand new Shell Station, a new cardlock, and a new warehouse, into which the company moved its Chowchilla fuel distribution center. And in 2000, the property adjacent to the company’s main Madera plant became available, and a new, expanded cardlock was built for diesel customers.
In 2001, requests for alternative fuels were increasing. When the City of Madera began looking for a compressed natural gas (CNG) supplier, Tesei Petroleum took the contract by offering to provide on-demand CNG at the company’s Madera cardlock, by using the CFN network. It was one of the first retail CNG stations opened in the Central Valley.
In 2007, the dealer operating the company’s Merced Shell station, on R Street just off Freeway 99, chose to terminate his lease. Tesei Petroleum took over operation of the store, transferring there an experienced supervisor from our Chowchilla Shell station as the new Store Manager. The company hired a new crew (the store was previously staffed entirely by the operator’s family) and began to work to bring up the store’s sales volume. In 2009, the company purchased a third service station, a Valero Gas Station at Gateway and Olive, just down the street from its main office. This station was later converted to a Shell station.
The largest acquisition in company history came in 2011 with the purchase of Bartlett Petroleum in Merced, putting company annual revenues into nine digits. The company retained all of Bartlett’s employees and the purchase included the Merced office and bulk plant, and three cardlocks.
Tesei Petroleum has been in a growing mode for the past 45 years. Since the days of ‘Cook and Tesei’, the company has grown from a few hundred customers to well over eight thousand; from a small one room office and warehouse, to three bulk plants, six cardlocks, and three Shell service stations; from a small business with a single employee (Kimberly Thomas, who has stayed with the company for more than thirty years, and is now finance director) to a corporation with more than sixty employees. In our course of business we have acquired four other fuel companies. We are securing the future, not only of Tesei Petroleum, but for the all the employees that give their time every day, and our loyal customers whose business makes it possible.