The abrupt closure of Pettit Oil Co. in January froze out thousands of heating oil customers in the middle of winter.
The bankruptcy also created a void in the West Sound petroleum business that competitors have rushed to fill.
“We’ve probably had 1,200 phone calls in the past five days" said Zach Dougherty who formed Olympic Energy in Bremerton in the wake of Pettit's closure "It's definitely quite amazing”
Mounting debt forced Lakewood-based Pettit to file for bankruptcy protection in November The company listed $18.7 million in assets and $22 5 million in liabilities, according to court documents
Pettit also boasted more than 10,000 heating oil, commercial fuel and lubrication customers in Western Washington. Most were caught off-guard when the company shut down without notice Jan 17.
Locally, family-owned MASCO Petroleum of Aberdeen and Small and Sons Oil in Auburn and Tumwater stepped in to provide home heating oil to former Pettit customers in their service areas.
There were no explanatory signs posted at Pettit's Bremerton office or on its website. An apologetic recording on the company's hotline provided no information on the bankruptcy.
Customers who had credit with the company or bills to pay were left with no clear idea of how their accounts would be handled.
Dougherty said most of the former Pettit customers who contacted his company are elderly. Many were shocked and angered by the way Pettit shut down.
“It’s been emotional” Dougherty said “A lot of drama, a lot of frustration,”
Since the closure, the case has been assigned to a trustee in Seattle. A contact form at www www.pettitoil.com allows former customers to submit queries regarding their accounts.
While consumers were caught off guard, regional petroleum providers had monitored the bankruptcy and wasted no time in reaching out to jilted Pettit customers.
Cooper Oil a Wheaton Way company with customers in five counties, doubled business in the last month. Manager Dave Metcatf said the company is distributing between 20,000 and 30,000 gallons of heating oil daily. Cooper hired three new drivers and put two retired trucks back on the road.
Between the former Pettit customers and the recent cold snap, heating oil demand has skyrocketed Metcatf said. Cooper buys it’s oil from refineries in Tacoma. The company has limited the volume of its fill-ups per customer to make sure it can keep everyone supplied.
“It's a struggle but we're keeping up.” Metcalf said.