April 24, 2012

Longtime Maine owners sell Downeast Energy

The Morrell family says the 300 workers will keep their jobs when the Oklahoma-based purchaser takes over.

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Steve Trudelle exits a truck Monday at the South Portland office of Downeast Energy.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Downeast Energy started as Brunswick Coal in 1908. By the 1940s, when Charlie Descheneaux, above, worked as a truck driver, the company was Brunswick Coal & Lumber.

Courtesy photo

Additional Photos Below


Has roughly 300 employees.

Operates 14 offices in southern and central Maine and Dover, N.H.

Serves 50,000 customers in New England.

Delivers about 12 million gallons of retail propane volume and 28 million gallons of distillate volume annually.

Reports total annual revenues of about $140 million.

Source: Downeast Energy



1908: The company starts as Brunswick Coal, selling coal and firewood.

1931: Allen Morrell buys the company and adds “& Lumber” to the name. He expands the business to include heating oil, propane and building materials.

1950s: The company begins planning and building neighborhoods, including Meadowbrook and Mere Point Village in Brunswick.

1980s: Downeast adds wholesale and retail gasoline sales.

2001: The motor fuels operations, including 23 Puffin Stop convenience stores, are sold.

2010: The building supply business is sold to Hammond Lumber.

Source: Downeast Energy

Restrictions about the amount of market share controlled by one company would likely have made it difficult for a Maine-based rival to buy Downeast.

"For the employees, this is a great solution," said Jamie Py, president of the Maine Energy Marketers Association. "If you're going to have a sale and you can protect the best interest of the customers and the employees, it's a positive all around."

In the Brunswick area, the Morrell family name is associated with more than oil.

The three generations who led Downeast are particularly active in supporting Mid Coast Health Services.

"All of us have grown up in Brunswick, been active in the community. I don't see that changing," Morrell said.

Family members have volunteered time and donated money to Mid Coast Health Services. They also have been active in United Way, and they helped establish the Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick.

"The Brunswick community as a whole has really benefited from the generosity and leadership of the Morrell family over the years. They are a key to what makes Brunswick a great place to live and work," said Mid Coast Health Services President and Chief Executive Lois Skillings.

Dick Morrell, the 83-year-old patriarch and figurehead of the company, was chairman of the board for Mid Coast Health Services for 25 years and remains chairman emeritus.

The board room at Mid Coast Hospital is named in his honor, and the hospital's library is named in honor of the Morrells.

Dick Morrell will maintain an office at Downeast to oversee his personal affairs. He will not receive a salary.

"It's not an operational role," said Bill Morrell.

"He's just someone who loves coming into the office every day. Employees like seeing him in the office.

"Part of the deal was that he keep his office -- he can stay," Morrell said.

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: jhall@pressherald.com


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Additional Photos

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Dick Morrell, 83, is the patriarch of the Morrell family, which has owned Downeast Energy for more than 80 years.

Courtesy photo

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John Peters, who has been with Downeast for 31 years, will remain president of the local operations under Tulsa-based NGL.

Courtesy photo

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Allen Morrell bought Brunswick Coal Co. in 1931 and shortly after added “& Lumber” to the name. He expanded the business to include heating oil, propane and building materials.

Courtesy photo

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The Downeast Energy office on Route 1 in South Portland is one of the company’s 14 locations in southern and central Maine and Dover, N.H.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


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