Mitchell Fuel Celebrates 60 Years

Written on: August 14, 2017 by ICM

By Quoron Walker, Hartford Courant
South Windsor, CT–Having 60 years in the business is no small accomplishment. Tough times and happy moments are a part of everyday life which John Mitchell Sr. and his family can attest to.
The family’s company, Mitchell Fuel Co., Inc., celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. What started as a retail heating oil business has expanded to air conditioning, plumbing, propane, furnace and boiler care, diesel and coal products, and other energy sources.

John Mitchell Sr. and the Mitchell family: Great-grandson Terence, daughter-in-law Teri, son John Jr., John Sr., and son David. Missing from the photo are son Matthew and wife Della. (Quoron Walker/Courant Community)

John Mitchell Sr. and the Mitchell family: Great-grandson Terence, daughter-in-law Teri, son John Jr., John Sr., and son David. Missing from the photo are son Matthew and wife Della. (Quoron Walker/Courant Community)

Mitchell, 83, said that it’s hard to believe he has been in the business so long.
“I still have two small tubes of kerosene and fuel oil that are 60 years old. That was the quality of product I wanted and it was the start of it all. I look at them and didn’t know I’d be doing this 60 years later,” Mitchell said.
The business was recognized as the Family Business of the Year by the South Windsor Chamber of Commerce in 2008.
Back in the 1950s, Mitchell was laid off from Pratt & Whitney and went into house painting with a friend After realizing it was not his calling, Mitchell decided to enter the oil business. He said he saw it as an extension of his father’s coal business.
“After WWII so many people were changing from coal to oil. I saw that as a young child and I thought it was something that I could do,” Mitchell said.
Today the business serves more than 2,000 customers but did not start out that way. Mitchell said that he and his family made many sacrifices over the years. Times when oil prices were high, Mitchell said he barely took in any money for himself from the business.

He recalled a particular time on New Year’s Eve when he and his wife had dinner reservations and had to deliver oil.
On a separate occasion, he remembered former governor Ella Grasso closed the state’s highways due to a severe winter storm. Mitchell said he was the only one on the road and had to make four oil deliveries.
“From 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. at night, getting stuck trying to get house to house. Usually on a normal day you can do four deliveries in an hour,” Mitchell said. “Those are hard, hard times. It was so cold.”
Pleading for more oil from the Office of Policy and Management was also a regular occurrence, for a time.
“Waiting hours just to say I need two or three more loads of oil from my supplier, that were chopped off in the first place from my contracts, and the get that oil to finish up the month for people who needed oil,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell grew up in East Hartford on Tolland St. with his parents and five other siblings. He described their upbringing as “dirt poor.” When he started his own family times were still hard.
“When I first went in to the oil business our income was so low that we qualified for low-income housing in East Hartford,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell and his wife, Della, had four sons: John Jr., Mark, Matthew, and David. Mark died after becoming paralyzed from the neck down after a car accident. He lived 10 years after the accident. Mitchell’s three other sons all are a part of the family business.
Mitchell had a similar experience as a child. He lost his left arm in a car accident when he was nine. Though the Mitchell family has had its share of tragedy and triumph, it sticks together through it all.
“It’s the love of family,” Mitchell said. “You’ve got to have it. That’s what keeps us going.”
Mitchell credits his wife, Della, with being the backbone of the family and the business.
“She’s been a significant part of the strength and growth of Mitchell Fuel,” he said.
Mitchell never let any of his circumstances make him a victim. He always made sure his job was done and was active in his community.
“No one was ever left without heat,” he said. “You don’t mess with people’s comfort.”
Mitchell has been involved heavily in the town of South Windsor. He served as mayor, treasurer, rotary club president, chamber of commerce president, and continues to serve in other organizations.
“Every day is a struggle but I still enjoy it,” Mitchell said. “I’m just happy it’s the continuity of a family business that has endured some of the most amazing challenges that gets thrown at you.”
Article courtesy: Hartford Courant