If you were one of the 32,000 households that lost power this past February, you know the home-camping experience can grow old quickly. For some, the outages were catastrophic, for others an inconvenience. And the difference in those experiences can be attributed to something as simple as which fuel provider you have contracted to service your home.

The folks at Acme Fuel pride themselves on the customer service they provide. But this past snowstorm was truly a test of their reserves. A nasty strain of influenza had already taken out a few of their office staff. Then the snowstorm hit.

Acme snowstorm drivers Pumps Only
Many households visited the Fast Fuel pumps to keep their generators going during the snowstorm. They never lost power through the duration of the blackouts. Photo credit: Doug Walker (copyright 2018)

“February was crazy,” says Acme General Manager, Todd Deck. “We worked 7 days a week the whole month. The phones were ringing and then the weekend calls were coming in too. It wouldn’t surprise me if on the Mondays, after a cold weekend, we were getting 150 to 200 phone calls.” Pausing, he adds, “And we delivered to a lot of new customers.”

Those new customers were earned from other fuel companies that were not able to make it out.

Acme fuel driver, Mike Phillips, met a few of those new customers. “One new customer was going to have to wait a week with no fuel,” says Mike, “I was able to get him on my regular schedule the next day. It wasn’t anything special,” he said, “that was just how he fit on my route.”

Everyone Pulling Together

Acme Snowstorm Drivers Mike Alzheimers Truck
Acme driver, Mike Phillips has been with the company for 11 years and was on call the first night of the February snowstorm. “We know that if we all pull together we can get it done,” he says. Photo credit: Doug Walker (copyright 2018)

Mike was on call the first night of the snowstorm. “We are a small, tight-niche company,” he says, “and we know that if we all pull together we can get it done.” That first night, Mike had customers out of fuel in Rochester and Rainier to deliver to and the Evergreen State College called and had 14 generators running that needed diesel fuel.  “Lonny instantly stepped up and volunteered,” says Mike of co-worker, Lonny Kirschbaum.

“I would do anything to help out Mike,” says Lonny. “Someone had to do it and it was a good thing to do.” With a laugh he adds, “Of course I regretted it later that night, I didn’t get home until 11:30.”

Slip, Slide and Stay

For the Acme delivery drivers, February was exhausting, mentally and physically. “Eye fatigue, the long hours. And if you get stuck you have to dig yourself out and you have to chain up,” explains Mike. “It makes everything take so much longer when you get stuck.”

It is worth noting that these trucks are out traveling on roads that are normally only used for passenger cars. Add in a couple feet of snow, with no indication of where the roads end and the ditches or lawns begin, makes it extra challenging. “It was very, very, slippery,” says Mike. “I was able to get myself out when I got stuck. And that was good because if you call a tow truck, they are just sliding around too.”

Mike tried delivering fuel to one customer but couldn’t get through the driveway – the snow-loaded tree branches were so low they were blocking the driveway. “I called the customer and asked if they had a saw,” recalls Mike, “they walked one out to me and I was able to cut through to get in.” Afterward, the customer told Mike to hang on to the saw until after the storm was over, figuring Mike needed it more than he did.

“Our drivers were incredible during the storm,” says Todd. “They know their customers well, they know their driveways. They would try to get to them if they knew it was safe, but if they got in and saw it wasn’t safe, they would halt the delivery and let them know.”

This is a big deal for Acme and Todd is regretful recounting those moments. “There is nothing worse than getting a phone call that one of our customers is out of fuel,” he says, shaking his head. “We get out there right away and get them fuel and we are taking steps to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Acme first needed their own fuel deliveries to keep supplying those running low. “Our suppliers weren’t expecting this cold so there were supply issues in the Northwest region,” reveals Todd, “we were able to keep propane coming in and supplying our customers, but it did get tight at times.”

Keeping the Doors Open and Jobs Running

Whether it is St. Peter’s Hospital, Evergreen State College, any of the restaurants, greenhouses and businesses that Acme services, or making first tracks down a family’s rural driveway, Acme works hard to keep those generators, furnaces, cooktops and water heaters running. And the trust and relationships they have built along the way just keep growing.

“I visited one new customer who was adding in new tanks to his place,” recalls Lonny. “The company he had hired couldn’t get out to help him so he checked the internet and we came up with the highest rating,” Lonny lets out a chuckle recounting this. “He was so impressed with our work, he couldn’t get over it. You know, I never thought about looking up how we rate,” Lonny admits, “but that feels pretty good.”

Acme Snowstorm Drivers Truck Only
These heavy duty trucks often travel through streets and driveways only frequented by cars. It was common during the snowstorm for Acme drivers to be the first tracks through the snow. Photo credit: Doug Walker (copyright 2018)

Customer service extends to commercial jobsites that need their road equipment topped off too. Acme Fuel can take care of any size operation. Acme will deliver to your jobsite and fill your off-road equipment. You can contact Acme’s Commercial Fuel webpage or call their office for more details on this.

Fast Fuel Gas and Diesel

During the storm, Acme’s Fast Fuel pumps were open for business with both ethanol free gas and diesel.

“We were lucky and did not lose power at our downtown station or Lilly Road station during the storm,” says Todd. “We rarely lose power, we sold a lot of ethanol free gasoline for generators, they were up and running and available,” says Todd. “But, again, it was a busy, busy time. Just trying to keep our transport driver’s coming in, hauling truck and trailers into the station, it was a trying time.”

Not everyone knows that the Fast Fuel stations are available to everyone. “Yes,” says Allison Dumas, Acme’s fleet card program manager, “anyone can use the Fast Fuel Pumps. They are open to the public 24/7 and there are no monthly minimums.” There are other benefits to being part of their Fast Fuel program too. Customers can save up to 15 cents per gallon off the credit card price and get detailed statement reports and flexible usage controls.

“The program works great for company fleets,” says Todd, “as well as individuals for their personal family members. Anyone can go to either of our stations and use a credit card without being signed up with us.”

The two Fast Fuel locations in Olympia are at 303 Thurston Avenue NE and 501 Lilly Road SE.

Ready for a Change

Even though there are daffodils popping up along the road now, the Acme drivers say they still feel like they are catching up with all their customers. “I am glad winter is over,” says Lonny, “it was so hard to get to everybody and we didn’t want anyone to run out of fuel. Being a small business is tough,” he adds, “and everyone in the office, they keep it going. It just goes to show how well they take care of the customer.”

To put Acme’s history of customer service to work for you, just drop by their office or visit the Acme Fuel website.

Acme Fuel
416 State Ave. NE, Olympia
Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


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