Innovation and boldness – coupled with solid financial reasoning – have long been the hallmarks of Bell Fuels, Inc., a company who’s origin dates back to 1889 in Chicago. It was an era in Chicago’s history of unpaved streets, horse-drawn trolleys, wood sidewalks and lots of dust. It was a time when horses still provided the proverbial “horsepower” to America’s workforce.
With innovation and determination to meet a need in the marketplace, H.J. Troch in 1898 started a water-wagon street-sprinkling business. The unpaved, dirt covered Chicago streets created intolerable dust conditions for merchants. Seizing upon this opportunity to start a business, H.J. Troch began his water-wagon business, sprinkling the streets for money, keeping the dust down in front of merchants’ stores.
Each generation of fathers passed his business down to his son.
And each son grew the business into a more viable, expanded entrepreneurial version than the fathers’ business before.
Bob, Sr., son of H.J. Troch, inherited the horse-drawn, water-wagon business and transformed it into a Mack Truck street-sprinkling business. By 1923, Robert, Sr., owned a fleet of Mack Trucks and made the bold move to the coal distribution business.
In 1946, Robert, Sr., further expanded the business to include home and commercial heating oil. It was in 1951, when the coal market in Chicago went into serious decline, with the market giving way to the more economical and efficient oil-fired furnaces. At this juncture, Bob, Sr., sold the coal business. The R.W. Troch Oil Company was on its way to becoming THE largest heating oil company in the Chicago-land area.
Corporate Profile: The Third Generation
Robert W. Troch, Jr. is the third generation of Troch’s and is the current CEO and Chairman of the Board of Bell Fuels, Inc. Entering the family business in 1958, after his tour of duty in the Navy, Bob, Jr. brought a fresh, energetic style of leadership to his father’s business. Bob, Jr. became the impetus for change and expansion.
In 1964, the R.W. Troch Oil Company acquired the Bell Oil Company, thus creating Bell Fuels, Inc. Merging the two companies officially made Bell Fuels the largest distributor of heating oil, gasoline and diesel fuel in the Chicago market.
Bob, Jr.’s entrepreneurial spirit led Bell to a number of firsts in the petroleum industry:
1. Retail Super Stations: In 1980, Bell introduced the largest service station in the United States, with 102 hoses; risky business in 1980. In today’s market, super-sized stations have become the mainstay of every major retail operator.
2. Aviation Jet Fuel: Delivering jet fuel to the corporate likes of John Deere Co., Pfizer Corp. and Eli Lilly Co.; no other independent petroleum company delivered jet fuel to O’Hare Airport.
3. Premium D-2 Diesel Fuel: Engineered to overcome weather-sensitive performance characteristics in diesel fuel. Premium D-2 enhances the performance of fuel regardless of the crude oil feedstock or weather conditions. Bell invited the idea of a “finished” diesel fuel.
4. Fuelman Fleet Credit Card: Bell becomes the first independent petroleum company in the Chicago and Milwaukee area to provide a national fuel accountability program for corporate fleets.
5. Fuel Assurance Program: A guaranteed assurance of supply for emergency generators. This contractual supply program delivers emergency fuel within a given-time window. Bell’s Fuel assurance program was conceived just two years prior to the ill-fated 9-11 attacks on America.
6. BioSmart Biodiesel: Bells Fuels was the first petroleum company in Illinois to commercially introduce soy biodiesel. Bell’s BioSmart® has positioned us as the largest distributor of soy biodiesel in Northern Illinois.