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Educating sellers and buyers.

When Louis Romano joined Harrison, New York-based Castle Oil Corporation, he promised results.

And he has delivered. In a little more than one year, the company's sales have increased by over 20 percent.

"It really feels like home here," said Romano, a former Hess Oil executive who now holds the position of senior vice president for Castle, the metropolitan area's largest independent distributor and supplier of fuel.

Castle Oil, which was founded by the Romita family in 1928 as Castle Coal after expanding into the heating oil business from ice delivery, has a long-tradition of preeminence in the industry, Romano observed.

Romano noted that the family-tradition of excellence at Castle has made his job much easier. The other day, Romano related, he was having lunch with a real estate executive who was taking the business over from his grandfather and the man said that his grandfather had been doing business with Castle since day one.

As part of the effort to improve sales, Romano has stressed the value of education, both internally to Castle employees, as well as outside to benefit customers.

"At Castle Oil Corporation, seminars are part of the relationships we develop with our customers," Romano explained. "While our business is to provide a quality product, we also believe we have an obligation to assist our customers in getting the most benefit from the product we sell to them."

According to Romano, Castle has developed a series of seminars on equipment maintenance and government regulations as a way to help customers run their equipment more efficiently. And more efficient equipment means lower fuel oil costs and repair expenditures.

"Furthermore, we explain the various government requirements and regulations instituted in the past decade," Romano continued. "Owners, managing agents and superintendents need to understand their responsibilities in such areas as tank regulations, spill prevention and boiler inspections. "

The "Energy Excellence" seminars offered by Castle are conducted by Castle Oil burner-service supervisors and account executives.

"I conducted two seminars in the last two weeks and customers appreciate not only the educational interaction with Castle, but also the information on how to meet their energy needs," said Robert Welch, an account executive who came to Castle with Romano.

The seminars, offered free of charge, can be presented at the offices of the customer, an off-site conference room, the corporate offices of Castle Oil in Harrison, New York, or at one of the company's deep-water terminals, where a tour of the facility can be included.

Prior to Romano's arrival, Castle Oil averaged an annual delivery rate of 10 million barrels from each of the company's two area terminals, one of which is located in Astoria, Queens, and the other is the Port-morris terminal in the Bronx. According to Romano, Castle's deep-water terminals accommodate ocean-going tankers to allow direct delivery of fuel from oil-producing nations. That means Castle controls the delivery of the product from tanker to customer, Romano added.

"Castle is down at the terminals we own in the Bronx and Queens,' Romano said. "I spend as much time as I can at the terminals. That's the exciting part - the winter, the trucks, the hustle and bustle."

Welch noted that it was essential to visit the terminals on a regular basis to keep informed about the market. "I stop there everyday," Welch said. "It's a requirement in order to address needs as they arise."

Since the terminals were purchased, Castle Oil has invested an estimated $1.5 million annually to upgrade and maintain them. A fleet of approximately 125 vehicles, including more than 80 delivery trucks, are on-hand to deliver the millions of barrels of oil being piped through the terminals.

"We're constantly upgrading our fleet, the largest in the industry," Romano said. "We're preparing for the heating season, the oil's in the trucks and we're ready."

Romano stated that deliveries from every ship and barge are tested and sampled by Castle inspectors, as well as licensed third-party inspectors. All incoming product is checked, he said, against seven criteria: Sulfur content, viscosity, pour point, flash point, sediment rates, color, and octane rating.

Barbara Merson, senior vice president and corporate planner at Castle, explained that Castle Oil is primarily concerned with serving the New York City metropolitan area.

"New York real estate is our core market, " Merson said. "The New York metropolitan market is the core business. This is what we emphasize, we understand them."

In order to serve its customers better, Merson has been developing an improved computer systems so information about respective clients is readily available.

"We try to structure it so it reflects the structure of our customer," Merson said. Real estate mangers and owners deal with two products - oil and also equipment services. They don't necessarily want information on both, and structure gives us the information to help our customers."

Sales is a question of quality as well as quantity, Romano pointed out. He said that every salesperson at Castle Oil has a personal-on relationship with his accounts.

As far as the future goes, Romano will only concede that his staff is focuses and aware of the competition and the market.

"What's up ahead in the future on the supply-side, what's happening worldwide, it's not just a guess," said John Abbatepaolo, an account executive who has been with Castle for six years. "We have first-hand knowledge what's happening worldwide."

And, yet, even armed with information, Romano admitted that one cannot predict the future, adding that a year ago no one would have dreamed that Israel and the PLO would reach an agreement.

"The trends, the world situation, who would have predicted that? Romano said. "Who wants to predict what OPEC will do in four years"
COPYRIGHT 1993 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Louis Romano of Castle Oil Corp. discusses management philosophy
Author:Alger, Derek
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Sep 22, 1993
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