Fueling Communities Since 1943 – A 3rd Generation Family Business
HISTORY OF DOWLER-KARN
In 2018 we celebrate 75 years in business as a third generation company. Dowler Karn continues to grow – We now operate 9 branch locations, a staff of over 180 employees and a fleet of over 70 trucks. Movement of a drainage ditch around the head office has begun to allow for the building of new office facilities for our headquarters in the very near future. Our Jack & Joyce Karn Collection, also known as the Dowler-Karn Museum, is home to thousands of antiques. From dinky toys, to a full-sized Model-T tank truck, and even one of the first horse drawn tank wagons in Canada, we are certain our collection has something for everyone. Over the years, Jack and Joyce gathered an amazing array of gas and oil memorabilia as well as local history items. These carefully chosen and much-loved pieces are proudly displayed in a private collection now available to the public! Their children, and third generation family business owners, John Karn, Barb Molinaro and Dave Karn continue to build the collection, and host numerous events at the museum. The Museum is open for public visits every Wednesday from 10-4pm. We hope you’ll come see it.
In 2017, Dowler-Karn purchased Bond Petroleum in Sarnia to expand the fuel delivery division and add a new access site. Last year, Dowler-Karn also acquired Pepco’s Southwestern Ontario division in Sarnia, to solidify our market throughout Southern Ontario.
In 2016 growth at our railyard continues with the addition of a 90,000 litre bulk propane storage tank to allow for more railcar propane deliveries to the facility. These will eventually allow for 3rd party purchases of propane from this facility.
An exciting year for Dowler-Karn, 2015 saw a new joint venture with Factor Gas and the addition of a rail car facility. The rail car facility allowed Dowler-Karn to transport propane directly from Western Canada to our yard via rail car. This made our process more efficient, allowing us to better serve our customers. What’s more, 2015 saw our business grow to 10 different locations, and over 125 employees!
In 2014, Dowler-Karn added a new 24 hour fuel access location to our repertoire. This location, opened at the London Airport, allowed us to serve the London Area and offer better access to our customers.
On March 16th, 2013, Joyce Karn passes away at the age of 83. Joyce, the last founding member of Dowler-Karn, passes the torch to her children Dave, Barb, and John. Dowler-Karn remains a family business, and Dave, Barb, and John are proud to maintain the values of their parents and grandfather.
When Dowler-Karn expanded into the Windsor area, with the acquisition of Aabco Propane Ltd., they could now officially service all of Southwestern Ontario with propane.
2011 marked the formation of a new Propane Association, the Canadian Propane Association (CPA). Once operational, the two existing associations, the Ontario Propane Association (OPA) and the Propane Gas Association of Canada (PGAC), will cease operations. Dave Karn was part of the working group that helped to design the new association and was also elected to the inaugural board of directors.
When Dowler-Karn purchased J&D Cooper Oil Limited in Chatham, it gave the company the ability to serve petroleum and propane to their customers in the Chatham-Kent area. The existing facilities owned by Imperial Oil had become obsolete and inadequate as time passed, so Dowler-Karn built a new state-of-the-art facility to the South of the existing building.
Fall of 2010 was a much anticipated and very special time for family and staff of Dowler-Karn. The Jack & Joyce Karn Collection, also known as the Dowler–Karn Museum, was finally completed and opened to the public. More than 5000 memorabilia items collected over the past 60 years are on display. The museum is open to the public for viewing every Wednesday or by appointment. The collection has over 10,000 memorabilia items that have been collected over the past 60 years, including clear vision pumps, vintage signs, model trucks, oil cans, and a fully restored 1919 Ford Model T fuel tanker.
In the fall of 2009, Dowler-Karn purchased J&D Cooper Oil Limited in Chatham. This purchase gave the company the ability to serve petroleum and propane to their propane customers in the Chatham-Kent area. Imperial Oil owned the existing office facility which could run separately from the propane office also located in Chatham, until plans for a new joint office could be developed.
In 2007 Dowler Karn would grow again, this time in the Chatham area with the purchase of Cooper Oil. The fuel company serviced most of Chatham and surrounding area for fuels and lubricants. Dowler Karn was already selling propane in this area, so it was a natural progression.
On December 7th, 2006 Jack passed away at the age of 75. He had unknowingly suffered a stroke during a trip to London three days prior, and spent his final days in the care of St. Thomas Elgin general Hospital. Following his passing, Joyce took over the role of company president with the support of her children David, John and Barb.
After 61 years of employment in the Dowler-Karn organization, and as one of the founders of the company, Joyce Karn retires from her position as Credit Manager. She leaves her full time position due to vision issues. Joyce continues as a director of the company, but reduces her time spent working. She quickly settles into retirement to enjoy time with her family and friends.
In 2003, Jack Karn steps down from the Ontario Propane Association‘s board of directors and the TSSA Propane Advisory Council. The same year Dave Karn puts his name forward for a position in both roles and is elected to both the OPA Board of Directors as well as the Propane Advisory Council.
In 2002, Dave Karn became the Chair of the Ontario Propane Association’s “Emergency Response Assistance Plan” (ERAP Plan). This plan details the proper precautions and response in the event of a transportation accident involving “high risk” goods, including propane and other flammable materials.
In 2001 we expanded the fuel business by purchasing Dodsley Fuels in Tillsonburg, pushing our territory farther to the east. The addition of 4 trucks and servicing a large farming community was a perfect fit for our company.
In 1999, Dowler Karn grew again with the acquisition of Imperial Oil’s bulk lubricant delivery business. The Sarnia operation merged with our Sarnia propane operations and we began delivering bulk lubricants across southern Ontario.
Jack Karn was one of the driving forces behind the formation of the Ontario Propane Association, of which Dowler-Karn is recognized as one of the founding members. Jack was made the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the OPA, and also became a member of the Propane Advisory Council of Ontario’s Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA).
In 1996, Dowler Karn was presented the “Free Enterprise Award” by the St Thomas District Chamber of Commerce. The award recognized Dowler Karn’s significant contributions to the business community, St Thomas, and Elgin County as a whole.
In 1994 Dowler-Karn purchased Sarnia Propane from Ross McEachran, almost doubling Dowler-Karn’s propane operations and expanding into Sarnia and Chatham in one fell swoop. Later that year Dowler-Karn was offered the Imperial Oil agency in St. Mary’s, which they purchased and operated from Imperial Oil’s property.
In 1992 Dowler-Karn purchased London’s biggest heating oil supplier, Maple City Gas and Oil, along with their second office in Lucan.
Imperial Oil approached Dowler-Karn with an offer: Take over the London agency from Rowberry Fuels. Dowler-Karn completed the deal, which meant that when Imperial Oil purchased Texaco Oil Limited‘s operations later that year Dowler-Karn acquired Dykxhoorn Fuels who had been the Aylmer agent.
When Dowler-Karn purchased Ball Truck and Auto Repair and moved it to their primary location, they were able to perform inspections and maintenance on their own fleet and provide conversion services to help their customers convert their vehicles to propane.
In 1987 Jack brokered a deal with Imperial Oil to become the first Branded Reseller in Canada. Dowler-Karn Limited was then able to operate of their own volition, and handle customers directly without constant observation or regulation from Imperial Oil. This same year, Dowler-Karn purchased Lacey Fuels in St Thomas.
In 1985, Dowler-Karn realized it had outgrown its location and purchased property east of St. Thomas from Thompson Transport which would become the long-term head office, still used today. This same year, Dowler-Karn purchased the St. Thomas and Aylmer branches of Maple City / Sterling Fuels.
When Barb Molinaro, Jack & Joyce’s daughter, joins Dowler-Karn in 1984 it officially becomes an entire family affair – Jack, Joyce, and each of their three children then worked full-time for Dowler-Karn.
In 1983, after graduating high school, Dave Karn joins the family business full time.
The year was 1979 when Jack Karn made a business decision that would turn out to be a defining moment for him and the company. Dowler-Karn was losing fuel customers, not to the regular fuel competitors, but to a relatively new fuel – Propane. Home heating, vehicle fleets and even tobacco curing kilns were switching to this alternative fuel. It was at this point that Dowler-Karn ventured into the propane business. This would allow Dowler-Karn to supply both petroleum products and propane to their customers.
In 1978, Jack and Joyce’s oldest son, John Karn, graduated from high school and assumed a role working full time within the company.
In 1973, Dowler-Karn put their first tandem fuel delivery truck into service, one of the first of its kind to be operated in Ontario.
Sadly on June 10th, 1970 George Dowler passed away.
Both businesses operated successfully throughout the years. In 1967 George Dowler, Jack Karn ,and Imperial Oil jointly decided to amalgamate the two agencies. A new company was created called “Dowler-Karn Limited.”
Joyce Dowler was dating a young man by the name of Jack Karn who was employed as a butcher at the Dominion grocery store. George Dowler and Imperial Oil approached Jack and insisted he take over the Farm Trade business and work with Imperial Oil. Jack agreed to try a new career and the new agency was formed under the name “Jack Karn Fuels.” Jack and Joyce were married in 1954 and Joyce continued performing office duties throughout the ensuing years.
George Dowler had been employed for a number of years by Imperial Oil, when he was given the opportunity to become the Imperial Oil Agent for the St Thomas area. It was an exciting time for him and his wife, Winnie and their daughter, Joyce. A few years after he took on this role, Joyce started to help her father by assisting him with his bookkeeping. She worked from a 10′ X 10′ building adjacent to the Imperial Oil facility, located at 105 Flora St. in St. Thomas. In the late 40’s and early 50’s, homeowners were actively switching their heating systems from coal to furnace fuel. With the business expanding rather quickly, Imperial Oil felt it necessary to create two distributors – one would become the Home Comfort dealer, supplying home heating fuel, while the other would become the Farm Trade Agent supplying fuels to the farming sector. George Dowler decided to keep the Home Comfort division and remained operating as “Dowler Fuels” and he had someone in mind for the Farm Trade Agent role.