Bern Oil and Ag Partners Coop Announce Business Consolidation
Mar 16, 2022
Vern and Rita Grose, along with Jay and Heidi Baumgartner, owners of Bern Oil Company in Bern, KS, are pleased to announce that they have sold Bern Oil Company to Ag Partners Coop in Seneca, KS. The last day of operations for Bern Oil was Monday, March 14th.
Vern Grose started working for Bern Oil in August of 1979 alongside long-time owner Lynn Hartter. Vern’s wife, Rita, came on board in 1984, doing the accounting and bookwork for the company. The Groses were afforded a partnership opportunity in 1985 and became half owners with Hartter. Then in 1999, Jay and Heidi Baumgartner purchased their half of the business from Hartter, which cemented the Grose’s and Baumgartner’s joint business venture with Bern Oil that continued to this day.
Through many discussions between the Groses and Baumgartners, both decided that the timing was right to sell the business. Over the years, they have grown Bern Oil's customer base, as well as the number of gallons they have moved. Not only are they proud of how their business has grown, but they are also very proud of the level of customer service provided to their patrons, which is why they are excited that they were able to make the transaction with Ag Partners Coop work out.
“We have been friendly competitors for many, many years. This goes back a long time ago to when Mark Studer oversaw the fuel and propane business with Nemaha County Coop and up to today with the management in place at Ag Partners Coop. Our business models are about as identical as they could be. We both have programs that are very similar to each other, offer the same types of products, and the most important thing to us was finding a company that we knew would put a big focus on providing the same type of customer service that our customers are used to," said Vern Grose.
Ag Partners Coop is headquartered in Seneca and was part of a merger four years ago between Ag Partners Coop in Hiawatha and Nemaha County Coop in Seneca. Currently, Ag Partners services most of Northeast Kansas and a good portion of Southeast Nebraska. Ag Partners has bulk plant locations for fuel and propane in Seneca, Hiawatha, and St. Marys and has also begun servicing bulk and packaged oil out of Sabetha in the last couple of months.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to bring Bern Oil on board with our business. Vern, Rita, and Jay have run and built a very reputable business, and they are some of the most upstanding people I have ever met. When Vern and Jay approached us about this possibility, we knew that this would be a very good thing for both parties because of the type of business they have built and how very similar our businesses are," said Eric Osterhaus of Ag Partners Coop. “We have always prided ourselves on our customer service, just like Bern Oil has. We will be very committed to continuing this expectation for their customers, but we also know that there will be a few speedbumps along the way, which can be expected with any type of change."
Vern and Rita will continue working on behalf of Bern Oil to clean up the loose ends of finishing out their business. Vern will work for Ag Partners Coop in a short-term capacity, delivering propane for the next few months and helping with the transition of customer information and getting other details squared away. The Groses are very much looking forward to a retirement that will allow them to do some traveling and spend a lot more time chasing their grandkids.
Jay Baumgartner accepted an offer to work full-time for Ag Partners Coop, serving in the same capacity that he has for many years with Bern Oil. Brandon Macke, a seasonal propane driver, has also accepted an offer to work for Ag Partners Coop in the same capacity as well.
“One of our first priorities in putting this acquisition together was to ensure that we could secure the services of Jay and Brandon. Those guys were a vital part of being able to make this acquisition a success," said Osterhaus.
Both parties are in the process of notifying customers about completing the necessary paperwork, and ensuring all questions and concerns are addressed. Customers should know that all contracts completed before the acquisition will be honored.
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