Half Time. You may have heard the phrase, of course associated with ball games mostly. Several years ago, a friend of mine suggested I read a book called Half Time, by Bob Buford, which was not about ball games at all. It was about the concept that in the first half of our lives we are busy being successful... focused on ourselves, working our way up in life, saving money and accumulating stuff.
And then comes ‘half time’. It is at this time, when one usually starts to think about where they are in life and what the second half of life will be like. What will be significant in our lives? That significance means different things to different people, it can mean enjoying retirement, more trips with family to the beach or other travel, enjoying more time with a hobby, fishing, farming and giving back to our families with time, volunteering in our community, spending time with grandchildren perhaps teaching them the importance of values, character etc.
That is where Mark and John Thomas found themselves. Having continued to grow the company as second generation owners, the business has been around almost 100 years. Providing the farmers and citizens of Caswell County and surrounding areas with the fuel to run our farms and keep our homes comfortable, we would be at a loss without it. When ‘half time’ came for them, the brothers realized to fully enjoy the fruit of their labors with their families, they had to find a way to keep the business going so that the important work it was doing in the community could continue.
Meet, Stone Road Energy. Headquartered in a small New England town of Woodstock VT, this company has a strong track record of acquiring, operating and growing family-owned oil and propane companies. It is part of their mission to retain the brand identity and presence in the communities of the companies they buy. Stone Road Energy has a great strength in their ability to run these businesses efficiently and effectively while also being flexible to meet their local and market needs. In addition, the company gets involved in the local communities supporting them in various ways. The Chamber can attest to that as COO Michael Schmell shared their goal to support the efforts of Caswell County Chamber of Commerce as well as other organizations.
Enter, David Seppelt, also in his own half time experience. As the Manager here in Yanceyville for Thomas Brothers Oil, he grew up on a farm like many of us and he also served the nation in the Airforce for over 20 years. In his half time plans, he and his wife relocated in southside Virginia to enjoy the fruit of their labors and spend more time with their grandchildren. And in the midst of his half time, one of the principals at Stone Road that knew Dave was just the right person for the job here at Thomas Bros. Although Dave’s half time plans are not in full execution mode just yet, he is certainly making a significant difference for us in Caswell.
He was excited to share a few stories about the employees and how great they have been. One was of how of Ms. Kay and his granddaughter have a relationship, one of previous customers coming back to Thomas Oil because of the service of Ricky Francis and just how much they value the tobacco farmer customers they have. Dave was eager to tell how the company supported our FFA students last year in attending the national convention and he explained how they also were interested in assisting the County Outreach Ministry too.
Of course, change, transitions, and getting older are not always easy for us as humans. But according to Dave, the team at Thomas Brothers Oil has truly risen to the occasion and have truly been great in helping the company transition well. Change like this brings additional work initially but, once it is done, new efficiencies and growth can occur. And that is good for everyone; the employees as they get a strong company in which to continue working, the community as we still have the services of Thomas Bros Oil, and the original Thomas Brothers, are able to realize their decision made for their ‘half time’ to keep the company intact and in our community. They will have a positive legacy for years to come. Stay tuned for details on the Thomas Brothers Oil Customer Appreciation Day coming up soon. Five dollar grill cylinder fills will be available to help raise funds for the Caswell Parish.
It’s always a joy to learn about positive half time experiences. That break in our thinking and the inner work that can redirect us in changing the traectory of our lives to set up our futures to be ones of more meaning and significance, can be a true blessing.
As published in The Caswell Messenger July 8, 2020
Written by AC Hodges