William Shipley III celebrated his 60th birthday on Wednesday. In just over two weeks, he will hand over the reins of his venerable namesake company after 24 years of leadership.
When Shipley Energy executive Dave Gruno takes over as CEO on July 1, it will mark the completion of a transition plan charted out nearly a decade ago.
Shipley and Gruno also expect it will mark the latest milestone for a growing local business which traces its roots back nearly 90 years. In addition to being a longtime provider of heating oil, Shipley Energy has become a significant competitor in the electricity and natural gas markets, and its portfolio also includes hospitality and food service operations.
Gruno said he will look to expand the company’s product offerings and geographic footprint, which includes 10 states.
“There are 49 deregulated states,” Gruno said of the energy industry. “We would like to be in all of them.”
Shipley, meanwhile, will transition into a new role as chairman of the board, lending strategic support, on a limited basis, related to acquisitions, major transactions or investments by the company.
“I am excited to transfer the reins of the organizational and strategic leadership of Shipley Energy over to Dave and our Executive Leadership Team,” said Shipley, who noted that the company has averaged 15 percent annual growth under his leadership.
“I am confident our company will continue to flourish and grow through the hard work of the talented group of professionals at Shipley Energy and their continued commitment to our customers and our community,” Shipley added.
But Shipley will be stepping away from operations and management — at least partly, he jokes, “to keep me out of Dave’s hair.”
“He’s a good, solid person,” Shipley said of Gruno, a U.S. Air Force veteran who joined the company in 2004.
“It is an honor for me to lead a team of outstanding people and continue the Shipley Family’s entrepreneurial spirit,” Gruno, 47, said. “The energy industry is rapidly evolving and we will continue to work on making the energy buying process easy for our customers and ensure that we consistently provide outstanding service.”
Shipley Energy traces its roots back to 1929, when Thomas Shipley founded the Roosevelt Garage and Supply Company.
The founder passed away in January 1930, and his son, Samuel Hunt Shipley, began his 45-year career leading what would grow into a diverse oil and gas business before he died in 1975.
The 1970s also would see the company branch out into self-service gas stations and convenience stores.
William Shipley III became president — predecessor of the CEO role — in 1992. His tenure has witnessed the company’s entry into the natural gas and electricity markets.
While Shipley represents the fourth generation of family leadership, Gruno will not be the first non-family leader, Shipley noted, as there were others prior to his own accession.
Planning for the latest transition began eight years ago, when Shipley was 52. He said there is no one within the current generation of the family in a position to take the role “at this point,” but there were strong prospects within the organization.
“I think I was lucky to have several candidates internally,” Shipley said. “That’s a good situation, really.”
A Michigan native, Gruno joined the Air Force out of high school, and served during Operation Desert Storm, also known as the first Gulf War.
He earned his associate’s degree while in the Air Force. Honorably discharged after six years of service, Gruno went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in human resources, with a minor in psychology, from Troy State University in Alabama.
Gruno, who moved to Pennsylvania about 20 years ago, worked in a number of fields, including the production and service sectors, before joining Shipley 12 years ago.
His experience with the company has been diverse. Gruno started out in natural gas sales to learn the business, and went on to run the natural gas sales and marketing divisions. He later headed the transportation and logistics division, with stops in safety and environmental, human resources and running the company’s retail operations.
He learned something in each position, but human resources may have been the most eye-opening.
“I had a pulse on the organization,” Gruno said. “I was interacting with everybody. That’s the piece I really enjoyed.”
His efforts left an impression on the CEO.
“Really, he was involved in every major part of the business,” Shipley said. “He’s been successful in each of those supervisory positions.”
“Our business has attributes of being committed, responsive and progressive,” Shipley said. “He really embodies and lives those traits.”
Gruno and his wife, Laura, have two sons. They live in Hellam Township.
The company is looking to grow through strategic acquisitions and by developing new platforms for energy sales aimed at a new generation of consumers that are more accustomed to shopping and buying online.
Smart Touch Energy, an online fuel oil retailer Shipley launched in 2015, has attracted customers from Maine to Maryland by offering the ability to purchase energy using a computer or mobile device.
It is an area where Gruno sees room for growth, although he also acknowledges that it’s a competitive field with “a lot of noise.”
“We have a very robust online presence,” he said, reiterating Shipley’s goal of a footprint in all deregulated states.
Other areas eyed by Gruno and the company include:
• Growth in their home services division, which installs and services heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment and offers indoor air quality services.
• Additional quick-service restaurants. Shipley will soon open a new Arby’s franchise in Lewistown and has plans for the State College market, Gruno said.
For William Shipley III, the transition doesn’t necessarily mean retirement. The company has a long tradition of charitable involvement, which Shipley expects to continue, for the organization and himself.
In the past 40 years, the company has given 20 percent or more of its profits to causes, including community organizations and scholarships, he said.
He recently was appointed as the governor’s representative on the Penn State Board of Trustees, and also will begin a full term as chairman of the York College Board of Trustees on July 1.
Shipley also will remain chairman of the York Revolution Baseball Club, in addition to being involved in numerous civic and philanthropic endeavors.
“I am looking forward to the next decade,” he said.
Gruno said the culture of giving is deeply entrenched at Shipley, where there is an internal committee that meets regularly to consider charitable contributions.
“The community is who we serve,” Gruno said. “We want a strong community.”
1929: Thomas Shipley founds Roosevelt Garage and Supply Company.
1930: Shipley passes away in January; son Samuel Hunt Shipley suceeds him, leading the firm for 45 years.
1939: Thomas Shipley, Inc. purchases York Oil Burner Company.
1943: Samuel Shipley changes parent company’s name to York-Shipley Inc.; restructured firm manufactures, installs, fuels and services oil furnaces and boilers.
1948: The company by now is operating or supplying 30 Esso service stations within the York city limits.
1957: The company negotiates a merger with Humble-Mundis Inc., resulting in the newly named Shipley-Humble Division of York Shipley.
1960: The Shipley-Humble Division acquires seven other fuel oil companies; it doubles its home heating business, significantly increasing its commercial “heavy oil” business.
1968: Shipley-Humble formed as a separate chartered Pennsylvania Corporation when York-Shipley is sold. William Shipley II becomes the first president of Shipley Humble, and Samuel Shipley is named chairman of the board of the new firm.
1972: Shipley-Humble builds the first self-serve Exxon station in the state.
1975: Samuel Shipley passes away.
1976: The firm enters the grocery business with its Kwick-Stop units, predecessors of the Tom’s Convenience Stores operated today by Shipley Stores Inc.
1992: William Shipley III becomes leader of the company.
1995: Shipley enters the natural gas market, serving industrial and commercial customers. Further deregulation will allow them to add residential customers as well. Later developments include mergers and expansions which take the company into Adams, Huntingdon, Clearfield, Centre and Lebanon counties.
2016: Dave Gruno to take over as CEO on July 1, with William Shipley III becoming chairman of the board.