Cumberland Gulf Goes Where the Opportunities Are

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- Whether it's entering new states, starting new businesses or adding new services, The Cumberland Gulf Group is in growth mode and showing no signs of slowing down. The Gulf brand is in 28 states throughout the United States, and has plans to reach between 40 and 45 states in the future, according to Joseph Petrowski, CEO of The Cumberland Gulf Group.

The company, which encompasses both Gulf Oil LP and Cumberland Farms Inc., also recently launched a new business -- Gulf Electricity -- supplying electric to residential and commercial properties, and it signed a new deal with PayPal to launch the SmartPay application, which automatically locates one of the chain's gas stations, turns on the pump and allows the customer to pay -- all from the driver's seat of his or her car.

"We have a five-year plan, but it's a guidepost," Petrowski told CSNews Online. "For example, if XYZ Corp. announced they are pulling out of 1,000 locations, we will change the plan. We have to go where the opportunities are, and we look to see who the good distributors are in that area, and who we want to align with for growth."

Ideally, the company is focused on growing and "filling in" the areas where the Gulf and Cumberland Farms brands are already established, but it is open to opportunities to enter new states as they arise. Currently, Cumberland Gulf has 3,500 locations in 28 states.

"The only region we would stay out of is the West Coast -- Hawaii, Alaska, California, Nevada, Washington and Oregon," Petrowski noted. "I measure success by the number of sites vs. states, and I would rather go deeper into a state and have customers be happy with us."

The company not only plans to grow its Cumberland Farms and Gulf networks, but also its new Gulf Electricity venture, which started in Connecticut with its own stores and approximately 1,000 customers. Gulf Electricity is now in Massachusetts and plans to expand to Maine and Pennsylvania over the next 12 months.

Starting in one state allowed the company to iron out servicing and billing before expanding nationwide, and the overall goal is to look for opportunities where the regulated price is higher than the free market price. This allows Gulf Electricity to save the consumer money, while also generating profit, Petrowski said.

The electricity business has been part of the plan for a while, as the company continues to look for opportunities to grow.

"If you look at the number of gas stations in the U.S., it will stay stagnant, at best, and continue to shrink. Optimists have it flat and pessimists have it shrinking 20 percent as we go to electric cars," he said. "We looked at electricity, and we know it is the fastest growing with the largest dollars next to petroleum in the energy markets, and we have a tremendous brand name in Gulf."

The company also plans to enter the liquefied natural gas (LNG) market, and will be ordering equipment to own natural gas trucks as part of its fleet. This is another big opportunity Petrowski sees for the company on the Gulf side, and he said they will have some announcements coming in the future.

Compressed natural gas (CNG) is also an area Gulf is on top of, and it may put some facilities into selected stations, Petrowski said.

"Natural gas is one of the most important opportunities for the U.S., not just for Gulf," he explained. "We are an energy distribution merchant at Gulf, not just an oil company."