Architectural engineer Eben Robison opens a small office in downtown Hartsdale. His wife runs the gas station and auto parts store, and he runs a side business drafting building plans. Living above his shop, he was ready all hours of the night to help anyone in need. His initiative, dependability, thoughtfulness, and nothing-is-too-much-trouble attitude allowed his two-person business to flourish.
Extensions were added to accommodate the hardware shop, gas station, and auto shop. With the help of his wife and with his customer-oriented mindset, his business grew and eventually expanded to delivering home heating oil to homes in Scarsdale, Hartsdale, Edgemont, Ardsley and White Plains.
Original Oil is founded by Harry Singer and delivers oil to the five Boroughs of New York.
Robison’s Gas station number 2 opens at 100 East Hartsdale Ave. Hartsdale.
Robison’s first Fuel Oil Plant is built on River Street in Hastings-on-Hudson.
A large expansion took place including: an auto parts and storage garage next to the oil plant, gas stations, as well as the opening of a second hardware store in Scarsdale.
Wanting to reward the employees who helped him grow the business, Eben Robison, through a series of outright gifts, transferred a total of 49 percent of Robison’s stock into the hands of seven of his most trusted and valued employees. He did this to make sure that the people who helped build the company were the ones to inherit it.
On the company’s 30th Anniversary, Eben Robison announces a stock purchase plan for employees with the ultimate goal of an employee -owned company. More than 300 employees gathered for a celebration, where Robison announced that not only would top managers be eligible, but all employees would be allowed to purchase stock in the company.
Robison at this point is serving more than 9,000 customers through a combination of retail enterprises, including its oil burner and fuel oil businesses, automobile repair service employing more than 30 mechanics, three filling stations with full lines of auto supplies, two large garages and two retail hardware stores. The company was also operating a fleet of 61 delivery, service, and tank trucks.
The stock plan does end in managers/employees taking over the company, but they do not survive the volatility of the oil business during the OPEC oil wars of those years and the company was taken over by Mobil Oil.
The Singer Family which had owned and operated Original Oil for three generations, makes a bid to purchase Robison from Mobil Oil and succeeds against larger competitors. The two companies which had similar origins and similar credos: Provide Quality Products and Outstanding Service, now merge.
A third generation of Singers joins the business: Michael Singer, a Boston University Graduate.
The Singer Family, owners of Original, a New York Based Oil distributor, buys Robison Oil Corp. Saul Singer assumes position of CEO and Fran Singer, Saul Singer’s wife, becomes president of Robison Oil Corp. Robison recognized Teamsters 456 as representing its employees and the company embraces the change working hand in hand with the union to modernize operations and cross train its staff.
David Singer joins after graduating from Syracuse University in 1984 and graduating Law school and passing the bar in 1987.
Robison closes its iconic offices in Hartsdale and the land is later donated to Hartsdale for a pocket park in the business district. Original and Robison move to new headquarters in Elmsford.
With oil losing favor to gas and electricity in New York City, Original Oil sells its operations in the five Boroughs of New York to Hess Oil.
Dan Singer joins the company after an 8-year career with PepsiCo, having also graduated from Syracuse University.
When deregulation comes to New York State, Robison becomes one of the first companies to take advantage of this and starts providing customers with electric service. At the same time, Robison adapts its full-service customer model to the gas market, offering natural gas customers the same reliable at home service as oil customers. “We developed the full-service model for natural gas,’’ said David Robison, “Gas people never had that luxury… They never had that guy who came over twice a year and checked the house. Now they had someone.’’
Robison branches out into 24-7 plumbing services.
Volatility in pricing creates upheaval in the oil business giving Robison the opportunity to acquire some of its largest competitors. Robison purchases 15 or more local/regional companies including CIBRO, Cerrillo Bros., Halstead Quinn, Whaleco Petroleum, Spano Fuel, Durkin Fuel and others, expanding the company’s territory from Brewster to the Bronx. The control of these territories made it easier for the company to consolidate routes and improve service to customers. When it was over Robison had 25,000 customers within a 40-mile radius covering Northern and Southern Westchester and Putnam counties. “We tried to respect all their histories so the customer had continuity in service,” said David Singer.
Robison regained control of Original Oil and was now selling, electricity, gas and oil in the five Boroughs of New York. By this time Robison was also servicing more than 22,000 household throughout Westchester and Putnam.
Recognizing the need to become an indispensable full-service company managing local homes, Robison starts rounding out its services, adding air conditioning and HVAC services. Dan and David Singer moved to acquire the Westchester territory of ARS American Residential Services, a large national HVAC service company. However, to make this acquisition a success it was imperative that all heating techs be cross trained in air conditioning work. Robison’s team of technicians embraced this challenge and with the support of its Unions we were able to cross train over 20 heating techs to service air conditioning as well. Today Robison has about 6,500 homes with AC service contracts and over 15,000 with heating service contracts covering both oil and natural gas heating systems.
Robison continues to diversify its company, moving into green energy. Adding energy efficiency products, Robison offers its customer a holistic look at serving the homes’ systems whether it’s heating, electricity, HVAC or air quality products. Whether its oil or gas, electricity or solar, Robison helps the customer to choose the best product and greenest option for their homes. Robison offers non-sulfur, bio-fuel oil products that are closest to natural gas in carbon output. The company also purchases Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) so they know that the energy contributed to the grid is sourced 100 percent green. “We do a full analysis: air quality, humidity level, temperature check, programable thermostats,’’ said David Singer. “Every home we touch, we make energy efficient. We check under the hood to make sure it’s running right.”
During the 2017 Philanthropy Awards Breakfast, then Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino declared March 8th, 2017 to be Robison Oil Recognition Day in Westchester County. He also honored Robison Oil with the Outstanding Corporate Philanthropy Award for raising public awareness and interest in philanthropy and its selfless commitment to the Westchester community.
When the pandemic struck in March of 2020, Robison was perfectly poised to respond to its customers, offering the latest in air quality products to filter out viruses and other impurities. “About 5 years ago we began getting into indoor air quality. Asthma, allergy sufferers, pet dander were growing areas of concern. Now with the pandemic this is no longer a luxury item,’’ said David Singer. With smart homes and new products on the horizon, Robison stands ready to serve its customers in the future. “We need to be that guy/gal who you call when that new widget comes out that you are interested in. We will be there for you,’’ said David Singer.
The House that Service Built invites you to help us celebrate our 100th Anniversary!
Since Eben Robison founded the company in 1921 from a small office in Hartsdale to today, Robison has worked to give its customers personalized service. So many of you have been long time, loyal customers. Over the years, we have heard your stories of how Robison has been part of your family, and how you have greatly appreciated our service.
As part of our 100th Anniversary Celebration we would like to share some of these wonderful stories. Send us your “My Robison” story telling us how our employees have gone above and beyond for you. The best stories will be featured on our website, social media. Customers who submit ideas will receive a special gift from us to show our appreciation.
We could not have made it to 100 years without you!