FU Oil operations in Velva, Drake see changes

Jill Schramm/MDN A “closed” sign is posted on the door of Farmers Union Oil’s downtown Velva hardware store. The store and automotive shop closed recently as part of business restructuring.

VELVA – Farmers Union Oil Co. has eliminated some staff and services at its Velva and Drake branches to focus on core services that are more profitable in the current economy.

Cameron Erickson, interim general manager, said shops at the two locations have been closed due to financial losses in those operations.

Thirteen full or part-time people were laid off in Drake, although one was hired back full-time and two hired back part-time to continue to operate the convenience store Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Although these are shortened hours, Erickson said the company will look at adding weekend hours in the summer if there is demand.

In Velva, the convenience store on U.S. Highway 52 will remain open, but the company has closed the downtown shop with its automotive repair. The hardware, auto parts and tire lines also have been discontinued. The building will continue to house the main offices of the company.

Three people were laid off in the Velva operation.

“Financially, we are losing money in those areas and it simply can’t continue,” said Erickson, who stepped into management duties about a month ago. He explained the decline in oil activity and the downturn in the farm economy have combined to slow sales and the demand for certain services.

The company still offers an array of services.

“Once again, we are bringing the Farmers Union Oil of Velva to its core. That core is going to be agronomy and agronomy services, petroleum – bulk and through C-store and propane – and also the convenience stores and retail services. They will be our three primary business units,” Erickson said.

Farmers Union Oil also will be continuing its tire truck service, which is geared to the commercial market. In addition, no change is planned at this time in its heating, ventilation and air conditioning service.