The Hillside Oil Heating & Cooling Story
Hillside Oil Heating & Cooling is a 3rd generation family business operating out of Newark, Delaware, serving New Castle County, Delaware, and Cecil County, Maryland. We deliver liquid fuels, heating oil, diesel fuels, and gasoline. We also have a full-service HVAC department for maintenance, repairs, and replacement. I am Jim Sellers, the 3rd generation to operate and run Hillside.
Hillside was initially started in 1952 by my grandfather Bill Sellers, in Fair Hill, Maryland. He and my grandmother operated a small fuel delivery business and farm store for the local farmers. My grandmother was the fuel delivery truck driver in a rare reversal of roles. My grandparents collected a following of loyal customers, many of whose families are still customers of Hillside today, almost 70 years later. Because of the farming industry they served, payments were often not expected until after the harvest season. I still hear nice stories about my grandfather to this day, especially during the week of the Cecil County Fair in Fair Hill each summer. This is always very special, as I never really knew my grandparents.
My father and mother, Jim and Barbara Sellers, purchased Hillside from my grandparents in 1970 and shortly after moved Hillside to Newark, Delaware, and operated out of our home in Brookside. They integrated a small service department of heating and air conditioning needs for their oil customers. In the late 1970s, Hillside was moved to our current location on Brookhill Drive in Newark, where we still operate.
I was born in 1974, and I immediately went to work as folklore stories tell. One of the first pictures of me is in a baby cradle in the bottom drawer of my mother’s desk (picture proof can be provided if necessary). I have been answering the telephone, doing random clerical work, filing, and being a nuisance to the office since I could walk and talk. I was doing more involved customer account work and computer data entry by the age 10. By the age of 16, I was in charge of all accounts payable, payroll, and accounts receivable, and there was nothing about this office I did not know or understand how to do. I could fill in for any position or perform any jobs as needed. After high school, I took a brief hiatus from working at Hillside and went to the University of Delaware for a few years. Working at Hillside was more suited for me than college, so I returned to work full-time.
In July 1999, my father, Jim Sellers Sr., died of a heart attack at 52. It was a shock to the Hillside family. At 23, I was thrust to the helm of Hillside. For my entire life, I was nurtured to be in this position. Sadly, it was much sooner than expected. Several employees had been here for 20+ years, and several more had known me since I was born. I was very fortunate to have them around, and with these amazing people’s help, Hillside could recover and move forward without a problem. I am proud to say that today, 20 years after my father’s passing, Hillside is doing better than ever – a successful 3rd generation family-owned and operated business. The dismal statistics on 3rd generation businesses it’s a testament to our family tradition of treating customers right to be in the few percent that succeeds.
Today Hillside employs and helps to feed 27 Americans and their families. 10+ employees have been here for over ten years, and several are 20+ years employees. Even though I am currently the only Sellers working at Hillside, we are still a family business, with several generations of other families working here and through the years.
Customer service is the value I emphasize most at Hillside. There are plenty of other companies that do what we do. Treating people like we want to be treated sets us apart in the industry. Everyone is a customer, too, and knows how we like to be treated when we are customers. This is outlined in our Core Values. The feedback I receive almost daily is a positive reinforcement that we are doing something right. I try to set aside one day per week to drive around and knock on the doors of our current customers. I leave a gift bag, a handshake, and a sincere thank you from me, my family, and the Hillside family for supporting our local, homegrown family business.
About 15 years ago, recognizing that the heating oil market was not growing, I decided to rebrand. We started offering our heating and cooling maintenance, repair, and installation services to homeowners outside our loyal heating oil customer base. Home heating oil still constitutes about 70% of our annual income, but the HVAC service department has grown and does fairly well. What was once a 2% overall, breakeven division of our company is now 30% profitable. That rebranding is the Hillside we know today.
Shortly after the rebranding, I started using my best friend, Charlie the Dog, as our company mascot. Charlie is branded on everything we own, mail, print, and drive. He was a real dog who lived in my house, slept in my bed, and was not some stock photo model dog. Charlie accompanied me everywhere, including coming to our office most days and on the road visiting customers. We lost Charlie in May 2017, but he still is the face of Hillside. We have two new dogs of the same breed now, Emmy Lou and Nelson, who have been welcomed warmly and taken over the high-demand role of company mascot.
Another part of the rebranding was building our online presence. As a younger, online generation myself, I recognized the importance. We try to stay active online by engaging with our customers on social media, running contests with practical prizes and giveaways, and sharing useful heating and cooling tips and recommendations through our active blog. Hillside’s website is the only heating oil delivery company in the area that advertises our current price for everyone on our front page. Our current online presence is impeccable among review sites. Over the years, like many businesses, there have been some unfriendly things written about us online. I personally and professionally respond to negative reviews immediately online and then again in person. Imagine the surprise of a disappointed customer being greeted at their front door by me. It is always a case of a frustrated customer who needs to vent, which I understand completely. After listening to their grievances, I attempt to correct the situation to the best of my ability. Those few instances have been retracted and remarkably turned into positive reviews. In addition to hundreds of positive reviews on Facebook, Google, and our website, I have a 2-foot stack of customer comment cards regularly mailed in by our customers who took the time to inform us that our technicians went “above and beyond.” I could not be prouder of the impression our employees leave on customers.
Our Core Values
Core values are guiding principles that dictate behavior and action. They help people know what is right from wrong. They help companies determine if they are on the right path and create a guide for all actions.
Defining the core values from which we develop our culture, brand, and business strategies has become more critical as we grow. These are some core values of Hillside that I believe to be unwavering.
- Our team members are indispensable; none of us would exist without every single one of them. The significance of our employees cannot be emphasized enough.
- Be humble – remember what a customer being is like.
- Honesty and integrity.
- Always have time for a smile and a laugh.
- Be willing to learn.
- Leave customers with a memorable experience, something they might want to tell a friend or family member about. Make your interaction with a customer the best interaction they have that day.
- Customer service is personalized and unlike anyone else in this industry.
- Back up our work product 100%.
- Easy-going work environment.
Keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer while doing customer service right.
Our Love for Dogs
Maggie was my first dog and the first mascot of Hillside. She never made it to billboards, but she was a beloved staple of the Hillside office for about a dozen years. She was my first real love 🙂
Charlie the Dog moved up here from Virginia in April 2009. His big sister Sandy taught him to bark and walk up and down. He went immediately to work to help pay for all the food he consumed. Charlie spent years as an active member of PAWS for People. He enjoyed visiting as a therapy dog and providing smiles. He enjoys relaxing, protecting his home from squirrels, and visiting Hillside customers on the road.
Emmy Lou the Puppy was born Monday, April 10th, 2017, in Oxford, PA. We first visited her at the end of May, and she came home to live with us on Sunday, June 4th. Per the precedent set by Charlie the Dog, Emmy Lou was at work in the Hillside office that Monday, the next day. In her free time, Emmy Lou enjoys emptying her box of toys, playing with a squeaky worm, and making friends with the evening toads. She is an adorable and welcome addition to the Hillside and Sellers families. So far, she has received many visitors and has been lucky to meet and play with many of our friends and customers.
We look forward to a long reign of Emmy Lou, the Puppy as the best friend of the entire Hillside family.
Nelson is her younger brother.
BBB International Torch Award for Ethics
On November 19, 2019, Hillside Oil Heating & Cooling achieved elite status after being honored with the 2019 BBB International Torch Award for Ethics, making it one of just four companies across North America to be recognized by the Better Business Bureau Institute for Marketplace Trust and the first Delaware company to win the prestigious award.
The BBB International Torch Award for Marketplace Excellence honors companies that demonstrate best practices, leadership, social responsibility, and high standards of organizational ethics that benefit their customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, and communities.
A+ Rating from the Better Business Bureau
BBB ratings represent BBB’s opinion of how the business will likely interact with its customers. The BBB rating is based on information BBB can obtain about the business, including complaints from the public. BBB seeks and uses information directly from businesses and public data sources.
BBB assigns ratings from A+ (highest) to F (lowest). In some cases, BBB will not rate the business (indicated by an NR or “No Rating”) for reasons that include insufficient information about a business or ongoing review/update of the business’s file.
Torch Awards for Ethics
Hillside has been awarded The Torch Awards for Ethics.
The Torch Awards for Ethics honors companies whose leaders demonstrate a high level of personal character and ensure that the organization’s practices meet the highest standards of ethics, and consequently generate trust. These companies’ high level of trust is recognized among their employees, customers, and communities. The award embodies Better Business Bureau’s mission to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust.
Don’t take our word for it…hear directly from our customers.
We are honored to have received hundreds of certified ratings, reviews, recommendations, and testimonials from our heating and cooling customers on Google, Facebook, and also from our website. It is why we’re the trusted home comfort experts in DE, PA, and MD.
If your home or business needs heating oil, diesel fuels, and gasoline, or you need a heating & air conditioning company including sales, installation, service, or repair, you can feel confident in choosing Hillside.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“I can’t say enough about Hillside oil. First of all, when you call them, a person answers the phone , not a recording. If you want to talk to the boss, Jimmy is right there. His customers are his number 1 priority. He even makes home visits to say “hi” and to see if you have any concerns. Emmy Lou loves home visits too.
I never have to worry about running out of fuel. They keep track of it and automatically come and fill it. Any trouble with your furnace or A/C Hillside is right there. The servicemen are always on time, friendly, and professional. Jerry makes follow ups to makes sure all went well. If you need a new A/C or furnace, Jerry makes home visits to go over your options with you and help to make the best decision.”
– Shirley Williams
Verified Facebook Reviews
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“Great company! Friendly and good at what they do! They go above and beyond, always! A pleasure to deal with!”
– Rachel Sykes
Verified Google Reviews
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Our heater recently stopped working and Hillside immediately sent people out. It was Christmas week and the temperature in the teens. They explained why our very old heater could not be fixed. They had a new one installed the next day. The people working were polite, pleasant and informative. Everything was done very, very well and the cost was quite reasonable! We always knew Hillside as a good company. We have been customers for awhile, but this service was very, very good. Thank you, everyone at Hillside and especially all the technicians that installed our new heater. We tell everyone we know about this company.
– Janice Toomey
Verified Facebook Reviews
The Hillside Maintenance Plans
Keeping Your Paws Comfy All Year Round
The Hillside Maintenance Plans are designed to prevent minor problems from turning into major issues! Extend the life of your equipment, reduce the need for costly repairs, and increase the performance of your heating and cooling systems while lowering your utility bills.