The oil industry doesn’t typically evoke warm-and-fuzzy words like kindness, compassion and unconditional love. That is, unless, you’re speaking of the Ramos Oil Company. The West Sacramento-based business was founded in 1951 by Bill Ramos, who espoused those values — as well as hard work, generosity and gratitude — as a means to connect more deeply with customers.
“They are values that you’d probably apply to a family, but to my father, his customers were like family,” says Kent Ramos, who has operated the business with brothers Kris and Kyle since the death of their father in 2018.
“We sell a generic product,” Ramos continues, “so nothing sets us apart product-wise from our competitors. We’re mainly a relationship business, so living out these values with our customers is really important.”
Like their company ethos, Ramos Oil’s primary operations — delivering bulk fuel to farms and ranches, construction companies, bus yards and more as a Shell Oil distributor — haven’t changed much over seven decades. “We basically have the same style truck and meters and pumping equipment,” says Ramos. “But the trucks are much bigger today, and they don’t emit any vapor when they make a delivery, so the process is a lot cleaner environmentally.”
That steadiness stands in contrast to changing attitudes, policies and regulations surrounding petroleum products. As electrification expands and climate concerns grow more dire, oil has become a dirty word in some circles. But Ramos doesn’t shy away from it. “We’ve always kept oil in our name because I’ve always believed that companies should have in their name what they actually do. Like it or not, that’s the business that we’re in,” says Ramos. “But there’s been a big trend in recent years for companies to drop the word oil and substitute energy or other terms kind of related to oil.”
“We do things to keep employees happy and create a workplace they want to be in. Some of them have dedicated their working career to our company, so we feel it’s important to recognize and celebrate that loyalty.” Kent Ramos, co-owner, Ramos Oil Company
As the family’s third generation looks to the future (four of the founder’s grandchildren currently work at the company), they’ll have to contend with shifting trends that imperil their viability. “I think the next generation sees the industry changing quicker than I do,” acknowledges Ramos, “but they may be of retirement age when that happens.” Ramos, for his part, isn’t overly concerned. “I think people understand that we’re going to need fossil fuel for the next 20 years. I mean, they’re still building gas stations everywhere.”
Nevertheless, he acknowledges that pressures on family-owned oil businesses are considerable. “There’s been a lot of consolidation in our industry. A lot of family businesses have been bought out by corporations. We’re one of the last in this industry. It’s tough for small companies to deal with all of the regulatory and compliance issues that we have to deal with today.”
Whatever the coming years bring, Ramos is confident the values upon which the company was founded will endure thanks to their many long-time employees. “We do things to keep employees happy and create a workplace they want to be in. Some of them have dedicated their working career to our company, so we feel it’s important to recognize and celebrate that loyalty,” he says. “Longevity has always been important to us.”
Catherine Warmerdam is a Sacramento-based writer who has covered the region’s most interesting people, places, events and trends for Sacramento Magazine and other local publications since 2005.
Stay up to date on business in the Capital Region: Subscribe to the Comstock’s newsletter today.
Managing family business conflict isn’t just about harmony but survival. Disagreements ensure diverse perspectives, but if managed badly, they can take down a company and permanently rend relationships.
ACES Waste Services’ roots are in San Francisco, where the
co-owners’ ancestor started a waste collection company called the
Scavengers Protective Association. Today, the Amador County-based
company gives back to the community.
The Zuckerman family started a farming empire on a Stockton
island. Over 100 years later, they’ve branched out to several new
businesses but have stayed true to the crops that started it
The Sobon family, owners of Sobon Estate and Shenandoah
Vineyards, are continuing a 166-year legacy of winemaking in
Amador County. Their land has been a vineyard since
1856, making it one of the oldest in the state.
The Granite Bay farm was established in 1911 by a Japanese
immigrant and is still run by his descendants, including his