In 1948 Larry and Flo Dion signed the contract with Sinclair Refining Company to take over distribution of their product in the Florida Keys. And so Dion Oil Company was born. From a leased bulk plant In Key West with two tiny tank wagons and TBA (tires, batteries and accessories) to a bulk plant and lubes warehouse in Homestead, a fleet of trucks, a successful chain of convenience stores and 150 employees, Dion Oil Company has grown with the decades.
Larry & Flo, he from Massachusetts and she from Nebraska, met and fell in love in 1943 when Larry was in flight training in Iowa. Larry was soon stationed in North Africa and later in Fogia, Italy, flying B17s on bombing raids over Germany. Flo became a Western Union operator, who worked a year in California before rotating back to Iowa. Their hopes for a future were kept alive by letters and determination. After WWII, Larry flew his bomber back to the States and after a brief visit with his family, now living in Key West, he traveled to Iowa to bring Flo home. Married February 15, 1946, these two depression era kids were a perfect combo, both looking for the opportunity to succeed in post WW II Key West. Larry originally worked in his sister’s drug store and then acquired valuable vending machines and ice cream delivery routes. Flo was a fabulous tailor and worked double duty at the drug store and at Mar-Ed’s Department Store as a seamstress. In 1948, the current Sinclair Bailey agent was looking to retire. Contracts were signed and the rest is history.
During the 50’s and 60’s the Dions bought property from Key West to Key Largo, some with existing service stations, some they had to build. Larry and Flo ran the fuel business together, adding a dispatcher and several drivers, updating trucks to include transports as the business grew. Two of Larry’s brothers, Ed and Bud, worked in the business running stations. The Sinclair brand in the Keys and Dion Oil Company were growing. In 1953, daughter Suzanne was born, and son Roger joined the family in 1955. Also during that time, the young entrepreneurs bought 825 Duval Street and built Dion Appliance and Tire Supply. With Sinclair gas, Goodyear tires, Purolator filters, batteries, and other accessories, and a showroom of GE appliances and televisions, toys and bicycles, it was an asset for the Dions as well as a must have for Key West. For Suzanne & Roger, playing with Sinclair dinos in the plant office or the stations and coming to the tire store after school to help out, came naturally. It was a busy but happy life for all. But with growth change must come. The oil crisis of the early 70’s brought that change.
Prices were up and profit was down. The Dions found that dealers were not the solution. Change came in the form of Dion’s Quik Marts. Key West always had little Mom and Pop grocery stores, but this was the dawn of convenience stores and Dion’s were the first in the Keys. Neil Roberts and Rachel (Millie) Cox, former A & P managers, came on board and helped the Dions convert their owned dealer locations into full fledged convenience stores. Sinclair had left Florida by then and Dion’s was flying other flags: Cities Service being the primary. The new stores were called Cit Marts and quickly became the busiest sites in the area. Larry was looking for more business and growth, Flo was busy with the bookkeeping, Suzanne and Roger were both working in the business, Roger at the Tire store and Suzanne working with Neil and Millie. The original chain of Cit Marts ran from Marathon to Key West, but never one to sit back, Larry decided to move into Dade County. In the late 70s and early 80s, the Dions acquired locations in Homestead, Naranja, Goulds, and Miami. Roger moved to Homestead and ran operations there. Suzanne continued working the locations in the Keys. Eventually the oil company offices moved to a new warehouse and offices in Homestead, where the Dion Oil Company trucks and drivers were based. Lubes became a growing business as well. Roger was joined by Richard Wheeler running the growing oil company wholesale business. Brand flags had changed to include Phillips 66, Union 76, Amoco, and CITGO. The company continued to operate its own c-stores as well as lease out sites to dealers. In the 80s and 90s Dion’s owned 25 locations.
In the meantime, the main office moved from the c-store at Truman & White to 638 United Street and Suzanne set up the company’s first computers. Eventually all of Dion’s store managers were trained on the new systems and today, Dion’s has a totally integrated on line system.
Today Dion’s proudly operates 12 sites and leases out 4 to dealers.