Hughes Petroleum Ltd. provides a variety of services including wand and touchless car wash, convenience stores, bulk and wholesale fuel, and fleet management. This coming year marks the 65th anniversary from when William (Bill) Hughes brought his family business to Edmonton. Today Hughes remains in the family with the second, third, and fourth generations working in the Edmonton owned and operated company. Hughes is operated by Brian Hughes president, with his son Darren Hughes as vice president of operations, and Bob Christensen as vice president of sales & business development. Bill (1901-1985) would be rightly proud to see his son Brian, his grandchildren, and his great grandchildren upholding the family business.
Bill had immigrated to Canada in 1916 when he was just 15 years old. He left his family in Ireland and took a steam ship across the Atlantic, and then traveled by rail to Manitoba. Although Bill secured work at various jobs, he knew he wanted a better future. Ever the entrepreneur, Bill relocated to Ontario to train as a mechanic. Once training was complete, he returned to Manitoba and opened Hughes Motors.
But it was 1938. The economy was tough, and money was short. Customers were paying for Bill’s services with food, spare tires, and other goods. This didn’t get the plucky young man down though. He simply honed his mechanical skills to design, engineer, and build a snow plane.
Yes, Bill built his own snow plane!
With a means to reach the rural parts of the province in place, doctors hired Bill to escort them to the north, an area that was previously inaccessible to them during the winter.
In 1956 Bill sold his business ventures and was in a position to move his family to Alberta where major oilfields were being discovered. Bill, along with his son Brian, started selling bulk and wholesale oil products on what is now the Brewery District in Edmonton.
However, it wasn’t until 1960, when Bill’s son Brian took over and developed the “hughes” brand, that
Hughes Petroleum became known for its distinctive orange and blue gas stations and car washes. The original location to sport the iconic colours was the first retail spot on 112 Avenue and 161 Street.
At that time, when operating a gas station in Edmonton, you had to also have a service bay present. Brian set up an air pump and a hose on a barrel that would contain water or soap – it was his own car wash system, and it didn’t go unnoticed. Soon people were asking if they could use his “car wash” and before long, cars had to line up and wait for their turn. Brian added a coin counter to the pump to keep the car wash operating smoothly. First it was payment by quarters, then later loonies, leading to the Hughes car wash slogan, “just loonies a wash.”
Much like his father, Bill, Brian is very entrepreneurial. Seeing the success of this first car wash, he designed a series of gas stations and car washes that were unique in style and operation in the city. In 1967 a man named John approached Brian about setting up an account to purchase gas. For Brian, this was a first, but his entrepreneur side kicked into high gear. Based on this request he set up a corporate fleet account system; another success for the Hughes brand, this system is still in operation today. That young man, John, that made the request? His truck read Poole Construction on the door. Poole Construction was the forerunner to PCL, another Edmonton success story and a nationally known brand.
The Hughes family and team believe that Edmonton is a wonderful city in which to live, work, and raise a family. They love Edmonton and its diverse business community and are pleased to be a key player in the city and its surrounding communities, operating with its core purpose in mind at all times: to fuel the needs in the community. Hughes Petroleum always finds a way to provide the reliable service it is known for, while constantly working towards responsible growth and innovation.
Guided by the vision of Brian Hughes, the company has grown to 22 retail locations with 260 self-serve wand wash bays throughout Edmonton, St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Leduc, and Sherwood Park. The Parsons Road location in Edmonton has been outfitted with bays to wash holiday trailers and large motor homes. Hughes’ east end lot at 6708 Meridian Street also has a card lock system for gasoline and diesel fuel sales for commercial fleet trucks. A new and innovative “tap & wash” system allows drivers to simply tap their credit or debit card to purchase time at the car wash locations. Not only is this a more convenient system, it expedites the time spent in the wash so cars can get in and out quickly. These innovations, along with Hughes’s signature customer service, back up the latest slogan, “it feels good to come clean!”
Many people think of Hughes as a car wash and gas station and are surprised to learn about the diversity and depth of the company. Fuelling the community means not just fuelling cars, but the drivers too. This is why Hughes’ convenience stores are stocked with food, snacks, beverages, cigarettes, lottery tickets, and auto supplies. Most locations have gas, diesel and propane, and in some select stores, natural gas. Hughes supports businesses, not just in the Edmonton area, but also with supplies of fuel products throughout Western Canada and into the North West Territories and the Yukon.
Hughes Petroleum also has a fleet of trucks that are adaptable and flexible to meet the ever-changing needs of their customers. A large truck lot near the east leg of Anthony Henday Drive houses the fleet, which includes mini tankers, body jobs and super Bs, all with a variety of capacities to complete the hauling jobs required. The offering of fuel delivery comes in various forms to fill the needs of each customer. “Wheel-to-Wheel” onsite refuelling is supplied at night, so the clients’ machines are ready to go in the morning. Hughes uses Accu-Flo technology that keeps track in real time every litre of fuel delivered either per delivery, per vehicle or the amount of fuel per piece of equipment. Reports are generated immediately and available to the clients online.
Also available is fuel delivery for onsite storage tanks for gas, diesel, or multi-compartment units. This option allows customers to fill their own trucks and machines as needed. Satellite sensors monitor the tank levels, enabling Hughes to be proactive in refilling the tanks without the client having to call in each order.
Hughes also ships fuel product by rail up into the north where it is productive on both ends to get the product to market in a responsible way.
Between the stations and the fueling services, Hughes has built many quality partnerships with a wide variety of industries including, agriculture, energy, construction, food distribution, and more.
With 65 years of service, growth, and innovation to celebrate, this year Hughes is rebuilding its original station. Hughes is also debuting a new service called the Orange Card, which provides a four cents per litre discount on fuel with no membership fee or other purchase required. Anyone can just go into a station and request this card.
Brian reflects on how Hughes has grown and changed over the years and is thankful to see how his vision has come to life. He appreciates the never-ending support of the staff, some of which have been with the company for over 30 years, plus the commitment of the diverse group of full and part time employees who work directly with their patrons at the stations.
The management and staff of Hughes would like to give sincere thanks to all of their patrons, suppliers, and distributors that have been part of their journey through the years. Hughes will continue its commitment to its core values of building quality relationships with everyone, big and small, to the great patrons of Edmonton and the surrounding areas. Hughes further commits to remain a reliable and sustainable entity in the marketplace.
The Hughes family knows Alberta’s four seasons (which can seemingly take place over a single day sometimes!) can really make your car dirty. They also know that as industry progresses, the need for convenient, reliable, bulk fuel and fueling station grows. Rely on Hughes’ self-serve car wash stations to keep your vehicle clean and reduce the chance of rust, and depend on Hughes’ bulk and wholesale fuel services to get the fuel you need, where and when you need it.
Hughes Petroleum is fuelled by entrepreneurship, innovation, dedication, and a desire to be a strong community partner. With 65 years of achieving this goal, the family business looks forward to continuing to be a leader in car wash and fuel services.
For a list of Hughes locations and to learn more, visit the website at www.hughescarwash.ca.