Rud Oil marks 100-year anniversary
By Annette Tait
Editor’s note: Quotes from Sheldon Rud in this article are from a Center Republican interview held in March of this year.
Out of one, many. A fitting description of Rud Oil, which started as a family-owned business in 1916 and has grown to a number of enterprises still owned by members of the Rud family 100 years later.
The original Rud Oil was founded by brothers Ole, Fred, and Paul Rud, who began operating a Standard Oil bulk station in New Salem June 7, 1916. During that first year, the brothers delivered gas, oil, and grease to their customers using horses and wagons. In 1918, the company put rubber on the road with the purchase of an International truck, the first one sold west of the Missouri River. The following year, 1919, another brother, Carl, joined the company when Fred returned to the family homestead in Sheyenne.
The second generation of Ruds joined the company in 1932, when Ole’s son, Henry, started working for Rud Oil. He was joined by his sons, Sheldon and Curtis, in the mid-1960s. Sheldon – better known as Shelly -- continued working for his dad until he became the agent in Center, originally starting operations as Rud’s Oil – to differentiate it from Rud Oil, New Salem -- in the old Rapsavage building Oct. 9, 1967.
With Shelly in Center, Henry continued to run the business in New Salem while Curt pursued training as a mechanic, later moving his young family to Minneapolis where he worked for Sawyer Transportation. They returned to New Salem in 1970 to take over the business from Henry.
“At that time Amoco was changing their bookkeeping system, and Henry said ‘I’m not learning a new bookkeeping system’,” said Curt’s wife, Annette Rud. “His age and years of service equaled more than 85 years, so he was eligible to retire.”
Curt and his family moved back to New Salem to run Rud Oil, while Shelly and his wife, Barb, grew Rud’s Oil and their own family in Center. Daughter Michelle arrived first, followed by sons Michael and Gus.
As the business expanded and truck transport replaced the railroad, Shelly moved the bulk facility from Sanger, where the products had been shipped from Mandan by rail, to a lot west of the current 4-H building. The office was moved to the old post office, which had been located in a schoolhouse south of where Anderson Cabinets is today.
“Our customer base was commercial,” Shelly said. “Agriculture, the power plants, and mining.”
In 1977, Rud’s Oil went from being an agent of Standard Oil to a “jobber” – the company bought the bulk facility from Standard Oil and became an independent owner/operator.
“Before ’77, Standard Oil owned everything but the trucks,” Shelly said. “Rud’s was paid on a commission basis.”
Two years later, Rud’s Oil bought Denius Oil, which was owned by Carl and Rose Denius.
“I walked into the butcher shop to have a beer with Carl, and he said ‘I want you to buy it – I don’t want anyone else to have it,’” Shelly recounted, adding that they moved Rud’s bulk facility from up by the fairgrounds to the former Denius Oil bulk facility south of Hwy. 25 after the purchase.
Rud’s supplied products to the Skelly service station in Center, which was owned by Harold Wilkens. At the time, Rud’s was starting to lose heating oil customers as people were switching over to propane. Center residents opted for propane, as the city chose not to install natural gas due to the expense.
Recognizing the need to change directions, Rud’s started its propane business Jan. 1, 1987. That year they also entered a lease-to-own agreement with M.J. Hatzenbihler, who had purchased the service station from Wilkens.
“Amoco was telling jobbers they had to find more retail,” said Gus, who by then was also a part of Rud’s Oil. “So it was a natural fit for us.