Adlore “A.J.” Vadnais was still working for Northern Pacific Railroad when he and Louis Crawford partnered to start the White Bear Oil Company in 1923. Vadnais became the sole proprietor after the partnership dissolved in 1928. By 1930, he was working full-time at the oil business with a fuel pump in front of his home on Fourth Street and a fuel oil delivery service.
The company would expand to a station constructed by local contractor, Carl Mattlin, at the northwest corner of Bald Eagle Avenue and Fourth Street on the present site of Vadnais Plumbing. The first electric gasoline pumps in White Bear debuted from this location. A second station was purchased, by the end of 1930s, on the northeast corner of Washington Avenue and Third Street at the present site of Washington Square Bar and Grill. In 1947, the original station was rebuilt and broadened to include tires, batteries and auto accessories, as well as Hudson Auto Sales and other products.
As the business continued to expand and diversify, A.J. brought his sons George, Charles, Dick, Jack and Gordy into the company. George ran Station Number Two on Washington Avenue, while A.J. and Charles ran Station Number One at Fourth and Bald Eagle. Dick, Jack and Gordy ran the fuel oil side of the business before expanding into other parts of the company.
The White Bear Oil Company reach was far. The company’s bulk oil tanks located on the west side of the railroad tracks in downtown were a local landmark for many years. Homes all around the lake area relied upon the fuel oil services for their heat as the community developed and more homes transitioned from summer cottages to year-round dwellings. By 1989, A.J. and Charles had passed away and the remaining sons retired.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society.
For more information on the White Bear Oil Company, visit the website here or call 651.407.5327