Business & Professional
Ralph & Barbara Johnson Family
For more than 90 years, the Johnson family has provided the daily fuel to keep the residents of Huntington County moving.
Initially, that fuel meant the gasoline that filled the cars and trucks on the roads, the diesel for the machinery that kept farms and industries in business, and the oil that heated homes. Later, the business expanded to offer a different kind of fuel — the coffee, donuts and snacks from their Johnson Junction convenience stores with a variety of offerings for people on the go.
Edward Johnson started Johnson Petroleum while working for Standard Oil in 1928. Johnson Petroleum became an agent of Standard Oil in the 1930, and then for Cities Services Oil Company in the 1940s. Edward continued to run his small, local company until he sold the business to his son, Ralph, in 1971.
It was an easy decision for Ralph and his wife, Barbara. “I was looking for a job that would let me be home with my family,” Ralph recalled. Johnson Petroleum had just two trucks at the time, but Ralph quickly expanded, putting all his savings into the purchase of a local bulk plant. The sale provided him with more accounts, a delivery vehicle and his first semi truck.
In 1973, the country faced fuel shortages during the oil embargo. Ralph nearly single-handedly kept his company afloat, driving his one semi long hours to keep the fuel available. He would drive to Indianapolis overnight, hauling 7,800 gallons of gasoline back to Huntington. On Thanksgiving Day, he made the trip three times.
Johnson Petroleum kept the fuel flowing, cementing the company’s reputation for dependability and quality customer service. “It was the challenge that put our feet on the ground,” says Ralph.
Ralph attributes his success to the ability to adapt to an ever-changing market. Johnson opened its first convenience store in 1975 and in 1980 started the Johnson Junction retail division. They bought out a local distributor in 1996, and purchased a truck wash in 1998. Johnson Petroleum acquired additional oil companies, adding volume and building the truck fleet.
Ralph and Barbara’s children were also brought into the family business.
Daughter Darlene started pumping fuel at the Andrews Dairy Store in 1976, began working full time as a store manager in 1980 and continued to work in all aspects of the business. Son Ryan started as a bulk delivery driver, and has held several positions, including dispatcher, facility manager and account manager.
When Ralph retired in 1999, Ryan purchased the wholesale business, Johnson Petroleum, while Darlene purchased the Johnson Junction retail division that included the convenience locations. The children have followed in their parents’ footsteps by expanding and innovating each of their sections.
Over the years, Ralph made sure that he and his family gave back to their hometown. “It is through service to the community where you grew up and got the opportunities that you find friends for life,” he said.
Barbara, who died in 2015, was a member of the SS Peter and Paul Rosary Society. She was a member of Beta Chi Sorority, the National and Indiana Percheron Association and the Chief LaFontaine Saddle Club. She volunteered at the Dan Quayle Museum.
Ralph and other local petroleum marketers formed a regional partnership to help clients navigate environmental regulations and practice environmental stewardship. He has served on boards of directors of local banks, Huntington Economic Development Corporation, the Huntington Chamber of Commerce, and Huntington University, among others. He accepted Huntington University’s Distinguished Service Award and was inducted into the Greater Fort Wayne Business Hall of Fame.
Ryan is active in the Whitetails Unlimited, SS Peter and Paul Parish, and The Bippus Bank Board of Directors. He has also served on the 4-H Board of Directors, and coached youth sports. Darlene serves on the boards of directors for Parkview Hospital, Parkview YMCA, The Chamber of Commerce, The Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center, and Regional Workforce Development Board.
The Johnson family has been honored for the quality of their business service and for their service to Huntington County and beyond. Johnson Petroleum received the Governor’s Half Century Business Award, presented by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, in 2018.