By Colleen Leidner
From growing up around a family-run construction business to commercial fishing up and down the East Coast, Steve Ellis knows a thing or two about running a business, specifically one centered around boats. It’s what led him to become the owner and operator of Dockside Petroleum Services, Inc.
“I saw a need for a portable fuel service so the customers wouldn’t have to go out to the docks just to get fuel,” Ellis says. “Say Captain Joe’s owner goes out and has too much to drink. If in a drunken stupor, he decides to leave the next day, we can get Captain Joe fuel that night. That is the kind of service we provide.”
Ellis’ first job was unloading commercial fishing boats for twenty dollars a week. He was only thirteen. He earned his degree in business administration from Villanova University and, between working odd jobs and holding a position at Turkey Point Nuclear Generation Station, by 1982 he had enough money for a 42’ Bruno and Stillman he named the Lucky Lady. On weekends he fished all along the East Coast, during the week he continued to work various jobs to stay on the water. His affection for the water earned him the nickname “the Pirate” from his family.
In 1987, he opened the Lucky Lady Seafood Market in Palm City, named after his first boat. That same year, he bought a second longliner so that he could begin managing his seafood market and fishing full-time. By 1988, he was fishing the Gulf of Mexico, the west coast of Florida, around Louisiana and Panama City Beach for tuna. He landed at least a million pounds of sailfish and tuna in his whole career.
He closed his fish market in 1990. “I wasn’t good at lying to the fishermen about the price of fish. I knew firsthand that they were always getting the short end of the stick. I like fishing more than being a fish monger,” he says with a shake of his head.
By 1994, Ellis was driving a fuel truck and still fishing the weekends. Around 1997, he got himself a new truck and brought on Red, his original driver. By 2012, he had three trucks going at a time. Today, with Dockside Petroleum Services, Inc., he has two trucks with rec 90 gasoline, and one truck with both rec 90 and diesel fuel.
“Our philosophy is to provide service at their residences and docks at a fair price, utilizing our crew of specialized drivers that have detail for boats. If you see a swordfish on the side of the truck, you know that it’s us and that you’re going to get the best service possible,” he says. “There’s a lot of loyalty in this community, and our customers love the service. I appreciate everything they do for us. We have a lot of trust between us, and that’s essential to get the job done.”
Ellis predicts that if business continues like it has been, in five years he may need to get a fourth truck. He doesn’t want to, but he is assured that the business will still be here.
In fact, that’s why he chose to advertise with InTheBite—he waited until he had the proper equipment to service whoever needed him.
“I’m not a hard-nosed businessman,” Ellis said. “I’m a commercial fisherman running a dockside petroleum service. Once you’ve been fishing so long, you’re still mentally fishing. That’s where I want to be.”