Get to Know Brenda Sinclair, President of Quogue-Sinclair Fuel Inc.
Brenda Sinclair stands tall as a woman in a traditionally male industry. She is president of Quogue-Sinclair Fuel Inc., which is headquartered in Hampton Bays. The family business sells oil and propane, as well as offering service and repair options, generator sales and pool heaters.
Sinclair runs the business with her sister-in-law, Jane Sinclair, widow of Brenda’s late brother, Mark. Sinclair inherited the business from her parents, who started it in 1954.
“My dad was looking for a business and a neighbor had an oil truck for sale,” says Sinclair of the part-time business her parents operated from their home. Her mom did the bookkeeping and other office tasks while caring for her and her brother. As the years went by and the word of mouth grew, their side hustle became the family business.
“As we got older, I would do office work and my brother did fuel deliveries and service,” Sinclair remembers of the distribution of labor. In the early years, her parents encouraged her to try other things. Since the business operated out of their home, their concern was that she would end up just working and then sitting at home with family. They wanted her to get out and see and learn other things instead of stepping immediately into the family business.
“Owning our own business was all we ever knew,” Sinclair says of the ease with which she embraced the concept. “I did other things. I worked for the state, for the Post Office and the Police Academy.”
Sinclair’s husband would take care of the children on Saturdays while she worked at the office. She has two sons, ages 32 and 30, one of whom is in the business. Her husband, Kurt, 65, works full-time with her.
“My parents were happy that my brother and I were in the business, just like I am happy that one of my sons chose to come into the business,” Sinclair says. When her brother died, Jane came into the business. “When my dad passed away in 2020, I just sort of picked up the mantle and ran with it,” she says.
Sinclair notes the fuel business is a little quirky. “You don’t think about oil heat and fueling your home until you need it,” she says. “Most of my father and mother’s business was by word of mouth. He started out by delivering to his neighbors after he got off work as a painter. I still remember nights and holidays when he’d be gone making a delivery or taking care of a repair. That’s why I appreciate our employees who work weekends, evenings and holidays. We have a lot of customers who have second homes out here and they just want someone to handle things for them. Someone they can trust. They just want the heat to come on when they turn it on and don’t really know much more about it.”
While more women are in the fuel business, Sinclair says she still meets people who are surprised she is in charge.
“If you’re going to get into this business, I’d encourage any woman to join your industry’s organization,” says Sinclair, a member of the Women in Energy, Propane and Oil Heat. “There are more of us women in the business than people realize. I know a woman salesperson who drives around in her truck doing live demonstrations and selling burners.”
Sinclair is a champion of the industry, letting people know that jobs are plentiful and there are opportunities for men and women.
“There are women who are service mechanics and drivers,” says Sinclair, who says that one aspect of her business that most aren’t aware of is pool heat, which is a growing part of their revenue. “More women are in the mechanical end of things today. There’s no reason to stay in the office unless you want to.”
Even Sinclair doesn’t spend all her time in the office. She takes the occasional trip to the beach.
“We have the best beaches in Hampton Bays,” says Sinclair, who also volunteers with the Hampton Bays Historical Society (116 W. Montauk Highway, Hampton Bays. 631-728-0887, hamptonbayshistoricalsociety.org).
Sinclair, who is president of the Historical Society, says one hidden treasure, the Lyzon Hat Museum, offers a collection of more than 80 vintage hats on display at the Historical Society. They were all done by one milliner who was a hat maker to the rich and famous, including Princess Grace and Jacqueline Bouvier, later First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
She also is a world traveler, with fond memories of a trip she took with her dad, a World War II veteran, to Normandy.
“We went to every place where he’d fought,” Sinclair remembers. “We crossed the river into Germany. I remember how the French never forget what the Americans did. They keep the heritage alive. Whenever someone would find out he fought, they’d come outside to shake his hand and say ‘thank you.’ It was impressive. I’ve never had an experience like it.”
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.