Cousins operate separate but similar retail companies in Texas

July 8, 2011 By    

Propane customers in northeast Texas have grown familiar with the Welch family name over the years. And maybe just a tad confused.

That happens when the third generation of cousins operates separate, similarly named propane retail companies about 20 miles apart. WelchGas and the larger Welch Propane were borne from the business ventures of R.J. Welch, who founded Welch Butane in 1949 in Naples, Texas, and his two sons.

Today, Welch’s grandchildren continue to build on that foundation: Wes Welch as the owner of WelchGas and his cousins, George Welch Jr., Mike Welch and Jana Welch Granberry with husband Tom Granberry, as co-owners of Welch Propane.

“It’s a family friendly relationship,” says Wes Welch, who acquired ownership of the company from his father, Hershel, in 2007. “We’ve got some territory borders out there between us. We maintain our own individual service areas and try not to stray into each other’s territory too much.”

WelchGas’ two locations sit to the west of Welch Propane’s four, with about 20 miles between their closest offices. Their customer bases are similar as well, with both specializing in home heat as well as commercial/agricultural accounts. However, those similarities and the close proximity to each other sometimes can throw their customers off.

“I get online payments from their customers all the time,” says Wes Welch, also pointing out the similarities between their website names. “We’ve tried changing our methods up a bit on the webpage to prevent that from happening.”

There are no rivalries or animosities between WelchGas and Welch Propane – the family members simply have chosen to keep their own businesses. They share many of the same business philosophies, and it’s not uncommon for them to talk by telephone once or twice a week.

“We’re proud to be able to work and make a living together,” says Jana Welch Granberry, whose father, George Sr., passed the business along to her and her siblings. George Sr., with help from his wife, Frances, first opened a refrigeration business that eventually gave life to Welch Propane.

“Our parents taught us that family is the most important thing,” adds Welch Granberry, whose family is known for their involvement in state and national associations. “Money doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have your family.”

WELCHGAS/WELCH PROPANE
TEAMS: Wes Welch/George Welch Jr., Mike Welch, Tom and Jana Granberry
LOCATIONS: 2 (Mt. Pleasant and Daingerfield, Texas)/4 (Atlanta, Douglassville, Linden and Texarkana, Texas)
FOUNDED: 1949/1955
EMPLOYEES: 9/22
CUSTOMERS: About 1,500/3,500
PROPANE SALES: About 800,000 gallons per year/2 million
ONLINE: www.welchgas.com/www.welchpropane.com

Brian Richesson

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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